Hafrek is born beside the fire of his clan’s longhouse, clutching a clot of blood in one fist. The clan shaman and elders react with horror at the sight, and prayers and rituals are immediately performed to determine whether the baby should be abandoned as a bad omen.
The clan shaman ingests a hallucinogenic drug, and communes with the Old Elders, deceased elders of the clan, represented by their preserved skulls. Waking from his trance, he reveals that the baby should be spared.
Hafrek is blessed and given his name, meaning Elk Blood, in the hope that he will be a strong hunter. He is tattooed with the names of his clan, Jalorake, and parents.
The Jalorake clan is a large one, encompassing nearly a hundred members. Lineage is determined by the mother’s line, and most of the woman are related. Sons will usually be sent to live with other clans of the same tribe when they come of age.
Hafrek spends his first year strapped to a cradle board, and usually propped against a nearby tree trunk or hung from a branch while his mother works. He is unwrapped twice a day to be cleaned, and breastfed every few hours. His family begins offering him masticated food when he is around eight months old.
Shortly after he turns a year old, his mother begins taking him off the cradleboard several times a day so he can begin walking. Common practice is to prevent infants from crawling, as this is seen as animal like and unhealthy. Hafrek begins to walk at around thirteen months old.
The Jalorake clan spends the warmest part of the year in their settlement in a small forest, half a mile from a wide river. They sleep in animal hide tents, which can be opened up during the day, to let in sunlight and fresh air. The longhouse, the clan’s most permanent structure, is used for meals, meetings between the clan heads, and celebrations.
Hafrek helps his mother with her daily chores, weeding and tending to the family’s small, subsistence garden, gathering wild fruits, tubers and leaves, butchering animals and repairing their home. He wears no clothes, only a braided rope around his waist, from which his mother hangs spare tools, and Hafrek eventually hangs his own knife. Shells and carved wood totems are braided into his hair, and paints used on his face and body. Each symbol has a different meaning and purpose, for example, the carved eagle braided into his hair is intended to give him good vision.
In warm weather, hunts are carried out four times a month, during the new moon, half-moons and full moon. The clan hunters, including Hafrek’s mother once he is weaned, leave the forest for the plains several miles away, to hunt moose, elk, deer and wild boar. Hafrek receives a slingshot shortly after his fifth year, and practices hunting small game with the other clan children. Within a year he is bringing home meat almost every day for the clan.
Hafrek is cared for by the clan elders and shaman, who take on the role of educating the children in the ways of their people, as well as teaching them important life skills. Hafrek learns how to start a fire, butcher animals, weave and make tools.
During the winter, the clan travels south, and meets up with several other clans. Hafrek grows to love these winter celebrations, as he finds new friends to play with, and there are few chores during the winter months. The various clans meet to trade supplies, share stories, and adopt young men.
Pair bonding is used to bring new blood into clans, because mating between men and women too closely related is strictly prohibited. The plains people define close relations as sharing a female relative, i.e. a man could be mated to a woman if they share the same father but have different mothers. The practice of adopting men keeps that sort of thing from happening too much, as men are sent to live among clans they are not related to. Hafrek sees his youngest uncle adopted, while his clan adopts a new young man.
When the weather warms, the clans return to their hunting grounds, saying their goodbyes until they meet again the next year.
Around age ten, Hafrek is given clothes for the first time, an animal hide skirt that hangs from his belt. The elders start educating him on matters related to sexuality such as entering manhood, bonding sex, and procreative sex. Otherwise, his life goes on as normal.
At fourteen, Hafrek ejaculates for the first time and realizes he is entering puberty. He tells his mother, who alerts the clan’s shaman. Hafrek is taken far away from the family settlement to fast and meditate. After two days, Hafrek is given a powerful hallucinogenic drug called Five Leaves, and experiences horrifying hallucinations, interspersed with periods of paralysis, in the hope that he will commune with the spirits and receive their blessings and strength. The experience lasts a full day. When the drug wears off, Hafrek is instructed not to speak, and given alcohol and a thin porridge to eat.
