Seven years later
They knelt on the soft furs, facing each other, her hands clasped in his. To his left was a low table of rude split wood, set on two short posts. Two small cups of equal size, carved out of solid wood, sat on the table. Each was filled with a brownish liquid, a light tan foam floating on top.
On the other side of the table, the Shaman sat on a mound of furs, his legs crossed beneath him. He was dressed in the finest of furs, lovingly made for him by the women of the Tribe. He was old, having already counted off more than six hands of winters, and his face was deeply lined, his eyes watering slightly from the smoke of the tent. Behind him knelt his two young assistants, one male and one female, each hoping to succeed him when he passed to the next world. Only one of them would.
Behind them, the other adult members of the Tribe, twelve in all, crowded around, kneeling on the reindeer skins that covered the floor, watching intently. Most were arrayed on the other side of the central hearth that warmed the tent on this cold autumn night, its fire casting a dim, flickering light that was further attenuated by the smoky air.
Shan looked into Bella’s eyes and she smiled shyly back at him. They had waited so long for this, their Pairing Day, seventeen winters for him, and one more than that for her. They had grown up together, playing their child-games by the lakeshore, walking together with the Tribe when they followed the seasonal migrations of the herds. They had both learned by following their elders, absorbing the skills and knowledge necessary to survive in the harsh but beautiful land. They had long known that they would be paired, but years had passed as Bella had to help look after her ailing mother. She was gone now, had not survived the cold and wet of the spring. Bella missed her; the whole Tribe did. But now she could move on, assume her proper place as a full member of the Tribe.
When Shan looked at Bella, he saw his childhood friend smiling back at him. But now there was so much more. She had changed so greatly in the last few years: the skinny, gangling girl he had known had grown into a strong, muscular woman. She was the tallest and strongest woman in the Tribe, easily able to keep pace with the best of the men. When she first started following the men out on the hunt, they had laughed at her. No one laughed now. She was fast becoming one of the Tribe’s best hunters, travelling long distances away from the encampment to track and run down reindeer, moose, bison, even the mighty mammoth. Skilled with bow and spear, and so attuned to her prey that she could follow an animal even when no one else could see the signs, knowing, somehow, where the animal was going, when it would pause, and how best to approach. Bella was unique among the women of the tribe, the only one to have become such a skilled and powerful hunter. And still so young.
Shan saw this, but he also saw the sheer power of her body, and it had a profound effect on him. When her breasts had begun to fill out and soft fur began to grow between her legs, she had been shy at first, uncharacteristically covering herself as they waded at the beach. But she had quickly become more confident in herself as she realized her new strength and power. Shan began to see her in a whole new way, and she stirred something in him he had never felt before.
Of course they both knew all about the ways of men and women and sex, had known for as long as they could remember. There was little privacy in the family tents. From an early age they had been witness to the dark-time couplings of the other Pairs: the rhythmic body movements, the moans and sighs of delightful pleasure, the pungent smells of sex. Of course it was considered impolite to watch too openly, but it was also understood to be just another way that the young would learn by watching the adults of the Tribe. That was how everyone learned. The younger Shan had watched without much interest: sometimes with mild amusement at the strange ways of the adults. But lately he could not help becoming aroused, and would often bring himself to relief under the furs, while watching the couplings of the other Pairs.
Shan and Bella had known for most of their lives that they would eventually become a Pair. It seemed inevitable: they were the only two of similar age in the Tribe, and exchanges with other Tribes were infrequent and often tense affairs. When the Elders had informed them, through the voice of the Shaman, that their mating day would come at the next full moon, they had both been overjoyed. They were ready.
Shan admired Bella, and was proud of the respect she inspired in the Tribe. Proud that he had been chosen as her mate. He understood that she would always be the stronger of their Pair. Already there was talk, among the elders, that she would one day lead the Tribe. But that didn’t bother him: everyone had their place, and he understood his. He would never be a great hunter, in fact his skills in the hunt were mediocre at best. But he was becoming skilled at crafting wood, and the bows, spears, sleds and canoes that he made were already among the best of the Tribe. He knew that his skill and hard work would earn him a place among the elders beside Bella, and he was happy with that.
