A Paleo Friendship #2

Sleep eluded me. Or so it felt as the chattering of a rock-rodent woke me from my dazed stupor. I fisted a hand full of gravel and threw it in the wretched creature’s direction. I suppose I’d dreamed of the sea for I convulsed and heaved my stomach into the ashes of my now dead fire. “Damn Tak and his seal meat.”

My goal persistent though, I packed up my belongings and slipped up hill through the rocks, headed toward the top of this valley’s watershed. My back ached from the poor bedding, but I recalled suffering worse in the trek down the coast. At least the insects had abated. The others, west, moving south along the great-water, would be reeling from the constant whir of nagging, biting crawlers.

“Diza, guide me. Lift me from this grumble that infects my mind.” I shook my head and stepped higher.

I thought of the dark youth and how he had peered into me. And I know, I into him. “Who are you? You feed and nurture the Fire, I am sure.” But those two, they are not of our kind. I pictured he and his partner and felt their difference to my core. If they are here now, are there others like them? Such thoughts drifted through me as I mindlessly worked my way from copse to outcropping. All the time headed up.

A hawk screamed his outrage as I busted through his private aviary. “Patience, brother. I’ll leave this valley to you. But for now, allow me passage.”

To the east I could see the valley’s root, a pinching of ridges that pressed into the spine of the world. It was here, still ten shout-fars from the valley’s top, where I stopped to rest. My lookout gave me a fine view across and down the gorge. The vista calmed me. Take me to the top and I could breathe and feel the sky.

As I scooped and sucked at melted snow, I spotted the dark others break out of the lower treeline. They showed as mere specks, yet I knew them. More so, I knew the tan-brown shape above that tracked their progress. Every valley, or so Tak had recounted, held a demon, a monstrous cat that claimed the territory as far as you could see. Just such a beast stalked the two dark ones below.

I watched as the pair made their mistake. The easy path up the bowl of the canyon might seem the obvious trail. But such a line left one a target from above. I huffed acceptance of one of Tak’s rare truths — go high and take command. Yet I cursed him at the implications of the dark ones’ plight, “Diza take your other eye, you old fool.”

The inescapable events unfolded below me. I was unsure that I wished them on the others, or that I mourned what was about to befall the dark youth and his partner.

A merry ground-thief crept up to me, there on my perch. I had nothing to feed it, yet it came to investigate my outstretched fingers. “Here, you striped, furtive thing. Skitter away while you can. My hunger may return and you, though slight, would be welcome, roasted.”

A thunderous roar echoed up from below. Still mid-day, I watched, wide-eyed, as the cave lion tumbled down upon the pair of dark men. I imagined the impact and crunch of teeth over top of their skulls. Such an onslaught could not be stopped. I witnessed the sight, enraptured, my palms held cupped before me, peering through them to focus the light.

The first man stood waiting, I thought, with an anchored spear. The lion hit him first and knocked him back and down. The beast then embraced and engulfed the second man who disappeared beneath the tawny expanse of the huge cat. The initial roar continued to echo. And the screams of the men followed, faint and depleted.

Ten heart beats and the valley returned to silence. “No more others to nag my travels, now.”

My bluster lasted all of a single breath. I remained perched, scanning the area of attack. Nothing moved. The wind had ceased and the murmur of the trees gasped, holding their breath, waiting for my response. Even the striped tailed thieves sat, the three of them, tiny hands knit as if nervous, waiting for my reaction.

I looked up to the distant valley spires. Just over them I could descend and make my way to what I knew would be a land of bounteous food and leisure. Yet the haunting deep-set eyes of the youth tugged at my spirit. “Diza, you wench! Judge me not. I will take your sign and when I come to my own end, I will welcome the feel of your throat within my fist. No mercy will I show. But,” I hefted my pack, the three ground thieves vanished into the rocks, “until then, I will go see what the valley’s demon has left me for salvage.”



A Paleo Friendship

I danced over top of the dry stones in the river making the far side without slipping. Sounds of pursuit followed me. Whoever it was cared nothing for stealth, limb-cracks and shuffling sounds echoed through the thick green-needle trees. If I could disappear on this side, work my way upstream, and cross again — with the same nimble care — I could double back and lose these clumsy oafs.

My bark-and-leather moccasins, though quiet, were old and if I had to run many more shout-fars I knew they would split and slow me down. I needed to head up into the rocks of this narrow canyon, hide and make repairs.

I’d seen glimpses of my pursuers. Two dark haired, dark skinned and dark clothed shapes that walked wide and sturdy. I’d never seen their like. As I’d wandered past their camp, early the prior morning, I’d cut wide, not expecting smoke or others in the valley. One-eyed Tak and his stories had branded my mind with wariness for strangers.

They caught sight of, or smelled me somehow. I swear to Diza I’d moved like a mink. They made loud calls my way, nothing I could understand. If I harken back, they may have been greetings, but, alone in this new land, Tak would scoff and sneer were he to find I’d been killed for curiosity.

