|The Fall of Atlantis
Author: Nate Davis Volsungassonnr PM
The place is Antarctica, the year is 200,000 BC, and progress is coming to the human race whether they like it or not. A tribe of hunter-gatheres prepares to fight a desperate last stand against an old enemy and their new extraterrestrial allies.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Supernatural - Chapters: 3 - Words: 3,596 - Reviews: 3 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 03-23-11 - Published: 03-15-11 - id: 2899153
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"The hunter-gatherers were strong, uncoddled people, secure in the proven ways of their ancestors who had carved a living from the bounties of nature wherever they found them."
—Rand Flem-Ath, When the Sky Fell: In Search of Atlantis
"Their gang went my way for basketball
My gang went their way for alcohol
And when we met it wasn't pretty at all."
Seventeen years later.
The elk stormed down the mountainside, and Gerlari followed.
The elk was big, at least twenty hands high, and it sounded like an avalanche as it fled in terror down the slope, crashing through thick brambles and low branches. Gerlari followed close behind; the thorns tore into his legs, but he scarcely felt it. He held in his hands a long-shafted throwing spear. He always carried two; the second was stuck in the elk's left hind leg.
Gerlari was short and stocky, with crystal blue eyes, copper skin, and long tangled dark hair. He wore only a short kilt of wolf-hide, and a bearskin cloak for camouflage. A buckskin haversack was slung over his shoulder. His stomach was gaunt with hunger, but the muscles of his arms, legs, and neck were knotted and sinewy and showed like balls of twine under his leathery bronze skin. His muscular legs propelled him along, not quite as fast as the elk but fast enough not to lose its trail, and from the dragging rear hoofprints and growing frequency of blood-stains on that trail he knew he would catch up to his quarry soon enough.
He caught the elk trying to cross the brook that ran along the bottom of the mountain, its stiff and useless back leg making the crossing difficult. Gerlari lept from the bushes with a shout and hurled his spear, which caught the elk cleanly in the throat. The beast jolted violently and fell, and from the water looked up at him with intelligent eyes that showed not fear or sadness but rather a stoic acceptance, as if it was trying to say, "We had a good run, old boy, but it looks like you finally got the better of me. Be a good lad and get it over with, would you?"
Gerlari nodded, understanding the message that the eyes conveyed. Pulling a razor-sharp stone knife from his kilt, he gave thanks to the elk for its sacrifice, to his dark god for the successful hunt, and quickly and reverently slit the beast's throat. Already at the edge of death, it thrashed for just a moment before laying still.
Gerlari crouched down, pressed his head against the animal's belly, grabbed its legs in bundles over his shoulders, and stood up slowly. His muscles bulged and his joints popped under the strain, but he managed to lift the massive carcass up and carry it above the high-water line.
Immediately he set to work getting a fire started. He gathered up some dry wood quickly, pulled a bit of rawhide out of the folds of his kilt, and with his stone knife cut a green bough from one of the trees. With the grim patience that only a savage can muster, he strung a fire-bow and spun until he had a fire going. He then jumped upon the elk-carcass, butchering it with deft speed and precision. He built up his fire to a respectable size, built a smoking-rack over it from green boughs, wrapped his bearskin around it, and set the cuts of elk to dry. He pegged out the beast's hide, scraped the schmaltz and sinew from its inside, and started it drying over a second fire.
The sun had set by the time his work was done. He took an elk steak from the rack, dropped it into the hot coals to sear it, and tore into it ravenously; it had been days since he'd eaten anything but sour red berries and a few grubs, and he grinned with a simple contentment as the meat filled his empty belly and its juices ran down his chin. Confident that the fire and his own man-smell would keep away any wild beasts (though he kept his spears, his knife, and a stone axe within easy reach), he stretched out and relaxed. He opened his buckskin haversack and took from it a sort of proto-harp hewn roughly from birchwood and strung with animal sinews. He strummed a few notes and chanted a long stave. It was composed in a kind of Hiawatha-meter tied together with internal rhymes, and he chanted it in a guttural, dark, and complex language which made everything spoken in it sound deathly serious.
When his song was finished, he tucked the instrument back into his haversack and settled into some much-needed rest.
