What Artists Are Like
Tokkor the Dreamer had been so named because he was a distracted hunter. He’d always been too aware of the way light glistened on trees and never aware enough of a slight movement that signalled that the mammoth press was pulling in his direction.
In the end he’d been made to stay home with his younger sister.
As a young man of about 12 he had left his home tribe and hooked up with the painters who had come by to illuminate the walls of his cavern, The Veseegee. Here he had made his reputation.
He had great talent both as an artist and a storyteller and now, 5 years on, he was pretty much the go-to man in his generation for a song, story or cavewall sketch of a fully rounded bison.
The Veseegee were famous from the Hot Lands to the Northern Forest and were in constant demand by chieftains wishing to promote their wealth and largesse. Their skills were held to be almost magical and, with their fashion for long hair, musicianship and imbibement of hallucinogenic roots they were very popular with the girls of the tribes they visited.
They would arrive at a new cave to great ceremony, so that neighbouring communities could see and hear. Then the local Chief would issue the standard verbal contract.
“You will paint 12 great animals upon the walls of the cave and repaint the rain damaged ones outside the cave. You will only draw the great animals of the plains, nothing else. Your best storytellers will come to our caverns at night and tell agreed stories of the hunt.
You will camp out of earshot of our settlement, what you do there is your own business, we will allow some of our unimportant women to visit you. We will provide you with grain, meat, furs, wine, berries, tools and jewels.
You will not hunt or fish or work for other tribes, you will not enter our caverns apart from to undertake the agreed work. Freelance painting, trade and liaison with women other than those provided is strictly prohibited. We know what artists are like!”
The chief would then bring out some wine.
But this time, at the ceremony, Tokkor had been promised by the chief’s own daughter, Raknar The beautiful, that she would lay with him if he drew her a picture of herself upon a dried animal skin. She had heard of the girls of the coast being so depicted.
They met on the rock above the village at dawn before anyone else was awake. He mixed pigments, with white guana and green leaf to achieve a remarkable approximation of Raknar’s youthful luminosity. She wore her best bracelets. With deft hands he bought to life the curve of her neck and breasts whilst she smiled at him in the way women who wanted to lay with you did. Both were elated by the moment, their own fertility and the danger of the situation.
So elated that neither noticed the twitch in the bushes or, until it had happened, the perfectly aimed stone arrowhead that split through Tokkor’s knee before he was dragged back to the caves for further punishment.
“If only he’d learned to hunt” grieved his mother when she heard of his death several days later.