Back in Time Ch. 05


Isabel was suddenly overwhelmed, "I have to thank to Creya's mother. What is her name?"

From a basket on the floor, Bren took out a wooden comb, and made her sit on the bed as he began combing her hair, "Fran. Creya is her only daughter and she just wants her daughter healthy."

Isabel was playing with the hem of her skirt when a thought occurred to her, "Bren?" she asked. He didn't stop combing her hair, "Yes, Isabel?"

"How did Fran manage to make the clothes so fast? She only saw me yesterday." she was wondering.

"The clothes were made before we went on our quest for a new healer, so when the healer arrived she would be gifted from the tribe with the new clothes. Only the healers wear blue." He was untangling some knots in her hair.

"But how is it these clothes fit me so well?" Isabel still wasn't convinced.

"My lovely minx you just can't stop asking questions, can you? Each garment is made to be adjustable. You saw the openings with the laces, right? When the woman is bigger or pregnant pieces of leather are tied to the laces so there is no need to ruin the clothes; just add these parts to the existing dress and it is still usable. When you become heavy with my children you'll use these adjusting pieces to your clothes." He touched her breasts, "And you can easily open it to feed the baby when it needs it."

Again that proud tone when he was talking of multiple pregnancies. Isabel had mixed feelings about being pregnant, but now was not the time to voice them.

He finished combing her hair, and then put two hairclips made of bones on both sides of her forehead keeping her hair aside. Bren smiled approvingly, "Now you look very presentable, like a mate and a healer should be."

Isabel just couldn't argue with his logic, and she knew that despite his thinking of her as 'his', he didn't put the same meaning to it as a modern day man would.

"Okay Bren, I like the new clothes too." She smiled at him and stood up.

Bren kept the curtain open for her to exit and Isabel stepped into to the main hall.

The morning activities were in full motion. Women were cooking breakfast, children were playing around and she spotted few men sharpening their weapons on flat stones.

Creya was lying next to the hearth with her mates around her, warmly covered with blankets, Her mother, Fran, was handing a cup of porridge to Thar. One of the co-mates of Thar was feeding Creya with a spoon, and the baby was sleeping on Creya's belly.

Thar and the other men seemed tired to Isabel, and this was the first time she saw a Neanderthal man with stubble on his face. 'A restless night taking care of a mate...'

She went to Creya and smiled, "How are you this morning Creya? Feeling better?" She touched her forehead and this time the temperature felt normal.

"Oh yes. We are better now. No fever and the little one is sleeping well. He fed several times and I already long to sit and move!" Creya, unlike her mates, seemed freshly washed, with combed hair. Her blue eyes, that Isabel remembered full with pain, were now sparkling playfully. No one could accuse her of being a stunning beauty with her well carved bottom jaw and prominent eye ridges, but she had a charming smile and very beautiful ginger hair that could put in shame the modern day mannequins with their classic features.

Isabel washed her hands and inspected the wound between Creya's legs. She carefully washed it with warm water, aware that the washing wasn't as painful for Creya as the previous evening. The cut was fading and was no longer red or puffy like it was inflamed, and the other bruised parts of the vagina also seemed better.

'These spider webs have really done a miracle or...' she remembered an article with a quote from Svante Paabo, a scientist from Max Plank Institute, saying that due to the interbreeding with the Neanderthals, modern day humans gained a superior immune system that helped them survive as a specie. 'What if the Neanderthals really have superior immune systems, not unbreakable, but levels ahead of what we call normal?!'

Looking at the wound that seemed like the healing of at least a few days, Isabel was prone to agree with her theory. 'The knife of the shaman must have been really dirty to kill so many women,' she decided.

She took more spider web, and again mixed the herbs with honey, and plastered it in Creya's vagina. She prepared more of the potion for drinking. After washing her hands again she checked the baby. He seemed very healthy and had excellent reflexes. Finally, satisfied with the baby's condition, she wrapped him again in the diapers and handed him to Creya.

"Very well, you can be carried to where you usually live, but don't attempt to make a lot of movements or walking for at least a few days. I'll check the wound this evening again."

