Grunk, son of Grank (and brother of Gronk, but that doesn’t matter) had a look on his face that could only be either jealousy or envy. Still, his words were nothing but courteous as he, according to the Tribe’s traditions, congratulated Drend, son of Drind for his win in this moon’s contest by presenting him his spear : “you stronger than all” he said “i recognize me as inferior”.
Grunk should have won, it was him who saw the mammoth, it was him who directed the mammoth towards the small clearing and him who trapped the mammoth with his trap. However, it was Drend who threw his spear first, after distracting Grunk. And so, the kill belonged to Drend and he made sure that everyone knew only who killed the beast and not who did all the actual hard work. So Grunk’s face is saying the exact opposite of his words, and if someone is noticing, it will be Unda. She knows Grunk better than anyone else in the Tribe, having slept next to him on the Cave many times before (and wishing she could keep doing it many times more).
As the ceremony reaches it’s end, Unda is starting to feel a little bit of fear. Drend is looking at her, and since he is that moon’s top hunter, he can have his pick of a woman from the tribe. Unda is not even the prettier, Imda is. Nor is she the one with the best baby making body, that honor lies with Rast and her gigantic hips. But Drend looks at her with lust and something more in his eyes. Noticing this, Grunk snarls his teeth and turns his back on the Tribe. Surely enough, Drend goes to Unda and grabs her wrist: “you mine this moon” he says, gleefully and looking over to Grunk who is now leaving into the forest and misses this, as he wished to do.
Unda cannot fight him, he is bigger, stronger and in his right. He also doesn’t wish to waste any time, it seems, as he pulls her into the cave right away. As the moon’s top hunter he can have the inner cave for himself and his consort, and that’s where he takes her. She’s been there before, Grunk has been the top hunter several times before and he almost always picks her, despite her constant failure in making him a son. This time she doesn’t feel the same warmth she normally feels there, instead she feels a chill going down her spine, as of something bad was about to happen. Drend is everything but careful or sweet with her. He undresses her, ruining her favorite skin and throws her into the bed of dead leafs, jumping on top of her and hurting her back. He does his thing fast and violently, without any care for her pleasure or well being and then gets ups and warns her not to leave, he’ll be back.
Meanwhile, Grunk went alone into the jungle with his spear and nothing else. Hunting always calms him down and he doesn’t want to be in the cave, witnessing Drend gloating about a kill that should have been his and sleeping with a woman that is his. So he wanders, aimlessly between the trees until he spots a track : a sabertooth, this close to the Cave. Not common but not the first time it happens either. Smiling with the thrill of the challenge, Grunk gets down to his knees and starts following the trail. Immersed as he was in the tracking he doesn’t even notice he is moving towards the forbidden forest, where the spirits of the gods dwell. He follows the tracks until he reaches a small clearing where the sabertooth tiger is eating a small prey. He rises his spear slowly, points, takes a deep breath and intones a small prayer to the goddess of true aim, throwing his spear to the tiger. He is so sure of his aim, and knowing that he threw the spear with all his might, that he gets up and starts moving even before the spear reaches the sabertooth only to jump back as the spear hits the animal and falls down to the ground, harmlessly.
The tiger turns, slowly, and stands on his rear legs, looking both comical and scary, but not as scary as when it talks : “Brave Grunk” - the sabertooth tiger’s voice is deep as if coming from a cave and it doesn’t move it’s mouth to speak “you have been wronged. I can feel it. If you will it, I can grant you power to right your wrongs.”
Grunk is motionless, fear and reverence binding his feet on the floor. He opens his mouth to speak but closes it immediately after as if unsure.
“No reply, Grunk, the fearless? The cat ate your tongue?” The tiger laughs, smiling if a cat can smile.
Grunk stood there, still motionless for a while, as the tiger approaches him, walking as a person would, and looks him in the eye. Their faces were nearly touching and the tiger-god roars at Grunk’s face. Grunk blinks but doesn’t run away despite being scared out of his reason.
“Good Grunk, you are indeed fearless. Go now, soon you will return here for my power.”
The tiger-god went back to all fours and resumed eating his prey as Grunk slowly backs away until his back bumps into a tree. Then he turned and ran home. As he was running he noticed the day was long gone and deep night was all around him, as if he had stayed in the clearing for many hours and not the few minutes it had felt like. As he was reaching the Cave, he heard sounds as if a discussion was happening, despite the late hour. He stopped short, still in the covering of the trees and witnessed a gathering of the Tribe at the Cave’s door.
