Chapter 1: ?????? Brotherly Love
Chapter 2: ?????? Fast Friends
Chapter 3:??????? The Genesis
Chapter 4:??????? The Power of Change
Chapter 5:??????? The Smell of Home
Chapter 6: ?? ??In Sickness
Chapter 7:??????? Source of the Scourge
Chapter 8:??? ???? Love Reunited
Chapter 9:??????? Change is for All
Chapter 10:????? Blood Tears
Chapter 11:????? Lwo Traders
Chapter 12:????? The Exodus
Chapter 13: ???? New Beginnings
Chapter 14: ???? Old Kindred
Chapter 15: ???? A New Regime
Chapter 16: ???? A Port to Remember
Chapter 17: ???? The Living and the Dead
Chapter 18: ???? The Blind Leading the Blind
Chapter 19: ???? An Extended Stay
Chapter 20: ???? A New Clan
Chapter 21: ???? A New Night
Chapter 22: ???? Changing Direction
Chapter 23: ???? The
Chapter 24: ???? The End of a Legacy
Chapter 25: ???? The East Bank Kingdom
??????????? Around fifteen thousand B.C., there were several species of hominids in existence. The predominant hominid at the time was Homo Sapiens Sapiens, or Modern Man. The next most populous was Homo Sapiens Neanderthalsis, or Neanderthal Man. Also in existence were Homo Sapiens Erectus, Homo Sapiens Rhodesiensis, Homo Sapiens Florensis and Homo Sapiens Idaltu.
??????????? Modern Man
(referred to from here on as human) was just beginning to build a civilization,
while the Neanderthal were in their civilizations? decline after two hundred
thousand years of development. Erectus was waning in the world and had a small
population in central
??????????? While at times the encounters between humans and other hominids resulted in conflict and violence, most often it did not. The normal result of an encounter was for trade and to share stories and discoveries. Jewelry, textiles, tools, weapons and spices were exchanged on the market. Language was already complex and was able to encompass real items as well as abstract ideas. Religion was already a part of most cultures and all cultures had some sort of belief about life after death and spirit. Body art was already highly developed by the Neanderthal and was beginning to spread to humans. Neanderthal and humans alike were just beginning to work the softest of metals such as lead, gold and silver.
??????????? We join a
clan called the Baska. There are about two hundred adult humans with thirty
elderly and seventy five juveniles that live in a part of west central
????????? Kibwe was born and raised to the Baska. His sister Sanaa was just a year older than him. His father taught him to hunt, fish, make tools and most of all how to be a good man. As Kibwe grew, he thought he would always be able to go to his father with any problems or questions. Unfortunately his father passed of multiple snake bites when Kibwe was just fourteen years old. His mother died a year later of sickness.
??????????? Kibwe and Sanaa finished growing up relying primarily on each other and the clan leader, Imamu. While Sanaa stayed in the village or hunted after their mother?s death, Kibwe often traveled with Imamu to the Luo villages to the east. He learned their language quickly and impressed Imamu with his ability to learn new things.
??????????? At nineteen years old, Kibwe started going with the hunting parties. His father had taught him to hunt alone, but he quickly adjusted to the group hunts and found himself invited to join the most prestigious hunting party of the clan! Ochieng was the hunting party?s leader and he taught Kibwe even more about the wildlife in the Baska hunting grounds. No one could ever deny that Ochieng was a very good hunter, but he had a jealous streak that made him hard to be around. If someone killed a bigger or better animal, or a larger number than Ochieng, he would not speak to them until he had out done their accomplishments. We join Kibwe as he returns from a hunt.
Kibwe walked quietly in the dense undergrowth, his black skin blending perfectly with the deep shadow that reigned supreme beneath the thick canopy of the jungle. He was tracking one of the heavy browed, hairy men, the Neanderthal. A small band of the Neanderthal had raided Kibwe?s clan and taken his sister Sanaa and three other women. This one that he tracked had broken from the other four Neanderthal and their captives. He felt he was getting closer to the heavy man. Kibwe focused all his senses on what the jungle was telling him. The birds ahead sat silent, the frogs and crickets had stilled their voices for a time. The Neanderthal?s tracks were very clear in the soft soil of the jungle valley.
Kibwe heard a crash in the brush ahead and the scream of a bird. The scream silenced as abruptly as it had begun. The Neanderthal had caught one of the larger jungle fowl and killed it. Kibwe knew he would intercept his quarry soon. He shifted the long bone shaft he carried from his left hand to his right and gripped it tightly, ready to stab with it. The nine foot bone had a very sharp point and had served as a remarkable weapon for two years now. As he drew closer he lowered his stance, ahead he could see the top of the Neanderthal?s curly hair above the lowest brush. He slowed his advance and tensed his powerful body, the solitary Neanderthal was ignorant of Kibwe?s presence. Kibwe rushed the last twenty feet, raising the bone high and plunging it down to where the Neanderthal?s chest would be on the other side of the bush! The Neanderthal?s powerful body lurched upward, jerking the bone out of Kibwe?s hand! Kibwe?s balance was thrown off and he tumbled the last few feet through the bush to land at the roaring Neanderthal?s feet! The massive body towered over him with the red and white point of the bone protruding through his chest. The Neanderthal grabbed the offending weapon with both hands and tried to draw it from his damaged body, but the bone got thicker toward the blunt end and drawing it from the front wedged the handle end between his ribs in his back! Kibwe scrambled to get out of range of the massive man?s feet! The Neanderthal was in complete surprise as he caught sight of the thin black human scrambling away from his feet! He tried to step back, away from Kibwe, but his massive legs had no strength. His heart was pierced and the blood was no longer feeding his muscles. He stumbled on the backwards step and dropped flat onto his butt. He moved the gaze of his deep set eyes off of Kibwe and onto the long bone shaft sticking out of his broad chest, his hands lost strength and slid off the bloody weapon. His eyes dilated as his brain died and his consciousness left him. Kibwe stood up and watched the life vacate the Neanderthal?s eyes. As the massive body slumped to the right side, Kibwe stepped toward him. When the muscle twitches stopped, he walked around the Neanderthal?s body to the end of the bone spear. He grabbed the round bone with both hands and placed his left foot on the Neanderthal?s back, bracing himself, he pulled. The bone weapon slowly slid out of the wound. As the sharp tip came through, there was a sucking sound, then it suddenly came loose and Kibwe stumbled backward two steps. He shouldered the weapon on his left side and scooped up the dead jungle foul that the Neanderthal had started skinning. Looking around for a moment to get his bearings, he turned and took off running in the direction of the rest of the group. He would get his sister back and end the raids of the Neanderthal band.