He returns to the tribe a few days later. Over the course of ten months, he is carefully watched to ensure he is progressing normally into manhood. Hafrek is well aware this means he is expected to put aside childlike activities, such as playing, and begin behaving more like an adult. He stops running off to play with the tribe’s children. Instead, he stays close to the fire, listens more during meals, and works harder at his daily chores.
After the tenth month, the shaman are satisfied with what they see, and declare that Hafrek will be made a man. He is taken off again to fast, and meditate, this time for three days. He is given a different drug, and sent off into the forest. He experiences another bizarre series of visions, though this time, no paralysis, for which he is thankful. He returns to his clan several days later, where he is celebrated as an adult of the tribe.
As a man, Hafrek is permitted to go on hunts, starting off as a hunter in training. Though impulsive, he gradually proves to be strong and willing to take risks, gaining him several kills, along with many injuries.
Hafrek moves into the men’s tent, and develops closer relationships with his male clan members. But he understands these relationships may not last. If he proves capable of fathering a child, he will be adopted by another clan.
Two years pass before Hafrek is eligible to be considered as a potential mate for any woman. During that time, while he proves himself as a hunter, his impulsiveness and short temper get him into trouble. Under the tutelage of the older men, Hafrek learns to be more taciturn and how to keep his head.
Three years after being declared a man, he is selected to mate with the next woman not blood kin to him, to go into heat. The clan must prove that he can sire a child before another clan is willing to adopt him in exchange for a new man. Two women of the clan are not related to Hafrek through his mother’s line and a few months later, one goes into estrus.
Hafrek has experienced estrus pheromones before, but was never permitted to get so close to a woman in heat. He is unprepared for the overwhelming sensations that overcome him. Surrounded by the women of the clan, he mates with the young woman, but has little memory of the experience. Only a vague sense of pain, and brief euphoria. The pain lingers until the men drag him away, and bathe him. He is sent back a few hours later to mate with the woman again, and two more times after that, before her estrus ends.
The clan waits to see if the woman is pregnant. She has been pregnant before, so if she isn’t, it will reflect badly on Hafrek’s fertility. If he then fails to impregnate the next woman he is mated to, he will not be adopted, and remain with his birth clan the rest of his life. Such a fate is two sided. Hafrek is a good hunter, so his clan would be happy to keep him, knowing he will bring resources. However, they are also hoping to add new blood the clan. Hafrek feels rather indifferent and a little embarrassed about the entire experience, and isn’t really sure what he wants the outcome to be.
Months later, the woman is visibly pregnant, and soon enough, the baby is born, a healthy son. Hafrek is fascinated by the child, in a distant way. He never met his own father, who was adopted away shortly after Hafrek was born. He understands that this means he will soon leave his mother and the only family he has ever known.
At the next winter clan gathering, Hafrek is adopted by the Peerop clan, and says goodbye to his mother and childhood friends and family.
Lessons he learned from the men of his own clan help Hafrek get along with his new family. He develops a close relationship with one of the men, named Karash. Over the course of Hafrek’s life, he will sire four more children, two girls and two boys, but he spends little time with them. He will play a much bigger role in raising his grandchildren.
His status within his new clan secure, Hafrek strives to improve his hunting skills, and eventually becomes chief hunter among the clan, while his friend Karash is made shaman. The pair remain close throughout their lives.
Years pass, and Hafrek’s joints become too painful for him to continue hunting. He takes on the role of Clan Elder, and spends his days helping care for and teach the clan children, his own grandchildren now among them. He eventually loses his eyesight, and his hearing. His family continues to care for him, until he dies in his sleep, at the age of 67. Karash had passed away two years prior.
Hafrek’s clan wraps him in mats of woven grass, and buries him in a shallow mound. After a few years, they dig up his remains, now reduced to bones. His skull is taken to the village shaman, to be kept and used to commune with, as all elder remains are.