Gibraltar, c. 26,000 BC
A thin line of campfires stretched about two miles across the isthmus, marking a physical border between the lands of two peoples. One, of which a hundred or so were sleeping in aurochs-skin tents around the fires, owned all of the land that one could walk to from the north of the border, from the coasts along the great Ocean in the west to the dry steppes and taiga in the far east. The other, now numbering fewer than a hundred in total, was besieged on a tombolo on the southern coast of Iberia.
As the first solar rays of the morning flickered over the Alboran Sea, the last men to keep watch for the night awoke their companions, for while it was now light enough to survey the land ahead of them, if they waited much longer then the sun would shine into their eyes and put them at a disadvantage. Many of the men would take a while to fully awaken, yet there was no time to waste; in six hours the sun would be high and it would be time to eat.
"Remind me why," groaned the young Italeun, "we have to kill them?" He knew his father Granpu would not be able to resist a response, buying him a few more minutes.
"Any ogre who joins us is welcome to live, son," explained Granpu, "indeed, most of us here have ogre blood in us." He looked around his camp at the five other men who sat around it. Some of them even bore features of ogre ancestry in recent generations, such as lighter skin and heavier brows. Italeun himself looked more like an ogre than his father. "But I can guarantee that no ogre on that rock will want to join us. It is not in their nature. If they kept to themselves, we would have no problem either. But they look on our civilisation as something to be exploited. They don't care if they hurt us. They take from us and give us nothing in return."
"Except for their blood."
"Except for their blood. And ogre blood is not a gift any woman wants to receive."
"Now tell me the story of how a long time ago, when our forefathers arrived-"
"Nice try. Get up and get your spear."
Italeun groaned again as he pulled himself to his feet and went over to a deep wicker basket next to one of the tents. In there was his spear, and next to it his spear-thrower. Before, all six men's spears and throwers had been there, each uniquely identifiable by its personalised ornamentation, but Italeun was the last to get up and the last to take hold of his weapons. Italeun's spear-thrower was decorated with carvings of wolves, with the cup at the back end being shaped like a wolf's jaw, while the spear itself was delicately carved with the scene of tiny stampeding horses, as though the wolves of the thrower were startling the horses into flight.
Granpu looked out over the tombolo. Most of the terrain was flat and sandy, with no ogres in sight, but a massive limestone promontory stood in the middle. Along the sheer eastern side were caves in which ogres could hide, while the wooded western slopes must have provided food enough for the siege to fail. There weren't enough men to completely surround the rock - nobody could organise a hunting party that large - but that wasn't a problem. The camps to the west had brought dogs, and these would be sent into the woods to flush out any ogres there, while the camps to the east would slowly work their way southwards and clear any caves that the ogres would be able to access. It was not going to be easy. Italeun, being young and small, was going to remain on the beach to make sure no ogres escaped, while the rest of the group would scale the cliff face to each cave.
Most of the morning passed. One the west side, the dogs caught several rabbits and partridges, allowing them to have an early dinner, but there were no ogres to be found. Soon, they had cleared the south side of the rock too, finding several pine-wood dugout canoes that had been abandoned on the slopes but no traces of the ogres who carved them nor any sign that other canoes had been used to escape. All of the men shortly thereafter converged by the slopes along a short stretch of cliff-face on the southeast edge of the promontory. Satisfied that they had found the ogres' last hideout, they stopped to eat the remaining game that had been caught in the woods, with some gathering seafood to make a full meal out of it. In the afternoon, they decided, they would ascend the slopes to kill the last of the ogres.
When midday had passed and all of the meat had gone, Granpu led the strongest men up the slopes to the caves; there, one in particular was large enough for the ogres to hide in and, peering in, the men could see many ogres' faces lit by firelight. Before they could throw their spears in, the ground rumbled and the men were thrown back down the cliff. A large silvery disc glided over the promontory, but instead of a shadow it cast a blinding light down to the men. It stopped in place and the rumbling ended. While most of the men covered their eyes, Granpu was undeterred, climbing back up to the cave with gritted teeth and barking dogs. He cast his spear-thrower forwards as soon as he could see inside the cave, but as the spear passed the shaft, a bright blue burst of light emerged from the cave, frightening the dogs away. Granpu rubbed his eyes with his left arm as he pulled a dagger out of his belt with his right hand, but when the afterimage faded, he saw that there was no threat: all of the ogres had gone, save one.
Granpu walked forwards, not only clutching his blade but also preparing to use his spear-thrower as a club. The final ogre picked the spear up from the floor and threw it to one side as he stepped into the light cast by a nearby fire, allowing Granpu to see his features. Sure, he was an ogre - stout body, pale skin, red hair, a large nose, no chin, and so on - but what stood out more was his outfit. Draped over his body was an untreated deer hide, with its head - with antlers, minus most of the skull - over his own. His face, along with the few other parts of his skin on show, were tattooed with scars of red ochre and black umber. It looked almost like he was...
"A shaman?" Granpu laughed, genuinely amused by the sight in front of him. "Now these creatures are at their end, they try to copy us?"
The shaman cackled back, making a noise that was recognisable as laughter and yet strangely different from anything that a human mouth could produce.
"This is mockery!" Granpu continued walking, ready to strike the ogre down. "You dress yourself up as a holy man as you pretend to be human, yet you know nothing of what it means to be either. Oh, why am I even talking to this beast? It doesn't understand what I'm saying."
"I hold no... weapons." The shaman spoke, although he seemed to struggle with pronouncing some of the sounds. "I am no... threat."
Granpu was initially shocked, but quickly came to rationalise the situation. "If there are humans with ogre blood, then there may too be ogres with human blood."
"Ogre, if you want to join us, tell us where your people are. The ones who were here in this cave.'"
"They are with the... people of the moon."
Granpu ran up to the shaman and pressed his dagger against the ogre's neck. "Speak clearly and truthfully."
"You saw the moon fly over the hill, yes?"
Granpu brought his face close to the shaman's and glared into his eyes. Pushing the shaman into the nearest fire pit, he marched deeper into the cave, looking for the ogres who must have escaped that way. Eventually it became too dark to see, and the shaman's screams had ceased, so he headed back to the cave entrance to call for more men and to gather wood for torches. To his surprise, the shaman, now devoid of deer hide, immediately blocked his path, and blew some multicoloured powder out of his hands and into the human's face.
"This ends now. For the way your... people have treated mine, once we are gone, you shall never see a... summer as warm as this one."
Granpu shot a confused look at the shaman before cutting his throat with the dagger. "Yes, it ends now."
When he arrived at the cave entrance, he was in for another shock: a scattering of blue lights erupted in the crowd below, and when it had finished, all of the humans who had ogre features had vanished just as the ogres in the cave had done. The ground trembled again as the disc flew away, and Granpu rolled down the hill until coming to a stop. Picking himself up off the ground, he saw that had stopped just in front of a familiar spear-thrower with wolf carvings that had fallen into the dirt next to an empty pair of footprints. Italeun had vanished.
And over the following years, the summers were never as warm as they had been before. Centuries passed, and the climate grew colder still. As glaciers crept through northern Europe, the forests and grasslands of the rest of the continent gave way to tundra and steppe. The great Aurignacian culture which spread from the Atlantic to the Caucasus fragmented, and even the dogs that they had domesticated became extinct.
Millennia later, the climate warmed again and humanity recovered. Another lineage of dogs was brought into Europe from east of Siberia. After twenty-eight thousand years, humans had even become a spacefaring species. However, in that respect, they were not alone.