In less than an hour, Kibwe was on the trail of the remaining Neanderthal. The four males were taking their captives out of the territory that Kibwe was familiar with. He pushed himself to track faster, hoping to catch them before they hurt his sister or the other women from his clan. Soon the tracks were leading up the slope at the base of a mountain, they were leaving the valley. The mountains were riddled with caves and Kibwe?s clan avoided them as much as possible. Besides Neanderthal, there were also huge gorillas and other even more dangerous creatures that inhabited caves, like cave lions and bears. After another hour he could hear the Neanderthal group crashing carelessly through the underbrush. They must be close to home to be so comfortable making so much noise. He slowed his pace, realizing that there could be other Neanderthal in the area. Suddenly the jungle gave way to a stone clearing on the mountainside. The Neanderthal raiders were walking their female captives across the stone to the entrance of a cave. Kibwe stopped in the edge of the lush green jungle and watched as his sister and the other three were herded toward the cave! The four women looked about franticly for a way to escape! Suddenly one of the women darted to the left, racing for the safety of the jungle! One Neanderthal broke from the group to pursue her and followed the agile woman into the trees! The other three Neanderthal spread their arms and made a semi circle to enclose the three remaining women and keep them hemmed against the entrance of the cave. They talked loudly to each other in their heavy voices, but Kibwe did not know their language. He was sure it had to do with the captives in some way or another. The woman that escaped was named Imani and was known for her ability to run and dodge when the clan children played games. That had been a few years ago, now she was grown and Kibwe hoped she was still as fast.
Kibwe shifted his focus from the cave to the point that Imani and the Neanderthal had entered the jungle. He dropped the jungle bird and began to make his way through the brush toward the loud chase. Soon he could hear Imani?s quick steps running through the brush toward him. He crouched in a thick bush and held his bone spear upright, point to the sky. Soon he heard the pursuing Neanderthal forcing its heavy body through the thick undergrowth. Just a moment after Imani ran past his bush, Kibwe jumped out, leveling his spear at the belly of the Neanderthal! The hairy man burst through a broad leaf and ran his belly into the sharp spear! His inertia was so great that Kibwe was slid backwards to a tree trunk! The nine foot bone slammed into Kibwe?s hip sending a shocking wave of pain through him! He would have dropped to his knees but the massive Neanderthal?s weight kept the spear firmly planted against Kibwe?s hip and kept Kibwe pressed against the tree trunk! The Neanderthal roared in pain and slammed its heavy forearm against Kibwe?s head, grinding his cheek into the tree. Kibwe tasted his own blood flowing in his mouth almost immediately! He mustered his strength and pushed the spear further into the Neanderthal?s belly! Blood flowed and the Neanderthal roared again and then fell to his knees, slapping the sharp point of the spear against the ground and bending the shaft! His eyes rolled into his head and his eyelids fluttered as he slumped unconscious to his side. The spear butt fell away from Kibwe?s hip and he rolled the opposite direction around the tree where he slumped to the ground, hands on his bruised right hip. His rapid breathing slowed and he listened for the others to come, but he did not hear them, so he slowly crept around the trunk to the Neanderthal. He looked at the hairy man laying on the ground with the spear protruding through him. He was dressed in leather clothes with intricate beadwork and wore a carved bone pendant on a leather cord around his neck. There was just four feet of the spear handle sticking out of his belly.? Kibwe crept closer and looked at the Neanderthal. The large man was still breathing, but his breaths were slow and shallow, the breaths of a dying animal. Blood stained the light tan leather and covered the rich ground in a blackish, sticky pool. He gripped the bone handle and yanked! The spear moved a few inches and pulled the Neanderthal a few more. He yanked again and the Neanderthal?s eyes opened! The Neanderthal looked at Kibwe with fear on his primitive face and screamed! It was a higher pitch than the roar, but still a deeper sound than most men could make! Kibwe yanked again and the spear tore free! He continued his movement from freeing it and brought the sharp end up and around in a half circle, slamming it through the throat of the Neanderthal! The scream was silenced and the sound of snapping bone replaced it. Quiet descended. Kibwe worried that he had broken his weapon. He drew back on it, waiting to see splintered shards of bone instead of the smooth sharp point that had graced the fine spear. His fears were unfounded, and the point came free and was still sharp and straight. Worried still that the others would come, he limped away from the scene and crouched in thicker undergrowth. He took a moment to inspect his throbbing hip. It was a bad bruise, but not broken or bleeding. He turned his attention back to the area around him. There were still three of them to deal with. Soft footfalls alerted him of Imani?s return. She whispered in the jungle,
?Where are you??
?Over here.? Kibwe stated flatly. He did not whisper, but spoke in a calm voice. Imani soon found him. Her plain leather skirt and top whispered against each other as her body settled beside him.
?Are you hurt?? She asked quietly.
?Not badly, just a bruise, I?ll be fine.? Kibwe was still focused on getting the others back. He rose and limped toward the clearing. Imani shadowed him, but held a distance of about ten feet. He made his way back to where he had dropped the bird. When he found it, he scooped it up and tossed it to Imani, then crept to the edge of the bush where he could see the cave entrance. He did not see any of the people outside of the cave, nor could he hear anything. Dark would fall soon and Kibwe assumed that the remaining Neanderthal had forced the three women into the cave. He would have to go in after them, but he worried that his spear would be of little use inside the cave. The nine foot weapon might be hampered if the cave was too narrow, and he could see that the entrance was no more than six feet tall and four wide.
