My first fanfiction for this fandom, enjoy!

The Woman Who Loved

By ArrowThrower

Disclaimer: Jean M. Auel and her publishing company owns the characters and the world of Earth's Children. I wish I was her, but alas, we are not all so blessed by the Mother.

Summary: Marthona and Zelandoni have a conversation about Jondalar's well as his past. SoS missing scene, can be applied anywhere in the book before the mating ceremony.

"Do you approve of the mating, Zelandoni?" Marthona asked. She sat cross-legged by the fire, her cup of tea warming her hands.

"Of course I do, why shouldn't I?" Zelandoni bristled, though she knew the question was long in coming. She knew Marthona's answer before the woman spoke.

"Because you still love him," Marthona stated, gauging the other woman's reaction. "It is not the love a Zelandoni has for her people either." She let Zelandoni preoccupy herself with preparing her own tea and gather her thoughts. The quiet hiss of the cooking stones when they were pu in the basketful of water filled the stretch of silence.

"It is hard to stop loving like Jondalar, even when he leaves for a journey," Zelandoni replied softly. She quickly threw in her herbs and let them steep in the hot water as she spoke. "He is a good man, Marthona, you raised him well. He is kind enough to still see me as Zolena, even though Zolena has long been gone."

Marthona smiled a little. "Nonsense. Anyone with a good set of eyes and a good mind can still see traces of the young woman in the Zelandoni."

Zelandoni chuckled. "I am only an old, fat woman. He should see nothing in me." The bitterness in her tone was so subtle, that only one looking for bitterness would have found it. Marthona heard the trace of emotion, but chose to ignore it.

"My son has learned to see character, Zelandoni. He knows how to recognize good character from bad."

"He does have a knack for that I suppose," Zelandoni admitted. She felt a pang of something…regret? Regret for what? That she had answered her calling to be One Who Served? No, it wasn't regret, it was wistfulness, a feeling she associated with Jondalar. She wished when she first saw him when he returned and now, that she was as she had once been: Zolena, the young woman who captured his heart.

"Was his 'knack' correct in choosing Ayla for a mate then?" Marthona pressed, suddenly anxious to know Zelandoni's thoughts. Zelandoni broke out of her reverie and considered the situation.

She had certainly met Ayla and talked to her. The younger woman's life story seemed fantastical, too incredible for someone to have lived through it all. And yet, Zelandoni accepted Ayla's story after great meditation. Something about the woman rang true, and the Mother herself confirmed Ayla's story after great meditation. There was something else about Ayla that she also could not deny, the younger woman's complete love for Jondalar. Nothing could shake that love, and when something did, it always came back stronger. Zolena had seen it in Ayla's eyes when he called the proposed mating into question when they first met. Zelondoni recognized that looke in her eyes. Zolena had the same feeling for the same man once, and still did, though she knew somehow that Ayla's feeling was stronger. It did not take long for Zelandoni to think of an answer to Marthona's question.

"Yes," Zelandoni finally answered. "Ayla is a good person, a strong woman. She suits him very well. She truly loves him, and that is apparent. Even if she may have a higher calling, she will never let him go unless she must. I approve of the mating." Though I wish that I was the one mating him, she thought to herself.

"And does Zolena approve?" Marthona gently asked, sensing the direction the woman's thoughts were taking. Over the years of leadership in the spiritual and physical sense, the two woman had developed a close friendship. Marthona had come to realize that Zolena still existed inside the Zelandoni, even if Zelandoni herself denied that.

"Zolena loves Jondalar," Zelandoni explained. "She loves him enough to know that he only looks upon her as a memory from his past, and that the love he once held for her—or anyone else for that matter—can never compare to the love he has for Ayla."

Zolena looked at Marthona with tears in her eyes, full of years of suppressed wants and feelings. "Ayla makes him truly happy, the hungry look in his eyes has been replaced by a content one. He lives for her and she for him. Zolena loves him enough to let him go to a woman who she knows will love him as much as Zolena has—that is all Zolena has ever wanted for Jondalar." She blinked and the tears spilled over. She hastily wiped them away. It was unbecomingh for a Zelandoni to react this way.

Marthona got up and put her arms around the woman, giving her a motherly embrace. "For give me for being so rude, Zelandoni, but I had to know."

Zelandoni offered a sad smile in return. "The Mother indicated that a time like this would come. I am just grateful that I was in the company of a friend when it did." She pulled away from Marthona to compose herself. She was after all Zelandoni now, with responsibilities and duties to uphold. It was time for her to attend to them. With a word of goodbye and gratitude in her eyes, she left the dwelling.

Marthona watched Zelandoni walk away with a satisfied smile. Her son's future with the woman he loved had been ensured and blessed by both the Mother and Zelandoni. More importantly, the woman he once loved had let him go and given her blessing. It broke Marthona's heart to see Zelandoni hurt by memories, but Zelandoni had to let go of Jondalar. Marthona was no more than a mother who loved her son, and she did what she could do for his future.

A/N: Zolena/Zelandoni has always fascinated me ever since she was mentioned in VoH. As Zelandoni, she has a power with the natural and spirit world that nearly equals Ayla's. But in the book SoS, she stated that Jondalar nearly made her back out of her calling. That's some powerful emotion that probably wasn't going to go away when Jondalar left, and certainly not when he returned. When I read SoS recently, I found that as much as Zelandoni wanted Zolena to go away, she refused to when Jondalar was around. I wanted to explore that, so this story came to my mind.