by J.H. Hayes
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Thirteen thousand years ago, as the Earth thawed from a prolonged deep freeze, people were scattered across the world, wandering from place to place, thriving by extracting sustenance from their surroundings. They shaped weapons and tools from rock, wood and bone. They plucked resources and nutrients from growing things and from the beasts around them. Some lived in caves, others in huts crafted from those same materials.
In the northern reaches of the Fertile Crescent, one band of humans was stepping beyond that pristine existence – the Natu. They were the first to seed the ground, creating a need to cease their nomadic traditions. Inexplicably, they also harvested huge stone slabs from the ground, erecting them in a completely bizarre manner.
For this tribe it was a time of transition. And like any period of change, new ways brought conflict. Advanced gods had descended, ones who threatened the old beliefs. Not everyone was convinced of the new gods’ superiority. Caught in this struggle is Azaria, a talented girl on the precipice of womanhood, stumbling through the harsh realities of growing responsibility, friendship and love.
Her father, Azerban, one of those tasked with leading the Natu in this renaissance, has more than his duties to attend to: an ill wife, a young son – the pride of his hearth – and the will of his tribe’s matriarch, a powerful shamaness who harbors an unnatural interest in his beloved daughter.