?What are we going to do, Kibwe? They are in the cave and there are only two of us. I saw that the cave went in a long ways, but stayed short and narrow. We need more men if we are going to get our sisters back.? Her quiet voice carried a great amount of concern. Kibwe turned too look at her. She was slim and unarmed and could not fight one of the Neanderthal, who were armed with knives and axes. It had not occurred to him to take anything off of the two he had killed. One was close enough, but the other was hours away.
?We should go back and see if there are any weapons we can use on the dead one.?
?You plan on going in there? What if there are more in there? They might have more weapons there!? Imani?s voice was getting louder and rising in pitch.
?Shhhh! I will go in after dark.? Kibwe?s confidence remained unwavering.
?By then one of our sisters might be dead and cooked!? Imani and Kibwe both knew the likelihood of the truth. Neanderthal ate humans just like they ate any other animal they killed.
?Better to save one than all of them die, we will do what we can.? Kibwe turned to head once more toward the fallen Neanderthal.
As they approached the body, the sun began to dim. Dusk was coming fast and with it came the night hunters of the jungle. Big cats and wild dogs had no fear of humans and would as soon eat them as they would eat a jungle pig. Kibwe pulled a stone axe on a bone handle from a loop on the back of the Neanderthal?s belt. The axe was very sharp and the handle was scrolled with many detailed carvings of beasts. He handed the heavy weapon to Imani who immediately dropped it to the ground. She had not let go of the handle, but the Neanderthal weapon was too heavy for her thin arms. He continued to search the Neanderthal?s body and found a long knife, the blade was as wide as his palm and three times as long. The handle was made of wood and was long enough for Imani to put both hands on it and the blade was very sharp on both sides. Kibwe took the axe that Imani was struggling to get to her shoulder and handed her the long knife. He shouldered the axe on his right side and the spear on his left.
?It is too late! We will never find our way back in the dark! We should make a fire and wait for morning.? Imani was becoming frightened of the growing noises in the jungle.
?No, stay close to me, we are going back to their cave. The jungle is closest on the east side of the clearing, we will go there.? Imani picked up the jungle foul in her left hand and put the stone blade in her thin belt with her right. Kibwe led the way back to the clearing without incident and they followed the edge of the brush around to the east side of the cave. Kibwe studied the area in front of them, the edge of the clearing was strewn with bones and broken weapons. The two of them were crouched behind the Neanderthal?s trash dump. The curve of the slope had hidden this from Kibwe?s earlier vantage point. As he scanned the refuse he noted that many of the bones were human. Behind them, the jungle was awakening, the hunters were out in force and they were hungry!
Light began to filter out of the cave. The Neanderthal had built a fire. Soon one of the massive men appeared at the cave entrance. He stared down the clearing to the south, watching the edge of the brush. Kibwe could see his profile clearly, lit from behind by the fire light. His heavy jaws and nose stuck out from his face and his heavy brow led up to a forehead that sloped sharply back to a long skull. He thought of how different the Neanderthal was from his people, they were so much stronger and had so many more tools and weapons. Then a second Neanderthal appeared next to the first. They talked for a moment in their deep voices. Kibwe wished he knew what they were saying. The first was pointing a short thick spear at the jungle, and moving the long tip back and forth in a short arc. The second shook his head and looked up to the moonless sky. Their talk fell silent after a short time and they stood next to each other and stared into the jungle. Kibwe felt sure they were waiting for the others to return. If he thought Imani could handle being alone in the night, he would have her create a distraction to draw the two out to the jungle edge, but he knew she could not. She was very timid and depended on the clan for her safety. He decided to do something very reckless. He knew that every minute that passed was another minute that the three clan women were in danger.
Kibwe hefted the axe in his right hand and the spear in his left, and stood. He walked out of the bush and made his way through the debris of the Neanderthal. He walked up the slope fearlessly, approaching the Neanderthal in the cave entrance. He was less than twelve feet from them when they finally realized someone was approaching! The closer Neanderthal turned toward Kibwe with wide eyes straining in the darkness. The expression on his face turned from one of strain to one of shock just as the stone axe crashed into his skull! Kibwe?s blow was so fast that the Neanderthal had no time to alert his kinsman standing next to him. The only notice the second Neanderthal had was the blood spray from the skull of the first! He turned to face his friend who slowly slumped down where he had stood. The flash of the white spear?s tip was what his night blind eyes focused on. It was after the spear had penetrated his left breast that his eyes adjusted enough to pick out the white toothed grimace that Kibwe wore. The Neanderthal?s mouth opened as if to scream, but the stone axe that he had made for his lost comrade cleaved through his throat leaving his voice lost to the world. Kibwe stepped backwards quickly and jerked the spear out of the Neanderthal?s chest. He watched the second body sink to its knees as its head rolled and bounced down the stone slope toward the edge of the jungle. He calmly stepped over the bodies and entered the fire-lit cave.
As Kibwe crept down the lit passage, he could see that the last Neanderthal raider sat on the ground facing the raised fire with his back to the passage. He also saw the old Neanderthal woman sitting on the far side of the raised fire holding what looked like a brown skinned thigh in the fire! Kibwe could not see the three women from his clan, but he was sure that was the thigh of one of them! He rushed at the sitting Neanderthal?s back, swinging the stone axe at his exposed neck! The axe dove through the flesh in a mighty sweep that ended with the axe held almost to the ceiling over Kibwe?s left shoulder. He stared into the face of the old Neanderthal woman as the male Neanderthal?s head fell to the floor of the cave making a distinctive thud in the dry dust and sand. The old woman?s face twisted in horror as she watched her youngest son?s head fall from his shoulders! His blood sprayed the ceiling and washed over the black beast man that held an axe high! She knew that this was the end of her and that if he was here, all her sons were dead. Her family lines had ended after thousands of generations. She rose to her feet as the black man stalked around the fire toward her. She turned slowly to keep her shoulders squared to him. She was no match for him, but she would die with her dignity. The dark hunter brought the axe around at an impossible angle! Neanderthal shoulders could not move like that! The old woman watched as her body fell headless into the fire before her vision completely blacked away.
