Ugh made sure the fire was fed. It would burn through the night and Ugh would be able to sleep through without having to stoke the embers. He had plotted the optimum distance from the cave mouth for the fire to burn brightly and for the smoke to escape without billowing into the cave itself and choking them to death, a bitter jealous snake that wanted to steal the air from their bodies.
The fire was not for warmth. It was for protection. It would keep the beasts at bay while the darkness endured. Come the daylight and Agh would build the fire again while Ugh fetched shining fish from the stream. Ugh’s mouth began to water at the thought of breakfast. If you listened carefully you could hear the ceaseless laughter of the stream, beneath the chirps and hoots and howls of the things of darkness.
Ugh took a deep breath of the sweet night air. He couldn’t see beyond the fire but he was proud of this place they had found. It would sustain them through the cold season. It was sheltered from the worst of the weather and concealed from the plain sight of any approaching enemy.
Agh called him to bed, her voice amplified by the vaulted stone. Ugh gave the fire one last poke with a stick and went to join her. The bulge she made beneath the pile of animal hides was growing ever bigger. Ugh’s child would emerge before the cold season left them, but Ugh was not worried. This place was magical; it would protect them until the land warmed up and the days lengthened and the three of them would migrate south to forage the first fruits.
Ugh got under the hides and put his arm around Agh. She nestled against his broad chest and made a contented sound as she drifted into sleep. Ugh lay awake, listening to his mate’s breath and the crackling of the fire that guarded their cave. He risked a hand on Agh’s swollen belly.
I can’t wait to meet you, little one; Ugh sent the words through the palm of his hand. I can’t wait to show you how wonderful life is, how beautiful the world.