Legend has it that a giant leaped by with a handful of earth he had scooped up, and from his fist fell a clod of earth. That clod of earth formed the mountain as we know it. When war was announced, they did so by climbing on top of this mountain and beating the huge gong on top. Another legend says that a king once killed a ferocious demon with a divine sword and buried him at the south eastern foot of the mountain and kept him inside with a huge slab of stone. A local elder once took me to the spot and showed me the fabled slab of stone. It was massive indeed. I wonder whether the legend had some truth in it, because the terrain isn't rocky. How did the huge slab come there on its own?
I circled the mountain from the western side. A clump of orchids caught my eye. They were ground orchids and resembled narcissus in color and look. But such beauty! I badly wanted to take some with me and possibly plant them in my garden. I checked my bag for my dagger and proceeded to dig out a bulb. Hardly had I done so when a feminine voice behind me said, "You'll have to splice the root and take out the core for it to grow." I turned around and saw a pretty young lady behind me dressed in white. She quietly took my dagger from my hand as I stood staring at her. Digging out a tuber, she sliced it quickly and then removed the core and handed it to me. "You see, the core has a charm that prevents the orchid from growing anywhere else. Unless you remove it, your bulb is as good as a clump of earth."
"How do you know?"
She just smiled. Then, without a word, she gave me back my dagger and walked off towards the north and turned a corner, even as I stood by like a stupefied idiot. When I came back to my senses, I ran behind her as fast as I could and reached the corner that I saw her negotiate. No one was there. Not a soul, except the bamboo towards the west and the deserted shrine on the north. Where did she go? Who was she? Was she the lady of the mountain, the one who presides over the area and guides lost travelers? I wasn't lost, or was I?
I continued walking for hours, walking mindlessly most of the time. An old man appeared out of the blue and beckoned me to follow him. He said my mission was in the lost valley and that I had to hurry there soon. I didn't know the way to the valley nor what I was expected to do. He led me to clearing where a cloud of stars was hovering by. He stepped into the cloud and it swirled around his feet. He signaled me to follow and I did so without any questions. I saw him muttering a spell and we were gliding through the mountains, towards the lost valley...
(to be continued)