Kibwe kicked the old woman?s head into the fire and looked around for his clan sisters. He saw them roped to a wall far from the fire. None of them appeared to be hurt. There was a man?s body hanging to the left of them. His head was missing as were his right arm and right leg. Rather than dash for his clan sisters, Kibwe cautiously scanned the rest of the cave for more Neanderthal. Seeing none, he went to the women and cut them free using the bloody stone axe. Once they were free he let the adrenaline and fear overtake him. He fell to his knees in the dust and sand and his body trembled like a thin sapling being shaken by a gorilla! His vision darkened and he felt himself falling.
When Kibwe awoke he found that all four of the clanswomen were around him. They were keeping the fire fueled. His sister, Sanaa, sat next to his head, cradling the axe in her thick arms. Imani paced between the fire and the back wall, still wearing the Neanderthal?s long knife. Nuru sat with her back against the wall at the point where the passage widened into the chamber that they sat in. She brandished a smaller version of the knife Imani wore. Furaha sat on the other side of Kibwe?s head facing the fire and braiding her long hair. Kibwe was happy that all four were safe, but especially Sanaa, his sister. At dawn they would head home, but Kibwe intended on sleeping until then.
The four women had dragged the two Neanderthal bodies to the cave entrance and piled them on the other two that had died out there. They made sure to take the heads with them. The body of the unknown man they cut free from the vines that the Neanderthal had used for rope and covered him with a fur blanket off of the Neanderthal?s sleeping pallets. Then they sat and waited. They knew Kibwe would be fine and that the fire and the weapons would keep them safe until dawn. They hoped that Kibwe knew how to get them back to the clan.
Dawn found the four women asleep and Kibwe waking. It also found the front of the cave cleared by the scavengers in the night! The only traces that remained of the Neanderthal?s bodies were a large blood stain and some torn clothing that the hyenas had not wanted. Kibwe stood in the mouth of the cave and scanned the jungle edge. He was relaxed now. He had full confidence that he had eliminated the Neanderthal that had lived in this cave. He was sure that they would not be pursued as they made their way back to the clan?s territory. Kibwe smiled to himself. He had never done anything so daring as fighting Neanderthal in his life! The worst predator he had killed had been a young leopard! He decided he would carve images of each of the Neanderthal he had killed on his spear. The amazing weapon had served him very well! As he ran his hands over the smooth bone he wondered what immense creature it must have come from?
?Are you hungry, brother?? Sanaa?s quiet voice disturbed Kibwe?s contemplations.
?Yes, but I will not eat anything from this cave. Imani had a jungle bird. We might cook it before we go.? Kibwe turned to face his sister. She was almost as tall as him, the tallest woman in the clan, and she was strong. Not as strong as a man, but close! She was much stronger than most women.
?I?ll wake her. If she left it in the jungle, it is gone.? Sanaa turned and went inside. Kibwe turned back to the jungle and listened to the day sounds. In the distance he could hear the hyenas fighting over their findings from the night.
They walked back to the clan that day without any problems. The four women told the stories of Kibwe that night around the central fire. Imamu, the father of Imani, listened intently. He was the clan?s oldest man and the co-leader with his wife Camali. He turned to Kibwe as the women finished their tales.
?Tell us from the beginning what happened, Kibwe. What made you decide to go after them? Why did you go before the other men got back from hunting? Tell us your story!? Imamu?s old voice rasped in the fire light. Kibwe nodded and bowed his head. He thought back to the moment he saw the Neanderthal men herding the four clanswomen through the scant trees at the edge of the jungle. He had known then that if he waited for the other men, the women would be lost forever. He looked up at the faces gathered around the fire listening for his words. He cleared his throat and began.
?I was carrying some meat back to the huts when I saw five Neanderthal men running from our village and herding four of our clan sisters in front of them. I knew right away that if I waited for the others then we would be too late, so I dropped the meat by the fire as I ran through the village. When I had seen them, I was still far away, and when I got to the fire they were already gone deep into the jungle. I just kept running until their path got so faint that I had to slow down a little and start tracking.? Kibwe talked for several hours and his people listened. After the stories were finished, Imamu sent his clan to get some rest. He sat at the dying fire and stared into its hypnotic flames.
In the morning Kibwe looked for his friend, Ochieng. He looked all through his village. Stopping near Ochieng?s family hut, Kibwe found one of Ochieng?s two brothers, Jumaane.
?Have you seen Ochieng this morning?? Kibwe asked.
?He left before sunrise. He went to the plains to hunt today. I think he is jealous of your story. I am sorry Kibwe, but he was upset when we came home after the fire and he paced all night instead of sleeping. Then he grabbed his tools and said he was going to the plains to hunt. I have seen him like this before, when he gets jealous. It is most likely that he will not hunt with you any more until he can make a better story to get everyone to praise him and think he is greatest among us.? Jumaane spoke softly, not wanting the others to hear. He and his other brother, Faraji knew how Ochieng was about being the most important, but most others did not.
?He went alone?? Kibwe also knew, but had thought that he would be exempt from Ochieng?s jealousy. The two had been close friends over the last year and had gone hunting together almost every day.
?Yes. He will not hunt with you any more, Kibwe. That is how he is.? Jumaane shook his head as he spoke. He did not approve of his brothers jealousy, but there was little he could do to change it.
?I understand. I just thought? Never mind. I guess we were not as good of friends as I had believed. I will go and see if Sefu and Zuberi want to go hunt with me. I would ask you, but you never hunt.? Kibwe smiled at Ochieng?s younger brother.
?I would rather get the yams and fruits! I?ll leave the hunting to you crazy ones!? Jumaane laughed and clasped forearms with Kibwe. He had been worried that Kibwe would turn his back on him because of the actions of Ochieng. He was relieved that Kibwe was deeper than that.
