Tarog crouched in the brush, watching the great beasts moving slowly across the plain. Reaching out with their trunks, they picked tender leaves off the stunted trees and gathered what grass they could from the ground, then brought the meager food up to their gaping mouths. They were heading for better feeding in the trees at the base of the foothills in the direction where the sun rises.
Raga Tubat flashed a hand signal and all six men moved forward, their flint-tipped spears ready, pulling closer to their chests the leafy branches they were dragging behind them. Tarog kept one eye on his chief, the other at the edge of the herd, where the calf he had targeted had strayed.
Suddenly, Raga Tubat jumped up from his hiding place. The others jumping too. At their chief's command, all six men brandished the leafy branches they had been dragging, shaking them at the herd, while shouting as loudly as they could.
It took a few seconds for the mammoths to recognize the danger. But soon, with a loud bellow, the lead bull turned and began loping away from the men, running at an amazing speed for such a large animal. The hunters cheered and shook their branches even more vigorously at seeing the rest of the herd following in a panicky stampede toward the marsh where they hoped the animals would be slowed and exhausted in the thick mud.
The men followed the stampeding herd, staying back but close enough to observe if an animal fell to be trampled by its brothers or became ensnared in the mud and grasses. Tarog followed his calf waiting for it to reach the marsh where he was sure they could take it. It was now even further separated from the rest of the herd. It would be Tarog's first mammoth. He wanted that kill.
Suddenly, "Run" Raga Tubat shouted to the men at seeing the stampeding herd turn away from the marsh, moving at full gallop in the direction of the hunters. Something had panicked the mammoths sending them toward the hunters. From the side, where he had been following the calf, Tarog saw a pride of cave lions speeding out of the long grass surrounding the marsh. The lions pounced on Tarog's calf. With a quick shake of it's head the half-grown giant managed to toss them off.
Now the calf resumed its panicky run, and it was heading directly for Tarog. The hunter could hear the pounding of its feet as it came nearer and nearer. Feeling the beast's breath on his neck, Tarog turned. What he hoped would be his prey was nearly upon him. He threw himself to the side and rolled on the rough grass in a desperate attempt to escape those pounding feet.
He nearly made it, but when one great mammoth foot smashed into his right leg, he shrieked, then fainted with the pain flowing through his body. He awoke seconds later, finding the stampeding herd had passed. Raising his head, he cried out, "Father Sky, will you not take me now?"
It seemed Father Sky was not yet ready to take Tarog for he was still breathing, though his leg was shattered and bleeding. He looked around, seeing no sign of the other hunters. Across the plain, was the calf, down now and providing a meal for two of the cave lions. To his right, and farther away, a young adult mammoth was the meal of the other three cave lions.
Hoping the lions were busy with the mammoths, Tarog undertook to slide his broken body across the grass toward the rivulet that flowed into the marsh. Slowly, laboriously, he moved forward, toward the high grass, away from the lions.
Then he was at the stream, pushing his face in, rolling his whole fevered body in, letting the cold water wash the blood and broken flesh from his shattered leg. What now? Can I live like this? With this leg I can never be the hunter I wished to be. No, I'll stay here and let Father Sky take me.
He lay in the cold water for a while, but again Father Sky did not take Tarog. He pulled himself out of the stream and after laboriously managing to crawl onto the bank, he looked again at the lions feasting on their kill. Nowhere did he see any of the other hunters. They have gone to Father Sky. Only I am left to carry the tale back to our people, if Father Sky does not take me too.
Ahead, the long grass continued along the course of the stream. Lowering his body to the ground, he began half crawling, half sliding, distancing himself as much as he could from the feasting lions. It was exhausting work. Often Tarog needed to lower his head to the ground to breathe deeply and rest his back and shoulders.
It was on the third such rest period that Tarog found the black rock. He dropped his head to the ground and it hit the hard surface with a thud. Tarog studied it. It was like nothing he had ever seen. As he brushed away the leaves and dirt covering it, he saw the shape was strange, an affront to the nature the young hunter knew.
The rock was large, about as big as a man with arms spread. It's unnatural shape was marked by four strange pointed features equally spaced around it. The sides of the rock joined the four points and were straight, straighter than a hair, straighter than anything Tarog had ever seen.
He waited there longer than he should, studying the rock. He ran his fingertip along the straight sides, around and around. Again, he lowered his face to press his ear to its surface, but heard nothing, he licked it, and tasted nothing but dust. He tried to grip one edge, to pull it up, out of the dirt, but the strange rock didn't move. He knew it wouldn't.
He examined the rock once more before he pulled himself onto it until his whole damaged body was on top. Then...
Tarog stepped into the grass. He turned and looked back for a moment at the huge, black column slowly sinking into the earth. He tried to recall what happened inside.
