Raven watched as the sun set over the valley. The view from her front porch was utterly breathtaking in the spring. The stars lit up the sky like a blanket of glittering diamonds, the absence of the moon leaving them the only guides in the sky. It wouldn’t be long until she made her appearance known to Raven’s kind. The drawl of her moon song would be too strong to ignore. But no matter how loud the beat played in Raven’s head she wouldn’t be able to answer the call. Fate had given her a bum ride; she could hear and feel the drawl of the moon but her body wouldn’t respond. It was a cruel reality that she dealt with every month.
“Raven, get in here now! Your father needs your help getting ready for the ceremony.”
Her mother had a temper shorter than a dynamite fuse and it was burning fast from the stress of the Moon Ceremony. Once the moon showed herself in the eastern sky, in less than a week, their home would be flooded with other shifters preparing for the spring mating ritual.
“I’m coming, Mom.” She whispered a few choice expletives, but with a shifter’s hearing her mother had no trouble understanding her ramblings.
“Young lady, I know you are twenty-five, but you’re still my daughter and I will pull you over my knee.” Her mother’s goodhearted laugh let her know it wasn’t urgent. Nevertheless, the stress level was getting pretty damn high. “Now get out in the yard and help your father.”
Her father, Talfryn Corvus, had been planning the Moon Ceremony since he was chosen by the council last spring. He was to host the opening ceremonies of the mating ritual on their family lands. Ever since he had been chosen, he had become obsessed with every small detail, and had driven Raven to the brink of insanity.
She walked through the front doors and back into the chill night air. Her father was bent over placing stones around the center alter, preparing a small pit to contain the fire.
“Hey Dad, did you need me?”
“Yes, please take a seat.” He indicated one of the makeshift benches made from cut logs that now lined the yard. The smell of sawdust mixed with the sweet smell of spring. “Daughter, I think you understand how important this ceremony is to your mother and me. I need to know for sure that you understand your part. You don’t have to shift to be included in the ritual but you should try to commune with the Goddess. She will choose your mate.”
Upon their eighteenth birthday, shifters gathered at the change of each season under the first full moon to not only celebrate and dance but to find and seal the mating bond. Most shifters went into the ceremony with their intended mate, ready to make the commitment and start families. Others went with the intent of finding their mate among the flock. But not Raven.
“Dad, I understand. I’m just not ready.”
“You are twenty-five and have refused each chance at a mate. Why do you buck tradition? You could have any man in the flock you desire and yet you still choose none.”
Her father was right on one count. She did turn her nose up at the traditions of her people, and she couldn’t imagine tying herself to one person for the rest of her life. She wanted to be free, to be among the rest of humanity, and off of this damn mountain.
He was wrong to assume she had her choice of mates. Most of the men she knew were family, and the ones who could be potential mates kept a wide berth when she was around. She was born different from most shifters, with the moon closer to her heart than her non-existent beast, and it kept her from the one thing she really wanted.
“Daddy, you know how I feel about finding a mate. When the Goddess thinks I’m ready, she will bring him to me. Not a moment before.”