A road movie is a film genre in which the main character or characters leave home to travel from place to place. They usually leave home to escape their current lives (Wiki). I looked up road story in Wiki too, but there is no such genre. But the story told below matches the definition given; the only difference is, it's a story not a movie. Its two main characters, Aegir and Buri, leave home and travel from place to place, from the icy north to the burning hot southern desert. They decide to escape their current lives to achieve a goal that on closer inspection is beyond reach.
In road movies the characters usually travel by car. But Aegir and Buri are living at the transition of the Stone Age to the Bronze Age and therefore they travel by foot or boat passing through wild and unknown places, meeting friendly and hostile people. It's a story and therefore they get rewarded along the way.
The story is embedded in a time long gone for two reasons. The first is a very personal one, the second the importance of this turning point in history. When I was a boy every book-worm was hot for "Rulaman" a novel by D.F. Weinland published first about 170 years ago *). In that still slow moving time you couldn't just order a book by mail and get it two days later and you just couldn't walk over to the bookstore, because the next one was about 50 mile distant. When I finally got my hands on it, I immediately became one of the "Cave Children", the main characters of the novel. And believe me I turned out to be the bravest "Cave boy" of all them all. At the transition of the Stone Age to the Bronze Age a technical revolution took place, the transition from a hunter-gatherer to a farming way accelerated by the discovery of metals providing the basis for new technologies, for new tools and weapons. Technological revolutions always go hand in hand with intellectual revolution: that is with a new way to look at life.
The story's main characters are Aegir and Buri, teens on the transition to adulthood. Aegir, named after the god of the ocean and the sea creatures, is the foxy haired son of a chieftain of an island close to the Arctic cycle. He is sick of the dark winters and decides to catch the sun and bring it back from the south to the dark windblown island of his fathers and he is sick of his narrow-minded fellow men forcing their way of life upon him. Buri is the curly-haired boy, the son of a flint-stone cutter from cave-dwellers from the Swabian Mountains and a dark-skinned girl, claiming to be daughter of the king of a copper digging clan in Africa. Buri is named after the first human being, a mighty deity, the forefather of all deities. Being an outcast in his father's clan, he decides to risks his luck in the south, hoping to find his mother's clan, the moon-stone clan and to come into the inheritance of his mother's royalty. But maybe his mother Teje wasn't a princess at all, just a beautiful dancer, a vestal "virgin", working at the temple of Râ-Kedet (now Alexandria).
*) "Rulaman" a Novel by D.F. Weinland (download of the German version: http://www.wissen-im-netz.info/literatur/weinland/rulaman/31.htm).
From his hideout high on the rim of the valley Aegir carefully studied the bottom of the valley on the other side. Spying had become second nature to him since he had left Hornungsvágr, his home, at the edge of the stormy sea far up in the North. Last summer the teen had left his clan in the night preceding the summer solstice of his own accord. Not that the scrawny redhead was anxious, no, not at all! He was just cautious in consequence of the incidents he had encountered on his long way south.
From his hideout Aegir had a perfect view of the small settlement on the other side. The huts and sheds were surrounded by an earthwork on three sides and protected by the steep rock face of the valley's shoulder on the fourth side. About halfway up the steep incline was a dark opening. It reminded him of the gloomy pupil in an enemy's eye, the cliff above the opening with its bushes being the eyebrow. On the evening after he arrived two nights ago he had been puzzled by the flickering light shining from the opening but soon he realized that it was the entrance of a cave occupied by cave-dwellers.
The fortification surrounding the settlement consisted of an earth mound re-enforced by heavy poles and crowned by thorn bushes. From his observation point he could only spot a single way through the fortification. It was at the beginning of a trail that led to a well trodden path along the rapid-flowing river.
The earthwork sheltered the centre of the clan's activities. From an oval clearing that had an old oak tree in the middle, a stair way of rough slabs led to the cave's entrance. Now, in early spring, the oak-tree looked more like a skeleton raising its knotted leafless branches into the air like a mighty scarecrow. Its branches protected a big flat boulder rising out of the ground like an altar. Last year's dry leaves covered the ground around the tree and the stone altar like a rag rug.
Small huts and open shelters were located close to the bottom of the cliff or leaning against the rock face. The biggest hut with an open front housed a fire pit, obviously the kitchen of the clan. The two fire pits on the left of the kitchen hut were surrounded by frames covered with chunks of meat and the gutted carcasses of fishes being dried. The racks surrounding a third fire pit were used for the dressing of hides. Firewood was piled up in one of the open shelters to keep it dry. To the right of the stairway a roofed shed seemed to be used for producing tools and weapons from flint-stones piled up near a big rock which seemed to be an anvil. The ground was covered by small chips of flint. Another shed-like construction seemed to be used for manufacturing the other goods needed by the clan, like clothing from plant-fibres, pails and buckets of tree bark and pots of clay. A char-burning kiln was nearby.
