Back in Time Ch. 05

byMorrigan_©

It was also surprisingly clean.

"Merk helped me to clean it this morning while you were asleep," explained Bren at her unspoken question.

Isabel kissed his lips, "Then this will be our cellar!"

Bren kissed her passionately, groping her ass cheeks and rubbing his erection against her when Isabel heard a low cough. Bren stopped, and she looked at the source of the noise trying to suppress her desire to mount Bren right here on the floor.

Merk was standing at the entrance, with Finn in his hands, watching them with a stony expression. Finn was his usual creamy fur perfection, and mewled almost like a cat when he realized he had caught her attention.

"Finn!" Isabel went to Merk, and taking the cub from him, she smiled, "Thank you, Merk, for taking care of Finn."

Merk just grunted and nodded at Bren, "The snow is melting outside so I can help you with the stones if you wish."

Bren nodded and said, "I would be honored if you help me, Merk."

Isabel had the feeling that something was exchanged between the two men, but had no idea what. Merk looked at her, then said to Bren, "I'll be waiting outside." He turned and left, leaving Isabel to pet Finn and wonder what is going on.

"Merk was blamed by the shaman as a bringer of bad luck, and now he feels accepted," explained Bren laying light kisses down her neck. Isabel was aware that if he continued doing so, she would be turned on again very soon.

"What happened?" she asked trying to focus on the matter at hand.

Bren sighed and his playfulness disappeared,

"Merk was appointed to guard the women while they were gathering cones for the winter fires. The healer was with them to look for some herbs when the mountain lion appeared. Merk was close when the lion killed the healer and then attacked Merk's mate. He tried to stop the lion, throwing his spear but he missed the animal. Then the lion ran off leaving behind the wounded woman. He carried her back, pressing the wound and the bleeding was almost finished when she went into labor prematurely." He frowned and she took his hands,

"The shaman came and made the cut like the one in Creya. Arja screamed from the pain and bled for hours. Merk held her hand during the whole time, and he was crying like a woman. When she finally delivered the baby Arja was completely exhausted. The wound got rancid and she died the next day from the fever. Merk was in a daze for days..."

'So the shaman had intentionally wounded these women.' she pondered over the behavior of the brute, 'Maybe he was the earliest known example of a sociopath. If he was in my time he would have been probably been a serial killer.'

Bren scowled and involuntarily clenched his fists again.

"The shaman said that the lion killed the women because Merk wasn't a true hunter. He wanted to cast him out, but Fran convinced the chief that Merk had to stay and provide for the child that survived the birth. He stayed at Fran's fire but nobody wanted to speak with him. That's why I took him with me on that trip, I was hoping that he would be accepted by another tribe and find a mate, but Merk wasn't interested, like he has surrendered!"

He looked at her, "Since you broke the shaman's spell over us he seems different, and I hope this is the sign that his soul will heal some day...'

Bren stepped aside and pointed up, changing the topic.

"I'll have to dig and put the stones for the new fireplace and Merk offered to help me. So, we are going out now. I'll show you where you can relieve yourself, and then you'll stay here and wait for me."

She realized that she was getting a need to find the toilet too. She was busy with Creya the whole morning, and now recalled she hadn't visited the morning place.

They climbed the stairs and went to the entrance of the house. Bren gave her a blanket to cover herself for the outside. He was still half naked, as if the cold didn't bother him at all. Isabel noticed that the sky was still cloudy, but the weather was better now. The snow was melting, and she and Bren followed a path in the snow to something that looked like a rock shelter about ten meters from the house. The entrance to the shelter was narrowed with stone masonry leaving only a door size entrance.

Under the shelter was a gravel ground cover and when she went further she noticed that it ended with almost vertical rock. Looking down she couldn't spot a thing, but she could hear the sounds of a river. It was probably the river or an earthquake that had carved its way in the hard rocks. The opening was protected with a stone man-made wall so nobody could fall in.

Isabel was curious where it goes and Bren answered, "To the abyss down inside. I don't know how deep it is, but we can hear that water is flowing somewhere deep down there."

Isabel noticed that a torch was on the wall for the night illumination of the toilet. The floor in one part of the floor was artificially inclined toward the abyss, and over it were placed wooden trunks with openings. She noticed two openings and someone had dug a canal from the roof of the shelter to the inclined floor, with a giant skull of a mammoth set in the roof, used like a reservoir for the rain water. When the skull was full, the excess water would overflow down the canal to the toilets.

