Time's Last Gift

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Authors: Philip José Farmer
Gribardsun, being the first one to use the rifle, was considered to be the owner. And he had loaned his thunder stick while he killed the rhino with unmagical weapons to show that he could use them as no one else could.
    Gribardsun considered and then said, ‘We should push on, I believe. Why waste the day?’
    The body of Thrimk was wrapped in a great bearskin and six men were delegated to watch the body and to cut up the two behemoths. Leaving these behind weakened the party, but the hyenas, wolves, lions, and bears had to be kept away.
    The party set out again toward the edge of the plain where a herd of mammoths was eating. The great beasts did not pay them any attention until the hunters were within fifty yards. They were downwind, and the mammoths, like the elephants of Gribardsun’s time, were weak-eyed. But when they detected the mass of humans, they began moving away. Several big bulls, however, threatened them with short charges and much trumpeting and tearing up of small trees.
    The very long and fantastically curved tusks, the huge hump of fat on top of the head, the long reddish-brown hairs, and the sheer size of the beasts was very impressive.
    The men spread out in a deep crescent formation. While the center held the attention of the bulls, the horns advanced very slowly.
    One of the bulls broke and ran toward the herd. The other two kept up their bluffing charges until the center had gotten within fifty feet and the horns of the crescent were past them. Then the biggest bull charged.
    The plan was for the center to turn and flee, drawing the beast after it. The horns would close in and try to hamstring or spear the beast.
    The center was not imitating panic. Its members were scared, and rightly so. The beast was over eleven feet high at the shoulder, weighed possibly four tons, and was running faster than any man.
    Only Gribardsun did not run. He waited with his spear butt resting against the notch of the atlatl. When the beast was a shrilling gray and reddish-brown wall with great curving ivory tusks and uplifted trunk and big outspread ears and little red eyes, only thirty feet away, he sped to one side.
    The mammoth started to turn toward him, but it wasn’t fast enough. Gribardsun cast the spear from the atlatl, and half its length disappeared into the beast’s left front leg.
    The animal went down with a crash that must have broken some of its bones. Trumpeting agonizedly, it struggled to get back onto its feet.
    The hunters ran in and lunged, driving their flint or reindeer-antler-tipped spearheads into the stomach or under the tail.
    But they ran away then, because the second bull had decided to charge too. It shook the earth, and it screamed through its uplifted proboscis.
    Gribardsun’s spear had been snapped off when the beast fell on it. He had only a stone axe, which he took from his belt and threw. But, it might as well have been made of feathers. It rotated through the air and its head struck the animal in the open mouth. It bounced out, and now the mammoth was concentrating on him.
    He turned and ran. As he did so, he looked for von Billmann, who had been on the left with the rifle. He could see nothing of him and had no time to speculate where he was.
    Though Gribardsun was very fast, he was not as swift as the mammoth. Its long legs covered the ground faster than his could, and suddenly the trumpeting and thundering of the hoofs was close behind him. With a yell he leaped to one side, and the mammoth reared up and whirled around with an unbelievable, and terrifying, swiftness.
    Gribardsun ran forward and through the front legs of the startled creature and then threw himself to one side.
    The mammoth whirled around him, stopped, and reversed its horizontal rotation on seeing the man rolling away.
    Angrogrim, yelling, ran in past Gribardsun and hurled his spear into the open mouth of the beast. Its point disappeared into the pinkish flesh.
    Gribardsun leaped up and ran off with the mammoth

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