When the tribe came across a lightning-blasted female elephant and calf, it drove away the multitude of sea, land, and air life and carved up the bodies for itself. Kickaha took some large cuts but put off eating them. When “night” came he piled branches and twigs to make a fire and he fashioned a bow-drill to start a fire. The others gathered around to watch. He worked away until the friction of the drill generated smoke, then added twigs and presently had a small fire going.
Kickaha borrowed a flint knife and cut off some smaller portions. After cooking a piece of leg and letting it cool off, he began eating as if he’d never stop. The chief and shaman accepted his invitation to dine. Though they were suspicious of cooked meat, their fears were overcome by the savory odors.
“Did the Lord teach you how to make that great heat?” Oshullain said.
“No. Where I come from all people know how to make this … fire. We call it fire. In fact, your ancestors knew how to make fire. But you have forgotten how to do it.”
“I think that your ancestors, when first brought here, must have wandered for many generations before finding a sea-land. By then the scarcity of wood had made your people forget all about fire. Still, I can’t understand why you didn’t re-invent fire-making when you did find the sea-land, which has plenty of trees.”
He didn’t say that the most primitive of humans had had fire. Wergenget might have thought he was insulting him. Which he was.
He thought about Urthona. What a sadist he was. Why, if he had to make a world and then place humans on it, had he set up such a barebones world? The potentiality of Homo sapiens could not be realized if it had almost nothing to work with. Also, the necessity to keep on the move, the never-ending changing of the earth, the limiting of human activity to constant travel while at the same time seeking for food and water, had reduced them almost to the level of beasts.
Despite which, they were human. They had a culture, one which was probably more complex than he thought. The riches of which he would learn when he became proficient in the language and knew both the customs of the tribe and its individual members.
He said, “Fires are also good for keeping the big beasts away at night. I’ll show you how to keep the fires fed.”
The chief was silent for a while. Besides his food, he was digesting a new concept. It seemed to be causing him some mental unease. After a while he said, “Since you are the favored of the Lord, and this tribe is to be yours, you wouldn’t bring in any evil to us? Would you?”
Kickaha assured him that he wouldn’t-unless the Lord told him to do so.
The chief rose from his squatting position and bellowed orders. In a short while, there were a dozen large fires around the perimeter of the camp. Sleep, however, didn’t come easily to it. Some big cats and dogs, their eyes shining in the reflected light, prowled around the edges of the camp. And the Thana weren’t sure that the fires wouldn’t attack them after they went to sleep. However, Kickaha set an example by closing his eyes, and his simulated snores soon told everybody that he, at least, wasn’t worried. After awhile the children slept, and then their elders decided that it was safe.
In the morning Kickaha showed the women how to cook the meat. Half of the tribe took to the new way of preparing food with enthusiasm … The other decided to stick to eating the meat raw. But Kickaha was certain that before long the entire tribe, except for some dietary diehards, would have adapted.
He wasn’t too sure, though, that he should have introduced cooking. When the storm season started again, the tribe would have to go outside the great valley again. Out there, because of the scarcity of firewood, it would have to eat its meat raw again. They might become discontented, then resentful and frustrated because they could do nothing to ease their discontent.