'The grandfather of the first sewer system!' The melting snow was pouring down the reservoir, and from there down through the canal. It was washing the waste under the toilets. It was very good method to keep the toilets clean, and she could bet that it rained a lot here with the Gulfstream so close.

"How do you keep the flow during the winters?" she asked him.

"The torch is near the place where the water flows down and during the cold months it is always burning, keeping the roof warmed up, and we put a wooden door to the entrance so it doesn't freeze." He answered, "You can wash yourself with the water from the bone cup, it is clean."

"Bren, could you...?" she pointed at the entrance, and Bren just shrugged his shoulders and left. Without wasting any more time she squatted over the toilet and relieved herself. When she was done she used some of the water that was falling from the opening of the skull to clean her and to wash her hands, then headed back out to him.

Bren looked at her and she blushed, "I'm sorry, but this is something that I can't get used to sharing in public..."

"Why not?! It is our nature?" he seemed genuinely surprised.

Isabel felt her cheeks burning, "I know, but still..."

He grunted and again took her hand. He was always touching her; when they were among others he tried to keep her close like he was guarding his property.

They circled the house and went on the other side where she could see the soft sandstone beds in the granite rock. In one area the rock was dug out forming something that resembled a vaulted room. Merk was there cutting the sandstone with an obsidian blade. Two big stones were piled up near him, and now he was working hard on another piece. He was sweating and Isabel could see the glistening skin of his muscled back. Like Bren, he was also built massive and strong. His red hair was tied back and he was working hard.

When they entered, he stopped and nodded, "I'll carry the stones to the house." He took one of the massive stones and left. Isabel was left with the impression that he was avoiding her.

Bren shrugged his shoulders, "He is attracted to you. It is normal for a man without a mate. Don't think badly of him." Like this was the most natural thing in the world, thought Isabel.

'Jealousy here is obviously a wider concept than we thought...'she thought, 'Or he is sure that Merk won't try any advances over another mate.'

Bren took the blade and started working. Merk returned and renewed his work, still not looking at her. Isabel stayed a while and after the third piece was cut off she got bored.

"Bren, can I go back to the house and see what can be done with the things of the healer?" she asked.

He looked at her, "Very well Isabel, but stay in the house and don't wander around. It can be dangerous with the bears waking up."

She nodded and headed out. The sun was high outside, and she obediently followed the short path to the house and entered there.

Inside was warm, smelling of cooked meat, porridge and pine cones and she walked around observing. People were smiling at her, most nodded. The man that she remembered as chief was sitting near the main fireplace eating his morning bowl of porridge. When he noticed her, he made a gesture to come to him.

Isabel suddenly saw two men near her. Without touching her, they escorted her to the chief. She recalled the words of Bren, that she must salute the chief, and tried to show her respect bowing her head to the man. He looked amused with her greeting and pointed at one stone covered with fur to sit. She sat down and waited. The other men went to the other side of the fire.

"I learned your name from my son, so I'll call you Isabel," began the chief.

Now that she was closer she could see that he was older than Bren, probably in his early forties, and had a lot of scars on his naked torso. His body was more bulky and muscular than Bren and it occurred to her that she actually doesn't know Bren's age. Looking at the chief she assumed that one day Bren would be fully developed like the male in front of her, with the hard life of a hunter. His hair was fire red without grey hairs, and like the other hunters, was tied back. His grey eyes looked appraisingly at her from his cleanly shaved face.

He was wearing a necklace with animal teeth and claws around his neck. She suspected that this was a symbol of his leader's status. Like the other men, he was wearing only leather trousers and boot-like shoes. She noticed the mating band around his wrist, and the belt with knife's scabbard around his hips.

"We know that you were not trained to be a healer, but you have the knowledge to be. Fran and the others say that you have to be accepted as our healer..." He looked at her, "I can see that you are not one of us. How do you call your kind?"

Isabel didn't get the impression that he was showing scrutiny like the shaman, but she was not sure if this wouldn't change, "My specie calls us Humans."

His lips soundlessly repeated it like he was trying to taste the new word, "Have you or your tribe any ill intentions towards my kind?" He fixed her with a steel glaze and Isabel had the feeling like he was raking through her mind.

