The Lavalite World by Philip Jose Farmer. Chapter 9, 10, 11, 12

Prometheuses weren’t always beneficial.

That was their problem. He didn’t plan on being around when they left the valley.

In the “morning” the caravan went on the march again. Wergenget got them to moving faster than the day before. He was nervous because other tribes would be moving in, and he didn’t want his to run into one on the beach. Near the end of the day, they reached their goal. This was a high hill about a half a mile inland from the shore. Though it changed shape somewhat, like the rest of the land in the valley, it did so very slowly. And it always remained a hill, though its form might alter.

On its top was a jumble of logs. This had been the walls of a stockade the last time the tribe had seen it. The mutations of the hill had lifted the circular wall a number of times and had broken the vines which held it. The tribe set to work digging new holes with sticks and flint-tipped shovels, then reset the logs. Vines were cut and dragged in and bound to hold the logs together. By the end of the third day, the wooden fortress was restored. Within the walls were a number of leantos in which the families could take shelter from the rains and sleep in.

During the rest of the season the tribe would stay in here at night. During the day, various parties would sally out to fish and hunt and gather nuts and berries. Lookouts would watch for dangerous beasts or the even more dangerous humans.

But, before they started to rest and get fat, it was necessary to initiate Kickaha into the tribe.

This was a great honor, but it was also rough on the initiate. After a long dance and recitation of numerous chants and songs, during which drums beat and bone flutes shrilled, the chief used a flint knife to cut the identification symbols of the tribe on Kickaha’s chest. He was supposed to endure this without flinching or outcry.

Then he had to run a gauntlet of men, who struck at him with long sticks. Afterward, he had to wrestle the strongest man in the tribe, Mekdillong. He’d recovered entirely from his injuries by then, and he knew a hundred tricks Mekdillong was ignorant of. But he didn’t want to humiliate him, so he allowed it to appear that Mekdillong was giving him a hard time. Finally, tired of the charade, he threw Mekdillong though the air with a cross-buttock. Poor Mek, the wind knocked out of him, writhed on the ground, sucking for air.

The worst part was having to prove his potency. Impotent men were driven from the tribe to wander until they died. In Kickaha’s case, since he was not of the tribe born, he would have been killed. That is, he would have been if it wasn’t so evident that the Lord had sent him. But, as the chief said, if the Lord had sent him, then he wouldn’t fail.

Kickaha didn’t try to argue with this logic. But he thought that the custom was wrong. No man could be blamed for being nervous if he knew he’d be exiled or slain if he failed. The very nervousness would cause impotency.

At least, the Thana did not demand, as did some tribes, that he prove himself publicly. He was allowed to go into a leanto surrounded by thick branches set upright into the ground. He chose the best-looking woman in the tribe for the test, and she came out several hours later looking tired but happy and announced that he’d more than passed the test.

Kickaha had some pangs of conscience about the incident, though he had enjoyed it very much. He didn’t think that Anana would get angry about this trifling infidelity, especially since the circumstances were such that he couldn’t avoid it.

However, it would be best not to mention this to her.

That is, if he ever found her.

That was the end of the trials. The chief and the shaman each chanted an initiation song, and then the whole tribe feasted until their bellies swelled and they could scarcely move.

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