You arrive at the door to Sarah's rooms to find that there is no door. The stone walls of the corridor are broken by a low doorway framed with heavy wood timbers. You are unsure if you should knock or just enter when you hear . . .
"Please, leave your shoes on the mat by the door," says a soft voice from inside and to the right.
Entering, you see the mat and proceed to do as requested by Sarah. As you remove your shoes and place them next to a couple of pairs of zori and a pair of brown riding boots you notice the sound of water running over rocks, as if there were a forest stream nearby. You think to yourself that it is a strange sound to hear in the middle of Castle Amber. Turning around you take in the room. The walls are made of rice paper between floor-to-ceiling timbers of some sweet-smelling wood you can't immediately place. There is another scent in the room . . . could it be cherry blossoms?
You stand on a hardwood floor that shines from a new coat of wax, and yet your socked feet do not slide when you walk. As you look for the source of the aquatic sounds you notice the sparse and simple furnishings. No chairs, a few low tables with mats next to them, and a fireplace in the far wall. There are beautiful pictures on the walls and a door immediately ahead of you leading into a second room. You move toward the tranquil sounds of water falling, and proceed through the second doorway.
You enter the second room and note a fountain along the right wall, which is the source of the aquatic sounds. Another low table is directly ahead of you, with a large window behind it. Other than some mats and cushions on the floor, there are no other furnishings in this room
"Please, sit," Sarah says from right next to you. "Would you care for some tea?" You are slightly startled by her silent approach.
You turn to see a small Japanese woman in a green robe with an orange sash. The green fabric accentuates her eyes, which are the color of a storm-tossed sea. Her auburn hair is thick and lusterous, and falls just below her shoulders. Sarah stands a little over five feet high, and has a slender build. She appears to be in her late teens. It does not appear that she wears any makeup and her only jewelry is a gem-encrusted bracelet, which she always wears on her left wrist. Her only other visible adornment is the bottom tip of a tattoo of a dragon, which spirals around her left ankle. In her hands she holds a traditional Japanese Tea service. She leads you over to the table on which you notice a tray of your favorite pastries.
Once you are seated, Sarah kneels to your right and pours the tea for you. She then walks around the low table and sits cross-legged on a mat across from you. As you sip the aromatic green tea, the young woman begins to gently massage your feet. While you eat she sings softly in a high, clear voice. Neither the song, nor the language, is familiar but the song is beautiful. As she sings she firmly massages your feet, which take up much of the space under the table. The song ends just as you are finishing the last of the pastries. Sarah rises, and hands you a warm, moist towel with a faint scent of orange. You clean your hands as she removes the dishes. You realize that you are feeling much better than when you arrived. Your problems, which seemed so important when you came in, somehow seem less urgent now. And that ache in your side seems to be gone too.
As you leave, you look through the doorway into Sarah's bedroom. There is an orange cat staring back at you. Sarah's bed appears to consist of a mat spread out on the far side of the bedroom on a low wooden pedestal. You pull your shoes back on and head back down the corridor.
Please report any problems to me.