Earth's Children is a registered trademark of Jean M. Auel and the books in the series, The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, The Plains of Passage, and The Shelters of Stone. This Fan Fic is for the simple enjoyment of fans of the Earth's Children series of books and myself, and has not been written for profit or to intentionally infringe on the registered trademark held by Jean M. Auel. Reproduction of this work for profit of any kind is expressly prohibited.
The 'Land of the Sun' is the continuing story of 'Brenan's Search'. If you have not read 'Brenan's Search', I have done very little 'catch up' so the story may not make much sense.
Following a long conversation with my father about the Lion Camp, the Mamutoi, and the interesting cast of characters introduced to us in 'The Mammoth Hunters', I decided to write my own version of what happened to them after Ayla left the summer meeting.
'Brenan's Search' was written as an alternate book four of the 'Earth's Children' series. Jean followed Ayla in her travels while I introduced a young Mamutoi man who travels to the Lion Camp. The 'Land of the Sun' picks up where 'Brenan's Search' ends. As before, I have tried to stick with the canon Auel prescribed as closely as possible, and have written this in book form. There is a measure of sometimes rather graphic violence in a few places, and I have tried to treat the story with the 'rugged reality' of the times. This is a long story and will take a while to tell.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Here we go.
The edges of the thin grey clouds on the eastern horizon began to change colors slowly with the coming of the dawn. The sky lightened ever so gradually off to the east as the sun slowly painted the clouds with pastel oranges and pinks. A sparkling host of reflected colors spread across the rippling tops of the gentle rolling waves of the river down below the slight bluff, glistening in the waning darkness. A soft, cool breeze blew over the top of the water and up the gentle rise.
Rug sat alone cross legged on the cool ground next to the small camp fire a few steps outside of the long, narrow traveling tent. The tent was comfortably nestled between a pair of short trees on the edge of the bluff on a grassy flat. He dropped a few fresh sticks into the flames and listened to the soft pops and muted whistles as they caught fire over the brightly glowing coal bed. Rug watched the artistry of the dawn with appreciation, the beauty before him gave him a strong sense of security. Ursus was obviously pleased with the decision of his Clan to travel.
A pair of meadow larks whistled in the new day, one from just across the river, the other was farther away to the south. Their whistling became a melody with an echo, and before long another bird joined their pleasant early morning song.
If the directions that Lud-dag had given the Clan when they began their journey were correct, they would need to cross the river soon. Lud-dag had told them that the river would take a sharp bend to the west and get rather narrow and swift with rising rocky bluffs about half a moon cycle out from the Lion Camp, heading south. Tonight or tomorrow night the moon would be full, a half moon cycle into their journey.
That, or they could go another half of the phase of the moon on down river where it widened out and stayed pretty shallow in a large flat bottomed, marshy lake. The river would be a little easier to cross there, but it was a wet, lowland area chock full of heavy mud and annoying insects. This would also put them very near another Mamutoi camp, a camp of people that they didn't know. That could be a dangerous idea, Rug thought while tugging on his scraggly beard and watching a particularly beautiful rose colored cloud, and it was probably not worth the risk. All the people of the Others could not be counted on to be as friendly as those of the Lion and Aurochs Camps had been, this much was absolutely certain.
Thus far, the small Clan had traveled very well together. It took only a day or two for them to establish a comfortable routine, and they had made significant progress after the first few days particularly. The breaks in usual Clan traditions of both walking in line and in the order of their status while traveling to their new home had caused a little grief. Mostly, the tension was felt from the women, but they were doing better, being constantly spurred on and reassured by Etra and the Mog-ur. Before too much longer they may even get used to the idea that this Clan was now just a little different than normal. Actually, they were no longer the Clan that they once were in more ways than one. To survive, they had been forced to change many of their traditions in the last year or so, and more changes were bound to be before them.
Mog-ur had insisted that they keep up a swift, controlled pace, one that pushed them-but only slightly. The Clan seemed to get a little stronger and were able to go a little farther every day as they all got into better traveling shape and physical condition. The predominately smooth terrain along this side of the river had made for fairly easy walking for the most part, thus far anyway. Clean drinking water and fresh vegetables and edible greens were all plentiful. Mog-ur had warned them in the beginning that this journey would take so long that he could not even guess how long they would be traveling.
