I think that this story is somewhat different from the ones I usually write.  Its setting is not well-defined except for being in a very pre-technological age -- certainly predating our bronze age.  That said, perhaps this is set on Earth and perhaps not.  Perhaps it is about humans and perhaps not.  Perhaps these sentient beings have hands with five digits and perhaps not.

If the story is set here on Earth, then the feline might be a small cat such as a cheetah or jaguar and the small grazers might be something like the smaller of the antelopes.  I can envision this happening in places such as the great plains of North America, the pampas of Argentina, the Serengeti of Africa and the Northwest Territories of Australia and most certainly in Ray Bradbury's The Veldt perhaps on the borders of a forest.  But not these days and maybe not on this Earth at all.

These are details of little import.  This culture with its attendant beliefs and morals is different from ours, both past and present, in many ways.  I believe that there are antecedents in our past for all the cultural relationships I have attributed to these sapiens beings.

This work is copyright by the author and commercial use is prohibited without permission.  Personal/private copies are permitted only if complete including the copyright notice.

The author would appreciate your comments -- pro and con, including constructive criticism, and suggestions.




Risking it all

The boy awoke early; it was long before dawn.  He had a plan; an agenda.  The lodge -- one of the women and children's lodges -- was quiet for even the nursing babies were sleeping.  Very quietly Bungtlak rose and slipped out of the lodge.

This was the most important day in his young life.  When the Great Fire Orb rose he would have achieved the first finger of the third hand marking another full cycle of seasons.  All but one other of his cohort had already moved into one of the men's lodges.  They had each grown hair in new places and had been taken for additional training.  The remaining one was half a cycle of seasons older and likely to achieve his identical goal soon.  Bungtlak would be the remaining baby of his group condemned to sleep in a women's lodges alone until he attained the status of a tween.  He was proud that he had almost had as much man-fur as his immediate and last rival.

Lady Moon was full; she was shining brightly, so that even though the Great Fire Orb was still in his Great Lodge, he could see easily.  He made off at a lope to edge of the village where he had stashed his supplies.  He tied the cord holding his knife sheath about his waist, double checking that it was secure; its loss could mean his death.  It was his very first knife and he was very proud of it.  He would long remember the praise that the Shaman and his father-uncles had given him when he had made it.  Then he checked his secret weapon.  It was unlike any other spear in the village and he called it a knife-spear.  Even, perhaps, unlike any other in the world.  He had enhanced the usual fire-hardened point by hafting two knife blades to the shaft so that he could cut as well as stab with it.  His water skin was full.

Bungtlak knelt, facing where the Great Fire Orb would soon present himself, to sing a song of praise and a song pleading for good fortune immediately before setting out.  He had considered asking for a feline as his first real kill but decided this would be presumptuous and disrespectful; whatever animal Tlankket would send for him would be good.  He would be grateful to return home with any animal on his back and shoulders.

Bungtlak set off on his quest.  The next time Lady Moon rose he would not be a boy.  Either he would have taken a great step to become a man or he would be in the next world.  The All Powerful Tlankket would decide but he would try his best.  The Shaman often said that the Tlankket favors those who put in more effort and demand less help.

The world was vast with a lot of game for the taking if one worked at it.  Of course, there were many dangers also.  It was far too easy to be transformed from hunter to hunted; from diner to dinner.  But when you are only two hands and a finger and have a great objective but little experience the terrible dangers of the world are easily ignored

Bungtlak knew that the herds would be near the water hole for a drink before the heat of the day.  After a while he could see their dark silhouettes against the light grasses in the distance.  A small grazer would be sufficient for this day he thought as he loped toward the herds.  As he ran he recalled the many dreams he had of getting a great feline and a large buck with long straight antlers that both the Chief and the Shaman would covet.  The Great Fire Orb rose before he reached the herds.  He paused to show his respect and pressed on.  This of all days was especially not one to slight Tlankket.

