The Narthskr: Descent From the Mountain
The gentle glow of campfires ebbed from within the doorways of the huts sprawled in a rough circle around the central point of the plateau. Within each clans settled down for their evening meals and put younger offspring to an early night, in a futile attempt to offset complaints of tiredness the following day. Despite the faces of rock that were still visible around the camp, the exposure of the site meant blustering gales hit the tents regularly and from time to time men emerged to strap down the pelts and hides that acted as shield to the people sheltering inside. They only planned to stay the night, having already scavenged the barest of resources from nearby, and tomorrow would begin trudging down the well remembered mountain paths to the next site - one much closer to the forests - where the collection of what they needed could begin in earnest. They had had to avoid one of the paths of the previous year, it had been submerged in a deluge of spring water coming down the mountains, and so were at least a day behind the schedule they tried to keep. No one spoke of this, of course, but they all knew and were silently chastising themselves and those around them for this delay.
In one of the huts a man lay sprawled out on a mat, his body covered in the thick tresses of a fur that acted as his blanket, attempting to absorb as much of the diminishing warmth his fire could provide. His efforts were in vain, however, as the slowly squirming form of his two sleeping sons, who were put to bed closer to the bright embers, caught a majority of the coveted heat. He watched them affectionately, ensuring they did not roll so far over as to risk being burned. Meanwhile, his partner fussed over the sealing of a small beaker which carried some seeds the family intended to eat the following night. She was prone to bouts of anxiety and the man had long since become immune to her night time awakenings, panic stricken, over the state of some mundane utensil and its location in their tent. At least, that is what he told her. "Hari."
He murmured, gently, so as to not wake their children. "Come rest, you will need your energy in the morning. We have many steps to go, and time when we wake to check everything is secure."
A quiet sigh met his instruction, followed by a continued effort of checking. "If it's not all properly stored we might lose some on the journey."
She retorted, icily. "And the last time that happened you had to go hungry for two days. We cannot afford that again if you are to bring back enough for the cold seasons." "And, does it look like it has been closed properly?"
"Then come sleep!"
The man chuckled as he spoke, adjusting the covering he used to allow her space to slide in front of him and share his warmth. Protest seemed to melt then and, with a final adjustment of the beaker, Hari lay down with her partner. They both wore the same clothes they had when they left the winter camp and, despite a quite pungent odour, they had been kept in relative warmth and comfort so far. When are your brothers to return, Storvi?"
Hari asked her partner. "They've been gone since we finished setting up."
The man paused, chewing his lip slowly as heavy lidded eyes started to make their final descent. "Mmm, they took the girls and went to see Halga and the rest of her clan. I imagine they are still eating. They have many more mouths to feed."
"And many more hands to work."
Hari said, slowly, as she seemed to drift into the same semi-sleep state of her partner. "It's true, but Luka and Lars will be old enough to come on the hunt soon. Then there will be enough when I am too old to hunt, and you are too old to work. We might even take to hosting others like Halga does."
Hari scoffed with a gentle shudder, settling into a soft snore that indicated she had very quickly fallen asleep. Storvi stroked his partner's hair affectionately, before cursing his brothers for staying out later. They would likely wake up the whole tent and he did not look forward to three belligerent members of his family rudely awoken.
His brothers were still young, as were their partners, and still enjoyed a life with relatively less responsibility than he and Hari. In time, however, they would have children and be required to settle down for the good of the clan, as well as their offspring. As the head of his clan, Storvi had a right to attend the meeting of the elders the following night but, as he lay awake and wondering, he knew he would decline the offer again. He had barely passed twenty winters now, whereas some of the elders had surpassed the archaic point of forty, and he felt inferior to the wisdom they had. In time, when his children had children, he might feel more confident sitting in council. But for now, his place was in the wild with the other men of the tribe, to provide for that very family and ensure their survival through the next winter.
Simple need to survive was not all that plagued Storvi's mind, however, as a stranger had arrived at the tribe a few days ago. He had been babbling and close to death when found, only managing a few incoherent sounds. But, the intention was clear, that something quite violent and terrible had befallen his people. How far he had come they could not tell, and it was remote that the same thing might fall upon the Narthskr. Even so, he was concerned for what lay lurking in the night.