Back in Time Ch. 11byMorrigan_©
I want to apologize for the delay; I was on a vacation and had plenty of stuff to do Besides I'm on a diet so this doesn't help my inspiration
To those that asked - no, I haven't taken a new cat. Thank you very much for the kind words written when I had the this dark time of my life.
My wonderful editor CaptainsSiren made the edit to chapters one and two so they are now with brilliant English grammar:)
This chapter was edited by CaptainsSiren, who also takes some blame for the delay
'The forest is unusually quiet.'
Isabel looked around with a feeling that was gnawing at her mind. Something had frightened the fauna around them, but she couldn't sense anything or anyone around. Since the recent night run her senses had sharpened, but still they didn't detect anything strange.
She was walking fast, and because of the midday heat she was sweating profusely,
'These leather healer's garments weren't designed for someone making treks in the mountains...' Isabel decided as she wiped her forehead yet again.
Hasdiel was carrying a backpack containing their food and her mates' clothes, along with the leather water bottle slung over his shoulder. He didn't seem tired at all but he wasn't pregnant either - and Isabel was getting tired from their hours of walking.
She inhaled deeply and said, "Five minutes rest and then we will get going again!" With these words she sank down onto a nearby fallen tree and tried to calm down her heartbeat.
Hasdiel sat on the grass in front of her and just stared around. She knew that they were moving slowly because of her, but she wasn't used to distance walking, or anything very physically demanding really.
"And the Shaman is not so far from the camp..." puffed Isabel, more to herself than anyone else.
Hasdiel glared at her, grumbling, "Yes, usually half-a-day walk for a hunter." The hint that they weren't hunters wasn't so subtle.
Her answer was postponed because in that moment Gart appeared in his wolf form from the nearby bushes happily waving his tail. He had obviously hunted some animal because he had blood on his muzzle.
Glancing at her with his yellow eyes, he came next to her and sat on his haunches, looking expectantly and licking away the blood with rather lazy licks of a big red tongue. If it weren't for the feral look of his eyes and the fact that he had the size of a Siberian tiger, she could have mistaken him for a domestic dog from some high breed.
But just a look at those eyes sent all thoughts of anything even remotely resembling something dog related out of her head.
Gart shifted, and before her eyes the mass of black fur and sharp fangs changed into a rather tall, muscular looking man. He brushed away a strand of shiny black hair then silently stood still.
'Oh, my...' Isabel averted her eyes from the sight of his member that was hanging only partially soft and felt the blush rise in her cheeks.
"Ummm, Gart..." She looked at him once again, but because he was now standing and she was still seated on the tree trunk, her eyes were at the same level with his rather impressive cock. Isabel tried to look just upward, to ignore his lower half, and noticed that he was frowning.
"Sorry, Lady, if you are offended...I'll shift into my wolf form immediately..." His beefy arms tensed like he was feeling uncomfortable in his humanoid skin.
"No, just ..." her eyes darted around, "I'm not offended, Gart. Just, you are so...." her eyes were attracted again to that particular part that had now grown bigger, "naked!" she blurted out.
Both Gart and Hasdiel looked bewildered.
"What is so strange about that?" inquired Hasdiel, deeply confused.
"Well, you see, it is not polite to wander around naked..." her words were met with even more confusion and she gave up briefly. "All right, in my society it is not acceptable to wander around without clothes..." she thought for a while, "at least in most public places." She finished, and noticed that the confusion in her listeners was getting bigger.
"Wolves are not permitted to wear clothes like the Nobles, Lady." Hasdiel spoke as though he was trying to hint at something, but she couldn't figure it out right away.
Suddenly the light bulb lit on, "Oh!..." Moving her eyes to the Gart's clenched fists, she asked, "You have never worn clothes?"
Gart nodded, and his voice came out a little strangled, "I know my place as I should, Lady. I'm sorry that I shifted from my other form without your permission but I'll..."
Finally, Isabel realized what all this was about, and she quickly interrupted him.
"No! Gart...." she waved him silent. "Wait a minute, I'm just not used to this stuff. You are free now, so you can wear clothes if you wish, and I'm not offended if you choose to shift your body."
