Ayla

The Saga Continues

Edmund A. Herman

Preface

About three years have passed since the end of Jeal Auel's Shelters of Stone and Ayla is fully established in the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. Ayla continues to amaze and astound people as she grows into her destiny; a destiny that even she does not understand. This story is meant as a tribute to Jean Auel for her "Earth's Children" series that started with the Clan of the Cave Bear. I do not claim to match Jean's writing skills or style, but have been driven by the need to see a continuation of the story. This story evolves out of Mrs. Auel's first five books, and is therefore an alternative to "The Land of the Painted Caves". She seems to have set up the situation for this story and this story will have little meaning to one who has not read Jean Auel's first five books. This work has not been in collaboration with Mrs. Auel and she has not had the opportunity to review it, and hence she has not commented on it. Most of the characters and settings are hers. If the reader has not read Jean Auel's five "Earth Children" books the reader might not follow the story line of this book as it does not go into sufficient detail of the background, flora, fauna and landscapes. The setting is about 30,000 years ago in what is now southwestern France.

1

The men saw the woman in the distance. They could not tell she was a woman; the distance was too far for that. All they could tell was that a person was standing in the expanse of grass, and appeared to not be moving. They were glad to see someone, although it really did not matter much. They had traveled several days without seeing anyone which was to be expected in that primeval world when the glaciers, covering a fourth of the earth in ice two to three miles thick, were only three or four hundred miles to the North. Each of the three men carried a heavy back pack with all they needed to survive. They carried little food. They lived off the land as they traveled just as they would when they were at home with the rest of their people.

They were still on high ground having just started the gradual decent into a wide and very long valley and they had a panoramic view of the valley. A small river flowed through the valley and they assumed (correctly) that it flowed east. They knew, or at least hoped, that they were nearing their destination and having someone to ask could be a significant help in finding it. They would hate to pass by, but close to, it and travel many more days before discovering the error.

The woman noticed them when they crested the rim of the valley. She was aware of everything about her. Such awareness was vital to survival. Missing some little detail could be fatal; especially when a half days travel from anyone who could help. She had left the rock shelter of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii early that morning to spend some time alone and meditate on the decisions she would soon have to make. She had mixed feelings about the changes that were about to happen to her life. She could not believe how happy she was being mated to Jondalar, being accepted into the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, having Jondalar's children (although those ancient people did not make the connection with the man's roll in child conception, she was absolutely sure that they were his children as much as they were hers) and generally living a normal life with family, friends and relatives. The people were his family, but she felt as though they were her's as well. Being inducted into the ranks of the Zelandonia, the spiritual and intellectual leaders of the Zelandonii, should be considered as a great tribute, but she had misgivings.

The men were a long way off and she put them out of her mind for the moment and continued stripping the seeds of grain from the stalks with a stone held in her hand such that the seeds fell into her hand which she emptied into the haversack. It was early in the season and the grain consisted of the kernels that had held on through the winter. It was a rather scant harvest, but she was thankful to have found it. Having scared up three hares and two ptarmigan, which she quickly dispatched with her sling and were now, their feet tied with strands of grass, hanging in front and back from her shoulders, made her feel good. She always did like to hunt and had developed uncanny skill with the sling. The harvesting of the grain was a mindless task that allowed her to think about the decisions she would be making and how she might arrange a position to her liking.

As the men neared, the leader and oldest could see that the person was, in fact, a woman and that there was no other people anywhere to be seen, and he could see for a great distance. It was unusual for a woman, or a man for that matter, to be alone far from others. It simply was not safe. Too much could go wrong in that lonely land where people were so scarce that in later years people would consider so few of any species to be in danger of extinction. He then noticed that her clothing had no decoration to indicate her rank. He was from far away and did not know the symbolism of the Zelandonii, but he did know that no symbols usually meant low rank. As he got nearer, he told the two younger men to stay where they were. He approached the woman alone. He did not want to appear threatening.

About the time the man was telling the two younger men, hardly more than boys, to stay where they were, the woman pulled her sling from her waist band and fished four smooth round stones form a pocket. These were strangers, and one should always be prepared. The man noticed her actions. He had never seen a sling before but correctly assumed it was some kind of weapon. He continued to approach her. When he got near enough to make out details, he saw she had an infant in a sling arrangement that would allow the infant to suckle without disturbing the woman as she harvested the grain. He also noticed a toddler playing in the grass a few paces way and assumed the toddler to be a girl about three years old. Usually women have an older member of the family watch the children when away from the group. He noticed the hares and ptarmigan hanging on the woman and erroneously assumed that she had trapped them in snares. That assumption caused him to think that she must have left her cave about midway between the middle of the night and daybreak. It would take time to run a trap line with enough traps to bag that many animals. That too seemed strange since that would be a very bad time for a single person to be traveling, especially so far. He also noticed that she had no tattoos or other markings to denote her rank in her society. Alone, far from home, with her children, gathering and no markings of rank were the signs of a low ranking unmated woman who might possibly be shunned by the other women. If so, she might have to forage for herself and children the best she could.

He called out to her, "Hoyah, are you Zelandonii?" "Yes" she replied, "I am Ayla of the Zelandonii." Zelandonii was not his language though he could speak it fairly well, so he did not notice her unusual accent. He continued, "We are from far away and have come to discuss some matters with the leaders of the Zelandonii. Are we far from their caves?" Having concluded that she was of low rank, he felt no obligation to discuss with her the nature of those "matters".

As the man approached the woman observed him carefully. She had been orphaned at age five and raised by Clan people. The Clan, to be known as Neanderthals millennium in the future, had a rich and expressive language, but it was primarily a non-verbal language. They communicated with hand and arm motions, body-posture and facial expression with little vocalization. She had only learned Zelandonii a few years ago after meeting Jondalar. Her skill with the non-verbal Clan language made her unusually adept at reading body language and she concluded that he was some type of holy man. The way he carried himself and looked at her made her think he was probably a spiritual leader among his own people. He had tattoos on his face and enigmatic marking on his clothing that she did not understand but felt they were symbolic of his calling. She relaxed, folded the sling and tucked it into the cord around her waist and dropped the stones back into the pocket.

He noticed her putting the sling away and saw that tension went out of her face. As her tenseness relaxed he realized that although tense and alert, she had not shown fear. He thought that was a bit strange under the circumstances. If he and the other men were to attack her there was no one to either help or ever know. He was a holy man and such actions were far from his mind, but he knew that it sometimes happened.

He drew closer and observed that although her clothing was completely devoid of any decoration, it was of the finest quality. It was perfectly tailored, unusually soft and pliable leather and clean. It was almost as though it had never been worn before. Even the toddler's clothing was perfectly tailored and immaculately clean. Such quality of clothing was not in keeping with a low ranking and unmated woman. She was starting to exude an aura of mystery. The mystery deepened as he studied her. She was incredibly beautiful. She had a beautiful face, and her body was perfectly proportioned as well. At least she was well built as far as he could tell with all the stuff hanging on her. She had a quiver of spears which surprised him. Why would a single mother be hunting with spears? Not that there was anything wrong with a mother hunting, it was just that they seldom had time for it. Only a few spears actually had points, but those that did had perfectly knapped flint points. The others were only shafts, but the ends, although they were obviously carefully prepared, had not been prepared to accept points. He could only see the handle of the knife that was in a sheathe hanging from her belt, but the hand ax was obvious and it was hafted to a handle. An advanced tool by any standard, but it too was a perfectly knapped flint ax. Then there was what appeared to be a container made of the entire skin of an otter hanging from her belt. Had he studied it closely he would have seen that the otter's throat had been slit and the insides including all the bones including the skull had been removed through the slit throat. The flattened head formed a flap that closed the container and was tied closed. He wondered what could be in it. It was obviously quite full of something. He liked mysteries. A mystery usually had some spiritual essence and understanding the spiritual world was his specialty. That is why he and his two acolytes were on this pilgrimage. They had come hoping to live with, and study under, the famed Zelandonia of the Zelandonii. He desperately hoped they would accept him; especially after coming so far.

The woman spoke. "You are not far from the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. The Ninth Cave is the largest and most influential of all the Zelandonii caves." She pointed as she continued, "If you look in the distance in the direction that you were traveling you will see how the valley narrows between the high cliffs on either side just after that stand of trees. As you approach the trees the river will come close to the trees. There is a path along the river. Follow the path and it will lead between the cliffs and to where the valley opens out and the river joins a larger river. As you come out from between the cliffs look to your right and you will see a large abri about half way up the face of a large cliff. Take the path up into the abri. That is the home of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii." The term 'cave' referred to a group of people, not where they lived. "People will see you coming and alert the leader. His name is Joharran. He is fairly tall and of middle age. He will probably be waiting for you at the top of the path up the face of the cliff." Then assuming that if he is actually a spiritual leader he will want to meet their spiritual leader, she continued. "The Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave is the First among all the Zelandoni of the Zelandonii. She will probably be waiting too. She is a very large woman (the woman held her arms out to her sides indicating a woman at least three times her girth) and wears an ivory plaque on her chest. You should reach the abri before the sun reaches its zenith." She then added with a hint of pride, "This is a bountiful land and the Ninth Cave has exceptionally good leadership. We are prosperous." Her last comment sent a chill down his spine. Who was this woman? Did she know about him and his people and why he was on this pilgrimage? His people had come upon hard times. He knew that their leader was actually the reason for the problems, but he blamed himself, at least partially, for not having the skill required of the spiritual leader to steer the leader in the right direction and to properly council the people under the circumstances. That was why he had come. He was here to try to learn from the renowned Zelandoni and return someday more able to serve his people properly. The woman gave no hint of having any knowledge of his plight and he relaxed.

The man was somewhat taken aback by her directness, preciseness of articulation and tone of authority. Except for the tone of her voice, she showed no signs of being a person of authority. This too was at odds with his original assumption of her being of low rank. He was expecting her to volunteer to lead him to the Ninth Cave. A low ranking person would feel important to introduce a stranger to the leader and jump at the chance even if they knew they would be immediately dismissed. But, she just went back to harvesting. The enigma deepened. It was not just the woman. He had not been consciously thinking of it before, but he now realized that two horses, calmly grazing nearby, did not move away when he approached the woman and talked to her. They were not near enough to be startled (the woman quietly gathering the wheat would not have disturbed them), but close enough to want to move a little farther from the scene of activity when he and his acolytes arrived. Even if they had been on the outer edge of a herd, he would have expected them to move closer into the herd. They had not moved. In fact why were they not with a herd? Something was not quite right and he could not identify what it was.

He turned and took a few paces, stopped, turned to the woman and said. "We saw a large lone wolf just before reaching you. It could be a danger. You would be welcome to join us back to your shelter. The wolf will not attack four of us." She graciously turned down his offer explaining that she wanted to gather the grain and went back to work. He turned and continued his trek with the acolytes in tow. Her lack of fear of the wolf might indicate a low intelligence, but her conversation did not. He would have to sort this out. Perhaps the Zelandoni will explain it.

The man thought about the woman as he traveled. The sun was up when he came upon her, but it had not been up long. If she was right about reaching the abri just before the sun reached its zenith, he still had nearly the entire morning to travel. It occurred to him that it would take that long for her to fill the haversack that she was putting the kernels into. If she was to fill it, and she seemed determined to do just that, and then return to the abri, she would arrive late afternoon or early evening. Either she was odd, or the Zelandonii had odd customs. He would have to learn their customs if he was going to live with them. Their trade master had visited his people some years before and seemed to follow customs similar to his own people. As he thought about it the Zelandonii trade master had facial tattoos and decorated clothing.

The mulled the possibility that the woman might be a holy person, one who serves the Great Earth Mother, and is subjecting herself to a trial of aloneness as part of her training. But, if that were the case, she would have some markings showing her to be one who serves. Also, her behavior gave no indications that she was going through such a trial period. He fancied himself as one who could figure out people quickly. That was one characteristic that made him a good spiritual leader for his people. It disturbed him that he could not neatly categorize this woman. Why was he thinking about her at all? He suddenly realized that he was attracted to her. Not sexually attracted, although he could see how a man would be. And, it was more than just the mystery, although that was part of it. He felt drawn to her in a way that he could not explain. There seemed to be an aura about her. He actually felt a slight chill of fear.

They came to the path just as they came to the trees as the woman had said they would. And, it followed the river through the trees and on to where the cliffs ended and the river ran out into another valley and into the other river she had mentioned. They turned to their right and there was the large abri high up on a very large cliff. The path led up the face of the cliff to the abri as she had said. They went up the path. The abri was a deep south facing horizontal recess several hundred feet long and in places 150 feet deep that had eroded into the limestone cliff eons before. It was a perfect shelter for the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. They had built permanent homes for individual families inside the shelter, had set aside areas for working on various projects, for storage of food and equipment and for gatherings and meetings. About 200 people lived there and it was a beehive of activity as the men crested the path and entered the shelter.

As the woman had predicted, they had been seen as they approached and there was a knot of people waiting as they stepped from the path into the abri. A middle aged man stepped forward, extended both hands palms up, and said, "Welcome to the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. I am Joharran, leader of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, son of Marthona, former leader of the Ninth Cave, born to the hearth of Joconan, former leader of the Ninth Cave. Who are you and why have you come?" The man replied as well as he could with his limited mastery of the foreign language, "I am Espandli, spiritual leader of the Espandlii. My people live many days travel to the south and west of here. I have come on a pilgrimage with my two acolytes in hope of living among the Zelandonii and studying under the famed Zelandonia." "We are honored that you think so highly of us. Please put down your loads." Joharran pointed to a place on the ground for them to put their back frames. When they had unburdened themselves, stretched and relaxed, he continued, "We will have to discuss your request, but since you are a holy man you must meet Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave and who, I must add, is the First among those who serve." Joharran said proudly as he turned toward the hugely fat woman with tattoos on her face and the ivory plaque on her chest. "Espandli, please meet Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii." She took his extended hands and smiled as she said, "welcome to the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. We will have to discuss your request with the other Zelandoni, but the chances are good that your request can be accommodated."

Joharran then looked at the man and said, "I hear that you came around the cliff and walked right up the path without hesitation. That did not breach any custom or protocol, but it is unusual. The first time most people come they mill around in the valley for some time before approaching the path up to here. In most instances someone has to go down and lead them up. How is it that you appeared to know to follow the path up into our shelter?"

The man smiled as he realized that it would be daunting if one did not know what to expect and replied, "Early this morning, just after sunup, we came across a woman in the valley nearly a half day's journey to the west of here. She told us how to find this shelter and to take the path up the cliff and that someone was sure to see us coming and would alert you and that you would probably be waiting here for us. Her directions were impeccable. She also added that this is a bountiful land" "Did she tell you her name?" asked Joharran.

The man said, "She said her name was Ayla." He thought he detected a fleeting hint of amusement cross Zelandoni's face, but could not get a sense of just what she might have found amusing. Zelandoni did smile to herself (at least she thought she had only smiled to herself) with the thought "of course it was Ayla, she somehow is always the first to know whenever anything unusual happens. And, travelers from far away are certainly unusual."

Provela, Joharran's mate arrived with a refreshing tea, and cups, gave everyone a cup and poured the hot tea from a birch bark container. They were setting around resting and talking about how the different Zelandoni of the various caves had different talents and even different ideas about things. If the visitors were to study under the Zelandoni they would have to study under several and just who would do what and when they would do it would have to be discussed among, and agreed to by all the Zelandoni before a binding commitment could be made. Joharran also mentioned that living arrangements would have to be made soon, because even if the visitor's requests could not be granted, they would have to stay a few days at least.

Zelandoni just happened to be looking at Espandli who at the moment during a lull in the conversation was looking around the interior of the vast shelter. He was taking in all the activity, size, projects and structures within the abri when suddenly his eyes flew open, his face paled, his jaw dropped and he gasped in shock and disbelief. Everyone looked as he pointed and said in a whisper, "That's her. That's the woman we met in the valley!" Alya was walking through the shelter carrying, with some effort, the haversack that was obviously very full, with the hares and ptarmigan still hanging on her. She was not coming from the path he had taken to get up into the abri, but had somehow come up into it from farther away. She actually had to travel farther passing along the valley below the abri where the people would not have seen her, come up into the other end of the abri and was now heading back. Zelandoni was the first to respond, "But why does that surprise you? You told us she said she was Zelandonii and lived here, which she does." He looked at her with a look of 'how can you not know' and said, "She was a half days travel from here, she had not moved the last time I looked back and could still see her and her haversack is bulging full. She had to have spent all morning harvesting to have filled it. It is impossible for her to be here so soon. Does she have a twin?"

The conversation went back to how they would send out runners to inform the other Zelandoni and how they would have a meeting of all the Zelandoni to discuss Espandli's request and where he could give them all a better description of what he and his acolytes where hoping to gain from the experience. His concerns about Ayla were completely ignored which deeply disturbed him. They also discussed how it would be a minimal imposition on any one Zelandonii family if the three visitors could be split up with only one staying with any one Zelandonii family.

Ayla quickly skinned the hares and dressed the ptarmigan and started them cooking over an open fire in her dwelling which was among the other similar dwellings within the shelter but out of sight of the group that included the visitors, and was for the moment out of everyone's minds. She knew that having visitors would be reason for a community feast and she needed to prepare something for it.

It was passed mid-day when Provela came back and announced that a meal had been arranged. Provela's specialty was arranging feasts and banquets. She seldom did any of the actual cooking, but was very good at organizing group meals. The men, Provela and Zelandoni got up and went over to where Provela led them to where food was attractively arranged on platters and in bowls of shaped bone, woven grass and fiber, and carved wood and displayed on long low tables made of blocks and slabs of limestone. Bent tongs, carved horn spoons, and large flint knives were conveniently nearby, ready to be used as serving implements.* Espandli was surprised to see Ayla among those serving as casually and effortlessly as the other women who had prepared and brought food. The baby and toddler were playing on the ground near her. He thought she would have been too exhausted to have prepared food and be serving it. The toddler asked "where Wolf", using the Mamutoi word for "wolf" which Ayla had named the wolf when he was just a puppy shortly after his eyes opened after birth. She said "Wolf is out and will come when he is ready."

"So we meet again." He said as he came to her serving station. "I was surprised to see you here so soon." She smiled and simply asked if he cared for some fresh hare or ptarmigan adding that if it was not to his taste there were lots of other foods.

(*) This description of the meal is taken directly from Jean Auel's, Shelters of Stone.

The acolytes had no problem deciding. They were starved after the long walk that morning and dug in with great gusto. Espandli, tried some of each and remarked on how fresh they tasted, thinking he was making a compliment. He was actually surprised at the freshness since a small animal could be in a snare days before the person who had set the snares came around to check them. Ayla replied rather curtly, and with a tone that she had been somewhat insulted that he even thought she might serve a stranger less than the best, "They should be fresh, they were alive at sunup this morning."

Espandli continued through the food line and sat on a convenient limestone block and proceeded to eat. As he ate, he mused over his fixation on Ayla. He wondered, to himself, why he was thinking about her. He looked over at her and she was serving food to the others as normal as anyone else. Why did he have the feeling that there was something special about her?

He noticed the young woman, with a toddler hanging on her, who had served the delicious venison and exquisitely spiced mixed vegetable dish go over to Ayla and then show Ayla her clothing. It was obviously new and probably deer skin leather. Ayla appeared to be very impressed and proud of the girl's accomplishment.

Everything about her seemed normal enough. Well, not everything. Something was always out of place. Something was always wrong. She appeared to be of low ranking, yet exuded authority and confidence. She seemed quite capable and intelligent, but did not head his warning of the lone wolf. And then there was the issue of her getting back to the shelter so quickly.

Everyone was sitting around enjoying the meal when Wolf decided for whatever his reasons to lope up the path and enter the abri. Espandli was looking aimlessly in the general direction of the path when the wolf bounded into view. Espandli jumped up in terror, his plate and food scattering on the ground, the cup spilling its contents as he shouted, "A wolf. Great Mother a wolf". Ayla ran to the wolf, more to comfort and quiet the animal than to protect the man. The wolf was always unnerved by such overt show of fear and tended to get rather aggressive in such circumstances. The wolf was far enough from the man that she did not need to kneel down and hold him. Her mere presence was sufficient. When she reached the wolf, she stood and looked down at him. He lowered himself to the ground stretching his fore paws out in her direction with his rump up and his tail straight up. He whimpered and edged towards her and looked up at her with unabashed and total submission, love and admiration.

The man was dumbfounded. He had never imagined of, let alone actually seen, such a display of supernatural control of an animal. Such human control of the natural world was all about him, but he had never seen it for what it was. People had controlled fire, made clothing, built shelters, hunted down and killed animals that were dangerous or that were competing for resources and killed animals for food and long as anyone, or even the stories and legends, could remember. Those things were seen as natural. But, to have raised a wolf from a puppy in close communion with other people such that the wolf substituted the people for his pack and Ayla as the alpha member of the pack was just as natural (or unnatural depending on one's point of view), but he could not think of it that way. He believed he was witnessing supernatural power and was awed by it. They did not show it, as they had become used to the wolf's behavior, but most, if not all of the Ninth Cave also believed that Ayla had supernatural power.

After a few seconds, about as long as Ayla thought the wolf could tolerate, she patted the fronts of her shoulders and the wolf jumped up and put his paws on her where she had indicated. She exposed her throat; he licked her neck, and then took her chin and jaw in his mouth with a low rumbling growl, but great gentleness. Espandli gasped as he stared agape, not daring to believe what he was seeing. He squeaked, too panicked to command anything resembling a normal voice, to the person sitting next to him, "What are they doing?" The person, who happened to be Zelandoni, responded, "They are showing their love for each other. The wolf idolizes her and she loves him." Ayla then said something to the wolf and made some hand signals and the wolf bounded away directly into a group of very young children and begin playing with the children. Espandli watched the scene with his mouth agape as the children pulled on his fur, rolled over with him and had him retrieve sticks they threw.

Espandli was jolted out of his semi trance when he heard Joharran call out and looked in his direction only to see that he had called to a tall handsome blond man who was now walking toward Joharran. The two men talked for a while, briefly glanced over at Espandli, and continued their conversation. Espandli suspected that he had been the subject of their conversation. The tall handsome blond man left and went over to where Ayla was. They talked for a while and he then picked up the toddler, tossed her up and caught her. He hugged and kissed the giggling child, and then embraced Ayla. It was an affectionate embrace, not a formal embrace. The tall blond man returned to Joharran and more words were exchanged. Joharran and the tall handsome man then walked over to where Espandli was sitting.

Joharran started by saying, "Espandli I want you to meet our cave's master flint knapper. Among the many treasures of the Ninth Cave is one of, if not the, best flint knappers in the world, Jondalar please meet Espandli of the Espandlii. "Greetings Espandli," Johndalar responded, as he held out his hands in welcome. Joharran then turned to Espandli and continued, "Espandli please meet Jondalar of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, master flint knapper, son of Marthona, former leader of the Ninth Cave, born to the hearth of Dalanar, former leader of the Ninth Cave, and brother of Joharran current leader of the Ninth Cave." Espandli realized from the introduction that this man, Jondalar, was of high status and a valuable contributor to the well being of the Cave. He was suitably impressed. Espandli replied, "Thank you for the warm welcome, Jondalar of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, master flint knapper, son of a former leader of the Ninth Cave." It was not expected that a visitor would remember, or if he did to actually repeat, all a person's associations after the first introduction. They clasped hands in greeting and friendship, released them and turned to Joharran.

Joharran continued, speaking to Espandli, "Jondalar and his mate have graciously agreed for you to stay with them in their dwelling for as long as you will be staying with us. There will probably be times when you must stay at various other caves for special instruction, but we will work out those details when the time comes. We have not yet made arrangements for your acolytes, but we will before the day is out." A shiver went up Espandli's back. He had just seen Jondalar speaking to Ayla and then parting with a romantic embrace. Could she be Jondalar's mate? All he could say was, "Thank you for your generosity," but he was not at all comfortable.

Ayla walked over and joined them. Jondalar started to introduce her to Espandli, but she interrupted with, "We have met, but not formally." And then she smiled one of her sunrise smiles. She was naturally beautiful, but when she smiled it seemed to light up the entire abri. Espandli's fears were confirmed. It was not that he did not like Ayla, it was that by now he was not sure if she was actually human. If told that she was an incarnation of the Great Earth Mother, he would have believed it. He looked down at the wolf at Ayla's side. Would he be living close the animal? Was it real? Jondalar proceeded with the introductions, "Ayla, please meet Espandli of the Espandlii." "Greeting Espandli and welcome to the Ninth Cave," she replied holding out her hands to welcome him. Jondalar continued, "Espandli of the Espandlii, this is Ayla of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, mated to Jondalar, Member of the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi, Daughter of the Mammoth Hearth, Chosen by the Spirit of the Cave Lion, and Protected by the Cave Bear." Espandli had no clue as to what her ties meant, but was suitably impressed. He and Ayla grasped hands in greeting. He noted that she felt real, but he was still not comfortable with this turn of events. She frightened him.

Ayla, felt the man's fear. She knew how terrifying it was the first time people encountered the wolf. It did not occur to her that the man was as fearful of her as he was of the wolf. "Since you will be staying with us you will have to meet "Wolf", she said. The wolf yipped upon hearing his name. The name "Wolf" was the Mamutoi word for wolf. The man realized it was the name she used to identify the animal even though he did not know the meaning of the word. "You first get him to know you by having him learn your scent." She continued. "Hold out your hand so he can smell you." She knelt down and put her arm around the wolf's neck to calm him, and then reached out for Espandli's hand and drew it towards the wolf. The wolf was agitated by the man's fear, but had long ago learned that when introduced this way, he was to accept the person into his personal pack. He licked the hand. Espandli was immobilized with fear. Moving the man's hand so he could feel the wolf's fur, Ayla said, "Feel his fur. He likes to be scratched too," as she demonstrated "Wolf's" favorite places. Gradually the man overcame his fear and felt the wolf's fur and actually scratched the place Ayla had indicated. "He is really quite harmless, and even friendly with the people he knows," Alya said, "Though he is very protective of me and the children." Espandli just gaped at her, but thought to himself, "No wonder she was not afraid of the lone wolf I warned her about." At least one piece of the puzzle fell in place. Unfortunately, the question of how she controlled the wolf was an even greater enigma.

When the man straightened up, and looked at Ayla, the wolf whimpered, and raised a paw towards the man. Ayla, Jondalar, Espandli, and Joharran all looked down at the animal. Ayla was the first to understand what he was doing and said, "Espandli, I think he likes you and would like more of your attention." Espandli was not a holy man without reason. He understood the emotions of love, caring and compassion. He often studied his own feelings to better understand, and recognize them in others. He knew he had a knaak for such understanding, but in his wildest dreams he would never have conceived of recognizing them in an animal, and particularly such feelings being directed at him from an animal. But there it was. He was deeply moved. He was unbelievably moved. His fear dissipated in a few seconds and he hunkered down in front of the wolf, reached out and grabbed a handful of fur and loose skin on each side of the wolf's neck and looked into the animal's eyes. The wolf licked his face. "He likes me," Espandli said. "Yes," replied Ayla, "I do believe he has really taken to you. It is unusual for him to take to someone so soon when the person has shown so much fear." Espandli did not correct Ayla's assumption that his fear was only of the wolf. But, the wolf was somehow comforting and its friendliness seemed to assuage his fear of her.

Jondalar helped Espandli gather his gear and the three of them, and Wolf, started towards, Ayla and Jondalar's dwelling. The wolf insisted on walking next to Espandli, much like he usually did with Ayla. Ayla and Jondalar stopped and looked at the wolf and then at each other. Ayla was the first to speak, "He is being protective of you Espandli." She was surprised, but thought to herself, "Espandli is hurting inside. Something is troubling him deeply and Wolf senses it. I wonder what it could be." They continued to the dwelling.

The dwellings for individual families were fairly large and similar in construction. They were roughly rectangular, with the length less than twice the width. The bottom two or three feet of the outer walls were constructed of limestone. Fairly large blocks were roughly trimmed and placed on each side of the entry. But stone tools were not suitable for finely shaping building stone easily or quickly so the rest of the low stone walls were made up of limestone as it was found, or roughly shaped with a hammer stone. Various pieces, generally close to the same size – perhaps two or three inches wide and 12 inches long – but some larger and some smaller– were ingeniously fitted together so that they interlocked into a tight compressive structure. Espandli studied the construction of the dwelling.

The roughly lozenge-shaped pieces were selected and graded for size and then arranged side by side lengthwise so that the thickness of the walls was equivalent to the length of the stones. The thick walls were constructed in layers so that each stone was placed in the dip where the two stones under it came together. Occasionally smaller stones were used to fill in gaps, especially around the larger blocks near the entry.

As the stones were layered up, they were corbelled inward slightly, cantilevered in such a way that each successive layer overhung the layer below by a little. Careful selection and placement were done so that any irregularities in the stone contributed to the run off of moisture on the outside, whether it was rainwater blown in, accumulated condensation or ice melt. No mortar or mud was needed to plug holes or add support. The rough limestone offered purchase enough to prevent sliding or slipping, and the mass of stones was held by its own weight and could take the thrust of a beam of juniper or pine inserted into the walls to support other building elements or shelving structures. The stones were so cunningly fitted together that no chink of light showed through, and no errant blasts of winter wind could find an opening. The effect was also quite attractive, with a pleasing texture, especially seen from the outside.

Inside the dwelling the stone windbreak wall was all but hidden by a second wall made of panels of rawhide – untreated leather that had dried stiff and hard – attached to wooden poles sunk into the dirt floor. The panels began at ground level but extended above the stone walls vertically to a height of eight or nine feet. The leather panels were modestly and tastefully painted on both the inside and outside with animals and enigmatic marks. Most of the other dwellings were more lavishly decorated. Some of the dwellings were completely free standing, but this one was built against the slightly sloping back wall of the stone shelter so one wall of the dwelling was solid limestone.

There was no ceiling except the underside of the stone ledge some distance above. With the exception of occasional down drafts, smoke from fires rose over the wall panels and drifted out along the lofty stone, leaving the air in the dwelling essentially clear. The cliff overhang protected them from inclement weather and with warm clothing the dwelling was quite comfortable even when it was cold.

While the wood and leather walls offered protection from wind and rain that might blow in, they were designed more to define an area of personal space and provide some measure of privacy, at least from eyes if not ears. Some of the upper panels could be opened to admit light and neighborly conversation, if desired, but when the window panels were closed, it was considered courteous for visitors to use the entry and to ask for admittance, not just call out from the outside or walk in.

The floor inside the dwelling was paved with limestone slabs carefully fitted together. The limestone of the huge cliffs in the region could be broken and often sheared off naturally, along the lines of its crystal structure, into large rather flat fragments. These were used to pave the dirt floor of the dwelling which was in turn covered with mats woven out of grasses and reeds, and rugs of soft fur.

The interior space, divided into three areas by moveable partitions, was orderly and uncluttered, and lighted by several stone lamps that were not now burning. The dividing screens, most colored or decorated in some way, also had wood frames, some with opaque panels, usually the stiff rawhide of uncured leather. Shelves, made of thinner segments of limestone than the paving and spaced at various intervals, lined the stone wall to the right of one of the panels and held an array of objects and implements. Vague shapes could be seen on the floor in a storage area below the lowest shelf, where the slope of the wall was deepest. The objects were functional, but some had been carved and colored with such skill, they were objects of beauty as well.

To the right of the shelves, a leather-paneled screen jutting out from the stone wall marked the corner of the room and the beginning of another room. The screens only suggested a division between the rooms, and through an opening, Espandli could see a raised platform piled high with soft furs. Probably Jondalar and Ayla's sleeping place, he thought.

The draped entrance was part of the outer wall of wood-framed hide panels opposite the stone wall, and on the side across from the sleeping space was the third room, the cooking room. Along the entry wall near the cooking room, freestanding wooden shelves held artfully arranged baskets and bowls beautifully crafted with exquisite craftsmanship, but not as ornately decorated with carved, woven or painted geometric designs and realistic depictions of animals as what he would be seeing in other dwellings. Such garish design was not Ayla's style. She preferred that the craftsmanship speak for itself.

There were four sides to the roughly rectangular dwelling, though the outside walls were not perfectly straight nor the spaces entirely symmetrical. They curved somewhat unevenly, tending to follow the contours of the space under the overhanging shelf, and made allowances for other dwellings.*

(*) The description of the dwelling is taken almost verbatim from Jean Auel's book, The Shelters of Stone, modified only enough to describe a different dwelling.

Jondalar motioned to a low platform about 18 inches wide and six feet long along one wall and said to Espandli, "This is where you will sleep.

You can put your things under the platform. We often sit on the platform during the day. If we do not sit on it we sit on the mats and pillows around the table. The low table was a thin slab of limestone supported on legs and frame made by bending saplings cut to length and lashing them together. Ayla said to Espandli, "Take your time unpacking and organizing your things. While you are doing that I will prepare us a meal." Jondalar then chipped in, "I just finished a special tool for Solaban and I need to take it to him. I won't be long." He then left the dwelling.

Espandli noticed the nearby partition that separated the cooking space from the main room. It was actually two screens connected in an unusual way. The wooden poles that made up the vertical center piece of the frame and legs of both panels were inserted into rings of transversely cut hollow bison horn. The rings formed a kind of hinge near the bottom and top that allowed the double screen to fold. Near the middle of the cooking space was a hearth circled with stones of similar size; the paving stones around it were swept clean. Behind the hearth in a darker corner, with a stone lamp when light was needed, were more shelves that held cups, bowls, platters and implements. He noticed dried herbs and vegetables hanging and then saw the end of a frame with crosspieces to which they were tied. On a work platform beside the hearth were bowls, baskets, and a large bone platter with pieces of fresh red meat cut into chunks.

Espandli had just started unpacking when he looked over at the hearth and noticed the fire was completely out. He looked around and noticed several lamps of sandstone with a shallow depression pecked out to hold tallow each with two to three wicks, but none were lit. Wanting to be useful, he said, "Ayla, can I start the fire for you?" "No," she replied, "I will have it going soon." He thought it strange for her to refuse the offer. Starting a fire was a lot of work twirling a stick between one's palms keeping downward pressure on the end of the stick in a hole in a wooden platform until enough heat built up to create a spark or ember that would drop through the hole onto some soft flammable material. The next time he looked up he recoiled in shock. She had a nice fire going in the cooking hearth and was already heating cooking stones. Just then Jondalar returned. Jondalar looked and Espandli and seeing the near panic expression on his face asked, "Espandli, are you all right? You look like you just saw a ghost." Espandli pointed at the fire and sputtered, "buh – buh – fire!"

Hearing Jondalar's comment Alya looked up and seeing Espandli's anguish decided she would add something to his tea to relax and calm him. She dumped out the contents of her otter skin bag and selected two packets. She knew what was in each by the material of the packet, how it was tied closed and by the kinds and number of knots in the thongs holding the packets closed. She measured out some of each packet by pouring the contents into the palm of her hand and dumped them into his cup. She then added hot water and after seeping for a while brought Jondalar and Espandli their tea. In the meantime Jondalar had calmed Espandli somewhat and was explaining that starting the fire so quickly was not magic, but simply a matter of drawing a spark from the firestone. Espandli was somewhat mollified though not quite convinced.

