Age of Obsidian

In 10,027 B.C.E, or years Before the Common Era, a boy named Kediak was born to a family who lived in a permanent village near Lake Van.  The area was at the doorstep of a dormant volcano and his family made a living recovering, crafting, and selling obsidian to traders from all over Eurasia.

Kediak was proud of his family occupation, but like all villagers he had no idea of the origin of his species.  There was no written history for him to access and so many thousands of generations had already passed by then that it had passed even beyond myth and legend.  He had no idea that his species had evolved from apes in order to survive the predators on the grasslands of South Africa.  The glaciers in the north and the deserts in the south had been around for tens of thousands of years, far longer than any tribal memory could hope to retain.  Even their ebb and flow happened so slowly that no one was aware of it.

All he knew was the world that had been in existence for as long as anyone did know.  It was a world divided by environments, with different groups of people adapting clothing, food, and art based on their surroundings.  It was a world where flint was common weapon, and obsidian was rare and valued as the best cutting tool.  Kediak lived in a time where cunning and strategy were necessary elements in survival against the predators, prey, and elements all around the world.  It was only in the few villages located around precious resources, like obsidian, where life was relatively easy.

Kediak’s father had been a hunter from the north.  Among them, the men were six feet tall and were heavier of build than the more agrarian and less mobile inhabitants of the equatorial region.  He was half a head taller than that.  Even in middle age, his body was still tightly muscled.  In his early manhood he had come down to Lake Van in order to trade for obsidian.  There he had met Kediak’s mother.  The pair had fallen in love immediately.  When they had finished trading, he had left his comrades and stayed behind.  Kediak’s mother was a happy woman with a sparkle in her eye and a devilish grin on her lips.  She adored her mate, and rewarded him each day for the sacrifice he had made with her spontaneity and tenderness.  She could often be found racing anyone and everyone she came across.

Kediak was unaware that his was a stable life, and that many of those he traded with were constantly on the move.  He knew only that he was proud of his family, and of their profession.  As such, he was motivated to learn from them so that he could pass on their traditions.  Each day his mother would explore a different area of the nearby mountains.  Often he would come with, learning how to find the valuable glass that was at the center of their lives.  More often he would stay at home, with his father.  There he was taught the knapping techniques that had been used on flint since time immemorial, and with it he would master the art of making a blade from obsidian.

Kediak knew languages too.  His home village was a trading center.  Representatives of different cultures exposed him to dozens of foreign tongues on a daily basis, and occasionally he would hear one of another few dozen.  He soon picked up an affinity for learning them, and by the time he was fifteen Kediak spoke twelve and could be understood in another twenty.

Kediak was also self-motivated.  By the time he was ten, he was going off on trading ventures, and by twelve he had not only learned knapping, but was experimenting with new ways to use the blades he was crafting.  He was also selling his work on his own.  He was not much older than that when he was coming back to his village one evening:

Kediak was strolling along, allowing his feet to follow the familiar path home as he was lost in thought about the pretty girl in the next village, and how he was going to fashion his next piece just to impress her.  It was dusk at that point, so he did not notice right away as the atmosphere grew thick.  He was only torn away from his thoughts some moments later when he realized he was having trouble breathing.

With a scowl and a forced breath he decided it was probably an allergy.  He knew the village apothecary would have a cure; it was only a matter of enduring the tightness in his chest until he could get there.  Continuing on, he came in sight of his village within a hundred more steps.  The smoke, he was sure it was smoke now, was hanging overhead.  It was palpable there, and he could see thick rivers of bright orange and red making their way inexorably through the lanes between houses.  They did not slow for wood, rock, or even animals.  Now he realized it was lava, saw too that it had already run over his home.  As he drew closer he found people lying on the ground covered in ash.  

He froze, his mind taking a few moments to digest the fact that all of his connections to this world had burned away or would be gone in seconds.  It took longer for him to accept that there was nothing he could do to change anything.  His parents, his friends, even the familiar infestation of toads that had been all over the settlement, were gone.  The tears he felt streaming down his cheeks were cool, but they tasted like ashes.  In a gut-wrenching moment, he realized they were the only thing of this dead life that he could take away.

Angry, afraid, confused, and choking, he ran.  He ran till the steaming pit of lava was out of sight and beyond the furthest village he knew of.  He ran till no one had even heard of his parents.  He ran till hunger and fatigue forced him to stop.  And then something in him calmed; an epiphany.  He could never go home, not emotionally, not physically, not ever.  He would have to learn to live on his own.  He would need to adapt if he was going to survive.

So he set about learning.  Through trial and error he learned what fruits and legumes he could eat, and what would make him sick.  He watched wolves and tigers hunt and used what he could.  He traded his remaining obsidian for money and pointed conversations with hunters.  When he could bear it, he returned to his parents’ grave and mined obsidian.

