A short story that introduces Cik the Neanderthal in the Prehistoric Times world.

Cik the Neanderthal

 

Deep within the land of the north, before history had been written, existed a race of men known as Neanderthals. A people known for their capacity to survive in the midst of extreme frigidness. They knew battle well and welcomed it as if it was an old friend. It was a necessity because of the creatures that coexisted with the Neanderthals. One of the strongest warriors to ever live during the old times was among them. They called him Cik. One of his stories has been preserved through oral tradition, passed down by the descendants from a dead race.

During, the thirtieth winter of Cik’s life, a tragedy occurred. The warrior’s brother had disappeared. The word reached Cik that his brother left to a hunt for a snow lion, a dangerous creature that had killed many during it’s time on Earth. Jor had always sought to be remembered as a master huntsman. Huntsman in the old times were talented in the tracking and dispatching of all kinds of beasts. Jor wished to join their ranks, but in that pursuit for eternal glory, he misplaced every other value he once possessed. Cik had spoken to Jor many times about remembering his responsibilities, but it was to no avail. 

When Cik heard of what his brother had done, he bellowed out a series of curses. He was angry that his brother had acted so foolishly. The large man immediately grabbed a long pyke and his best fur coat. He rushed out of the village to track down his idiotic brother. Three days and nights passed. On the fourth day, Cik would find what he had sought for.

A harsh wind, from the east, greeted Cik’s frostbitten face with great zeal. The seven-foot man squinted his eyes in a vain attempt to keep his sight intact. This too was futile as Cik could only see what was immediately in front of him. The mountains above seemed to be watching, laughing at his misfortune. It was to the point where most would turn back, either in cowardice or good sense. Neither thought crossed Cik’s large mind. Nature would not stop him, nothing could once Cik had made up his mind. The Neanderthal’s grip on his pyke tightened in determination. With this new found strength, he forced his way through the downpour of snow.

Several hours later, Cik found himself standing at the entrance of a great chasm within one of the small mountains. The Neanderthal took in his surroundings in an attempt to find something that could lead him to his brother. At first, he saw nothing of interest. Then something caught his eye, something that captured the sun upon its slim surface. Cik lowered his pyke and moved in to inspect the object in question. The sound of the snow being crushed under Cik’s feet, echoed off the walls of the chasm. Once he had gotten close enough, the Neanderthal aggressively plucked up the object and held it up to his piercing black eyes. It was a dagger. Cik groaned when he saw the handle to the knife. The design of the handle was simplistic, wooden with two rings carved near the blade. It was his brother’s. Until that point, there had been no sign of his brother’s whereabouts, the cast aside dagger was the first. It was not promising, however.  

Cik quickened his pace as he entered the chasm. The irritating wind did not follow him in, the walls of the chasm protected the Neanderthal. The passageway was dim, the rock formations on either side stood at an astounding height. The amount of light gradually decreased from top to bottom. As the chasm grew deeper, less was visible. The only light that slipped into the chasm was from overhead. This did not deter Cik, his senses were sharp and practiced. His eyes adjusted to the dimness; every detail became known to him. Every stone, every crevice, and every small creature which inhabited the ground was visible to Cik.

Any other individual might have paused to appreciate the alluring appearance of the walls. The sedimentary layers had a unique silver pigmentation to them, further enhanced by the nature of winter. An abundance of red transparent gems decorated the walls, a rare commodity indeed. Cik paid no attention, his mind focused exclusively on the location of his brother.

At last, Cik found another indication of his brother. One very faint footprint was impressed in the snow, next to the right wall. Cik cautiously made his way over to the impression. He hunched over and touched the print with a finger. The print was deep, suggesting that a great deal of weight was put in that position. Cik figured that the reason why that particular marking remained was that it was deeper than the rest. The winds would have swept away the remaining prints since the weight was not as substantial. Following that deduction, the Neanderthal peered up the great wall. 

The cliff of the wall could barely be made out, but there was something much more noticeable about the rock formation. There were disturbances apparent from ground to the tip of the cliff. Pieces of rock were missing, knocked out of place. Furthermore, there were occasional scratches in between layers, most likely caused by something trying to climb up the rock formation. Drawing on his vast experience from hunting, Cik knew that the scratches were not made by any beast or creature. The scratches were from a man.

It only took a mere moment for Cik to decide on his next course of action. With tenacity, Cik sprung like an amphibian and managed to land on the icy rock wall, fifteen feet from the ground. Cik clung on to the rock, trying to find a good foothold. The Neanderthal’s grip was so fierce that the rock which he was holding onto, starting to crack under the pressure. Cik then found his foothold after several attempts. Both feet rested on a sharp, narrow rock that stuck out like a thumb on a hand. With a sold hold on the wall, Cik finally slung his pyke over his shoulder, freeing both of his hands. Cik then began the long climb to the top of the cliff.