Rug watched the beauty of the dawn and thought about the tragic but incredible series of events that had led his small Clan to this very river bank. This place so very far away from their old home. How long had it been, he wondered to himself, over a year now, maybe a little more.
Just over a year ago Rug had been out on a short morning hunt with a few of his fellow hunters, Draag, Troog, Crag, and Borg. It was a lazy, halfhearted hunt, for they did not really need fresh meat for their large, well stocked cave. Men of the Clan, however, were meant to hunt-so hunt they did. He thought back and remembered in startling detail how they plodded back toward the cave carrying the young wild sow between them suspended between two spears by the legs. The hunters had unexpectedly come across their Mog-ur badly wounded in his favorite place of meditation. It was on top of a short rock bluff that overlooked the woods and one of the main paths that led back to the cave. He was gravely wounded with a long, flint tipped spear still imbedded deeply in the center of his chest. Mog-ur was alive, but barely.
The hunters had immediately dropped the pig and rushed to their Mog-ur, and removed the spear. They did their best to quell the massive, bubbling bleeding from his chest. None of the hunters were trained seriously in any of the healing arts, rudimentary first aid was all any of them knew. Rug could still see the pain in the holy man's eyes, he could still feel the deep stab of fear in his own heart. Only the men of the Others used flint tips on their spears, what could this possibly mean?
Rug shivered at the memory of the frightening sight of the small band of the men of the Others that they could see through small gaps in the treetops back at the mouth of their cave. Inside the cave opening and out in front of the entrance near the fire, they were all over the place, spears high and threatening. The hunters gathered around the holy man and together they carried the Mog-ur down off the craggy bluff as gently as they were able to through the loose rocks and gravel that gave them fits to keep their footing as they worked their way to level ground.
They were all stunned and distressed to see all the dead people of their own Clan littering the ground in front of the entrance to their cave through the cover of the trees. Men, women and children, there seemed to be no one left alive. He could still see the weak, feeble signs that Mog-ur made as he told the hunters that carried him to flee their home cave, to get away now-to go north. They slipped off the main trail and worked their way through the trees to the far western trail that led deeper out into the heavy woods. They cut back north only when they were well out of sight of the front of the cave. Coming to a small clearing between two tall stands of conifers, they slowed and looked back toward the cave area.
Rug thought back to the anger and total feeling of helplessness that he had experienced when he looked back at the front entrance of their home cave. He had heard a familiar voice softly in the distance. Rug looked over to see the tall man of the Others just as he threw a spear and hit a kneeling Clan woman as she wailed over the prone body of a very young boy, her only child. He had never seen a spear thrown before, never even heard of such a thing. Rug would never forget the destructive power he saw as the woman bowled over backwards by the force of the thrown spear. Her wailing ceased before she hit the ground.
The strangeness continued. The hunters came across a small group of women and children who had been out gathering food in a common small clearing as they skirted around the cave and cut back northeasterly through the woods. They took the women and children with them and fled due north, as fast as they could go. The trip was hard, they had no traveling provisions at all. Mog-ur still had to be carried as did the two small children. The men had fashioned a sling out of a pair of their wraps and carried him between four of them, the children were carried on the hips of their mothers. Mog-ur was in bad shape, the wound was very serious and there was no medicine woman among them to help him.
The small Clan finally stopped after eight or nine chaotic days of travel due north, and found a decent place to set up a small camp. Mog-ur was slowly dying, this much was obvious, and the men wanted to make his last days as comfortable as possible. The hunters immediately went to work to try and procure some provisions. They hunted with abandon and brought back three large aurochs and a young bison over the next few days. Hides were made into tents and new wraps and the meat was dried and smoked. Still Mog-ur held on, but he seemed to weaken a little bit more each day.
