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Before the Cave, part 30

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Tomorrow, the conclusion of Book I. Just enough time for one more inspiring image from Kris Layng.

Again, please do not reproduce without permission from Kris.


Before the Cave, part 29

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Ilara smiled back. “But what did I do to change things?”

“It is not what you did,” the Elder replied, gesturing to both her and her mammoth friend, “it is who you are. You are the bridge, the way for human and mammoth to finally be able to work as one. To communicate is the greatest gift the Spirits can give us. And the two of you have given us that gift.”

Ilara was humbled. She looked into the eyes of her mammoth counterpart, the other Ilara. For a moment she saw herself looking back.

“What now?” she asked the Elder.

The Elder gestured to the Shaman. “She will show you.”

The Shaman stepped forward, and to Ilara’s surprise removed her sacred necklace. Ilara could not remember a time when the Shaman had not worn that necklace. “You must take it now,” the Shaman said.

Before the Cave, part 28

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

There was complete silence. Ilara figured this was a good a time as any to speak up. “What prophecy?” she asked, genuinely curious.

The Shaman gave her an odd look. “You of course. You are the prophecy. You and your … friend.”

Ilara must have looked confused, because the tribal Elder waved the Shaman away and came over. “There are things you do not know. About our tribe, about their tribe.”

“What things?”

“It is said the human and the mammoth used to be allies, in a time when we could communicate with each other. But those times are long gone, and many no longer believed. Until you.”

She smiled down at Ilara, and for the first time Ilara noticed that the Elder had a beautiful smile.

Before the Cave, part 27

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

The human Elder and Shaman took a long moment just staring at the two of them. Ilara felt odd. Only a short while ago, she would have been thrilled simply to get their attention. But now everything was all mixed up.

Both of them were looking at the girl they thought was Ilara, who was actually a mammoth. And here she was, the Ilara they really knew, except they thought she was a mammoth. Could this get any weirder?

She could tell that the human Shaman was speaking, but she couldn’t understand any of it. And then, all of a sudden, everything started to spin. Except this time she was ready for it, and she knew what to expect.

She could see the entire scene, as if from a great distance, as though all of them, the human and mammoth army, were all little toys carved in wood, stuck in the sand. And then all at once it was done.

She realized she was looking from her own eyes. It felt good to be back in her body again. Ilara gave her mammoth friend a significant look, and received one in return.

The Shaman was still speaking, and suddenly she could understand. And she was astonished at what she was hearing.

“The prophecy that was foretold,” the Shaman proclaimed. “It has come true.”

Before the Cave, part 26

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Today’s post is a beautiful illustration by Kris Layng of our story world.

Enjoy, but please do not reproduce without his permission!


Before the Cave, part 25

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Ilara was confused. Why, just in a moment, did everyone stop fighting? And why was everyone looking at the two of them?

Then she saw the chieftain of the mammoth herd making her way toward them. The chieftain was old, very old. When she walked, she walked slowly, and with deliberate care. But now she was heading straight toward the two of them, the other mammoths parting to make a path for her.

The chieftain was about to speak, when suddenly she swung her head away, and stared off into the distance. From the human tribe two figures were approaching.

Ilara strained to see who they were. At first they were hard to make out. But then she realized that they were the Elder and the Shaman from her own human tribe.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the two small figures made their way toward the mammoth herd. When they arrived at the perimeter, none of the mammoths tried to stop them. In fact, the mammoth warriors stepped deliberately aside, making way for the humans.

Suddenly Ilara realized that the human Elder and Shaman were heading straight toward her. But not just her. They were heading toward her and her friend.

Before the Cave, part 24

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The invading humans were nimble, but not all moved fast enough to escape the deadly swipes from the mammoths’ mighty tusks. The mammoths were determined, and tireless in their defense of the herd. Soon their tusks were coated in red.

Yet for every human that fell, more kept coming. And in the distance, another group of human warriors was forming a circle.

These new arrivals were biding their time, spears in hand, waiting for a signal to attack. The mammoths fought on bravely, but deep down they knew their defensive line could not withstand a second assault.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Ilara could see a tiny figure streaking toward them. The girl was smaller than any of the other humans on the field, yet her speed and agility made her stand out.

The mammoth warriors ignored the little intruder, as they were busy fighting off the larger humans. They knew the mammoths in the inner circle could easily dispose of such an insignificant threat.

Ilara watched, mesmerized, as the girl bobbed and weaved, apparently running to her doom. She ran between the legs of the mighty mammoth warriors, easily broaching the front lines.

Once she was through, the mammoths on the inner lines turned to face this little human. Now that she was in their midst, it would take mere seconds for them to kill her.

But the girl was now finally near enough for Ilara to see clearly, and suddenly she understood. “Wait!” she shouted, and the mammoths around the girl hesitated for just a moment. It was enough.

With sure strides she covered the distance between her and the little human, until the two of them stood face to face.

“Hello,” she said. “It’s good to see you.”

The girl smiled. “It’s good to see you too.”

Suddenly they realized that the fighting around them had stopped. Both the humans and the mammoths were just standing there, staring at the two of them.

Before the Cave, part 23

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

What happened next was not comical at all. As if with one mind, the humans released their weapons.

The spears flew high, tracing graceful arcs through the air. In that moment all was silence.

But in the very next moment the spears hit their targets. Suddenly the battlefield was filled with the howls of rage and anguish erupting from the warrior mammoths.

This first attack had clearly had its intended effect. The thick hide of each mammoth warrior was pierced through in many places, and each mammoth on the front line was clearly in intense pain.

But the next moment, the mammoth warriors began methodically to pull the spears out of each others’ hides. The extraction of the barbed spears was painful, perhaps more painful than the initial attack, but the simple act of helping each other seemed to create a new sense of resolve in the mammoth army.

As one, the mammoth warriors turned toward the humans and charged. And then all was chaos.

Before the Cave, part 22

Monday, February 26th, 2018

There was a long pause. Ilara started to wonder whether the enemy had just given up.

But when the humans finally came, they came in force. And they came from all directions at once.

In a flash she understood. In response to the mammoth herd’s defensive strategy, the humans had modified their own strategy. Rather than attempting a frontal assault, they had taken the time to spread out, to form a vast circle.

The human tribe could afford to do this, because they far outnumbered the mammoths. All they needed was find a single weak point in the mammoth herd’s defensive ring. That would be enough.

The humans ran inward toward the herd, spears raised in the air. Their war cries, familiar and yet strange at the same time, filled the open plain.

Ilara had a moment of dislocation. These humans were all impossibly small. To her mammoth eyes they looked less like mighty warriors than little monkeys carrying tiny pointed sticks.

The sight was almost comical.

Before the Cave, part 21

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Whatever was causing the commotion, she was hoping it wasn’t what she thought it was. But that hope died as soon as she heard the cry go up.

It was just one word, but it was enough. “Humans!” There was a feeling of general panic. Yet that was quickly replaced by a sense of organization.

The entire herd moved in unison to a large open plain, with the grownups prodding the little ones along. At first she was confused by this. Wouldn’t they want to seek shelter?

But then, as the herd began to organize itself, she started to see the logic. The youngest within the moving herd were placed in the very center, then the young of about her age were organized in a ring around those, together with the very old.

In the outermost ring, ready to face outwards in all directions, were the warriors, the fully grown males and females of prime fighting age.

If they had tried to seek shelter, they might have been cornered by the humans. But this way, the herd had maximum strategic mobility.

No matter which direction the humans could try to attack, they would come face to face with several fully grown woolly mammoths. And there are few things more fearsome in all the world than a woolly mammoth protecting her herd.