The Summer Solstice

You’re all relieved when we take the transporter across the sea the next day. You’re happy to leave Lukravis and its troubles behind. I stress the importance of remembering what you saw and realizing those same problems plague your own world.

Earth. It’s been nearly six months since you last saw her. Some of you are homesick. Others are still caught up in the adventure. We’re only halfway through our journey. We’ll see how many of you stick through to the end.

We reach the continent of Tukanara. Some of you are exasperated to see that despite crossing the ocean, we’re still in the savanna. You’re starting to wonder if this planet has any other biomes, and I remind you we’ve stayed in the mountains, a desert, and a subtropical forest in addition to the rainforest islands. And don’t fret. We’ll be leaving the savanna soon.

The first thing you notice when we reach the town of Olavi is that it only has a handful of permanent structures. Most of the shelters are wooden wagons with finely woven cloth serving as a rounded cover. They remind you of a more colorful and ornate version of what you’d see on the Oregon Trail.

The Tukanarans are nomadic, but they have a few towns along their southern coast, so they can trade with merchants from Lekravis and Mersavi. Most of the town’s population is temporary, leaving whenever the next group of people arrives, but there are some merchants and a few others who live there year-round.

A small inn is the largest building, and you have to share your room with others from our group because there aren’t enough rooms for everyone. But it’s a beautiful day, so you spend most of your time outside, walking through the market that’s overflowing with exquisite works of art.

You notice a large group of people working in an area to the north of town. Some are setting up a bonfire while others cook food over smaller fires. Everyone is wearing bright colors. Lucky for you, we’ve arrived here the day before the summer solstice, and tonight, you will get to see the Tukanarans’ celebration.

* * * * *

The sun and moon help the Tukanarans keep track of time and the seasons. The sun provides light and allows for plants to grow, and the Tukanarans’ livestock need these plants for their survival. The moon stands watch over them at night. It’s important for them to be grateful for the sun and moon, especially on the summer solstice when plants and livestock are flourishing thanks to warm temperatures and rain.

Tonight, the night before the solstice, they light a huge bonfire, and the whole community is gathered together to celebrate, including us. We feast on fresh fruit, meat, and bread. The bread is delicious and rich. You find yourself full even though you haven’t eaten much.

After the meal, several of our hosts sit with instruments ranging from drums to wooden tubes to objects with strings. As they play, smoke rises from their instruments. Each musician’s smoke is a different color, and the tendrils rise and meet in the air, intermixing with each other. The livelier the tune, the thicker the smoke gets.

Tukanarans are known for their magical music. They can produce mist and bubbles and firework-like explosions too. Since summer is fire season, which allows their forests to rejuvenate, they honor the summer solstice with smoke.

People dance around the bonfire, lit only by the flames and the moon. Children and dogs run around, begging scraps from those who are still eating. Everyone is happy, lost in the revelry of this important night.

Some of you join in the dancing while others prefer to watch. We stay up all night, enjoying the merrymaking.

Then everything stops at dawn. It’s now eerily quiet as everyone gathers together to watch the sun rise above the eastern horizon, casting its life-giving rays across the grassy landscape. Everything is still until the sun is fully visible above the horizon. Only then does everyone stir, finding a cozy spot to sleep the day away.

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