"No, I swear." She answered honestly. He looked at her one moment longer and then nodded, like he knew that she was speaking the truth.

'You can't lie with telepaths around...'

"Bren told me that you come from a place that is very far away and you can't return. Is that true?" Again that stare that made her feeling uncomfortable.

Isabel bit her lip trying to formulate her answer, "I came from a place that is very far away, not only in the terms of distance but in time too. I can't return because I was brought here by an accident. I'm not completely sure what exactly is the mechanism of the event that brought me here, or how it works because this kind of knowledge is considered a fantasy among my people; but from what I can comprehend it is not something that I can replicate with artificial means."

The chief continued to eat the porridge. It looked like he was thinking over her words. "Bren has marked you as his mate, but I want to be sure that you will suitable for him,"

At his words Isabel paled. 'Is he going to strip me naked to see if I'm suitable?!' she thought, and suddenly felt a nausea at that prospect.

The chief and the other two hunters smirked, and the chief gave her his first honest smile; she could see that he had white teeth, "No need for that. Bren has already done it in front of witnesses so we all know that your body is unblemished."

Isabel felt her face warming and wanted to hide herself somewhere remembering what exactly had happened then.

He put the empty bowl at the fireplace and spoke to her, "Usually the female is a maiden when she mates. The only exceptions are when she is a widow and has to mate again. But you are not a widow, right?" he wasn't really asking a question.

Isabel froze, "No."

"Bren told me that this practice is something normal in your world, and that you are not unclean despite knowing men that are not your mates. He also mentioned something about some madness of one hunter having multiple mates..." the chief leaned forward and she was now facing his cold eyes, "We like the way we live, and I warn you that any attempt from you or from anyone else to introduce this blasphemy will follow with the death of the bringer of that madness!"

She nodded, suddenly aware that this man could kill her in a blink of an eye. She looked at him and whispered, "I don't agree with that either. This is a custom of some tribes that live in my time but they are no part of the civilization that my tribe created. We didn't know how your kind live, and we speculated that due to your body chemistry your males would be driven by the need to have sex, and that usually means having more than one partner."

The chief blinked like he has just noticed something weird. He shook his head, "Bren was right. You are really strange speaking, but you have no bad intention..."

He fixed her again with his stare like he was making a decision, "My name is Alaren, and you have the permission to call me so."

She bowed her head again, feeling that this was the right move.

He grunted approvingly and continued, "We saw that Creya and the baby are getting better. I agree with Fran and the others that you have to be our healer. Beside you got us rid of the trash as you named the shaman, so I am really grateful," he smirked and she couldn't suppress her second blushing.

He took a leather bag from the floor, untied the laces, and pulled out a golden necklace. Isabel couldn't believe what she was seeing. The necklace resembled a crescent and was molded from native gold. The surface seemed polished and was intricately carved with figures that she couldn't decipher. The golden plate had three holes on both sides through which were tied leather laces knotted together forming beautiful leather bands.

He stood up, "Stand up Isabel." When she obeyed, he went behind her placing the necklace on her collarbone and tying the bands together behind her neck.

She touched the golden necklace. It was carved with a figure of the moon with a lot of dots around the moon. She guessed these must have been the moon phases represented on the metal. The plate was heavy, almost half a pound in weight, and seemed old but the laces were new, from fine leather and colored in yellow.

The chief stepped in front of her again and looked at her, measuring her.

"The necklace is made from a piece of gold brought to my predecessors by a stone that fell from the Sky twenty five generations before me. The hunter who found it had a dream the same night that we have to carve it and give it to the healer they were waiting for to come from another tribe. The toolmaker carved it with the symbols of the moon because that's where the power of the healer springs. Since then every healer wears it, we just replace the leather parts."

He nodded approvingly to her, "I welcome you in my tribe Healer. Be happy here and keep our people healthy!"

She bowed her head and he acknowledged her respectfulness with half a smile. Turning around he headed to the entrance of the house followed by his hunters, leaving her standing near the fireplace.

Isabel touched the necklace again and looked around at the Neanderthals that were looking at her.

Suddenly she felt the whole meaning of being the healer of the tribe, and realized that they had voted for her in the same way they had voted for the chief.

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