The sun was beating down on Zurak as she lugged the heavy basket through the field of brown grasses towards the grouping of rocks near the tree line. Churashom had offered to help her, had wanted to come with her, but Zurak knew this would be hard enough. She did not want her husband to see her tears, but Zurak had to be brave because this needed to be done.
The baby swelling in her belly was Zurak’s first priority now and she was part of a family again, a real family of people. Churashom’s tribe had welcomed the Wanderer; they thought her an animal shaman or powerful priestess even though Zurak had told them otherwise. But they treated her with respect and affection, especially since she had chosen Churashom for a mate over three men from other tribes.
Thankfully, the group of rocks was already in the shade of a fragrant evergreen tree; Zurak put her basket down gently before sitting down in the shade for a brief rest. She was not sure how to do this, but everyone knew it was for the best. It was best for her new family and it was best for Taeyo now that he was fully grown. Zurak kept her ears peeled for the sounds of predators, even though she knew her bear was not far off; the basket of food would attract many interested noses.
At first it was very difficult to spend time with the new people, they were afraid of Taeyo and Zurak would have to wait until the bear was off hunting to go and visit. Churashom was the only one brave enough to actually come to their little cave, but even he kept a safe distance from the bear at all times. But he did keep coming back, bringing her gifts of food and clothing, teaching Zurak his language and watching as she made her carvings in the rock walls.
The tribe had been moving south, but part of Zurak’s wedding arrangement was that the tribe would help her find the Well of Provenance. None of the elders of the tribes believed such a cave existed, that they would know of it already; but Zurak was a Wanderer and a child of Elune. She would marry no one, she would stay alone if that was the only way to fulfill her quest.
The people of the
thought Wanderers to
be special, lucky even, so Churashom’s family had agreed to stay. But there was one condition, a condition that
Zurak could not argue with and that condition had brought her to the rocks with
a basket full of food. She had to say
good bye to Taeyo, Zurak had to let him go. Golden
There was a tiny fluttering in her midsection; Zurak instinctively placed her hand over it as though to calm her unborn child. The baby had only recently quickened inside her; those tiny movements always made Zurak smile and try to imagine what her baby would look like. Churashom was hoping for a strong boy with pure white hair even though his wife was dubious about that. Zurak knew that the white hair was the first thing to go when a Wanderer married into the families of monkey people.
The white hair would always come eventually to those who had Wanderer blood in their veins though, it would creep up on them as they aged to show the truth of their ancestry. Zurak wanted her son to have Churashom’s bravery and her faith in Elune, other than that, she did not care what her baby looked like. But she did care about her little brother not eating her child, it was a very real concern so Zurak pulled her body up from the ground and began to make a clicking sound with her mouth.
She had not actually seen Taeyo in two months, the bear roamed around the area where the tribe was settled and would call out to Zurak from time to time. She would always drop everything and answer the summons, but each time there was less familiarity in the bear’s eyes, less recognition somehow. But Taeyo had grown into a strong bear, he was twice Zurak’s size now and his pelt showed the signs of a few fights. The last time he had called out to Zurak, Taeyo had been badly wounded; she had been salving his worst wounds when the bear unexpectedly took a swipe at her.
That was the night the tribe decided that Zurak must end her relationship with the bear, she had been badly wounded by the swipe and it was time to part ways. Zurak’s new father Mohiwalip had gently explained to the Wanderer that Taeyo had his own destiny now. She had cried bitterly but not argued, Mohiwalip was right because Taeyo was never going to be anything but a wild animal.
But she wanted to say goodbye, Zurak knew in her heart that there was enough recognition left, enough love left between them for Taeyo to give her that. Her nose picked up Taeyo’s rank smell well before her eyes and ears could find him and Zurak pulled the berries from her basket. She called out to Taeyo as she arranged a pile of plump berries on the far end of the rock and waited.
It was just a few minutes before a shaggy golden brown head appeared from around the trees; Taeyo’s nose was twitching towards the berries but he kept his eyes on Zurak. She could see the struggle behind those brown eyes, Taeyo was trying to remember why he shouldn't eat her and it was a struggle he was losing. Zurak began to sing, it was a lullaby that her mother would always sing and a sound that always comforted the bear.
Taeyo relaxed at Zurak’s soothing tones, his eyes glowed with happy love for her as he shambled to the rock to stuff berries in his maw. Zurak kept singing as she produced two enormous fish followed by a hunk of venison and a comb dripping with honey. Taeyo grunted and growled happily as he consumed the feast, the blood and honey matting down the fur around his muzzle, with the happiness of a sated bear.
Zurak sat on the rock and watched her brother devour his farewell feast, she remembered that first day when she sat on a rock and watched the little cub eat her fish and felt the salt tears stinging her eyes again. Taeyo finished off all the food, including licking the honey off of the rocks, before he sat down heavily on his haunches and stared at her.
The silence between them grew thick and heavy as Zurak stared sadly at Taeyo, he grunted softly and reached out with one paw as he regarded her with a cocked head. She reached out with her paw too and asked gently, “You see it as well, don’t you?”
Zurak moved a little closer to Taeyo, so that she could feel his fur with her fingertips as she continued. “The wise Elune gave us to each other so that we would both survive and grow strong. You are my brother, I am your sister, but we are not of the same world anymore.”
Zurak could not stop the flow of hot tears down her face, she even forgot her fears for her baby in her grief and moved even closer to the bear. Taeyo was grunting softly making Zurak want only to bury her face in his familiar warmth; she told herself to be strong, that this was what was best for everyone.
Zurak looked deeply into Taeyo’s eyes and said, “I can no longer come and meet you, no longer bring you food or tend your wounds brother. It is time for us to part.”
There was something in the bear’s eyes, perhaps it was only something that Zurak wanted to see, but it looked like sadness to her. It looked like Taeyo understood her words, that he had already figured out the truth of them on his own. The sun was beginning to dip down in the sky, Zurak knew it was time to go back but she lingered for a few more minutes to sing one last song.
When she was finished, Zurak stood up and very gently stroked Taeyo’s face one last time. “I will always love you little brother, you will always be my family, no matter what.” With that, Zurak picked up her basket and turned to leave.
The tears were flowing down Zurak’s face as she walked away from Taeyo, she could feel his eyes on her back and hear the bear’s plaintive grunts. Even though her heart was ripping in two, Zurak would not look back; she would not be able to be strong if she looked at him again.
Taeyo was a bear, he belonged with the other bears and Zurak belonged to the monkey people now.