The First Mornings of the World- Sessions 1 & 2
How old the sea, Kitas did not know. He knew that in the first morning of this world (for there were other worlds where light, darkness always being elder, had yet to be) there was only the song of the sea touching the yet barren shore. How he knew this, he could not say. Perhaps it was through those sudden moments, when awake or asleep, a sensation of clarity so beautiful as to be painful separated him from his everyday senses. But no matter how the knowledge came to him, it was unshakeable in the core of him.
Working at his chore, and his art, of making from stone, the weapons his people used to hunt flesh for food, he wondered often how long the sea had sung alone before other voices had joined it. He wondered many other things, as well, at other times. Born lame, one foot twisted, he was the one set aside. He did not hunt with the other men of his people. Trading his works for a share of food, he did not join in their tales of their cunning and courage against the wild creatures they hunted, as they sat around the red tongue of heat and light in the night grooming each other. He could not join in, either, in the mysteries that the females of his people shared with each other, mysteries of swellings and pains that became the joy of birth. He had time to wonder.
It was the custom of his people to abandon babies who were defective. His mother, Nehot, had broken with tradition, defending his continued life with a fierceness that frightened even the men.
“How can you know, she had raged, what use or uselessness he may be to us and ours in the days to come. How can you be sure? Speak, I will listen.”
The people had no answer but that he would consume without promise of providing.
“You do not know this. I will be his keeper until you can say other.” She suckled him to food eating age, shared her portion of food with him while denying her own instincts to gorge. Against the warnings of the elders and at risk of banishment, she had carried him on the forever journeys the people made in search of game. When he became cumbersome to carry, she had pulled him behind her on a skid made of woven vines. She had seen the hawks playing with vines in the trees and it came to her how she might twine them for use.
When he was old enough to keep up on his own, and to understand his difference from the others, saw that his foot curved inward as it did hampered his speed and grace of movement, he asked why. His mother had comforted him with a sense of his rightness as he was. “You will have other tasks, other gifts, to offer the people.”
She encouraged him to explore other than the talents of the hunt. Watching the men make their killing tools, he imitated their efforts. Soon his imitations exceeded their skill. Because he did not hunt, he had the time they did not have to explore the different nature of the stones. He learned each type of stone’s strength and weakness. Holding a stone in his hands, he could feel where a flaw lay and work around it to the advantage of the whole.
Soon, rather than one tool for all purposes, he made one, two and three for different purposes. There was a stone for the hunt; there was a finer edge stone for the separation of meat from the skin and one special tool for the stitching together of skins to use for comfort and for protection against the elements. It was of this tool that he was most proud. His mother had prophesied rightly and he had become ‘He who knows stone‘. One of the boys too young, yet, for the hunt, began to watch Kitas and work under his guidance.
The people were short of stature; Kitas, at five feet, was a head taller than any other male in the group. Had he not been hampered by his wayward foot, his height would have been a great advantage to him in any struggle for leadership.
Leadership made for greater personal privilege, and every now and then, there would arise a struggle for the alpha position among two or more males. At the moment, the people were led by Fephas, an ill-tempered male of about thirty summers. Only Nehot was unafraid of his wrath.
Fephas was an uneasy leader. He was open to challenge at any time and already had defeated the two most likely candidates for his position. He had considered bashing them with a stone while they slept, or banishing them from the group, but the group was short of younger hunters and either solution would have made the hunting more difficult. There was also the possibility that some male banished from another group would commandeer his and reduce his privilege and, probably, the remaining number of his years. Until that challenge came and was lost, Fephas would continue to lead his nomadic group as they chased the game across the grass.
Trades with, or more frequently raids of, other groups, for necessary women, deaths and births within the group changed the number of the group at any given time, but on the whole the average number of the people were thirty. Too many, or too less, was dangerous to the stability of the people as a whole. Nehot had been captured as a young girl away from her own people. Whether she was already carrying Kitas when captured, she did not know. Her captor had taken her to rut that very night and another had taken her the night after. Nevertheless, Kitas, more angular in shape, looked more like her own people.
The people had always been. This was the whole of their lore, although the females had begun telling their children stories, to both entertain them and to distract their constant curiosity, that would, over generations and revised countless times, be accepted as Truth. The only ritual they had devised was to carry their dead out of camp and leave them as a half thanksgiving, half supplication offering to the animals they hunted. They mourned their dead because, knowing death, they knew grief.