Now at the end of the cold season the grass in the clearing was worn down to the muddy soil, with exception of a narrow strip close to the earth-work. There the new grass and the first nettles sprouted. Faggots of freshly cut bushes were piled up close to the way through the fortification.
Aegir had been watching the cave-dwellers' settlement for three days. During the first two days nothing special had happened, just the usual coming and going, working and relaxing, quarrelling and chatting of the clan members. Today however something important seemed to be afoot. The whole settlement was swarming with life. Some women were collecting the cured hides from the racks and tying them up into bundles; others put dried meat and fish into containers of tree bark. Shortly before the sun reached the highest point in the sky the women began to carry bundles out of the cave. Some seemed to contain furs, others rugs and blankets of plant fibres, some household items, still others dried food. The smaller bundles were just piled up on the ground near the kitchen hut, while the heavy ones were tied to travois, frames constructed from long wooden poles connected by netting. Aegir knew from his own experience that these frames facilitated the dragging of heavy loads across rough ground.
The men were packing up fishing nets and traps, sharpening the blades of their spears and knives, fixing arrows and stringing bows. The older boys were assisting their fathers while the younger ones were dragging brushwood from the forest into the enclosure and piled it up close to the cave's entrance. The bigger girls tidied up the place or assisted their mothers in preparing food at the fire pit. Most of the smaller girls cared for the toddlers. Only the very young children were playing games.
Aegir had already tried to count the clan several times. He was able to make out eleven men of different ages and a dozen women, some of them pregnant, others carrying around a baby in a sling. He counted five young men of about his own age and four slightly younger ones and about the same number of grownup girls. But he failed to count the smaller boys and girls because they were scurrying around like mad. All in all the clan amounted to more than three dozen members.
When the sun was close to the zenith, the members of the clan gathered under the oak tree in front of the flat boulder. A grey-haired man dragging a lame leg behind him emerged from the cave and stood before the waiting crowd. His head was covered with a cap made of a wolf's skull and he wore a collar of eagle feathers. Wielding a big stick like a wand, he addressed the clan.
Aegir had never seen the aged man before, but immediately was sure it was the shaman, because he seemed too old to head the clan as its chief. When the people finally calmed down, he raised both arms to heaven. Pointing with his wand to the sun he began to intonate a song in a wailing voice. Aegir couldn't understand the words because of the distance. However before long he was sure it was a prayer, because the audience fell to the ground face down. Just then a grey-haired woman also handicapped by age emerged from the depth of the cave carrying a bucket. As if commanded all clan members rose, lined up and every single member, even the smallest one was fed a sip from the brew in the bucket. The service was concluded by a prayer and a dance around the boulder and then everyone gathered at the fire pit and shared a meal.
After the meal the women picked up the heavy loaded frames and gathered in a marching line, while the girls and the younger boys tied the smaller bundles to their backs. Even kids just able to walk were carrying small packages along. The grey-haired woman took the head of the small horde leaning on a stick. The women began to drag the heavy loaded frames through the gate of the fortification and took the trail along the river in a southern direction. The toddlers, unable to walk on their own, had been tied on top of the cargo. The young girls and boys followed in random order.
The unexpected departure of the women and children worried Aegir. It interfered with his plans to visit the clan and eventually spend some time with them. He could have contacted the strange clan on the day of his arrival, but as a burned child he dreaded the fire. Half a dozen times he had been turned away by a village community when he asked for hospitality on his way south, already he had been beaten up twice and once robbed. The worst happened when he ran into a gang of starved vagabonds. First they killed his dear companion, his dog and ate it. When Aegir protested the crooks tied him to a tree. In the night while the others slept the chief bandit released his bonds, knocked him down and tried to rape him. Luckily Aegir managed to free his hands and strangle the rapist. To hold down the kicking man and listen to his death rattle was a terrible experience. It was the first time he had to kill a man and he promised himself never to do it again.
On the other hand in most settlements he was a welcome guest and enjoyed the right to hospitality. Once, a small clan even tried to adopt him, but it was only out of self-interest. Due to permanent wars with their neighbours the clan was short of young men and needed re enforcement. He was offered the chance to marry into the clan. Three matches were offered to him, an older woman with a baby and a toddler, a girl of his age and two very young girls, still not fully developed. The clan chief, a toothless man, pushed the girl of his age young towards him. "You don't know, what you will get with my small daughters, but look at the girl! She is strong! Look, she has big breasts and wide hips! Look at her big belly! She's already pregnant! I promise you, she will give birth not only to one child but bring forth many healthy sons! Just have a try! Have a try tonight! She is always in heat!" Aegir grinned to himself. He didn't want to try any of the offers, instead he went away as it grew dusk despite the fact that it was cold and the land covered with snow.