Then he saw the feline.  It was stalking a small grazer just as he was.  It was much faster then he could ever be.  Quickly, he dropped down to hide in the tall grass.  His father-uncles had taught him to be prudent when danger was so very close; so very real.  He watched as best as he could.  Bungtlak envied the feline's prowess.  Oh, how he wished that he could zip and zag like the feline.  Most of all he would have loved to be able to pounce as it did and take down a grazer.

He saw the feline pounce.  It was fantastic!  The powerful muscles rippling under the beautiful fur; the claws spread out; the fangs glistening in the bright light.  Then the strike: how seemingly easily the feline drove its huge fangs into the neck and sunk its claws into the sides of the grass eater.  The small grazer fell under the feline's weight and the wounds it quickly inflicted.  Never before had Bungtlak seen a feline killing this close for the men always stayed much further away (except when they were hunting one) whenever they encountered the powerful predators.  All the boys were painstakingly kept even further way.  His heart sped up when he smelt the hot blood gushing from the wound. «Oh, if only I could do that.» thought the young hunter.

Bungtlak was not sure what he did to attract to attention of the feline.  The feline raised up from its kill and sniffed and looked -- searching -- for what had disturbed it.  Bungtlak knew better than to run.  Even a small grazer was faster than he was and the feline had just quickly caught one.  He crouched lower in the grass and sang a silent song to the Tlankket pleading for his life and promising.  He was not sure what to promise but, nevertheless, he promised.

The feline caught the boy's scent.  He did not like the hairless bipeds for he remembered how they had killed his mother when he was only half grown.  He remembered how his own small claws and teeth had draw blood of the killers and how he was thrown away.  He had killed many more than he could count.  Fear filled this one's scent.  The feline roared loudly for it had learnt that increased bipeds' fear.  The boy jumped and the feline ran to pounce and kill.  This would be easy; hairless bipeds were slower and weaker than grazers.

The feline did not know this biped was different.  This biped did not turn and flee as had the others.  The feline did not care and sprung at its prey just the same.

The feline howled in pain as the knife-spear penetrated its throat.  The boy let the feline fly over him impaled on his knife-spear braced on the ground.  Quickly he sprang to his feet and yanked the knife-spear out and drove it back in just as he had practiced on a fallen grazer, before he had been driven away by the canine pack, a week before.  The knife-spear cut great wounds in the feline's throat -- slashing arteries and veins, cleaving muscles and sinews and shredding the windpipe and esophagus.  The feline expired in only a few heart beats.

The boy gave voice to a song of praise and thanks to his Most Generous and Protecting God, Tlankket.  That was, naturally, the first priority after survival.

Bungtlak did not know the rituals of the kill -- that was for the Shaman and his acolyte.  He obeyed his basic instincts!  He drank deep of the hot blood.  He sank his teeth into the hot flesh and ripped out a piece.  His face was splattered with the feline's blood.  This was the best food he had ever eaten since he had been at his mother-aunts' breasts and that had been more than a hand and three fingers cycle of seasons ago.  He took his knife and cut off another piece of flesh.  He savored the hot raw flesh.  This was especially satisfying for it was his first solo real kill.

There was one ritual he did know; at least in action if not the incantation.  It had to be most important for the men did it whenever they could; all in the hunting party always vying to participate.  The boy checked;  his fortune was still good.  He again thanked Tlankket for the feline was a male and he could preform the rite.  Bungtlak's knife sliced easily through the thin skin.  Slowly he ate the two globes of power relishing every bite while they were still hot; before the feline's sprit departed to the next world.  This was the very first time Bungtlak ate the globes of a powerful feline.  Bungtlak knew that they would make him stronger and more powerful.  He would gain the strength of the feline's spirit.  The Shaman would not appropriate one globe as he usually did when part of a hunting party.  This was his kill; his alone.  He had taken all the risks and now he would reap the great rewards.  If he had failed, his mother-aunts would have keened and his sister-cousins would have cried and the men would have told the other boys:  "This is what happens to naughty and foolish boys.  Let this be a lesson."

The boy -- nay man or at least tween -- was rightly most proud of himself.  Bungtlak had made his first real kill completely alone.  And even better it was of a male.  The many rabbits he had gotten did not count.  They were weak and small.  Their spirits could not enhance his strength as that of the feline could and would.