In time, he sought out large populations where he could disappear into a crowd – fishing villages and mining towns.  There he truly learned of commerce.  At first he was often cheated because he was young and had no friends; that the weak got trampled was a lesson drilled into him early and often.  To get even, and to feed himself, he learned to steal and cheat in turn.  As he grew older and more experienced, he became more adept at reading people and manipulating them.  Long before he had a man’s body, he had learned the ways of the human world.  By the time he was full-grown, he knew he could barter, sell, or steal anything he wanted.

No matter what he learned or how far away he roamed, however, he never forgot where he came from, or the lessons he had learned there.  Kediak had developed a good knowledge of obsidian, and he cherished it.  As an adult no matter where he went or what he did, he always had obsidian blades and uncut glass.

In a time where family and tribe were an individual’s sole claim to identity, Kediak’s isolation has made him unique.  He became an opportunist only because he had no family to help him and no community to rely on.  In a world where only survivors will have a chance of living, he has learned to endure without the support of others.  Through his will, observation, trial, and error he has developed into the hardiest human being in the world.  Necessity has made him strong and cunning.  Experience has given him a knowledge of cultures.  His instincts have made him one of the most feared beings to ever walk the Earth.

However, in the Holocene world there are sentient beings whose abilities dwarf his.  These humans are hidden among the population.  They have the power to heal with touch, athletic abilities beyond that of Olympic champions, mental powers no human could imagine, and bodies that do not age.  Some people know what they are and what they can do.  Many others are ignorant or could never comprehend their power; they see only magic and stand in awe of those who can control it.  For this majority, theirs is a time dominated by the supernatural.  These ‘supermen’ are symbols of their magical world.  But unlike Ciarnech, they have no desire for fear or admiration.  They do not care about money.  They are happy to hide in the shadows and only show themselves when needed.  They see themselves only as caretakers of mankind.

The year is now 10,004 B.C.E.  In a short while, the last ice age will be over.  The coasts will recede several miles and the crashing waves of the world’s oceans will destroy many of the most heavily populated regions on Earth.  The Mediterranean area will be flooded by the Atlantic, submerging a land bridge between Italy and Tunisia and merging two seas into one that will span hundreds more miles than they had as separate bodies.  The drastic change in geography will fundamentally alter the entire region.  Kediak and the world he has known will be smothered decisively and without warning.

On a larger scale, the returning waters that bury the “Atlantean Civilization” will wash away the prehistoric age and create a vacuum in which the cultures that are known to history will be able to develop.  The earth will grow more balanced, and life will become easier for many.  Once the transition is made, the immortals will no longer be needed and so will quietly disappear from human civilization.

But that time has not come just yet.  Even now at the end of their era, they nurture creativity and the development of culture.  They shape the activities and talents they come across in order to help enhance the human condition.  They still seek to transform civilization from nomadic to sedentary, from dependent on the planet to living in harmony with it.

In place of these superior beings, our ancestors will find their own direction.  The sword will be forged and horses domesticated.  Farming, domestication, and eventually alcohol will be developed.  The world as we know it will eventually emerge, full of the vitality and activity we are familiar with.  But all these things are still millennia away in this age, and not even a wild fantasy for the people who will see the end of the Ice Age.

For now, civilization focuses around the Mediterranean and other regions near the equator; that narrow belt of land between glacier and desert that offers the only fertile soil on Earth.  That quality was remembered even after the great flood, for Mediterranean means ‘Middle Earth’.

Because the area around the equator is the only place on Earth without either glacier or desert to contend with, it is also the area with the most cultures, the greatest density of people, and a vast majority of the most powerful individuals on earth.  For Kediak and other wanderers, it is the place on Earth with the most opportunity.  And naturally, Kediak’s name is known there; he is feared as a ghost, a cunning thief, and on occasion as a useful fighter and hunter.  By contrast the immortals are revered, but not for their powers.  It is their wisdom and foresight that are so respected.

Despite all their good will and good work, in the end it will only be a memory of their godlike abilities that will survive in the public consciousness.  Even this will not be understood.  Memory of what they can do will rest in our collective memories, transforming this period into one of myth and magic from which order and reason eventually emerged.  When stories of these super beings are finally written down millennia later they will only be half-remembered, and greatly exaggerated.  As the centuries pass, those tales will generally be discredited as myth and legend.  In our age of reason and logic, we have told ourselves they are the exaggerations of unsophisticated and primal minds trying to explain the complex world they found themselves in.  We have been wrong.

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
This entry was posted in Comic book heroes, My publications, Prehistoric World, Robert Howard, Science Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s