Fran came and embraced her with tears in her eyes, "I am so grateful for what you did for my youngest child. You are a true healer!"

Isabel hugged back the Neanderthal woman, "Don't worry, Fran. Creya will be back on her feet after a week, I swear." She felt tears emerging in her eyes from the rush of emotions that were waving inside her, "And congratulations for your new grandson! I also want to thank you for the clothes, they are wonderful!"

Fran beamed at her, flattered by the compliments. Creya also looked delighted, "My mother is the best dressmaker among the tribes from this side of the Great River!"

Thar and the other mates also gave her a hug, and Isabel felt so good sharing their good mood. The empathy around could be touched, so palpable it was, even for her, lacking any telepathic senses.

One of the mates took Creya in his arms, and with the other co-mates and Fran following them they carried Creya to one of the family rooms on the other side of the hall.

Isabel stared at them, wiping away the tears of joy, 'How fast are my perceptions of the Neanderthals changing. Only few days ago I was afraid of being in the company of mindless brutes!'

She thought more on the information that she had just gained, 'Fran is the dressmaker. So they have division of labor...' One of the theories that explained why the Neanderthals went extinct was that the women also participated in the hunt and didn't stay 'at home' to take care of the offspring.

Bren's indignant grunt just confirmed that this was another stupid theory that had wasted paper to be written, "Why would the women participate in the hunt?!"

Isabel turned to him and he looked more stunned than when she had asked him if he had multiple mates. Bren was sitting near the fireplace watching her like she was pulling out rabbits from her sleeves.

His eyes immediately went to her sleeves and Isabel giggled, 'Oh, Bren...'

She sat next to him and he took her hands inspecting the sleeves like he was still wondering if some animal would emerge from them.

Then scientific thinking took over her, she had so many questions and exploring this specie was getting even more exciting. If only her computer was with her...

"So Bren, tell me more about your tribe. I would like to know which is which so I can behave properly and don't cause you an embarrassing moment with my ignorance of your traditions and laws..." she was eager to learn as much as possible.

His eye ridges furrowed and for a second he looked oddly at her.

"I'm third ranked among the hunters. The first one is the chief that you met, and the second one is my brother Alard. You have to pay them respect and bow your head when you meet them. Also, you will have to wait for them to speak first when you want to start a conversion with any of them. For the other hunters you also have to pay them respect, but without bowing your head, and you can speak first if you wish so."

She pondered on his words, "So a woman's status in the tribe depends on her mate's position among the hunters?"

Bren again looked bewildered, "I'm not sure what you are referring to Isabel? You already have your status as a healer, and not all men are hunters."

Her ears almost perked up at that information, 'The division of labor is even more complicated than I thought?!' She leaned forward, "Okay Bren, so what could a male do if he is not a hunter?"

"He can be a tradesman or toolmaker. And some men become shamans." He thought for a while, "In some tribes there are males whose occupation is to dig rock salt, but we don't have ones here because we don't have salt nearby." he explained.

Isabel analyzed what she had just heard, "But can a man who is a tradesman or a toolmaker become a chief?" she asked, and already knew the answer when Bren shook his head, "Of course not Isabel. The chief is always a hunter, not necessarily the strongest one, but the one with most experience, and one who is accepted by the other hunters."

"Do the hunters vote for chief?" she inquired, 'Neanderthal's democracy?'

"They agree who must be the chief, yes," confirmed Bren, still throwing glances at her like she should know this common knowledge.

Isabel waved with a hand, "And what about the other men; do they vote too for the chief and what exactly do the females do?"

Bren was really looking confused by her continued questioning. "The other men simply follow the common agreement. The chief is well respected and in no feud with the other members of the tribe, otherwise he won't be elected. As for the females," he scratched his head, "they do what they usually do, like carrying the young ones, cleaning, cooking, making supplies for the winter."

Something crossed his mind because he fixed her with a stare, "and they don't hunt, Isabel. I don't care what your tribesmen believed in, but I won't allow you to participate in the hunt. It is very dangerous! It is a disgrace!" He was absolutely furious about such an idea, "What were these men thinking? Women participating in the hunt? Why they don't put the younglings there too? It is a crime against the Sky..." his face flushed while Isabel was watching him curiously.

