Why the wolf should manifest now, taunting him with visions of the wild was a mystery of synchronicity and his reaction to its call was nothing short of instinctual. Whether real or imagined, the hail to wander stirred his blood with a restlessness that refused to be quelled. Neither could he dispel the strong sense of impending change that it brought. Considering what the event might foreshadow, it wasn’t until the moon slipped behind the western peaks that he managed a short, but troubled sleep.
Awakening with a protuberant root digging irritably into his back, he abandoned dreams of distant adventure to the startling sound of an angry shout. Thinking the voice raised in distress belonged to Wan Lo, for a moment Rowan wondered if he truly was awake. Only once in three years had he heard the old man say anything, exchanging at the time, a quip shared with Tzu Tam and followed with laughter. Astonishingly though, it was Wan Lo, verbally challenging someone approaching the gardens.
Vaulting to his feet, Rowan nearly toppled over from a sudden rush of lightheadedness. Struggling to retain his balance, he cursed the miserable timing of the malady. Surely the monastery must be under attack, but spreading his feet into a defensive stance was more to combat his incessant swaying than anything else. Forced to stare through a veil of falling, swirling leaves, he was able to make out the elder Lo. Apparently alone, inexplicably the man was frantically waving his arms about as if attempting to ward off an angry wasp or invisible spirit.
There was no one else within sight. No marauders, bandits or imperial guards were threatening an attack and Rowan’s puzzlement only deepened as the breeze rising from the valley floor signaled another fleet of red and brown leaves to set sail in the air. The briskly wafting zephyr responsible for their animation did not bear any taint or trace of the foul odors expected to accompany a fighting force. Everyone knew that soldiers groomed themselves so poorly and lent even less attention to their mounts, that a group of any size would likely be detected by their stench before they were seen.
Never the less, there was something familiar carried on that fateful breeze; Golden Rain and Bell flowers mingled with something else. This was a far more intriguing scent than those belonging to the herbs, for they were used by the monks in their tonics and teas. The underlying scent was more distantly memorable, feminine and intoxicating.
Certainly this aroma did not belong to any woman of the valley, for rarely did they bathe. Lacking any trace of their pungent earthy-ness, this scent reminded him of the painted ladies of the city, their subtle perfumes, adornments and lace. As a second wave of dizziness washed over Rowan, he wondered if that sweet smell might have something to do with his vertigo and possibly coincide with the odd behavior of the leaves.
Once free of their moorings, leaves were generally inclined to flutter to the ground, not spiral in a maelstrom with him standing at its core. Whirling in hyperbolic arcs through the air, their rushing almost seemed a whisper of warning. This particular dawn was, after all, herald to the autumnal equinox, a day which the farmland folk believed to be the most magical time of the year.
For those living in close communion with the earth, understandably this was a season of celebration and of special spiritual significance. The gathering of the harvest directly related the gain of one’s labors. Although Rowan didn’t pretend to uphold any belief in the supernatural, if he had, he might not have been quite so wonder struck at the events that followed next.
This concludes A Lady of Winter Moon, but the story continues with The Gate of Demons! Stay tuned for lots of occult mystery and mythology. There’s more to come!