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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blue Rock Springs

Tucked away in a narrow gorge, Blue Rock Springs is a bath house and spiritual retreat. The place takes its name from the tiny veins of blue turquoise that appear in the overhanging cliffs and the many hot springs scattered throughout the gorge, some bubbling up into pools, some tucked away in caves, and some trickling down the cliff faces themselves. The springs are reputed to have both spiritual and physical healing properties, their remedies are sought by anyone who can afford the modest fees charged for admission. Blue Rock Gorge is three days from the nearest settlement, across somewhat unsettled territory. This obstacle makes the springs a treat for the wealthy who can afford transport and guards for the journey.

History

The inn and baths are managed by an order of scholars and healers, the Disciples of Li Shou. Li Shou was a scholar of medicine and the healing arts. He followed rumors and stories about the springs to their source over 60 years ago. When he arrived the springs were untended, receiving only occasional visitors. Li Shou was a pragmatist and realized the springs could benefit both his wallet and his studies. He and his apprentice built a small pavilion and began to study the springs and advise people as to which would provide the greatest cure for their ailments. Two men grew to a dozen, and the pavilion became an inn. 30 years ago a local lord, having benefited greatly from his visit to the springs, granted Li Shou's followers charter as a formally recognized religious organization and full rights to the gorge and the surrounding lands.

Physical Layout

Blue Rock Gorge lies in a line of low hills. There are several Disciple-owned farms situated around the gorge proper, providing food to the inn and wool to trade. The gorge itself is about 200 yards long, running south-west to north-east. It has a single entrance on the south-west end, protected by a high bamboo fence. A simple, almost primitive inn sits near the entrance, providing very basic accommodations for visitors and housing for servants, while a separate building houses the Disciples. A small stable is tucked under the nearest wall of the gorge, providing shelter for visitor's horses. Beyond the inn a broad, open pavilion next to a stream-fed pond provides a tranquil setting for meditation or quiet discussion. A number of simple screens are scattered across the pavilion providing the illusion of privacy.

Beyond the pavilion and pond a well-tended path winds into the depths of the gorge. It leads to a bathhouse flanked by a simple fence that divides the gorge in two. The bath house containing three separate bathing areas, changing rooms, and a supply of simple robes and wooden clogs. The rear doors of the bath house lead into a small garden where attendants guide visitors through a network of paths to the hot springs beyond.

Visiting the Springs

Visitors to the springs are greeted at the gate by one of the Disciples, who will assist them with lodging and stabling of their mounts. Once settled visitors will be directed to the pavilion where a diagnostician will inquire as to the purpose of their visit. After careful questioning and possibly a physical examination of any malady the diagnostician will recommend a course of treatment, which usually includes several specific meals (often accompanied by a herbal concoction) and visits to one or more of the springs on a designated schedule. Usually full treatment will require an overnight stay.

A visit to the springs themselves begins at the bathhouse, where attendants direct visitors to appropriate changing rooms and baths. All visitors are asked to bathe before entering the springs, then an attendant leads them to the appropriate spring. Each spring is watched over by one of the Disciples to insure visitor safety. After treatment, visitors are lead back to the bathhouse where they receive massage or other therapy as directed by their diagnostician. Visitors can then return to their rooms or the common pavilion to rest and recover from their treatment.

The Springs

Black Cave - This natural cavern is pitch black, kept so by the bamboo enclosure that protects it from the weather. The steaming spring is said to have a calming effect on those with troubled spirits, and provide guiding inspiration for resolving problems. No lights are permitted within this cave and the attendant often circles the spring, touching each visitor to insure they are all right.

Heaven's Shower - The icy waters of this spring pour over a broad ledge, creating an invigorating if chilling shower. Heaven's Shower is used to invigorate the body, removing chronic weakness or malady. It is often used as a final cleansing purge after another course of treatment.

Hand of Earth - This hot mud bath is housed within an open pavilion. The viscous mud is a sovereign remedy for all wounds, cuts and bruises. A visit to the Hand of Earth is always followed by a trip to Heaven's Shower.

Green Waters - This mossy grotto surrounded by a bamboo grove is used to treat stress and mental instability. Treatment involves long soaks in the warm waters alternate with purging herbal teas prepared in a tiny open pavilion nearby.

Vital Spring - This small grotto is covered by a screened pavilion. It's bubbling warm waters are prescribed as a treatment for potency and fertility problems.

The Staff

Blue Rock Springs is run by a small but efficient staff. There are about a dozen Disciples and a half-dozen servants in and around the gorge, with another dozen hirelings managing the fields and farms that support it.

Tao So - The patient head of the Disciples oversees all aspects of the springs and the surrounding farms, yet still finds time to speak with most visitors. Tao So is old but fit, and runs the inn with an eye towards providing simple, calm comfort. These days he often leaves the details of running the farms and baths to his assistant Lee Ting. He has Good medical knowledge and herbalism skill.

Lee Ting - The quick-witted diagnostician is Tao So's right hand man. He has assumed much of the responsibility for the farms and grounds around the baths, allowing Tao So to focus his attentions on his studies and the inn itself. Lee Ting has Great medical knowledge and Good herbalism skill.

Mei Lin - The matronly innkeeper deals with the details of running the inn and kitchen and keeping the servants in line. She is a cheerful soul, with a round face an laughing eyes. Mei Lin prepares many of the herbal remedies and specialized meals required by visitors. It is rumored her relationship with Tao So extends beyond the professional. She as Great herbalism and good Cooking skills.

Yax Mo - The blind masseuse spends his days tending the bodies of visitors. He is a slender middle-aged man with shaggy brown hair and a wicked scar across the left side of his face. A scarf covers the ruined sockets of his eyes. Yax Mo served as a soldier in the local army. He was captured by enemies and suffered horrible torture in their hands. He was rescued and ended up working at the springs after attempts to heal him failed. He has Great massage skills and, despite his blindness, Good skill with staff.

Yang Si - The isolated location and occasional importance of visitors requires a small nod to security. Yang Si and his men maintain order within the gorge and patrol the borders of Disciple lands. Yang Si has a military background, though he does not speak of it. He is a friend of Yax Mo, and the two men often share their meals. Yang Si has three men in his employ. Yang Si has Great skill with sword, his men are Fair spearmen.

Plots Hooks

  • The springs are a meeting place for all sorts of people, their services are open to all who can pay. They make an idea place for a quiet meeting.
  • People talk to their caregivers, perhaps too much. The Disciples have strict rules concerning confidentiality, but rules are made to be broken.
  • While not rich the inn is lightly guarded, making it a tempting target. Travelers on their way to or from the inn also make tempting targets for thieves or bandits.
  • Old Yax Mo must know something of importance to have been tortured so.
  • Wounded adventurers need medical help too.
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