Rug remembered thinking at the time that things were finally starting to settle down, the makeshift camp was comfortable and food was abundant in and around the valley. Mog-ur though, was fading before their eyes. He had always been such a robust, though slightly older man-very strong in body and spirit, but this massive wound was slowly killing him. The Clan would stay put until the Mog-ur's time came to go on to the spirit world before deciding where to go to look for a new home, and what to do next.
Then came another band of the Others.
A soft noise from the direction of the tent entrance broke Rug's train of thought. He looked over to see the young boy, Brug, coming out of the tent with three spears loose in his hands.
Brug wore the new clothes that Etra and Aba had made for him and the rest of the Clan at the Aurochs Camp of the Others during this last winter. The clothes were not the usual Clan style of full animal skins wrapped around the body and tied at the waist. These skins had been cut and sewed together in a strategic manner. A pair of leggings were loosely tied at the waist, and the tunic was form fitted as well, though loosely, with sleeves that flared out wide just above the top of his wrists. The wide belt that he had tied around his waist had several pouches attached to it with folded over flaps, they all bulged with their contents.
The young boy looked to Rug and made a respectful sign of greeting, and then reached back over his wide shoulders and slid two of the short spears into a heavy leather scabbard that was slung across his back. The flint tipped spear tips stuck up over his head when they were in place at an angle across his back.
'I have tea made,' Rug signed, motioning at the water tight basket near the fire.
The boy shook his head, politely declining the offer then signed. 'I will hunt for our first meal now.'
'All right, but don't get too far out of sight.'
'Yes, "Rug." Brug spoke the leader's name, his voice deep and guttural.
Rug watched the boy leave, his hunter's steps light and silent on the short grass damp with dew. He yawned, and kept an eye on the boy while his mind wandered back to the coming of the second group of the Others to their makeshift camp so long ago now. How different they were, they were nothing like the evil ones who had decimated the home cave of his Clan, and they had women of the Others with them. Why, these people of the Others could even speak correctly in the old ancient language of the Clan, though their comprehension and signing was very crude at best.
Following a rather tense and adversarial first meeting, Mog-ur had insisted that the Clan share a meal with these Others. Rug remembered how testy and awkward that first meal with these people of the Others had been. The men of the Others had actually helped clean a freshly killed young deer-the men. It was a strange meal that he would never forget, ever.
Mog-ur had been the biggest surprise, though, he had acted like they were almost old friends. The two vastly different groups of people told each other their recent histories of how they had all come to be in this serene valley. The story that they told, the tale of the Others killing and fighting with their own kind was all so unbelievable. Then it got even more unbelievable when it was ascertained that these evil men of the Others from the northeast were probably the same ones that had raided the cave of their own Clan. To make it even more strange, these Others felt obligated to help this Clan.
Mog-ur had eventually even allowed the medicine woman of the Others to treat his wounds. Rug had been so distraught at the time, Mog-ur was dying fast enough on his own, how could these Others help him now. How could a woman, even a medicine woman of the Others possibly help a dying man of the Clan-but somehow she had.
It had been such an incredible surprise to the entire Clan when Mog-ur improved dramatically from the ministrations of the two women of the Others. He had shown some improvement from the very first few days following the treatments. Mog-ur had ultimately recovered, for the most part, from his most grievous wound. Though he would probably never be quite the same physically again, he was strong again now, for an older man anyway. The medicine woman Tress-ee had been absolutely fabulous, she and the large woman Trull-ee were awe inspiring in their tireless efforts to help him.
Rug watched Brug slow his walk as he approached a few shorts bushes and raise his spear up level with his shoulder. He crept forward one slow step at a time, quiet and patient with great stealth. The boy had more skills as a hunter at his tender young age than anyone Rug had ever seen, he was barely into his fifth year. The young lad had made at least one small animal kill every day since they had begun their journey, and some days two-or more. Rug heard the soft rustling of something exiting the second bush in front of the boy and watched as Brug set himself and let his spear fly with a graceful, sudden burst of strength and agility.
Brug never took his eyes off his prey. He pulled another spear from the scabbard on his back with a fluid, well practiced motion. Brug pulled the spear into position as he walked past the first bush and into the taller grass slowly and quietly.