Bungtlak wished to rejoice more but a man first must tend to tasks.  The feline's own kill must be dealt with.  The tween slit its belly open and emptied the guts as he had seen done many times.  Hopefully he could return with some men to bear it back to the village to help feed the tribe before the vultures and other scavengers got to the carcass.  He returned to his own kill and hefted the carcass.  It weighted almost as much as he did.

With the feline on his shoulders, it would be a long slow trek back home to the village.  The Great Fire Orb would be half way down the sky by the time he arrived.  His progress was slow but steady.  His pride gave him strength even though the carcass seemed to grow heavier as he made his way.  There would be anger at his recklessness but that would be dispelled by his achievement.  On and on he trudged, blood dripping from his kill onto his body -- making a badge of honor.

He still had a way to go when he met the hunting party which included two of his father-uncles and several brother-cousins.  They had gotten two grazers.  There would be much food for the tribe this day and the next.  Bungtlak was much admired for his achievement although nothing was said (as that was not their way) for they all knew why he did what he had.  That he had survived boded well for him and the tribe.  The hunting party leader immediately dispatched three men to fetch feline's own kill on hearing his report for by the next day it would be gone.

Things that he expected did not happen but things that he knew nothing about did for the there was more to the Laws of the Tribe than he knew.  He saw Raakkort, older but still not yet a man, speaking with the Shaman and his eldest father-uncle.  Raakkort came directly to him and silently stuck his hand into the feline's rent throat and covering it with blood.  Then he smeared it on Bungtlak's head as if to anoint him.  He licked his hand and offered it Bungtlak to do the same.  This was a ritual that Bungtlak did not know.  There was much to learn to be a man.

Although he was tired, he did not ask for help carrying his trophy home.  The men understood his need and went slowly.  A boy does not take such a major step to become a man every day.  Proudly he marched at the head of the group bearing his kill with his oldest father-uncle on one side and the Shaman on the other.  Regardless of his foolishness and his social gaffs, he had earned certain honors for his trophy.  As they approached the village, the Shaman whistled loudly.  Several girls ran out to see while the women continued with their work.

One of his sister-cousins and her girl friend, Jetti, (whom he liked) spotted him.  His sister-cousin ran to tell his mother that he was safe and had made a wonderful kill.  When Jetti came close to admire the feline's wonderful soft fur he made sure that she got bloody and was rewarded by a big smile and a girlish kiss on the cheek.  When he became a man, perhaps he would take her his first wife for she was strong, healthy and even pretty.  His mother made a great fuss over his return for she had worried much.  She proudly accepted the feline as gift.  It was the rare woman who got such a valuable gift on a son's two and one birthday.  It was doubly valuable for it had both intrinsic and symbolic worth.

Bungtlak was given a place of honor at the feast celebrating his first kill that night.  For the first time he enjoyed the pleasure of telling of his kill.  There was no disputing what was now filling many bellies.  He knew that he was not yet considered a man but also he was no longer a mere boy who must sleep in a women's lodge.  His gamble had paid off.  His life was irrevocably changed forever.


Many rituals Bungtlak expected.  Many secrets he was anxious to learn.  The feast in honor of his first real solo kill was over.  The women and children had left for the women's lodges.  Some of the men left for the men's lodges; some to be with their mates.  His eldest father-uncle told him to stay at the fire and to await instructions.  He watched the flames dance their way down to glowing embers and he thought about his day.  Never before had he stayed so late at a feast for always the women always made sure that the boys were in the women's lodges long before this time.  He looked about and saw that he was alone but he stayed.  It would not do to disobey his eldest father-uncle now that he was no longer a boy, but a tween.

"I am to be your mentor.  The Chief, the Shaman and your father-uncles have agreed." said the older tween as he sat down beside him.  They knew each other, of course, and they did not particularly like each other.  "I am to teach you as I have been taught.  I will be very strict with you and expect you to do your best at all times.  I will punish you as I see fit.  You shall obey me in all things."  Raakkort paused for effect.  "You may refuse me but no other will be appointed."  He waited for the import of his words to register with Bungtlak before continuing.  "Do you accept me as your Mentor?"

