Like a phoenix of discontent, invariably the urge to wander would arise from the ashes of summer. With every return, the season would work to pry him from complacency until he was wracked with wanderlust. Once awakened, autumn’s imperative took a supreme and sustained effort to subdue. Only through discipline was he able to deny its allure, but with the autumnal equinox on the morrow, the desire to roam was proving difficult to oppose. This year it was going to be harder. Not because of any momentous event, or sudden discovery, but due to an errant sound in the night.
Distracted by unruly visions, he’d found sleep a distant hope and listless steps carried him absently to a spot beneath the plum’s thinning canopy. The bare patch of soil, nestled between her third and fourth largest roots was just large enough for a comfortable cross-legged posture and this is where he sat. This was the spot that seemed to attract him whenever his mind became conflicted. Sitting quietly beneath her boughs, if sleep should find him unwary and seduce his mind into dream, he could lean his back against her bark and feel her comforting presence.
For Rowan, this particular spot possessed an additional uniqueness. When at rest, he could feel the movement of the earth below him, the life it contained and a flow of energy welling from deep underneath. He’d reported the sensation once to Tzu Tam and being forever enigmatic, the master had smiled knowingly before replying that this was where the earth spoke to Rowan and he should listen to what was said.
Tonight however, even his technique of stillness was failing him. With the moon just short of full and newly risen over the crest of the mountain tops, she captured his full attention and held it fast. Like a flood of parasitic mites, he could feel her rays fall upon his skin and creep beneath, seeping into his blood. The feeling was so disturbing that he felt sure his restless soul was attempting to migrate from his body, to rise on moonbeams and wander among the stars.
Holding tightly to his bond with the tree and the soil in which she rooted, so that he might not inadvertently become lost in the night sky, it was then that without warning the forlorn howl of a solitary wolf echoed into the valley. Descending from the surrounding heights, the sound sent an involuntary shudder along his spine. It was a voice so thoroughly mournful and alien to the vale, that even though it arose from miles away he stood to stare among the moonlit peaks.
Originating from well beyond sight, he waited to see if the sound would come again. As though being hailed by the elusive lupine, its voice plucked unexpectedly at a responding chord. Bidden to arise from some secret or forgotten corner of his psyche, an image began to form in his thoughts. In his imagination he could see the wolf standing on the pinnacle of a barren peak, its back arched in silhouette against the otherwise black backdrop of night. Its muzzle lifted in answer to Luna’s call, implored her also to descend and grace the mountain slopes with her dangerous light.
The vividness of this fanciful image defied it being entirely conjured out of whim. There was mystery here urging him to dream-walk, to investigate and become part of its unfolding. Surrendering the pretense of composure, Rowan stood and started to pace. Not once since his arrival in Xi Tian had he heard the voice of a wolf ring from the surrounding mountains and awaiting further conversation, he felt inexplicably sad when the call did not repeat.