He remembered a strange sound playing in his ears, high pitched, not unpleasant, but with slight variations in the pitch. And there was the fine, white mist that surrounded him. And then he was here, standing in the tall grass, watching the black stone column descending again into the earth.
But he wasn't the same now, the black rock had changed him. His body was whole and strong, stronger than before, stronger than any man of his tribe, somehow he knew that. No longer did he possess the body of a young man barely out of boyhood, a man of only sixteen summers. Now he possessed the body of a great hunter, of the greatest hunter.
Across the plain, he could see the lions, still feasting. He knew their habits. They were gorged now and soon would doze for a while before carrying meat back to their mate and their cubs.
He turned to see the rock again buried in the earth, all except its top surface, low and flat, hidden among the grasses. He stared at the strange shape for a moment, thinking. Once more he stepped onto it. He made sure his entire body was inside the confines of the rock's perimeter, but nothing happened. Whatever the purpose of the rock was, it had been accomplished.
Tarog had no weapon except the small, flint knife in his loincloth. He had dropped his spear while running from the stampeding mammoths. Keeping his eye on the lions, he walked through the grass and forded the stream. He found his spear on the plain, the shaft broken, but the spearhead intact. Holding the broken weapon across his chest, he moved slowly, carefully, looking for his companions.
He found one, his brother Sarok, his body trampled into the ground by the feet of many mammoths. He looked for Sarok's weapons, but could not find them. Skirting the edge of the plain, Tarog found the remains of the other hunters, their bodies mangled, all gone to Father Sky. Most of their weapons were broken, but he kept the flint spearheads, storing them in the pouch Raga Tubat had carried. He found an unbroken spear, apparently dropped or cast aside by one of the fleeing hunters.
Tarog shook his head. Five men, our best hunters, all with Father Sky and no meat for the tribe. I, Tarog, must now be as strong as five hunters. I will bring the tribe meat.
With his one whole spear in his hands, he moved toward the lions sleeping beside the dead mammoth calf. The tawny beasts looked up as the man approached. One flicked its tail, the other tried to warn him away with a growl.
All his life, Tarog had been taught to fear cave lions. But surprisingly, he felt no fear, only anger and the lust to kill. With a shout, he brandished his spear and moved closer, threatening the lions, seeking to drive them from the mammoth calf that could feed his whole tribe for a week.
The lions sat up, watching the foolish human who thought he could drive them from their kill. One lashed out at the man with its sharp claws Tarog moved quicker than the lion to slice at its paw with the point of his spear. The lion squealed in pain and backed away.
Tarog shouted again, thrusting his spear at the remaining lion. The lion moved from its sitting position to stand on its feet. It snarled once before leaping. Tarog's spear was pointed out, and as the lion leapt the sharp point was forced into the lion. With the spear in its chest, crying, growling, the beast swiped its claws at its attacker, bloodying Tarog's chest and shoulders.
Unaware of the wounds he was receiving, with his own broken spear in his left hand Tarog thrust it into the lion's eye, pushing deeper until the sharp point penetrated the beast's brain and it fell dead at his feet.
"Aii! I have killed a cave lion," Tarog shouted in triumph to the world and Father Sky.
He looked around, but there was no one to reply, no one to see his triumph. The sun was setting, and the lions were leaving now each carrying a large chunk of mammoth meat in its mouth. Soon, the scavengers would come to take what the lions had left.
Using his flint knife and broken spear, Tarog cut off a hind quarter from the mammoth calf. That would provide food for the tribe until he could kill again. He would spend the night on the plain to keep the vultures and other carrion eaters away. There was not time to take the meat to his tribe before the darkness came. He had no fire to keep warm. As quickly as he could, Tarog skinned the dead lion and wrapped himself in the skin. While doing that, he noticed the scratches on his chest and shoulders were healed. He flaked away the dried blood, leaving only faint white marks where the lion had mauled him.
Tarog guarded the dead mammoth calf through the long night. He felt little tiredness, nor did he feel much cold or hunger. The lion skin kept him warm enough, and he was warmed by action for every time scavengers came near, he shouted and brandished his spear to drive them away.
At sunrise, he wrapped the mammoth calf meat in the lion skin. He cut strips of hide from the calf and used them to sling his burden over his shoulder. Then he began his long walk to his cave.
He stopped occasionally for water and to rest. He needed to rest more often when he began to climb the foothills of the low mountains where the cave was located. He knew his strength was waning. Even as strong as he was, to carry alone a burden that would tax three men such a long distance was exhausting him. It had taken the hunting party two days to reach the mammoth herd, now Tarog was carrying a quarter of a mammoth calf the same distance in just one day.
As he neared the cave, "Ho, I return," Tarog called to the boy guarding the entrance, a duty he had performed many times not so long ago.