The tea had the intended calming effect, and once Espandli calmed down, Ayla explained, "To make a fire quickly, you strike this stone, the firestone," she held out the nodule of iron pyrite for him to see, "with a piece of flint," which she showed him with the other hand, "like this, and you get a hot long lasting spark." She then demonstrated by striking the two stones together and drawing out a hot spark. She then continued, "You quickly learn how to strike them to direct the spark to where you want it to go. You make it land in easily combustible tinder like what you would place under the fire starting platform when you twirl a stick in the hole in the platform so the hot coal will drop into it." She then demonstrated by actually starting a small fire which she quickly extinguished. "You see," Jondalar chimed in, "She did not call in the lightning spirit and command it to start the fire." "You could have told me she did and I would have believed you." Replied Espandli, still somewhat shaken. "How did you learn to do it? Is that how your people do it?" "No," Ayla replied, "It was one of those days that everything seemed to be going wrong. My fire had gone out in the night, hyenas were snuffling around the entrance to my cave, I could not find my sling in the dark and I had to throw cooking stones at the hyenas. When morning came I dropped my hand axe and it shattered. I had to make a fire and make a new axe. I decided to make the axe first and was in the process when I picked up one of these fire stones instead of the hammer stone. When I hit the flint a large long lasting spark flew and landed on some dry grass and burned the grass. That gave me the idea, and it worked."

Ayla fixed a dinner, and after they had eaten and were sitting on pillows and mats around the low table talking and sipping some of Jondalar's mother's wine, Espandli spoke, "Ayla, I have an apology and a confession." "I don't understand," Ayla responded, "You have not hurt me in any way, and it would be more appropriate to make confessions to Zelandoni." "I might not have hurt you openly," he said, "but I have wronged you in my mind." "I don't understand," Ayla countered. Espandli continued, "When I first saw you out in the valley this morning, I saw a woman alone far from any other people who might help her if something were to happen, with two small children, no ornamentation or tattoos to denote status. I assumed you were an unmated woman of low rank and little or no family and who might be shunned by the other women; that you had to forage for food for yourself and your children. You're bearing and authoritative way that you spoke did not fit with my first impression, but then when you showed no fear of me and my acolytes or the lone wolf that I warned you of, it thought you might not be too bright. I could not have been more wrong. You are mated to the leader's brother who is obvioulsy quite capable of providing for you and it was obvious at the noon meal that the other women accept you as one of them. In particular I noticed a young woman showing you her clothing and it was quite important to her that you approved. I am truly sorry that I thought less of you than I should have."

Ayla was deeply touched. She took a while to compose her thoughts. Finely she responded, "Espandli, no apology is needed. I understand how you would have drawn your impressions. As for my ranking in the Ninth Cave, I never give it any thought. I suppose you would think I am of high ranking being mated to the leader's brother, but I do not think of myself as being of any particular rank.

What I do know is that I am happier than I ever dreamed that I could be. I am mated to the man I love and who I thought I would never find, I have his children and I have been accepted by the wonderful people of the Ninth Cave as one of them even though I brought strange ways, have a strange background and strange ideas." Espandli thought her reference to "his" children was rather odd. Except for Ayla, people had not yet made the connection of man's role in conception. They thought the "spirits" might select some essence of some man and imbue them into the child, but such was out of the control of the man or the woman. Otherwise she seemed exceptionally articulate and said exactly what she meant. She continued, "I was orphaned when I was five years old. I think it was an earthquake that took my people from me. That same earthquake destroyed the cave of some Clan people who were looking for a new cave when they found me starved, badly scratched by a cave lion and nearly dead. Their medicine woman took me, the leader did not forbid it, and brought me back to health. I never fit in very well, but they raised me until the old leader passed the leadership on to the son of his mate. The new leader had never liked me and the first thing he did as leader was to make me leave. The Mogur, their spiritual leader, had told me that the cave lion was my totem since he had marked me himself. He also told me that the cave lion was the most powerful totem after the cave bear, and that his testing would be harsh, but the rewards would be worth it. I wandered for most of the spring, and finally found a lush valley with a nice cave. I stayed in the valley three years. I was living in the valley when Jondalar came. If having the life I have now is the reward for the hardships I have had, the old Mogur was right."

"I appreciate your tolerance of my indiscretion," said Espandli, "some people are very sensitive about those things. But I still have my confession to make. Frankly, Ayla, you frighten me." "Frighten you!" She laughed, "I have never frightened anyone, nor have I ever tried to."

"Your explanation of the fire making was rather convincing. I have to think about it though. There has to be more to what happened than just chance." He said. "There are so many things about you that seem unreal that I feel that you have some supernatural power." "That could be," interjected Jondalar, "But, she has never done anything to harm anyone and has done a lot to help people. You do not need to be afraid." "I am not that different from anyone else." Ayla insisted. "I have just had to do things to survive and it led me to some interesting discoveries."

"That may be," continued Espandli, "but what about your control over the wolf?" "The wolf thinks Alya is his mother and the leader of his pack." Jondalar broke in. Alya continued, "Jondalar and I had left the valley and were living with the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi, a people that live a year's travel to the east, at the time. I and Deegie, a girl of about my age, were running a trap line she had set. I killed wolf's mother when I caught her stealing ermine from the snares. After I killed her, I realized she was a nursing mother. She was all black and had probably been run out of her pack because she was different. She must have found a mate, probably another lone wolf, and became pregnant and whelped out of season and something then happened to her mate so she was alone. She was trying to raise the pups alone. I tracked her spoor back to her den and found the only pup left alive and took him with us back to the Lion Camp's earth lodge where we lived. He was just old enough for his eyes to be open. I nursed him, loved him and kept him warm. He grew up with the children of the Lion Camp thinking they and the other people were his pack." Jondalar added, "The wolf is protective of Ayla like you would be protective of your mother, and anxious to please her as you are anxious to please your mother. That is her control of him."

Espandli pondered what he had just heard. It sounded too simple - too easy. Why had it not been done before? He then spoke, "Is the raising of wolves a common thing for those, what did you call them, Mamutoi people?" "No", explained Jondalar, "They were totally amazed to watch Ayla train the animal and see the mutual devotion that developed between them." "Whatever made you even think of saving the pup?" asked Espandli. Alya answered, "When I was living with the Clan people, the Medicine woman and the Mogur were siblings. Neither was mated, but they lived together and raised me as their daughter. I found that I had a talent for healing, and the Medicine woman trained me. When she got old and sick, they made me their Medicine woman even though I was not Clan. It is a natural feeling for a Medicine woman to want to help anything live. I simply could not let it die."

Espandli thought for a while and then spoke, "Another thing that did not seem quite right was your lack of fear of me and my acolytes. You were tense when I approached you, but did not show fear. As I got close, the tension went away and you put away some kind of leather strap which I assume was a weapon. I thought you would be very afraid and that I would have a job calming you down. There were three of us and you were far from anyone that could help. We could have raped and killed you, stolen your beautifully made weapons, and no one would ever have known."

Jondalar spoke, "Ayla is not one to brag, but she could have dropped you and your acolytes in your tracks with that sling. If one of you had been able to reach her, Wolf would have torn your throat out before you could harm her." Espandli looked over at the wolf, which looked back at him, with new appreciation. Jondalar's explanation did nothing to make Ayla's control of the wolf any less supernatural.

Both Jondalar and Ayla thought they were helping Espandli understand that she was not calling on the help of the spirit world to do what she did, but it was not quite working as well as they thought. Espandli felt there must be more to it than they were saying. He was even more convinced of it since Ayla did such magic without any activities to lead up to it and prepare the audience for a demonstration. She just did those things as though they were normal day-to-day things to do. That made him think she was an even more powerful shaman than if she were to do things to prepare him to expect something strange to happen.

Again Espandli thought for quite a while and then spoke, "You have convincing arguments, but I still feel you have more power to invoke the spirits than what you admit to. Most shamans go to great lengths to try to convince people of their powers while you try to dismiss the fact that you have such power. How do you explain how you returned from the valley so quickly with a full haversack of grain that must have taken all of the morning to harvest? It was nearly a half day's walk which would have gotten you back here early evening. Somehow you got back, and had time to prepare and cook the hares and ptarmigan, and serve them to us for the mid-day meal." "We rode the horses," She casually retorted. Then added as she looked over at the toddler who was curled up and sleeping with the wolf curled around her, "I don't yet let Jonayla, the three year old, ride at a full gallop. But a horse covers a lot of ground very fast even at a trot. Didn't you notice the horses when you were talking to me out in the valley?"

Espandli was stunned speechless. He was thinking, "People do not ride horses. They hunt horses to eat and for hides and bone and other useful parts. He had seen the horses and it had struck him at the time that they were another thing that was out of place. This woman must have very powerful ties with the spirit world. She must be a very powerful shaman."

Jondalar broke the silence, "I ride a horse too. Ayla's mare had a colt that has now grown into a stallion. I trained it and I ride it when we hunt or travel. Sometimes we just ride for fun. Ayla's mare had the filly about three years ago and we have trained her so Jonayla can ride her. Maybe tomorrow we can show you. It is much like with the wolf. If you get them young and raise them, they think of you as their herd and do things for you because they want to."

Finally Espandli spoke, "Is there no end of amazing things that you people do?" "Espandli," Jondalar said, "Ayla is a very talented and capable person, but what she does is not as supernatural as you might think. When I first saw her, I was waking up from a cave lion mauling and she was treating me, I thought she was a doni that had come to take me to the spirit world. Since then, I have been able to do most of what she does, but even yet I wonder if maybe she might have some super natural powers."

Espandli was trying to put all of what he had just heard into some logical framework in his mind. It was just too much. "If she was living alone in a valley a year's travel to the east, how could she be treating someone who had been mauled by a cave lion? What was he doing there? He was obviously Zelandonii. He belonged here." It was all too much. He would try to sort it out later.

"Espandli," Ayla said, interrupting his thoughts, "How is it that you have come here?"

Espandli shook his head to clear his thoughts and responded, "I and my acolytes are here on a pilgrimage, we are hoping for advanced training from your famed Zelandoni. If they agree to our request, we might be here for a year. My people live many days travel to the south and west of here. We have fallen on bad times. Some of the very young, very old and weak have died. I believe that if I had been better prepared, I could have been of more help to them. That is why we are here." Alya responded, "You have come to the right place. The Zelandoni are very good. And the Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave is first among the Zelandoni, and she is not first without reason. I hope you get the training you need and that it helps you help your people."

Espandli thought to himself, "If this woman is impressed by the Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave, I wonder what surprises Zelandoni might have in store for me?" He said, "Thank you Ayla for the encouragement. I hope I am worthy"

His last comment made Ayla think to herself, "Maybe he is hurting inside. Maybe he is blaming himself for the misfortunes of his people. I hope he has what it takes."

Jondalar spoke next saying, "Espandli, Ayla is right. Our Zelandoni is the best. She can train you in the ways of the spiritual world as good as anyone. But, the Ninth Cave also has some practical things that you and your acolytes should learn and take back as well. We can show you new hunting weapons, and how to make and use them, that will greatly improve your hunting ability. Maybe tomorrow we should show you some of them. It will be a few days before the Zelandoni can arrange a meeting to discuss your request. We could use that time to show you some worldly things that would help your people. I think you will be impressed."

The next morning, after one of Ayla's hearty breakfasts, Ayla and Jondalar gathered their hunting weapons and started out through the overhanging stone shelter with Espandli. Ayla carried the baby and the toddler trundled along behind. Wolf took his protective position beside Espandli. When they came to a particular dwelling, Ayla stopped and rapped on the drape closing the entrance. An older woman opened the panel and Ayla said to her, "Marthona, I don't think you have met our visitors." The woman stepped out saying, "No I haven't, but I heard about them." Ayla made the formal introductions, "Marthona meet Espandli of the Espandlii, and Espandli meet Marthona, former leader of the Ninth Cave, mother of Joharran leader of the Ninth Cave, and mother of Jondalar master flint knapper and traveler to far-away lands. "Greetings Espandli," Marthona said as they clasped hands, "and welcome to the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii." Jondalar then explained to Marthona, "We were just heading to the Gather Field to practice with our weapons and to show Espandli how effective the spear thrower and sling can be. We are also hoping to give the horses some exercise and demonstrate their uses to Espandli." "Great idea," said Marthona, "Do you mind if I come along?" "Of course we don't mind." Ayla and Jondalar replied almost in unison. "We would be pleased to have your company," added Ayla.

Along the way they found Espandli's acolytes and had them join them. When they were near the opposite end of the natural shelter, they came to what looked like another dwelling, but it had no drape closure for the entry. Jondalar explained, "This is where the horses stay when the weather is bad, or whenever they want to. They might be here now." The acolytes said almost as one, "Horses?" "Yes, horses," answered Jondalar. "We ride the horses for fun, travelling and hunting. We will demonstrate when we get to the Gather Field." He then turned to the acolytes and said, "While you are here, you should learn some of the practical things that we can show you that will help your people. These things can be as important as the mystical things that you will be learning from the Zelandoni." They entered the dwelling and to their delight, the horses were there.

The older mare raised her head and made circles in the air with her nose as she walked over to Alya. The mare put her head across Ayla's shoulder and Ayla wrapped her arms around the mare's neck in a pose that they often used to draw comfort from, and to show affection for, each other. The darker stallion first put his nose down and rubbed noses with Wolf and then went to Jondalar who scratched, patted, rubbed and talked to him. The young mare nuzzled the toddler who patted and rubbed her.

Espandli and the acolytes stood in the doorway agape in wide eyed and open mouthed wonder. Marthona, a former leader and current advisor to her other son Joharran, the present leader, watched the reactions of the visitors as she held the baby. She was astute to the political implications of most situations and knew she was watching the status of the Ninth Cave, which was already high, growing in the minds of the visitors. It did not escape her conscious thoughts that such esteem by these holy men would have far more impact on those to whom they spread the word than would the same information coming from traders or the story tellers.

Ayla then lifted the toddler and placed her on the younger mare. The toddler grinned with delight as she grabbed the mane and asked, "We ride now?" "Not yet," Replied Ayla, "We first have to brush the horses." She and Jondalar took some wild carrots from a covered bin and fed them to the horses and then brushed the horses with teasels to the obvious delight of the horses. Ayla and Jondalar then led the horses, with the toddler riding the young mare, down the path to the valley below. The others followed keeping a distance from the horses and eyeing them warily. They walked the path along the river until the floodplain widened out at the Gather Field.

Jondalar stopped and addressed the group, "Earlier I mentioned to Espandli that I thought we might have some practical things that you could learn to make and do. You could then take this knowledge back to your people as well as the spiritual things that you will be learning from the Zelandoni. Today we will demonstrate what I am talking about, and then you can learn more about them as opportunities and your interests develop during your stay with us. We will start by showing you the sling."

Ayla took out her sling and showed it to them as the three visitors crowded around her. It was a rather innocuous strip of leather about three feet long with a widening at the middle that had been stretched into a shallow pouch and the ends tapering to less than an inch wide. She then took two smooth round stones out of a pocket like pouch on her garment. Meanwhile, Jondalar had picked up two clumps of sod and had walked some distance away. When Ayla finished showing the visitors the sling she looked over to where Jondalar was and when she did the others looked at him too. While they were looking at him he threw the clumps of sod into the air. Thump thump the clumps exploded into flying dust. The visitors did not see Ayla load, swing the sling and let go of the projectiles. They had been watching Jondalar. The one acolyte said, "What happened?" and the other exclaimed, "Wow! How did you do that?" Espandli's first thought was that it was some kind of trick. Marthona smiled.

"Ayla hit the clumps of sod with stones from her sling," Jondalar explained. "She did what?" queried Espandli. Ayla then showed them how she placed a stone in the sling, swung it around and let fly a stone hitting a chunk of limestone near the bottom of the cliff with a loud crack and creating a cloud of dust. One of the acolytes said, "I see what you did just now, but how did you hit both clumps of sod?" "I threw two stones, one after the other." Ayla replied and then asked, "What is your name?" "Padrollo", the young acolyte answered. "Watch closely Padrollo and I will hit that rock with two stones." She then proceeded with her double throw technique where after casting the first stone; she loaded a second stone into the sling on the down stroke and let it fly the next swing. There was Crack Crack as two stones hit the block of limestone in quick succession. Padrollo said, "Wow, could you show me how to do that?" "I will be glad to, but not now." Ayla said. "There are other things we need to show you today, and the sling takes a lot of practice to master." Espandli then asked, "Is that how you got the hares and ptarmigan that you had when we first saw you?" "Yes," answered Ayla. With timing that could not have been planned, Wolf scared up two ptarmigans. Ayla dispatched both as they took to the air." Espandli was the first of the visitors to grasp the significance of what they had just seen and gasped almost in disbelief, "You even use the wolf to help find game. How did you learn to do all that?"

Alya explained, "The people that raised me when I was orphaned at five years old were quite different than us. The women did not hunt. Only the men hunted. In fact the women were not allowed to hunt. The women did not mind. They never felt the desire to hunt. But I was different. I wanted to hunt. I watched the men practicing, and one of the older men was good with the sling and he was teaching the young men. After one of their practice sessions, they discarded a worn out sling which I retrieved and started to practice with. I eventually made myself a good sling, but I had to practice secretly since women were not allowed to hunt or even touch hunting weapons or the tools used to make hunting weapons. The old man had said that one could kill a lynx with a sling, but nothing larger.

I had developed considerable skill when one day in the woods, I came across a lynx. If I had any sense, I would have been very quiet until it went on its way. But I was very young and so I tried to kill the lynx with my sling. I hit it, but did not kill it. I made it mad and it leaped at me. I fell backward, grabbed a dead branch that was lying on the ground and hit the lynx with it. I guess the lynx decided it had been hurt enough for one day and went away. I was very lucky, but also very scared. It was a long time before I hunted again, but when I did I decided that if I could have thrown a second stone quickly enough; I could have killed the lynx. So, I taught myself the double stone throw technique."

Jondalar then said, "There will be time to learn more about the sling later. Today we just want to show you some things and you can be thinking about how much you want to learn about them while you are with us. The next thing I want to show you is the spear thrower." He held up a fairly flat piece of wood a little over an inch wide, a half inch thick and about 18 inches long. At one end were two leather thong loops and at the other end the wood had been carved to make a forward pointing hook on the top of the piece of wood. When in use, the hook would be on the back end and the thong loops on the front. Then Jondalar said to the acolyte that had not said much during the sling demonstration, but was studying his spears with obvious interest, "What is your name and how far can you through a spear?" The young man smiled and said, "My name is Gonzo and I am quite good with a spear." He seemed to be in his element. "Here," Jondalar said as he handed the lad a spear, "Throw it at that target." An animal skin had been set up, stuffed with hay and had the outline of a deer painted on it. The lad took the spear, hefted it to get the feel of a new and different weapon, pulled it back, lunged forward a few steps and let it fly. It hit the target, but not in the middle. "Very good," said Jondalar. "How far do you think I could throw the spear?" The acolyte looked at Jondalar. Jondalar was a tall well built man and obviously knew something that they were all going to learn, so he said, "I am sure you can throw the spear farther and more accurately than I can." "You are probably right," said Jondalar, "But with this," he held up the innocuous piece of wood, "I can throw twice as far as you just did and still hit the target." "This I have to see" thought Espandli to himself.

They retrieved the spear, and Jondalar said, "Let's walk back to about twice the distance from that target." They all followed him. "Now, notice how I hold this spear thrower and mount the spear into it," he said as he held the piece of wood horizontally on his arm put two fingers through the thong loops and placed the spear on it. He then pushed the end of the spear back and engaged it on the hook of the spear thrower. The end of the spear shaft had a hollow carved into it that fit onto the hook. He then pulled it back, lunged forward and let the spear fly. The spear thrower lifted up and gave the spear additional thrust as though the man's arm was twice as long. The spear flew through the air and totally penetrated the center of the target. Everyone had been watching Jondalar and had not noticed Ayla ready her spear and spear thrower and were astonished when within a heartbeat a second spear penetrated the target a half a hand width from Jondalar's. The three visitors turned as one and looked at Ayla, their mouths gaping. None of them had ever seen anyone throw a spear as far and as accurately, let alone a woman. Not that women could not hunt, they could and many were quite good hunters, but a woman is just not as strong as a man - - especially a man as well built as Jondalar.

Espandli was starting to see the advantages that it would bring his people if his acolytes were to learn how to make and use these weapons and show his people when they got home. This pilgrimage might gain more than he had dared hope. Gonzo asked, "Where did you learn about the spear thrower?" Jondalar answered, "It was actually Ayla's sling that gave me the idea. During the summer that I stayed with her in her valley, I was just as impressed with her sling and her skill with it as you were just now. I wished that I could throw a spear like she could throw stones. At first I tried a leather strap something like her sling, but soon gave up on that. Eventually I came up with what you now see, but it took a lot of different designs and a lot of practice."

As Jondalar was explaining the spear thrower, Gonzo, although listening intently, was looking closely at Jondalar's spears. When Jondalar had finished explaining about the spear thrower, Gonzo asked, "Why don't all your spears have points?" Jondalar was quick to respond, "When Ayla and I were traveling back here I broke a spear. We were travelling light and I had no replacement so we had to stop while I made some new spears. I had just started and was looking at the perfectly good shaft that was broken just behind where the point had been attached. It was a lot of work to make a shaft and straighten it and I thought how easy it would be if one could just replace the point. Eventually I came about the design you see here where the points are separate from the shaft until you are ready to use them. The shaft is made with a tapered hole in the end and the point is attached to a short piece of shaft with a matching taper. You then attach the point to the shaft like this." As the youth watched, Jondalar put the tapered end of the short point shaft into the hole in the end of the spear shaft and gave it a little twist to insure that it was tight. Jondalar continued, "Now you only need a few shafts and you carry a variety of points. You assemble the kind of point you need when you come upon your quarry. When the spear hits the animal, it comes apart with the shaft falling safely to the ground and the point remaining in the animal." "WOW," Exclaimed Gonzo, his eyes full of wonder. He then said, "And your flint points are beautifully made too." Jondalar said, "Flint knapping is my trade. I learned from the best who happened to be the mate of my hearth when I was born. I went to live with him while I learned the trade. Then when I was far to the east and after I had met Ayla and we were staying with the Mamutoi people, I learned more from their master flint knapper. Are you interested in learning more about flint knapping and spear making?" "Wow, would I ever," Said Gonzo.

The horses had wandered a ways off and were calmly grazing. Marthona was holding the baby. The toddler was playing by herself around the people when Wolf was not around to amuse her which he was much of the time. Ayla let out a shrill whistle and the horses came trotting over to her. The visitor's gaped in amazement. Marthona smiled. She was enjoying this. She was going to have a long talk with Zelandoni. Ayla and Jondalar jumped onto their respective horses, Ayla on the older mare and Jondalar on the stallion, and they raced off at a gallop. The visitor's gaped in amazement. They galloped in a wide circle and then went past, but not actually close to, the target that they had just used to demonstrate the spear throwers and each plunged a spear into the center of the target while at a full gallop. The visitor's gasped in amazement. Espandli's head was spinning. This was all too much. He would have to meditate on what he had seen today. He would have to think it through. Did all these things really happen, or was this some kind of trick. As shaman, he was well aware of tricks, but he could not see how anyone could stage such overt skill. And they did it all so casually. He was going to have a long talk with Zelandoni.

Ayla and Jondalar rode back to the group and with seeming effortlessness slid off the horses. Padrollo was starring at the horses in such awed wonder that Ayla could not help but ask if he would like to ride. "Could I?" He asked. "Sure," She said, "Let's go over to that piece of limestone at the bottom of the cliff and I will help you get on." They walked over to the same rock that she had used to demonstrate the sling and the older mare followed. Ayla said, "Padrollo stand on the rock," as she led the horse into position next to it. "Now hold onto her mane and swing your leg across her back and then sit up," instructed Ayla as she held, rubbed, patted and talked to the horse. "When you want the horse to go, lean forward. The farther you lean forward the faster she will go. When you want to slow down or stop, lean back." She then let go of the mare and gave her a soft pat on the rump. The horse took off at a gentle walk. At first Padrollo just hung on, but soon he got used to it and actually looked around. He was amazed and thrilled at how different the valley looked from the vantage point of the horse, and that he was moving without walking or running. He leaned forward and the horse broke into an easy trot. The mare took him around a large oval returning to the rock where Ayla was waiting. Alya helped Padrollo off. He just stood for a while with a silly grin on his face.

2

The hunters were carefully and slowly, much slower than they would have liked, working their way along the outcropping of rock. They were trying to get around of, and up wind of, the herd of aurochs, the ancient ancestor of modern cattle measuring six feet high and weighing three times that of their domesticated descendents, so they could stampede the animals into the surround. The outcropping was forcing them to be much closer to the animals than they would have preferred and any misstep or noise at this point could send the herd stampeding off in the wrong direction. They only had a short distance left and they would be around the outcropping and could resume their normal speed and normal cautiousness. The five hunters were from the Lion Camp in the far eastern steppes of what would someday be called Europe. But this was the ice age and this was the world to them. They had heard stories of places far to the west, but their world was limited to several days walking in any direction. The hunting party was much farther south than what they normally would have gone. Game was usually hunted closer to their permanent base, the Lion Camp, if for no other reason than the work of carrying back the meat and other useable parts of the animals killed. The real reason for venturing so far south was to see what was there since only the oldest of the group had ever traveled the territory, and even they had not done so for many years. It had started out as more of a holiday. When they had come across the large herd of aurochs it was an opportunity they could not pass up. They had to try to get some of the animals.

Several years before, a beautiful young woman and a handsome young man had come upon them, seemingly out of nowhere, and had lived with then for nearly a year. The man said he was Jondalar of the Zelandonii and that his people lived a year's travel to the west. She said her name was Ayla and clamed to have been orphaned at age five and had been raised by flatheads. She said they considered themselves as "Clan" and she always referred to them as "Clan". The term flathead was more descriptive than derogatory, but was usually used in a derogatory sense. The term reflected on their heavy brow ridges, receding forehead, lack of chin and bulbous back of the head. There was little contact with flatheads (clan) as the clan tended to avoid the "others" as they referred to modern humans. When there had been contact, it had not always been pleasant. The woman had told them that the clan did not have a vocal language, but communicated with hand and arm signals and with body posture. She had taught the people of Lion Camp some of the clan language and that is what the hunters were using now to communicate so as to avoid making any noise.

Just as the hunters rounded the end of the outcropping, they stopped dead in their tracks and stared. Facing them and staring back, as astounded as the hunters, was a band of four clan hunters. They stared at each other for what seemed an eternity, but what was actually a few seconds. Finally the leader of the Lion Camp hunters, Danug, a young, but giant of a man, came to his senses and signaled, with the sign language the woman has taught them, "Greetings", to the clansmen. He had quickly grasped that if the confrontation turned onto a fight, his group of hunters would probably loose. They had the advantage of numbers and were well armed, but the clam men, although short, were powerfully built, had primitive but effective spears and looked mean. Besides, with a herd of aurochs just around the corner, this was no time for conflict of any kind. He decided to try friendliness. He did not know if the hand signals he knew were actually a language, and even if it was, could it be "their" language. But he did not know what else to do.

If suddenly coming face-to-face with a group of the "others" was not shocking enough, the clan men were now absolutely astounded that these "others" could actually talk. They had always heard that the others were not too smart. After another long pause while both sides were collecting their wits, one of the clan men signaled back, "Greetings". Actually that clan man was quite young and was not full clan. He was a mixture. Mixtures were not well tolerated by either side, but there he was speaking, signing, for the clan men.

Danug came to his senses first and signaled, "Have you had good hunting?" The clan man responded with, "No, we have just now decided to go back." To which Danug signaled, "Don't go back. Join us. There is a herd of aurochs on the other side of this outcropping. We are going around them to get up wind and then stampede them into a surround. You can help and share in the kill. We have other hunters at the surround to direct the animals into the surround. Since there are not so many of you, you can have one out of every three animals that are killed". The clan man who was the mixture seemed to grasp the concept although he did not quite understand what Danug meant when he signed "surround". He studied Danug for a while and then tuned to his other hunters and had a rather lengthy discussion with them. After some time he turned to Danug and signaled, "We agree".

Danug signaled, "What is your name?" The clan man signaled back, "My name is", he hit his chest with his fist and said out loud "Durc." Danug repeated the name reasonably well, "Durc." And the clan man nodded approvingly. Danug then repeated the signals hit his chest with his fist and said "Danug." The clan man struggled with the multiple syllable word saying "Da-ag." Danug hesitated and then decided that it was good enough and nodded. Both men felt rather pleased with themselves.

It took some more negotiating to work out the details since the method of hunting was new to the clan. The clan men were led around the outcrop to see for themselves that the animals did exist. Just before moving out to take up their agreed to positions behind the herd, Danug remembered something else that the young woman had told them about the clan. Women were not allowed to hunt. He turned to the man who was a mixture and signaled, "I must tell you that we allow our women to hunt, and that some are now waiting at the surround. Do not be surprised when you see them." The man signaled back that there were stories of a woman years ago in their clan who hunted." He then told the other clan men about the women hunters that they would see. Eventually, the two groups of very different hunters had positioned themselves up wind of the herd and in position to drive the herd into the trap that was waiting for them.

The four clan men were spaced between the five hunters from the Lion Camp. Danug thought his men could run faster than the short legged clan men, which was true but not by much, and that the outer men might have to be fast should an animal try to escape to the side. At first they approached the herd slowly allowing/encouraging outlying animals to simply move into the main body of the herd. When the herd was fairly closely packed, they stampeded them by shouting, waiving pieces of clothing, running and banishing burning torches of dried grass.

The arrangement could not be described as unusual or even unorthodox. It was absolutely and simply never done. It could never happen. It was as feasible as lions hunting cooperatively with tigers. It violated both groups deeply ingrained belief systems. Modern humans, like those of the Lion Camp, grew up knowing that flatheads were somehow bad and not to be associated with. Both kept away from the other, and when one espied the other he/they would run and hide. All possible effort was made to avoid contact. Some groups of modern humans had more tolerance than others, but none mingled let alone cooperated in any way such as a hunt. Danug knew that if the arrangement worked at all he would have some explaining to do when the animals were trapped in the surround and people could stop and think about the situation. If it did not work, he would have even more explaining to do. He hoped the other hunters would not do something foolish, like attacking the clan hunters, before he could explain what had happened and the agreement he had made with them. He did have one advantage and that was being part of the Lion Camp.

Several years before, Nezzie the mate of Talut their headman, had adopted a child born to a clan woman who had been following them when they were out gathering. The woman died after giving birth and Nezzie took in the infant. The baby turned out to be male and a mixture of modern human and flathead features, but sickly. One of his flathead features was that he could not talk. It was a brave thing for Nezzie to do considering the prejudices towards faltheads and it caused problems at the summer meetings when all the camps met each year. When the beautiful young woman, Ayla, saw the sickly child she was immediately attracted to him and among other things showed him how to talk with the clan sign language which he picked up immediately. She then taught the basic language to the other members of the Lion Camp and once they could communicate with the child they realized that he was a feeling, thinking, caring and even witty, human being. Not just a clever animal. The woman had stood up for the child at the next summer meeting when others made fun of him and tried to shame the Lion Camp for harboring him. The boy died during that summer meeting and some of the other camps would not let him have a human burial, so Ayla gave him a Clan burial. The incidents brought into the open a festering rift that had been forming among the Mamutoi, the people of whom the Lion Camp was part. But, the entire experience had made the people of the Lion Camp much more appreciative, and sympathetic towards flatheads than were most people.

The Lion Camp and Clan hunters managed to successfully drive a large number of the animals into the surround where they were quickly dispatched. Some, that tried to veer away from the makeshift fence that funneled the creatures into the blind canyon, were killed with spears thrown with spear throwers from hunters waiting near, or behind the fence. Others were dispatched when they turned and tried to run back out through the opening leading into the blind canyon. The living animals tended to avoid the dead carcasses which helped keep them in the trap. Danug got two of the animals with his spears. He was a large strong man and had practice with, and gained considerable skill with the spear thrower that the tall handsome man that had arrived with Ayla had showed them. Most of the men of the Lion Camp now used the spear throwers as did some of the women.

The clan hunters did not have spear throwers. In fact, the clan hunters did not throw their spears. They had to get close enough to the animal to stab the spear into it. Their normal hunting practice was to cut an animal from the herd and then run him in circles, chasing one hunter after another until he tired, or they hunted in ambush. The ambush technique involved two or more hunters hiding on opposite sides of a narrow place through which the animals would have to pass. The other hunters would get behind the group of animals and try to chase them through the space where the first hunters were waiting. When one did pass through, the hunters would jump out and stab it. If it veered away from one hunter, it would go towards the other who would then stab it. It was not always necessary to actually stampede the animals, unless they were determined to avoid the ambush. So, while the modern human hunters, systematically killed the animals by throwing spears from relative protected positions up on the wall of the canyon and from behind the fencing, the clan hunters went into the floor of the canyon with the animals and speared those they could. More than one clan hunter was saved by a spear from a spear thrower downing a charging animal just before it gored the hunter. These incidents did not escape the notice of the clan hunters.

The hunters from the Lion Camp killed many more aurochs than the two thirds that Danug had agreed they would take (leaving the rest for the clan hunters). This was going to be a problem, he could see. Each hunter, from both sides would expect to claim each animal that he had actually killed. When most of the animals had been killed, and activity was slowing down, Danug went over to where his father, Talut, the headman of the Lion Camp, was watching the action. Danug did not think of Talut as "father" in the sense of genetics, but rather as the man of his hearth and the mate of his mother. The people did not understand the role a man played in conception. One came from the mother so there was an obvious genetic conection with her. He had taken only a few steps when Durc came up to him and signaled that a hunter was going to get their women, and that the women would butcher their animals. Danug nodded approval; or at least acknowledgment.

As Danug approached Talut, he called out, "Talut, we have to talk!" Talut saw him coming and, totally ignoring Danug's words, bellowed "Danug, where did those flatheads come from? What are they doing killing our animals?" "That's what we have to talk about," responded Danug. "This had better be good," roared Talut. Talut, if anything was bigger than Danug. Not fat. Just big with bright red hair and a flaming red beard, both of which were just starting to gray. He had just dispatched more than his share of aurochs. He jumped up on a large rock where he could be seen by everyone and roared out to all the hunters for their attention. When they we looking and listening, he bellowed, "Danug has some explaining to do!" and motioned for Danug to get up on the rock. Talut knew that there was not time for Danug to explain it to him, have a discussion and then talk to the people. What ever it was, they all had to know now! Those that had been farther away were moving closer to the rock as Danug climbed up. As he waited for a moment to insure everyone's attention, he noticed the clan hunter that Durc had just told him about running off in the direction they had come.

When he was sure that he had everyone's attention, he started with the understatement of the obvious, "You may have noticed that some flatheads have joined out hunt."

"Yeah" someone shouted, "What are they doing here?"

"Where did they come from?" Another queried.