Gerlari awoke at sunrise to the sound of someone—clearly a biped—approaching his camp. He grabbed his knife and one of his spears and started to move into cover when the intruder walked into view. It was a woman, and one he recognized. She was short, knob-limbed, and muscular, like him, but she was much more lithe, more elegantly curved, than he was. She carried a long bow and many stone-tipped arrows in a pouch slung across her back.
"Huora!", he exclaimed with a smile.
The woman looked down at him and scolded, "If I had been a Sea-King, you would be dead right now."
Gerlari looked around uncomfortably. Huora laughed at him, said jovially, "I see you got your elk."
"I did. Would you like some?"
"Is it done drying?"
"It should be ready for storing by now."
"Then there's no time. I can carry half of it; we need to get back to the village, as soon as possible."
"Council. Mailu has seen horse-tracks."
"So, smart guy, there are wolves and catamounts here in the hills; a horse would never wander up from the coastal plains on its own."
"It can only be Sea-Kings. Gizon and Azti have called a war council. Let's pack up the meat and get moving."
They divided the elk into equal shares and used two sections of the hide to strap it to their backs. After extinguishing the fires and doing their best to hide all evidence of the camp, they jogged off up the ridge the way Huora had come. They were two days in the journey, up and over tall rocky ridges of granite covered in thick steamy growths of laurel, evergreens, and ferns. They came around noon on the third day to a rocky mountain cove, on the far edge of which sat a collection of about fifteen wattle-and-daub roundhouses. As they ran in they were greeted by forty men, women, and children, all of them short and knob-limbed with copper skin, black hair, and crystal blue eyes.
A very old man with grey hair and eyes half glazed over approached them and scolded, "It's about time the two of you got back! I thought I told you this was urgent."
"We apologize, Azti," said Huora.
"The elk had more wind than most," Gerlari added.
The old man sighed. "Please tell me you at least got your damned elk."
"I did, Azti."
"That's good. Now we can finally start our council. I'm going to take the village up to the Standing Stones; you two bag the kill and meet us up there. And be quick about it, for gods' sake!"
The old man limped off, gathered up the other villagers, led them off into the woods. Huora and Gerlari took some rope from one of the huts and used it to haul their elk-meat into the branches of a tree, to keep it safe from wolves and bears. Then they walked off into the forest the way the other villagers had gone.
"Suppose it was a scout," said Huora, "and the Sea-Kings will send more up to capture slaves. What then?"
Gerlari stabbed at the air with his stone knife and said, "Then it's war. We track them down to their village and we make them pay."
"Have you ever killed a man before, Gerlari?"
"Once, a few summers ago. We tracked an elk down to the coastal plain, and three Sea Kings learned we were there and came at us with spears. I got one of them."
"What's it like?"
"It troubled my dreams for a few nights afterwards. It's not anything I could ever learn to enjoy, but I wouldn't hesitate to take a life if I had to."
"Mailu said that if we vote for war, I'm to go. I'm a bit scared."
"That's normal. I'm scared, too, to tell you the truth. I wouldn't want to fight next to someone who wasn't. But you'll do just fine. We have each other."
"True; we'll always have each other."
Gerlari put a hand on the small of her back and slid it down into her kilt.
She smiled and said, "Azti told us to hurry. He'll be angry."
Gerlari grinned. Grabbing her hips with both hands, he said, "It took us a while to find a long enough rope."
Huora lifted up her kilt and dropped down to her hands and knees. Gerlari entered her, grunting and thrusting furiously in the usual manner of the savage, and Huora bit her lower lip to keep the sounds of her ecstasy from reaching the ears of the villagers. After about ten minutes Gerlari released inside of her and they returned to their walk up the slope, this time arm-in-arm.
"You've remembered to eat those seeds, right?", he asked.
"Of course. We aren't even officially mated yet."
"One day, we'll have many children."
"Yes, and they'll be strong and beautiful."
At the top of the mountain above the hollow was a circle of nine granite pillars, each six feet tall and about four feet thick. In the middle of the circle was a smooth granite boulder with an image carved into either side of it. On one side was a creature with a goat's head, a man's body, two heaving breasts, and a grossly exaggerated phallus. On the reverse was a crow.
The entire village sat within the stone circle. Azti limped up to the boulder, tapped it with his walking-stick, and said, "Mailu, come up and tell us what you saw."
