Anualla is “born walking,” as her people say, while the family, the people of the Deer Clan, travels to their winter campgrounds. She is immediately wrapped against her mother’s chest to protect her from the cold. Her mother nurses her frequently, and is given extra food to ensure she and the baby will survive.
The family reaches the hunting grounds several days later, and set up camp. They build huts from animal hides and slender tree trunks, and a central fire for the family to gather. Anualla is blessed by the shaman, and given her name, which means Flower Belly, for the red birthmark on her lower belly, and thighs.
She spends the majority of her day strapped to her mother’s chest, while her mother carries on with her daily chores. As soon as Anualla can walk, she learns to do these same chores, gathering wild berries, roots, nuts and eggs, and catching small animals, such as lizards, rodents and spiders. As she grows older, she learns how to butcher and skin animals, sew fur into clothes, knap tools from stone, and weave plant fibers into baskets and shoes.
The family has no domesticated animals but for a few dogs, the descendants of wild beasts that began following them around many generations prior. The hunters have trained the dogs to aid in bringing down small game.
Most of the family’s food is gathered from the wild. Large scale hunts are carried out every few days, by the fittest men and women. The elderly, and pregnant and nursing women do the gathering, maintaining the settlement, and tending to the children.
At night, the family gathers around the fire, to share food, tell stories and play games. All engage in ritualistic fights, designed for show rather than injury, as well as dancing and singing. Everyone sleeps close together, for warmth and comfort.
Anualla grows up alongside half a dozen other children, including a boy a few years older than her, named Araka, and a girl named Juna, a year younger.
Anualla’s earliest and clearest memory is of seeing her youngest aunt go into heat. The young woman grows flush, and begins to moan and liquid drips down her thighs. She is quickly hurried away, even as the men begin to act erratically. They younger men attack each other, nothing like the carefully laid out fights Anualla is used to, but full out violence. Anualla huddles, frightened, with the other children, while the women dispel the fighting by lighting smokeweed.
The violence dispels quickly, once the men are no longer exposed to the young woman’s pheromones. It has already been worked out who will father the fertile woman’s child. The fathering, and even mothering of children is dictated by social position, determined by what one contributes to the band and who one is mated to.
Anualla, at her young age, knows little about such things. She watches, fascinated, as the chosen man is led off into the forest to where the young woman has been hidden.
Anualla’s curiosity does not compel her this time, but after witnessing several such events, she and a few of her age mates follow after to see what happens.
The children have witnessed a great deal of sexual activity, though as children they are not permitted to engage in it. It is common among the tribe for adult women to hug, kiss, and touch and rub their genitals together, and adult men to do the same, to satisfy sexual urges and strengthen family bonds. The family members never engage in these acts with the opposite sex, having little to no attraction when they are not in heat.
What Anualla and her age mates see the night they spy on a mating is something wholly different then what they are used to, even worse than what they’ve seen the family dogs doing. The sight terrifies Anualla, and she fears becoming a woman.
Years pass, and Anualla eventually witnesses many matings. Though her fear never dies, it fades in the face of day to day life. There are new babies to help care for, chores to tend to, and games to play. Anualla learns the dances and songs of the Deer Clan, songs about their tribal god, the White Stag, and about the spirits of the earth, animals and water. In Anualla’s tenth year, the family’s medicine woman, Anualla’s great aunt, takes Anualla and Juna as her apprentices.
That same year, the family travels to the edge of Deer Clan territory, where they meet with several other families. The gathering lasts for several months, during which time the people exchange knowledge, stories and trade supplies. Anualla and Juna learn a great deal from the medicine women of the other tribes. Matings are also held, to spread the blood of the various families, and pair bondings are arranged. Anualla’s older brother and one of her uncles are sent to live with a new family, and two men from other families came to travel with hers. Woman will generally remain and create pair bondings with the family of their birth.
When the gathering ends, two women of Anualla’s family are pregnant.
Being apprenticed together, Anualla and Juna grow even closer. They begin developing sexual urges, for now, directed only at the same sex, a trait born from generations of sexual bonding between women. The boys experience the same thing, forging their own bonds among each other. The children engage in some sexual play, acts encouraged when discovered by the adults, as long as they are between the same sex. Such play between boys and girls is strictly forbidden, to prevent accidental pregnancies.
Anualla is fifteen when she experiences her first heat. She panics at the sudden warmth in her skin, and begins to scream and cry. Her childhood fears rush back to her, and she is terrified of she will soon have to experience.
By tribe custom, she is still a child, and not allowed to mate. She is hustled away and hidden until the heat passes. The experience lasts nearly two days and it is painful and exhausting for her. Some days later, Anualla goes through a less frightening event; cramps, and bleeding. She is given pain killing bark to chew.
That night, the tribe holds a ceremony. Anualla’s face is painted with her own blood, and she is declared an adult of the tribe. Now considered one of the tribe woman, Anualla sleeps among them, and learns to establish bonds through grooming and sex.
Over the next few months, the family discusses which man Anualla will be mated with. She is not expected to have any say in these discussions, merely do as nature will dictate.
A few months later, she experiences heat again, and this time she is mated, to one of the older tribesman. The experiences lasts a couple of days, and Anualla remembers only extreme pain and a sense of having no control over her body. The older women warn her that mating is always that way. Over half a year later, Anualla gives birth to her first child. She is heart broken when the baby only lives a few days.
Life carries on. Juna experiences her first heat, and is declared a woman. Having been separated by their changed status, the two friends are happy to be free to bond as women of the tribe, and grow close again. Shortly after, Anualla experiences another heat, and is mated again to the same man.
Her second child survives, as do several more she has over the years, one with Araka. Now a Clan mother, Anualla earns more respect. She develops her skill as a medicine woman, and enjoys the passing years with her family. As she grows older, she attains the position of family elder, advisor and medicine woman alongside Juna. Juna passes away at the age of forty-three. Anualla is heart-broken for days at the loss of her closest friend and lover.
Years pass, and Anualla eventually takes on one of her granddaughters and one of Juna’s as apprentice medicine women.
As Anualla grows old, she develops arthritis, and has a difficult time walking. The tribe carries her as they travel across their territory. Anualla still continues to pass on her skill verbally, and guide her apprentices. However, her condition eventually takes a turn for the worse. She develops painful spasms that prevent from sleeping, and even keeping food down. Her family can see she is suffering. They are heartbroken, but understanding, when Anualla asks them to end her suffering.
Her granddaughter feeds her a powerful sleeping draught mixed with poison, and Anualla dies in her sleep. The tribe places her in a shallow grave, covering her with wild flowers, colorful rocks and leaves. Then they move on. Anualla is slowly forgotten, as her grandchildren, and great nieces and nephews grow old, and pass away.
The Deer Clan family continues on, for many generations, until another Clan, the people of the Eagle, invades their territory.