"That is what I have to explain," said Danug. "As we were working our way around the herd, to get into position to drive then into our trap, we came across the flatheads. I did not know what to do, so I invited them to join us. I agreed that they could have one out of every three that were killed. I thought that we had about twice as many hunters as they did and assumed we would kill twice as many animals as they would."

Another voice called out, "We killed a lot more than they did. We should have more." "That is true," replied Danug, "But, we would not have gotten as many into the trap without their help." "The kid is good," thought Talut to himself, "he negotiates well and is quick on his feet".

Another voice called out, "How are we going to decide which ones that we killed are going to them?"

"A good point," Danug responded. "To begin with, I will give up one of mine. I will give up two if I need to. I made an agreement when I was unable to consult with anyone and I intend to live up to it as well as I can."

With that Talut jumped up and added, "I too will give up one of mine and two if needed." "OK" another voice added. "This hunt has been successful beyond any of our wildest expectations. I have no problem sharing."

Danug added, "Tie something, a piece of leather or even a handful of grass, to the horns of the animal you are giving to the flatheads. That way they will know to take it. And I would suggest that those of you who have killed three of four animals consider giving up an animal."

By custom meat was shared by the entire Camp, but the hide, bones, hoofs, internal parts and other parts that were of value for tools, glue and containers, or whatever, were for the hunter that killed the beast.

Just before stepping down from the rock, Danug remembered the clan hunter going back to get their women and something that Alya had told them about clan customs when she was with them years before, and held up his arm to regain everyone's attention. He then explained, "A Clan hunter has gone back to get their women. If you remember, Ayla told us that Clan women do not hunt, and the men do not butcher the animals. Their women will be butchering their animals. Ayla also told us that Clan women do not like to be looked at, and that the men do not like others staring at their women. Please let them work and do not look at them. When their work is done, the women among us who still remember the Clan signs might approach their women and talk to them."

The clan people had no idea of what all the yelling was about and generally ignored it even though it further distressed them. They used vocal words only for emphasis or warning and vocalization annoyed them. But, when Durc heard Danug say the word "Alya" his head shot up. That had been his mother's name. He could not remember her as she had died when he was very young, but the older people had told him about her. He knew she had been one of the "Others". Another clan man's head also shot up at the sound of her name. Goov, was a valuable hunter, but was also the clan's Mog-ur, their spiritual leader. Years before, the newly installed leader, Broud, had just made Goov, who had been the old Mog-ur's acolyte, the Clan's new Mog-ur dismissing the older Mog-ur of his duties, and within minutes had ordered him to impose the death curse on Ayla whom Broud had always hated. It was Goov's first official act as Mog-ur. At the next Clan gathering which was held every seventh year, Goov had consulted the other Mog-urs about many ceremonies including the death curse and discovered that he had done some things wrong. He never let on to anyone, but the fact that he might have botched the curse hung over him. On one hand he feared the wrath of the spirits for his error. On the other hand, he had always liked Ayla and regretted having to impose the death curse on her. He could not understand why it had been necessary, but was compelled to obey the direct order of the leader. To hear her name after all these years made him wonder if because of his errors she might actually have lived. It filled him with mixed emotions, but the over riding feeling was fear that he had failed and would pay for that failure in the afterlife. Hopefully, it was just coincidence. Maybe Ayla was a common name among the others. Durc was unaware of the death curse.

Nobody from the Lion Camp had any idea as to how stressed the Clan people were. They were very stressed by the fact that they were on the verge of starvation, and now they were hunting and working amid and with those other people that they referred to as "the others" which was simply never done. It was beyond their frame of reference. Even simple changes required lots of discussion and negotiation among them to condition their minds for the change before it happened. They were creatures of tradition and change did not come easily to them; and this was traumatic change. They were only able to function because of the desperate condition they were in, and even then they were working through habit and rote. They were on the verge of panic. They, like the hunting party from the Lion Camp, were much farther from their cave, although north rather than south, than any had ever been. Unlike the hunting party from the Lion Camp, the clan people where driven to search farther afield by desperation. The people of the Lion Camp had no appreciation for how stressful the situation was for the Clan people. Some of the people of the Lion Camp might have been very unhappy to be working with the Clan people, and some might be rather uneasy. Some might even have felt it to be morally wrong. But they were not stressed.

Talut was in his element. He reveled in making the Lion Camp novel, and the reputation that novelty gave him and the Camp within the larger sphere of the Mamutoi community. They had once had the oldest and highest ranking Mamut, the Mamutoi name for their spiritual-medical-intellectual leader, they once had the child of mixed spirits, and they had hosted Ayla and the tall handsome man that had come with her and whom she had left with. Since then, his Camp had been leading the reconciliation and re-uniting of the various Mamutoi camps. But this joint hunt was unique and novel beyond anything that he could have ever imagined. He loved it. He especially liked it because the two distinctly different peoples were not killing each other. They were actually working together. It was unheard of. It could have never been imagined. He wondered where it would lead.

Danug went over to Durc and signed, "We have killed more than our share of the animals and have to give some to your people." Durc was puzzled. He had no concept of ratios of large numbers and the animals killed, while not actually many, was a large number to his frame of reference. Only Mog-urs understood the counting marks they made on the sticks and no one dared to ever question them. "I don't understand," Durc signaled. "We killed these and you killed those," as he pointed to various animals.

"Yes, but we agreed that you would get more animals than what you have killed. I don't think either of us expected the hunt to be so successful," Replied Danug.

"How do you know we should have more and how do we decide which ones?" signed Durc.

"You agreed to help with the hunt after I said your people would have one out of every three animals that were killed" signed Danug.

"But how do we know which ones they are?" asked Durc. "Maybe we should have Goov help us; he knows how to do things like this." With that Durc called Goov. When Goov came over, Durc signed to him, "Danug says we get more aurochs than what we killed. How can that be?"

Danug chimed in and signaled to Goov, "Remember before you decided to join in the hunt, we agreed that your people would get one of every three animals that were killed." Goov nodded that he did remember.

"Well," Danug continued, "Our hunters have killed more than their share and so we have to give some to you."

"But why should we have more than what we killed?" asked Goov.

"Because that is what we agreed to before you actually joined us in the hunt," Replied Danug, "That was my promise."

"How can we know which one's are which," signed Durc.

It had been a long and grueling day for Danug and he was exhausted. Leadership came naturally to him and even though his father was the headman of the Lion Camp, and though he would never dream of interfering, he had created this situation and felt obligated to see it through. Talut was watching and admiring the way the son of his hearth was taking charge and was deliberately keeping out of the way just to see how Danug would handle it. Danug had no idea the turmoil churning within the minds of the clan men. He had never dreamed that properly dividing the results of the hunt would be a problem with the clan people. He had expected more resistance from his own people. It was dawning on him that the clan men did not comprehend the concept of ratios and fractions. Danug understood the concepts although he would not have been able to express the concepts as ratios and fractions. He tried to think, which was a chore being so tired, but he steeled himself to the task.

He picked up a piece of dried and weathered rib bone that happened to be on the ground from some animal that had died on the spot decades before, and signed to Durc and Goov, "let's start by cutting a notch into this bone for each animal that has been killed." They walked through the animals starting where they were, which happened to be where the clan hunters had killed their animals, pointing to each animal they came to and making a mark in the rib. The clan men had no idea of where Danug was heading with this, but followed along. Durc was impressed by the fine flint blade of Danug's knife and how it was even hafted onto a handle. He had never seen or imagined such advanced techniques, but could see the advantage immediately. Durc was a young teenager, but since men of the clan matured younger than those of the modern humans he was considered an adult. Danug was in his late teens, so they were actually peers within their own cultural reference points. Durc was acting like the leader of the clan men although leadership should be handed down automatically to the oldest son of the previous leader's mate. A baby of mixed spirits would not normally be allowed to live and if he was, he would always be the lowest ranked person in the group and never, under any circumstances, be the leader. Danug was unaware of these cultural idiosyncrasies and treated Durc as the leader. It seemed to be working, and if it is not broke, don't fix it.

"Now," signed Danug, "we will make every third mark longer," which he proceeded to do as they watched. He then run is finger down the rib pointing to the longer marks and signed. "These long marks indicate the number of animals that you get."

Goov immediately signed, "We killed these animals," pointing to the first several marks, "why do we not get the ones we killed?"

Danug let out a sigh of resignation. This was getting more complicated all the time. The clan men related each mark to the specific animal counted when the mark was made. They did not see a mark as an abstraction of simply "an animal". This was not going to be easy. Danug thought for a moment. The clan men patiently waited. This was getting complicated for them, and their heads were spinning. It would have been complicated for them if they were comfortable and secure at home in their cave and the Mog-ur was explaining it to them. But here in their hyper-stressed state, this was all too much.

Finally Danug signed, "Don't think of the marks as specific animals. The marks are only to show how many there are." It was not clear if the clan men understood, but he continued. "You get as many animals as there are long marks." "Now let me show you which ones they are."

The clam men were totally lost, but in no condition to argue. They did grasp the concept that they were somehow getting more animals than what they had killed. They did not quite grasp why or how it would be determined which animals. Danug ran his finger along the bone pointing to the long marks and signed, "Each long mark is an animal that belongs to you. We will first fit each animal that you have killed to a long mark." He then led them among the animals they had killed and pointed to each in succession and cut a mark crossing the long mark for each animal." The clan men watched with interest. They were starting to understand that the long marks with crosses were their animals and could relate a specific mark to a specific animal. They were comfortable with that. When they had crossed a long mark for each animal the clan had killed there were three long marks left. Danug explained to the clan men that those three marks were animals that they had not killed, but which were theirs. They looked at each other enigmatically. Danug then explained that any animal with something tied to its horns was theirs, and led them through the dead animals and pointed out to them each one that had something tied to its horns. Each time he pointed one out, he "X"ed through a long mark. There he signed, "You now have all the animals that are yours." Durc and Goov were totally in awe. Even Goov, the Mog-ur had never seen such magic. And, they had never imagined getting so many animals in a single hunt. They were lucky to get one and on very rare occasion two.

As Danug turned to leave, Durc said to him, "When you were making the loud voice noises to your people, I thought I heard you say 'Ayla'?"

"Yes," Replied Danug, "I was reminding my people of a woman by that name."

"Is that a common name?" asked Durc.

"No. That was the name of a young woman who came to us a few years ago and stayed for a while, but she has since left," Explained Danug.

"We must talk," Signaled Durc.

"Come to me when you have eaten and rested and we will talk," Danug responded.

Later after it was too dark to work and most people of both groups had eaten, Danug was relaxing with his mate, Xoolie, his mother, Nessie and Talut, the mate of his mother. Xoolie looked up and said, "I think you have visitors." Danug looked where his mate was looking and saw Durc and Goov standing about 20 feet away looking like they did not know quite how to approach him or his group.

Danug got up to greet them and hesitated. Something about their posture and the fact that they were not looking at his small group made him hesitate. Something was wrong. Durc had not hesitated to approach him before. What was wrong now? He tried to think of everything that Ayla has told them about the Clan ways. Then he remembered that she had said women were never included in discussions between the men. Xoolie had never meet Ayla. She was from another camp. She had been at the summer meeting when Alya was there, and had heard a lot about her, but had never actually met her and had not been party to any of her descriptions of Clan customs. Nezzie had been a close confidant of Alya's and had heard as much as anyone about their customs. Danug signaled to Durc to wait and turned to the group. Nezzie, realized immediately what the problem was, but Danug started explaining before she could say anything. Then Nezzie turned to Xoolie and said "We had better go and visit someone." The two women got up and left.

As soon as the women left, the Clan men approached. Danug properly greeted them and the four men sat down together. Danug introduced the Clan men to Talut making it clear that Talut was the headman of their group (camp) and that he should be included in the discussion. That seemed to be agreeable to the Clan men.

Danug then signed the question, "Is Goov you leader?"

"No," answered Durc, "he is our Mog-ur."

Danug did not know what a Mog-ur was and was at a loss as to how to find out. He was obviously important since Durc had asked his help in understanding the business about dividing the kill, and he had brought him along for this discussion. If he was not the leader, who was? So, he asked, "Durc, are you the leader?"

"No," answered Durc, "we have no leader. Our leader died two moons ago."

"We are sorry to hear that," replied Danug. He then continued, "You asked to talk, what was it you wish to talk about?"

Durc looked at Goov and something passed between then that seemed to be Goov telling Durc to do the talking. Durc hesitated, obviously getting his thoughts together and then signed, "we are greatly indebted to you and do not know how to repay our debt." Danug and Talut looked at each other both wondering what this business of a debt was all about. Danug turned to Durc, and signed, "I do not understand. We invited you to join the hunt and made a clear understanding of how to divide the animals killed and that has happened." Then Talut signed, "without your help, very few animals would have entered the trap, and we would not have as many as we now have. If anything, we are in debt to you."

"That is true," signed Durc, "but it is much more than that. You have saved our lives. Danug knows that we had decided to return empty handed. It was then he suggested we join in your hunt. We have had several bad years and if this hunt was not successful there was no hope. There was nothing else we could do. We were returning to die. Now this hunt has been more successful than anything we have ever known, even when things were good. We owe you our lives. You gave us the chance to continue. That is what we owe you and cannot repay."

There was stunned silence. Finally Talut signed, "We could not have saved your lives since we knew nothing of your problem. Danug only invited you to join us as a proper thing to do. If we did not know you were in trouble, we could not be credited with saving you. You saved yourselves by joining in on the hunt."

Durc and Goov discussed these new ideas between themselves. They appeared to be discussing various ramifications of the situation with each presenting different points and agreeing on various points and disagreeing on others. Danug and Talut could not follow the conversation, but it was clear that the matter was a very serious one.

Finally, Durc turned and signed, "We must think about what you have said, but you must understand that we are most grateful. I also hope that you understand that hunting with you is very stressful. We do not know how to act with you."

"We do not know how to act with you either," signed Talut, "but your people are doing just fine."

"I also need to say," signed Durc, "That your hunting methods kill many more animals than ours."

Talut replied, "We can show you how to do it."

Durc signed, "We are already in your debt, we must not add to that burden."

Danug had not thought about flatheads – clan – much since Ayla had left, but he had thought about her. When she had lived at lion Camp, he was a young teenager and totally taken by the beautiful woman. Now as he was sitting facing two Clan men, she came to mind again, and he remembered Durc asking about the name. He turned to Durc and signed, "Earlier you asked me about the name 'Ayla'. Does that name have special meaning to you?" Durc signed back, "As you can see, I am of mixed spirits. The older people of my Clan have told me my mother was one of the 'Others', like you. She died when I was very young, and Uba raised me as my Mother. Uba was the daughter of the woman who had found my mother as a little girl and raised her as her own. She was like a sister to Uba. My Mother's name was Ayla." The two totally different men sat looking at each other in stunned silence. Both wondering if these Ayla's could be the same women? Talut was watching and wondering the same thing. It would explain many questions he had. He would bring it up with Nezzie later. She had been much closer to Ayla, and might have more insight. He remained quiet and watched and thought his own thoughts. Danug was first to break the silence by signing, "She did say she had been raised by the Clan and had learned healing from the best Medicine Woman of all the Clans. A woman named Iza."

Durc reeled in shock. His eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. He looked like he had seen a ghost. "Iza?" he said in a questioning tone. The clan language was mostly silent, but names were verbalized. "That was Uba's Mother's name and she was the best medicine woman in all the clans."

The dialog continued:

Danug. "How did she die?"

Durc. "I don't know"

Danug. "Do you know where she is buried?"

Durc. "No."

Danug. "How do you know she died?"

Durc. "Everyone tells me she did."

Danug. "But she does not have a grave."

Durc. "Not that I know of."

Danug, "Do you bury your dead?"

Durc, "Yes."

A long silence as both men (and Talut) processed their own thoughts. Things were not adding up.

Danug then signed, "She told us she had been forced to leave the Clan."

Durc. "I have questions to ask Uba."

Another long pause.

Durc continued, "The old people tell me our clan was always lucky when Ayla was with us. Our bad luck started the day she died. She did many strange things, but always good for Clan. She even hunted. Clan women do not hunt. She only hunted with sling, but none of the men were better with the sling."

Danug and Talut both reeled in shock. The Alya they knew had been phenomenal with the sling. No one in the Lion Camp had ever seen a sling before she had arrived in their midst, but several had gained significant skill since and now realized it was a very difficult weapon to master.

Talut then joined in by signaling, "Durc, you must find out more about how your Mother died."

The removing and rolling of hides, butchering and preparing the other animal parts for storage and/or transport continued for all of the following day. That night when Danug, Xoolie, Nezzie and Talut were resting around the campfire, Xoolie looked up and said, "I think you have visitors." The two women got up and went to visit another campfire. Durc and Goov again approached.

After greetings, Durc signed, "We have another problem."

Talut responded with, "What kind of a problem"

Durc said, "We have more from the kill than we can take home. We think you have more than you can take home. Do you have a suggestion?"

Talut almost laughed, but kept his composure. Durc was serious. Apparently, their hunting methods never resulted in such abundance. He then signed, "We dig storage pits deep enough to be in the ground that is always frozen and put the extra in the pits so the meat will freeze. We cover it and mark the location with stones so we can find it later. We then come back and get it. You can watch how we do it and then you can do the same."

Both groups were busy for the next two days butchering, drying meat, packaging the bounty for transportation home and preparing the storage pits. The Clan men watched the hunters of the Lion Camp dig the first pit and put the meat in it to freeze. They used mattocks made of wood with curved rib bone fastened to it, like a narrow and long hoe, and sharpened, to break up the earth. Then they scooped out the loose dirt with shovels made by splitting the long palmate antlers of a megaceros lengthwise through the spongy center and shaping and sharpening the edge. The digging got harder when the pit was three to four feet deep because the ground was frozen at that depth. They sometimes had to break up the frozen dirt with their flint tipped spears. They wrapped the meat in hides and grass and placed it at the very bottom of the pits so it would freeze, and then piled the other valuable parts of the animals on top. Each pit was covered with stones forming a fairly tall and identifiable shape so it would be easily recognized when they returned to retrieve the meat and other animal parts. The Clan hunters did the same, but had to borrow some of the tools since such tools were new to them.

As Talut, Danug, Nezzie and Xoolie were relaxing around the fire the night before they would be returning to Lion Camp, Danug and Talut related their conversation with Durc and Goov. Nezzie had been closer to Ayla than anyone else except the late Mamut, and she was convinced that Ayla was in fact Durc's mother.

Nezzie said, "Did you notice that the clan woman who seems to be Durc's mate is of mixed spirits?"

"Yes" replied Talut.

Nezzie continued, "Ayla told me that a baby of mixed spirits from another Clan was promised to be Durc's mate when Ayla was at a Clan gathering. The Clans only have a gathering every seven years, so the girl would go to Durc's Clan to live after the following gathering and they would be mated when they were old enough. They would be old enough now. When I went over and talked to them, she seemed to be easier to talk to. The others seemed to not know what to do."

"But," Nezzie said, "How could the Ayla we have known have been Durc's mother if she is dead as he says?" Xoolie was fascinated, but this was all new to her, so she just listened.

Then, as though some unseen vapor had penetrated their consciousnesses, Talut, Nezzie and Danug looked at each other. An eerie chill crept up each person's spine, as the realization came to them that maybe Ayla had not been a real person after all. Maybe she was a spirit as some had thought at the time. She had seemed too perfect, and she did have extraordinary power, especially over animals. Yet, she also was very real with feelings, caring, loving, sadness and all the other things normal people have. Her body had substance. Most had embraced her at one time or another and she felt normal. She would sweat and get tired when she worked just like everyone else. The old Mamut had insisted that she was an incarnation or personification of the Great Earth Mother, but never suggested that she was only an illusion- - that she was not real. Could she have been just an illusion? She had always insisted that she was nothing special and that her apparent control over animals was limited to those she had raised from babies and they thought of her as their mother and that anyone could do it. In fact, just a few moons ago Danug's younger sister, Latie, had gotten, and was raising, a foal and it was bonding to her as Ayla's horses had bonded to her. The foal's mare had been killed in a hunt when the foal was only a few days old, and Latie would not let anyone kill the foal. She had been totally enthralled by Ayla's horses and when Ayla had told her that she could tame one if she got it young enough and that she actually might some day, the young girl was determined to do just that. She seemed to be proving Ayla right.

Finally, Danug broke the spell by saying, "I think I will try to make friends with Durc. I genuinely like him, and he seems quite quick to accept how we do things. The other Clan people are having problems with understanding how we do things, but he catches on right away. He even picks up on our words fairly well. He does not know what they mean, but he does hear them. I think our talking is just noise to the others." As Talut listened he thought to himself, "This son of my mate is very observant. He definitely has leadership potential."

The next morning, as everyone in both groups was packing to leave, Danug went to Durc and signed, "When can we meet again?" Durc had been having similar yearnings, but everything that was happening was so preposterous and unheard of that he did not dare tempt fate by even thinking of acting on his feelings. He was taken aback by the question and did not know how to respond. The two young men stood staring at each other for quite a while; each with an indefinable, unimaginable, and totally illogical, longing in their hearts.

Finally Durc signed, "I do not know." To which Danug replied, "When will you return to get the meat you have put in your pits?"

"I am not sure." signed Durc.

"One moon, two moons? Danug queried.

"Maybe."

"Let's decide on a specific time and meet here then. I would like to get to know you better," Signed Danug.

Durc was at a loss. Deep inside he wanted to get to know Danug, and the "others", better. After all, his mother had been one of them. Maybe if he could understand her kind of people better, maybe he would understand himself better. He knew he was different than the other Clan people. Yet, he harbored the rest of the Clan's fear of the "others", and anything else that was different or unusual. They were very much creatures of habit. More accurately, they were creatures of ancient memories of what their ancestors knew and did. The knowledge was in their brains. They were born with it. It was a kind of instinct, but more conscious. He also knew that, although glad of the food, the rest of his hunting party were anxious to get away from these "others" and would be very happy to never see them again. They would much prefer to come back for the meat when the "others" were not there. His mind swirled.

He signed, "Two moons", turned and walked away. He wondered, "How would he handle this with the rest of his people?" He had just made a decision that was going to change his life more than he, or anyone else, could ever imagine.

The trek back to Lion Camp was long and arduous. Everyone carried heavy loads and it was a several days journey. They generally followed the river, but cut across the countryside when they knew the river would turn back and they could get back to it farther upstream before needing water. They preferred travelling in the valley of the river in the lee of the high ground. The glacier a few hundred miles to the north caused a climate pattern that resulted in constant grit filled wind on the steppes. There was one long stretch where they had to cross the open steppe and brave the wind getting to a different river, the one that went past the Lion Camp. But, they were in a joyful mood. The hunt had exceeded anyone's wildest dreams. And, the chance meeting with the flatheads, and then actually cooperating with them for the hunt, would be interesting story telling for years to come.

"Danug," Xoolie said, "Maybe the Clan people will not show up." Danug had been so anxious to meet with Durc, that he had insisted going back and retrieve the cached supplies a few days early just in case the clan people got there early. They had emptied the pits, packed the meat and were ready to leave the next morning. Danug had been going up the side of the valley looking for the clan people every few hours. It was obvious that they had not been there as their pits had not been opened.

Danug replied, "If everyone else wants to go back, they can. You can go too, Xoolie, if you want to. I know the way and the weather is good. I will be all right."

"No" said Xoolie, "It is not safe to travel alone. I will stay if no one else wants to, but I think you can get them to wait a few days."

"Actually, Xoolie, I know we are early. I guess I was just too anxious."

"Do you think Durc really knows what phase of the moon you meant? And how do you know they can even find the place?" asked Xoolie.

"I guess I don't, but for some reason, I think he does and can," Answered Danug. "I think he will arrive at the exact time which is tomorrow."

The Next Morning

When everyone had finished breakfast and were relaxing drinking herbal teas, the Clan people appeared coming off the steppes over the edge of the valley. They were right on schedule. Danug did not know how far they had to travel to get there, but from what had been said during the hunt, he guessed that they had at least as far to travel as the group from the Lion Camp, and maybe even farther. It then occurred to Talut that their presence made the clan people nervous, and suggested that everyone except him and Nezzie go back. He and Nezzie would be less stressful for the clan people than the large group of people. He and Nezzie would come back with Danug and Xoolie.

There was obvious relief among the clan people when the large group left.

By the time the Clan group settled in and ate, it was too late to start opening the storage pits so they just rested. Durc and Danug greeted each other and Talut joined them. To Danug's surprise, the clan woman of mixed spirits who Danug and Talut had thought might be Durc's mate unobtrusively served both a hot, relaxing and pleasant herbal tea. She then made herself nearly disappear from sight. Remembering what Ayla had told them of Clan customs, neither Danug nor Talut looked at her.

Durc started the conversation. "When we got back to our cave, I asked my mother, my Clan mother, about my real mother and specifically how she had died. The question disturbed her greatly. The question did not disturb her, but having to think about it disturbed her. She assured me that she dearly loved my mother and grieved deeply when she died. She also told me how her mother, Iza, had found Ayla. Alya was alone and nearly dead. She had been clawed by a cave lion, and was delirious from hunger and the wound. Iza was the Medicine Woman for the Clan. In fact she was known as the best Medicine Woman of all the Clans. She came from a long line of the best Medicine Women. Ayla grew healthy and lived with the Clan for many years. Ayla was tall and ugly and always doing things that surprised the people, and often made them uneasy. But, they all loved her and they prospered while she was with them. She was thought to bring them good luck. The time came when the old leader was too old and had passed the leadership to his mate's oldest son Broud. That is how leadership is passed on in the Clan. Broud had always hated Ayla. No one could understand why he would lower himself to being concerned with a woman, especially a tall ugly one who was not even Clan.

The first thing Broud did as new leader was to make Goov the Mogur. Goov had been the old Mogur's acolyte. The old Mogur was well known to be the best of all the Mogurs of all the Clans. He was Iza'a sibling and he and Iza lived together, but were siblings and so they did not have a relationship as would un-related mates. They took in Ayla as their own and raised her. She lived with them as Iza's daughter. The Mogur was getting old and had lost interest in his calling. Later the people realized that Broud made Goov Mogur to get at Ayla because he knew that she loved, even idolized, the old Mogur. He had just made Goov the Mogur, and announced some other unpopular changes and an earthquake destroyed our cave and killed the old Mogur. Most of the people thought the spirits were unhappy with what Broud had just done and had made the earthquake to show their displeasure. They are now sure of it. But, Broud said Ayla had caused the earthquake and cursed her with death. He made Goov place the death curse on her. Once cursed with death, the spirit leaves the body, but the body, or something that looks like the body, sometimes stays around for a while. No one is supposed to see it, but everyone did. Eventually the image of my mother's body left.

After hearing the story, I asked Goov if it was true and he confirmed that it was. I then told him about you telling about an Ayla living with you and that she had claimed to have been raised by the Clan and that she had taught you how to speak the way we do. When I told him he turned white and nearly fainted. When he recovered his composure he said there are two possibilities. The first is that she might have come to you as a spirit and just looked like a real person. But, he then confided in me that he was new and inexperienced when he performed the death curse ritual and discovered from other Mogurs years later at a Clan gathering that he had made some mistakes. He did not let on to the other Mogurs that he had made the mistakes and had always hoped that it would not matter. At the time, he was as upset as everyone else and was not thinking as clear as he should have been. He saw no reason to even discipline Ayla, let alone curse her, but he had to follow a direct order from the leader. So, the possibility is that she did not actually die. That the spirit form that people saw leave, was actually a real live person. It might be the same woman."

"So that is why she left the Clan", Talut thought to himself. "She had only said that she was forced to leave. This will take some thought. She might have been an apparition after all." Talut had heard of death curses, but had never known of anyone who had any experience with one. He also understood that if no one would acknowledge your presence, you could easily just give up and die. But, it also could have created Ayla's ghost that had visited them. No harm had come of it. In fact they were now using quite successfully that spear thrower that the tall blond man who came with her had shown them.

Talut looked at the young Clan man of mixed spirits. Knowing when Ayla came to the Lion camp and what she had told them, he could not yet have reached his mid teens. He thought for a while, and then signed, "You explained that very clearly. Even I with very limited ability with your language was able to understand. Are all your people able to express themselves so clearly?" Durc looked a bit contrite, but explained, "Actually not. Most people have trouble understanding the spirit world and other abstract things. They tell me that I have my Mother's ability to understand things that are not there." Talut added, "If the Ayla that we knew was actually your Mother, I am not surprised. She was a remarkable woman. But, she was not tall and ugly by our standards. We might think differently than your people about what is beautiful and we are all tall, so she might not seem tall to us. You said your leader died recently. What happened and who is your leader now?"

"He died in a hunting accident. Normally, the oldest son of the old leader's mate would become the new leader. That would be Brac who is a few years older than me. But, Broud never trained Brac for leadership. Brac is a fine hunter and works hard to help in every way he can, but he cannot lead and does not want to lead. He says he does not know how to tell people what to do the way Broud did. Broud always told us what to do and we did it. Since he died, we have been functioning by discussing every situation and deciding as a group what to do," replied Durc. Talut understood leadership, and knew that what Durc described is how the leader should lead anyway and asked, "Who is it that calls the people together and gets them to talk about the problem and to make suggestions?" "I do, or I have Brac do it," said Durc. Talut nodded to himself. He suspected that is what was happening and if Durc was Ayla's son, that is exactly what he would expect. Durc continued, "I hope Brac picks up the leadership soon. A man of mixed spirits should not be leading a Clan. We are actually doing better since he died, especially now that we had such a successful hunt with you. Broud was a bad leader." Talut thought to himself, "So he does realize what he is doing."

Durc then asked, "You said this Ayla lived with you for nearly a year. Where is she now?" Danug picked up the saga signing, "When she left the Clan she travelled north for most of the spring looking for her own kind of people. She found a rich valley with a small, but comfortable, cave and stayed there, alone, for three years. The early summer of the third year, she saved the tall blond man from a cave lion mauling. We came across them on a hunting trip and both came to live with us. She left with the man and they said they were going back to his people who lived a year's travel to the west. That is the last we saw or heard of either of them."

Everyone was quiet for a while as each mulled over his own thoughts.

Durc broke the spell by signaling, "Do you think I could learn your language?"

"Maybe," signed Danug. "Ayla told us the Clan could not make all the sounds and could not even hear some of them."

"My clan mother told me that when I was little I made lots of sounds." Durc signed. "Maybe I could learn."

"We could try," signed Danug. He then held up his spear obviously showing it to Durc and said, "Spear". He also signed "Spear."

"Sprr," Uttered Durc.

"Spear," corrected Danug.

Durc tried again, "Spire"

It was a start, and they continued until the fire died down to where they could not see the sign language and everyone retired for the night. They did not get far with teaching Durc the spoken language, but they proved that he could do it. He had learned and could say reasonably well the names of several things. It was a start.

This time it was Durc who signed, "We must meet again," as they were preparing to leave.

Danug signed back, "We would be pleased if you and your mate would visit us where we live."

"Where is that?" asked Durc.

"It is six days north," answered Danug. Then Danug drew a rough map in the sand explaining as he drew, "You would follow this river upstream for three days. If you know where to go, you can save a little time by going across the high ground in places where the river loops back. But, until you know the way, it is best to follow the river." He drew a serpentine line indicating the river. "You will come to a large projecting cliff on your right where the river turns to the east as it goes around the jutting cliff." He made a horizontal chevron () to indicate the outcrop. "As soon as you go past the outcropping cliff, you will see that another river joins the one you are following." He drew a "Y" to indicate the joining of the rivers. "Cross both rivers up river from where they join. The two smaller rivers are easier to cross than the big one you had been following. Then go west over the high ground. In about a day's travel you will reach another river." He drew another serpentine line. "Follow this river upstream, north, for two days. Sometime after the sun has reached its zenith of the second day, you will see a small hill about half way up the side of the river valley. We live in that small hill. You will probably see people out and about before you notice the hill. They will be expecting you and will welcome you. Should I scratch these lines on a piece of ivory for you to carry?"

"I can remember," answered Durc.

"When might you come?" asked Danug.

"I must discuss this with my Mate," Replied Durc. "Most Clan men would not consult their mates, but I find that she has good thoughts on these things and she might not want to come. New things stress Clan people, although she accepts new things easier than most." He left and went to her. They could see that Durc and his mate (they had been correct in assuming the woman of mixed spirits was his mate) were discussing the invitation. It was also obvious that she had opinions on the subject, although they could not tell if she was favorable or unfavorable, towards the idea.

Eventually Durc returned. "She will come, but is afraid because she does not know how to act. Her name is Ura." He signed.

"We understand," Explained Talut. "We will explain our customs to both of you when you come; and you can explain yours. We will accept your behavior, and ask that you accept ours. The biggest difference is that our women and men mingle and talk freely with each other and generally do the same kinds of work. We also look directly at each other whether man or woman. She might find that disturbing, but that is how we are. For us it is not discourteous. We hope neither of you will be offended. When you come we would be pleased if you could stay about one moon." Talut was still thinking about the Clan leader that had just died and how he just told people what to do, and had been a bad leader. He was also thinking that the person who should be the leader now did not know what to do. He spoke up just as Durc was getting up to leave, "One more thing. The man who should be your leader now is also welcome. We might be able to give him some ideas on how to lead." Durc acknowledged the invitation, turned and left without comment. It was the Clan way.

3

"I understand you and your acolytes were given a demonstration of Ayla's sling and Jondalar's spear thrower yesterday." Zelandoni was saying to Espandli. They were in her dwelling and since she was the principle healer for the cave her dwelling also doubled as hospital for illnesses and injuries that were too serious to be cared for in the person's own dwelling. Racks of various medicinal herbs and roots were neatly arranged along one wall. Zelandoni was the spiritual leader of the Ninth Cave and as an integral part of that responsibility she was the Principal Healer and primary "intellectual" of the community. These facets of community life were not seen as separate functions, but different aspects of spiritual leadership. She was setting on a raised platform. With her enormous bulk it was hard getting up from the more customary sitting position on a mat or cushion on the ground. She could do it, and on occasion did, but she much preferred sitting on a raised platform or chair. Espandli was sitting on one of the sleeping platforms that would be used for a patient when necessary. He was only using the platform to be at a more level eye contact position with her.

"Yes," he responded as he took a sip of the refreshing tea she had prepared, "And I must say we are all very much impressed. Actually, it would be more accurate to say we were astonished." She repressed a smile. Marthona had described the demonstrations and the visitor's reactions to Zelandoni earlier that morning and had included her insight about the political significance this unforeseen opportunity might have. Zelandoni was not in the least politically naïve and grasped the implications immediately.

He continued, "My one acolyte, Padrollo, seems to be taking particular interest in the sling and the horses. He even had a ride on one. My other acolyte, Gonzo, is more interested in Jondalar's spear thrower, detachable spear points and flint knapping. He is already one of our better knappers and was not expecting to be impressed in that area, but I could tell he was astounded at the quality of Jondalar's work. Jondalar explained that as long as we are here we might learn what we can about non-spiritual things that could help our people as well as the spiritual things that you will teach us. After the demonstration, I knew what he meant. I just hope the acolytes will gain enough skill to be able to teach the others when we get back." He took another sip of tea as he organized his thoughts and then looked at her and said, "I think I know why you are having me stay with Ayla and Jondalar."