Bungtlak heard the stringency in Raakkort's voice and thought carefully for he did not like him.  But the elders must have their reasons and a mentor to guide him was essential.  Beside, Raakkort was the one who anointed him earlier rather than the Shaman.  "I obey wishes of the Elders." he said quietly and began to realize that he might have caused offence in some way.  Perhaps that was why he had not been mobbed by his own cohort.

The first demand came instantly. "Do you swear obedience to me?"

"Yes, I swear."

"Give me the blade which you used to kill the feline."  Bungtlak handed him his knife-spear that was beside him.  Raakkort examined it carefully before taking Bungtlak's forearm and making a cut on his wrist.  It hurt but Bungtlak bore the pain silently; stoically as a man must.  "Do the same to me." Raakkort ordered, handing the weapon back and offering his wrist.  They put their wrists together so that their blood intermingled and then fused together when it dripped onto the hot coals.  The vapors would go to Tlankket as an incense as witness to their bond.

Raakkort led Bungtlak to the special cave where every mentor took his neophyte to start the process of turning a boy into a man.  They sat together outside with Lady Moon high in the sky.

"The results -- killing the male feline -- were surely good but did you consider other outcomes when you set out, boy?"

"Mentor, I considered many.  In my dreams I killed many a great feline but I did not plan for that for they are most powerful; I am surely still too small; still too weak to do that.  I had hoped for a feline or canine but did not ask Tlankket for such a great honor but I have sung songs of thanks to Him for the favor of His great benevolence.  I asked for a grazer and failing that I would have taken a rabbit had I not been killed.  I beseeched that my mother-aunts would not be crying for me tonight but if Tlankket had sent me to the next world then that would have been Tlankket's will."

"And the Laws of the Tribe?"

"Before the Great Fire Orb rose I did do wrong by going out alone and in secret but that was as the boy I am no longer."

"And during the day?"

"Nothing -- for once I left the village I was not bound by its laws unless I returned with the help of Tlankket.  When you anointed me with the blood of the feline, I was back and again subject to the laws of the tribe."

"The boy should be punished."

"That boy is no more, but for his honor I shall take his punishment."  Saying that, Bungtlak rose and removed his loin cloth.  Naked he stood before his Mentor.  "Please punish me for the wrongs of the boy Bungtlak, Mentor Raakkort."  Boys were punished in one way.

Raakkort eased the tween over his lap.  This would be the last time he would ever be spanked for he was no longer a boy.  Raakkort felt the target.  Bungtlak's strong muscles were hard like the rocks of the land.  He raised his hand and brought it down hard.  There was a loud slap as the hard hand connected with the hard butt.  The Mentor gave him a hand of spanks.  He would have given him more but he did not want to hurt his hand.  Henceforth, punishment would be given with a strap.  He eased the tween up.

"Thank you, Mentor."  Bungtlak was glad that the punishment was but perfunctory.

Admission to Boarding School

Raakkort decreed that it was time to sleep and they entered the cave.  Bungtlak saw that there was but one sleeping frame and expected that he would have to sleep on the ground.  But that was not the case for Raakkort told him to join him on the rack.  Raakkort held his novitiate from behind so that they were lying very close and sharing their body heat under the skin of a great grazer that formed their blanket.  Strange as this was, for Bungtlak had not slept with anyone but a mother-aunt and that was more than a hand of cycles of seasons ago, it was comforting.

When given leave to speak and question, Bungtlak asked about being anointed by Raakkort rather than by the Shaman.

"A good question.  Yes; that is usually done by the Shaman for tween's first major kill as you have witnessed.  But you broke Laws and were not properly prepared so the Shaman would not touch you today.  My grandmother told me that she sensed greatness in you, as she did in me, and prophesied that we will be greater still if I mentored you so I was planing to request to be your mentor as soon as you started your tween training.  When you encountered us with your kill, I decided to act.  I was asking permission when you watched me talk with the Shaman in the field.  You would have been banished to another tribe if I had not done so.  You would have been banished if you had not returned with a trophy."

