The Grotto

Sometimes you find the smallest piece of paradise when you look hard enough…

by Chi “Fireball” Zuo

You know you’re hitting Monsoon when the Salvation goes over that metal bridge, painted jade in most places. I’ve heard it called Jade Bridge and that ain’t a surprise. It’s pretty distinctive. I mean, there are other suspension bridges, and that one sure ain’t the biggest, but it’s that paint. You’re just not expecting that colour.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the Salvation’ll slow to get supplies, water, what-have-you before it crosses the bridge – before it gets into the General’s territory. There’re a bunch of stairs cut into the face of the cliff. There’re pretty old so they’ve been worn smooth. Take them slow and careful. Down at the bottom, and it’s a ways, easily hundreds of stairs though I’ve never counted, is an old temple and monastery. There ain’t no monks there now, but there’re people. There’re good people, honourable and fair which is something you just don’t see all that often in the One Land.

This is the Grotto. It’s a village, yeah, but the reason I stop and visit whenever I can are the hot springs. The monastery was built against the cliff, right at the bottom of the stairs, and the village was built facing it. Behind the ruins of the monastery, in a cave, are the hot springs and the pools they feed. Soothing don’t quite tell the story. It’ll wash the grime off the body and the tired off the bones.

They also make a fish soup in the village that’s spicy and’ll clear the head right up if you’ve been drinking hard the night before. The river don’t always run strong, and sometimes it ain’t nothing more than a creek, but when the rains come and the river flows, the fish in your soup’ll be fresh. It’s something special.

I don’t know why no one’s bothered to pillage the place, or come for taxes. Because they’re too poor? Because of the stairs? The villagers’ll tell you there are six hundred, but I ain’t so sure of that. Anyway, there’s peace there and a place to fill your belly. You can sleep without worrying someone’s going to steal your belongings. It’s just right special.

I swear, when I die, I figure I’ll find myself in the Grotto, soaking and eating that soup. Yeah, that’d be okay.


Submitted by Fraser Ronald