"Oh," She said, "and what might that be?"

"They are the most amazing people I have ever heard of, let alone known." He answered. She repressed another smile. He continued, "And they look up to you. I am wondering what I have gotten myself into. I am wondering if I am worthy." "I agree that they are very talented." She said, "And yes, that is why I wanted you to stay with them. They are the most capable of any of our people of giving you what you came for. But why do you wonder if you are worthy?"

"I must bare my soul to you," Espandli went on, "My people have fallen on bad times. I know our leader is much to blame. He is not concerned with the well being of his people; he only cares about his power over them. It is a very bad situation."

"I can see why that would bother you, but what does that have to do with your worthiness?" She asked.

"I feel that if I was a good spiritual leader I could somehow influence, even force or scare if necessary, him to consider the plight of the people. I know that I have failed my people and that is why I am here."

"It is very serious when a leader, or spiritual leader, fails to consider the people ahead of themselves." She stated. "It is good that you shared that with me. You might need some special training to deal with the situation, and you might have to take drastic measures, but we will hope not."

She then changed the subject to the practical issues of his request for training, explaining, "It will be ten to twelve days before we can organize a meeting of all the Zelandoni to discuss your request. We had been talking about having a meeting to discuss some other issues. Your arrival has added another reason to have the meeting and has added some urgency for it. We cannot put off giving you a definitive answer indefinitely. Meanwhile, I would like you to stay with Jondalar and Ayla and learn what you can from them."

"There is just one other thing," he added, "just who and, or, what is this Ayla? She kind of scares me. She seems to be more than just a very talented woman. When one is with her, she seems to go about her life like anyone else. She even seems a bit shy at times. Shy is not really the right word. It is more like she disappears by blending into the background. One would think that anyone so talented would be trying to get people to look at what she can do. Then without announcement or fanfare she does something astounding."

"I know exactly what you mean," Zelandoni acknowledged, "I too have wondered if she might be more than what she claims. You probably know she is not one of us, but has come to us from far to the east. Several years ago, Jondalar and his younger brother made a journey. Their goal was to travel to the end of the Great Mother River that starts on the other side of the glacier. They got that far and even farther. He was gone five years and when he returned Ayla was with him and they were, and still are, very much in love. He is unusually handsome and talented and it was no surprise to anyone that he returned with such a beautiful woman. What turned out to be surprising is that she is so incredibly talented and then only uses her talents to help others, not to enhance her own esteem. They are incredibly well matched. It takes a special person to live with him, and she is that person. But, deep down I agree with your feelings. She gave up a lot to come with him. She was highly regarded by the people who had adopted her. I know Jondalar and I know we can believe what he tells us, but she also brought things that she would not have had if she had not been highly regarded. I think she has been sent here for some purpose; a purpose that I have not yet come to understand and that even she is not aware of. She has been training to become a Zelandoni, and has been accepted as a full healer, but not yet fully inducted into the ranks of the Zelandonia."

"She's a healer too?" He gasped, "Is there no end to her talent?"

"She is the best, although she does not realize it." Zelandoni responded. She continued, "Ayla has been training under me for some time. She is an ardent student absorbing, understanding and remembering everything she hears and sees. But, she is the strangest student I have ever had. Whenever I explain something to her, she absorbs it with relish and the excitement of learning something new; and then almost immediately asks one or more questions that force me to think about what I have just taught her much deeper than I ever had before. In the process of trying to answer her question, I always end up learning far more than I taught her. It is almost as though she is teaching me.

One of the issues the Zelandoni have to discuss is when to make her a full Zelandoni and what her title and responsibilities will be. Usually a Zelandoni is responsible of a specific cave and the title is simply Zelandoni of that cave number. None of our caves need a Zelandoni at this time or even in the foreseeable future; yet she is far too talented to not belong. She is not anxious to have the Zelandoni tattoo either. She says she does not feel qualified. She does have some kind of inner power that she can project. I have felt it. But, she tries to deny having the power. I think she might be afraid of it. She also has a knack of being wherever she is needed when some emergency arises. Although your coming is not an emergency, I have the feeling that somehow the spirits wanted her to know about you first. I have no idea why."

"You are not mitigating my fear," lamented Espandli.

"I don't think you need to fear Ayla," Zelandoni said. "She does have enemies in the Ninth Cave, but they are only those who are not contributing to the well being of the Cave; and are in fact actually detracting in one way or another from the general well being of all the people. She has a way of, with apparent innocence, exposing them for the mean spirited people they are. Most people just ignore them, but she manages to show them up with no evidence of actually trying. It is uncanny. Espandli, if through your close association with her, you happen to gain some insight as to why she has been sent here, I would most appreciate your sharing it with me even if it is just a feeling or supposition."

Espandli thought to himself, "So, Zelandoni had more reasons than what I thought for having me stay with Ayla and Jondalar. But what insight could I possibly have that the great Zelandoni would not already have after working closely with Ayla for several years and having known Jondalar all his life? What if the situation was reversed, and a Holy person were to visit my people, and I had an enigmatic individual I wanted to understand better? What would I do and why would I do it?"

Espandli did not answer his own questions, but decided to keep his eyes and ears open and think about everything that happened not only with Ayla and Jondalar, but throughout the Zelandonii community as a whole. He thought to himself, "Zelandoni seemed to think that Ayla was sent to fix something; what could it be? What is wrong under the surface of this apparently smooth running and successful group of people?"

The days passed and Padrollo could hardly stop riding the horse, and was becoming quite proficient. He also learned how to make a sling and was gaining some skill with it. Gonzo was picking up some of the finer points of flint knapping and learned how to make spear throwers. He was even getting to where he could almost hit what he aimed at with one. Espandli was pleased that they were picking up the new skills. They would contribute significantly to the enrichment of their people when they returned and transferred those skills to the other people. He did not quite see how the ability to ride Ayla's horse would fit into the picture, but he did not discourage it. Among his deepest convictions was that everything had a purpose and the spirits had led him here for a reason and the horses had to have some role in it.

Espandli watched Ayla and was amazed at how effortlessly she accomplished the basic tasks of home making and still had time to tend to the sick, take care of the horses, lavish attention on the wolf, hunt and help in every community project that came along. He wondered how she managed to do it all even as he watched her do it. Yet she showed no signs of actually being metaphysical. She cried when sad or exceptionally happy, laughed when amused, bled and hurt when she accidently cut herself with a knife and showed love. She loved everybody and everyone, but she particularly cherished Jondalar, her children, the wolf and the horses and it could not have been more obvious.

He also saw what Zelandoni had meant when she said that Ayla drew love to her. Everyone, with the exception of her few enemies, seemed to love her in some sense. He could tell by how they looked at her and talked to her. Even the wolf and the horses showed that they loved her. He even felt it. He also was learning who her enemies were and they were in fact, just as Zelandoni had said, those that did not contribute to the well being of the Ninth Cave. He pondered that thought. There must be some meaning to why that was. He could understand why she would hate them, although she did not seem to, but saw no reason for them to be concerned with her. There was something about her that still did not quite add up; but everything she did seemed perfectly normal. He still had that feeling that something was out of place that he had first sensed when he met her out in the valley. What was it?

Jondalar and Espandli were sitting on Espandli's sleeping platform relaxing after another of Ayla's scrumptious midday meals. As Ayla was putting away the remains of the meal, Espandli mused about how Ayla always provided excellent and nourishing meals; yet without fanfare or apparent effort. They just seemed to happen. As he was sitting there, stroking and scratching the wolf, he and the wolf had developed a somewhat enigmatic bond as the wolf generally abhorred overt fear as Espandli had initially felt, he compared her efficiency to other women he knew who seemed to expend enormous effort to prepare the most basic of meals almost to the exclusion of having time for anything else. Suddenly there was a frantic knocking on the door post and the keening wail of a young girl calling, "Ayla, Ayla, please come quick, Gargron fell on his spears and is badly hurt."

Ayla, dropped what she was doing, grabbed her otter skin medicine bag, ran to the door, pushed the leather drape aside and ran out. Jondalar and Espandli were right behind her. The girl, about nine years old, upon seeing Ayla nearly screamed through her tears of fright, "Come quick, he's badly hurt," and ran off with the others in hot pursuit.

When they got to where the girl led them, they found a middle aged man, apparently the girl's mother's mate, lying on the ground withering in pain and fear. A spear was buried deeply in his upper thigh with blood oozing out and with occasional spurts of blood when the man moved. Ayla knelt down beside the man and immediately cut off his clothing around the area of the wound while calling, "Jondalar, go to Zelandoni's dwelling, get a fire going and heat some water." Jondalar ran off. Ayla saw that the long shaft of the spear was acting as a lever causing the spear point to move in the leg whenever the man or the spear moved. She grabbed the part of the point still protruding from the leg and the adjacent shaft with one hand, resting the little finger on the man's leg to steady her hand and the spear point, and then grabbed the spear shaft with her other hand within an inch or so from the first hand, broke the shaft and threw it aside. Espandli was surprised that she was able to break the shaft with her bare hands. Now the point of the spear would keep the wound somewhat closed and would not be moving. About that time Joharran arrived saying, "I came as soon as I heard." Ayla immediately ordered, "Joharran get someone to make a stretcher. Use these other spears if necessary, and send someone to find and tell Zelandoni."

Joharran called to some men that were nearby and told them to make the stretcher and sent a young boy who was watching to find Zelandoni. Espandli took note of the fact that she had immediately taken control of the situation and was giving everyone, even the leader of the Cave, orders. And they were doing as she said. Gargron was carefully moved onto the stretcher and Joharran and the men that had made the stretcher carried him into Zelandoni's dwelling and placed him on one of the sleeping platforms.

Zelandoni was an accomplished healer and her dwelling, which doubled as the Cave's hospital, was thoroughly stocked with all possible medicines and healing paraphernalia. Ayla was nearly as familiar with Zelandoni's dwelling as she was her own, but more out of habit than propriety, dumped out the contents of her otter skin bag instead of using Zelandoni's stores of pharmaceuticals. She selected several pouches which she opened and measured out portions of various medicinal herbs, leaves and roots. She noted the steam rising from the water that Jondalar had heating in a leather pot suspended directly over the fire, and added marigold petals to the pot. As long as there was water in the pot, the leather would not burn.

She looked at the man and applied pressure to his groin to slow the bleeding as she washed the wound using the cured skin of a rabbit, scraped and stretched until it was soft and absorbent, dipped in the warm infusion of marigold petals. Her mind went back to the time when she had just saved Jondalar from the cave lion attack. The cave lion was the one she had reared from a cub, but was then on his own in the wild with a mate. He was doing what lions do and that was defending his territory and the kill his mate had just brought. He had killed Jondalar's brother, but Ayla just happened to be near and heard his screams, recognized the lion and made him move away so she could get Jondalar away. She was the lion's mother, at least the lion thought of her as such, so she was able to make him leave Jondalar until she got him away. She took him back to her cave and was tending to his wounds. He was the first man of her kind (modern human) that she had ever seen and she had to save him. He must live. She had been trained as a medicine woman by the best medicine woman of the Clan who had adopted and raised her, and had even been accepted as a Clan medicine woman, but still she was filled with anxieties. Fortunately, between her training and her natural creativity, Jondalar lived.

She did not feel the anxieties with the man she was now looking at as she had that terrible, yet exhilarating day, several years ago alone in a valley with no one to help and over a year's travel to the east; but she did not know exactly what she was going to do and she was concerned. She gave the man a datura concentration and he was soon asleep and insensitive to any pain. Ayla looked at Espandli and, hoping to learn some new technique, asked, "What would you do?"

"I would wrap his leg tightly to stop the bleeding. What else can one do?" He said.

"But," she countered, "the spear cut through the big tube that brings most of the blood to the leg and it will continue to bleed and fill the leg with blood and the blood will rot and he will then lose the leg and probably die."

"Yes I know," Said Espandli.

Ayla went over to where Zelandoni kept her medical supplies, selected a leather package, and opened it exposing a set of tools. She carefully, almost reverently, picked up a knife. The blade was small, very thin and delicate. It had been expertly knapped from obsidian, a volcanic glass, and was incredibly sharp. The blade was hafted to a delicate handle made from the rib bone of a fawn. She set it out and then picked up a thin bone needle that had been made perfectly round and tapered to a sharp point at one end with a tiny hole bored through it crosswise at the other thicker end. She set that out too. Espandli understood the knife, although he was very impressed with the quality, but had no idea what the needle was or what it was for. She looked Espandli straight in the eye and said, "We have to stop the bleeding of the tube that carries the blood." He looked back at her in total disbelief. He was not too sure about the "we" business, but he also felt something else. He could not explain what it was that he felt. But he knew it came from her and he knew it was some kind of force or power. And he knew he could not do anything but what she wanted him to do. He had no voice in the matter - - she had full control him. A shiver went up his spine.

She passed the knife and the needle through the flame and then made a cut in the man's leg that lengthened the cut from the spear point. She did not remove the point. It was keeping the loss of blood to a minimum and extracting it would allow the blood to gush out. Espandli and Jondalar watched. She spread the opening in the flesh apart and cut the gash longer and deeper cutting parallel to the muscle fibers. She continued to apply pressure to his groin to slow the bleeding and periodically washed the wound with the marigold solution. Eventually, when she decided the cut was deep and long enough, she held the cut open and showed Espandli, saying, "See, there you can see the tube that carries the blood and the spear point is stuck in it." He nodded, thinking, "So what." She then picked up his hands and washed them with the infusion of marigold petals. "Now," She said, "You hold the blood tube on each side right where the spear point enters it, and as I pull the spear out, hold the cut of the tube closed so only a little blood comes out, but do not pinch the tube completely closed. Blood must still pass through it to go to the rest of the leg."

Espandli did not believe what he was hearing, but did as told and believed that he was doing it even less. He had no choice. He could not refuse her. It was like she was controlling his mind and hands. She slowly pulled out the spear point and his hold of the blood tube moved along as she did. She then picked up the needle, and threaded some fine sinew that had been soaking in the marigold solution through the hole. Espandli watched as he held the cut in the blood tube closed. She spread the cut open some more and then at one end of the cut in the blood tube she poked the needle through the wall of the tube just beside the cut and pushed the needle through the inside of the tube to the other side of the cut and poked it back out through the wall on that side. She then pulled the needle completely through the two holes and out of the blood tube leaving the thread of sinew passing through the holes and through the tube. She then cut the sinew and tied it with a knot holding the blood tube together. She then had Espandli move his fingers so she could repeat the process at another place slightly farther along the cut. After she had made about five knots, he removed his hold of the blood tube and it held. There was only minimal seepage through the cut. She washed the entire gash with the marigold solution. She then chopped some white comfrey root and applied the resulting gummy substance directly on the open wound. It stopped the bleeding and would help it to heal.

She sat back and looked at the open gash, thought for a moment, and then threaded more sinew thread through the eye of the needle. Espandli watched. She then pushed the muscle and skin of the leg back into its proper position and made several more knots to hold it there. She made a poultice of the comfrey root and wrapped the leg in soft leather. When he woke, there were medicines she would give him, but for now, she had done all she could. His destiny was sealed whatever it might be.*

Ayla turned to Espandli, who had never seen such a procedure and could not even imagine such a thing and was staring at her in wonder and in a semi trance, and said, "That is all we can do for now. Someone must stay with him until he wakes up."

(*) Much of the description of the operation has been taken from Jean Auel's book, The Valley of Horses

Finally Espandli came to his senses enough to ask, "Where did you learn to do that?"

"Some of it I did for the first time when I was treating Jondalar from his mauling by the cave lion. I have never cut into a blood tube and tied it before, nor have I ever heard of it being done." He stared, gaping open mouth.

"I told you she was the best," said a voice from behind them. Zelandoni had arrived just after they brought Gargron to the dwelling, but had waited and watched. If Ayla had needed her help, she would have stepped forward, but she was nearly as impressed as Espandli. They all turned to look at her. "Gargron's recovery will be interesting to watch," she added.

Provela entered the dwelling followed by two other women carrying various trays and baskets of food. She announced, "It had been grueling afternoon. It is time that all of you have something to eat."

Joharran had been standing guard outside of Zelandoni's dwelling keeping away the simply curious and relaying relevant information about Gargron's condition, of what little he knew, to close family members. He had summoned Provela and asked that she organize a meal for the people in the dwelling. Ayla and Espandli washed off what blood they could and ate. They were both exhausted. After they had eaten and were relaxing, Zelandoni was the first to speak, saying "Ayla, you have been with us several years now and you and I have had a close relationship, and you still amaze me."

Ayla tried to deny that she was exceptional saying, "Zelandoni I appreciate your comments, but I really only do things I have learned by chance or from others."

"Ayla," Zelandoni said, "Any normal person would not have learned what you have even if they had lived through what you have. And, quite frankly, no normal person would have lived through what you have lived through."

"Creb, the old Mogur did tell me that the tests of the cave lion totem would be severe and that only those who were capable are chosen," admitted Ayla.

Zelandoni continued, "Ayla, you are a treasure and we are lucky to have you."

Espandli listened and pondered what the two women had said to each other and then remembered how Ayla had broken the spear shaft with her bare hands. He quietly left Zelandoni's dwelling and went back to where they had first found Gargron. The broken and discarded spear shaft still lay on the ground where Ayla had tossed it. He picked it up and looked it over. It was a fine straight and strong shaft. He held it as Ayla had and tried to break it. It did not even crack. He got a better grip and still could not break it. Finally he put it across his knee, and by moving his hands fairly far apart, was able to break it. He shook his head. Where did she get the strength, he wondered?

4

Durc, Ura and Brac crested the ridge overlooking the valley where the Lion Camp was located. Brac, being full Clan was more apprehensive than the other two who were both mixtures of clan and modern human. Several people were out, saw them and ran up to greet them. They were expected. Most of the people of the Lion Camp had been on the hunt when the clan hunters had joined them and so had some experience with the Clan people. The rest of the Lion Camp had heard about them. Someone ran into the lodge to get Danug and Talut. The three Clan people were led to some logs placed for sitting around a firepit. They removed their packs and were given a refreshing tea. As they looked around they saw people going into and out of an opening in a small hill on the side of the valley about half way up from the river. The entrance was a symmetrical arch formed by two mammoth tusks. The hill was not a natural hill, but had been built by the people. It seemed to be made entirely of dirt. It even had grass growing on top.

Durc noticed that just above the top of the arch through which people entered the hill was the skull of a cave lion. "This is the Lion Camp and the cave lion skull is a fitting symbol for it," signed Danug when he noticed Durc looking at it.

Durc turned to Danug and signed, "The Cave Lion was my mother's totem. She was marked by one before Iza found her."

Danug then signed back, "I think the Ayla we knew must have been your mother. She said the Cave Lion was her totem. She said that she felt that she must have been destined to come here because of it. And she had four scars on her leg where it had scratched her." Durc felt a moment of wonder. His mind wandered, "His mother had lived here. His mother was like these people. What was she like? Was she really as lucky as the older people of his Clan claimed. They often turned to him and asked what he would do in difficult situations, and commented on how his mother always knew what to do. Maybe getting to know these people will help him understand his mother and in some way to better understand himself. He always knew he was different than everyone else. Goodness knows, Broud reminded him of it often enough, although none of the other people in his Clan seemed to make much of it. Life have been better for both him and Ura in the short time since Broud had died"

After the Clan people had rested and greeted several of the people of the Lion Camp that they had met previously, Danug suggested that he show them their dwelling. As they approached the dwelling they noticed how the nearly symmetrical arch of the entrance was formed. It consisted of two large mammoth tusks, from the same animal or at least animals of the same size, anchored firmly in the ground with the tips facing each other and joined at the top of the arch in a sleeve made from a hollow short section of a mammoth leg bone.

A heavy curtain of mammoth hide covered the opening, which was high enough that even Talut, moving the drape aside, could enter without ducking his head. The arch led to a roomy entrance area with another symmetrical arch of mammoth tusks hung with leather directly across. They stepped down into the circular foyer whose thick walls curved up to a shallow domed ceiling.

As they walked through, they noticed that the side walls, which seemed to be a mosaic of mammoth bones, were lined with outer clothing hung on pegs and racks with storage containers and implements. Danug pulled back the drape of the second archway, went on through and held it back for the guests.

They stepped down again and the visitors stopped and stared in amazement, overwhelmed by the bewildering impressions of unknown objects, unfamiliar sights, and strong colors. Much of what they saw was incomprehensible to them and they gasped at that which they could make sense of.

The space they were in had a large fireplace near the center. A massive haunch of meat was over it, spitted on a long pole. Each end of the pole was resting in a groove cut in the knee joint of an upright leg bone of a mammoth calf, sunk into the ground. A fork from a large branching antler of a deer had been fashioned into a crank and a boy was turning it.

As their eyes became accustom to the dimmer light indoors they were surprised by the spaciousness of the neat and comfortable earthlodge. The fireplace was only the first of a row of seven hearths extending down the middle of the longhouse, a dwelling that was over eighty feet long and almost twenty feet wide. It was warm inside. The fires warmed the interior of the semi-subterranean dwelling more than the fires warmed their cave. It was quite warm, in fact, and the visitors noticed several people farther back who were very lightly clad.

But it was not any darker in the back. The ceiling was about twelve feet or so throughout, and had smoke holes above each hearth that let in light as well as letting smoke out. Mammoth bone rafters, hung with clothing, implements and food, extended across, but the center section of the ceiling was made of many reindeer antlers entwined together. The visitors became aware of a smell that made their mouths water. It was mammoth meat. There were other delicious cooking odors, too. Some familiar and some not, but they combined to remind them that they were hungry.

They were led along a well-trodden passageway that ran down the longhouse next to the hearths. There were wide benches, piled high with firs, extending out from the walls. People were sitting on some of them, relaxing and talking. The visitors felt the people looking at them, rudely they thought, as they walked past. There were more mammoth tusk archways along the sides, but no one asked where they led and the information was not volunteered. It is like a cave, Durc thought, a large warm comfortable cave. But the arching tusks and large, long mammoth bones used as posts, supports and walls made him realize it was not a cave that someone had found. It was one they had built!

The first area, the one in which the roast was cooking, was larger than the rest as was the fourth where Danug led them. Several bare sleeping benches along the walls, apparently unused, showed how they were constructed. When they had excavated the lower floor, wide platforms of dirt were left just below ground level along both sides and braced with strategically placed mammoth bones. More mammoth bones were placed across the tops of the platforms, filled in with matted grass between the spaces, to raise and support pallets of soft leather stuffed with mammoth wool and other downy materials. With several layers of furs added, the dirt platforms became warm and comfortable beds and couches.*

The hearth to which the visitors were led appeared to be unoccupied. Danug signed, "This is the Mammoth hearth. Our Mamut, our Holy man, died a few years ago and we have not yet gotten a replacement, but this would be where he would live. This is also where we gather for ceremonies and where guests usually stay. He pointed to some unused benches and signed, you can use these while you are here.

(*) The description of the earthlodge is taken literally from Jean Auel's book, The Mammoth Hunters, with some modification to accommodate different observers seeing it for the first time.

When it is convenient you can bring in your things and put them here. There are pegs for hanging clothing and these drapes," he showed them how to unfurl a large leather animal hide that was wrapped around a horizontal pole suspended from the roof rafters, and another that was tied back, but could be untied and slid along another horizontal pole, "can be closed to give some privacy when you want it."

The earthlodge was much different than the cave where they lived. In their cave, hearths were defined with a circle of stones and one's sleeping space was usually obvious as a pile of furs on the ground, possibly on a shallow trench filled with straw. Otherwise there might, or might not be, some strategically placed stones to outline the family's living area. Privacy was a courtesy of not looking into another's private space, and not seeing if one inadvertently did look into the private space. The Clan people did not think in terms of material wealth, but at an emotional level they realized, and were incredibly impressed by the fact, that these "Others" of the Lion Camp were very very rich.

They went back outside. The haunch of meat that had been roasting had been taken out and it along with various other delicious looking and smelling foods were set out, and everyone was standing around with their eating plates, bowls and knifes at the ready. Talut said, and signed so the Clan people would know what he was saying, "There you are. I thought Danug was going to make you starve." As big, rough and sometimes crude as Talut was, he was not insensitive, not to mention that Nezzie who knew more about the Clan ways, emotions and customs from her closer relationship with Ayla, had been coaching him, turned to the Clan men and said (and signed), "This feast is in your honor since you are our guests. It is our custom for the guests to take food first and to take the parts that to you are the best. It is also our custom to have our women guests go first. I know your customs are different, but it would please us greatly if your woman would take food first." Durc turned to Ura and Brac and signed, "It is their custom, how do you feel about it?" Brac shrugged his shoulders and signed something to the effect of, "whatever." Ura, then signed, "I will be horribly self conscious, but if that is what they do and if it is what you want, I will do it." Probably no other clan woman would have, nor would her mate have allowed it, but Ura was a mixture and had different deep feelings and was actually quite a bit more curious and daring than other clan women. She stepped forward with Durc close by her. There was a collective sigh of relief among those watching.

A gigantic cultural hurdle had been cleared and everyone knew it and at a deep instinctive level they all knew that it was of far greater significance than what it appeared on the surface.

As they were eating Ura tried to become as inconspicuous as possible. She would have much preferred to hide. These people stared blatantly which she thought to be rude and had to keep telling herself it was just their way. She also had to admit that she wondered about them too although she was very unobtrusive as to how she glanced at them so they would not notice. She knew she was of mixed spirits (Broud had berated her about it almost as much as he had belittled Durc) and wondered if knowing these people might help her understand herself better. She and Durc had talked about that before they came and the possibility had helped convince her to come in the first place. They were strange people though. She was not sure yet if she liked them or not. In a strange way she kind of did which surprised her as she had come thinking she wouldn't.

After the meal, Nezzie, who had talked to Ura at the hunt, came over to her and started talking with her. Latie, Nezzie's daughter joined them. Nezzie introduced Latie and then signed, "several years ago when were out on a hunting trip, a Clan woman started following us. When we approached her, she would run away. We left some food out and the next day it was gone, so we think she took it. She looked to be pregnant and in great pain. Finally she let us come to her just as she was giving birth. We helped her, but soon after she looked at the baby she died. I took the baby, a boy, and raised him. I named him Rydag. He was of mixed spirits and seemed quite bright but he could not talk. Unfortunately, he was sickly and died while still a child. He was with us when the woman, Ayla, who we are now thinking might have been Durc's Mother, came. She took to the child right away and taught him, and us, the clan signals which he picked up immediately. Once we could talk to him, we were amazed at his intelligence, cleverness and even humor. He died at the summer meeting, when all the Mamutoi camps get together, while Ayla was still with us. The Counsel did not allow him to have a burial, so Ayla gave him a Clan burial. We were all very impressed by the ceremony."

"I wish I could have known Durc's mother," signed Ura, "The other women talk highly of her and even the men respect her memory. Only Broud did not like her, and no one knows why. Durc and I just found out that Broud cursed her with death and her spirit went away. Before that I only knew that she had died and never questioned it. Now that Broud is gone, Durc and I are much happier and feel more a part of our Clan. I should not be disrespectful of our late leader, but I do not think he was a very good leader. Our Clan was always unlucky while he was leader. Then on the first hunt after he died, we met you and had the most successful hunt ever. The other women tell me that Durc is much like his mother. He is always doing different and strange things that work to help us, but that no one else would have thought of. He is very good to me. He treats me good and values my ideas."

Nezzie then continued, "I hope you can be comfortable here. I know our ways will be strange, but please understand that we mean no disrespect when we do things, like the men looking directly at you, that you might think are disrespectful. We are just curious, and want you to do the same in return. You will also see that our women do many of the same things as the men and the men do things that you might think are to be done only by women. Do you understand any of the voice sounds we make? That is how we talk." "No," signed Ura, "How can you talk with noises?" "I know you use voice sounds for names, like your name is Ura," Signed Nezzie speaking the name Ura verbally. We use voice sounds for everything. For example this cup we say 'cup' to mean cup." Ura tried making the "cup" sound only to utter "cah". She tried, but could not get the "UP" sound. After several tries, it became obvious to all three women that she, like Rydag, could not talk verbally.

Meanwhile Talut and Danug had approached Durc and Brac and had started an animated conversation. "Brac," Talut was saying, "Danug tells me that you are now the leader of your Clan."

"That is true," signed Brac, "but as much as I hate to admit it, I do not know what to do. Broud always told everyone what to do, and I don't know what I should be telling them."

"Didn't Broud train you for becoming leader some day?" asked Talut.

"Not really, he just told me what to do like he did to everyone else. I don't know how he knew what to do." Brac replied. Talut thought to himself, "I think I am starting to see why they have been having such bad luck."

He then signed, I also understand that your Clan has been having a lot of bad luck, when did that start?"

Brac, replied, "The day Broud was made leader. The first thing he did was cursed Ayla with a death curse and the spirits immediately sent an earthquake, which Broud tried to blame on Ayla, but we all knew it was because he had cursed Ayla. Ayla even saved my life once. When I was just an infant we were on a hunting trip. I had wandered off a ways and a hyena grabbed me. Ayla killed the hyena with her sling and then fixed my arm. She was not supposed to hunt or touch a hunting weapon, and when she saved me, she exposed her secret. The old leader Brun did not want to but he had to punish her. The punishment was death, but he only gave her a limited death curse of one moon. Everyone was surprised when she came back the very day her curse was over. I was too young to remember, but my mother and all the other people talk about it a lot. I should not be disrespectful of our late leader, but I don't think he was a very good leader. The other people often talk about how much they wish Brun was still leader. They always understood why he did what he did."

"I do not wish to be disrespectful of your late leader either," signed Talut, "But a good leader does not tell people what to do without getting everyone's opinions first and making sure that everyone, including himself, understands what is going to be done and why. Even then, when the group does something, like hunt aurochs or pick berries, the person that knows the most about hunting aurochs or picking berries should lead the group as they hunt the aurochs or pick the berries. The good leader knows which person knows the most about each task and then has that person, man or woman, explain to the rest of the people what each person should do and how to do it. They will usually get individuals to volunteer for the tasks they can do best. In most instances the leader really never actually 'tells' anyone what to do. The individual tasks, and even the basic activity and timing generally become obvious and understood by everyone as they are discussing it."

"Really?" exclaimed Brac. "Broud never thought anyone knew anything."

"All your people are smart and know a lot about a lot of things," Signed Talut. "The good leader also has all the people talk about whatever it is that needs doing before you do it. That way all the good ideas come out and everyone gets to understand what is to be done. The people usually have a lot of ideas that the leader never thought of and by everyone talking about it, the leader and everyone else, learns what everyone else thinks and knows. Also, if someone has a misconception, it becomes obvious during the discussion and that person corrects his thinking. In that way, the person who had a misunderstanding will not do something wrong, during a hunt for example, that he might otherwise have done thinking he knew what to do, but actually did not know.

The decision that the leader then has to make is usually very easy since everyone will have decided the same thing after hearing everyone else's thoughts. All the leader has to do is put the good ideas into some order. You would do that by saying something like, 'from what I've heard, it seems like a good plan would be to do such and such, does everyone agree; or have I missed something?'"

Brac signed, "I could do that, but Broud would have thought that asking others for their opinions would be demeaning."

"Quite the opposite," Signed Talut, "A leader is respected for the well being and accomplishments of those he leads, not his own. The leader is not judged by how he makes his people prosperous. He is judged by their prosperity. The collective wisdom of all the people is far greater than that of the greatest leader. The good leader uses all the wisdom of his people."

"I never thought of it that way," signed Brac, "but now that you say it, I think some of the older men and my mother that remember Brun, have been trying to give me hints."

"You do not have to admit to them that you learned it from me," signed Talut, "but you must acknowledge them for helping you through this difficult time."

"Wow," Durc thought to himself, "I think I am starting to see why these people live so well." He knew he had been leading the people since Broud had died, but he never imagined that he was doing it the right way. He had thought he was acting in a way that would avoid making him look like the leader he was not supposed to be. Now he suddenly knew that he could coach Brac; where before he too thought (not knowing any different) the leader should appear like Broud, but that he being of mixed spirits could never exert such authority. A thought then struck him. Why is leadership passed down to the oldest son of the past leader's mate? He asked, "Talut, how is the leader of your people chosen?"

"Actually by consensus of the people," Talut replied. "Sometimes one or two camps get too crowded and someone who would like to be a leader suggests setting up a new camp and asks others to join him. If no one wants to join him, it is obvious that they do not think he would be a good leader. If a leader dies, or can no longer lead for some other reason such as simply getting too old, the group will have many discussions and will decide who they want to take the job." Both Durc and Brac knew they would be doing a lot of thinking about what had been said.

Just then, with timing that could not have been better, Ranec and Druwez walked into the group and announced that they had sighted a herd of bison a half days travel to the east. The two men were returning from a scouting trip and were anxious to present the good news. "Oh," said Ranec, "I see our visitors are here. Maybe they will join us in a hunt." Talut took it in stride replying, "That is very good news, and maybe our guests can join us." Danug explained, by signing, to the visitors what had been said. The Clan people thought it was rude and disrespectful for the men to have interrupted their leader that way; but they also understood the importance of the information. Brac, in particular, had sudden insight into the difference between the leader Talut and his late leader Broud. Broud would never have allowed such an interruption, but then he would never have known about the opportunity for a hunt either. Brac decided to carefully watch and see how this would play out.

Talut got up on a good sized rock so everyone could see him and called out to get everyone's attention. He then said, "Tusie," addressing one of the youngsters, "go inside and tell everyone to come out, and that we are planning a hunt." The young girl ran into the earthlodge and soon everyone had gathered around. When he was sure he had everyone's attention, Talut announced, "Ranec and Druwez have returned from their scouting mission and have good news. Ranec get up here and tell everyone what you have found?" Danug continued to translate for the visitors.

Brac was surprised that Talut gave Ranec and Druwez credit for the discovery and then had Ranec explain the situation to the group. He was also impressed in that it would be an easy way to lead. He would be comfortable doing that. Ranec was different that the others in that his skin was very dark. Not quite black, but dark, and his hair was black and quite curly. The others had light skin and light brown or blonde hair. Ranec's appearance was only one aspect of the man that appealed to Talut and made Talut glad to have him as part of the Lion Camp. The man was an excellent carver. His carvings were highly admired at the summer meetings and brought high trade value.

As Talut stepped down Ranec mounted the rock and started speaking, "Druwez and I spotted a medium sized heard of bison about a half day's journey to the east. I think there are at least 12 animals with three or four young. They were heading up a river towards a narrow place with fairly high cliffs on each side. They are not migrating. They are grazing and only moved as they needed fresh grass. If we leave early in the morning, we should get there before they get to the narrow place. Some of us could station ourselves on the cliffs on each side where the river plain narrows and the rest of us could encourage the herd to move towards and through it. I do not think we should stampede them. When they get between the cliffs the hunters in positions safely up on the sides of cliffs could dispatch several with spears. If some animals run back the way they came, those who were following could kill some more." Danug translated. Brac realized that he had just seen happen what Talut had just told him about letting the person who best knew the situation, plan the action which in this case was a hunt. He thought to himself that he could do that, and that he would not have to know what to tell the people to do. If that is leadership, it is easy and not at all what he thought leadership had to be. He also had to admit to himself, that the hunt will be much more successful than if Talut would have ignored Ranec and Druwez's advice. He would not have – could not have – planned it as well. He also realized with a sudden burst of insight that Talut also knew he could not have planned it as well, but was more concerned with having a successful hunt than having the satisfaction of telling the others what to do.