Each move on Cik’s part was slow and meaningful. One mistake and death would almost be a certainty. Cik had seen fierce warriors, unmatched in physical prowess, lose their lives due to carelessness. This was an attribute that the Neanderthal made sure to be completely absent. It was an undeniable fact that Cik was the wisest of his people. Something that could not be said of his younger brother.  

The Neanderthal made it halfway up the silverly rock wall with little trouble. Little care was shown for the preservation of the natural wonder, many rocks and ledges were now askew. No attention was paid, Cik refused to look past his shoulder the entire time that he was climbing as he was not one for heights. The giant had hated long heights since he was a child, he had witnessed his father falling to his death while on a fishing excursion. A memory that would remain with the Neanderthal until he laid down for eternal slumber.

Cik rested while he gathered up another surge of his strength. After he had taken his pause, he glanced up to find the next ledge to stretch for. A problem arose. The nearest crevice was a great distance away from Cik. It was beyond his reach.

Thinking quickly, Cik unlatched one his leather boots and stripped the binding which held the footwear in place. The material fell away and Cik was left holding the binding itself. Cik carefully removed the long pyke from his back. He then tied the binding to the base of the long spear, a weapon that he trusted with his life. In this situation, his life would literally depend on if the pyke would be able to stay firm in the icy rock.

The Neanderthal balanced the weight of the pyke in his right hand, aiming for the ledge above. All was still for what seemed like an eternity. Even the Earth around Cik seemed to hold its breath, awaiting the outcome of the upcoming throw. Cik released the pyke.

The weapon shot away from the Neanderthal’s outstretched fingers. It spiraled slightly as it sped through the air, heading for its destination. The pyke struck the end of the ledge, it pounded deep into the rock as the very tip of the spear barely emerged on the other side.

The Neanderthal pulled down on the rope attached to his pyke, testing its sturdiness. It held firm. With that in mind, Cik grasped the rope with his massive hands and started to climb once again. It took almost no time for the Neanderthal to reach the ledge. He was about to pull himself up on the slab of rock when a vulture came into view from the cliff above. It circled above the chasm a couple of times before gliding inside. Cik stayed motionless, hoping for the creature to not take notice of him. This would prove to be useless. The vulture crowed out and changed direction, heading for the Neanderthal. Cik cursed, dismayed of his misfortune.

Cik threw himself on the ledge and went for his pyke. The Neanderthal had thrown the spear with such force that it stayed fixed into the beautiful rock face. It was so stubbornly fixed that no amount of prodding could easily budge it out of place. Cik’s muscles strained with every desperate push and pull. The Neanderthal began to perspire as he heard the vulture crow once again, it was nearby. The vulture swooped in and perched violently on the slab of rock.

Cik whirled around in order to face the hideous creature of the air, fear in his eyes. The great vultures of the old times were nothing like the birds of the sky that give joy to people in contemporary times. The vultures of old were eleven feet wide, had a series of fangs within its beak, and sounded off a blood curdling shriek. They were dangerous creatures that feasted on the flesh of man whenever they saw fit.

Jor’s dagger was brandished from Cik’s belt, his only means of defense against the terrible vulture. He made to drive the dagger into the vulture’s breast when he hesitated, pulling the weapon back. In turn, the vulture folded its wings back, its head craned to look down on the Neanderthal. Cik was confused by the lack of movement from the vulture. The two enemies stared each other with hostility. One in puzzlement, the other looking for weaknesses.

The vulture made the first move, swinging one of its wings upward. Cik anticipated the attack and rolled away before the vulture’s talon could scratch him. Cik jump kicked himself to his feet and rushed over to the vulture. The warriors hand turned into fist, Cik struck the beast in the head a series of times. Each blow would have knocked an average man into unconsciousness. The beast took the blows well, however; and swiped the Neanderthal to his feet when an open presented itself.

The giant slide into the rock wall. Before the Neanderthal could recover, the vulture’s beak lunged for his head. Cik ducked just in time as the vulture’s beak barely passed over the warrior’s head. The vulture shrieked in frustration. The Neanderthal crawled underneath the great bird rather clumsily, brushing up against fur a few times. The vulture was unable to touch the Neanderthal despite a few attempts to injure its enemy.

Cik stood up, waiting for the vulture turn back around to face him. Even though Cik’s opponent was a beast of nature, the Neanderthal was warrior with ideals. He would never strike an enemy while their back was turned, it was not honorable.

The Neanderthal took notice of something while the vulture turned around. The bird was very powerful in its attacks, but most likely due to its immense size, it was limited in its mobility. Cik switched his grip on the blade to the reverse posture, a new strategy was forming within the mind of the seven-foot warrior. 

