Ayla had watched her son walk back to the cave and decided to follow. She saw the way Broud treated him and could not bear to watch in silence. The time she had spent living with the Others had helped her to overcome her childhood conditioning enough to step out and shout at Broud. She almost laughed when he fainted, but repressed the urge out of respect for the Clan. Silence fell over the Clan, and people who were outside stared openly. More crowded the opening of the cave to find out what the commotion was about as well. One woman ran forward. She had a face Ayla recognized instantly.
"Ayla? Aren't you dead, my sister?" Uba motioned hesitantly. Ayla shook her head. The sisters embraced warmly.
Goov made a sound to get the attention of the Clan. "This woman was dead for a time. I made the required arrangement of bones to enact the curse. But after some moons had passed, they were scattered. No animals have entered the sacred area. This action was willed by Ursus himself. The death curse is broken. She is free to be with us again if she chooses."
Suddenly Ayla realized what must have happened. For the first few moons of her exile she had been desolate and had not really tried to live, barely trying to survive. When she started to think for herself and overcome her Clan training in order to survive, she had begun to live again. The bones must have broken then. Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud moan from Broud
He sat up, gesturing wildly and making noises. It was impossible to tell what he was trying to communicate. His eyes were glazed and unfocused, and he seemed to take no notice of his present surroundings. Ayla watched him for a while, and then she turned to Uba.
"You should make him a tea that will put him to sleep. I think he has had a shock."
Uba nodded and started to make the tea. When it was ready, Ayla put it in a cup and approached Broud. She did not wait for his permission to speak. She touched his arm gently. "You must drink this now," she motioned and pushed the cup to his lips. At her touch, Broud's eyes focused on her. Broud jerked away, staring at her in horror. Then he started to scream, a primal yell that chilled Ayla to her core. With Uba's help, Ayla held his head in place and forced the liquid down. He only stopped screaming long enough to swallow. His cries eventually slowed, and finally stopped. The medicine would allow him to sleep for the afternoon. When his eyes closed, everybody relaxed. Brun called the attention of the Clan.
"As the former leader, I must assume responsibility while the current leader is incapacitated. In light of his behavior over the last few years and his behavior just now, something must be considered. The women may hear this, also. There is a way to take back the leadership of the Clan. Since Broud has done a poor job since the day he started, it is up to me to take the leadership back. The men must vote in a meeting. When the sun sets we will hold a meeting in the back cave. Until then, go about your usual business." He looked over at Ayla. "The younger children may not have met this woman. She is Ayla, a fine medicine woman of the Clan. Because her death curse is broken, she may stay with us again."
Ayla's heart leapt. She could be a part of the Clan again? Jondalar suddenly appeared in her thoughts. Would he be permitted to stay, and would he even want to stay, if only for a short time?
"This woman has a mate. We have not been joined by a ceremony, but he is my mate," she motioned, "He is of the Others, like me."
Brun nodded. "Is he traveling with you now? He may also stay with us for a time."
"He is in my special cave," she replied, "If it is permissible, this woman would go to speak with him before bringing him here. He can speak the Clan language, but he does not have much fluency yet, and his ways are much different from the Clan ways." Brun nodded his permission and Ayla ran to her cave.
"Where have you been, Ayla?" Jondalar demanded angrily. The exultant glow about her was contagious, and his anger seemed to melt away as he studied her face. He held her close and asked her what had happened.
"I went to the cave to make sure Broud didn't hurt Durc. When Broud started to hit him, I shouted his name and gave him a scare! We had to give him some medicine to put him to sleep because after he came to, he started to scream," she replied. "Brun told me that we could stay in their cave tonight if you would like."
"I am anxious to meet this Brun. I can't believe you went without me, Ayla. What if Broud had tried to hurt you?"
"But he didn't try, Jondalar. There is something wrong with him. He's sick in his mind, I think. After today, he won't ever be leader again and we don't have to worry about him."
"All right. Let's go meet this Clan of yours. We should probably leave the horses and Wolf."
Ayla nodded and they walked toward the cave, hand in hand.
First of all, thank you to everyone who has reviewed so far. Those reviews really mean a lot to me, and I always appreciate constructive criticism on ways to improve my writing skills. Second, just so you know, this story is actually completed on my computer and was actually my first fanfic ever. It is posted on ecfans.com, but I am re-editing it and constantly cringing at the way it was written before. I will probably cringe at this version a few months from now, for though the story is completely idealized in my head, I lack the ability to realize it "on paper." My plan, before college life got in the way, was to get it edited fairly quickly. That is obviously not happening, so please accept my sincere apologies for that. My freshman year gave me false hopes about the difficulty of college, so second year was quite a struggle. I will try to do better, but this summer is looking almost as chaotic as school.
Once again, thank you for reading and for your comments!