Druwez then got up on the rock and said, "I think those of us that are the best with the spear throwers should station themselves on the cliffs. If the bison decide to all pass though about half way between the cliffs instead of nearer one or the other, they will present a long spear throw." Several people, including Talut, volunteered and it was obvious that everyone agreed that they were the right ones for the job. Druwez continued, "Good! Now we need some people to go behind the heard and make them move up the valley. Anyone can do it, but we should have some good hunters in that group just in case the animals stampede back opposite to the direction we are trying to make them go. It is unfortunate that we do not have Ayla with her horse to help." Danug translated. Durc took notice that this person Ayla was well remembered and highly thought of, although he was confused by the reference of a horse. Maybe it was a pour translation and Danug had actually meant something else. Could she really have been his mother he wondered?

Several volunteered including some of the women, and Danug suggested that their visitor's be part of that group. "Good," Druwez said, "We will start out at daybreak." He got down off the rock. It was done. The hunt was planned and everyone knew what to do and when to do it. Talut only got everyone together and then turned it over to Ranec and Druwez. Yet Talut was still the undisputed leader of the camp, even though Ranec and Druwez were leading the hunt. Brac decided he would have to think about this.

The meal was over and the meeting to plan the hunt was over. Everyone wandered off to do whatever it might be that they had to do. The Clan people gathered their things and took them into the earthlodge and arranged them in the area of the Mammoth Hearth they had been told they would be using while staying with the Lion Camp. The three of them sat quietly each with their own thoughts thinking about all they had witnessed. Their first day with the "others" had overwhelmed them. They needed time to sort it out.

When they got ready to crawl into their sleeping furs that night, they pulled closed the drapes as they had been shown and were greatly thankful for the meager privacy. They had never known such privacy, but then they had never felt the need for privacy as greatly as they did now in these totally different and strange conditions. They slept fitfully, but they did sleep.

The next morning Durc and Brac prepared to go on the hunt. Nezzie signed to Ura, "Would you care to join us on the hunt?" Nezzie was obviously preparing to go. "Is it allowed? Signed Ura. "Of course," replied Nezzie, "but only if you want to". "I have never considered it before," signed Ura. "Then why don't you come. You might enjoy it. If nothing else, you can help butcher the animals we kill and help bring it back." Nezzie said. "I will come." Responded Ura.

They started out just as dawn was breaking. They followed a well worn path up the side of the valley to the rather flat high ground. When they reached the top of the valley edge, they were assaulted by the wind bourn grit of fine loess. The nearby glacier that covered a quarter of the earth created weather patterns that included nearly constant wind. The grinding of the glacier on the land pulverized the soil into powder (loess) that was carried by the wind and deposited to great depths across the vast steppes. Valleys offered some respite from the wind, but once on the open high ground the people had to bear its full force. They lowered their heads into the wind and held the hoods of their parkas to gain whatever protection they could and trudged onward. The path faded away and the people spread out, each making their own way across the grassy steppe.

Druwez led the way. After several hours they descended into another valley which, to their great relief, offered some protection from the wind and incessant wind bourn grit. Druwez had led them to a point down-stream and a considerable distance up-wind of where he thought the bison would be. He was right; they could see the bison in the distance. They stopped to rest and plan the next course of action. The hunters with the spear throwers who were to lie in wait on the sides of the cliffs would have to get around the bison and into position. There was a lively discussion as they were deciding just how to do that. Finally it was decided that they would have to go back up onto the steppes, go around the bison and then climb down the cliff. Half would have to go all the way down to the valley floor, cross the river, scale up the opposite cliff and move ahead of the herd on the opposite high ground. They set off. The rest would wait until they were sure the first two groups had time to get into position down-wind of the bison. They ate some travelling food, warmed themselves with a fire and chatted. And they waited.

Shortly after the sun had passed the zenith, they started out. The bison were on their side of the river, but there was nothing to keep them, or at least some of them, from crossing the river. It was not a large river, and a few of the people had no trouble wading across. They hoped their presence would deter the bison from attempting to cross the river. If necessary they would wave pieces of clothing and torches to help keep the bison from crossing. They would move abreast of, and therefore be obvious but not threatening to, the bison. It was not necessary to keep the bison on the one side of the river as there were hunters positioned on both sides of the narrow canyon, but it would put the bison closer to the hunters if they did not cross.

The main group of hunters, including Ura, then moved toward the bison slowly while making considerable noise. They wanted the bison to know they were there, but did not want to stampede the heard. It seemed to be working. Gradually, and one by one, the bison slowly moved up the valley. It was a casual migration. Occasionally when the people got too close to an animal on the outskirts of the herd for that animal's comfort, the animal would move more into the heard and then stop to graze. That exposed the next animal to the noisy creatures slowly moving towards them, and then that animal would slowly move into the herd, and so on. The animals more in the center of the herd soon felt the pressure of too many other animals too close and moved upstream to get some breathing room. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually the herd was actually passing between the cliffs. The cliffs were fairly widely spaced and did not appear menacing to the herd. The valley widened again just past the cliffs. The bison just kept moving with each animal advancing a bit and then stopping graze. Each animal moved at its own pace.

Suddenly several animals simply dropped in their tracks with one or more spears sticking out of each. At first there was no reaction from the others. It happened quietly. Then two more dropped. One did not die immediately and charged, bellowed and then dropped with another spear. That alerted the other animals that something was wrong and they started to run. Some ran back the way they had come and some of them dropped with spears stuck in them. One young, but nearly full grown bison ran on a course leading between Durc and Brac. Durc and Brac ran towards the animal closing in from both sides and nearly simultaneously plunged their clan spears into the bison. It dropped. Others ran past the hunters and fled. It did not matter; the hunters had what they had come for. It was over in minutes.

The Clan people stood in awe. Several animals in a few minutes; and no hunter, except possibly Durc and Brac, had ever been in danger. The clan method of hunting always put the hunter in danger. Their late leader was killed as he tried to kill a reindeer that the others were driving towards him. He had always insisted on being the one to actually make the kill. He wanted the glory. Brac realized that he had witnessed something profound, but it was Durc who put it together and saw the importance of actually throwing the spears. He also decided that he would learn how to do it. Unfortunately, the way the arm bones and muscles fitted together in the clan body did not lend well to throwing, although it gave them great leverage and strength. Durc was a mixture of spirits and one trait he inherited from his modern human mother was the wide swing of the arm. He did not realize any of that, but that did not matter. It did matter for Brac. He would never throw a spear well; with or without a spear thrower. Ura was thrilled at having participated in a hunt. She was also of mixed spirits and had inherited some of the nature of the modern man that had impregnated (raped) her mother although the clan did not recognize the connection between the rape event and the conception any more than did the modern humans of the time. The fact that her mother had been raped by a modern human (one of the "others" as the clan thought of the modern humans) was not connected with Ura being of mixed spirits. It was assumed that her mother had had bad thoughts.

When all the hunters had gathered together and were assessing the carnage, Ranec called to get everyone's attention and said (and signed), "Did anyone see how Durc and Brac charged that bison and stabbed it with their spears? I think that was a brave thing to do and took a lot of courage and strength. I, for one, am greatly impressed." Durc and Brac were not accustom to receiving praise and felt embarrassed; but pleased at the recognition. That was how they hunted and were glad of the chance to actually make the kill that their late leader would never have allowed. Everyone, including Talut, agreed that they had been brave and had made a significant contribution to the hunt.

After the hunt, Talut, Nezzie, Danug, Xoolie, Durc, Brac and Ura were sitting around the hearth relaxing and talking. Durc asked the group in general, "Could you tell me more about this Ayla, who might be my mother?"

Talut spoke first, "I first saw her and the man Jondalar when a group of us was out on a scouting trip. I noticed two people in the distance and shouted to them to get their attention. I thought they were Mamutoi because they were dressed in Mamutoi clothes. They looked over at us, waved and then we both moved towards each other. We exchanged greetings and then the man, Jondalar, explained that he was not Mamutoi but that his people were Zelandonii and lived a year's travel to the east, but he had spent some time with a Mamutoi camp earlier that year and that is why he was dressed in Mamutoi clothing. They both spoke both Zelandonii and Mamutoi, although she had a strange, though not unpleasant, accent. Ayla said she was 'of no people'. Naturally her being of 'no people' piqued my interest because everyone is from somewhere and has someone. I invited them to come to Lion Camp and was rather surprised when they, at least Ayla, seemed reluctant to do so.

They explained that there was something I must know before making my offer, and that further raised my curiosity. She then whistled a shrill whistle and two horses came around a hill and trotted right up to her. Jondalar explained that these were not ordinary horses. That the horses answered to Ayla and did what she wanted. He made me promise that no one would try to kill one for food. She then jumped up onto the back of the mare and it ran off with her. It soon came trotting back with her still on it and stopped in front of us. She slid off as though riding a horse was a perfectly normal thing to do. I then knew for sure that I had to convince them to come, which they then did. Her control of the horses appeared to be supernatural, even though she maintained that it was just a matter of getting one very young and raising it like your own child. It would bond to you and be your friend. It appears that she was right. My mate's daughter Latie got a newborn colt a few moons ago and it seems to be bonding to her as Ayla said.

While Ayla was with us, she killed a wolf, discovered it was a nursing mother that had whelped out of season and was probably a lone wolf without a pack. She tracked it back to its den and pulled out the single remaining pup and raised it. This I know because she was living with us and I watched it happen. The wolf grew up and adored her. It would do anything to please her, and it played with the children of Lion Camp. I would not have believed it had I not watched it happen. I am still not convinced that she did not have some special connection with the spirit world. Our late Mamut insisted that she was the personification of the Great Earth Mother."

Nezzie interjected, "Ayla told us that you honor the Cave Bear like we honor the Great Earth Mother." She then continued, "Ayla was also a very good healer. The old Mamut suffered from arthritis and she made a soothing balm for him and helped one of the women deliver a baby. There were complications throughout the woman's pregnancy but Ayla pulled both through it. She also helped all of us with whatever ailed us. We miss her greatly, and not just because she was a healer, but because we truly loved her, and she loved us."

Talut continued the saga, "She told us that she had been raised by Clan, but had been forced to leave. It was early spring when she left and she wandered until late spring when she stumbled upon a lush valley with a comfortable cave and decided to stay a while. She ended up living alone in the valley for three years. During the third year, she was out riding her horse and heard a man scream. It was Jondalar. He and his brother were being attacked by a cave lion. The brother was already dead, but the lion was one that she had raised from a cub, but that had left and now had his own pride of one lioness. The lioness was away, and Ayla told the lion to go and he did. She was his mother and could tell him what to do. She got Jondalar back to her cave and brought him back to health. He stayed with her through the summer during which time he developed the spear thrower that you now see us using. She was just as good as him with the spear thrower, but she was absolutely incredible with the sling."

Durc perked up as a shiver ran down his back, his clan mother and the older people always talked about how good his mother had been with the sling.

Nezzie picked up the story, "Since she and Jondalar left we have had many discussions about her and have decided that she must have been sent here for a purpose. At first we did not recognize it for what it was. She said she was a healer, but did not say that she also healed people's souls and group's differences. Our late Mamut had to point it out to us before he died. The Mamutoi people include many camps, but we had been drifting apart. Some of the camps wanted to do things differently than others. We did not want to admit it and for the most part ignored it and it had gotten much worse than any of us realized. It all came to a head at the summer meeting that year when Rydag died and the council could not agree to give him a burial. Ayla gave him a Clan burial. The situation made everyone realize just how far apart the different camps had gotten. We could no longer ignore the problem. Something had to be done. If it had not been for Ayla, we would not have addressed the problems, and I hate to think of where we would be now.

It also happened that at that same time the Lion Camp also had a problem. We had recently taken in a family that consisted of an old woman, named Crozie, who had been a camp leader but who had been disgraced, her daughter, Fralie, with two children and the daughter's mate, Frebec. The daughter and her mate had just recently become mated. The old woman and the daughter's mate were always arguing and making everyone uncomfortable. The daughter was pregnant, but her mate would not let her get help from Ayla until she started to deliver and it was obvious that something was wrong. Frebec was a troublesome character, but could put together clever arguments, even when misdirected. One thing led to another and eventually Crozie who even though disgraced still had the status of a Camp leader, and Frebec who was a clever debater, started working together and became the ambassadors that eventually got all the Mamutoi camps back together again. Today they both give Ayla the credit for making them both see how to work together and how to put aside their differences. They give her all the credit for all they have accomplished. I don't know if she really is the personification of the Great Earth Mother, but I am totally convinced that she was sent to us to fix a problem that we did not even know we had. We owe your late leader a huge debt for driving her out. We are all much better people and much happier for having known her."

"Could that really have been my mother?" Durc was wondering. "I really wish I could have known her."

There was a long pause as each was mulling over their own thoughts. Finally, Danug spoke, and signed at the same time, "Ever since Jondalar told of his adventures on his journey, I have wanted to take a journey." Nezzie, Danug's mother was not sure she liked where she thought this might be going. He continued, "Jondalar said they were going back to his home, the people of the Zelandonii that live a year's travel to the west. I would like to try to find them and see if they really exist, or if like some of us believe, they were actually spirits sent here to help us. I want to make a journey, and that would give me a destination and purpose."

"Well, you know," Nezzie interjected hoping to put an end to his crazy idea, "you don't just have yourself to think about. You are mated and must consider Xoolie's feelings and wishes."

Xoolie spoke up saying, "I think it is a great idea as long as he takes me with him." Xoolie was somewhat of an adventuresome person; in fact before she mated Danug she had a reputation of being somewhat of a hell raiser, and that is one of the things that had attracted Danug to her in the first place. But, Nezzie had not counted on her being quite this adventurous.

Nezzie could not let it drop that easily, and continued. "A mother never wants her sons to put themselves in danger, and a year's journey there and another year back, assuming thay decided to return immediately, would certainly place them in some kind of danger somewhere along the way. After all, look at all that had happened to Jondalar. He had more than one serious injury, his brother had died and he was nearly killed by a cave lion. His stories should have discouraged one from taking a journey, not made one want to go on one." But therein lays one of the basic differences between a young man and his mother. She continued, "Danug, there is no assurance that the Zelandonii even exist, and even if they do, how would you ever find them?"

Danug countered, "He said he followed the Great Mother River from its origin at a little mountain spring after he had crossed a small glacier. We could retrace his path. Once we cross the glacier someone will be sure to know how to find them. Some of the Mamutoi camps to the south of here know of the Great Mother River, set up temporary camps at the mouth of the river where it empties into the Beran Sea, and even trade with some people called the Sharamudoi who live far up the river and who Jondalar said he had lived with for a while." Danug continued to sign in translation of what others were saying as well as what he was saying so the Clan people could follow the conversation.

Durc's mind was spinning. Was it possible that one could journey and find his mother? Could he journey and find his mother. He had no idea how to find his mother, but Danug seemed to have a plan. It might not be a good plan, but it was a plan.

Danug, continued, "Even if we never find Ayla and Jondalar, we would still have gone on a journey and seen lots of places and met lots of people. It is the kind of thing that you must do when you are young or you will never do it."

"Yes," Nezzie said, "and if you do it when you are young, you may never get to be old."

Talut, seeing and understanding both sides, smiled at the interplay between Danug and his mother. He too would hate to lose the son of his mate, but he also knew that such an adventure would add immeasurably to the young man's understanding of himself and the world, make him even more self confident and would help him put aside petty issues that arise while leading a camp of his own sometime in the future. Talut was certain that this young man would someday lead a camp.

Later when Durc and Ura were alone, Durc signed, "Ura, did you understand that Danug might take a journey and try to find Ayla?"

Ura signed, "Yes."

Durc continued, "I never knew my mother, but everyone in our Clan, and these people too, speak highly of her. I wish I would have known her."

Ura said, "I would liked to have known her too. My mother said she was really nice and a very good medicine woman. She met your mother at a Clan gathering and made the arrangements for me to be your mate since we were both of mixed spirits. She was so relieved when your mother agreed. I was most disappointed when I got to your Clan and discovered she had died."

Durc then asked, "What do you think of us going on a year's journey. We would have to live off the land as we traveled."

"We live off the land anyway. How much different could it be. Do you think we could go with Danug and Xoolie?"

"We could ask."

Ura said, "I wish I could talk. Maybe Xoolie will learn how to talk our way. I think she is picking it up a little bit."

Durc said, "I will ask Danug tomorrow."

Danug was shocked and overjoyed. It had never occurred to him that Durc would have the least interest in a long journey. Xoolie was already having him show her more of the Clan signs, and that Ura wanted to go too was too good to be true.

"Durc," Danug said, "I must be honest with you. Many people like us, who you call the others, do not like clan people and they do not like people of mixed spirits like you and Ura. I don't know why, but they don't. Here at the Lion Camp we do not feel that way because of the boy of mixed spirits that my mother Nezzie took in and because of what Ayla taught us when she lived with us. But, if you go with me, you and Ura will probably be faced with hate, mistrust and outright belligerence. It will be harder for you to see those actions directed at Ura than to face them yourself."

"I think I know what you mean," Durc replied, "we experienced that at the clan gatherings too and our late leader did not like us."

Danug continued, "I don't know how your clan people make their feeling known, but our kind of people can be extremely hurtful. I would be pleased for you to join Xoolie and me on the journey, but you must know what you will probably be faced with."

'We have decided." signed Durc.

It was nothing short of phenomenal that Durc and Ura made the decision to go on the journey so quickly. No other clan person would have, could have, done it, but they were both of mixed spirits and the part of them that was modern human (i.e. of the "others") gave them the forward thinking capability necessary for such drastic decision making. Any other clan person would have taken many moons of contemplation, and even then would have probably decided not to go. Each Clan person spent a year preparing themselves emotionally for going to the Clan Gatherings that happened only once every seven years and would normally be only a moon or so of travel time to a place that someone in the group knew of.

Brac just shook his head in disbelief. He could not fathom what was happening, except that Durc and Ura would be gone for a long time and might never return. He did not like it, but he knew that Durc and Ura both were prone to strange behavior much like, as he had heard the older people tell, Durc's mother.

After much discussion, it was decided that Durc and Ura would return home with Brac and then in one moon they would meet up with Danug and Xoolie at the place of the hunt where they had first met each other. They all knew that place and they would start out from there.

5

The meeting of the Zelandoni to discuss Espandli's request was finally arranged and the Zelandoni from all the caves converged at the Ninth Cave which was hosting the meeting. Besides the Zelandoni there were fairly large contingents of other people from the various caves that were taking advantage of the situation to visit and meet with friends and relatives from other caves. Most expected there to be several meetings over several days; with some Zelandoni taking advantage of all the Zelandoni being in the same place at the same time to have individual meetings to discuss issues of interest and/or concern relating to their specific caves. Most of the leaders of the other caves had also come to have parallel meetings and discussions with the other cave leaders. Among other things, the cave leaders would be planning a major hunt before the summer meeting and that hunt would be taking place in a few weeks.

Although the issues to be discussed were serious, there was no aura of dread or worry about resolving them. The atmosphere was more that of a fair or carnival than of a synod. Traveling tents and cooking hearths were set up on the Gather Field, a large and fairly level area on the river's flood plain between the cliff and the river, somewhat down river from the actual overhanging shelter of the Ninth Cave. It was a glorious sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky. It was a little cool, but most people preferred it that way. The cool weather gave them the opportunity to dress in their finest to impress those from the other caves. People were wandering all over the place looking for others they wanted to visit. Others, having things to trade, were looking for things to trade for. It appeared chaotic. It was.

The lodge set up for the use of the Zelandoni was more substantial than the travelling tents that most of the visiting people were using. It was the lodge they would use at the summer meeting. It was large enough to facilitate all of them for meetings and provided the significant level of privacy that the spiritual leaders insisted on. It was portable in that it could be taken apart and the various pieces carried to wherever the summer meeting, or any other meeting such as this one, was held. The pieces still usable after a summer meeting, which would be most of it, would be taken back to the various caves and repaired or replaced as necessary through the long winter to be ready for the next summer meeting. The lodge was also set up, as now, for special meetings when all the Zelandoni had to meet as a group. A rather high level of secrecy was needed to maintain their image of intermediaries with the spiritual world, and the lodge provided that security whereas meeting out in the open would not.

The lodge was basically circular, being made of sections of straight panels set to form a many sided polygon, with moveable inner panels that could section off the interior space or be stacked aside to make one large room. The interior of the outer wall consisted of panels woven out of flattened bulrush stems and painted with designs and animals. The panels were attached to the inside of the pole frame of the outside wall. The ground was covered with mats made of bulrushes, tall phragmite reeds, cattail leaves or grasses. A few sleeping rolls were spread out to one side of a slightly off center fire pit that was near the center pole although most Zelandoni actually stayed in the travelling tents with others from their particular caves. The smoke escaped through a hole in the roof above the fire pit. The smoke-hole cover could be adjusted from the inside with short poles attached to it.

The outside of the outer wall was made of panels of overlapped cattail leaves which shed rain and were attached to the outside of the framing poles, leaving a space between the outer and inner walls for insulation to make it cooler on hot days and, with a fire inside, warmer on cold days and nights. The space also insulated the sounds from inside being heard outside and outside noise detracting from the discussions going on inside. There were raised sleeping spaces along one part of the wall. The sleeping spaces were usually used to treat the sick or injured at summer meetings and were raised to make it easier to tend to the patients. The various Zelandoni could sleep there now if they desired to do so.

Various pads, pillows, and stools used for seating were scattered around near several low tables of various sizes. Most of the tables were graced with oil lamps usually made of sandstone or limestone, many with multiple wicks, that were, as a rule, lit day and night inside the windowless shelter where the only outside light came in through the door when it was open and a few cracks in the walls. Most of the lamps were carefully shaped, smoothed, and decorated, but some were crude stones with naturally formed or roughly pecked-out depressions for the melted tallow. The lamps were tended to by the acolytes. Near many of the lamps were small carvings of women, propped up in woven bowls of sand. They were all similar, yet different. They were the representations of the Great Earth Mother, that the Zelandonii called donii.

The donii ranged in size from about four inches to eight inches in height, but each one could be held in one's hand. There was some abstraction and exaggeration. The arms and hands were barely suggested, and the legs tapered together with no real feet so the woman figure could be stuck into the ground, or into a bowl of sand, and stand upright. The donii were not carvings of a particular person, there were no features to give identity, though the body may have been suggested by a woman known to the artist. She was not a high breasted, nubile young woman, at the beginning of her adult life, nor was hers the lean figure of a woman who walked every day, a peripatetic wanderer constantly foraging for food.

A donii depicted a richly obese woman with some experience in living. She was not pregnant, but she had been. Her broad buttocks were matched by huge breasts that hung down over the large, somewhat drooping stomach of a woman who had given birth to and nurtured several children. She had the ample figure of an experienced older woman, a mother, but her shape suggested much more than the fertility of procreation. In order to for a woman to be that fat, food had to be plentiful and she had to lead a fairly sedentary life. The small carved figure was meant to look like a well-fed, successful mother who provided for her children; she was a symbol of plenty and generosity.*

The people of that ancient land understood at a subconscious level that they were somehow the product of the earth, and that the earth provided for their needs. The spiritual leaders understood that relationship at a conscious level and explained it to the people in terms that everyone could relate to and that was the "Great Earth Mother" "gave birth" to the people. The donii was a physical reminder of that relationship which was the most sacred of all their beliefs.

The concept of the Great Earth Mother giving birth was further imprinted into the minds of the people by articulation of the idea that certain deep caves in the area, some being extended sinuous passages going back hundreds of feet, were the actual "wombs" from which the people came. Those caves were the most sacred. The concept was extended to the Great Earth Mother giving birth to all creatures via the cave wombs. Many caves were revered as the birthing channel for specific animals and these caves provided for the communication

(*) The description of the lodge and the donii is taken almost literally from Jean Auel's book, Shelters of Stone.

between the shamans (spiritual leaders) and the spirits of those animals.

It was sincerely believed that if the people did not maintain a proper relationship with those animal spirits, that the Great Earth Mother would quit sending those animals to the people to provide food and other essential materials for the people. One way to establish and maintain the communication with the animal spirits was to draw the spirit of the animal out from the walls of the birthing womb by physically drawing the representation of the animal on the wall of the cave. The physical drawing was not for public display, and once drawn had no particular value. It was the process of creating the drawing that connected the shaman with the animal spirit for the benefit of his people.

Jondalar was constantly surrounded with a small group. His skill as a flint knapper was well known and many wanted to trade something for his blades and axes. The artists and carvers were especially anxious to get his bruins and knives since he had developed several special kinds just for them. Both Jondalar and Ayla were prolific hunters and had all the hides and other animal parts that one could ever need, but he would take such items in trade because he could trade them later for other things that he and Ayla might need or simply want.

Jondalar projected a striking presence standing in the mostly open field next to his array of flint blades, axes and burins he had set out for display on a tanned hide spread out on the ground. He was a tall man of six feet plus, blond and with vibrant blue eyes. His clothing was perfectly fitted, clean to the point of looking new and of the softest supple leather one could find. He was particular about his clothing, and Ayla helped him maintain his wardrobe. She had a knack for making the extra soft and pliable leather. She had learned the technique from those that had raised her, the Clan people, and continued to use it even though it required far more effort to work the hide. She was meticulous about measuring and cutting the pieces just right so the clothing would fit perfectly to look good, but also to insure freedom of movement. If the clothing did not fit quite right it would hamper his ability to knap flint and to throw a spear, not to mention being uncomfortable. She was not one to add beadwork and other decoration as she thought it was unnecessary. She did not consciously think about how she thought about it. She appreciated both the beauty and the craftsmanship of it when she saw it, but never quite got around to doing it herself. Johnalar's clothes were elaborately decorated, but others had done it for him in trade for his highly regarded tools.

Jondalar also took requests for specific tools that he would make and take to the summer meeting to trade with the persons requesting them. Once the terms of the trade were agreed to, he would make the tools before the summer meeting and then the actual trade would be made at the summer meeting. The gathering gave him and others a rare opportunity to trade beyond their own and immediately adjacent caves. Solaban, one of Joharran's trusted advisors, specialized in making handles, especially knife handles, had set out his wares for display next to Jondalar's. A knife with one of Jondalar's blades hafted to one of Solaban's handles was highly prized and they often worked together.

"Jondalar and Solaban, just the men I was looking for," exclaimed a young man who was approaching them, "I am lucky to find you together." "Yonokol, how good to see you," resounded Jondalar and Solaban almost simultaneously. "How are things at the Nineteenth Cave?" asked Jondalar. "I miss all of the wonderful people of the Ninth terribly," said Yonokol, "not that the people of the Nineteenth are not nice to me nor that I don't love them dearly, it is just that they are not those that I grew up with and have loved for many years. But the cave that Ayla found is even more than I had hoped for. It is truly the window into the world of the animal spirits. It is coming alive before my eyes. I cannot describe the experience, nor can I pass it up."

Solaban added, "Ayla knew it was meant for you as soon as she saw it." "I realize that now," said Yonokol, "She is truly Zelandoni whether she wants to be or not and whether she realizes it or not. I intend to see all my old friends while I am here, but what I really came for was to get some more of those special burins that only you seem to be able to make, Jondalar; and Solaban, you are the only one that can make the handles right for my use. I am wearing my tools out rather fast scribing the outlines of the animals into the limestone of the cave walls," said Yonokol. Jondalar replied, "I am more than pleased to provide the tools you need and am glad they are working for you. In fact I have some right here," as he reached down and picked out four tools from the leather on the ground. "Are these enough, or should I make some more? If you need more I can bring them to the summer meeting and give them to you then." "I hate to impose, but I really will need more," replied Yonokol, "And you know it is for the good of all the Zelandonii."

Ayla also had a small entourage most of the time. Her skills were well known even in the other Zelandonii caves and people wanted her advice on healing of various illnesses, cooking, how to deal with difficult people, and even hunting. Some, especially those that were family of someone she had helped in the past, brought her gifts.

Espandli was with her when a woman came up to them and said, "Ayla, I was hoping to find you."

"Greetings Mardena, I hadn't expected you to be here, but it is nice that you are."

"I made a special effort," continued Mardena, "I wanted to give you this." She handed Ayla a beautiful leopard fur cape.

"OH!" Ayla gasped, "That is far too beautiful and valuable to be giving to me."

"No, responded Mardena, it is not nearly enough. You have done so much for me and Lanidar."

"I don't understand," said Ayla, "Lanidar was such a big help to me. I don't know what I would have done that summer if he had not watched the horses for me."

"He might have been some help to you, but he enjoyed it more than any of us would ever have expected," countered Mardena, "but the real value was that he became a man who can hunt and even call the animals with his whistles; and I learned how to let him. Neither of us could have done that without you. You cannot know how proud I am of him; and to think that I used to be ashamed of him. You know he will be mating Lanoga at this summer meeting."

"Yes, I knew that," said Ayla, "and I also see that he is already providing for her."

"That's just it," said Mardena, "I always thought that with his deformed arm he would always be dependent on me, or someone, and now he is actually providing for Lanoga and her siblings."

"Yes," Ayla said, "she was showing me the beautiful clothes she made from the deer hide that he gave her. She is a remarkable girl too, and you should be pleased to have her mated to your son."

"She is remarkable, and she too would not be if it had not been for you. She is now accepted as a part of the community where her mother and mother's mate are, let's say, outside of the main stream," Mardena commented. Espandli listened without saying anything, but stored the information.

Then Ayla turned to him and said, "Espandli, I have been remiss at not introducing you." Mardena this is Espandli of the Espandlii who lives many days to the West and South of here." Mardena took his hands in hers as was the custom for formal introductions, as Ayla continued, "Espandli this is Mardena of the Nineteenth Cave of the Zelandonii, daughter of Denoda of the Nineteenth Cave of the Zelandonii, mother of Lanidar of the Nineteenth Cave of the Zelandonii soon to be mated to Lanoga of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii."

"Greetings Mardena of the Nineteenth Cave of the Zelandonii, daughter of Denoda of the Nineteenth Cave of the Zelandonii, mother of Lanidar of the Nineteenth Cave of the Zelandonii soon to be mated to Lanoga of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, said Espandli." Ayla thought to herself that remembering Mardena ties and repeating them exactly certainly showed a talent that is useful for a holy man. "I just arrived a few days ago and do not know much about the Zelandoni, but you speak highly of Ayla," he added.

"Yes, if she was not so easy to talk to, I would know she was the personification of the Great Earth Mother; and many of us think she is anyway," Mardena responded.

Ayla blushed at the compliment and said, "I don't feel like the Great Earth Mother. I am just a very lucky orphaned girl trying to be a good Zelandonii woman." Espandli and Mardena looked at each other with understanding expressions. Neither was quite sure what to believe, but whatever Ayla was, she was not "just another good Zelandonii woman."

Espandli then turned to Ayla, and asked, "Is this Lanoga you speak of, the young woman that was showing you her clothing at the feast we had the day I arrived?"

"Yes, that was her," replied Ayla.

"I thought she looked young to have a toddler, but do I understand right that the girl is actually her sister," queried Espandli.

"Again, yes," responded Ayla, "her mother was not caring for the baby and Lanoga who could count only ten years at the time was trying to take care of her, but did not know how to do it. I showed her a few of the basics, which she picked up quickly and then learned more from the other women, and she is now a fine and talented woman."

Espandli stored the information.

The huge woman who was Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave and was also the First among Those-that-Served stood up to indicate that the meeting was to begin. She was an imposing sight. Her size alone, she was tall as well as fat, screamed "POWER AND AUTHORITY" and her bearing reinforced it. She carried herself with confidence and exuded an aura of office. She also dressed the part. Unlike Ayla, there was no way anyone, no matter how foreign they might be, would not know that she was someone of major authority.

She started the meeting by saying, "I welcome all of you to the Ninth Cave, and appreciate the effort each of you have made to be here today. Some have come quite a distance. I assume that our runners explained the purpose of this meeting, but to insure that we all understand I will state it. This meeting is limited to the Zelandoni. The acolytes have not been included. We are here today to discuss, and hopefully make some decision on two issues.

The first issue is a request that has been made by Espandli of the Espandlii people for additional training. Espandli, please stand." Espandli stood. As he remained standing, she introduced him saying, "Zelandoni of the Zelandonii, this is Espandli of the Espandlii. He and two of his acolytes have travelled many days from their home far to the west and south on a pilgrimage seeking additional training from us. Such training will require considerable effort from many of us. We each have different degrees of expertise in different areas. He will have to live with some of you for extended times to receive adequate training in your particular area of expertise. We will also have to accommodate the needs of his acolytes. We must decide if we will honor his request, and if we will, we must work out the mechanics of the order of subjects he is to be trained in and with whom he will be trained in each subject. We then have to work out who he will stay with and so forth." She nodded to Espandli that he could now sit down, which he did.

There was some murmuring among the Zelandoni. In general they were pleased to know that they were so highly regarded by peoples far away that a holy person such as Espandli would make a pilgrimage to study with them. Most were proud and were excited about being recognized as having some special expertise.

Zelandoni who was First continued, "The second reason for this meeting is to discuss what to do about Ayla." Espandli's head jerked up. He had no idea that Ayla could possibly be an issue among the Zelandoni. She continued, "I ask that we invite Espandli to stay for the discussions on Ayla. He has been living with her and Jondalar and might have some insight that the rest of us do not have. We must remember that even though he has requested training, he is already a full Espandli which for his people is the same as being Zelandoni is for us. However, the decision for him to stay for those discussions must be unanimous. We will discuss his request for training first, and then decide about his staying for the discussions about Ayla."

There was some further murmuring, but no particular remarks surfaced to indicate anything other than understanding and interest.

Zelandoni who was First then said, "I think it would be appropriate if Espandli would tell all of us what it is that he is looking for and what made him decide that he needed additional training. We should all hear what he has to say at the same time so we all understand the same message and needs." There was a murmuring of general agreement with the idea. Zelandoni who was First then looked at Espandli and said, "Espandli will you tell us what it is that you are looking for and why you decided you need it?"

Espandli stood up, looked around, and started to explain, "The Espandli number few people living in four groups that you would call "Caves" all within two days of each other, but many days from our nearest neighbors. We trade with others and have, on occasion, traded with you. I have met Willamar the Trade Master of your Ninth Cave when he has visited us, but it has been a few years now and he has not visited us often. My people have fallen on hard times. It must be hard for you to imagine as I have seen in the short time I have been here that you are most prosperous, but it is true. I feel that in some ways the bad times that my people are experiencing is because I have somehow failed my people. I don't know exactly what it is that I have done, or not done, but I feel that some of the problem is me, and specifically my abilities. I need to fix that. The Espandli of our other caves are even less capable than me, and are therefore of no help. Before I arrived, I thought that there was one area, at least, I would not need instruction and that is in healing. But, in the few days I have been here, I have seen things that I never thought possible and I now realize that I am also a novice as a healer. It has been a rather humbling experience. If I am as inept in the other areas, I need your help even more than I realized."