Rug again thought back to the time while Mog-ur was still healing when the men of the Others had taught he and his other Clan hunters how to make and throw this new, different type of spear. It had been so difficult at first, and it had seemed like they were all directly challenging the will of their ancestors by deviating from the usual and accepted ways and traditions of the Clan. Crag, his hunt leader, had been especially bothered by even trying to learn this new way of using a spear, but the very idea of being able to kill from such a great distance had appealed strongly to them all. These men were born to hunt, it was just about all they knew. The Clan normally used a spear for stabbing only, it was quite a culture shock to learn the hunting ways and weapons of the Others.
A wave of chill bumps washed over him. He thought back to their accidental discovery that the evil men of the Others that had decimated their home cave were near their temporary camp in the valley. Rug remembered the powerful words of Mog-ur and the huge woman leader of the Others, Trull-ee. They proclaimed together that these evil men must be stopped and sent on to the spirit world to face the judgement of Ursus and Mut once and for all. The well planned, layered banded ambush, an old hunters trick normally used by the Clan only to rid themselves of large predators that had encroached on their hunting territories, had worked to absolute perfection. The execution of the ambush was flawless. The evil ones had all been killed in a sudden, deadly wave of thrown spears without a single injury to the Clan or to the Others that helped them. The devastating power of the throwing spears used by the Others had left an impact on the men of the Clan that would never fade. The raiders were all taken out so quickly and easily-all because of this formidable new weapon. It was the last reason the Clan hunters needed to want to learn this new way of hunting.
Rug still had an occasional nightmare about the horrific event. They all did.
Brug's soft, approaching footfalls brought him slowly back to the present.
Rug was pleased to see Brug walking out of the bushes toward him with a fat hare dangling from his left hand from the long rear legs. The look of satisfaction on his face was unmistakable, and well deserved. This boy could hunt, he had single handedly kept the Clan supplied with fresh meat every day thus far on their journey.
Mog-ur and Etra walked out of the tent, with Inca and Aba close behind. They all joined Rug at the fire, and dipped tea from the basket. Mog-ur sat down next to Rug, and the women, except for Aba, busied themselves with the baskets and tied bundles of food they carried out from the tent. Aba saw her son Brug walking back to the camp and walked out to meet him. She took the hare from him and they walked back the rest of the way together. The look of pride across Aba's face was unmistakable.
'That is a nice fat hare, it will taste good at our first meal.' Mog-ur signed to the boy as they approached the fire.
Brug's eyes shown bright with the pride he felt whenever the holy man of his Clan praised him. He sat between the two adults and took a cup of hot morning tea from Etra, grunting softly to her in the usual show of appreciation as she handed it to him.
Aba set the hare on the ground on top of a wide, flat rock and began skinning and preparing it for their first meal. Etra had decided to make a small basket of stew with the leftover cooked grain mash from the meal of the night before. Aba sliced the hare into wide strips to be browned over the spit before she would slice the meat into small pieces and add them to the stew.
Draag and Troog came out of the tent to join the rest of them, with Ova and her little girl Ooga toddling along right behind them. Ooga went straight to the Mog-ur and climbed into his lap, it was her new morning routine. She was overly fond of the holy man and it was obvious that her warm feelings were returned in kind, he had almost become the substitute man of her hearth. She looked up into the Mog-ur's deep brown eyes and tugged softly on his scraggly, course beard, just like she had done when she was a baby. Her dark eyes glistening with feeling and even a slight little bit of mischief.
Draag yawned, he had taken the first watch last night, and was still sleepy and tired from the previous day's travel. Troog sat next to Rug and sipped the tea that Inca handed him and Draag. Draag appeared to be lost in the fire as he stared at the graceful yellow fingers of flame, he yawned again.
The clouds glowed bright orange above them now, and the meadow larks songs rang out with the force of numbers from the grassy meadow across the river. It was a beautiful, brisk morning.
Crag walked up from the river with a dangling water bag bulging from each hand. He set them down near Aba who laid the skin of the hare on the grass next to the flat rock she worked on. He walked back to the fire and sat between Brug and Rug, patting the boy affectionately on the shoulder as he did.