The vulture sounded its terrible shriek and made off to finish its enemy. Its wings stretched out as far as they could go, intent on intimidating the Neanderthal into submission. This time, Cik did not fear the dangerous bird of the sky. Once the culture had gotten close enough, Cik stepped to its side. In the briefest of instances, Cik grasped onto one of the vulture’s wings, pulled it down to the rock, and drove his brother’s dagger through the wing and into the rock below.

The vulture shrieked in pain. Its head shook back and forth, trying to make sense of what had just occurred. It began to stagger backwards, towards the edge of the rock ledge. The vulture failed to take off from the slab of rock as its left wing was held in place by the Neanderthal’s short blade.

Cik had been out of breath during the vulture’s initial distress but had now recomposed himself. He approached the vulture slowly, purposefully. The Neanderthal halted when he was merely inches away from the dangerous bird of the sky. Cik meet its gaze, the Neanderthal could only see hate behind its eyes. Cik had never seen such evil in a creature before. There was complete darkness and emptiness in those eyes with no sign of light. It was in that instant that Cik knew what he wanted to do next. The vulnerable creature would not hurt or kill anyone else.

The Neanderthal lifted his bare foot and placed it on the Vulture’s midsection. It appeared that the creature was about to shriek. Cik didn’t give it a chance to do so. With a violent kick, the creature slid off the slab, tearing its wing from its injured body in the process. Cik watched in silence as the vulture rapidly descended into the dark abyss. The thud was barely audible but was reassuring to the Neanderthal’s ears.

The Neanderthal reached the top of the rock cliff several moments later. The snowstorm had passed, the surrounding area appeared placid. The sun was above the horizon, ready to slip underneath that line. The color of the sky was a sweet red-orange, similar to a raw tangerine, and without a cloud in sight. Cik took a look around him, trying to locate another sign of his brother’s trail. The snow beneath him didn’t indicate anything. The recent storm had most likely wiped away any sign of travel or activity. The only thing that was worth checking out was a distant red light, miles in the distance. Without much else to go on, Cik followed the light.

Worry started to creep into Cik’s mind. He had been searching for Jor for a long while now and still hadn’t turned up anything of promise, only distant clues. Clues that lead him to danger at every possible turn. The Neanderthal was fully aware of Jor’s capabilities, he would be no match for what Cik had faced.

Cik brushed away his concerns and concentrated on what was laid out in front of him. Cik drew near to the red light that he had spotted at the cliff. He then entered a patch of luscious, green trees, shortly beyond that was a small primitive village. It was alien to Cik as his people’s villages looked completely different. The red light turned into a large bonfire with erratic movement around it. With each new step, Cik could make out the shape of a crowd of men. It appeared that they were dancing around the large fire, performing some ritual. Something was wrong.

Cik reached the outskirts of the village and hid by a couple of large trees. He didn’t want his presence to be revealed. A funny scent met the Neanderthal’s nostrils, some kind of meat was cooking in the bonfire. Cik’s nose scrunched in disgust by that scent. He had never smelled roasted meat similar to that before. With curiosity, Cik snuck a peek at the ritual being performed at the bonfire.

Short, bearded men, painted in blood, danced around the great fire. No music accompanied the dance, just loud growls and shouting. In that bonfire was a human body roasting on a wooden spit. It no longer looked human; it was burnt past recognition. The Neanderthal felt a pain in his stomach, he had encountered a group of Habillisans.

The Habillisans were the among the first men to come into existence. During the old times, five human races co-existed with each other. The invention of stone tools and the discovery of fire were credited to that race. They were very primitive in their behavior and did not take too kindly to those who were outside of their collective. One of the worst of their tendencies was cannibalism. Wanderers would be captured and later prepared for an evening meal. Simply put, a war-like people that thought very little of their actions. A nightmare to civilization.

Following this discovery, Cik stealthily retreated from the two trees. He was intent on finding his way around the Habillisan tribe, so that he could continue his long search. It was without a doubt that Jor would have the sense not to meddle with such a dangerous tribe of primitive men. He stopped himself when he spotted something vaguely familiar. One the largest Habillisans, dancing around the bonfire, was wearing a garment that the Neanderthal had seen before. Cik backtracked, moving in closer. Upon further inspection, Cik realized that he had seen that garment worn before. It was Jor’s most valued cloak, a gift from a huntsman from one of the southern groups. Cik’s eyes widened with newfound understanding. The corpse burning over the bonfire was Jor, his lost brother.

A fury not like any other that the Neanderthal had experienced, had awakened. The lion which Cik had kept at bay for much of his life, was emerging from its cave. Cik’s black eyes narrowed, a gaze that could slice through gems and diamonds with ease.

The Neanderthal stood to his full height, unafraid of the cannibalistic monsters around the fire. This time, he did not use stealth to approach the Habillisans, he no longer cared if they saw him. Cik knew that he was at a disadvantage since his spear and dagger were no longer with him. It was of no concern, Cik knew that he could easily correct that. The mixture of adrenaline and rage enabled the Neanderthal to feel a power in himself that he would not have access to, normally.