There was more murmuring. Of those in the meeting only Zelandoni who was First knew of the surgery that Ayla had performed on Gargron just days before, and she was thinking that all of those in the meeting were probably as inept at healing as Espandli although she had not yet had the chance to evaluate his capability.

The Zelandoni of the 14th Cave was the first to speak saying, "I think we should honor Espandli's request." Several others agreed. "Does anyone disagree or have reservations?" asked Zelandoni who was First, "Each of you must consider the extra burden that it can impose on you." No one voiced and objection.

Zelandoni who was First continued saying, "I suggest that we tentatively agree and start working out the details of who should provide which kind of training. It will then become clearer as to what it will mean to each of us individually. Once we better understand what will be expected from us individually we might find that we have more reservations about honoring the request. Let's start by listing the subject areas that must be covered, getting Espandli's input as to how much training he feels he needs in each area and then deciding which of us is best qualified to work with him. What are the subject areas?" Various Zelandoni called out subjects eventually making the following list:

Histories and Elder Legends

Counting words and how to use them

The coming of the seasons

Phases of the moon

Visiting the world of the spirits

Healing

Beliefs, courtesies, accepted behavior standards

The mating contract

Pregnancy and childbearing

Animal spirits

Rituals and ceremonies

Counseling individuals on personal problems

Counseling individuals and couples on the duties of mated people

Counseling individuals when there has been a death of a loved one

It was a formidable list and without chart paper, easel and magic markers, it had to be consigned to each person's memory. But, they worked through it, decided who among them would be best at each subject and the order that Espandli should study them. Espandli would need little training in some subjects such as the counting words since he was already skilled in them. It would not help him much to memorize the histories and legends of the Zelandonii, but understanding the meanings would help him remember those of the Espandlii. The Zelandoni would also help him remember the histories and legends of the Espandlii though meditation and concentration. They would even help him invent some, but that was not openly admitted. A basic plan was finally agreed on and the decision to honor Espandli's request was finalized. He and his acolytes would be with them for at least a year.

Zelandoni who was First then said, "It has been a long morning and it is time for a meal. Provela agreed to arrange a mid-day meal for us which is probably set up just outside. But, before we go out, is it agreed to have Espandli join us for the discussions about Ayla?" There was some murmuring and discussion, but eventually everyone agreed. Some were genuinly interested in any insight he might have on the enigmatic Ayla from having actually lived with her.

The mid-day meal arranged by Provela was a feast. All kinds of food had been prepared and set out in attractive displays. Ayla, carving and serving roast bison, was only one of several women each serving her own specialty. Espandli was impressed that there could be such bountiful and rich food so early in the spring before the plants could bear fruit and the animals build up their fat surpluses. It showed that the Ninth Cave had lots of reserve left after the long harsh winter. Ayla's words "This is a bountiful land and the Ninth Cave has exceptionally good leadership. We are prosperous" from his first meeting of her, resounded in his head.

During the mid-day break in the meeting, Espandli walked over to where Jondalar was trading just as a young man with a barely perceptible limp approached from the opposite direction. Jondalar and the young man greeted each other warmly after which Jondalar introduced him to Espandli as Matagan of the Fifth Cave. Matagan then said to Jondalar, "I have some of my latest work I wish to show you." He then turned to Espandli and explained, "Jondalar is the greatest of all flint knappers, and I was lucky to have been one of his apprentices. Sometimes it pays to do stupid things." He unwrapped a bundle of leather that he had been holding under his arm and exposed some elegant spear points. "I know these do not meet your standards, but they are better than anyone else in the fifth cave can do," he said to Jondalar. Espandli took one and looked it over and explained, "I have never seen such fine work where I have come from. And young man, what did you mean when you said it sometimes pays to do stupid things?"

A rather sheepish grin crossed Matagan's face and he then explained, "A few years ago at the summer meeting, some of my friends and I came across a wooly rhinoceros and decided to try to run it to exhaustion and kill it. We were young and all we could think of was the glory of having killed a rhinoceros. We were too young and inexperienced to have tried such a thing and the rhinoceros got me and broke my leg. It was a serious and complicated break. Fortunately, Ayla and Jondalar just happened to be coming by and saw it happen. They killed the rhinoceros and Ayla set my leg while I was still unconscious, right there out on the steppes. You might have noticed I have a slight limp. No one knew if I would be able to walk, let alone hunt. Jondalar took me in as a flint knapping apprentice so I would at least have a trade to fall back on. The leg healed well and I do hunt, but my love is in the working of flint."

Espandli said, "It seems that you were very lucky that Ayla and Jondalar were there when the terrible accident happened and that Jondalar could, and was willing to, train you in his craft." "Yes, that is true," responded Matagan, "They are both exceptionally talented and exceptionally helpful. And Ayla has a knack for being where she is needed. I don't know how she does it, but it would not surprise me if the speculation about her being the personification of the Great Earth Mother is right. It's just that when you talk to her, she seems perfectly normal and even a bit demure."

The meeting of the Zelandoni resumed after the mid-day meal. Zelandoni who was First among Those-that-Served stood up to indicate that the meeting was to begin. As she silently observed each of the Zelandoni she knew that this part of the meeting would not go as smoothly as the morning session. She knew that some of her counterparts would object to Ayla becoming a full Zelandoni and she knew that the objection would be based on Ayla's having lived with flatheads and particularly her open defense of the Clan people (commonly referred to as "flatheads" and usually in a derogatory way). Most people disliked flatheads even though most had never seen one and those that had had only observed them from a considerable distance. No one that she knew of, except Ayla, had ever had a personal relationship with them. The closest anyone had ever been to one was to drive it away.

There were rare, but known, instances of people being of "mixed spirits" and showing strong "flathead" characteristics and such individuals were generally thought of abominations, ridiculed and even hated. Any woman who gave birth to such a creature was considered to be filth, a carrier of dangerous spirits and to be avoided. Not everyone held such views, and Zelandoni who was First had tried to make the other Zelandoni understand that all creatures were of the Great Earth Mother and were to be accepted and revered, but she knew that some of the Zelandoni hung on to the popular view when it came to flatheads. And those that didn't, but had some reason to want to thwart her personal agenda, Zelandoni who was First did have enemies within the ranks of the Zelandoni, might use that common bigotry against the induction of Ayla into the ranks of the Zelandoni just to counter the efforts of the Zelandoni who was First.

As she considered each person at the meeting, she tried to think of the arguments they would be likely to make and how they could be countered. She did not expect resolution of the issue at this meeting, but wanted to move it in a positive direction. When the group settled down and seemed ready to commence, she opened the meeting by saying, "You all know that I have been training Ayla as an acolyte and that some time ago we accepted her into the Zelandoni as a healer with full qualifications. I am now in a position to report that her progress has been nothing short of phenomenal. She is by far the fastest student I have ever had or known about. In my opinion, she is more than ready to become a full Zelandoni, and I am asking you to consider it and if we can agree on it to grant her that status."

Zelandoni who was First was not surprised when her arch rival, the Zelandoni of the 14th, was the first to speak. "I have serious misgivings about making Ayla a full Zelandoni," she said. "Although she has been adopted by the Ninth Cave she is not really Zelandonii, and we do not really know where her true allegiance lies. I believe that her background with flatheads puts a big cloud of doubt over the issue, and her association with animals is not in keeping with what most people think a Zelandoni should be."

"In all due respect Zelandoni of the 14th, I must disagree with you on the issue of the animals," countered the Zelandoni of the 11th. "I have watched Ayla closely and meditated on her since, like you, I had misgivings at first, but what I have concluded is that she was sent to us to show us that the Great Earth Mother is providing certain animals to help us in ways beyond just providing food and tools. She is showing us that we can use the gifts of animals to help us do the work that must be done. The animals obviously are helping Ayla and Jondalar live better than they would otherwise, and in so doing are helping the Ninth Cave live better and that in turn has actually helped all of us. I believe she has been sent to us for a reason, and that purpose can best be served through the Zelandoni. You are right in that showing our people to use animals for more than just food is not what we think of as our calling as Zelandoni; however, I think it actually is within the scope of our calling to help our people."

Zelandoni who was First had not expected such strong support from the Zelandoni of the 11th and was quite pleased. Although she was not pleased at all about not having given him more thought. She had not thought about his opinion, because she did not take him as seriously as she did some of the other Zelandoni; and she now realized that had been a failing on her part. Not a failing that showed, but one that she knew in her heart and she was an introspective and self critical person.

The Zelandoni of the 3rd was the next to speak saying, "I have to support the induction of Ayla into the ranks of the Zelandoni. I was there when Shevonar was trampled by the bison, and I can attest that no one could have done more for him, and no one else who was there considered using a poultice like she did to relieve his pain so he could hold out until his mate arrived. I also witnessed how she took command of the situation; and that she addressed the emotional crises as adeptly as she did the purely healing issues. She was majestic. Like Zelandoni of the 11th, I too have observed her and meditated on the situation and I find no reason that her past association with flatheads constitutes any detraction. If anything, her experience with them might bring us knowledge that we do not have and that could further help us as much as the use of animals noted by Zelandoni of the 11th." Zelandoni who was First was not surprised that the Zelandoni of the 3rd would be supportive and was pleased that he was so adamant.

"I have not had much personal interaction with Ayla," said the Zelandoni of the 29th, "But our leader, Denanna, is quite put off by the idea of a close association between people and animals. She also puts flatheads into the category of animals. I have high respect for Denanna, and feel obligated to honor her judgment until I have good reason to do otherwise. However, I will observe Ayla more closely since those that have appear to be quite favorably impressed. I realize that it is possible that Denanna's attitude could be a personal quirk and without substantiation."

Zelandoni who was First understood the concerns of the Zelandoni of the 29th and had to respect her allegiance to the leader of her cave. She also knew that she had some work to do to show her what Ayla was really all about.

The tall blond woman who was Zelandoni of the 2nd cave spoke next saying, "Like Zelandoni of the 29th, I have not had much contact with Ayla. However, my first acolyte participated in the search for Jondalar's brother's spirit and helping it find its way to the spirit world; and she was very much impressed with Ayla. She is convinced that Ayla is somehow Zelandoni. If pressed, I would go along with Zelandoni who was First unless faced with contrary evidence."

Zelandoni of the 14th immediately spoke up, "Isn't her association with flatheads obvious reason?"

"I don't think so," replied Zelandoni of the 2nd. "Since Jondalar's return, the issue has come to our attention and Jondalar has made it clear that he believes flatheads are caring thinking people. He contends that they are different than us, but still people. I have searched the Elder Legends and found that we have displaced them from these caves we now live in and even killed some in the process. We would do the same with any animal, but we would not do that to another human. By thinking of them as animals we would soothe our consciences. But also, we would not hate or despise an animal that we displaced or killed. In fact, we revere the animals we kill."

Zelandoni who was First had never been in a deep philosophical discussion with the Zelandoni of the 2nd and was a bit surprised by her depth and how well she articulated her thoughts. But then, no one became Zelandoni without reason, even the Zelandoni of the 14th had many strong attributes even if she did try to thwart everything Zelandoni who was First tried to do.

At that point, Zelandoni of the Fifth stood and said, "Ayla treated a young man of our cave when he was mauled by a rhinoceros; not only did he live, but he now walks and even hunts. But, as he was convalescing it was not obvious that he would have full use of his leg, so he studied flint knapping and our cave now has a flint knapper that is second only to Jondalar. Ayla made it happen. I have been getting a lot of input relevant to this discussion from my acolyte, Madroman. He has been very convincing about down-playing what we hear about Ayla's abilities and accomplishments. He is also of the belief that flatheads are evil and should be killed, and that anyone who thinks differently cannot be trusted. Unfortunately, I have discovered that he plans to use his power as a Zelandoni, when he becomes one, to avenge an old grudge. It is with great sorrow that I have to release him as an acolyte. His heart is in the wrong place. I know that is not the subject for discussion at this time, but I have to bring it up because now that I know what his motives are I have to agree to accept Ayla into the ranks of the Zelandoni." Zelandoni who was First was stunned. She was sure that the Zelandoni of the Fifth would stand against her on this issue.

She then summarized the discussions with, "I am pleased to hear the large support for Ayla, but have to admit that it is not unanimous and we must have unanimity on every decision. I plan to bring up the subject again when we meet during the summer meeting so I beg each of you to search your inner selves and also to try to get to know Ayla better between now and then. Before we break up this meeting, I want us to hear what Espandli has to say about his impressions of Ayla." She motioned for him to stand and address the group.

Espandli stood and paused as he looked over the group and collected his thoughts. He then spoke saying, "I can honestly say that Ayla is the most interesting, competent, loving and caring person I have ever met. She is also an enigma. I first met her far out in the valley as I was coming here, and stopped to ask directions. I thought she was an unmated woman of low rank who the other women probably shunned. I don't usually misread people that badly. There is something very special about her, yet she has every appearance of a perfectly normal person whenever you are with her. But, even as she is appearing perfectly normal and doing nothing you can identify as special, you feel an indefinable aura, I would even say a force, in the air. It does not appear to radiate from her, but it does. I helped her treat Gargron. I was watching her treat him when she looked me in the eye and said 'we are going to do so-and-so'. I did it. But, it was like she was controlling my hands and actions. What I did was nothing I had control of. It just seemed to happen even though it was my hands doing it. It was the weirdest experience I have ever had. I think she has a power that she is trying to suppress and might even be trying to deny. I think she might even be afraid of that power. I would not want her to be outside of the Zelandoni. She is already acting as a Zelandoni. You don't want her as an enemy.

"Espandli we thank you for your insight and this meeting is adjourned," said Zelandoni who was First.

6

They met, as planned, at the place where the clan people had joined the "others" for the hunt earlier that season. They were an unlikely group, and probably unlikely to succeed in their venture. Danug, the nominal leader of the group was one of what the Clan referred to as the "others" (i.e. a modern human) and had a functional capability in the sign language of the clan but might not be sufficiently articulate to manage in a crisis. Xoolie, Danug's mate, and also modern human, had no practical working knowledge of the clan sign language at all. She knew the names of a few things and that was it. Durc was of mixed spirits - - half clan and half modern human- - but had been raised as clan and thought of himself as clan although he knew his mother, that he had never known, had been one of the "others". He was fluent in the sign language of the clan and could speak, but had only started to learn Danug's language, the language of the Manutoi. He had never known a vocal language, so it was quite difficult for him to grasp some of the concepts. Ura, Durc's mate was also of mixed spirits - - half clan and half modern human- - and like Durc, had been raised as clan and thought of herself as clan. She had no concept for making the connection that the "one of the other's" (modern human) man that had raped her mother would be her father. She knew she was of mixed spirits, but thought of it as being an unlucky outcome of some choice of the spirits. Unlike Durc she could not articulate the sounds of a vocal language. She could not even hear some of the sounds in the technical sense of recognizing words. It was simply noise to her. The two women could not communicate directly.

The plan was for the four people to make a pilgrimage of at least a year's travel to the west in hopes of finding Durc's mother, a woman called Ayla. Such a journey was possible, but very dangerous in that ancient world. They would be meeting very few people so they were going to be completely on their own, they would have to live off the land as they traveled, might suffer accidental injuries, could be caught in an animal stampede or inadvertently get between a cave lioness and her cubs to mention only a few of the dangers they could face. Any group of people venturing forth on such a journey should be a smooth working team where each has intimate knowledge of the talents, habits and natures of all the others in the group and where precise and instant communication is automatic in an emergency. The clan people in this group did not know or understand how the others did things or even their thought processes, and the others were no more knowledgeable of the clan people. It was an audacious undertaking.

To make matters even worse, most people they were likely to meet whether clan or others were not likely to have benevolent feelings toward the other type, and people of mixed spirits where not generally well accepted by either. But, they were young and excited about the journey to far away and exotic places, even if their objective of finding the woman Ayla failed. They were realistic enough to have little expectations of actually finding a particular individual, and especially one that might not even be a real person, but some type of spirit, a year's travel away.

Xoolie was quick witted and very intelligent. She had a reputation of being somewhat of a "hell raiser" with her own camp. Some were quite happy to see her mated to Danug simply because that meant she would leave their camp and go live at his. That being her nature, the journey sounded interesting and exciting to her. She was determined to learn the clan sign language so she could communicate with Ura who she found to her surprise that she actually liked. She had never thought about it before, but what she had always heard about flatheads (clan) had left the impression that they were disgusting creatures. She now knew that was not true and was genuinely curious to understand them better. She was not expecting to find the secrets to the universe through them, but simply wanted to know how they thought, how they did things and how they lived their daily lives. Most people could care less, but her quick wit and "out of the box" thinking was what had attracted Danug to her in the first place. Talut, the headman of the Lion Camp, the man of Danug's hearth and the mate of his mother, also saw Xoolie's attributes as positives rather than negatives and welcomed her to his camp; but then he had a reputation of welcoming the unusual.

They camped for a few days and discussed their trip and made tentative plans. Any plan had to be tentative since they understood that they would have to be flexible and adjust and adapt to whatever they came across along the way. Communication made the planning process rather slow and they had to make sure that they really did understand each other. The basic plan was to travel generally south, but a little west, until they came to the Great Mother River. The plan was to reach the Great Mother River near where it emptied into the Beran Sea. If they traveled too far to the east they would come to the sea first and would have to follow its shore line west and then south until they came to the river. If they travelled too far west they would miss the Beran Sea which would not deter them, but they did want to see it. They would then follow the Great Mother River upstream to its origin near a glacier which they would then cross. Once across the glacier they would travel west-south-west and hopefully come across people that would direct them to the land of the Zelandonii. The travel plan was based on what the Zelandonii man Jondalar had told Danug several years before about Jondalar's travels. Those stories and Danug's infatuation with Ayla while she lived at the Lion Camp had inspired him to make the journey.

The land they travelled across was primarily steppe, treeless plains, but not flat nor barren. To the west a mountain range with silvery peaks loomed in the distance. The rivers flowed generally south, cutting valleys into the steppe. Sometimes the river valleys were wide with gentle slopes up to the higher plains and sometimes cutting deep and steep canyons through the steppe. The group generally followed the rivers. By doing so they were close to water and tended to be in valleys and hence somewhat shaded from the incessant wind with the windborne loess and often could find wood for fires or for making tools and equipment. However, the rivers tended to the south east, and also would often loop back taking a long distance to some point that would require only a short trip up and across the high ground. So occasionally the travelers would brave the wind and go across country to a different river more to the west or to a point downstream on the same river. The high ground was grassy plain where the large herding animals grazed. The people would also go to the high ground to hunt. Sometimes they could cut a lone animal from a herd and kill it with their spears, and sometimes they would stampede, the herd with fire and by running and shouting, hoping some would trip and break a leg, or fall over a cliff. They only needed the occasional animal, so they did not try to drive an entire herd over a cliff, as they would if hunting for an entire camp.

The differences in hunting techniques were a problem. The clan hunted by driving the animals toward one or two hunters waiting in ambush who would thrust the spear into the animal as it ran past. The "others" would get close to the animal while grazing and throw the spear to kill it. The thrown spear had become much more lethal and the technique much safer since the introduction of the spear thrower that Jondalar had shown them when he was with them a few years before. Durc had made some spears and a spear thrower like Danug's and was gaining some skill with it.

Another difference was that clan women did not hunt, so at first Ura was of no help until a kill had been made. But being of mixed spirits, and also being out of sight of disapproving eyes, she started helping in the hunt. She had never trained herself in hunting, so she had to be told and shown what to do. But she learned quickly and was soon contributing, but mostly in driving or encouraging the animals in a direction. Her ineptness with a weapon kept her from actually making a kill.

One day when Danug, Xoolie and Durc were practicing with their spear throwers, Danug noticed that Ura was intently watching and signed to her, "Would you like to try?" Her eyes flew open in surprise. She had never considered it and was not actually thinking about it although he had thought she might have been. But, once the question was asked, she decided it would do no harm and responded, "I will try, but I don't think I can do it." "I bet you can, but it will take a lot of practice. It has taken all of us a lot of practice," Danug signed. "Here, hold the spear thrower like this," he said as he held her hand around the implement. "Now hold it level and put the spear in it like this." He had her pick up the spear with her other hand and he guided it as she held it onto the spear thrower and pushed it back into the back hook of the spear thrower. "Do you see how the little hole in the end of the spear fits onto the hook of the thrower?" He asked. She looked, studied it a while and then her eyes brightened, she had the clan trait of not smiling, and nodded. "The thrower pushes the spear with more force than you can throw it when you throw it like this," he signed and then slowly moved the spear and the thrower through a slow motion throw by holding both the spear and the thrower. He held the thrower by holding her hand which was actually holding the thrower so she would get the feel of the process. "Now you try it," he signed.

She threw, and the spear went flying. It was nothing like what he could cast and she did not try to aim at anything, but she did throw it quite a distance. Although she was of mixed spirits, she had much of the strength of a clan woman, but, like Durc, she also had inherited the wide arc free swinging shoulder of modern humans. Unlike Brac, she could throw a spear. She was exhilarated, but also frightened. She signed to Durc, "What have I done? I am not supposed to touch a weapon. It is forbidden." "Don't worry," he signed back, "remember my mother was one of the others and she hunted. It was even allowed. You have some of the spirits of the others as do I, so I think it is all right for you to hunt. Xoolie hunts as do many women of the others. And Danug must think it is acceptable or he would not have shown you." "Do you really think it will be all right?" She asked again, not at all sure of what she had done. "Of course it is," he signed even though he was not as sure as he wanted to seem. "But I don't think we should tell anyone when we get back. It will make them nervous."

As they travelled, Ura practiced along with the others, and before long, both she and Durc were using the hunting methods of Danug and his people, and having considerable success. Xoolie was picking up the sign language and was starting to communicate directly with Ura which was refreshing for both women as there are some subjects between women that loose something when translated and especially when translated though men. Durc was gaining proficiency in verbal Manutoi and Danug was becoming quite good at the sign language so the communication between all of them was slowly, but constantly, improving.

They travelled light, carrying all they needed in back frames. Their spears were in side-slots of the back frames in constant readiness should an opportunity or danger present itself. Whatever they needed and were not carrying, they made when needed. As tools wore out, or spears broke, they made new ones. An observer might assume they were simply walking through the landscape, but in reality, each was constantly looking for anything that might be of use. A nodule of flint, a piece of wood, edible plants, rope like vines, or anything else that might have a use was collected if it could be carried. Sometimes something like a good flint nodule would cause them to stop, make camp and make the tool from the nodule rather than carry the nodule for later use.

Food was plentiful if one knew where to look, and how to recognize an edible plant for what it was, and those ancient people knew those things well. Large animals were abundant, but not always where you might want them when you wanted them. One large animal provided food for days, clothing from the hide, glue from hoofs and other parts, containers for water made from the stomach and tools from the bone. If they had not been travelling, they would have saved nearly all of each animal, taken it back to their camp and used the parts as needed over time. But, since they were travelling, they only used what they needed. There would be other animals later.

They had travelled several days when they came to a rather large river that was too deep to wade across. They had already crossed several rivers, and some had been so deep that they had to hold everything on their heads to keep their possessions dry, but none had been as deep as this. They travelled up stream for a couple of days looking for a fordable place. It was taking them away from the direction they wanted to go and they would have to travel back the same distance once across. Finally Danug decided they would have to swim. There were no sizable trees or logs in the area, so a raft was out of the question, but they did manage to tie together bundles of small branches from bushes to make a floating raft that would support their belongings. He explained how they would swim and push the raft ahead of them to get to the other side.

Danug thought it was a practical plan until he noticed that both Durc and Ura were very uncomfortable. Ura looked to be close to panic. He signed to them, "What is the matter, do you not think we can do it?" Durc signed back, "We can't swim." The solid and dense bodies of clan people did not float. Although both Durc and Ura were of mixed spirits, they were built too solidly to swim. Danug sat down and pondered the situation. It had never occurred to him that anyone might not be able to swim. He went up onto the high ground and tried to see which way the river went, hoping that it might at least turn west so if they followed it further up stream, it would not take them quite so far out of their way. But as far as he could see it came mostly from the north and for as far as he could see there were no major tributaries joining it that would offer some chance of a lessening of its size.

Danug came back to where the rest were waiting and sat down to think. Xoolie said, "It is late in the day and we have some nice deer meat and some vegetables, let's make a good meal and sleep on it. Maybe we will think of something in the morning." That seemed to be the best suggestion, especially since it was the only suggestion, so they all agreed and Xoolie and Ura set to work making a meal that, having some extra time, was somewhat more involved than what they had been used to while travelling.

The next morning, they finished off the deer meat and had a nice tea. Durc and Danug then walked over to the river and looked at it and across to the other side as though they were expecting it to tell them what to do. They walked a ways up the river and came back. The river was the widest and the current was the slowest where they were. The beaches on both sides sloped gently into the water. There was no immediate drop off into the water on either side. It was actually the best place to cross, if you could swim. The only possibility seemed to be to travel some unknown number of days up stream, find a fordable crossing and then come all the way back on the other side.

It was Xoolie that had the idea, and when it came to her she burst out with, "I got it. We can float Durc and Ura across on the twig raft. Danug, you and I could swim across pushing the raft with them on it. We could take one at a time and then come back for our stuff. I am sure that it will hold them if they lay flat." They all looked at each other. It might work. "But," Durc blurted, "You would have to cross so many times." "I'm willing," said Xoolie. "We might have to rest between trips, and it could take all day, but I am sure we could do it. If we continue up stream, it could take many days."

That seemed like a good idea, but Durc was hesitant. "Danug," He signed, "You and Xoolie will be doing all the work and that will leave us in your debt." "No problem," Danug responded, "There will be lots of things happening during this journey that will give you the opportunity to repay, although I do not feel that repayment is necessary." The cultural and physical differences between the people were starting to show and to indicate that the cultural differences could cause problems. Danug knew that clan people were different, and had started to see that they were much like his own people; but now he was starting to realize the differences were significant although nothing like what he had grown up believing. "Let's try it anyway," he said, "We have to do something. We can't just sit here looking at the river."

He started to put his back frame on the twig raft and then realized that it would float his belongings, but just barely. About a third of the back frame would be submerged and everything would get wet. Each person carried about two thirds of their own weight, and Danug was a big man. It was now obvious that it would take many trips to get everything across. Just then Ura started making noises and pointing. She was not completely mute; she could make sounds, just not the full range of sounds necessary for vocal speech. Everyone looked where she was pointing and a section of a fairly large tree trunk with several branches was floating past. Everyone grasped the significance and Xoolie dove into the water, swam out and retrieved it.

By the time she got it to shore, she and the tree were well downstream from their camp. Durc had seen that she was drifting downstream and had run down the bank of the river to where she got the log to shore. He waded in and helped her stabilize it in the shallow water near the edge of the stream. They looked at each other wondering how to get it back to the camp. Xoolie even envisioned moving the camp to the log. Eventually with what sign language she knew, and the words Durc had picked up along with invented, plus descriptive, arm waving they decided that Durc would push the log up stream along the shallow edge of the river where he could wade and that Xoolie would steer the upstream end. It took a while, but they eventually got it back to the camp and the four of them pulled it onto land. The water was bitter cold and both Durc and Xoolie were chilled to the bone. They both had to sit close to the fire for some time to warm up. It made them realize that the cold water was going to add to their problems.

While Durc and Xoolie thawed out, Danug cut off any unwanted branches with his hand axe and he and Ura re-built the twig raft using the log as the center frame. When they got it back into the water and tied the back frames to it, they discovered it would now hold two back frames completely out of the water. They now believed they had something that would work.

The travelers were now far enough south that the rivers were not only fed by the seasonal melting of the glacier far to the north, but run off from the mountains to the west was contributing. Rivers flowing east from the mountains fed into the rivers coming from the north. Being camped in the valley of the river, they could not see the western mountains unless they were to climb up onto the high ground, which they had not done for a few days while they were working out how they were going to cross the river. They had not noticed the huge violently churning black clouds complete with lightening in the mountains far to their west. The sun was shining in their valley and the wind was unusually calm. Even if they had noticed they would not have thought that such a far off storm would pose any problem for them.

They now had another problem, what were they to take across the river first, second, etc. Should the people get across first and then bring the supplies, or should the supplies go first. It was decided that Durc would be taken across first and then the supplies. That way, someone would be there to guard the supplies at all times. They were not afraid of anyone stealing the supplies; but animals might tear them apart to get to the emergency travelling rations. The greatest risk to the supplies was on the far side where the animals would not have been disturbed by the presence of people. They had camped a few days on the side they were leaving and had done some hunting. The animals were now skittish around the people. Durc would be better prepared than Ura to fend off curious or hungry animals, so he should go the other side first. Ura was nervous about having to wait alone for some time for them to come for her, and no other clan woman would have been able to do it without complete panic, but she understood the need and the low risk, steeled herself to the task and agreed to it.

The raft was ungainly at best and Durc was unable to paddle or even help steer. All he could do was hang on. Xoolie and Danug stripped to their undergarments which would only slightly hinder swimming while providing some measure of warmth and pushed off. It took longer than they had expected to get across so they arrived far downstream and they were so chilled they could hardly move when they finally crawled out of the water. And, they had to cross that river six more times. Durc scavenged some fire wood and kindling and thanks to the fire stones that the woman Ayla had showed them, they soon had a fire. It took quite some time before they were warm enough to attempt the return crossing. They then realized that they had to get the raft far up stream before setting off since the current would take them downstream. They had to start well upstream of the campsite on the other side. Durc did most of the work, pushing the raft upstream in the shallow water along the edge of the river. Danug was starting to worry about being able to get everything and Ura across that day. They were feeling the effects of the trip and the toll on their bodies was great.

One attribute of a good clan woman was to anticipate the needs of her mate and to attend to them without him having to ask. She should know when he is hungry, tired, has sore muscles, etc. Ura was no exception, and she projected that characteristic towards others. In the clan setting she might not act on her recognition of someone's needs and especially if it was another woman's place to do so, but she knew that Danug and Xoolie would be tired and cold when they got back and had a hot fire going and some rich and refreshing soup and tea ready.

Her preparations helped a lot. They warmed up quickly and the food and drink revived them significantly. The return crossing had not been quite as arduous as the first crossing since the raft was empty. She also did most of the work of loading and tying the back frames onto the raft. The two back frames where heavier than Durc, but not much and Danug and Xoolie were learning how to manage the raft so the next two trips went better than the first. Durc, in a totally un-clan behavior had a strong fire going, and what would be strictly a woman's task if the group were all clan, had some food prepared when they got to his side. Still by the time they were starting back to get Ura, they were exhausted and it was starting to get dark.

They were nearly frozen when Ura pulled them and the empty raft out of the water. She led and almost carried them to the fire and wrapped them in the furs that she had kept on her side of the river for just that purpose. As they were warming, Danug noticed that Ura was quite upset. She kept jumping up, looking at the river and then back at them. Finally, she hunkered down in from to him and bowed her head. At first he did not know what she was doing, but vaguely remembered Ayla saying something about how a clan woman would tell a man that she needed to talk to him. He reached out and tapped her on the shoulder. Her hands flew into a frantic explanation which he could not follow. His understanding of the clan sign language was marginal at best and she was talking so fast and with it being quite dark he had no clue as to what she was trying to say. Finally she ran to the edge of the river and pointed to it. She then waded quite a ways out into the river and pointed to the bottom. She then pointed to the horizon and swung her outstretched arm up to where the sun would have been in the mid-afternoon and pointed to the bottom of the river. She then went to the edge of the river and pointed to the horizon and then to the edge of the river. She then made motions of the sun going down and the edge of the river moving towards the camp fire.

Danug jumped up and nearly screamed, "Xoolie, we have to go, the river is rising." "I can't move," She said. "We have to," implored Danug. When she looked, she realized that the river was higher than she remembered it and the shock of realization as to what that meant drove her into action. They got the raft back into the water and Ura climbed on and layed face down. The raft was becoming water logged, but it held her mostly out of the water. It supported her weight, but she was getting wet. They started out, not taking the time to move upstream first. The river was not only higher, but the current was stronger and the water was even colder than before.

Danug and Xoolie paddled and kicked pushing the raft. As the current carried them downstream fatigue and the cold water rapidly took their toll on both. After what seemed like an eternity Xoolie could no longer feel her feet and she did not know if she could hang on much longer. Danug was suffering as much and could see that they had a long way to go and that they were being swept much farther downstream than they had gone before. He was losing hope. He could not go much farther. He started to berate himself for taking the others with him and subjecting them to such risks.

Then, Danug felt the raft change direction and start moving toward the shore. It took a while for Xoolie to realize it, but finally she too noticed the change. In fact the raft was pulling them. Durc had watched their progress and had walked down river along the edge of the river keeping abreast of them as they paddled across. When the depth of the water allowed, he waded out into the river and grabbed the raft and pulled it to shore. As soon as he got it up onto the shore, Ura jumped off and both Ura and Durc literally carried Danug and Xoolie up the slope of the valley away from the river. Durc too had noticed that the river was rising, and had taken the back frames with all their belongings to higher ground and downstream from where they had landed before. He knew the raft would drift downstream. He even had a strong fire going.

Danug and Xoolie collapsed in each other's arms next to the fire and Ura wrapped them with furs. They slept through the night. It was mid morning when they woke. Ura had a hot tea and some food waiting for them. When they looked out, the river nearly filled the valley. The rains in the mountains far to the west had melted snow which added to the volume of water and all the various streams fed into the river which was now flooding the valley. They just stared. Had they taken a little longer they would never had made it. And, if they had taken the time to walk upstream to find a better crossing, they would have been caught in the flood. They just stared and wondered. Durc and Ura were no less awed as they stood and stared as well.

They looked at each other and understood that they all had the same thoughts. Whether as words, signs or emotion, they all knew the danger they had just overcome and also knew that it was a forewarning of what was yet to come. They could never let their guard down. They were all young and still filled with youthful invincibility, but they were totally shaken and they all matured years in the hour they watched the flooded valley.

They did not travel that day. They were to shaken and tired. They made camp, snared some rabbits, dug up some root vegetables and thought of the meal as a feast while they rested. Xoolie was again impressed with how Ura was able to find herbs and other plants to add taste to the food. Durc was impressed with how Xoolie and Danug would work together without regard to what was "woman's work" and what was "man's work". He understood at a subconscious level the advantage that gave them, but could never have put words to his feelings and understanding. But both he and Ura were getting a feeling for an understanding of what had made them so different among the clan. Many of the behaviors of Xoolie and Danug that would be strange or even unthinkable among the clan struck resonant chords deep within them. They knew they somehow related.

As the group travelled south, they got ever closer to the western mountains. The change was so gradual that they only realized it after many days when they took the time to study the mountains and the realization would hit them. It was getting warmer too. They were moving south and the seasons were advancing north at the same time.

The particular river that they happened to be following actually emptied into the Beran Sea so they had to follow the seashore west and a bit south to reach the Great Mother River. That was somewhat out of the way but it gave them opportunity to observe the sea and to feast on fish and shellfish. Xoolie and Danug even went swimming a few times. They found swimming in the sea both fun and interesting. The Beran Sea was a fresh water sea. The massive weight of the ice to the north depressed the earth's crust forcing the land south of the ice to buldge up. The Beran Sea rested on that bulge. It had an outlet to the Great Waters of the South. The relative stillness of the water was different from the fast running currents of the rivers they had always swum in.

