First chapter, y'all, hot off the keyboard.
The lion-dogs were playing in the shrine’s clearing when Kini arrived. The two rock-gray puppies tumbled through the drifts of early autumn leaves, more intent on chasing a red-winged flit than paying her any mind. Their thick curly manes were tangled with sticks and bits of leaves, and their pink tongues lolled. They weren’t much higher than her knees, about the size of small stone guardians.
That seemed fitting. It was a rather small shrine, after all.
Well, then. Her sister had said if the dogs were around, then the huokei would be, too. Kini shuffled through the rain-damp leaves, kicking them aside to find the stepping stones that marked the proper path. The lion-dogs finally took notice of her, bounding over to sniff her straw sandals. A green snake rustled the leaves, and the puppies were off again, getting in each others’ way more than actually chasing. The little snake was safe from those two.
Kini paused at the shrine’s well to wash her hands, reminding herself: of course Sozu couldn’t have brought the huokei home with her. She looked around at the decaying forgotten shrine, sad that this was the best the village had to offer. The main shrine was barely a tiny hut on short stilts, not much bigger than it wooden idol it housed. Now it listed slightly, roof-shingles green from moss and weeds taken root. The tiny carved doors hung askew on their rotting wooden hinges. Behind and to one side lay a jumble of rotting wood and broken roof-tiles that had once been the monk-house. It’d finally collapsed back when Kini was barely taller than the puppies, and the main shrine at Sizija hadn’t seen reason to rebuild it. The place was abandoned, and felt it.
Opposite, tucked into the clearing’s farthest corner, was the mountain-god’s home. In Sizija, it was a mansion in its own right, three rooms only ever seen by the mountain-god and its attendants. Here, it was one room, maybe not even big enough for one person to sleep. No wonder the mountain-god had been so happy to move to Sizija. If only the huokei hadn’t hurt its ankle so completely, Sozu could’ve taken it to Sizija, where they’d receive it with proper hospitality. She sighed, wiping her hands on her robe, when movement in the corner of her eye made her look up. The door to the mountain-god’s home stood open. Someone sat in the doorway, watching her.