"Well Bren, we no longer need to hunt, so most of the men and women that produced that theory haven't seen what a real hunt is. Some men hunt just to kill an animal, not because they need to eat it."

He frowned, disgusted at her words, "Isabel, you came from a really terrible place. But you are here now, so I'll try to be patient and explain to you the way we live." He took a deep breath and continued, "We hunt and kill the animals that we need for living. I admit that we usually hunt more than necessary because there should be always a surplus of supplies, but not too big. Men hunt, women not. That's the law of the Sky and we follow it. The tradesmen and the toolmakers exchange their labor for food, hides, and other things they need if they are not part of a bigger family. In our tribe here, we have one toolmaker, Khan, that is teaching his second son to make tools, and Khan is one of the mates of Kara. So her other mates provide him with these things, and the other hunters always provide him with meat, fish and hides when they can.

The chief agrees with Khan about what he needs to maintain the weapons and to make new ones. The tradesman we have is Zerg, you already saw him. He is one of the mates of Creya, and he showed us the way to the East. But he usually only goes on the other side of the Great River with more men to exchange hides and meat for salt. We procure what we need when the Gathering of the tribes occurs in the summer. So, now you know how things are here."

'It seems that polyandry here is the way they live...' she thought and again considered his words.

"But do the females vote for the chief if they are not hunters?" she wanted to know if the females have any rights to change the status-quo in the tribe.

Obviously her question really left him stunned, because he froze, "Why would a female do that?!"

"Why?" this time Isabel was the one that was surprised, "Do you think that being a female means that we are only usable fuck holes that conveniently allow you to breed new sons and cook and clean after you?!"

She clenched her fists sensing the waves of feminism and women's rights rebelling inside her.

'Stone Age or not, I won't stand up with some macho behavior even from him!'

Bren lifted his arms in a gesture of surrender, "Isabel, please, don't you get angry as before! I really don't understand why a woman will have to vote for the chief. She has already expressed her vote with her mate, right?" He seemed very upset about her anguish and did really not understand what the fuss was about.

She paused, 'Am I missing something here?' She sighed pondering over what he said, 'Two levels of voting for the central government?'

"Are you telling me that only the mated men can vote for the chief?" she asked, and when he nodded a crazy idea formed in her head, "So when the female chooses her mate of mates she elects her congressmen that on her behalf vote for the President?"

She realized that she had voiced aloud her thoughts when Bren again gave her the blank stare that she had come to recognize.

"I mean a female is free to choose the man or men she wants to mate with, and they keep her satisfied and content as mates should. So if she is not happy with the candidate for a chief, they won't elect him?"

Bren cautiously nodded like he was dealing with a really crazy person. She grinned and quickly hugged him, sitting on his lap.

She kissed his mouth and pecked his soft spot on his neck, tracing it with light kisses. Bren tenderly wrapped his arms around her and she whispered, "For the second time you witness my short temper Bren, but I just can't throw over the way I have been raised and educated. Can you forgive me?"

He gently stroked her hair, "There is nothing to be forgiven, Isabel. I also react the way I have been toughed to. And I sometimes forget that you came from a place that we can't even imagine. It must be very taxing to you." He hugged her closer and kissed the bare skin of her neck, "I saw how you were used to a better life, and I saw when you thought of the place where you came from what your world looked like. The giant houses that hit the Sky, the big birds that you have created to fly with, the lights without fire and how you invent things that we would call magic!"

He looked at her, "Our world here seems so primitive to you, but you have very good heart, and you are genuinely trying to help Creya..."

Isabel felt the tears emerging again, "Bren, when I first found myself here I thought that you are primitive because we know so little about the Neanderthals as we call your people. But I really like you and I promise that I'll try to be your mate, but I can't promise perfection."

Bren's kiss left her breathless, 'In my eyes you are already perfect Isabel!' his thoughts sounded in her head and her eyes widened.

