The Howlers

The problems began seven turns after the great settling. 

At first, this spot by the winding river seemed ideal. Nature’s bounty abound with sumptuous fruits, hare and aurochs, seeds and striplings. 

After the decades-long trek from Africa, Lin’s people had found a home. 

Few of the tribe remembered the plains and savannah of their motherland. Lin himself, leader of the group, scarcely remembered it himself, being only a baby when the tribe left for their unknown destiny. 

His grandfather had led the exodus. When he perished, Lin’s father took on his duties. Lin himself followed. 

In the turns since, babes had been born, grown to maturity, and died, to be replaced by others. Songs were sung of them, tributes etched into stone, blood sacrifices made. They were with the Gods now. 

And Lin and his people had found their home, here on the banks of a river Lin had named for himself. 

The problems started with the howl. Every night for five consecutive nights, as the moon sat round at the heart of the sky, an unearthly howl carried on the breeze. 

The noise caused consternation amongst the tribe. It was only the beginning.

Soon, scouts uncovered strange rock carvings and red paint daubings. These were littered across the landscape. As the five nights of howling came to an end, new paintings began to appear, ever closer to the tribal encampment. 

The howlers were getting closer.

One night, they fell silent. The tribe began to settle into the natural rhythms of their new home, fishing in the river, scouting the woods for new sources of wood and nuts.

Twenty three turns later, and the howling began anew. 

On the final night of this latest round of howling, Lin sent a scout to investigate. The boy came back wan, with fear in his eyes. He reported that he had seen a group of monstrous women gathered on a hillside some distance away. They were almost human but, as the scout drew closer, he could see that they had strange features- a heavy brow, jutting jawline, and arms the width of tree trunks. The women collected the monthly blood from between their thighs and performed some bizarre ritual beneath the light of the moon. All the while, their menfolk were beholden to them.

Lin went immediately to Akkan, the tribal elder, one of the few men who had known- and advised- his grandfather in the early days of the exodus.

The old man reacted fearfully, his ancient, rheumy eyes wide. 

He had heard tell of such things before, he imparted to Lin. Women who are the chiefs of their tribes, who worship the blood and rise only at night. Akkan explained that the moon women would soon infiltrate the tribe and steal the womenfolk away.

The following day, Lin made an announcement to the tribe. Women in their bloods were to be locked away for the duration, until their fluids ran clear. They would be guarded by the menfolk for their own good, to keep them safe from the monsters of the moon. 

The scout had suggested that the moon women used their left hands, where Lin’s people used their right. Henceforth, he announced, we shall sacrifice the little finger of our left hand. Chop it off that the moon women cannot enter us through it.

The moon women were night-dwellers. Henceforth, none were to stray from the camp after darkness came, and the rising of the sun would be greeted with a cheer and a celebration. 

They worshipped the moon, these strange women. We shall worship the sun, for the moon is the vehicle of the sprites. 

The morning after making his announcement, Lin awoke to find that seven of the tribe’s women were gone, including his own sister. They had left to join the cult of the moon women, he surmised, gone to join the monsters, the Others. 

Very well, he decided, we shall round up our women and keep them in penury, to ensure they can never leave us. 

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