Searching for his way between the lines of that clan and another enemy clan, he got caught by men of the other clan. He was tied up and questioned but the clan chief was positive that he was harmless, got friendly and offered to let him spend the winter in the men's house together with a dozen adolescent boys.
The first evening Aegir retreated into the farthest corner, trying to become as inconspicuous as possible. Soon after the noises in the hut had died down and the low voices were replaced by snoring he was aroused by somebody joining him under the cover of the furs. A young boy's voice asked, "My brother likes you. Would you mind if we both join you?" Aegir was worried and didn't answer. This hesitation was interpreted by the unknown boy in his own way: "Come over Rickhi, quick!" and immediately he was besieged from two sides. They had big fun! During this and the following nights the Rickhi and his smaller brother Tankhi taught him stuff he never had thought off before, real naughty stuff. He liked the fun, but all the time they were horsing around he imagined that he was playing with Curlyhead, the boy he had met in a dream when his was a boy of six. Remembering this, he instantly got horny.
Since these bad experiences Aegir had gotten into the habit of spying on the prospective hosts. This time however, he had obviously waited too long to approach the cave-people. Now there was no time to waste if he wanted to meet them and replenish his provisions by bartering. Without hesitation he left his hideout on the edge of the plateau taking along only his flint-stone knife and his pointed spear. As fast as possible he moved down the rock crevice into the valley, trying not to trigger a rock-fall. Without attracting the attention of the clan people he reached the bottom of the valley, sneaked to the edge of the river and took cover among the dense reeds. From this position however he was only able to hear the voices of the clan's men, but couldn't see them. With great care he waded through the icy river and sneaked to the enclosure crawling on all fours like a lizard.
Now the next problem arose. The earth-work with its crown of heavy poles and brushes surrounding the settlement was more than twice his height and hid the clearing. The only chance left to spy on the clan was to climb a tree and risk a peek. Aegir got out of breath climbing up a big old maple tree. From a safe position behind the trunk of the tree he observed that in the meantime the mouth of the cave had been secured by long poles, thick branches and with clumps of thorny shrubs. He found the place where the men and boys had gathered at the big flat rock below the holy oak tree.
With hands joined eleven adults and nine youngsters had lined up and were performing a slow ritual dance around the stone. The twelfth, the limping the shaman, was beating a big tambourine with a heavy club setting pace of the dance.
For the first time since Aegir had been spying on the clan, he recognized some of the words echoing through the valley. Taking turns the shaman and the other clan members were calling on their gods. "Wuitan", they called to the sky, then "Thunar", then "Freya", then "Sol", Mani, Njörd, Mimir" and then they repeated the litany on and on. While the pace of the dance around the big stone got faster with every turn, the choral of voices rose and rose. In the end the high pitched song filled the valley from wall to wall. At this point of culmination the shaman lifted his club high into the air. The heavy club landed with a thud on the head of the youngster standing in front of him. The lightweight youngster fell to the ground, his body shaking with convulsions. The thud of the stroke was followed by deadly silence from the dancing men, but they continued to dance at the same pace.
Finally the convulsions of the youngster died away and he was laid spread-eagled on the ground. Without waiting for the shaman's command two men took the limp body and placed it on top of the flat stone. Then they tied up the young man's hands and legs with cords and the shaman began to adorn the body with the colourful feathers of the cock of the wood. Aegir was sure now that the young man had been turned into a sacrifice. And he was right, because the chorus of men and youngsters began to shout: "Hraesvelgr! Hraesvelgr! Soul-Eater! Soul-eater! Hraesvelgr! Hraesvelgr! Soul-Eater! Soul-Eater!" Then the shaman spread his arms and looked up to the sky and shouted with his shrill voice "Hraesvelgr! Hraesvelgr! Mighty Eagle! Soul-eater! Come and carry off our sacrifice! Take this offer and grant us a good return in the fall!" The conjuration was repeated three times, while the men scanned the sky for the big eagle. But the big bird didn't show up on the sky. After another dance around the rock and a song to the community of gods the men fetched bundles of thorny brushes and arranged them around the altar to keep away the foxes and wolves from the sacrifice.
Picking up their weapons and backpacks the cave-men left the clearing still shouting "Hraesvelgr! Hraesvelgr! Mighty Eagle! Soul-Eater! Come and carry off our sacrifice!" Then they concealed the entrance to the settlement with tree trunks, branches and thorns and followed the women.
I would like to express my special thanks to my friend Anthony for improving my writing.
Comments, reviews, questions and complaints are welcomed. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
For others of my stories go to Profilic Net Authors.
Last not least I would like to add thanks for reading.