It was late at night when the light exploded in the north sky and then shot across the heavens, leaving a luminous green trail behind. It seemed almost to growl as it passed overhead and to roar when it hit the Earth over the southern horizon.
The small band of Aurignacian hunter-gatherers watched it with their mouths open and their hearts full of fear and confusion. They knew the sky and the stars; Comets and meteors were nothing new to them, but this was something else.
They went to the elder.
The old man stayed deep in the cave, where it was warmest, lit by a small fire and surrounded by images of animals rubbed onto the walls with colored clay and ground-up beetles.
His long hair was white as the freshly fallen snow, and his face was brown and weathered, lined with wrinkles and crevasses like the side of an ancient mountain.
By the dim light of the fire his eyes seemed to glow with wisdom. The old man was revered. The tribe knew his immense importance: though the body deteriorates, the mind grows more powerful.
They went to him and asked him about the roaring light in the sky.
The elder shook his head. He closed his eyes for a moment. “I have a memory,” the old man started. “I was a young boy, too small to be a part of it, but old enough to remember.”
He opened his eyes and scanned the people gathered around him: brave hunters who wore their scars like ornaments, mothers with bellies curved like that of the first goddess, little children destined to keep this memory for their descendents the way the old man had.
“I was old enough to remember the stories and the bodies of dead brothers that returned. I was old enough to know that the hunters had saved us all that day, even you who were not yet born.”
“Light flashed across the sky like a star fallen to earth, but the light roared like the cave lion and growled like the wolf pack. The light hides the pod. It is the godspore, sent from above to seed this world with new deities, dark deities.”
The mothers gasped, the hunters grunted, and the children watched the old man in awe.
“The hunters went to face the newborn god, to kill it while it was still weak. Many died at the hands of the dark one, but the hunters fought bravely, pleasing the first goddess, and she smiled upon them and gave them strength.”
There was a moment of complete silence in the cave.
“Now the godspore falls again, and hunters must be sent. The new god cannot be allowed to grow into power or it will be the end of us all.”
The elder paused and considered the darkness at the mouth of the cave.
“Four must be sent, one for each of the four winds. Some of you will die, but your death will be that of the great bear in winter, destined to wake at some distant thaw.”
All of the tribe’s hunters stepped forward. Ten men stood before the elder and he looked each one over. “He of the hair like hot embers…” A young man, his hair a brilliant shade of red, stepped forward, separating himself from the other hunters. “He of the bear claw…” Another man, this one older and marked by long, thick scars across his chest, stepped forward. “He of the stone ax…” Another man, the youngest of all the hunters, stepped forward.
The old man examined the remaining choices by the dancing light of the fire. “He of the eyes like water…” The final hunter stepped forward, his blue eyes shining in the firelight.
“Journey south and find the seed. The infant god must die. You hunt now to protect your families, your people, and even the first goddess. Fight for her and she will smile upon you.”
The chosen four looked at each other. The elder had not chosen the most experienced or the biggest, nor had he chosen he of the hair like night, the best hunter in the tribe.