Sunday, February 10, 2013



Every where that Zurak looked was beauty; the abundant grasses of the Golden Land rippled like a sea of feathery greens and the sunlight danced off the facets of the flowing waters.  The brilliant blue sky was as wide as the Peaceful Ocean and filled with small colorful birds that tweeted with a cacophony of sounds.  Food was abundant too, the streams swelled with fish and mollusks, fat quails scurried in the grass and thousands of acorns were spread all around.

There were dangers though, many dangers that Zurak was always had to watch for.  Snakes were abundant here too and Zurak had almost been bitten by one after investigating a loud rattling sound.  There were large predators prowling all over, cats, wolves and coyotes hid in the outcroppings and trees; Zurak now walked with a stout stick for defense from the hungry beasts.  The stick was taller than Zurak and she had carefully tied a dozen pieces of sharp rocks and several more strands of seashells to the head.  The stick gave her the appearance of being much larger and the noisy shells served to frighten away some of the animals; the sharp rocks could cut flesh with enough force and Zurak had become very good at wielding her staff.

Zurak had been walking for many months now; she had left her cave on the beach after the Zonate ritual, after Elune showed Zurak the way.  It had taken some time to prepare for the journey; Zurak had to finish the carvings in the cave first so any other Wanderers would be able to follow.  They were crude, but readable, and Zurak had learned much about rock carving by the time she was done.  Traveling gear was needed too, so Zurak had fashioned a small sled out of driftwood to pull her belongings behind her and made foot coverings from otter hide.

Once the spring rains had subsided, Zurak said goodbye to her beach and swallowed down the fear of going all alone.  She headed east over the range of mountains that separated the sea from the valley, always looking for fire pits or trails, any kind of sign that other people were nearby.

Elune had shown Zurak the Well of Provenance in her vision; the moon goddess also told of the monkey people that lived in the Golden Land and Zurak was desperate to find them.  She had been alone for over two years, with no one to talk to and no one to comfort her when she cried.  The loneliness was much worse than hunger or pain, it was as deep as the sea and seemingly endless as the sky, Zurak craved companionship and prayed every night that Elune would send someone to walk with her.

But she did keep walking, inland to the east and then northward, following the small streams until they joined the mighty rivers that cut through the valley.  Zurak foraged as she went, arranging rock piles according to the Wanderers to mark her trail and carving her family rune into the caves she found.  There were more nuggets too, large and small gleaming beneath the clear flowing waters of the Golden Land, Zurak collected them all into a special pouch to be offerings to the goddess once Zurak found the well.

She was just putting away another found nugget and fastening the bindings on the sled when she heard the noise.  It wasn’t very far away; just on the other side of the stream past the tree line, and it was not the noise of people.  Zurak told herself to just leave it, that it was dangerous to go towards the sound of beasts and she should just keep going.  But there was something in that sound that touched her, as if the animal making it was keening in misery, and Zurak could not ignore the sound of heartbreak.

Quietly, she crossed the stream towards the sounds; Zurak hid behind a thick oak tree and peered around until her eyes found the tragedy.  A large brown bear was lying dead a short distance away, its body shredded and mangled with teeth marks and the sound was coming from a cub.  The baby bear was the size of a child with shimmering golden brown fur and its mother’s blood smeared on its face.

Zurak watched as the grief stricken cub pawed, licked and wailed at its mother to get up and tears sprang to her eyes.  She remembered the sea birds picking at Maymay’s corpse and could not bear to let this little cub go through the same agony.  Zurak went back to her sled where the pheasant she had caught earlier was waiting to be plucked and took it across the stream.  She stepped out from behind the tree cautiously, bears were very dangerous no matter the size, and threw the still warm pheasant at the cub.

The golden brown bear cub only stared at Zurak for several long moments before hesitantly sniffing at the bird.  The cub must have been starving because it grabbed up the pheasant and immediately began tearing into the flesh.  She realized that the bird would not fill the cub up and did not want to be thought of as the next meal, so Zurak hurried to the stream to find some fish.

There were two trout on a flat rock near the stream by the time the cub came out of the trees.  Zurak watched the little one eat the fish and waited until he was full before starting a conversation.  She did not come from a family of animal shamans, but Zurak knew some of their ways, and addressed the cub in the formal manner of animals.

“Most honored bear of the Golden Land, I am Zurak of the western Wanderers and I thank you for allowing my feet to walk your Earth.  We are both orphans honored bear, let us walk together towards the glory of Elune.”

The cub regarded Zurak with curious brown eyes before walking to her and laying down at her feet.  Fresh tears moistened Zurak’s pale blue eyes once more as her fingers gently brushed the cub’s fur and she was alone no longer.

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