'Tell me how you hunted the hare,' Crag signed. He always had Brug give him all the details of his hunts. Brug loved to tell the Clan's hunt leader of his exploits, it made him feel more like the man he just couldn't wait to be. He told Crag all about the hunt, from the very beginning, answering the older hunter's many questions and queries as he went.
Crag made him think about and analyze every aspect of what all he did from the time he started out until after the kill itself. The men of the Clan always did this after every hunt. All actions and movements were scrutinized and discussed at length from every angle to learn what worked well and what could have been better. They were very meticulous and thorough. These men lived and breathed hunting, and nothing about hunting ever escaped them. It was simply who and what they were, little else interested them.
'...and there was only one hare?' Crag signed.
'It was all I saw, but I had another spear ready as I approached.' Brug said with a serious look, he knew better than to approach a kill without a weapon ready.
Rug led them through a tall stand of chest high grass, stomping it down to make it easier for those behind him. Crag followed him a few steps behind, they carried a thick pole on their shoulders with a hanging skin of supplies suspended between them, and flint tipped spears loose in their hands. Rug's forward vision was somewhat impaired by the occasional taller shoots of the wide blades of grass, and it made him a little nervous. They had veered away from the river to gather carrots and onions up the banks of a small feeder creek before Rug changed their direction and led them back over the rise and toward the river again.
The late afternoon sun was hot and bright in a mostly clear sky and the wind was sporadic at best, blowing in soft gusts that wasn't near enough to cool the sweaty travelers. Birds all around were overly active, getting a last bite to eat and a drink at the river before dusk set in. Their whistling songs permeated the area with an abundance of varying melodies.
Crag pulled back against the pole when Rug slowed to stomp down a particularly tall clump of grass. Rug looked back at him with a puzzled look on his rugged, sweat streaked face.
"Brug" just killed a nice fat marmot.' Crag signed with a satisfied look on his wrinkled face.
Rug nodded, then signed. 'We will make camp soon, I would like to get back closer to the river first, though.'
Crag grunted in acknowledgment, and the two of them moved on to stomp down the next bit of tall grass. We may never need to eat the traveling foods we brought, he thought, using the edge of the point of his spear to cut through some of the grass at ground level. Just as he pulled his spear back up to his waist he heard a soft rustling from somewhere in the grass out in front of them, off to their left.
Rug looked up at the same time, and both men set the heavy pole off their wide shoulders and laid the bundle on the ground quietly and had their spears up and ready in a fluid motion. Their eyes scoured the high grass out in front of them for movement, any movement, watching carefully. They heard more soft sounds in the tall grass, but it sounded a little farther away this time, maybe coming from the far side of the short hilltop.
Crag looked back to make eye contact with Etra, the closest person following them several steps back, and made a sign for her and the rest to stop and wait. He and Rug moved forward quietly toward the sounds. When they got to the highest point of the rise, both men crouched low and moved even more slowly looking down the slope out in front of them. Rug reached over and touched Crag's arm, then pointed to a thick bush just over the top of the grass.
It took Crag a moment before he saw what Rug did, a wide palmate antler barely visible on the far side of a thick, berry covered bush. The large moose lifted his head to chew, and looked around. He had to be huge if his head and antlers were any indication of his size, and he lowered his head to get another bite of the fresh leaves at the bottom of the bush. The bush rustled softly as he lowered his head.
Rug stayed completely still until the moose disappeared completely from their line of sight, then signed to Crag. 'We don't need him for the meat, should we let him go?'
Crag nodded his head in agreement, though the very thought of bringing down this magnificent creature appealed to him strongly. The first kill he ever made with the throwing spears of the Others was a moose, and he had never tasted finer meat. The belt he wore around his waist was made from the hide of that moose. Crag knew that they had about all they could comfortably carry now, but the urge to hunt was still so strong.
'We should let him go,' he signed with resignation.
Rug nodded, and the two men walked back to where they had dropped their burden and picked it back up to their shoulders. Crag made a motion for the rest of the Clan to follow and trudged on over the rise.
The old bull moose eyed them warily for a brief moment when he first heard them, then lumbered away nimbly down the short hill and out of sight through the brush beyond to the west into the trees. The sounds of his footfalls faded away.
