It's East Africa, eight thousand years ago. Hiywan of the Five Trees Clan is out hunting antelope to feed her people, when there's a weird pop, a flash of light... and a short, white-skinned blond-haired woman in jeans and t-shirt is standing there looking rather bewildered.
That's what happened in the predecessor to this story, Last To Ancient First. In this sequel, we pick up the story as Hiywan and Buffy arrive back at the Five Trees campsite...
Characters: Hiywan (the First Slayer before she became a Slayer), Buffy. See here for a glossary of original characters.
Wordcount: 21,642. This chapter 1510
Rating: 15 (R) (Non-explicit references to sex, nudity, animal deaths, various bodily functions, nature being red in tooth and claw, etc.)
Note: the fic title is a quote from 4.21 'Primeval'.
It was still only the early afternoon by the time we got home. I'm never usually this quick when I'm carrying prey, but with Buffy's help we made light work of it. In fact, I'm pretty sure she could have carried the antelope all the way back to camp herself, but I didn't want to feel useless. So, we rigged my spear as a carrying pole, tied the deer under it, and toted it back together over our shoulders. The silence oppressed me, so I started chatting to my companion, even though I knew she couldn't understand a word I said. Maybe she'd recognise my tone of voice at least. She said a few things back, though I wasn't really sure if she was answering me or talking to herself.
As we made our way through the belt of woodland that surrounded the camp, I could already hear the children playing. Apparently they'd invented a game that required about thirty of them to scream, shout, yell and shriek at the tops of their voices all at once. Constantly. I winced, suddenly longing for the silence I'd just scorned, and remembering why I preferred to stay out hunting until nearer sunset. Usually by that time they'd generally tired themselves out. But Buffy looked surprised, then smiled in chagrin and said something to herself. Before long we'd rounded the last patch of vegetation and the clearing where the camp was laid out stood in front of us.
Sure enough, there were kids rampaging all through the gaps between the shelters and chasing each other to and fro, watched tolerantly by a few of the adults. They were dusty, mostly naked - since there's no point in using up good leather on someone who'll tear or destroy it inside a week - and had enough energy that even I, who'd been a child myself less than three years ago, felt exhausted watching them. Then one of them looked over and saw us approaching, She started to smile at me... then her eyes grew huge as she looked past me at my companion. She whimpered, and then she screamed in terror. Some of the other children looked around at that, saw us, and promptly panicked as well. There was a headlong rush to get away from us, and lots more screaming and crying; and the mothers grabbed up their children or hastened them to safety.
This was not what I'd bargained for.
I looked over at Buffy, and saw a stunned look on her face. She also seemed near to tears, hurt and bewildered by the reaction to her appearance; and in that moment I made up my mind that she wasn't any threat to our clan. Not if that's how she felt at the idea that our children were scared of her.
But I only had a moment for that reflection, because a crowd of the men was quickly gathering to react to the threat, carrying whatever weapons they could grab. I dropped my spear - with the antelope still tied to it - and spread my arms wide. I didn't want this to turn ugly.
"What's going on?"
"What is that thing?"
"Hiywan, what's happened? Are you hurt?"
"Is it dangerous?"
They gathered around us in a semicircle, spears ready, but made no move to get too close. I did my best to reassure them, but I'm afraid my voice cracked a little with nerves.
"It's all right. S-she's a person, she's w-with me. Her name's Buffy."
I looked over at her, and our eyes met as she gazed directly back at me. Gone was any trace of her recent misery; now she was all taut alertness and determination. But she remained still, poised; I got the impression she was waiting for me to take the lead. I gulped.
"I-I'm taking her to Grandmother Heran. This is Guardian business."
"You want to let this thing-"
"She's a person!" I snapped back, forgetting my nervousness in my indignation. The speaker - it was Fedaku - backed down.
"Sorry. You want to bring her into our camp? Can you stand guarantee for her? Is she even human?"
"Yes! I - uh..." Honesty was always one of my problems. "I, uh, think so anyway. I'm not sure." I rallied, sensing the moment was slipping away. "That's why I need to take her to Grandmother!"
"It's the chieftain's business, letting strangers into the camp."
A new voice broke into the conversation, deep and stern. "Yes, I believe it is. Hiywan, what exactly do you think you're playing at here?"
I flinched. Belaye had come up behind the crowd of men, and they parted before him to let him through. He marched right up to me, planting his feet wide apart and his hands on his hips, and scowled down at me. "Explain yourself!"
I looked up at him and tried my best not to feel intimidated. It wasn't easy.
"I m-met her out hunting. She's a Guardian, like me, b-but from a far distant clan." (I was guessing that part, but given her bizarre appearance, clothing and language, it seemed a likely assumption.) "Y-you have to grant her shelter, by our law..."
"I 'have to' do nothing of the sort, especially not just to suit your whim. Is she a threat to us? Why shouldn't we just kill her here and now?"
"I, uh, don't think that's a good idea." I'd seen the casual strength she used to snap off a branch as thick as my wrist, or to run down and kill a fleeing antelope. I could see right now her deceptive stillness as she stood waiting, surrounded by a dozen armed men. She didn't seem to feel threatened by them one bit. If anything, it seemed like I should be afraid for the men. I took a deep breath, tried to emulate her attitude.
"I claim shelter and fire-right for her, in the name of Teferi the Feared One. N-not even you can deny that, chieftain."
He looked like he was going to anyway... but then Buffy herself chose that moment to act at last. She turned, picked up the antelope's body by the scruff of its neck - in one hand - and held it up, saying something challenging in her own language. She pointed to herself, at me, then at the antelope, then mimed stabbing it. Taking her cue - and starting to realise her intention - I hastily translated.
"It's true. She killed it herself. Um, with my help but she landed the final blow. It's her kill."
There was a mutter of surprise and speculation. Then Buffy stalked forward, laid the carcass at Belaye's feet, and stepped back. She pointed to it, then to him, then a circling gesture indicating everyone, and made an open-hand pushing forward gesture. Take it, it's yours. Then she stepped back, folded her arms across her chest and stared at the chieftain levelly.
I felt like jumping in the air and yelling in triumph. I don't know if she knew our laws after all or it was just a lucky guess; but she'd given him a gift that he had to reciprocate. She'd proven she could help support the clan; and that entitled her to clan-right, not just shelter and fire.
Belaye recognised it too, although he didn't have to like it. But he said the words graciously enough. Then there was an awkward silence, until I said Buffy's name and when she looked at me, repeated it while pointing to her, indicating my mouth, and then to the chieftain. It took another repetition and gesture before she got it, but then she formally told him her name, and added some other things in her own language. That word 'Slayer' was among them. Belaye ended the ritual by turning to the others gathered around and repeating her name and the formula "So long as she dwells among us in peace, she is our clan-sister." There was a mutter of assent.
Belaye looked at me then. "You'll take responsibility for our new guest." It wasn't a question. Then he shook his head and gave a long-suffering sigh. He looked around, saw Assefe and beckoned him over. "Take Buffy's kill to the butchering ground."
Assefe pouted - nobody liked going there, it can smell worse than the latrine at midday when animals are being prepared. But he picked up the antelope dutifully. I was secretly pleased to see him struggle under the weight, though he tried to hide it. As he left, Belaye turned majestically and made his way back towards the heart of the campsite. The rest of the crowd dispersed after him, turning many backward glances our way and muttering to each other.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief, my knees feeling suddenly wobbly beneath me. To my surprise Buffy put her hand on my shoulder and squeezed, saying something that sounded encouraging. I smiled at her gratefully.
"Come on, clan-sister. Let's go find Grandmother. See if she knows what to do with you."
On to Chapter Two