Delah sat on the grass at the side of the dirt path. Leaning against a wooden, crossed fence of old willow; she winked lasciviously at the husbands taking the journey with their families. To the women, she smiled demurely, bowing her head in respect. To the children,  she made faces, grimaces and grotesque smiles, both scaring and delighting them into screams and giggles.

Occasional groups of young men would pass, drop to their knees and weep. Some would sing, some would dance. A few would even clown, dropping to the floor as though the glorious enrapture of her beauty caused instant death upon sight. She dismissed them all, laughing. With a wave of her hand and looked to elsewhere.

Old men and women joined the congregation. She rose and assisted them in the journey up the valley, up and steep, to the plateau.

The night was bright. Stars overhead gave their warm blessings of light; the moon, low, full and fat and ready to rise. The path rose upwards, through groves of cedar and ash. Boulders from the making littered the path side. On these, families marked their new and the death of the old in concentric circles. Circles enveloping circles.  Patterns were drawn of family occupations and of seasonal considerations. Patterns of lust, death, new life, poverty, peace and war. Fertility was the most popular symbol of all.

The Sisters sang and guided the journey with torches and encouragement. Theirs was the duty of assist on this night. Bring people together to sing in harmony and weep at the moon. In return, they would find love and contentment and be free from grief for another year. She promised and they obeyed.

Upon reaching the apex, Delah released herself from the grip of an old lady, who although struggling to make each step; had proudly explained through a toothless smile, that this was her 58th bereavement. Delah smiled and praised her, as one would praise the pious and devout.

The moon was at almost three-quarters before they reached the temple. The people gathered and silently awaited Sakrisan, the elder. He appeared in flowing red robes when the moon was close to its zenith. The doors of the temple opened, he created the way for She. The people gasped at Her brilliance. The Sakrisan walked slowly before her, head bowed and eyes closed. She stood among them. The moon reached its pinnacle.

At first a low murmur, less than a whisper. It grew until all the people were crying. Weeping for their losses, hysterical and furious and melancholy with emptiness. The sound of Her crying soothed the cacophony; their losses were small, Hers was forever.

The temple doors closed shut and the people were left. They felt bottomless and adrift. The moon gazing down brightly in the windless night. Her plaintive cry lingering on the stillness.

Delah at the peak of the bereavement, with tears pouring and hands gripping her hair; looked up. Looking at her was the Sakrisan. His eyes were filled with a great sadness. Beyond that of loss, of something much deeper and alone. She looked away.

To Chapter 5 – The Old Officer