The river came back into view just past a stand of short evergreens down below them to their left, and the Clan quickened their steps at the inviting sight. Rug looked for a good spot to set up the tent for the night, and he and Crag dropped their heavy pole to the ground to walk around and examine the area. Troog and Draag set their hanging skin of supplies down near the pole already on the ground, and all four men flexed their wide, powerful shoulders to loosen up cramped, sore muscles as they looked around. A gentle, grassy drop off separated them from the muddy banks of the peaceful river below.
Etra followed Rug and together they spotted a grassy flat that looked like a good spot for the tent. The river was close here, just a dozen steps down the low rise. Rug nodded to her, and she motioned for Inca and Aba to help her.
The women got busy unpacking the tent from the hanging skins now laid out on the ground, and went to work setting it up. The men walked around stretching sore muscles and giving the general area good looking over. Aba carried the marmot that Brug had killed down to the edge of the river to skin him out, Crag went with her.
Troog walked down to the river bank, then explored further on the shore to the north to gather driftwood. He found a jagged log that had been swept downstream stuck into the muddy bank by the trunk at an odd angle holding back a wide clump of limbs and branches from being swept further downstream. Most of them were above the waterline. With the blunt end of his spear, Troog pulled some of the smaller branches free from the pile and up onto the banks. They would dry out enough to burn in a few hours, and he piled them up on the ground before reaching down and wrapping his hairy arms around them and picking them all up, pressing them against his wide, powerful chest. He picked up his spear and turned and walked back up to the camp.
Rug and Mog-ur walked down river along the bank to the south, the riverbank began to get rockier and started a slow turn to the east. They walked up to a gravel bluff that extended all the way down and into the water, there were many large boulders and jagged rocks in the formation.
'This is probably the place that "Lud-dag" told us about, where the river turns sharply.' Rug signed to Mog-ur.
Mog-ur nodded, looking out at the river that they needed to cross. He motioned to Rug and both men started to climb up the bluff of loose rock to get a better look. Footing was difficult and tedious, more than once the rocks they stepped on slid out from under them. When they reached the apex, they stood together and observed the path of the river. This was the place, all right, it matched the descriptions to a tee.
The river narrowed and turned sharply to the west around the other side of the rocky outcrop and the opposite bank rose up to push the water hard into half its previous width. The rippling waves grew taller and tighter together as the moving water quickened its pace considerably. The rocks on the opposite shore were jagged and sharp where the river had chipped away at them over time, it was a fearsome sight. The narrow channel forced the water into a tight, swift waterway for as far as they could see from here. The surface of the river rolled into deeper white capped waves and swells as it narrowed and picked up speed even more as the river turned its course. The current looked treacherous, as did both rocky shorelines. This crossing would be no easy task.
"Lud-dag" said that we should start upstream and get to the middle of the river and the current would carry us to the other side just before the rock ledge rises up on the other side.' Rug signed, a slightly worried look on his rugged face.
'Yes,' Mog-ur replied. 'It appears to be the best way.'
Mog-ur watched a limb float through the water in the middle of the river. It bobbed and danced on the turbulent surface. The water was erratic and powerful, and the limb was actually pulled under for a brief stretch by the current that veered sharply to the west and away from the jagged rocks on the other side. It picked up speed noticeably and spun around a few times before disappearing around the bend and out of sight.
A subtle movement caught Mog-ur's eye, and he focused his eyes up to the top of the rocky bluff on the other side. The head and shoulders of a large grey wolf was barely visible through a pair of large, light colored boulders near the top of the bluff. He looked down directly at the Mog-ur, and their eyes locked together for a long, quiet, serene moment. Mog-ur felt a ripple of warmth slowly wash over his tired and aching body, reassured from the sudden presence of the living vision of his totem. He could feel the inner strength and power of the animal, majestic and soothing. Mog-ur made a subtle hand gesture toward the wolf, and was pleased when the wolf stared at him and slowly lowered his head before slipping away and out of sight. This is a good omen, possibly even a sign from Ursus, he thought, looking back down to the dangerous river.