As Kibwe searched for Sefu and Zuberi, Nuru and Imani searched for Kibwe. Kibwe found Sefu still sleeping in his hut, curled up with Sanaa.
?Wake up you sleepy people! It is day! Time to live, not sleep!? Kibwe used his loud voice and shook the two sleepers by the shoulders as he spoke. Sefu peeled one eye open.
?What do you want, hero man?? His voiced was rough with sleep.
?He wants to hunt, fool.? Sanaa did not even crack an eyelid. Kibwe thought that the two looked good together. Sefu was the tallest man in the clan. Sanaa did not make him look short like she did most men. They had the same skin tones and their features complimented each other. Now if he could only teach one of them how to cook.
?Time to go, Sefu! The deer will not wait for you to get the sleep out! Get your gear and meet me at the fire. Are you coming, sister?? Kibwe backed his tall frame out of the tiny hut as he spoke. If one of the couple tried to stand with Kibwe in their hut there would be no room left.
?Yeeeesssss, I?ll go.? Sanaa rolled onto her back with her forearm over her eyes. It was not normal for Sanaa to be sleeping so late, but it had been a harrowing two days for her with little sleep. As Kibwe exited she sat up and looked at Sefu, still laying on the sleeping mat. She jerked the blanket from him and smacked his face with the flat of her hand. It made a distinctive slapping sound. She jumped up and away from him with a playful, but surprised look on her face.
?I did not mean to smack you that hard!? Her words were punctuated with giggles as she fled the hut.
?Uuuhhh, you! Run Sanaa!? Sefu came flying out of the hut, looking for his raucous mate. ?I know where you sleep!? Sanaa was long gone. Kibwe stood laughing with his right hand bracing him on the bone spear.
?I feel for you, Sefu. My sister has always been like that.? Kibwe gathered himself and tried to shake the smile from his face. He headed for Zuberi?s hut and hoped to find him awake. As he walked Nuru and Imani caught up to him. They were both dressed to hunt. Nuru stepped in front of Kibwe and faced him, walking backwards while she smiled up to his face.
?We would like to go with you to hunt, Kibwe. Would you take us?? Nuru practically glowed in hopes that Kibwe would accept them. Kibwe stopped walking and looked at the two women. Both were beautiful by his standards, but he could not recall either ever having been on a hunt. They were both gatherers! Then he thought of how bravely they had watched over him in the Neanderthal cave, and how they had not complained one bit on the journey home.
?Yes,? Kibwe smiled at the two hopeful women. ?Sefu and Sanaa are coming as well, and I am hoping that Zuberi will go! That is where I am going now, to Zuberi?s hut.? The two elated women flanked Kibwe as they all went to Zuberi?s. By the time they reached Zuberi?s hut all the children of the village were following them, as were many of the young adults that had yet to be allowed to go hunting or gathering. As the three reached the entrance of the hut, Kibwe turned to face the juvenile crowd.
?What? Is there something about our backsides that draws you to us? Is there something we do not know about our back sides?? His wry smile played along with his sarcastic tones. He knew they followed him because the thought of him as a hero. He knew that for the next few weeks not one of the four of them that had returned from the Neanderthal raid would be left alone in the borders of the village. He turned slightly and winked at Imani. She took the hint and distracted the youth.
?Do you think that being close to us or touching us will somehow make you smarter or faster or stronger? If you do you are mistaken! To get smarter or stronger or faster you must exercise those assets! You must do for yourselves! If you have questions, ask them at the fire after dark! If you want to get better, play! Play at fighting, and hunting each other! Play at making tools and weapons to sharpen your mind!? Imani was absolutely animated, and while she may have seemed a bit silly to the adults that were still here she certainly had the attention and admiration of the youth! Kibwe had taken the moment that the eyes of the children left him for Imani to get into Zuberi?s hut. Zuberi sat on his skin and wood stool making points for tiny spears. In Kibwe?s eyes, Zuberi was the most innovating member of the clan. On the floor of the hut were twenty shafts for the tiny spears. On the leather table were nineteen heads. The tiny stone heads looked very sharp and were shorter than stone spear points with a wider side flare. They had short tongues at the base for attaching them to the shafts. Zuberi struck the tiny stone head with a harder, flaking stone. The ones that were used to chip spear heads were larger, but shaped the same. Tiny flakes of sharp flint flew from the impact zone, leaving a slightly convex area on the flint and finishing the side edge of the head. Zuberi set it down in line with the others, making twenty. He looked at Kibwe.
?Done. Now I just have to tie them on and put feathers on the back ends. Then they will be ready to hunt with. What are you here about?? Zuberi had a soothing, gentle voice. He always made people comfortable around him, and Kibwe was no exception. While Zuberi was definitely not the best of hunters, he always came back with something. Usually his find was a particular stone, or a perfect stick or bone. Once he had come back from a hunt with a small antelope and the village had agreed that there must not have been anything for Zuberi to bring back that he could use to make something else. Kibwe had always enjoyed having Zuberi along on hunts, but this was the first time Kibwe himself was organizing a hunt. He had always been invited in the past.
?I would like you to join us on a hunt. We are going north, along the edge of the jungle. I want to find some of the large animals that we see at a distance when we hunt the west plains. They always run to the jungle. I think we can find them in the sparse trees between jungle and plain.? Kibwe explained his plan as clearly as he could, but he was going for more than just the hunt. He itched to see something new. Find something or someone new. Maybe even find a clan. Kibwe?s people always hunted the plains to the west or south, seldom the jungle to the east, and almost never north. No hunts had gone more than a day north in his memory.
?How many days, how many people? Who is going?? Zuberi asked as he began gathering his hunting gear.
?Six, counting you. It will be Imani, Sanaa, Nuru, Sefu, me and you. As for how many days? three or maybe more. We may go three days north before we find anything.? Kibwe was not worried about the length of time. He had been on hunts that had lasted seven days and Zuberi had been on them as well.