"Thank you very much.  I will be grateful forever, Mentor." Bungtlak needed time to digest this revelation especially after the very full day.  Certainly to be exiled to another tribe was not something he would have liked.

Raakkort held his initiate tightly.  "There is much that I must teach you; much that you must learn.  You missed your normal training but I'm certain that we will succeed together.  We will survive together as that is our test.  Then you must make peace with the Shaman for yesterday."  It was a new feeling for Bungtlak as Raakkort not only held him tightly but let his hands caress his body.  Nobody had done that to him before.

He thought it very strange when he reacted with his shaft getting hard as his globes of power were handled by his Mentor.  It must be normal since Raakkort did not react negatively; he even handled him more aggressively.  Then he realized that Raakkort was reacting the same way for his shaft was hard and pressing into the cleft of his behind.  "It is time now for us to share power."  He was puzzled but was certain that he would find out soon so he remained silent.

Raakkort stroked his hard shaft.  That felt very good; even better than when he had done it himself.  It was better than when his friends and he had contests about who could shoot better.  "That feels very good, Mentor." he said not knowing what else to do.  He had thought about doing to Raakkort but the way he was being held prevented that.

Then Raakkort turned him face down and lay on top of him.  Raakkort put his hand in his back cleft and rubbed his back hole.  He was using some fat for it was slippery and he could even push a finger in.  The finger felt nice as it played in his hole, especially when it touched a certain places inside.  Then it was withdrawn.  Before he could miss it Raakkort's hard shaft was pressing at his hole. "Relax, and let me into you, Bungtlak."  The Mentor pressed hard and relentlessly and soon was completely inside his acolyte.  Then he began to thrust in and out.  Bungtlak found that the special spot was constantly being struck and it felt fantastic.  His own shaft stayed very hard.

Then that special feeling happened (like when he jerked himself) and he exploded but without his shaft being pulled.  Soon afterward Raakkort did the same with a great thrust.  Bungtlak knew that Raakkort had shot into him so that he was, indeed, sharing his power as he had said.

"Thank you for sharing your power.  But mine has gone to waste.  I am ashamed."

Raakkort, remaining inside turned them back to lie side by side.  "Do not worry, Bungtlak, there will be other opportunities."

"I feel so good being held by you."

"Yes, Bungtlak, but we must sleep now."

Before Classes Start

They slept late and it was midmorning when they got up.  Bungtlak was surprised that the cave had some supplies of food and that a stream was close by.  Raakkort explained what was expected of them.  They were to return to the village when Lady Moon was full once again.  Bungtlak was to learn about the medicinal plants, the ways of the animals, the Laws of the Tribe and some rituals that were known only by men (but not females nor boys) including making of fire.  Bungtlak was surprised at this as the village fire was never allowed to go out and was always used to make other fires.  They would live by hunting and gathering even though the latter was normally women's work.  A man must be able to survive on his own and they must restock the cave as well.

"It is what I wanted to do when I went out hunting myself." the novice declared.  "The Elders' punishment is even more than I have dreamt of."

"I hope that you will remain so enthusiastic.  That we are here together would have happened had you not gone on your own but not so soon and then only after you were taught much of what I have mentioned.  We must keep in mind that we must have a gifts for the Shaman and the Chief when we return.  They must indicate respect, honor them and please them.  But now I want to swim and eat.  Then I want to carefully examine your innovative weapon.  I saw what it did to the feline."

They had fun swimming.  As they ate Bungtlak said he had the idea for the perfect gift for the Shaman:  "A great feline and a knife.  The Shaman then could slit its throat and its sack with it globes of power."

"Yes, that would be a great gift indeed.  But you cannot carry a great feline nor lead it on a rope like a little rabbit."  They both laughed and wished that they could.

Raakkort carefully examined Bungtlak's unique knife-spear.  "How many thrusts did you use on the feline?"

"Just two."

"It does wonders.  We must make more -- especially if it works when thrown."  Bungtlak smiled as his invention was appreciated.