A young man stood up, walked to the old man's side, and said, "Several days ago I was walking down to the river to fish when I saw a trail of horse-tracks coming down from the forest and fording the river. They were fresh; they could only have been made a few hours before my coming."
"How many horses?"
"Impossible to tell, but at least five."
Azti cleared his throat. "No horse has ever wandered into our people's territory from the coastal plains by itself, but for the past twenty summers we have been seeing more and more of their tracks. It was twenty summers ago that the Sea-Kings started mounting horses and riding them into our hills to capture our people to keep for slaves. Their intrusions have been coming more and more often in recent days."
"They have only ever struck in groups of fifteen or more," Mailu chimed in. "Five or so would be a scouting party, which means an attack is probably coming."
Mailu returned to his seat. Azti motioned for the villagers to speak, and one woman yelled, "Gizon should speak!"
The other villagers assented, and Gerlari's father stepped foreward. He was six feet tall—a giant compared to the others—and his tough bronze skin was covered with many deep scars. He walked up to Azti's side, cleared his throat, and said, "I remember well when we first saw Sea-Kings riding horses. It was three summers before my only surviving son was born. Their intrusions into our territory were rare before that, and usually only for food. It was after we saw them on horseback that they started taking slaves. Believe me, if there are Sea-Kings here, they are up to no good."
"What do you suggest we do?", Azti asked.
"I suggest we send a party of scouts down the river to the coastal plain and see if we can figure out what they're up to. After that we can decide whether or not to send runners to the other villages."
"That is a sound idea. Does anyone have another?"
The crowd was silent.
"Does anyone oppose the plan?"
"It's settled, then. Tomorrow morning we'll decide who to send. Right now, if war is possibly on the horizon, I suggest we hold a ritual for good luck."
"To the Crow?", Gizon asked.
The old man's eyes widened. "No! And don't name her. Not unless war was an absolute certainty would I dare to ask for her blessings. To the Goat-Man, of course."
He reached into a rawhide sack that he'd carried with him and took from it a drum and several plant bulbs. He passed the bulbs to the assembled villagers, started beating the drum and chanting. The villagers stood up, devoured the bulbs, and danced wildly to the beat.
Gerlari's perception of the world shifted, at first subtly but soon with an alarming rapidity. Shadows lengthened, movements blurred, sounds echoed. Time itself seemed to slow down and speed up all at once. The beating of the drum stirred within him something dark, something ancient, something his ancestors had been fighting down ever since they first climbed down from the trees.
He blinked, shook his head violently, and the world cleared up just slightly. He saw two women rolling on the ground in each other's arms. He saw a man being sodomized by another man. He saw Huora striding toward him, her kilt gone, massaging her breasts with her hands. She smiled at him, turned around, and dropped down to her hands and knees. He entered her, and almost passed out from sensory overload. Everything—the smell of her arousal, the feel of the iron muscles under the warm and pliant flesh—was magnified a thousand fold. He screamed in ecstasy as he released into her, and fell backwards unconscious onto the ground.
Then the dreams began.
He saw vast fields of grass and wild barley stretching off for miles to the left and right, and a crystal blue ocean before him. There were two suns in the sky overhead.
One of the suns grew larger and larger, overshadowing the first and filling the sky with an evil green light. The air grew stiflingly hot, and smoke started to rise from the grassy plains. A massive orb dragging a trail of fire behind it streaked through the sky, burning up the grasses on the plains. The earth shook. Massive stones fell into the sea, and it boiled.
And as suddenly as it had come, the second sun was gone. Except for the furled sea, a few unanticipated thunderheads, and the scorched grassland, all was normal again.
Snow started to fall. At first it fell only in small flurries, but after a moment the clouds burst and a great blizzard poured forth and blanketed everything. The sea froze. Gerlari turned around and saw a great wall of ice rushing down the mountainside.
And then he awoke.
Gerlari shot awake in a cold sweat and found himself inside of one of the roundhouses in the village. Azti sat on the floor in the corner.
"What did you see?", the old man demanded.
"Do I look like a fool to you, boy? I know someone having a vision when I see it. Describe it to me."
"How long was I out?"
"Almost two days. Now, speak!"
Gerlari described his dream. The old man shook his head and said, "This is bad, this is very bad."
"What does it mean?"
"Nothing good, I know that much. I fear dark days may lay ahead."