Now, he would move to the tent of Bella, her father and brothers and sisters. Share sleeping furs with her every night. He would help her skin, butcher and share out the produce of her hunt, as she would help him with his work. Some day, they would make babies together. Some day they would have their own tent.
But tonight was special, their first together as a Pair. They both knew what was in the cups, had known it their entire lives. It was ala-ta, the elixir of life and love that only the Shaman could make. It was known to be a mixture made from the extracts of three plants, but each had to be prepared in a special way and brewed in the right proportions for the mixture to work. Only the Shaman and his Acolytes had this knowledge.
The ala-ta was a powerful potion, an elixir that made a man and a woman crave one another’s touch above all else. It made every nerve ending tingle with a want that could only be satisfied by the fingers, lips or tongue of another. Made the excitement of a lover’s touch all-consuming. Enhanced every sight, sound and smell. Made giving pleasure the greatest thing of all.
A man became rock-hard, but the drug gave him the stamina to last and last, revelling in the pleasure he shared with his lover. When finally his need overcame him and his cock jerked as it spewed forth his seed, the pleasure was overwhelming. But that was not the end: he would know that his pleasure would peak many times before the night was over and they collapsed, exhausted in a deep, profound slumber.
For a woman the drug was a longing. She would long to feel a man’s tongue, his fingers caressing her body. Feel his skin on hers as she rubbed herself against him. Share her juices as they licked his fingers after he stroked her inside. Feel the pulsing in her womb as she opened herself to engulf him. Feel the throb of his cock inside her as she held him in, so deeply.
Ala-ta was sacred to the Tribe, and only given out on special days. Fortunately these were many: the full and new moons, an especially successful hunt, the first warm day of the spring, or any other day deemed suitable by the Shaman. On such days and nights all other activities ceased as the men and women joined one another in rapturous rituals of drumming, dance and mating, sometimes in their Pairs, sometimes in other configurations. Such days were treasured by the Tribe and brought all of them closer together.
The potion was also given to the newly Paired. Tonight they would share the sabuuna, the tent of purification and lovemaking. One half of the tent was walled off with a curtain of furs and used as a sweat lodge. It had a large beehive rock hearth to hold and radiate the heat. Pails of scented water were arranged around the edges and splashed onto the hearth to make hot, cleansing vapour. The other half of the tent had a smaller hearth, and the entire floor was covered with several layers of furs. The finest furs were on top: silky mink, soft, thick winter beaver, and slick otter, arranged in a pattern so that the lovers could savour the sensuous feel of each individual fur. The flickering fire in the open hearth cast a soft but rich illumination that enhanced the sumptuous feel of the place.
The sabunaa was beloved by the Tribe. Besides Pairing ceremonies, it was available to each Pair on a rotating basis, or about once every seven days since there were seven pairs in the Tribe now. Each Pair could use their night as they wished: as a couple, inviting other people, or trading off with other Pairs. Everything was allowed on such nights, the only stipulations being that each member of the Pair had the right to use the tent, and that anything that happened there must be agreed by both. Thus the relationships among the adults of the Tribe had a much deeper complexity than the simple Pairings could reveal.
But it was not just for coupling that the sabunaa was used. It provided the only means to keep their bodies clean during the long cold seasons. Hunters returning from many days on the trail revelled in the heat, refreshing and renewing their bodies. It allowed the women to shed their bulky and heavy fur clothing and feel the warm air on their skin, if only for a while. Everyone used it, and the fire within was tended nearly all the time.
Of course this would be the first time that Shan and Bella would have the sabunaa to themselves, but they, like all the other youth of the Tribe, knew its use and purpose. All the children learned that it was possible to move aside the skin flaps on the tent opening just enough to peer in unobserved, and all of them over a certain age had done so, some many times. If the elders knew about it, they took no action to stop it. Perhaps they considered this, too, just another way for the young to learn the ways of the Tribe.
But now, kneeling on the fur-covered floor before the Shaman, they were leaving the ways of youth behind. Tonight they would, at last, fully know the ways of man and woman, fully know one another.
The Shaman chanted the holy words and stamped his staff three times on the floor. Shan and Bella picked up the cups and, without hesitation, drank the bitter potion in just a few swallows. The Shaman tapped each of them lightly on the head with his staff, then let out a deep, guttural sigh. It was done: they were a Pair now. And the sabunaa was theirs for the night.Start writing here…