Tunnel of Love
Zurak had been forced to wait all winter to see the cave; once it had been found the entire tribe decided it would be safer to explore after the spring thaw. Even though she knew they were right, the waiting had been anguish so Zurak was being impatient with her family. After being on her own for so long, the Wanderer still found it difficult sometimes to allow for the needs of other people.
But she needed to see the cave with her own eyes; Zurak had to find the Well of Provenance so that she could claim it for Elune and finish her quest. Now her whole family was on the same quest, they had joined their lot to Zurak’s and embraced the moon goddess as she did. Zurak had told her new family every Wanderer story she could remember since she had joined them, she told them over and over so that the stories would not be lost after she was gone.
Zurak did not fool herself though, she knew that the Wanderers were not meant to continue; it was not the will of the Goddess. Her family’s blood would get lost in time, buried deeply in the bloodlines of the monkey people and few would remember the White Wanderers.
But Elune would remember, the moon goddess would never forget the people that she made. Elune had given the Wanderers life and purpose and Zurak wanted to give her the
in return, as thanks for the gift of breath.
But it was more than that, once the Well was claimed and Zurak’s
obligation to Elune satisfied, the Wanderer wanted nothing more than just to
be. She wanted to give her husband more
children and travel with her family across the Golden Land . Golden Land
The entrance to the cave was very small, just a passage between large boulders that didn’t look like much from the outside. Churashom found it because he had been looking for the source of a large stream that seemed to spring out of nowhere. But the source of the stream was buried behind the rocks and Zurak’s brave husband had figured that out, had gone looking and found the cave.
Caves called out to Wanderers like kinfolk, Zurak’s people were never afraid of the darkness of stone vaults even though caves held many dangers. But Wanderers went into every cave they could find, leaving their messages for the other Wanderers and imprinting the Earth with their essence.
Churashom went through the small opening first to help the others in; Zurak practically pushed her husband down in her rush to get inside. Fortunately, Churashom was an even tempered man, carefully helping his wife and chuckling at her eagerness. They were a group of six for this outing, the three men who regularly explored plus Zurak and two of the slimmer tribe members. Cave passages could be tight and Churashom’s young cousins were excited to help with this important mission.
The lit torches were being passed through the opening and orange-tinged shadows flowed on the walls around Zurak. The echoing sounds of the explorers told Zurak that the chamber was quite big; she felt around in the dim to put her hands on the stone surface, as though she could not believe it until she felt the rock herself. She heard Churashom and Nohalik; the younger brother was staying outside the cave in case of trouble, as they transferred the rest of the ropes and torches.
This first large chamber was the only part Churashom had seen when he found the cave, Zurak could hear the water running but none of it was in the first chamber. She kept leaning farther and farther away from the group, anxious to go in deeper, even as Churashom grasped her arm gently to make her wait. Finally, her husband was satisfied with his safety precautions and smiled lovingly at Zurak.
“Let us look Pretty Milk,” he said with a smile, using his favorite name for Zurak.
She did not need to be told twice and the exploration officially started. Even though she wanted to run towards the sound of the water, Zurak forced her feet to go slowly and with care. She had not seen the Well of Provenance in her vision, just the three chambers, but wells were full of water, so it was the sound of water that she followed.
Soon the sound of rushing water was all they could hear as they made their way towards the back of the chamber. The party was forced to stop at the back wall where the water was flowing from a small tunnel down through the rocks and beneath the chamber. They all stood around it with their torches trying to peer into the blackness of the tunnel, but it was impossible to tell how far back it went.
“I am sorry Pretty Milk,” Churashom said softly, “we can go no further.”
Zurak’s head whipped around of its own volition, she rarely argued with Churashom, rarely had reason to be angry with him. But he was willing to give up and she was not. He and his family did not know how to swim; it was not their custom to invade the watery provinces of churlish gods. Wanderers were practically born on the water and were taught how to flee from Tidalus’ wrath as babies; Zurak was not going to let Tidalus stop her now.
“I’m going,” Zurak snapped as she pulled off her clothes, “tie the rope around me. I’m going,” she said once more with a firm look at Churashom.
Her husband sighed heavily and began to remove his clothes too, “We are going Pretty Milk, you do not wander alone anymore.”