The old man quietly watched the first light of dawn peeking across the tops of the mountains. A cool breeze blew over him. He sipped his tea. He sighed.
"You're up early, honored Zhen Mei," the monk said to him. "Was it the dreams again?"
He smiled slightly. "Yes, Brother Jurak. They have been growing more vivid lately, more intense. I wish I could understand what they mean."
"Is it the same images you told me about before?"
"Aye," the old man said. " A hand reaching out of the darkness, grasping at something. For the first time last night, I could see it was long scaled, with claws that could cut through the heart of us all. It was as if I'd seen it before, seen all of this before, but...." He stopped, a pained look upon his face.
"I can only imagine how difficult it has been for you all these years, not remembering who you are or where you came from. The arrival of these visions cannot make it any easier."
"No, brother Jurak, it has not. Though I am honored to have made a home with you and your clan, I cannot ignore the hole I have inside my mind. Sometimes I fear what might fill it."
The monk put his hand on Zhen Mei's shoulder. "Whatever it is, I pray that you will take comfort in the knowledge that you will always have a home here."
He smiled. "That I do, my young friend. But enought about me. You're up early as well."
Jurak nodded. "Brother Dhar asked me to travel to the tomb of our great master. He fears it may be tainted by some kind of corruption. There is a darkness that has touched Mystic Lake, and it must be investigated. I wonder if it has something to do with the outsiders.
Zhen Mei shook his head gravely. "I do not believe so. The coming of outsiders is but a part in some greater tale that is unfolding here, but they are not the cause of the corruption. I sense a great confluence of forces, and Mara is at the center of it all. Whose plan, and whether it be for good or ill, I cannot say."
Jurak stood quietly a moment and listened to the flowing of the nearby river. He studied the old man and wondered how he could know such things. Though he trusted Zhen Mei with his life there were times when the old man's words caused him unease.
No, the monk told himself. Do not fear him. He has a part to play as well.
"I must be off," Jurak said, breaking the stillness. "But I would be honored if you would walk with me for a time."
The old man smiled. "That would please me greatly, my friend. Let us hope that your journey will be a fruitful one, and that you return safely and with good news."
The two walked throught the fields towards the hillside. The sun was rising now, its rays touching the trees and casting long shadows. Shadows, all around them.