Nerkt, the elder of elders, was chastising Drend, his staff of authority poking the younger man on his chest. Making a effort not to be seen or heard Grunk moved closer to listen to the old man’s words:
“.. your right? Unda was of baby age! She was asset to Tribe and selfish you killed her!”
The younger man laughed : “She gave no baby to Grunk, she broken!”
Nerkt shook his head while he spoke again : “you lose top hunter of the moon prizes. You sleep in punishment cave tonight.”
Drend began complaining but the rest of the adults grabbed him and dragged him towards the punishment cave, a few mammoth lengths up the mountain, and threw him in there, rolling the stone door to make sure he wouldn’t escape.
Grunk heard all this but his brain refused to process it. Unda could not be dead, the gods would not allow that. He was still there, lying on the tall grass, when Nerkt nearly tripped in him, on his way to alleviate in the forest.
“Grunk! Gods be praised, I feared we lost two today!” Nerkt said.
If the Tribe had had words for sorrow, Nerkt would have expressed his at the loss Grunk must be feeling. Since it didn’t, Nerkt just explained that Drend had been “too rough” with Unda and she had not survived their “baby-making”. Listening to this told as it was, Grunk lost his mind and screamed, a deep, primal rage-filled scream of pain.
He got up and ran back into the forest, tears flowing down his eyes for the first time since he had become a man, grunting like a wild animal, breaking branches and kicking stones indifferent to the pain. He wasn’t consciously trying to find the sabertooth tiger god clearing, but even so he stumbled into it. Less than an hour had passed since he had left but he felt like a entire lifetime older as he stopped, at the clearing entry. He raised his eyes slowly, knowing even before he saw him that the god awaited for him there.
“GOD!” Grunk’s voice was both a scream and a growl: ”I WANT YOUR POWER”.
The tiger, that had been lying on the other end of the clearing, slowly got up to all fours and as he moved closer to Grunk got up to his back paws.
“As I foretold, you are back. Fear not, the power is yours.” The tiger placed his front paws on Grunk’s shoulders and licked his face.
Grunk felt a warm feeling on his body, the wounds from his wild run on the forest healing, his tiredness disappearing, and sensed as if he had grown, and in reality, the tiger seemed smaller now.
The sabertooth god walked back and said :”go now, Grunk, the fearless, and avenge.”
Grunk smiled and turning to a tree grabbed it with his hands, ripped it off the ground and crushed it with a hug. Grinning he ran back to the Cave. This time he didn’t even notice how much time had passed until he reached the Cave and saw that the sun had already moved high into the sky. Reaching the Cave he screamed for Drend : “COME DREND, TRAITOR, KILLER OF WOMEN!”
Imda came forth, looked at Grunk and instinctively took a step back. Her voice wavered as she said “Is that you Grunk? Drend is out hunting.”
Grunk growled, and turning to the forest sniffed the air. He found Drend’s smell easily and followed it. Drend was hiding and waiting for a prey, and did not hear Grunk arriving from behind, and as such screamed with fear and surprise as the god-infused man grabbed him by the hair and started dragging him, without a word. As soon as he reached a clearing, he threw the other man against a tree.
“YOU KILL UNDA, YOU DIE!” Grunk screamed.
Drend was still getting to his feet surprised and his legs wet, and tried to say something.
“NO EXCUSES. YOU DIE!”
Drend threw his spear but Grunk easily grabbed it mid air and broke it with only one hand. He started moving, slowly, towards the other one, who was now trembling with fear, unable to move.
“FIGHT ME DREND!”
Drend attempted to throw a punch but his hand hit Grunk’s chest as if it was a caress. Grunk laughed as he grabbed the smaller man by the throat, and kept laughing as he squeezed the life out of Drend. He dropped the body on the floor, Drend deserved no burial and no place on the Cave of the Dead, and moved away, back to the Cave.
Things would change in the Tribe now, Grunk would be elder above the elders and it would be his word that mattered. Since he could never again have Unda, he’d have all the women for himself and the next generation of the Tribe would be as strong as he was. Soon, he thought, they’d go to the other side of the forest and steal the women of the other tribes. Soon the entire valley would belong to him and his sabertooth-tiger-god powers.
Soon, the world would fear and love the name of Grunk, son of Grank, the fearless.