Their tribe did not yet know what a valuable resource these two were with their inventiveness and openness to innovation.

Many Lessons

It was the second day and Bungtlak was up early.  He thought that he would surprise Raakkort by getting something special for breakfast.  He left the cave and headed for the area where the water and the land perpetually fought to be in charge.  He wanted to fetch the hard-outside-soft-inside things that the winged ones had and that were very good to eat especially when fresh.  The winged ones did not defend them very well and they were easy to collect.  The problem was the hard-skin-walkers that lived nearby.  Although they were low, they had huge mouths with many sharp teeth.  Once one of them bit it did not let go and either dragged its victim under the water to drown or ripped out a large piece -- and quickly came back for more.  Confident in his inexperience, Bungtlak was certain that he could avoid them.

When Raakkort got up shortly after that he saw Bungtlak heading towards to the water-land and quickly caught up to him.  He let his displeasure be known in no uncertain terms and why as he lead his charge back to the cave.  "You shall be punished." he growled.

Back at cave, he searched until he found the punishing hide.  A hand wide, two spans long and a half finger thick it was a flat piece made of the hide of a hard-skin-walker.  Outside, Raakkort made Bungtlak remove his loin cloth and bend over the bench with his rump up.  "Do not move!" he commanded. as he positioned himself with the punishment hide in his hand.  He swung it against Bungtlak's rump -- hard.  It made a loud crack.  Bungtlak yelled but remained in place.  It would be cowardly to move and not accept the punishment from his mentor.  Over and over the punishment hide seared the target.  Raakkort gave him a hand of whacks on each side of his rump.

Bungtlak knew that he had been well punished and that the punishment given to tweens was much harsher than that given to boys.  He understood that he must not go back the dangerous place alone again.  He would never forget this for it was seared into his mind as his rump was seared.  The pain in his rump stayed with him several days.

As Lady Moon waned and waxed, the two worked hard.  Raakkort not only was surprised at what an able pupil Bungtlak was but that he was also a teacher.  They sacrificed a knife to quickly make another knife-spear which improved their hunting efficiency.  They were blessed in that Tlankket was generous so that the land yielded much food.  So bountiful, in fact, that they were able to accumulate a surplus in the cave.

It was Raakkort that realized the knife-spear was much like the horn of great grazer and the fangs of a great felines in that it would make great wounds.  They had heard the stories of how great hunters had been wounded and then quickly weakened.  They combined this knowledge with idea that repeated attacks would kill their targets.  They could go after wounded prey and succeed rather than having to kill outright the first time.

They practiced throwing for a couple of mornings and then went to try on real grazers.  Moving targets are hard to hit and many on target strikes did not penetrate for they were of insufficient force or hit a bone.  The first deep hit caused the grazer great distress.  Raakkort was about to grab the weapon and cause additional injury.  They were pleased that the animal quickly fell.  They quickly finished it by slitting its throat.  Both were quite elated at their success.  Since the herd had dispersed they carefully investigated how things worked by trying stabbing in various places.  They learnt that some places were much better targets than others.

Raakkort was not surprised that Bungtlak proved to be an apt pupil.  He quickly enhanced some skills he had and learnt new skills -- the all important skills needed to survive in his world.  Together they were successful hunters so that they could concentrate on other things.  It turned out that their biggest problem was finding an appropriate gift for the Shaman.  Any other man would be easy to satisfy for all would appreciate a knife-spear but not the Shaman who did not actually hunt.

For three days they scoured the creek searching for the soft stones that gleamed like the Great Fire Orb which could be pounded into wonderful decorations without finding even a tiny one.  They had heard that the teardrops of the Great Fire Orb were rare and now they realized how very rare they were.  They were even rarer than the stones that were good for making into knife blades.

It was great fortune, "Tlankket be praised" they said, that solved the problem.  They had been searching for the yellow stones when a boar ran by.  He was quickly followed by a second one -- larger and more aggressive.  They both knew to get out of the way of such powerful beasts.  Unfortunately, the second boar went after Bungtlak rather then continuing after its fleeing rival.  Bungtlak ran but the boar followed close on his heels.  Raakkort followed intent on protecting his charge.  Bungtlak jumped to grab a branch and get out of the way.  His grip failed and he fell.  The boar went for him.  Raakkort went for the boar with his knife-spear.