Rug turned and started making his way off the rocky bluff. Mog-ur took a last look back across the river for the wolf, but he was gone, and started back down following Rug.
'We will need to go back upstream a little way before we build a raft to cross the river with.' Mog-ur signed to the Clan sitting around the fire in front of the tent.
The Clan were all relaxing from a hot meal of fresh strips of marmot and a mixed grain porridge, and most sipped tea as the Mog-ur addressed them. Almost all of them had only their leggings on, having bathed in the cold waters of the river following the meal. The sky was almost completely dark now and the breeze that came up the bluff from the river was cool and getting stronger. The fire popped and smoked with the slightly wet fuel gathered from the river. A few of the largest stars twinkled above them.
'This will be a difficult crossing, and we must prepare for it well. The river will be swift and we must make it out past the center of the current before it narrows through a rocky gorge that is bordered by jagged, steep shores around this bend.' Mog-ur waved his arm toward the rocky bluff, then he stopped and let this sink in for a moment before continuing.
'In the morning we will go back north until we find enough suitable materials to make an adequate vessel for the crossing. We will need to find a good place to camp for a few days.'
Etra looked at Mog-ur as he sat back, the dark tattoo on his bare chest shown eerily in the flickering firelight. She couldn't help but to shiver as she stared at it, the dark symbol of the sun with its black fingers of flame stretching from the deep indention in the center of his scarred, hairy chest. From the deepest recesses of her most ancient memories this symbol stood out, exactly as it appeared on his chest. The symbol of the 'Land of the Sun', the original home of their ancestors. The birthplace of the Clan itself. A fabled land that had no real winter seasons, a land of plenty, the new home of the Clan-if they could get there.
She diverted her eyes as Mog-ur glanced up at her, embarrassed to have been caught being so terribly impolite. Etra remembered the first time she had seen this tattoo, appearing as if by magic from behind the bloody strips of rabbit skin bandages from the Mog-ur's near fatal wound. The medicine woman of the Others, Tress-ee, and the large woman, Trull-ee had used the red hot, glowing end of a broken spear shaft to seer and treat the gaping, bleeding wound. The resulting scar had been colored a deep grey, almost black by the ashes of the smoldering spear tip. The scar had miraculously been formed into this magnificent tattoo, all on its own. Or, rather, formed by Ursus himself. It was magic, a definite sign from Ursus directing them to make this perilous, long journey. Instructing the Clan to go back to this most ancient home of their ancestors, commanding them to live again in this "Land of the Sun'.
Etra felt a shiver of dread creep up her back, giving her instant goose flesh. She had never before heard of Ursus giving such precise instructions, to anyone-but he had chosen this Clan. It was a scary, but somehow comforting thought.
By mid afternoon, they had found the place. It was a perfect place to camp along a wide flat grassy piece of nearly level ground that reached out to the river. There was a stand of good thick trunk pines, firs, and conifers that grew almost down to the river just to the north of them. The trees were not too tall, but there were a lot of them and they varied in size, diameter, and age.
They pitched the tent facing the south, and set up a large ring of river rocks and dug down into the soft dirt to make a shallow fire pit. Inca and Aba gathered enough firewood to get the fire going while Troog and Draag started a pile of dead wood they found from the bottom of the tree line. Borg dragged two driftwood logs to the fire for seating from the river.
Rug and Mog-ur walked through the trees with Crag and Brug following. The pines in the center of the thicket rose up well over the heads of the Clan men before the first branches began. The trees here grew thick and straight, and close together and the shadows were dark and cool.
'Let's start with these three,' Rug signed, pointing out three trees with trunks about as big around as his meaty thigh. These trees were about as tall as three of the Clan men put together, and their branches began reaching out a little way over the tops of their heads.
'Yes, we will start here.' Crag signed, then looked down at Brug who stepped forward and pulled a finely made flint axe tethered to a short femur bone from his wide belt. Brug handed the exceptionally made tool up to Crag who took it with a nod. Brug then knelt at the base of the tree and cleared away the small twigs and pine needles with his hands, exposing the deep brown dirt.