Ten-ten strides from the river on this side, I turned upstream. I cursed the moist earth here, flap-tail dams had no doubt swamped the area, my prints would be as tracks in snow. No choice for it, I picked up speed and ran through the tall trunks, silent as a ghost-cat. I heard a shout, back at the river, and smiled. One of my leaps had been daringly long. The stout men must have tried and failed. Mountain water is bitter cold this high up.

I’d now run at least a shout-far and thought I’d better recross. I veered right, and worked my way through thick green brush. The sound of the river had turned quiet. I pounded my fists as I came across a long flap-tail pond. Diza, that goddess bitch, had vexed my senses. I needed swift water and stones to cross undetected. Here, if I swam I’d be wet for a day. If I backtracked I’d risk an encounter with the dark men. I’d have to walk the dam. It was downstream there two-ten steps. I wove my way through the catching brush, my leather jerkin and pants protection from scratches and noises.

I walked a few steps out onto the ridge of the stick-mud dam. The pond water nearly cleared the rim and my moccasins became soaked. Half way across I scanned up and down the river length. No sign of them. I worked my way to the other side and scrambled up the steeper bank. As I shifted my elk-horn pack, custom carved by my da, Hounta, I turned to look down through the trees and there he was. One of them had stayed on this side and matched my pace.

He stood rock still, his deep eyes, with rough thick brows, drilled into mine. I could have struck him with a well tossed stone. He wore an animal pelt cap and a wolf-skin cloak, the fur long and luxurious. I could tell from the way he stooped his pack must weigh a deer’s weight. To carry that and chase me all this way? I had to wonder at their strength and stamina.

His partner called from across the river behind me, but this man’s eyes never left mine. I’d guess he’d be about my age, two-ten summers. I watched as he planted the butt of his flint-tipped spear in the ground before him, raised his hand to his mouth and give a call.


My own weapon, a fine bow of heartwood and sinew, had snapped in half as I used it to beat away a young knife-toothed cat five nights ago. I’d sunk two fine arrows into its chest but it charged me heedless — I beat at it out of panic (and not a little fear). I carried its small but wicked teeth and much of its hide in my pack. The next day I’d begun making another bow and kept at it as I traveled, heading over this range to the east. But, as of yet, it remained a stave I carried and might now need to defend myself.

I could hear the young man’s partner begin to teeter over the dam. I risked a quick glance and knew I must run or die. I turned back and watched as the solid fellow bent, as if to pull a flint from a sheath, but instead, swung his arm up and gestured with his hand, “flee,” he seemed to be saying. When I looked confused, his motion became more animated. “GO!” He flicked his hand and grunted for emphasis.

I wasted no time, but, still staring into his eyes, gave him a nod, turned and dashed through the woods, zigzagging to keep out of their line-of-sight.

That night, nestled in a high rock crevice, a small fire lit behind a boulder, I dried and mended my footwear. I still had some seal meat from when I left the coast; I didn’t save any of the cat’s flesh — eating such an animal, taking in its spirit would taint my own. The meat tasted foul anyway. So I gnawed on the rich, flavorful seal jerky and vowed to complete this new bow within a day or two. I was a fool to walk these new-land forests without a weapon. I admitted I was anxious to see the other side of this range. The stories of the great sloths, camels and shaggy rhinos had filled me with wonder. And now, with strange, heavy-browed men in the valley — one I was told to journey — this set my mind to  ponder the why of my recent escape, or rather, my release.

Sathena comes to grips

“I don’t know if what happened was real or…” Sathena flexed her fingers examining the tips as they curled.

Allie, still recovering from her wounds, perked up from the berth within their sailboat as they traveled out through the calm seas outside Edinburgh. “I was barely conscious from that beast’s attack, but I distinctly remember the roar of a lion. Now, don’t ask me to testify, but I’ll swear that what I heard and saw — in the dark of the night — was a lioness.”

Sathena’s smile stretched wide. “Yeah. Like I’m going to believe my spirit animal killed Lycaon, the werewolf.” She swirled her mixing spoon in the stew on the stove. “No, I’m pretty sure my mind has snapped. I mean think–”

“No way.” Allie groaned as she wedged herself to her elbow. “Sadie, I’ve only known you a little while, but, you and I — we’re sisters. What we’ve experienced… You are the spiritual manifestation of the Goddess.”

Sathena paused in her stirring. She recounted the fantastical interactions of the last few months. No, she told herself, No, this is too much. I’ve gone around the bend. Losing Father. And me mum dashed and wounded…

Allie cried out as she slung her legs out of the bunk.

“Allie, hold on. Here, let me help you.”

“No, no. I’ll be okay.” Allie held her aching belly as she toddled up the gangway. “You realize the evidence is irrefutable.”

Knowingly, Sadie allowed her friend to fend for herself. Back at the stove, Sadie lifted a spoonful of seafood chowder to her lips, blew and sipped.

Allie continued, “I am, I know now, the living embodiment of Alethea. And you, you are…”

“No! I can’t be.” Sathena Leona Brimson stabbed the spoon back into the pot. “How can I be her?”

“Lady Ara knew. Argus knew. Even your mother knew — I’m sure of it.” Allie plopped into the seat at the galley table. “You are the embodiment of the spirit of Athena.”