Raakkort rammed his knife-spear in with his entire being behind the thrust.  There was one place that was not thick hide covering tough muscle and hard bone: the boar's back hole.  It was the perfect target for it was unprotected.  The beast howled in pain as the weapon went deep shedding its intestines.  The boar lurched forward to escape and the knife-spear cut on the backstroke as Raakkort grasped it firmly.  Again Raakkort rammed it back into the beast; even deeper this time cutting a major artery.  The boar could not sustain its blood circulation and collapsed.  Shortly after that, it expired.

They both gave thanks to generous and benevolent Tlankket that let them prevail.  Then they examined the beast.  "We have the gift for the Shaman." declared Raakkort.  "The tusks are huge and surely will please him.  We will take back the entire head.  But now we will feast on its globes of power."  It took them a while to consume the large globes which almost filled their bellies.  Then they cut off the head and some of the more choice sections of meat for the beast was far too heavy to carry.  They returned to their cave.

It was nearing the time when they should be returning to the village when Raakkort saw Bungtlak holding the punishing hide and contemplating it. It was a long time before Bungtlak came out of the cave and spoke.  "I was bad two day ago.  I should be beaten.  I deserve to be beaten."  Except for the one time when Bungtlak  was going to the water-land the punishing hide had not been used on Bungtlak.

Raakkort questioned why and Bungtlak explained that their hunt had failed because he had been careless and that he had made noise and the target raised his head smelt him and bolted.  He handed the punishment hide over and assumed the position as he had before.  Raakkort knew that these things were normal on a hunt and did not normally demand punishment but Bungtlak felt he was to blame.  The mentor knew that mere words would not do.  He took his position and swung the punishment hide.  He did not go easy for that would not be accepted by his acolyte with high standards.  He delivered half a hand of hits to each side.

When it was over, Bungtlak restored his loin cloth and promised that it would not happen again.

Return to the Village

Their month of expatriation was ending as Lady Moon would be full the next night.  They were pleased with themselves for not only had they survived but learnt much.  Raakkort proclaimed that this month was far more productive than the one he had spent with his own mentor almost three cycles of seasons before.  His mentor was totally lacked imagination and only did old things in the old ways, never even trying, much less discovering, anything new.  They had also grown close completely dispelling all of their initial dislike of each other.  They delighted in sharing their power with each other.

It took them a couple of trips to carry down the stuff they had accumulated over Lady Moon's cycle from the cave to the plain.  They need a litter to carry everything back to the village.  It was mid-afternoon by the time they arrived.  The hunting parties were still out so that they were welcomed by the woman and children.

They did their best to remain aloof until the Chief, Shaman and others returned but Bungtlak could not resist his mother who fawned over him.  He noticed that Jetti smiling at him from distance where the older women kept the children at bay.  Raakkort's mother was a lot more restrained but his girlfriend, Taazi, could not be held back and managed to give him a hug and kiss before being dragged back by one of her mother-aunts.  As was expected of them, they sat and waited silently outside the Shaman's lodge with their loaded litter.  The gifts for the Shaman and the Chief they kept covered although within easy reach.

Bungtlak found it very difficult to remain silent (as he had been told to) while the elders bombarded Raakkort with questions about him.  The answers all seem too modest but that was the custom.  Eventually, Bungtlak was addressed.  He offered apologies for his misconduct as a boy and begged for forgiveness.  He first presented the Chief with a knife-spear explaining that the latter had been used to shred the innards of a powerful boar to kill it and thus had demonstrated that it was most potent.  It was quite dramatic as he raised up the boar's head explaining that this was the boar.  All could see its great size and the enormous tusks as he presented it to the Shaman.  Then they both kowtowed to the two leaders.  The Shaman and the Chief seemed pleased and they were welcomed back having achieved high grades.

