Aislinn awoke with a start, the many-voiced whisperings and haunting music of her dreams fading away into the morning’s gray reality. She sat up from her leafy bed of soft ferns with some alarm, for she knew that she had stayed out too late. The dawn had come, and she would be missed. Passing unsteady fingers through her wild mane of tangled auburn hair, Aislinn looked about and found the battered leather bag that she always carried with her. Clutching it to her breast, she quickly stood and looked around nervously.
Sakura raced through the bamboo forest towards unidentified cries of distress, heedless of the pain that throbbed in her left side. The steep mountain slope made the climb treacherous as she pulled herself along from oversized stone to oversized stone, hands and feet seeking any available hold. By the gods, she thought, someone besides myself here in the midst of this dense wilderness? Surely, I am thousands of li from any settlement.