Barefoot Poetry

SS Matthews

A Lady of Winter Moon (cont.) part 6

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Part 6

From childhood, every member of the community spent time with the monks to learn the age old techniques of martial combat. In practice, their training intensity varied little from actual engagements, refraining only in the use of maiming force. Hands, feet, staves and slings, all available objects were put to use as combination of shield and weaponry. Applying necessary pressure with expert focus, the foundation of this highly successful training regime had, historically, earned the men of Fujian the reputation of being the most fearsome and elusive warriors in the empire.

Respecting their origins, the monks of Xi Tian carried on with the warrior practices of their ancestors, improving where possible upon the disciplines handed down to them by their fathers through the generations. Although this was but one of their pursuits, the practice was more than a method of maintaining a healthy body, there was a second and earnestly practical application for this knowledge of self-defense. No doubt Xi Tian was among the most idyllic locations in the East, but the valley itself was not exempt from occasional forays by roving marauders. The only immunity the inhabitants possessed against bandit gangs and predatory mountain clans was their ability to effectively drive them off.

These skirmishes were few and decreased over the years, but the past troubles were adequate reason to maintain a watch. Having this particular duty upon the day the outlander arrived, it was Wan Lo who first caught sight of him. Descending from the pass, the man paused to drink from the sacred pool and appeared to be traveling alone. The brown stallion on whose back the stranger rode was much too large to be easily over-looked. Still, Wan Lo wanted to be certain the rider was not a scout for a larger party before alerting his companions that an intruder was headed their way.

So it was that many interested eyes were watching the rider as he made for one of the farms. Following a brief interval, he left We Po’s farm to approach the hilltop alone, unaccompanied his monstrous mount. As he neared the temple area, his inexplicable behavior continued when he stopped at the edge of the grove and sat upon the ground with his back against a dragon’s eye tree.

Long before the westerner came to Xi Tian, Tzu Tam had retired from active participation in nearly all events in Xi Tian. Though he continued to hold the title of Master and would do so until his death, he left all training and instruction in hands of his companions. Devoting his hours to contemplation, meditation and meticulously recording his thoughts, it was a mystery to his fellow monks why this particular man should be of interest to the reclusive sage. Then, to the dismay of all, rather than have the outland youth expelled from the valley, the elder began making sojourns to check upon the unwashed stranger.

Even more astounding, was the fact that at the end of a five day period, probably for the purpose of a cleansing fast, Tam embraced the barbarian and invited him to remain with them. When the Master announced that he was taking the youth on as his pupil, it was accepted that something of great importance was taking place. This reversal of roles was utterly mystifying, but being familiar with Tam’s ineffable ways, no one questioned his judgment, or took any umbrage at the presence of the outsider.

Instead, following a brief discussion and unanimous agreement, the spiritual guides of Xi Tian adopted the lanky barbarian and with aplomb took to schooling the newcomer in those areas of study that the Master tended to neglect.

Part 7

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Author: SSMatthews

Author of The Moon and Rowan Wolfe and Wolfe's Banes.

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