?Three women? Are you taking them just because they were kidnapped by the Neanderthal, or are you taking them because they can handle it? I know your sister has been on many hunts and has killed, but the other two are gatherers, not hunters or skinners. What if we run into trouble?? Zuberi seemed more curious than concerned.
?I am taking them because if we do run into trouble, I trust them with my life. I think they will make excellent hunters.? Kibwe stood from a squatting position and reached for the door skin. He opened it for Zuberi to step through with his pack of tools and his strange weapons. The two men stepped into the sun between the two waiting women. Before anything further could be said, Sefu and Sanaa came around the hut carrying their hunting weapons and skinning knives.
?We are all here, now we can go to Imamu and tell him our plan for the hunt.? Kibwe was pleased with his hunting party as he led them to Imamu?s hut by the central fire. They made an unlikely, but beautiful hunting party! The six of them gracefully approached Imamu as he sat outside his hut on a stone bench that Zuberi had made for Imamu and his mate, Camali. Imamu smiled up at Kibwe as the party stopped in front of him. He marveled at how the six of them looked so good together, all complimenting each other.
?Imamu. We are set to go hunting for three or more days, but no more than seven before we return here. May we have your blessing?? Kibwe was familiar with the ritual of asking the clan elder for his blessing, but this was the first time he had ever done it himself. To his own surprise, his voice was clear and confident.
?Of course you have my blessing, Kibwe! Bring my daughter safely home in seven days, and may your hunt be bountiful!? Imamu took Kibwe?s hand in his own and squeezed it. He released it and turned to his love, Camali.
?Would you go and get my old hunting knife, Camali?? She entered the hut and returned almost immediately. ?Here, my love.? Camali?s voice was still clear despite her fifty four years. Imamu took the offered knife from her hand.
?Thank you, my dear.? He turned from her to their daughter, ?Imani, take this and keep it, as a gift from a father to his daughter, but also from an old hunter to a young one.? Imani reached her slender hands out to the old knife. It was heavy for her slender hands, and no longer much use as the edge had broken away. It was offered more as a token then for use.
?Thank you father, I will carry it with pride!? Imani?s voice was excited as was her expression. She held out the knife for all to see, and then tucked it into her belt. With a smile full of pride and a wave of his hand, the old man sent the young group on their way. The excited party trotted and bounced through the village heading north!
Once out of the village the group settled into a steady run. Kibwe led flanked on his right by Imani, Zuberi and Nuru followed immediately behind and Sefu and Sanaa brought up the rear. They had a late start but their speed made up for it. They stopped at dusk and made a small fire. All of them sat at the fire and ate some dried meat that Kibwe had brought. After eating, the two lovers, Sefu and Sanaa, laid out a bedroll and snuggled into it. Zuberi pulled out his new spear heads and the leg length shafts and a roll of leather cord so he could start assembling the new spears. Nuru sat next to him and cut off lengths of the cord for him. Kibwe and Imani sat facing each other over the fire.
?If we had not found each other in the jungle that night, would you have gone back to the cave to help Nuru, Furaha and Sanaa?? Kibwe?s voice cut through the comfortable, drowsy fire silence. Imani stared into his eyes for a moment.
?I was on my way back to the clearing, but I didn?t have a plan or even a clue what I was going to do. I was going to do what I could though. I kept telling myself it was foolish, that I should try to run home, but I couldn?t leave them.? Imani?s answer was truthful and quiet. She was a gatherer. She had never been in a real conflict.
?If it had been me that the Neanderthal held, would you have helped?? This time Kibwe?s question was more playful and teasing.
?No! I would have run as fast as I could! I would not want to be there when they ate you, the gas would be worse than stink beans!? Imani laughed slightly at her own joke, and Kibwe shook his head with a smile. ?Seriously, if I thought you were in danger I would be overwhelmed. You have a reputation of being able to handle whatever life and God throw at you.? She finished her answer leaving nothing answered.
?What are you going to use to hunt? Your father?s knife has seen its day.? Kibwe switched the subject to try to make Imani more comfortable. He could see the stress of the previous question change to a new stress as she considered her father?s old hunting knife.
?All I have is the long knife from the Neanderthal and a small axe that I carry for protection when I am out gathering. I guess the knife is better suited, but I am more familiar with the axe.? As she spoke, Imani reached into her small bedroll and pulled out a stone blade axe on a stick handle.
?Maybe Zuberi will have something to make this better. The handle is weak for hunting. You should have both with you, the knife and the axe. They are both light weapons.? Kibwe smiled at her as he finished. He was finding Imani more attractive. He had never spent much time with her as she was a gatherer and he was a hunter. As children they had been in different groups because Kibwe was four years older than Imani. Now it didn?t matter. He was twenty two and she was eighteen. They were both adults, and now were both hunters.
?I need some big feathers. Maybe as long as your forearm. If I can come up with ten of those, I can finish these spears and show you how to use them, Kibwe.? Zuberi?s statement brought Kibwe and Imani out of each other?s eyes.
?I will go see what I can find!? Kibwe was standing and moving for the shadows before he had finished his response. This is what he looked forward to! The hunt was on! Imani had to recover from the burst of movement for a moment before she could leap to her feet and tear off after him! She would not be apart from him again! The two raced into the jungle, Kibwe leading in the dark with his spear. Both could see well in the dark, but not as well as they could in the day. Once they were in the denser trees and the canopy closed above them, they slowed. The pace went from dead run to jog, then to fast walk. Kibwe scanned the trees above for signs of the long tailed jungle fowl. They would supply ample meat as well as feathers for Zuberi?s project. It didn?t take long to find them. These larger jungle birds liked to be near the edge where they could forage in the grasses and roost in the trees. Kibwe spotted a flock of thirty or so in a fan leaf tree. He scanned the area for a way to get within spear length of them. None of the nearby trees had branches going close to the fowl, and the tree they were in had smooth bark for the first fifteen feet or so. The fowl were up about forty feet from the ground. Imani stood by Kibwe?s side and stared up.