As Tarog climbed up the narrow path to the cave entrance, "Where are the others?" called Warrat, one of the men too old to hunt.
"Gone to Father Sky."
"Oi, all of them? Sarok too?" cried Lanna, Sarok's wife.
"Yes, all of them. I grieve with you."
At that, all the tribe cried out loudly, the wives of the dead men crying louder and longer than the rest.
Tarog looked at the people gathered around him. "They are all with Father Sky, and happier now, but we must bear the sorrow of losing them."
Warrat looked up at Tarog's face. "How?"
Briefly, Tarog told of the failed hunt, how the mammoths had turned in their panic to overrun the men, killing all the hunters but Tarog. "I have brought food for the tribe," he said, pointing at his burden which he had dropped on the cave floor. "Tomorrow, we can return to the plain to retrieve the bodies of our men and hunt for more food. But now, I need water and rest."
Maupai, the chief's first wife, wiped away her tears and brought him a skin full of water. They watched in amazement as he swallowed half the water in the bag before moving to his sleeping furs on a shelf in the rear of the cave.
"Come, we must put aside our grief and continue our work," Maupai said to the others. "Hunters die and women live to bear children to more hunters. That is the life Father Sky has given us."
It took four women and two boys to carry the bundle of meat into the cave. "Look, Tarog has killed a cave lion," said Lanna when she noticed how the meat was wrapped.
"What has happened to Tarog?" asked Maupai, looking at him as he slept inside the cave. "Before the hunt, he was never as he is now. He could not have killed a cave lion or carried such a huge burden so far. He has changed."
"Father Sky has blessed him with great strength," said Tai, the chief's younger wife.
The old shaman had been crouching at the cave entrance while listening to the women talk among themselves. "Blessed by Father Sky or cursed by the dark beasts of the earth. We will find out soon from his actions. Women do your work and prepare meat for the tribe. We have fasted too long."
They cooked, then the tribe ate, and all the time Tarog slept. Lanna tried to awaken him to take part in their meal, but he didn't stir. After the tribe had eaten their fill of the tender mammoth calf, Maupai gave the lion skin to the old women for them to soften the leather so Tarog could wear it about his shoulders.
She moved to crouch beside the sleeping hunter, Tai next to her. "He is so big now, so strong," Tai said, her tongue flicking out to lick her lips.
Maupai touched his chest, noting the sweat smeared dust and flecks of dried blood. Close to the great hunter, she found her vagina moistening, her labia growing hot and swollen. "Get water, we will wash him," she commanded.
Soon, all six of the widows gathered around sleeping Tarog. The sun had set and their only light was from the flickering fire at the entrance to the cave. Tenderly, they washed his broad brow, his face, the thick hair of his beard. As they washed his body, they rubbed their hands over the knotted muscles of his chest and arms and legs.
Maupai touched Tarog's loincloth. "Help me get this off," she whispered. "He must be cleaned here too."
With the help of the other women, they got the loincloth off him. As it was removed, "His man root, it's ... it's as big as my arm," cried Tai so loudly the others feared he would awaken.
"Yes, Father Sky has changed him. He was never like this," Lanna said, examining the sleeping man. She felt her body growing warm as she examined and then touched his testicles, "And his eggs are the size of a mammoth's."
Maupai was washing Tarog's huge organ and heavy balls. On his other side, Lanna and Kiki were washing his groin and sliding their hands under his buttocks to clean his bottom.
In his sleep, Tarog couldn't help responding to the attention his genitals were receiving. His huge member hardened and rose from his crotch like a great tree trunk. Maupai began stroking Tarog's immense man-root with both hands now, seemingly fascinated by its length and girth. "He's so great, the equal of a bull auroch," she whispered before bending forward to press her lips to the broad crown. She kissed and licked and sucked while her hands stroked Tarog's thick shaft.
Lanna's hands too, were on Tarog's shaft, while Tai's little fingers insinuated themselves between his legs to caress his giant balls. The other widows - Kiki, Rannie, Bilai - felt the need to take part in pleasuring the great hunter. They gathered around the sleeping man, touching, kissing, licking where they could.
Soon, with a groan and a sudden uplift of his hips, Tarog was coming, his great organ spewing waves of his seed into Maupai's mouth. She sucked and swallowed as much as she could, but it was too much, so much that Tarog's seed was running down her chin. And Tarog's orgasm didn't halt, his cock continuing to pump his thick semen into her mouth.
"Let me," whispered Lanna, pushing Maupai aside, pressing her lips to Tarog's cockhead. His orgasm continued, his seed flowing into the mouth of his brother's woman until with a sigh he was drained. His hips descended to the the furs and he slept peacefully again.
"He will father many children." Lanna said as the women moved back from the sleeping hunter. Turning, they saw most of the adults had been watching. "After this, one of you, Maupai or Lanna, must become Tarog's wife," the shaman said.