Gart blinked several times, then looked quizzically at Hasdiel as if he needed someone to translate her words. Hasdiel just shrugged his shoulders, "You heard her right the first time."
The werewolf stepped anxiously from one foot to another and his body was reeking waves of confusion and absolute shock. Finally his eyes met her gaze, and he mumbled, "Thank you, Lady, but the clothes will be ripped apart the first time I decide to shift, so for now, if you don't mind, I prefer not to wear any."
'Back to the starting point' thought Isabel, and reminded herself not to look south of his waist.
With that, the topic of Gart's nakedness was dropped, and for the rest of the break Isabel really tried not to flush every time the werewolf, who was happily sniffing about inspecting their resting place, happened to put his impressive equipment on display.
Hasdiel was throwing her amused looks from time to time, and Isabel really hoped that they would reach the Shaman's cave soon or she was going to have a permanent blush on her cheeks.
Around noon they reached a hilly, forested area with giant pines so tall that she couldn't see the tops. The trees were throwing thick shadows that made the forest cool, and Isabel finally stopped sweating. Gart was running beside her in his wolf form, and Hasdiel was walking after her.
The forest was still silent but somehow the silence here was deafening. She took a look around with a feeling like someone was watching them, but she still couldn't figure it out.
Gart made a whining sound to catch Isabel's attention. He had found a huge stone, and moving closer she noticed that someone had carved in the rock a figure that resembled a deer's horns.
The memory of the Shaman from her tribe and his horns emerged from her memory. "We just found what we were looking for," she said aloud.
Behind the stone, the open ground was a little elongated, and she could recognize in the forest's darkness a path between the trees.
Stepping up, she climbed the path and, with her companions, she walked further in the woods. Gart was running forward, sniffing the air and the ground. Isabel was sure that he was looking for anything dangerous to them in the deafening silence all around them. She noticed that the path had plenty of small puddles from the recent rains and no step marks, which meant that nobody had walked here in the recent days and possibly weeks.
After almost ten minutes walking on the hilly path they finally reached a small clearing in the woods, curious to find themselves standing before the entrance of a cave.
Gart stopped beside the entrance and looked questioningly at Isabel. Carefully, she sneaked through the cave's mouth, turning her head right and left, but she could see only the moist walls of the cave.
Taking a cautious step forward she shouted, "Hello! Is anybody there?"
Nobody answered, which Isabel wasn't sure was a good sign. She exchanged a look with Hasdiel. "What if we simply go in the cave?"
He frowned, "Uninvited?! I don't think ...I know that usually the Hunters had to wait for hours, even days, before the Shaman in my tribe decided to invite them in. We ..."
Isabel almost choked, "Days?!" She clenched her fists, "We don't have days! We already wasted half a day to find him, so..."
Determined, she turned around to the cave and, taking a deep breath, went quickly to the entrance and walked in.
Inside was cooler, almost cold, and if it wasn't for the lit torch on the wall it would be dark. She followed the way to the torch, then spotted another torch next in the distance. Approaching it, she walked down the cave corridor and suddenly stopped.
"Oh!" was all she could say, truly mesmerized with the view.
In front of her was another cave brightly lit with numerous torches. The cave was huge, with a ceiling somewhere far above them. She had the feeling that she was in an opera house because the acoustics were remarkable. Her astonished 'Oh' was now reverberating around the cave.
However, what took her breath away was not the vastness of what the nature had carved inside the rocks but what was depicted before her.
One of the walls of the cave was covered with a breathtaking scene of herds of buffalos, horses, and rhinoceros; some of them running, others wounded by the humanoid figures of the hunters and the spears painted next to them. It was like a giant picture of the fauna outside done in vivid colors and shapes.
Growing annoyed with the twisted conception art in the 21st century that was in the best case some strange painted spots and splashes of dye to her eyes, Isabel had been attracted to learn more of art history. She was first inspired by art when her grandmother had taken her to a museum when she was a little child. She remembered clearly when she had seen the Renaissance portraits in the gallery and had felt drawn by the clear lines and simplicity of elegance that the old painters had managed to put on a canvas. Since then she always enjoyed paintings and drawings that reflected reality not some imagined, twisted idea of what the world was as with Picasso's work.