?What do you see, Kibwe?? Her voice whispered.
?Foul, about five man heights up and on two branches.? Kibwe wondered how good Imani?s night vision was.
?Those lumps in a row? Are those the birds?? She could see them, but they didn?t look like fowl to her.
?Yes. Eighteen on the closer branch, twelve on the further. I can?t see a way to reach them. We may have to find a different?? Kibwe?s words cut off as Imani?s small axe flew through the knight to catch a fowl squarely in the breast, dropping it to the ground. It let out one squawk as it neared the ground, and thudded to silence. Imani scooped it up and pulled the small axe from its chest.
?Do we need any more?? She looked at Kibwe?s face. He was smiling in amazement!
?Yes, one more.? Kibwe?s voice was muffled as he tried not to alert the jungle to their presence. Imani?s little axe flew again, catching a second fowl squarely and bringing it to the ground with a thud, but no squawk.
?It was a good idea for you to come! I have never seen a hunter throw like that! Most cannot throw at all.? Imani basked in the attention that Kibwe was bestowing upon her. She wasn?t sure that the hunters didn?t throw, but she liked the praise. They took the two fowl back to the campfire. Kibwe showed Imani how to clean the birds and they gave all the long feathers to Zuberi for his small spears. As they roasted the two fowl on the fire, Zuberi fletched his spears.
?The feathers are not straight, Zuberi.? Nuru was splitting the feather shafts and handing them with leather cord to him.
?I know. They are not supposed to be. I made one with the feathers straight and it wobbled too much. Then I twisted them at a slight angle and the shaft spun and was much more stable. Now I have the angles memorized to make them fly straight.? Zuberi looked up at Nuru and smiled. ?I will teach you in the morning.? After he finished fletching the last spear, he spread his bedroll on the ground by the fire. Nuru spread hers next to him and then the two of them went to find more wood. Kibwe and Imani sat next to each other and continued to roast the fowl.
?Why do you hunters always cook the meat before you bring it back to the village?? Imani asked quietly.
?If we did not, the meat would spoil in one day because of the heat. Do you remember two winters ago when it got cold? That winter we could keep the meat fresh for three days before it started to spoil. I think it might be the flies. When it was cold, the flies were mostly gone. We only saw a few bugs of any kind that whole hunting trip.? Kibwe flipped his fowl on the rocks, exposing the less browned side to the fire.
?How long does it take to cook these?? Imani stared at the golden brown flesh of the jungle fowl.
?For these, about three hours at a small fire like this, two hours at a big fire like the central fire in the village.? Kibwe could see the hunger in her eyes. Meat always smelled the best as it cooked. It lost much of its aroma when it began to cool down, and reheating it at the village fires did not bring that fresh aroma back.
?When you hunt, do you always stay up all night?? Her voice was getting sleepy now, though her eyes stayed on the roasting birds.
?Yes, we go hunting just before sunrise and stay until the sun is clear of the mountain tops. Then we make camp and sleep. We wake up just before sunset and hunt again until the game animals hide for the night, and then we make camp and cook whatever we have. If we have nothing to cook, we sleep until just before dawn, and then hunt again.? Kibwe?s warm, quiet voice did nothing to keep Imani awake. Her drowsy eyes began to droop closed, then she would snap them open and shake her head a little. Kibwe smiled at her and stood. He took her bedroll and laid it out next to him. He woke her by touching her cheek with the backs of his fingers.
?Imani, why not lay down? I will finish cooking the fowl. Sleep and I will protect you tonight.? He guided her half conscious self to the bedroll and laid her down on it. She did not resist and when she was stretched out he sat with his back to her. She reached out one hand to touch his lower back as she drifted back to sleep. Kibwe sat and flipped the birds, wondering how long before Zuberi and Nuru would come back. It wasn?t long before he could hear Nuru?s laugh coming towards the fire. They walked close together, each carrying a large load of branches, rubbing elbows.
?Isn?t spring wonderful?? Kibwe commented to himself as the two set down their loads. Zuberi fed some big wood into the fire to keep it going for the night.
?Do you want us to cook so you can get some rest, Kibwe?? Zuberi was offering out of courtesy. Both knew that neither would sleep the first night out on a hunt.
?No, thank you. You two get some rest so you can be fresh in the morning. The fowl are almost finished. I will have them wrapped before it is time to go. If you do sleep, Zuberi, I will wake you with some time to get ready.? Kibwe smiled at Zuberi, who returned the smile and took Nuru?s hand. The two lay down on the bedrolls and snuggled. Nuru was asleep in minutes. Kibwe reached behind himself to stroke Imani?s arm. The two women had much to learn about hunting, but they had good people to teach them. Imani moaned slightly and moved closer to Kibwe so that his hand touched her shoulder and neck.
Just before the first tinges of purple began to edge the eastern sky, Kibwe woke the five sleepers. He had wrapped the fowl, extinguished the fire and removed most of the signs that they had camped there. The firewood was scattered, the stone ring the fire had burned in was scattered and their footprints had been dusted away. The three other hunters were not at all surprised, but the new ones were shocked! Imani and Nuru were amazed at the efficiency Kibwe had displayed in dismantling the camp! Zuberi had his assortment packed within minutes, Sanaa was ready and Sefu had the bedrolls packed by the time the two drowsy women got back from relieving their bladders. Kibwe had packed up their bedrolls so that all the two had to do was heft them onto their shoulders. As Kibwe led the group out, Sefu finished the cleansing of the camp by brushing out the remainder of the footprints where the group had trampled the grass out. All that remained now was a ring of dust and dirt around a small circle of ash and coals.
Sefu caught up to the rest of the group as they came to a small stream. The water came from the mountain rainforest. The group stopped to drink and rest. They had been moving for less than an hour, but the grass was getting thicker and taller. The traveling was getting much slower. The stream was narrow and shallow, no more than five feet wide here and ankle deep.