Xoolie and Danug marveled at the sight of such an expanse of water where one could not see the other side. Ura and Durc had been to the Beran sea twice before when their clan had journeyed to it for seafood. It was a long trip for them, and their clan did not go there often. They recalled the older people of the clan lamenting about how their old and wonderful cave that Ayla had found was much closer to the sea, and they had gone there often when she was still with them. They almost always added something about always being lucky when Ayla was with them when they talked about the past. Durc told how Ayla had saved a girl called Ona from drowning. The clan was visiting the shore of the Beran Sea to catch sturgeon going up the river to spawn. Ona waded out too far and got caught in the outflow of the river reinforced by the outgoing tide and was pulled beyond her depth. Ayla swam out and saved her. Nobody else could have done it. He had heard the story many times from the older women

As they marveled at and enjoyed the experience of the sea, the young adventurers had no concept of the earth ever changing. This is how it is and, to them, how it would always be. They had no way of knowing that thousands of years later when most of the ice had melted relieving the crushing weight of the ice and the earth's crust had rebounded that the part of the earth's crust that held the Beran Sea would have dropped and be hundreds of feet lower. The sea would no longer have an outlet to the Great Waters of the South and it would be somewhat brackish. Thousands of people would be farming and herding goats, and other animals, on these very shores. Nor could they know that the sea would then be hundreds of feet below sea level. They had no reference for anything like the concept of "sea level". They could not know that the great ice of the north would someday melt enough to raise the sea level and a trickle of water from the Mediterranean (The Great Waters to the South) would gradually wend its way across the land and run down into the Beran Sea; and that the trickle would become a river and then a torrent. The sea that they looked out at and saw as a given condition would suddenly start rising so fast that those early farmers and herders would have to walk day and night just to keep ahead of it. Many would not survive either from drowning or starvation; their means of livelihood would have become many miles away and under hundreds of feet of water. Sometimes it is best not to know the future. They had the innocence to just marvel and enjoy.

The travelers soon came to where the north arm of the Great Mother River entered the Beran Sea, leaving the vast delta. Three other arms of the Great Mother River also ran through the delta. The delta was a vast triangle of land made of the huge quantities of silt carried by the river and deposited when the velocity of the current slowed as the river pushed itself into the sea. The delta was not a stable geological structure. It was waterlogged fine grained silt with pockets of quicksand. The high water table, uniformity of soil and flatness resulted in there being many smaller channels besides the four main arms of the river and both the channels and the main arms changed their paths often and with seeming irrationality. It was a dangerous place if one did not understand it. Fortunately, the travelers did not venture far into the delta. They stayed on the north side of the north arm and followed it upstream.

The flora and fauna was all new to them. Sometimes when they followed a tributary far upstream, to the north, in search of a place to cross, they would come to steppe country more like they were used to. But while near the river, plants that they had known as bushes were often trees and swamps could be totally filled with reeds 20 feet high with no sign of water until one stepped in among the reeds. And then there was always the quicksand which was usually not at all obvious. They continued traveling upstream and gradually the mountains grew larger. The individual arms of the river were huge by any standard, but once the travelers reached the point where the arms were combined into one single river its size was staggering. They understood why it was called the Great Mother River.

Eventually the great river made a sharp turn where it came from the south and turned to the east. As they followed it upstream the mountains were close to their right and ahead, to the south, were dry open steppes. They suffered from the heat, but kept going. They were buffeted with driven sand, but kept going. Xoolie kept getting better at the clan sign language. She and Ura were talking girl talk more and more. Durc was mastering Manutoi and Danug was actually getting very good at the clan sign language. They were coalescing into a working team. They understood each other's abilities, strengths, weaknesses, moods and how each automatically reacted to various situations. They had become totally different people than they had been when they first started out, and they did not realize it.

The river turned again, now coming from the west through a gap in the mountain range that had been to their right. As they followed the river upstream, they gradually gained elevation as they entered the foothills. On a couple of occasions they saw people on the opposite side of the river, but there was no way to actually contact them and no way to tell if the people saw them. In that ancient world there were very few people. The rugged uplands and high peaks of the north angled closer, and the eroded chain of mountains to the south increased in elevation.*

Eventually it became clear that it was not wise to travel close to the river as the mountains came so close that the river often cut deeply resulting in nearly vertical sides. The travelers went farther up on the mountain side and away from the river, but still traveled generally west.

They now found themselves in dense forest of huge trees. The travelers were used to the open steppes and to them the dark damp and confining forest was claustrophobic and eerie. But they were young and daring as well as resourceful and skilled as hunters and gatherers so they faced the dangers, imagined and real, and found the food they needed. Water was no problem with a myriad of mountain streams.

One day they came across what was obviously a path of human usage. They were excited with the prospect of human company, but were also apprehensive. Such encounters were not always friendly.

(*) This description is taken from Jean Auel's, The Plains of Passage.

They did not know if the humans would be clan or others; but they had one great advantage, they would be able to communicate either way - - as long as the people they met could speak Manutoi. They followed the path.

At one place Durc stopped, then pointing to where the rock of the mountainside had been chipped away to make room for the path, signed, "Not clan path." So now the question was if the people could speak Manutoi and if they would be friendly.

The two young boys came running into the "U" shaped fairly large flat grassy area partially shaded with a huge overhanging limestone cliff under which were several wooden dwellings forming a comfortable, protected living area. "PEOPLE ARE COMING - - PEOPLE ARE COMING," the boys shouted. Dolando, the leader of the Sharamudoi, dropped what he was doing and ran over to the boy's asking, "How many? Which way are they coming from? How far away are they?" Visitors were rare so it was a big event and excitement ran through the camp like wildfire. Everyone gathered around the boys. Most were thinking the visitors were probably a trading delegation and were tallying in their minds what they might have to trade, but would wait to see.

I think there are four," Said the oldest boy as he looked at his friend who nodded validation. "They are a long way off. It was just by chance that we saw them. There are not many places where you can see an open area that far away, and we just happened to be looking that way when they walked into the clearing. They won't get here before the sun is high above us."

Dolando relaxed knowing they would have time to prepare, and also knowing there were only four people. A small group would not be a raiding party, although there might be more than those the boys saw. He called together the half dozen or so able bodied men that happened to be around the dwellings at the time and said, "We will go to where the trail branches into the upriver and downriver trails. That is a rather large flat and open place where we can form an arc that they will have to walk into so we will have them surrounded in case they have evil intensions. I don't think they are flatheads or they would be coming downriver instead of upriver." The place he mentioned would take only a few minutes to reach so they did not start out immediately. He then sent two men out to try to find out more about the people that were coming.

Shortly before noon, the men reported back that they had not been able to see the people. They must be in the deep woods, but if the boys were right they should be taking up their positions at the junction of the trails soon. The group went out and positioned themselves where the trail that the people must be taking opened out into the open and flat area at the trail junction and waited.

Durc was first to see the waiting people, and signed to the others, "We are expected," and pointed. Danug went ahead with arms outstretched and palms facing up in the universal sign of greetings and peace. The gesture essentially said, "I am unarmed." Or more accurately it said, "I am in no position to use my weapons," since one was never unarmed. As he approached the waiting men he said, "Hello, I am Danug of the Manutoi, does anyone speak Manutoi?" "Manutoi is not our language, but most of us speak it. I am Dolando, leader of the Shamudoi, and greetings to you. How many of you are there and what brings you here?" replied Dolando. "Just the four that you see and we are on a journey of pilgrimage," Said Danug.

The response was not what Dolando expected, but it was acceptable. He looked at the visitors one by one and then said, "I see that some of you are of mixed spirits. If you had arrived a few years ago, you would not have been welcome. You are lucky that we had a traumatic experience a few years ago that changed our attitudes. Please come into our camp." With that he turned and walked down a path. The others followed with Dolando's men interspersing themselves between the visitors.

At one point the trail was between a near vertical wall on one side and a shear drop off on the other. One by one the visitors looked down the side and stepped back reaching out and touching the wall behind them for reference and security. It was a familiar reaction and the Shamudoi men were amused by the expected discomfort of the visitors. Far below, down the sheer cliff, was the same Great Mother River they had been following, but had never viewed from this perspective. They had always seen it from a bank that was not much higher than the river itself. The urge to look down and watch from this height was compelling.

The often spread-out and meandering river was gathered together between walls of rock that soared out of the water from roots that extended deep into the earth. As the deep undercurrents raced; elements of itself near the surface moved against the rock, undulating with an oily fluency of heaving swells folding and spilling over themselves. Though many more tributaries would be added before the magnificent river would attain her full capacity, even this far from the delta, she had already reached such an enormous size that the decrease was hardly noticeable, especially looking down upon her full measure of moving water.

An occasional pinnacle of soaring stone broke the surface in midstream, parting the waters with curls of foam, and while they watched, a log, finding its way blocked, bumped into one of them. Hardly noticed was a construction of wood directly below, close to the cliff. The mountains on the other side of the river were still rounded, but were taller and steeper than they had been downstream nearly matching the height of the sharper peaks of their side. Separated only by the width of the river, the two ranges had once been joined until the sharp edge of time and tide cut a path through.*

The Shamudoi men were used to the affect of the view on strangers and patiently waited and watched as the visitors took it in. Eventually, everyone seemed satisfied, although both Xoolie and Ura could have spent the rest of the day just looking at it, and the group continued along the path and onto the "U" shaped flat grassy area with the overhanging cliff that sheltered the dwellings. Wonderful aromas of food filled the air and the visitor's were suddenly conscious of how hungry they were. They were anxious to see people and had not stopped for their mid-day meal. Roshario, Dolando's mate, had arranged a feast.

Dolando said to the visitors, "Put down your loads and let's have food first; then we will have introductions and you can tell us about your journey and pilgrimage." With that they put down their back frames, got out their eating dishes, cups and knives and went through the food line along with all the Shamudoi.

The Shamudoi were one half of a group known as Sharamudoi. The other half were known as Ramudoi. The Shamudoi lived and hunted on the land while the Ramudoi lived on, and off of, the river. The specialty of the Shamudoi was hunting chamois and other animals on the high crags and tors of the mountains and processing the chamois pelts into phenomenally soft pliable and absorbent leather that was a highly valuable trading commodity.

(*) The description of the view of the river is taken directly from Jean Auel's book, The Plains of Passage

The Ramudoi lived on a floating platform on the river and used large beautifully crafted boats to hunt (they referred to fishing the giant fish as "hunting") sturgeon and for efficient water transportation, a huge technological advantage for any group even in that ancient world.

The roe from the sturgeon was the secret (and a closely guarded secret) to achieving the fine chamois leather. The giant oak trees from which the Ramudoi boats were made came from the Shamudoi land and both the Shamudoi and the Ramudoi worked to build the boats. Each Ramudoi family had a Shamudoi counter-family which formed an extended family.

In winter, the Ramudoi families moved in with their Shamudoi counter-families on land. Although two separate groups, the strong ties made them act as a single larger group, the Sharamudoi, in many aspects. Carlono was the leader of the Ramudoi.

When most of the people were near the end of their meal, Dolando stepped up onto a chunk of limestone that had been deposited at the site unknown eons before by the relentless forces of nature, but which offered a useful speaking platform, and addressed the group shouting, "CAN I PLEASE HAVE EVERYONE'S ATTENTION." When he was satisfied that he had their attention he continued in a loud, but more normal voice, "While we were eating, I got to know our visitors a little better, and will now introduce one of them to you." He motioned for Danug to stand and then said to the people, "This is Danug of the Lion Camp of the Manutoi. Although we are trading partners with the Manutoi, we have practically no contact with the Lion Camp which is much farther north than the camps we trade with. Danug is the son of Nezze who is mated to Talut their leader. Tholie knows of these people. If you remember the Lion Camp is the group of Manutoi people that Jondalar and Ayla lived with before they came here on their way to the land of the Zelandonii, Jondalar's home."

This was the first that Danug had heard that Ayla and Jondalar had passed through here, and was anxious to learn what they had thought of her and what they knew about where she and Jondalar had gone from here. Dolando continued, "As I am sure you have noticed, two of our visitors are of mixed spirits. We must remember what Ayla taught us, and I must heed her teachings more than anyone, and respect them as equals. I am going to let Danug introduce the rest of the visitors and since he only speaks Manutoi, Tholie will translate." He turned to Danug and motioned him to get up on the block of limestone dais and when he had he said, "And let's extend our welcome to Danug." With that everyone stood up and started clapping their hands on their hips in their customary gesture of welcome. Tholie, a short stocky woman who was actually Manutoi but had mated a Shamudoi man who she had met some years before when he was visiting her camp on a trading mission, climbed up onto the limestone block with Danug.

As Danug waited for the group to quiet Dolando stepped down, and when the time was right, he addressed them saying, "Speaking for all of us, thank you for the warm reception. Before I introduce my fellow travelers, I must comment on Dolando's reference to the Lion Camp being where Ayla and Jondalar had stayed before travelling through here. It is true that they lived with us and it is also true that I was totally infatuated with both of them. In fact, it was Jondalar's stories of his travels that inspired me to make this journey. But, what is even more significant is that two of my fellow travelers, those that I think you refer to as "of mixed spirits", are actually from the clan group that raised Ayla. They are both too young to remember her, but the older people often speak of her. A ripple of murmuring propagated through the group as Tholie translated.

I will start the introductions by introducing my mate, Xoolie." He motioned for her to stand, which she did. He continued, "I met Xoolie at a summer meeting and I chased after her until she caught me." There were some understanding chuckles. "She never knew Ayla or Jondalar, but she has heard a lot about them. Next is Durc." He motioned for Durc to stand which he did. "As Dolando mentioned, Durc is of mixed spirits, but was born into, and raised by, the same clan group that adopted and raised Ayla. I don't know if you know it, but clan people, flatheads, do not use a verbal language. They communicate with hand signs. Durc never knew a verbal language until he met me and the others of the Lion Camp earlier this year. Since then, and especially on this journey, he has become fairly fluent in Manutoi. And, I must add, Xoolie is getting really good with the Clan sign language." He nodded to Durc and Durc sat down.

The final member of our unusual group is Ura, Durc's mate." He signed to Ura to rise which she did. "Ura was born to a different clan group than Durc, but when at a Clan meeting her mother noticed that "Durc's mother had a boy child of mixed spirits and approached her with the proposition that it be arranged for the children to be mated when of age which was done. Both mothers were concerned that their children would never find mates as clan people do not like those of mixed spirits any more than do people like us do." Murmurs of understanding and sympathy swept through the crowd. "It has turned out to be the best thing for both Durc and Ura. Unfortunately Ura has inherited the clan feature that does not allow verbal speech. She cannot talk, and I can honestly say she has desperately tried. As you can see, we are translating in sign language for her." Ura, nodded to the people and sat back down. The group of people spontaneously stood, clapping their hips and shouted welcomes.

The four travelers were overwhelmed with the unexpected enthusiasm with which they were welcomed.

When the commotion died down, Danug continued, "The inspiration for our journey was the realization that both Durc and I had known, or known of, Ayla. I had wanted to go on a journey ever since hearing Jondalar telling of his.

The Lion Camp idolizes Ayla. There were seriously deep divisions growing throughout the Manutoi and she caused things to happen that forced us to address and eventually fix those problems. Our old Mamut, our spiritual leader, said afterwards that she had been sent by the Great Earth Mother to help us find our way. We did not realize it at the time, but in retrospect we all now believe it to be true and even wonder if maybe she was actually the personification of the Great Earth Mother. As we got to know Durc we discovered that the older people of Durc's Clan who remember Ayla have similar feelings toward her. They say their Clan was always lucky when she was with them, and became unlucky after their new leader made her leave." He avoided mentioning that she had been placed under a death curse by that leader.

"When we realized the connection, the four of us decided to make this journey, and to make it a pilgrimage to try to find Ayla and Jondalar. We will welcome any information you can give us about where they might have gone from here and also any information that might help us in our travels." He then stepped down from the speaking stone.

The travelers stayed with the Shamudoi for several days and during those days they got to ride in the marvelous river craft and even saw several in various stages of construction and repair. They traded salt that they had gathered while at the Baren Sea for provisions they would need on their journey. One day as they were talking with Dolando and Roshario, Dolando's mate, Dolando said, "It was interesting what you said about Ayla having been sent to help you see your problem which in affect forced you to fix it. It was not obvious at the time, but in retrospect we came to the same conclusion. The son of my hearth had been killed by flatheads some years before and because of that I developed an irrational hatred of them. I even organized hunting parties to track them down and kill them.

What I did not know, but others did, is that he had been part of a group that deliberately went out to harass them. He had brought it on himself. No one ever told me until the issue of flatheads came up with Ayla's background. It was an ugly scene since Ayla had just re-broken and properly set Roshario's broken arm that had been mending incorrectly. I was deeply in debt to Ayla, yet became enraged that anyone with any association with flatheads would dare enter where we live. I said some things that I have been sorry for ever since.

My irrational attitude coupled with the fact that many people were keeping the real truth from me seriously undermined the effectiveness of us as people. We did not realize how much it was detracting from our quality of life until it was gone. We are much happier now and are actually living better. There is nothing hidden. And we owe it all to Ayla. I think most of us actually believe that she was sent by the Great Earth Mother to fix our problem. That is what I was referring to when I said those of you with mixed spirits would not have been welcome a few years ago." Roshario then added, "Dolando is a good man and a good leader, so once the air had cleared, he came to his senses and saw the world as he should. By the time Ayla and Jondalar were ready to continue their journey we were totally taken by both and offered for them to join us and live with us. They turned down the offer as I thought they would, but we loved then dearly."

There was a lull in the conversation during which a young man approached them. "Let me introduce you to Darvalo," said Dolando. Just before Ayla and Jondalar came, and when Darvalo was just coming into adulthood, Darvalo's mother went off with a man from down river. Darvalo wanted to stay here so Roshario and I let him live with us. He is now like the son of my hearth. Fortunately he has shown no signs of wanting to harass flatheads."

Darvalo said, "After what happened when Ayla was here, nobody has any desire to harass flatheads. What Roshario said is true; we all love both of them. I have even stronger feelings for Jondalar than most as he stayed with my mother when he was living with us the first time he was here and before he left and met Ayla. He was almost like the man of my hearth." He paused as he thought how to say what he had approached them for and then just blurted it out, "I was wondering if I could join you on your journey. I would like to take a journey and I would be most pleased if we actually did find them. I would like to tell them how much better we are living now that the undercurrent of hidden agendas, irrational hatred and secrets has been removed. I think they should know how much good they did. They did not appear to think they had been much help, but they really were."

The four travelers discussed the request among themselves in Manutoi and sign language for some time. Finally Danug turned to Darvalo and said, "We are now five." There were hugs all around and then Danug said to Darvalo, "Pack your things, we must be going soon."

Carlono the leader of the Manutoi half of the Sharamudoi offered to take them part way in one of the marvelous boats. He explained that they had been planning a trading mission upriver anyway, so taking them would not add any undue burden on them. The traveler's welcomed the help as well as the experience of riding in the boat. The Manutoi boats were basically dugouts made from giant oak trees that were methodically cut down and hollowed out with stone axes and adzes. Hot stones were used to char the inside of the logs when hollowing them out to speed the process. Then, the hollowed log was filled with water that was heated to steaming with hot stones until the log was soaked and hot at which time it was expanded with ropes pulling from the outside and timbers wedged inside pushing the sides outward. The process caused to ends to curl upward which added to the seaworthiness of the craft.

Long tapered planks made by splitting a log lengthwise with wedges were then literally sewed onto the sides to raise the sides. Finally seats and other braces were added inside along with a frame on which hides were attached to make a canopy roof over the riders. The boat was propelled by oars.

They navigated up the river much faster than what the travelers could have managed on foot. They would have had to go through the forest over the mountains and that would have taken them to the west side of the mountains that had been to their west for so much of the early part of their journey and to the east side of the Sister river. The Sister, running generally from north to south, was the watershed for the west side of the mountain range and was nearly as big as the mother and far more treacherous. It would have been difficult to cross but by going by boat the Sister was bypassed completely. It also saved a lot of time. The travelers had a glacier to cross which had to be crossed in winter. It was too treacherous to cross in any other season when the melting opened fissures and sink holes plus caused rivers of running water. If they did not reach the glacier at the right time of year, they would have to wait until the next winter before crossing.

The Ramudoi took the travelers past the confluence of the Sister with the Great Mother River and even farther upstream to where the Great Mother River was coming from the north and even north up the river for quite some distance. It was late spring when they left the Ramudoi and started walking again.

They followed along the left side of the river (right and left sides of a river are defined when looking downstream of the river) and travelled many day's north. Eventually the river turned so it was coming from the west and they were going west along the north side of the river when Durc pointed and signed, "There is smoke from a fire to the west and north. There might be people there." They all looked and agreed. "Should we try to find them?" Asked Danug; to the group in general. "Sure," said Darvalo. "I think we should," agreed Xoolie. Ura signed, "I am ready to see people."

So it was agreed and they set a course toward the smoke. Durc saw the people before they were seen and he and Danug observed them from behind an outcropping of rock which had some bushes clinging onto it. There appeared to be seven or eight people and Danug thought they were probably a hunting party. Durc agreed. They decided to approach them.

Danug walked toward the people with is arms outstretched and palms facing up and called "Hoya, does anyone speak Manutoi or Sharamudoi?" The people were obviously surprised and at first just gawked. Eventually one stepped forward and said, "I speak some Manutoi. Who are you?"

"I am Danug of the Manutoi and we are on a journey and pilgrimage," replied Danug.

7

The spring went into summer and then fall. Ayla passed the time rather uneventfully. Even the summer meeting was uneventful. The decisions she would have to make kept getting postponed, for which she was grateful, although the postponements were a mixed blessing. On one hand, having to commit to a lifetime of being a Zelandoni was daunting, but on the other hand the waiting and unknowing was taxing too. She was more fearful about being a full Zelandoni than most thought she should be since she was performing as a full Zelandoni in her role as acolyte to Zelandoni Who Was First and she was obviously very comfortable with it. Zelandoni Who Was First understood why the Manutoi Mamut had adopted her to the Mammoth Hearth. She was a "Natural".

She, Jondalar and the children would occasionally go away for several days at a time. She liked being around people and dearly loved the people of the Ninth Cave, but she had lived alone for three years and had spent a year mostly with just Jondalar when they travelled back to the land of the Zelandonii and she sometimes needed some quiet time. She also knew that she could not put off induction into the Zelandoni forever and needed time to meditate on what it would mean to her and her happiness that she was now enjoying as Jondalar's mate and having his children. She liked the way things were. She could hardly believe that she could be so happy. She was so happy that she sometimes felt guilty and selfish about it.

Espandli and his acolytes grew in their abilities. They spent quite a lot of time at other caves, but more than half their time was with the Ninth Cave. Knowing that Espandli's main problem was a bad leader, the Zelandoni showed Espandli magic tricks that might help him scare the leader into more productive behavior. A little deceit was considered quite legitimate when it helped the wellbeing of the people. His acolytes were also learning about the spiritual world, but were excelling in the more temporal skills such as flint knapping, the sling, spear throwers and horsemanship. Padrollo had actually captured a very young colt and was raising and training it. Ayla showed him how to feed it and care for it including how to show it he loved it. It was too small to ride, but a bond was developing between them. If he could ride it by the time they got home, it would make a significant impression and help Espandli gain the fear and respect of his leader.

Espandli came to realize that he learned more from Ayla than any of the Zelandoni and wondered why she was not already one. It came to him one day like a bolt of lightning that she was actually controlling the decision. Somehow, she was keeping the others from inducting her. It also dawned on him that the others did not even realize that she was controlling them. He was not sure that she was even aware of it, but he was sure of it.

Zelandoni of the 14th was the bane of Zelandoni Who Was First's existence, but was not Zelandoni without reason. She was a skilled shaman, dedicated to her people and served them well. She also recognized that Ayla had considerable talent and decided to take the advice of Zelandoni Who Was First and observe Ayla more closely. The Fourteenth Cave was a close neighbor of the Ninth, so it was not a great hardship for her to spend more time visiting the Ninth Cave. Zelandoni Who Was First had mixed feelings about having Zelandoni of the 14th underfoot so much. She was glad that Zelandoni of the 14th was taking her advice and observing Ayla, although she wondered how objective Zelandoni of the 14th was being. She also liked the fact that she and Zelandoni of the 14th were getting to know and understand each other better, but she also feared that Zelandoni of the 14th might be collecting information to use against her in the future. She hoped that she was not giving in to paranoia, but her past relationships with the woman had been strained to say the least.

One day when Zelandoni of the 14th was spending time at the Ninth Cave, Zelandoni Who Was First said to Zelandoni of the 14th, "lately I have been having an exceptionally strong sense that I have to visit the spirit world soon. The feeling is much stronger than I have ever felt and for some reason, I also sense that you must accompany me. I cannot explain the aura, but it is exceptionally strong and clear. It is has a strong air of urgency."

The Zelandoni of the 14th replied, "I can't imagine what would be so compelling or urgent. The caves are all doing well. Except for Ayla's induction into the Zelandoni I know of no unfinished business."

"I know," said Zelandoni Who Was First, "That is exactly why I cannot explain it."

"But, if you think I should be there, I will go with you," said Zelandoni of the 14th, "I can't promise to be of any help; especially since I have no idea of why we are going and cannot prepare for it."

"I understand," said Zelandoni Who Was First, "I sincerely wish I could tell you and I wish even more that I knew because I, like you, like to prepare myself ahead of time."

A few days later Zelandoni Who Was First and Zelandoni of the 14th walked down river to where Grass River joined The River and then went upstream along Grass River to an outcrop of rock on their left. The massive rock stood out with a prominence that seemed almost like a monolith, but it was only the first spur of a progression of cliffs that pulled back in a line at right angles to Grass River. They then followed a small side stream commonly called Fountain Creek, because of the energetic spring that was the source of the creek, along the face of the cliffs. The Zelandoni knew the creek as Blessed Waters, and the spring and its pool as the Birth Waters of the Mother and believed that the waters had great powers to heal and especially to help women conceive.

The two women took a twelve hundred foot path up the side of the stone wall to a terrace not far from the top where a small rock overhang sheltered openings into two caves. They entered the cave to their right which went over four hundred feet into the cliff with various chambers, alcoves and branching passages. This was the place that was so sacred that its esoteric name was not usually even voiced. The site was so well-known, and so revered, it wasn't necessary to declare its sanctity and power to the mundane world. If anything, those who knew its true meaning preferred to understate it, not make an issue of it in ordinary existence. That was the reason people referred to the cliffs as Fountain Rocks or, sometimes, as Doni's Deep.*

A few other Zelandoni and several acolytes were already in the cave preparing it for their arrival. Far into the cave, Zelandoni Who Was First and Zelandoni of the 14th settled down around a fire that was already burning. They sat there for some time gathering their thoughts and emotionally preparing themselves to visit the spiritual world. The aura of the spirits was strong in the depths of the cave; and there was nothing to distract them from their concentration. There was no wind or sunshine, no birds twittering or people milling around, no voices or other sounds of human activity and there was no natural beauty to observe past the light of the fire in the cave.

(*) The description of the setting of the cave is taken from Jean Auel's book, The Shelters of Stone.

The other Zelandoni knew how to service them in ways that would not distract them, and would actually help them concentrate. The acolytes simply kept quiet and out of the way, learning by watching how the others acted and what they did.

After what seemed like an eternity, but what was actually only a few minutes, a Zelandoni handed each of them a cup of some kind of hot liquid, which they drank. It was foul tasting and left a fetid aftertaste, but it would further help their concentration by blocking other thoughts from their minds. They concentrated on the fire, watching the flames dance, as they became oblivious of everything outside of themselves and then oblivious even their own internal thoughts. Their minds became cleansed and empty and available (open) to the spirits. They were conscious of each other's presence, but only conscious of the presence; they did not disturb each other's thoughts or openness to the spirits. A great darkness fell on them and then a far way light beckoned. They were moving through a black tunnel toward the light with increasing speed. They burst out of the tunnel into brilliant light and stopped. They waited.

Finally they became aware of another presence. There was nothing to see but blinding light, but there was a presence. The presence started to talk. It did not actually talk; but it somehow put thoughts into their minds. The thoughts roughly translated into: "It is good that you came. We have been calling.

The two Zelandoni each responded with thoughts like "I have heard your call", and "I know of your call."

The presence continued, "Your people will be faced with great challenges and great changes. What you now know, your tools, your skills and beliefs will not get you through what the future will be. Ayla knows how. Listen to her. Protect her. She is the way."

The thought; "Who are you and how do you know this?" went through the mind of Zelandoni Who Was First and was recognized by Zelandoni of the 14th.

The presence responded, "I am Creb, Mogur of the Clan. My people cannot change to meet the future, Ayla showed me that. The revelation was a terrible personal disappointment to me, but your kind of people can meet the challenges if they prepare. It is too late for my people. You have Ayla. I have been in her mind and I know. I gave her what I could even though it was against all Clan tradition and law. She has been sent by the Spirit of the Cave Bear that you know as the Great Earth Mother. Listen to her and do as she says. Let no harm come to her. You cannot resist loving her nor could I."

Then Zelandoni Who Was First had another thought to the affect of: "Creb, she misses you and Iza terribly and loves you and honors you and the Clan. She is mated and has two children and is very happy."

"Iza and I are together now and we love and miss Ayla too and we are happy that she is happy. She has met the tests which were great. No one else could have done it."

The presence was then gone. The two Zelandoni started back into the black tunnel and could hear drums and chanting. They were moving, but not moving. Suddenly they were staring at the fire. They were back in the cave.

A Zelandoni handed each of them a cup of hot liquid which they drank. As their minds cleared and they became more aware of the drumming and chanting, they looked at each other and nodded. They had both experienced the presence and had heard the message. They were absolutely and totally stunned.

The two Zelandoni were physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted from their ordeal. They just sat for quite a while recovering. Finally when they were ready, the other Zelandoni and acolytes led them from the cave. The acolytes then went about the business of putting everything in the cave back to its natural state.

The women walked in silence, each with their own thoughts, as they retraced their steps back to their caves. When they reached the path up to Little Valley, home of the 14th Cave of the Zelandonii, they hesitated before Zelandoni of the 14th started up the path. Zelandoni of the 14th turned to Zelandoni Who Was First and said, "I have never had such a clear directive from the spirit world. I think we should each tell a third party of what we experienced before we compare notes. That way we will not influence each other as to the message we heard."

"That is an excellent idea," replied Zelandoni Who Was First, "do you have a suggestion as to who that should be?"

Zelandoni of the 14th thought for a moment and then said, "how about Espandli?"

"An excellent choice," responded Zelandoni Who Was First. He is at the Ninth Cave now, shall I arrange it for tomorrow, and should I tell him what I heard first, before you get there?"

"Yes, that will be fine. I will plan to arrive for your mid-day meal," answered Zelandoni of the 14th with a slight smile as though inviting herself for a meal was some kind of a coup.

When Zelandoni Who Was First got back to the Ninth Cave, she immediately went to Ayla's home and rapped on the door post. She was greeted with, "come in," from inside. She pushed aside the leather and entered to see Ayla changing a soft absorbent leather diaper on the infant. Although she should have expected something equivalent, the incongruity of the scene, in respect to the profound spiritual message that was churning in her head, startled and confounded the One Who Was First.

"What is the matter Zelandoni?" asked Ayla, "You look like you've just seen a ghost."

"Maybe I have," said Zelandoni rather absent mindedly as though she was in a daze. "I hate to invite myself, but would it be too much of an imposition for me to join you and Espandli for breakfast tomorrow?"

"Of course you can join us," replied Ayla, "you know you are always welcome here."

"I know," said Zelandoni, "I don't know how you fit everything together. You always have time for whatever happens and you never neglect the children or Jondalar. I only ask because I have something of great importance to talk to Espandli about and I want to do it early tomorrow."

"That is not a problem," said Ayla, "He should be here anytime now and I will tell him."

Zelandoni left. Ayla thought to herself, "Zelandoni was not her normal self confident, domineering and alert self, I wonder what is wrong."

The morning meal went as normally as it could be expected with the great Zelandoni in presence, although she did not daunt Ayla like she did most people. Ayla, prepared the meal, served it, took care of the children and cleaned up afterwards with her usual efficiency leaving the impression that it all simply took care of itself.

After an appropriate time and amount of small talk, Zelandoni turned to Espandli and said, "Espandli, there is something of considerable importance that I need to discuss with you. It does not concern you directly, but you will be doing the Zelandonii, and possibly all peoples, a great service if you will hear me out. We have to go someplace where we can have total privacy."

"Of course I will be willing to help in any way I can," replied Espandli. "It is the least I can do for all the help you have been to me." They left.

"I wonder what that is all about," said Jondalar.

"I wonder too," Ayla added. "Zelandoni was not at all herself yesterday when she asked to join us this morning. She seems to have composed herself today, but something was really bothering her yesterday."

"She will tell us if, and when, it is appropriate and even then we might not realize that what she is telling us is what was bothering her yesterday and today so we might just as well forget it," said Jondalar. Ayla nodded agreement and turned her attention back to nursing the baby.

"That is amazing," said Espandli after Zelandoni had told him about her recent experience in the world of the spirits and the message she had received. "This could be very important, even critical, to all peoples," Espandli said. "I wonder how soon and what kind of change it will be."

Zelandoni Who Was First said, "I agree. It will take much meditation to understand the full meaning, but he did say that Ayla will know what to do. He did not say that she knew what the changes would be. I have the feeling that he knows that she can adapt to anything. She has certainly had to. She then went on saying, "Zelandoni of the 14th was with me, and also received a profound message. We think it was the same message, but we have not discussed it between ourselves yet. I, we, want you to hear the message she received before I do and verify that she and I did, in fact, receive the same message. If it is the same, she and I have a lot to discuss regarding what it means and what to do about it. If we did not get the same message we might, or might not, have to work together on the issues of the messages. But it is critically important that we know if we did get the same message. By both of us relating it to you independently, neither of us will influence the other's interpretation."

"I see the wisdom in that approach," said Espandli, "And I am more than willing to help in any way that I can."

"Zelandoni of the 14th will be here to join us for our mid-day meal," explained Zelandoni Who Was First, "and I was hoping you could hear her out right after the meal as you did with me just now."

"I will be pleased to do that," said Espandli. "Ayla has invited me and my acolytes to the mid-day meal today and I will be free after that." "Good," said Zelandoni Who Was First, "Proleva is arranging the meal for Zelandoni of the 14th and me."

Espandli meet with Zelandoni of the 14th after the meal as agreed and heard her interpretation of the instructions they had received from Creb's spirit presence. Espandli then went off by himself to meditate on it. He was after all a trained spiritual leader and he was shaken as much as the Zelandonis by what he had heard. What could happen that would make their knowledge and beliefs obsolete. The world to him was unchanging and his belief system was to him a given, not something to be changed. It was how things are and that was that he had always thought. He was greatly disturbed.