They each returned to their family's fires giving the meat they had brought to their eldest father-uncles to distribute.  Several times Bungtlak's father-uncles reminded him that he was not yet a man for he still had much to learn and to grow.  While he was gone, his mother had crafted a necklace from the fangs and claws of the feline he had killed.  His eldest father-uncle proudly tied it about his neck.

After the meal his eldest father-uncle took him to the Chief's lodge.  Raakkort had previously explained that this was the custom.  This would be the first time that he had been in the Chief's lodge which had a lot of room so that the elders of the tribe could meet inside.  The Chief grilled him about everything and gave him some directions as well.  He was particularly interested in the knife-spear that Bungtlak had made and presented to him.  Even though he had listened to Raakkort talk about it, he wanted to hear it all again from Bungtlak and about how he killed the feline alone and together to large boar.  Under intense questioning Bungtlak revealed that the feline actually impaled himself and he only made the second trust.  The Chief was greatly impressed.

The Chief shared power with Bungtlak just as Raakkort had said he would.  The sharing was a slower process since the Chief was more the twice the age of Raakkort.  Afterward the Chief talked of Bungtlak's future and how he expected a lot.  "If you work hard at learning all that you must and continue to show your courage and cleverness, than you will soon become a man and get a woman." Bungtlak expressed his appreciation for everything and noted that Jetti was the one he wanted.  The Chief chuckled and said that was a wise choice.

The next day Bungtlak and Raakkort were permitted to rest.  It was clear from how much they had brought, that they had worked hard during their exile.  They each snatched their favorite lass away from her chores.  They took them to play by the stream where they entertained them with enhanced tales of their adventures.  Several mother-aunts grumbled but that was also routine.

The next night he stayed with the Shaman and Karkenn, his acolyte.  The questioning was similar in intensity but focused on rituals and medicine.  Bungtlak got to understand how little he knew and how much he must learn.  This was made clear when Karkenn, who was not yet even two hands knew answers that he did not.  He now knew that the long times Raakkort has spent teaching him rituals was worthwhile.  The Shaman was pleased that he told him of how he had constantly paid respect to the Tlankket and Great Fire Orb even on his solo adventure.  Also that they had song of praise and thanks and when the great boar whose head was now hanging in the lodge was killed and they partook of its globes of power.

Karkenn whispered something to the Shaman who responded with: "Yes, do it!"  Karkenn knelt behind Bungtlak and reached around to take hold of the feline's fangs danging from his necklace.  "Karkenn will chant the spell to give you more of the power of the feline.  Speak not until it is over." explained the Shaman  The acolyte began to chant while pressing the them against Bungtlak's chest with increasing intensity until he drew blood.  It was a long chant and Bungtlak did not understand it but the Shaman was pleased which showed that the acolyte had done it correctly.

As Bungtlak expected the Shaman shared power with him, just as the Chief had, but then he got a surprise.  He was allowed to share power with the young Karkenn who was most appreciative for it was a pleasant change from doing it with the Shaman.

It was the next night that Bungtlak got to stay in a men's lodge.  Actually, as Raakkort advised, he chose the tween's section.  Not only did Raakkort stay there, but so did the other members of his own cohort.  He felt so grown up away from the women and little ones.  The shooting contests that he played with his friends had changed into power sharing and exchange ones.  Many of the tweens often visited their former mentors or other men for power sharing and instruction.

Graduation and Beyond

Lady moon waxed and waned as Bungtlak learnt and grew.  Raakkort took his girlfriend as his wife and she was already showing signs of being gravid when Bungtlak achieved his two and two cycle of seasons.  Even though he was one of the youngest of the tweens, he was in the forefront of the pack.  The knife-spear -- his invention -- proved very effective and the tribe prospered because of trade with others.  He was working on making a better knife blade especially for spears.

When Bungtlak reached his two and four cycle of seasons, he took Jetti as his first wife.  It was the Shaman that instructed him in the special way that power was shared with a woman to plant the seeds that swell their bellies with babies.  It hurt Jetti the first time but she quickly recovered and loved Bungtlak to share power with her.

The End

© Copyright A.I.L., January 11, 2006

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