Now before her astonished eyes was a picture that was beyond anything she had ever seen. The shapes and perspectives were playing together, making the whole scene alive, and she could swear that on a subconscious level she was seeing the animals and the hunters moving.
Stepping closer, she had a feeling that the white horse from the picture was alive and running around the cave.
"Who painted these pictures?!" she asked aloud, and her question echoed in the cave.
A slight cough next to her caught her attention and she looked over at Gart. He had shifted into his human form, but Isabel was too taken with the amazing frescoes to blush from the sight of his naked body. His eyes pointed to a figure that she had failed to notice at first. What she thought to be the painted antlers of a wounded deer turned out to be actual deer antlers that looked very much like the helmet of her Shaman. These ones, however, were sitting on a head with long red hair that had been last washed probably a few years ago.
She realized that the figure of the red haired man was kneeling on the dirt floor, and that he was painting the eye of the half finished giant wolf on the wall.
The man was a Neanderthal, with a long nose, unkempt red beard, and some dirty leather pants, but he had the bulky muscled chest she knew so well. He was biting his lip, completely focused on the painting that he was doing with something that resembled a painter's brush; a cup with blue colored paint sat next to him.
He was very young, and despite the dirt that covered his face she could tell he was probably near Bren's age. So far, Isabel had imagined that all the Shamans were old; had lived long enough to be completely screwed up mentally based on her experience.
The Shaman continued with his activity for almost five minutes and Isabel waited patiently. Finally, he put the brush inside the cup and glared for another minute at the completed eye. Isabel took a look at the finished eye and wondered why he was staring at it. Then he sighed and moved his stiffened body, turning to them.
For a moment his blue eyes stared at them uncomprehendingly, unsure what he was seeing. Then he looked at Isabel and she caught his eyes. Suddenly she was sure that this man had nothing in common with the Shaman she had encountered months ago. The look was very pure, almost like he was listening with his eyes to a beautiful melody that only he could see. To her surprise, something that Isabel had never expected from a Shaman happened. He stood up on his feet, towering with his almost six feet of height, and gave her a wide, genuine smile.
"You came!" he shouted excitedly, and before any of them could react, he covered the distance between them and gave her a bear hug, lifting her from the floor.
Hasdiel and Gart gathered around, not sure if they should attack the man, but the Shaman put her down on the floor and again smiled widely like he was happy to see her.
"Ummm..." managed Isabel, too surprised for a moment to find a word for what had just happened, then finally she found her vocabulary, "What are you doing?!"
The Shaman's smile grew wider. "The wait was so long that I started to doubt myself that you would come!" He raked a hand through his hair, brushing the horns aside, and then quickly putting them back on his head like an old habit. His movement contributed to the color of his hair with streaks of blue paint that made him look like some very devoted football fan. Isabel was sure that if he was put among the fans of some Scottish team he would blend in there pretty well because of the blue marks also all over his face.
"You were waiting for me?!" asked Isabel, not sure she had heard it right.
The man nodded, looking so happy that she wondered about his mental health, but the look in his eyes was very sane, so she asked again, "Then do you know why we are here?"
He nodded again, "You want our help."
For a moment Isabel looked at him, wondering, 'Is this some prehistoric fortune telling?'
"Then will you help me to build my mental shield?" she asked, still not quite believing what was going on.
"I will, but before I teach you how you must meet the Shaman - he wants to speak with you." He impatiently squeaked and started to put together his painting supplies while Isabel frowned. "He will help you see the world around without ..." he was babbling, picking up a stone jar with some dried yellow stuff in it.
Isabel interrupted him, "Wait a minute! Are you not the Shaman?"
He blinked and looked at her like she had just said something about his mother. "Of course not! I'm too young, and I'm still learning the basic things!" Then he handed the jar to Gart, who took it in his hands, glancing uncertainly at her for guidance with this strange man.
The Neanderthal snorted, and picking up a few jars with brushes inside, glared at her. "Don't worry, Healer. I'm skilled enough to teach you about the mental shield. That is a child's game in comparison to what I must master here!"