?We are going to cut in closer to the jungle. This is getting too slow, I think we are too far from the edge of the trees.? Kibwe spoke after the others had finished drinking. ?We can follow the stream east until we are in the trees, the grass does not grow well there.? The group gathered their things again and Kibwe led them upstream. It took almost two hours to get to a point where the grass thinned and shortened under the shade of large trees standing out from the jungle. Again the group stopped, this time at a natural pool that the stream made. The pool was sixty feet across the long way and twenty across the narrow way. At its deepest it was thigh deep on Kibwe. The water was clear and cold. It was a welcome, refreshing bath to the travelers that wore dry grass dust over their entire bodies. They all set their gear on the bank except Sefu who took watch. They stripped their scant clothing off and waded into the sparkling clear waters. After several minutes of drinking, splashing and soaking Kibwe noticed that there were no fish. Even small fish and snails were absent from the beautiful water. At first he puzzled over the strange lack of life, but then the relaxing waters took his mind again. Zuberi climbed out and dressed, allowing Sefu to exuberantly plunge into the waters! He splashed wildly on his way to meet his clean lover! They splashed and rolled in the water for some minutes before Sefu relaxed. Kibwe climbed out of the pool and onto a flat rock. He laid out on the rock to dry. Zuberi came around the edge of the pool to sit next to Kibwe.
?I have noticed something strange about this pool, Kibwe.? Zuberi started his observation confidently. ?There are no animals living in the water, nor any sign of animals nearby. No birds are nesting near it. There are no tracks to show that animals drink from it. No frogs or tadpoles are in or around it. There is not even any green slime growing along the edge.?
?I had noticed that there were no fish, but the extent of the lack of life here had not impacted me yet. Now I am worried. We will have to watch each other and see if any become sick. If we do become sick, we must not return to the village. We do not want to spread anything to the children.? Kibwe realized the importance of protecting the future of the clan, something most men did not consciously think of.
?I agree, but I think we should set a camp far from here. Somewhere near good water where there are fish and birds and frogs. I will watch everyone closely.? Zuberi was analytic by nature and had already determined that a fresh and safe source of water would be crucial if any of them became sick. Kibwe quietly thought to himself what things might keep life from the pool besides poison. In all his experiences he had only seen two bad water holes, both had been poison. Around both were the remains of poisoned animals and men. This was different. There were no remains of any sort. The others were now getting out of the pool. Kibwe realized that he had drunk several mouthfuls of water while he was soaking and relaxing. He replayed the images of the others in his mind and determined that all had drunk at least two mouthfuls except Imani, who had drunk quite a bit when they first stopped. Kibwe?s heart sank. He was afraid that he and his hunting party were not long for this world. His depression was not allowed to last long.
The jungle sounds silenced in unison. All became quiet except the hot breezes rustling leaves and grass. Not a bug sang nor a frog croaked. Not a single sparrow twittered. Then there was a sound of something moving through the dense undergrowth in the jungle. It became more distinct as it got closer. It sounded like a group of eight to ten humans coming toward the pool. Suddenly, the noise ceased. There was an absolute dead silence. Then a large male chimp stepped out of the brush and surveyed the humans at the pool. His skin seemed pale and his eyes seemed much more intense than a normal chimpanzee?s eyes. Kibwe slowly rose. He had had an encounter with chimps before, and he knew they could be aggressive and very dangerous if they chose to be. The chimp locked his eyes on Kibwe?s eyes. Kibwe stood his spear up straight and returned the chimps stare. The chimp calmly reached to his left and wrapped his hand around a three inch diameter tree that stood twelve feet high or so. With a single upward motion of his arm, he jerked the tree out of the ground, snapping its taproot and tearing its lateral roots, leaving the chimp with a nasty root ball full of sharp edges and points. He then took his right hand and snapped the trunk off at about three feet up from the root ball. Throwing away the longer top section of the tree, he spun the wicked club he was left with upright and held it like a man getting ready to fight would hold a club. Never did the chimp allow his eyes to leave Kibwe?s eyes. Kibwe did not allow his eyes to waver either, even though he was amazed at the strength of the chimp. Kibwe slowly leaned his spear on his shoulder, allowing it and his posture to relax. The chimpanzee followed suit and allowed the club to rest on his shoulder. He turned to the bush, finally breaking the eye contact and made a single sound. Eight adult chimps and two juveniles emerged from the bush to join the male. All had pale skin where it was exposed and intense eyes. As a group they moved to the edge of the water where they took turns drinking. The dominant male was the last to drink. When he was finished, he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth in a very human gesture, waved his empty left hand at Kibwe with the palm exposed, turned and joined his kin in the brush. For a short time they could be heard making their way through the brush deeper into the jungle, and then they were gone. Slowly the jungles denizens returned to normal, singing and peeping and chirping to fill the day air with sounds of life. Kibwe looked around at his silent party. All eyes were still on the path of the departed chimps. All faces looked pale, and all eyes looked a bit more intense. He looked down at his own arms and hands. His skin also had lost some color and appeared pale compared to normal. He looked at his reflection in the water so that he could see his own eyes. He had done this before and always his eyes had been so deep brown as to appear black. Now they showed a red-brown iris with a black ring around the outside. They appeared very intense to him. At first he thought it must be a trick of the water and sunlight, but then he looked at Sanaa?s eyes which also had always been dark brown. Her eyes were red-brown with a dark ring around the outside of the iris as well! Now Kibwe was becoming concerned, and he could see the concern on the faces of his friends and sister as well.
?We should be calm and stay here until we know what is happening. Those chimps seemed different from normal chimps, and we now appear different from when we came here just an hour ago! We can set a camp just past this stone so that we can see if any other strange things come here.? He looked to Zuberi to discern weather or not there would be an argument. Zuberi simply nodded and began making a fire ring. ?Nobody goes out of sight of the others alone. If we have to leave the open area, we go with a partner. Any arguments?? But there were none. Even if any of them didn?t like the rule, they were all too stunned by the recent encounter and the changes in each others appearances to argue. For many minutes no one but Zuberi moved.