Mog-ur walked out of the thicket, and back over to the camp site feeling quite satisfied for the moment. The stand of mixed trees contained all the necessary materials to construct the raft they needed, it was now just a matter of harvesting the trees and building it.
Crag looked over the small axe with an appreciative eye, it was a finely crafted tool. Bran-nag, the tall man of the Others from the Aurochs Camp had made it for them. Crag had a good eye for well made tools, and this was the finest example of an axe with a handle that he had ever seen. He knew he had to be careful with the fragile flint head, and he closed his eyes and grasped the amulet that hung around his wide neck, sending out a silent plea to his totem for good fortune.
Brug stood up and stepped back watching Crag concentrating and held his own amulet, imitating the Clan hunt leader. Rug did the same, then squatted down to watch Crag begin.
Crag reached out and felt around the base of the tree, and took a deep breath. He grasped the axe with both hands and started chopping, lightly at first. The bark chipped away in small pieces exposing the yellowish white wood beneath. Crag worked his way all the way around the trunk, clearing the bark away in a wide stripe the width of his hand. Wood chips and bark littered the ground.
Draag, Troog, and Borg worked their way into the center of the thicket. They were surprised to see Brug chopping away at the base of the pine with Crag standing back watching. Rug was busy chopping away the branches of the first felled tree with a small hand held axe. The young boy took his time, and handled the axe with great care and patience. Chips flew. Crag looked up at the men, and nodded at their looks of surprise and satisfaction. Brug was growing up before their eyes, and it gave them all something to be proud of.
Rug and Crag pulled one of the longest logs from the edge of the pile, it was as long as both men were tall and heavy. They dragged it out into the grass and on down close to the edge of the water. Draag and Borg followed them with a log that was similar in size, but a little bit longer. They laid it to rest beside the first log, and all four men paused to rest for a moment and plan their next move. Draag and Rug pulled the second log into a parallel position, a body length and a half away from the first log. Crag stepped off the distance between them, first at one end, and then at the other. Rug pulled the log a little further to his left, Crag nodded and they walked back over to the others. The four men observed the placement of the two logs, their foreheads wrinkled in thought.
Etra approached them with Mog-ur walking beside her, she carried a bundle of thick braided leather rope, a gift from Rymar of the Lion Camp. Rug looked up at them, and took the rope from her and dropped it to the ground between the logs. It had taken almost three entire days to cut and trim up the tree trunks and make the pile, he hoped there would be enough there to build the entire raft.
The next two logs brought down were set across the first two logs and spaced out in such a way that there was a length of log that stretched out past the first two a little wider than a man. Borg and Crag went to work tying the logs together where they overlapped with short sections of the braided leather rope. Two pieces of rope were used independently at each joint for safety and security. Finished, the appearance of the first four logs resembled a large rectangle with two longer ends on opposite sides.
The next logs were brought down and placed between the shorter cross members, and meticulously tied to the longer logs, one at a time. They were then tied to the logs beside them, tightly. When these were finished, the next two were brought down and the process began again.
Mog-ur watched the progress on the raft for a while, then walked back up to the camp. The women had a last meal on the fire. This would be the second consecutive meal that they had used only their traveling stores to prepare. Brug had been busy helping the men ever since they had chopped down the first tree. Mog-ur already missed the taste of fresh meat, he had gotten accustomed to the daily supply that Brug had provided for the Clan. He thought briefly about asking the boy to go out and hunt, but knew that with all the activity that had taken place around the camp that it would be a long shot for him to have any success.
Yesterday, Etra had tickled up three large trout out of the river, but it had made only one meal, and the portions of the fish didn't really go very far. The appetites of the entire Clan were hearty, the men were doing so much physical labor, and every woman of this Clan was in the early stages of pregnancy. He looked up at the sun, it was falling slowly to the horizon, this long day was finally winding down.
By the time the raft was finished this evening, they would all need a good nights rest, it would be best to allow all the Clan to continue on at the tasks at hand. The raft looked good and strong, and was progressing rapidly. Mog-ur was content, this Clan was full of hard working men and women, just as it should be.
Tomorrow, they would cross the river.