The last words sounded weird to Isabel, but she wasn't a woman to look a gift horse in the mouth. The man threw an exalted look at the half ready fresco, and Isabel got a feeling that she knew what this supreme level of learning he was trying to master might be. 'A true genius,' came to her mind.
"Very well then," Isabel agreed.
The painter huffed, and without paying them any more attention, took a last loving glance at the picture before heading for the other side of the cave where a torch was lighting an entrance to another corridor.
After a meandering through several damp cave corridors they finally reached another cave chamber. Obviously, this part of the caves was near the outside because in one wall there was a crack in the rock and the daylight was leaking through. The incoming light created a eerie view in the cave, making Isabel feeling more and more like she was participating in some fairy tale.
Opposite the crack in the wall was a fireplace, very well stocked with wood and with plenty of playful flames burning high, making a very well warmed up room. Isabel felt herself to be in a comforting place for the first time since leaving her tribe's House.. The floor was clean, well swept, and there was nothing in common with the small chaos of painting supplies she had just seen.
The Neanderthal made a curve around the fire, followed by Isabel and her companions as they skirted a wooden bench. Behind the fire Isabel saw an elevated bed made from tree trunks covered with almost two feet of branches, hay, and furs tucked inside a small, natural angle of the rocks that made it secluded from the rest of the cave and yet lit by the fire.
On the top of the bed lay a man covered with more furs. He appeared middle-aged with very well kept red hair and chalk like, pale skin.
The painter carefully put the jars on the floor and even more carefully approached the bed, silently kneeling a few feet away with lowered head rather than sitting on the bench draped with a single fur by the bed
The seconds passed and Isabel was starting to wonder how long they would have to wait before the Shaman awoke, when he turned his head towards her and opened his eyes.
He emanated power, she sensed it; raw, maybe a little bit blunted by some sickness, but power nonetheless. Big grey eyes that were reflecting the flames from the fire measured her.
The painter, at some hidden signal, stood up and helped the Shaman to sit up on the bed. Then he put some folded furs behind his back and stepped away, quickly leaving the room not looking at anything but his feet.
The Shaman looked at Gart, and Hasdiel, and then back at her. "Welcome, Healer." His voice was raspy, as though he hadn't spoken for a long time. After a moment's pause he continued, "Forgive me that I'm not on my feet to welcome you, but my health is not very good."
Isabel was trying to compare him with the Shaman she had encountered in her tribe. This one didn't look like he wanted to put her on the stake, and she couldn't sense anything malicious in his intentions. He looked pretty much like an average Neanderthal, but something in his appearance was off. Looking more closely at his almost human chin she began to realize what was different. Her eyes tracked the visible part of his chest that was way less wide than the painter, or Merk and Bren, and then looked up, surveying the lack of prominent eye ridges that made the distinction between the Humans and the Neanderthals so obvious.
A whirl of questions flooded her brain, and Isabel met his calm gaze not sure if she was thinking right in the moment.
The Shaman simply nodded, "Yes, Isabel. You think right. A part of me is Human like you."
"How..? But ...." She looked around then back at the Shaman when her mind started functioning correctly again after absorbing the shock. "How is that possible?" she queried, finally managing to pronounce a whole sentence.
The Shaman gave her a faint smile. "You are not the first one that made it through that tunnel of time in the mountains. My father was the first one, or at least the first one that survived it to share his story with the Tribes around..." The Shaman's eyes lost focus for a moment, but he quickly came around again and shook his head. "But where are my manners when I am in the presence of a dame?"
Under her astonished look his pale hand made a waving gesture at the bench next to him. "I ordered the craftsman from my tribe to make them when I realized that the portal had been opened recently. Please sit here so we can talk freely. Your friends can sit on the other one."
Isabel sat gingerly on the bench, and nodded to Gart and Hasdiel to also sit. She was very intrigued by the Shaman and wanted to understand more.
The painter again emerged from a tunnel, this time bearing a wooden tray laden with wooden cups. He respectfully offered the cups first to the Shaman, who took one, and then to Isabel. She took a cup which contained something that looked like steaming herbal tea, and she looked doubtfully at the liquid.