The wedding party stood assembled in their finest gowns and suits. Excited children ran wildly from person to person. Streamers and balloons escaped small hands, and flew erratically in the air above the crowd.
A band of unreliable size played folk music on traditional instruments; energetic celebratory sounds settling in around the chatter.
Teenagers expectant, jealous; parents nostalgic, excited, scared.
Suddenly the band stopped playing, a discordant last breath from the large horn hushed the crowd, and the bride appeared. Her father would have said she was beautiful, and she was. Eela's long black hair was plaited close to her head, and her glittering eyes were moist with happiness. She was dressed in a spotless plain white robe, covered from toes to neck.
Walking silently up to her parents, she kissed them both on the forehead, pulling her father's face down gently to reach; turned and bowed to the gawking crowd of relatives, took her father and mother's hands in hers, and slowly walked to the edge of the cliff between them, hushed but smiling.
As the trio reached the precipice, they looked across the deep valley to the slightly lower cliff on the other side. The Groom and his family and friends had gathered there in similar fashion, and Eela saw her beloved Karth walking to the edge of the grass on his side, his mother on one side, and his uncle on the other. He too was dressed in a white robe, its folds outlining his muscular body in the wind.
As the two parties stood in silence about a hundred metres apart, Eela could hear only the wind whistling past. With a last hand squeeze, her mother walked back toward the crowd, tears streaming down her face, and Eela was left with her father. He was traditionally required to confirm with her that she wished to continue, and he turned his kind face to her as she looked up. The nod he received was sufficient, and he too backed away, to join his wife and the rest of the family.
As these brief farewells were being enacted, Karth's family were repeating them on the far cliff, and soon the two betrothed were standing alone, separated only by the immense valley below, and the relatively short distance directly between them.
As the band started to play again, Eela collected her thoughts, and flexed her shoulders, as her mother had taught her. She could see Karth stretching in a strong but graceful manner at the same time, and realised again how much she loved him. At the completion of the traditional Hymn of Hope, the band went quiet again, and Eela could hear the drummer beating a strident rhythm on the animal skins, slowly increasing in tempo, and she knew the time had passed for second thoughts. Focusing on the beats from the drum, not influenced any more by the crowd behind her, Eela closed her eyes, and slowly undid the ties on the fluttering robe, reciting the name of her mother, then her mother's mother, and continuing until no ties remained. Opening the robe completely down the front, she stood there, naked and unashamed, boldly bare to the elements. She let the gown fall carelessly behind her now, and stood still, voluntarily blind, just an extension of the beat of the drums. The small lump on her back was now visible, and the muscles beneath squirmed randomly, tradition and genetics combining to effect them at this time.
Alone, naked, blind, Eela listened for the final command. Suddenly the drum stopped, and she stretched her arms out and then up, and leaned slightly forward on the tips of her toes, stretching out into space, into commitment, into life.
As her body cleared the edge of the cliff and started its rapid descent to the river far below, she opened her eyes, still trusting, still smiling, her skin curiously warm, her heart beating fast, her inner thighs hot and damp, her fear banished by the moment.
As she plummeted downward, she caught a glimpse of Karth across from her, falling just as quickly, and then lost him again as she turned slightly in the rushing air about her. As the seconds ticked by, and her speed increased, she could feel the lump on her back growing hotter, the muscles actively seeking leverage, pushing against her skin furiously. Suddenly she felt a sharp stab of pain between her shoulderblades, and the long hidden growth burst from her, spreading as it dried almost instantaneously in the air, extending well beyond the rest of her body, clawing at the now rushing air, expanding, filling, strengthening and finally beating.