Beyond portals of iron and jade, there is a pool.
The room is never dark. A hundred candles burn around its walls, and their golden light dances on the water's surface.
Occasionally, the flames will lean towards the water, as if bowing. The air is still.
There are three monks around the pool. Sometimes more, but never less.
Their robes are dyed a violent crimson, the pigment made from the shell of a desert beetle that cannot stand the touch of water.
A single drop will bleach the cloth bone-white.
No water may leave this room.
Each monk has a great ladle, cast in one piece of black iron. They are as long as a man is tall, and the weight is prodigious.
In turn, each monk takes a scoop of water from the pool, and drops it back. The liquid sound echoes back from the red glazed tiles.
The water must never be still.
Written for the link in Auspice's The Amber Heart of the Alchemical Ship