'So their telepathic abilities are stronger than I suspected...'

But she didn't give a damn for it. Mind reading was not what she was looking for in her future partner, but she was growing fonder with Bren with every minute.

She felt his smile when the last thought crossed her mind, "I'm really happy when you are thinking that way," Bren took her hand and said, "Come with me. I want to show you something that I have planned since we mated."

Isabel followed him, noticing the curious stares from the people they were passing by. Many greeted Bren by name and nodded friendly at her. One little girl came running to her and gave her leg a hug, like a little kitten that was trying to show her affection, smiled, and then took off running to the other playing children.

"This is Erya, the first child of Creya. She wanted to thank you, but she is too shy to say the words out loud and asked me to pass you her message." Bren said and Isabel was surprised how strongly the telepathy was encoded in their genes, 'Even the little children have their abilities developed...'

She was taken aback with the way the girl had expressed her feelings. It was so pure, so opene, that she felt deeply welcome in the tribe.

She glanced at Erya, who was playing with the other children, and sent a mental smile. Erya looked back at her and smiled too.

Bren again took her hand, and Isabel was walked to a place approximately in the middle between the entrance of the house where they had been and the healer's room. It was empty and without a curtain.

Isabel could see the construction of the outer wall of the house; starting at the floor with big stones almost half a meter high that held the mammoth tusks, and above them plasters of rammed earth, sand and gravel fortified every two feet with a level of bones and three planks that were connected to the tusks.

The rammed wall was almost two meters above the stone wall, and above it the dome began, constructed entirely of wide bones, cinched together tightly. Giant bones that looked like the long leg bones of a mammoth were supporting the tusks. The family rooms on both sides of the empty place were separated with walls made of rammed mud, stones and gravel and supports of tree trunks.

Despite the numerous torches and fireplaces the hall wasn't filled with smoke and the air was surprisingly fresh and clean. The ventilation through the opening beneath the roof must have really working.

Isabel looked again at the empty place. It was between two tusks approximately four meters long and four meters deep. She also noticed the old plasters of some stuff that could have been paint on the walls, and the smoky stones where the fireplace had been.

She stepped inside, hearing the echoes of her footsteps. The floor here was made of tree trunks with peeled bark and impregnated with something yellow, 'Ochre?' she wondered.

Now that she thought about it, she remembered that the family room that she awakened in this morning also had a wooden floor, but the one there was covered with a mat while this one was uncovered.

"What is this place?" she asked. Obviously, it was something special for Bren.

"This place was given to me from the chief when I was approved as a hunter. Usually most of the family fires are inherited, but my brother will inherit my father's place that was owned for generations in my family. So I was given this one to start my own fire when I got a mate!" He seemed very proud of himself.

"It was the place where my grandparents resided when they were alive. Since my brother will inherit the fire of my father, it was rightful for me to get this one." He added.

"Why is the floor made from wood unlike the one in the hall? It was covered with river stones." she walked around again feeling the vibrations of something empty under the tree trunks.

Bren smiled. "Under the family room, as you call it, is the storage each family has." She lifted her eyebrows, and he went to one corner of the floor near the outer wall, where he pulled aside the old basket that was there, revealing an opening in the floor. Isabel stepped closer, taking a peek in the hole. Bren took a torch from one of the beams, and started to step down in the hole.

She followed him, realizing that there were stone steps down. Under the light of the torch she saw that the steps were well built, wide, and not very high. When they were down she finally could view her future basement.

She recalled an article on the first house of Neanderthals found in the modern day Ukraine. It was made with a similar circular shape made from giant bones and tusks, and 'as the basement of a wooden cover or as a windscreen'. She guessed that in the steppe it was far more difficult to dig in the hard soil, and there were no trees or stones for the major constructions like this one.

The cellar was about six feet high, with a stone wall that supported the wooden beams above. It was smaller than the room aboveground, about three meters wide and three meters long. She was sure that the fireplace had to be built on a solid ground, and that explained why the cellar was smaller. In the middle of the room was a stone wall to support the floor above. The floor was covered with the same polished river stones she had seen in the hall.

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