The monkey people were not the first children on the Earth, they came after the people that the gods made. The wise Elune knew that the monkey people were the true heirs though, but she could also see that they were imperfect and that they needed the Wanderers to help them grow. All the original god people had faced the same fate as the Wanderers, forced out of their great cities by the rising oceans and tasked to join their blood to the blood of the monkey people.
Zurak recited the words of the familiar stories of her people as though they were all circled around watching her perform the Zonate ritual. It had taken almost a full month to prepare for because Zurak had to do it all by herself. Over a week had been spent just collecting the stones, the shape and color of the rocks in the procession were as important as placement and Zurak had been especially choosy. She needed this ritual to be as perfect as she could get it; Zurak needed the goddess to see her on this important night.
There were other significant preparations as well; Zurak did not know very much about herbs and plants, so finding the right ones had been hard. But there were tall grasses that burned an intoxicating sweet smoke; Zurak dried them and twisted the grasses into wands to wave around her body as she walked. She had also crafted a tea made from the necessary elements of fire, air, dirt and water; for the last seven days the tea was the only thing Zurak had consumed.
Once the stones had been set and the herbs fashioned, Zurak had begun her ritual of cleansing. Everyday for seven days, she had gone to the pit of white clay and covered her body while chanting the moon goddess’ song and every night for seven nights she washed off the clay under a cold fall of water. Every day during the ritual, Zurak consumed three cups of tea as she chanted the Wanderer’s song and purged her body of unclean thoughts.
Zurak knew that the Earth had done one full dance around Sola since she had been stranded on the beach. She was thirteen years old now and the moon blood had already started flowing from her womb. It had begun to flow again right before the sunset and that was a powerful sign among her people. Zurak smeared a dab of it into the bitter herb paste made from dreaming flowers and rubbed the paste over her tongue.
Silhouetted by the setting sun, Zurak stood in the grassy clearing at the beginning of the stone procession and began the ritual of Zonate. Each step had its own sound to help Zurak get in harmony with the spirits of the Earth while the hazy grass smoke spread Zurak’s plea to the air. Her naked body was clean of clay and her long white hair had been plaited and coiled around her head to resemble the fullness of Elune.
The were four stations along the procession that marked Elune’s faces, Zurak stopped at each one in succession to say the prayers and paint symbols on her skin. The new moon was an empty circle on her left palm and a crescent moon went on the right; the half face was applied to her lower belly and the full face of the moon goddess would be painted on her head. Each step in the procession was the journey of Elune in the sky and each step brought Zurak closer to Elune.
She was already lightheaded from the lack of food and physical exertion of creating the ritual stage. Fear, loneliness and worry had been her only companions since the shipwreck and they preyed constantly on Zurak’s heart which further weakened her. The herb paste and smoke joined together to gently pry Zurak’s spirit from her body and she felt like she was floating instead of walking towards the final station.
The moon was full and so big that it engulfed Zurak’s vision as her lips chanted of their own accord and her feet moved along the final stones of the procession. She no longer felt her hunger or tasted the bitter paste in her mouth; Zurak knew she had reached out of herself and that her spirit had joined to Elune.
The moon goddess was waiting for Zurak at the end of the procession, smiling radiantly as the girl solemnly painted the full white moon on her forehead. Elune was dressed in robes of flowing pale blue energy and her long silvery white hair kissed the dirt at its tips; she had on a necklace with a glittering chain with Zurak’s gold nugget resting against her breast. She reached out to touch Zurak’s hair, her gift to the Wanderers, with a warm smile. The moon goddess opened her arms wide to receive Zurak and the girl fell into them with hot tears flowing from her eyes.
“My beloved lost Wanderer, your journey is but only starting,” Elune said in a voice that sounded like the crystal drums of the Atalanteans. Elune gently released Zurak from her embrace, took the girl’s hand and turned to the east, “Walk with me Zurak.”