The sun had now disappeared from the sky, the only light emanating was the large bonfire. The area seemed to be inked in a soft, red gleam.

With a ferocious effort, Cik tore the last tree in the forest up from its roots and held it over his head. The Neanderthal strained a few paces forward. In desperation, Cik hurled the great tree at the group of dancers around the fire. The tree must have traveled a hundred yards or so through the air before slamming into its target. It was as if a cannonball had been launched by a catapult. The impact was devastating to a small cluster of Habillisans, three or four were crushed under the weight of the great tree.

Obviously, the rest of the Habillisan men were caught off guard by the attack. The remaining four Habillisans scattered, trying to locate their means of defense. Cik sprinted toward one Habillisan and struck with a flurry of fists. The man’s eyes glossed over after one, last mighty uppercut to the chin. He fell to the Earth, never to get up again.

Cik heard a dumb pair of battle cries from behind him. The Neanderthal spun around to face the two new aggressors. Both carried bludgeons in their hands, probably wanting the Neanderthal dead. Cik didn’t fulfill the wishes of his enemies. The shorter of the two Habillisans reached Cik first and swung for his legs. Cik jumped away from the blow and countered with a kick to the man’s throat. The Habillisan dropped the bludgeon and fell to his knees, gasping for air. The other Habillisan moved around his friend and managed to hit Cik near the shoulder. A trickle of blood oozed from Cik’s collarbone. Angered by his lapse in defense, Cik picked up the dropped bludgeon and parried the next strike. Cik and the other Habillisan exchanged strikes with one another. Each one brought them closer together. Eventually, Cik got the upper hand and struck the primitive brute on the head several times. The Habillisan collapsed due to the repeated blows.

Cik, desiring to conclude business with the other aggressor, but found him motionless. Satisfied that all was taken care of, Cik went to find the last man in the Habillisan party.

The center of the small, makeshift village was quiet. Cik figured that the last man was concealing himself in all likelihood. Coward. Neanderthal passed by a couple of dwellings but found no sign of life inside.

Cik was about to pull apart the entire village in search of the last man when that individual pounced on the Neanderthal’s back without warning. This man was like a panther, striking its prey from the shadows. The Habillisan put Cik into a chokehold, both of the man’s arms were clasped around the Neanderthal’s neck tightly. Cik coughed twice because of the lack of air entering his lungs. The Habillisan cackled, enjoying the gift from the element of surprise.

Having enough of his predicament, Cik flipped the man over roughly. The Habillisan man landed on his back, unable to counterattack. Cik gradually got his feet underneath him, massaging his injured shoulder while doing so. This is when the Neanderthal finally got a chance to see his last enemy for the first time. The last Habillisan wore the garment which was stolen from Jor. Presumably taken at the hour of Jor’s death.

The Habillisan was grinning for some reason that Cik would never be able to ascertain. The Neanderthal would not have bothered if presented with that choice. Cik knelt down, took the man’s ape like head with his hands, and snapped it backwards. The neck broke like a stick. The Habillisans body went limp, the grin still fixed on the face. The Neanderthal threw the head down disrespectfully and took back the garment which didn’t belong to the primitive man in the first place.

Cik stood once again, eyes glued to the wonderful cloth in his hands. The Neanderthal wept to himself in that brief moment. Tears ran down his face and splattered on his brother’s cloak. His brother had been foolish, but he did not deserve to die in the manner in which he did. That thought would be in the back of Cik’s mind for the rest of his days.

The Neanderthal recomposed himself and set off to extract the bones from the body of his younger brother. Cik removed the spit from the fire, holding the body with care. It was set inside within one of the dwellings. Cik did the task slowly, making certain that each bone was accounted for. His brother did not die well, the least that Cik could do for him now was to give him an honorable burial. The Neanderthal wished for Jor to make a peaceful journey from one life to the next.

Cik procured the last bone from the corpse a good deal of time later. The Neanderthal placed the bone with the rest and wrapped them into a brown cloth. He secured the cloth with some abandoned rope that he had found in that same dwelling. He then placed the package into a bag. Cik threw the bag over his shoulder and went to center of the small village.

There was a sense of melancholy in the air while Cik extinguished the flame which ended the life of his brother. The Neanderthal reflected on his journey as he watched the flames stifle. The flames finally died out and Cik was left standing in complete darkness. Feeling that it was appropriate, Cik spoke in his native tongue, “Goodbye, my brother. You will always be remembered; I stake my life on it.”

The Neanderthal bid one final goodbye before leaving the pit of ash, returning home.

 

 


Submitted: January 17, 2022

© Copyright 2022 David Andric Nelson. All rights reserved.

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