"Or both," added Warrat, "for I think Tarog will be our chief now."
"Not Tarog, he is only a boy. I will be chief," said Mattat. "I am the most experienced hunter. I did not go on the hunt only because my foot is injured."
Maupai glared at Mattat. "Tarog is no longer a boy, he is a man, a great man and a great hunter. He killed a cave lion himself, something no man of our tribe has ever done, something no man of any tribe has ever done. He will be chief and he will have all six of us women if he wants. And that is how it shall be, unless you wish to stand against a man who has killed a cave lion, Mattat."
When Tarog awoke a little after sunrise, he was surprised to find his body had been washed and his loincloth removed. Quickly, as the women hurried to him carrying beer and meat, he covered himself, tying the loincloth tight around his waist. He chewed on the meat, drinking beer from the crude earthenware cup. "Good," he said after his first swallow of beer.
"Yes, the grass here makes good beer," Maupai said, smiling at him. "Next year there may not be so much. Only a few plants are left."
While sipping at the beer, Tarog thought about the grass. "Save the seeds, and scatter them over good earth. Maybe next year there will be more plants.
Maupai cocked her head to the side. "Yes, we can do that. Now eat, you need to gain your strength back."
The women watched Tarog until he finished his meal, "We have something to talk to you about," Maupai said. "We six women have lost our husbands, and you are without a woman. We want to be your wives, if you will have us."
Tarog fell back onto his sleeping furs. "I have passed only sixteen summers and am not an experienced hunter. How can you believe I should have even one wife?"
"Father Sky changed you, made you a great hunter and a great man," Lanna said.
Maupai looked into his face. "You killed a cave lion, you fought off the scavengers all night, and you carried food to our tribe. We know you are a great hunter, the greatest ever. And you will be our chief." She turned to where the others were watching. "Isn't that so?" she said to Mattat.
"You are a great hunter. We want you to be our chief," the veteran hunter said, his eyes looking down at the cave floor.
"Our tribe is much weakened with the loss of five of our best hunters," the Shaman said. "Father Sky has changed you so our tribe may continue. You must become our chief, and a great chief, to save our people. A chief may have more than one wife. A great chief may have many wives."
Tarog looked over the people of his tribe standing before him. He knew somehow, that to be chief of the Sumat tribe was his destiny. He knew the shaman was right, that it was to save his people Father Sky and the black rock had changed him, to guide his people into the future. "I will be your chief if that is what you wish."
There were cheers and cries of "RagaTarog, RagaSumat," expressing the joy of the tribe that he had agreed to become Chief Tarog, Chief of the Sumat tribe.
As the cries of joy died away, Tarog looked over his people. "No chief of our tribe has ever had more than two wives. How can you believe that I, who have passed only sixteen summers, will be able to keep six women happy?"
Her dark eyes on his face, Tai said, "Tarog, we know you are a great man with a strong root and much seed who will father many children. Last night..."
"Quiet," Maupai hissed.
Tarog looked at the women. "If I am to be chief there must be no secrets from me. Tell me everything. Last night..."
Tai looked fearfully at Maupai before continuing. "Last night, while you slept we cleaned your body."
He nodded. "I know that."
"But when we removed your cloth and saw your man root, we ... we needed, we had to..."
"Go on, tell me."
"We could not resist such a man as you have become, Tarog. We used our hands and mouths to pleasure you, and for our pleasure too, to gather your seed." Tai covered her face with her hands and turned away.
"Tai, there is no shame in what you did," Tarog said. "Father Sky wants us to have love and pleasure and many children so our tribe may continue."
He saw the shaman nodding in agreement as he looked at the six women standing before him, their children hiding behind their skirts. "If I take you women, I will be responsible for your children too," he said, his eyes moving over them.
"Yes Raga," Maupai said as she pushed her children in front of her. "Mine are nearly grown. Sisai has fourteen summers, she will be a woman soon. She can be your woman if you want her. Barat, the boy, has twelve summers. He is strong and quick and will be a good hunter, I know that."
The boy looked strong. Yes, he will be a good hunter. The girl was a little plump, like her mother, but she had a pretty face. If he didn't want her she might fetch a good bride price, or help cement relations with another tribe. Maupai, herself, was old, the oldest of the six women, probably close to thirty summers. But she was still capable of having children, and she was a good worker.
Tai, like Tarog, had sixteen summers. She had no children, which was an advantage. She was slim, with dark hair, a pretty face and big, dark eyes. He wanted her.
Lanna, his brother's woman, had two children, a boy who had just learned to walk and a baby girl still nursing. Lanna was slender, and had an attractive shape. Because she was his brother's wife, Tarog would be responsible for Lanna and her children even if he was not chief.