After the evening meal Espandli and the two Zelandonis sat down in the lodging of Zelandoni Who Was First to discuss the revelation. Espandli started the conversation by saying, "I first need to say that, although you both explained it differently, you both received the same message. Next, I must add that I am profoundly moved by the message. It is of utmost importance. We might have just discovered why Ayla was sent to you." That last bit was insight that Zelandoni Who Was First had missed and it sat her back on her heels. She nearly always had thought of all ramifications of an issue before hearing them from others even when she had not voiced her thoughts. That Ayla had been sent to them for this purpose made the pieces of the whole puzzle about Ayla suddenly fall in place. The irony was that Ayla was not aware of her role. The vision of Ayla doing something as ordinary as changing a baby's diaper was at total odds of their image of her as "the Great Savior" of their peoples. One would expect her to be acting majestic and bombastic, flaunting her power and trying to make people notice her and listen to her. If anything she just blended into the everyday routine of the cave.

One of the objections, and even one that Zelandoni Who Was First felt to be important, to the full induction of Ayla into the ranks of the Zelandoni was that Ayla had not yet actually visited the spirit world. Creb did not seem bothered by that fact. Actually Creb had made no mention of Ayla becoming Zelandoni. As Zelandoni Who Was First thought about it, she suddenly realized that maybe Ayla did not need to be a typical Zelandoni. Maybe a new position within the ranks of the Zelandoni should be created just for her.

Zelandoni of the 14th was also visibly shaken by the revelation. In a way, she was hoping that she had gotten it wrong, and that it was not what it had seemed. But, she now understood that it was what she thought and it was unusually clear for a message from the spirits. Usually any message from the spirit world was criptic at best and totally obscure at the worst. Their meditations on their own thoughts were broken when the Zelandoni of the 14th philosophically asked, "What do we do now?" They looked at each other for a long minute and with no words spoken suddenly they collectively realized that they had no idea whatsoever.

They were shaken and more than a bit panicked. They were trained, as spiritual leaders, to give comfort and meaning to the lives of both individuals, and to their Caves as a whole. A whole set of circumstances, deaths, births, good hunts, bad hunts, good weather, bad weather, personal conflicts and whatever, all had planned and practiced words and rituals. They knew how to teach the people to honor and revere the Great Mother Earth and how to appease her when wronged. They had rituals for those things when necessary for individuals, family groups and the people as a whole. Even when the symptoms were subtle, the Zelandoni could ferret out the root cause and address it.

The people of that ancient world knew in their hearts that everything happened for a reason and the spirits of the spirit world made it happen. The shamans knew that those beliefs could be used to encourage behaviors that would be helpful to the group yet not unduly restrictive to the individuals and were not above manipulating the thoughts of the people and their leaders by playing to their superstitions to bring about mutually supportive behavior. The shamans were not cynical or self serving as such manipulations might imply. They were sincere in what they were doing and dedicated to doing whatever was needed to help the people. They themselves were the strongest believers and knew in their hearts that if they violated their calling to help their people, they would face terrible retribution in the afterlife. The situations that they had to address were re-occurring and limited and the shamans knew them well. To be faced with a situation that was both dire and totally new was daunting to say the least. They had not been prepared. They would have to work through it as they went.

Over the next several weeks it became obvious that Zelandoni Who Was First and Zelandoni of the 14th were working together on something and that that "something" was highly secret. Zelandoni of the 14th was often seen at the Ninth Cave and Zelandoni Who Was First started spending more time at the 14th. People were actually quite shocked since the animosity between the two was well known. That they would actually be working together fueled the fires of imagination and rumor since whatever it was had to be extremely important for those two to put their differences behind them. But, they were Zelandoni and for them their people came ahead of all else; even before what even they understood to be their petty differences.

One day when the two Zelandoni and Espandli were deep in discussion in the open area of the Ninth Cave, but out of ear shot of anyone Ayla came by, but out of normal hearing range, from the direction of Down River where people often went to work on their special projects and to learn new skills from each other. For no particular reason she stopped to talk to a woman who was working a bison hide that was laced to a wooden frame so that she could work it by rubbing and stretching it with the knobby end of an aurochs leg bone by pressing the knob hard against the skin. It was hard work and took a long time to properly work the skin into leather.

Ayla knew the woman, but not well. The woman was not an attractive person and unmated even though well into adulthood, but she was strong and healthy. "Good morning Glenstancia," Ayla said. "Oh, hi Ayla," replied Glenstancia, "I did not see you coming." "I did not mean to frighten you, I just thought I would say hello. Working a bison skin is hard work." "Yes it is," said Glenstancia, "and I hope that someday I will be able to match your soft pliable leathers." "Thanks for the compliment, but I am afraid there is no secret, just more of the same hard work" said Ayla. "I won't keep you. I had nothing specific; I saw you working and thought I would say 'hi'." Ayla continued on across the open area.

Coming from the opposite direction up the path from the valley below was Brukeval. Brukeval was widely thought to be of mixed spirits. His features strongly hinted of Clan, "flathead" as clan people were usually referred to a clan person, and it was rumored that his mother was definitely a strong mixture. He had an irrational hatred of flatheads and any hint that someone thought he was of mixed spirits sent him into an uncontrollable rage. More than once Ayla had been the focus of his rage when she tried to tell him that there is no shame in being either clan or a mixture, but he could not hear the message; he could only grasp that she too thought he was mixed. It was even worse for him as he thought of her as the most beautiful woman in the world, which she might have been, and that she was toying with him, which she wasn't. When she saw him coming towards her, she was not pleased because she feared there could be another uncomfortable scene.

As they approached each other, which they had to do without one, or both, turning completely around making it obvious that they were avoiding the other, she said as cheerfully as she could muster under the circumstances, "Hi Brukeval." Unknown to her, he had just had an unpleasant run-in with some younger boys who had called him flathead and ran. His legs were a bit on the short side, one of the features that made one think he might be of mixed spirits, and the boys easily outran him. He looked at her and remembered all the times she had hinted that he actually was part flathead and his face turned into the most hateful expression Ayla had ever seen. It was even worse than she had seen on him before. Something in his mind snapped and he went totally berserk.

Brukeval looked directly into her eyes, pulled back his arm, made a fist and was ready to smash it into her face. The two Zelandoni and Espandli looked up and stared. Jondalar and Wolf just happened to enter the open space at that time and both ran toward Ayla, but were still far away.

Ayla's eyes locked onto Brukeval's and she remembered a time long ago in a deep cave far to the east when she had mistakenly drunk some of the sacred drink that only Mogurs were allowed to drink and she had somehow wandered into the depths of the cave and came across the Mogurs during their most secret and most sacred ceremony where Creb, The Mogur, controlled their brains and took them all together back to the origins of man. He led then through the experience and feelings of being in the various stages of evolution from creatures of the sea through amphibian life forms, reptiles, mammals, huminoids and finally man and the present. He was conscious of her presence and included her, against all clan tradition and law, in the experience. The Mogur was the closest thing she ever knew as a father. His sister, the clan's medicine woman had adopted her after finding her half dead and bringing her back to health. The Great Mogur and his sister made a hearth together and raised Ayla as their own, even though as siblings they were not mated. They both had loved her beyond all reason. Had it been anyone else, he would have exposed her presence and they would have killed her. But, he broke tradition and committed the greatest of all sins. Now, somehow, he was in her brain. But, then something awful and yet profound happened. As they returned to the present, she went on into the future, but the rest of the mogurs including The Mogur could not follow her. It was then that The Mogur realized that his kind were doomed to extinction. Only Ayla and her kind could cope with the future. But, he had changed her brain. Now she too could enter another's brain and control it.

Brukeval froze in place with his arm back and fist clenched. Both Ayla and Brukeval appeared frozen in place for some time and then both started to tremble. Brukeval slowly brought his arm down and clasped both hands together in front of his chest. Their eyes still locked in an unblinking gaze. He then went down on his knees looking up at her as though in worship or prayer. Everyone else, even Wolf, stopped in place and stared. Ayla and Brukeval maintained their positions for what seemed an eternity, but it was probably only three minutes, occasionally one or the other would visibly tremble. Finally Brukeval rolled over and lay down on the ground, apparently asleep.

Ayla slowly turned to Jondalar, who was now beside her, and fell into his arms exhausted and said, "Take me home, I have to rest." As he turned to go toward their dwelling, she turned to the Zelandoni and said, "Let him rest until he wakes by himself, he has had a hard day." Jondalar then picked her up and carried her in his loving arms to their dwelling where he laid her on her sleeping platform and gently covered her with furs. Wolf curled up beside her rather than going to his normal sleeping place. He felt she needed him close, and he did comfort her; and, should the need arise he would protect her, with his life if necessary. She fell into a deep sleep.

It was mid afternoon when Brukeval finally stirred. The two Zelandoni and Espandli were still there with all appearances of being in deep discussion of some esoteric matter. The reality was that they were rooted in place by curiosity as to what Brukeval would do when he awoke. He stood up, shook his head and looked around with a dazed disoriented look. He then took a few steps in the direction he had originally been going and then he stopped, shook his head again as though to clear it, and looked around again. He saw the Zelandoni and walked over to them. As they saw him coming they wished there were more able bodied men around as they knew his reputation for going into violent rages; and this time they thought he might have a clear target in mind but might not be too fussy as to whom he vented it on.

Brukeval walked up to the Zelandoni, smiled, and said to Zelandoni Who Was First, "Greetings Zelandoni, have you seen Ayla? I wanted to tell her something, but I can't seem to remember what it was. I think it was important." Zelandoni Who Was First looked at him and saw no malice, but was cautious, saying, "She was here this morning, but left with Jondalar and Wolf." She felt that he should know that Ayla would be well protected if he came across her, and with that same caution refrained from telling him that Ayla had gone to her dwelling. Zelandoni Who Was First genuinely feared for Ayla's safety and was doing what she could to postpone Brukeval's finding her. Then Brukeval said, "Maybe it is just as well, I would look like a fool to find her and then not remember why I was looking for her. I will probably remember what it was before I run into her again. I have really treated her badly when she was genuinely trying to help me understand myself."

Brukeval started to walk away, stopped and turned back to Zelandoni Who Was First and said, "You know I am of mixed spirits - - part flathead - - do you think that gives me some abilities that other people might not have?"

Not wanting to trigger his irrational hate of flatheads, Zelandoni Who Was First answered cautiously, "I am not sure, but if someone is of mixed spirits, it very well might." She made a point of not hinting that he might be that person. He seemed satisfied and walked away.

Zelandoni Who Was First and Zelandoni of the 14th looked at each other and Zelandoni of the 14th said, "Is that the Brukeval that I have always known?"

"I have the strange feeling that it is his body, but it might not be the same person," replied Zelandoni Who Was First. They now had another mystery to sort out.

As he walked across the open area where several people were working on their various projects, he passed by where Glenstancia was still working the bison skin. He stopped and said, "Good afternoon Glenstancia, that looks like a lot of hard work. Could I help you? I am feeling like I need something physical to do."

Glenstancia was quite taken back by the offer. She had always been physically attracted to Brukeval, but his reputation for irrational rage coupled with the fact that she was sure he did not know she existed, had put her off and she had long since put him out of her mind. His offer sounded genuine and he appeared civil and unusually relaxed, so she said, "You are right, it is hard work and one must keep at it until done. I can't imagine why you, or anyone, would want to, but sure, you can help." She handed him the bone tool and he immediately went to work. He then said as he worked, "I bet we can work this hide until it is as soft and pliable as one of Ayla's. You know she learned how to do it from the flatheads that raised her. I should be able to do it since I am part flathead." Glenstancia was shocked that he was so cavalier about his linage when any hint of it had always before set him off into incoherent rage.

Hours later Brukeval finished the hide; and Glenstancia, feeling both indebted and a bit attracted, asked him to join her for the evening meal, which he accepted. During the meal he asked if she knew anything about his mother. He was very young when she died, and he knew very little about her. Glenstancia told him that she did not know anything, which was the truth. She had heard rumors, but felt that this was not the time to relate rumors especially since they were all derogatory. A woman who gave birth to a child of mixes spirits was thought of as a vile unclean loathsome creature. Even more so than the offspring she created. Ayla had stood out against such thinking, and once Zelandoni Who Was First was faced with having to address the issue, because of Ayla's stance, she also decided that such was not the case and had been preaching that all creatures were of the Great Earth Mother and none could be unclean, and were to be honored. In spite of her teachings, many had not changed how they thought. The subject was touchy in all company and Glenstancia thought it would be especially so with Brukeval. But he went on saying, "I asked Zelandoni if being of mixed spirits I might have abilities that other people might not have, and she said it might be so. I think Ayla would know. Maybe that is what I wanted to see her about."

The meal went well, and as Brukeval was leaving he said, "I will come by tomorrow and help you tan that hide. It must not be allowed to get stiff." Glenstancia watched as he walked away and wondered what had gotten into him. He suddenly seemed perfect to her, but she wondered if it would last.

As the days wore on, Brukeval and Glenstancia saw more and more of each other. Brukeval continued to be open about being of mixed spirits and even brought up the subject from time to time. People quit talking about it behind his back and kids no longer teased him about it. It became a non-issue. He was who he was and that was it.

About half a moon time later Zelandoni Who Was First, Zelandoni of the 14th and Espandli were again deep in discussion seated on logs serving as makeshift benches in the open area of the Ninth Cave, but out of ear shot of anyone, when Ayla happened to walk by. They called her over to them and Zelandoni Who Was First, not knowing a clever way to bring up the subject blurted out, "Ayla, what did you do to Brukeval?"

Ayla looked down at the ground as though she had been caught doing something she should not have. She shuffled her feet, looked at Zelandoni Who Was First and said, "I know I should not have, but I am a medicine woman and he was hurting so badly. He was in so much pain."

Zelandoni Who Was First said, "Ayla, I understand what you just said, but it does not answer my question."

Ayla had been raised by a group of clan people. The Clan was those ancient people who were commonly referred to as flatheads. The clan did not use verbal speech, but communicated with hand signs, facial expression and body stance. With that form of communication it was impossible to tell a lie. One's body language would give them away. One could refrain from telling the whole answer which was usually known, but permitted. She could not lie. Now she was faced with a direct question that she felt obligated to answer honestly.

"Remember me telling you how I prepared the drink for the Mogurs, drank some myself and then wandered into the cave where they were having their sacred ceremony?" She asked, looking at Zelandoni Who Was First. The others were not aware of this part of her background and she thought it necessary for them to know if they were to understand what she had done to Brukeval and this is how she was bringing them up to date. "Yes, I remember," said Zelandoni Who Was First. Ayla continued, "The Mogur got into our brains and guided me and the other Mogurs back to the beginning of time and the evolution of all beings. The others did not know I was with them. The Mogur then changed something in my brain." She stopped and let what she had said sink in and then went on, "I used that ability on Brukeval. I explored his brain and found the part that was hurting and moved it into a place of mere memory. I also discovered that he has some of the Clan memories and I moved them up into his conscious. I was just treating an illness," She explained, almost pleading, as though portraying it as curing a disease was necessary to make her behavior acceptable. She had feared her power and tried to deny that she had it, and had never used it before. Zelandoni Who Was First and Espandli had felt her inner power to the extent that they knew she had some kind of power, but neither had any idea of what the power might be.

The two Zelandoni and Espandli said nothing. They just sat there looking at each other with their mouths hanging open. This was a revelation. Ayla had startled them more than once since arriving with Jondalar a few years before. Each time Zelandoni Who Was First thought she understood Ayla, Ayla would do something else that amazed her. Just as she was beginning to think, and hope, that Ayla's surprises were slowing down she was bombarded with Creb's directive, Brukeval's transformation, and now the revelation that Ayla could go into one's brain and re-arrange it. It was all too much. She and the other two shamans just sat there in stunned silence. That was all they could do.

Finally Ayla said, "Is that all? I should go if you have nothing else as I have to attend to a sick child. Her older sister had just come to get me is why I was passing by just now." They could not even respond. She went on her way.

She had always seen Zelandoni Who Was First as the pillar of strength. It did not, could not, dawn on Ayla that at that moment Zelandoni Who Was First felt totally powerless, even unfit, to deal with her world. All she could think was "Thank goodness it's Ayla." If it were anyone else, and maybe even herself included, such power could be terribly misused. "It is no wonder that Ayla has tried to deny it. It is no wonder that she too is afraid of it."

Several days passed.

"Ayla." "Ayla" A man's voice was calling. She and Wolf were walking across the open area within the great overhanging rock shelter. She turned to see that it was Brukeval who was calling to her, and had a fleeting thankfulness that Wolf was with her. She also noticed that Wolf did not growl and take a defensive stance as he had always done before when he met Brukeval. "Yes, Brukeval," she said, "How are you today?"

"I'm fine," he replied, "I've been wanting to talk to you." "Oh-Oh," she thought. "First," he said, "I have to apologize for how badly I have acted when you were only trying to help me understand myself. I hope you can forgive me."

"Your apology is accepted, Brukeval, and I never meant to demean you. You really do have a lot to offer," She said.

He went on saying, "I should not be asking favors after how I have behaved, but I don't have anywhere else to go. As you know I am part flathead; and I would like to know more about that part of me. You are the only person that can help."

"I would be glad to help, but what do you want to know," Ayla responded.

"I don't know what I want, I guess I just want to know more about them," he said.

"How about joining Jondalar and me for our evening meal tonight and I can tell you some things about them?" she asked.

"I would like that very much, it is just that Glenstancia has invited me tonight," he replied.

Ayla thought for a moment and then asked, "Why don't you both come. She might be interested in hearing too."

"That's a great idea." He said. "I will ask her, and if she can't, I will get back to you. But plan on it unless I tell you we can't."

Brukeval and Glenstancia arrived a little before the evening meal was ready and both Ayla and Jondalar greeted them warmly. Glenstancia looked around the unusually neat dwelling and said, "Ayla, you did not have to go to any trouble for us." "Actually, I didn't, but I am genuinely glad that you both came." Jondalar then introduced them to Espandli and explained where he was from and why he had come to the land of the Zelandonii. He knew that they must have heard, but the rumor mill sometimes gets things quite different from what they are and thought it best to tell them even if it was repeating what they knew. He filled in the conversation while Ayla readied the meal. Jonayla sat on his lap most of the time and the wolf watched from the pile of firs that was his bed.

Glenstancia said, "Brukeval helped me work and tan this fur," holding up a piece of the bison fir. "He worked it so much that I think it is nearly as soft as yours Ayla." Jondalar reached over to feel the fur and picked it up. The first time he had ever felt such soft and pliable fir was when a Clan boy had lead him to his fire and the boy's mother had draped one across his shoulders. He was living with the Sharamudoi at the time and was learning how to manage one of their small dugout canoes when he caught a sturgeon in the Great Mother River, although it was later debated as to whether he actually caught the sturgeon or it caught him.

It was too big a fish for one person, even an experienced person, in a canoe and he had nearly capsized. Fortunately, both he and the fish ended up in a quiet cove after the canoe did capsize and drift down river. He was cold and had lost all his tools and equipment and was thinking he would freeze to death when the clan boy showed up. He later realized that the clan boy probably saved his life even though a search party did find him a short time later. The experience was his second encounter with clan and had started to shake his long held beliefs that they were just animals. His first impulse was to say that the fur was as soft and pliable as flathead furs, but caught himself. He knew of Brukeval's hatred of flatheads and did not want to remind him of them. So, he said, "It is unusually soft and pliable. It might even be as soft as Ayla's."

Then Brukeval said, "I had heard that Ayla learned how to do it when she was living with flatheads, I guess I should call them Clan, and since I am part flathead, I wondered if I could do it to. Ayla, I would like your opinion."

Alya stopped what she had been doing, examined the fur and said, "I think it comes up to my expectations for my own. You did a fine job, Brukeval."

Brukeval beamed and said, I was thinking that since I am part flathead, I might have some abilities that others don't have. Zelandoni said it might be." Jondalar was shocked that Brukeval was being so candid about his linage. Brukeval went on, "I am hoping you," referring to Ayla, "can help me understand them better."

"Ayla can probably explain them better than what they could do themselves since she had to consciously learn their ways that are natural to them," inserted Jondalar.

"Explain it themselves?" queried Glenstancia, "I didn't think they could talk."

"They do talk. In fact they have a very expressive language, but it is with hand signs and body positions, not vocal like ours," explained Jondalar.

"Wow," said Glenstancia, "that's interesting. I would like to see how that works."

"Maybe you can," said Jondalar, "Ayla has demonstrated it to several already. I'm sure she would show you."

"I'll be glad to," said Ayla, "but the meal is ready so the demonstration will have to wait." The meal preempted everything, even much of the conversation. Glenstancia was impressed that Ayla had actually prepared a meal for her and was even more impressed when she learned that Ayla had actually speared the deer that they were eating. It seems that the rumors were true. Ayla could do anything. She looked over at Jondalar and thought, "Jondalar is a good hunter, and he is a hard worker and takes care of his family. I wonder why Ayla has to hunt." She decided to ask, and said, "Ayla, Jondalar is a fine provider, why is it that you hunt?"

"You're right Glenstancia, Jondalar is a good hunter and does provide for us," said Ayla, "It is just that I like to hunt. I always have."

Glenstancia came back with, "How do you find the time. You take care of your family, take in visitors," as she looked over at Espandli who returned a knowing smile, "take care of the Cave's sick and are always helping with communal tasks, even the unpleasant ones."

Ayla didn't know quite how to respond. She didn't think that she had been doing anything unusual. Finally she said, "I am an orphan girl who had always had to work hard and be creative just to survive. For me, it is an impossible dream to be accepted by the wonderful people of the Ninth Cave, be mated to the man I love, have his children and have this lovely dwelling. I can't do less. I want to be a good Zelandonii woman. Yet I do not feel burdened in any way."

Glenstancia, Brukeval and even Espandli who had heard her say all those things before, were impressed that this woman with so many talents would be so humble and thankful, even grateful. She expected nothing from anyone. She was a totally giving person.

As the evening wore on, Ayla told them about how the Clan Medicine woman had found her and taken her in. She told how the clan lived and dressed. She told about their hunting practices, beliefs, ceremonies and seven year meetings. The evening ended with her demonstrating their hand sign language. She then looked at Brukeval and said, "If what you say about being part Clan is true, there is not much of their culture that is superior to ours. Yet it is not necessarily inferior either. Their tools and hunting methods are probably less effective, but their spiritual beliefs are as descriptive and fulfilling as ours. If you have an ability to learn their language, you could be of great help to Joharran, and our cave, as a translator if we ever have dealings with them. I can translate, but there are some things that a clan leader, and all clan leaders are men, would never say to a woman even one in the role of translator."

Her words caused a stirring in Brukeval. He could not place what it was or where he felt it. It did not seem to be in his mind and it wasn't exactly an emotion. He just felt something like a vague recognition. It was like he almost knew how to talk clan talk, or rather he felt that he should know how to. He pondered her suggestion for a while and then asked, "How can I learn?" Ayla said, "I can show you. Why don't you join us for an evening meal again soon and we will start?" "I hate to invite myself in, but could I come too?" asked Glenstancia. "That would be fascinating." "Of course you can join in," answered Ayla.

8

They regarded each other warily. Meeting strange people was a rare occurrence in that ancient world, and one never knew the other's intentions. Danug was obviously outnumbered as he slowly approached the group. Although alone, he was a big and powerful man and had said "we" so, although unseen, there were others with him. How many others, and where they might be, played on the minds of the people in the group as he approached them. He had mentioned that he and his people were on a pilgrimage and that eased their concerns somewhat, but that could be a ploy.

The person acting as their spokesman, and Danug cautiously approached each other. Both held their hands in the outstretched palms up position in the universal sign of peaceful greeting. The position was more than symbolic since from that position one could not get to his weapons quickly.

"How many of you are there, Danug of the Manutoi?" asked the spokesman of the group.

"Five," responded Danug, "but only two of us are Manutoi. Who are you?"

"I am Ebulan of the S'Armunai. We are a small hunting party. Why are the others not with you?"

Danug answered, "We are a mixed group, and might not be welcome. There is me and my mate and we are both Manutoi. Two are a mated couple, both of mixed spirits. They had lived with a flathead group before coming on this journey. The last person is a young man of the Sharamudoi who joined us when we stayed with them for a while."

Ebulan said, "I see no reason for any of you being unacceptable, please bring the others and join our hunting party."

Danug went back to where the others were waiting, told them what had transpired, and then returned to the S'Armunai group with them. Danug explained that Ura could not speak and they would have to translate for her using the clan signs. They then made formal introductions all around.

"So what brings you on your journey?" asked Ebulan.

Danug sat back and paused to collect his thoughts and then started, "It really started several years ago while I was still a lad and a handsome young man and a beautiful young woman came to our Camp and ended up staying nearly a year. The man claimed to be from far to the west and I was enthralled with his stories of his travels. As I listened to his stories, I decided that I would make a journey some day. Then, as fate would have it, recently a hunting party that I was part of met up with a clan, flathead, hunting party and we joined forces to corral and slaughter a herd of aurochs. Durc," Danug motioned the man of mixed spirits, "and I became friends and after talking about our backgrounds, decided that the young woman that had come to our camp with the handsome man might have been his mother. We are not sure of that, but we think it could be.

We decided it would be exciting to go on a journey and it would give some purpose to it if we were to try to find her and the handsome man. We were both mated, so we had to consider what our mates thought of the idea and to our surprise they both liked the idea and wanted to come with us. We decided to follow the Great Mother River upstream because that is what the handsome man had said they were going do when they left. We came across the Sharamudoi and they too had known the handsome man and the beautiful woman. The man had lived with them for some time before he came to my camp, and he and the woman stayed with them a few days on their way back to his people to the west. Darvalo, here, is Sharamudoi and the handsome man was close to being the man of his hearth when he stayed with them the first time. Being an adventurous young man, he decided to join us."

Ebulan then said, "This handsome man and beautiful woman must have made quite an impression while they were with you. Not all visitors inspire a pilgrimage."

"Yes they did," replied Danug. "But it was only after they left that the full impact was realized. It seems that the Manutoi were pulling away from each other with various camps wanting to go in different directions, and it was only afterwards that we realized that Ayla had created a situation that forced us to see what was happening and made us work out our differences. We are now much stronger and prosperous because of it. Our old Mamut told us that she had been sent by the Great Earth Mother to show us the way. Some of us believe she was actually the incarnation of the Great Mother Herself."

Ebulan then said, "You mentioned the woman's name, but I am not sure I caught it, what was it?"

"Ayla," said Danug, "and the man's name was Jondalar - - Jondalar of the Zelandonii."

Ebulan, and several of the others looked like they had just seen a ghost. "Why?" asked Danug, "Is something wrong?"

It took a while for Ebulan to regain his composure, but when he did, he explained, "They visited us too, and we firmly believe they were sent by the Great Earth Mother and that Ayla could be the incarnation of the Great Mother Herself. We thought they came from and then went back to their place in the sky. Although they did say they were going to his homeland when they left."

Darvalo was dying of curiosity about something else, and when there was a pause in the conversation could hold it no longer and said, "I have to ask, why are there so many women in your hunting party?" The others had wondered about it too but were waiting for it to come out in the natural course of the conversation.

Ebulan turned to him and said, "I understand your curiosity, and that ties in with our experience with Ayla and Jondalar. They came to us when we were in a very sorry state. An evil woman had become our leader and through a series of events, that were individually innocuous, but collectively disastrous, we were dying as a people. Attaroa, the evil leader hated men and wanted to eliminate them and had a good start on doing so. S'Armuna our spiritual leader had even helped the evil leader. By then S'Armuna had seen the error in her ways but did not know how to stop it. Ayla and Jondalar got rid of the evil leader and started us on the correct path. We are now prosperous, but very short of able bodied men."

"By the way," Ebulan continued, "Did either of them ride horses when you knew them?" "Yes, they both did," Replied Danug. "They made it sound rather ordinary, like anyone could do it. They might have been right about that as a young woman of our camp has captured a colt and it seems to be bonding to her like Alya said it would."

Ebulan then said, "You must come to our compound and meet with S'Armuna. She has to hear your story."

The hunt had obviously been successful and Dunag and his group helped carry the bounty to the home camp of the S'Armunai which was several days travel to the north of, and away from, the river. They would have to return to the river to continue their journey, but meeting different people was part of the reason for the journey. The fact that these people had also known Ayla and Jondalar tweaked their curiosity to where refusing the invitation was simply not an option.

When they arrived at the S'Armunai camp Durc, Ura and Darvalo were surprised to see dwellings and other structures that were similar to the Manutoi earth lodges. Durc and Ura had stayed at Dunag's earth lodge and were somewhat familiar with them, but Darvalo had never seen one and had no idea such things existed. Durc and Ura were subconsciously starting to assume that most of the "others" must live in such structures and that the wooden plank dwellings of the Sharamudoi might be an anomaly. Before meeting Durc, they had known only the ways of the Clan and all clan groups usually lived in family groups in marked off areas in a cave. They were not prepared for the creative ways the "others" made habitats, tailored and decorated clothing and gathered food.

Ebulan led the group to a rather small dome shaped earthlodge with a low narrow entrance set apart from the others in the settlement. Ebulan pushed aside the leather entrance drape and called in. Shortly a fairly small older woman with a slightly distorted face came out. It was obvious that she had been rather pretty when young, and even now she was becoming in spite of her age and slight deformity.

"S'Armuna," Ebulan said to the woman, "We have visitors." Ebulan introduced her to Danug and had Danug introduce the rest of his group to her. When the introductions were finished, Ebulan said to S'Armuna, "Danug and his group have known Ayla and Jondalar and are on a pilgrimage to find them." S'Armuna's shock was apparent. She made no effort to conceal it. She too had thought Ayla was the incarnation of the Great Earth Mother and had come to them with her mate in human form specifically to fix their problem and to give her a chance to redeem herself for her personal sins. It had never occurred to her that Ayla might have visited others even though both she and Jondalar had spoken of the other people they had known or met. He had even claimed to be the son of the woman she had known when she had lived with the Zelandonii to study to be a spiritual leader. If Ayla had visited these other people, it could only mean that they too had problems that the Great Earth Mother needed to fix.

S'Armuna studied the visitors while she mulled over in her mind these new revelations. Danug had briefly explained all of their backgrounds when he had introduced them, but she still had lots of questions. It was an odd group and they all had unrelated ties to Ayla. She then wondered, "Why are they here? Did Ayla send them? Have I not been living up to her expectations?" She vacillated between curiosity and trepidation.

S'Armuna turned to Ebulan and said, "Ebulan, get them comfortably situated and fed. Then have them meet with me back here. We have a lot to discuss. Oh, and also have Ardemun, Epadoa and Cavoa join us."

There was not room in the dwellings to accommodate all of the visitors, so they set up their travelling tents within the settlement but out of the way of the main activities. Someone arranged for a community feast in their honor. When they had eaten and rested, they went to S'Armuna's dwelling. Ebulan was there with an ancient looking fragile man, an older, but strong, woman and a young woman. He introduced the man as S'Ardemun the most respected and knowledgeable person among the S'Armunai, the older woman as Epadoa the assistant leader of the S'Armunai and teacher of all practical skills, and the young woman as Cavoa, S'Armuna's acolyte. When the introductions were finished, Cavoa entered S'Armuna's dwelling and soon both came out and joined the group.

They went to where poles had been placed horizontally to form a "U" pattern of benches and sat down so as to be facing each other. S'Armuna started by saying, "Cavoa tells me that you have all been introduced to each other." There were nods and murmurs of agreement. She went on, "I understand that all of us have had contact with Ayla. I consider that to be extremely important and that you are not here by chance, but that you must have been directed here."

Danug interjected, "We are not aware of being sent here." The people of that ancient world were sure that nearly everything happened for a reason and that the spirits directed most if not all of what happened, so he could not outright dispute her presumption. He continued, "Actually Durc only knew Ayla when he was an infant and has no first hand memory of her and neither Xoolie nor Ura ever met her, although they have all heard others tell of her. I and Darvalo are the only ones that ever knew Jondalar."

S'Armuna continued, "Regardless, the connections are significant. I, in fact all of us, are firmly convinced that Ayla was sent to us by the Great Earth Mother to fix a terrible problem; and that she could well have been the incarnation of the Great Earth Mother herself. Was she sent to you to fix problems?"

"We did not think of it at the time," Danug responded, "although I think our Mamut had an inkling that she might be. He was the wisest of all the Manutoi Mamuts and saw that she was somehow special and adopted her into the Mammoth Hearth. Later we realized that the Manutoi peoples were drifting apart and that she must have come to make us come together again. She did not actually fix the problem, but caused things to happen that made us see clearly what was happening and make us fix it ourselves which we have done. We are now more prosperous because of it. Durc tells us that the older people tell that when she lived with his clan they were always lucky and lived well. But after a new leader took over and sent her away, they only had bad luck and were on the brink of starvation. When the leader was killed in a hunting accident, the people turned to Durc, Ayla's son, saying that he might know what to do because his mother always did. That was an unusual thing for a clan to do as he is obviously of mixed spirits and not eligible to be a clan leader."

Darvalo then spoke up saying, "When she and Jondalar visited us, we had a situation where our leader had a passionate hatred of flatheads because they had killed the son of his hearth. What he did not know, but which the rest of us did know, was that the young man along with others had been attacking the flatheads for sport. The fact that the leader sometimes made bad decisions due to lacking information that others had, and were withholding, did not seem to be a problem. But it was a problem and was hurting us as a people. Ayla caused it all to come out. Our leader is a good leader and now that has it all came out and the subterfuge eliminated, we are much more at peace with ourselves and much happier. We think she was sent to us."

"This is all very interesting," said S'Armuna, "and it further confirms our belief that she is the incarnation of the Great Earth Mother and that Jondalar was Her Fair Celestial Mate. Let me tell you our story.

It starts many years ago when we had a man leader named Brugar. He was not a tall man, but powerfully built. When angered, which he often was, he seemed to have the strength of two men. He looked down on women and treated them as though they were of no importance. He slowly instituted several changes that further degraded the women. The other men went along with it as it gave them power over the women. The women were not allowed to hunt or touch hunting weapons, and when a woman thought a man had unfairly taken advantage of her, Brugar always sided with the man, no matter how badly the man had treated the woman. Brugar also abused his mate Attaroa.

Attaroa was a tall beautiful woman. She had been badly mistreated as she was growing up and could not bond in a relationship. In some mysterious way, she seemed to get some kind of satisfaction from his beatings. I treated her bruises often. Eventually, she had enough and poisoned him. I hate to admit it, but I helped her. I felt so sorry for her and disliked Brugar so much that I thought such action was justified. Unfortunately for the S'Armunai Attaroa turned out to be even worse than Brugar.

Like Brugar, she slowly instituted changes. At first the changes seemed refreshing. Women gradually regained much of the status they had lost. Then she did things that seemed to make sense, like having the men build a strong enclosure. Most of us thought she had a plan for keeping live animals instead of dried meat for the winter seasons. She led us to think that. She formed a group of mostly younger girls and had them train as hunters. The men were not sure that women should hunt, but gave little thought to it. Why should they concern themselves with what the young girls did? Epadoa, here, was made the leader of the girl hunters, and they adopted the wolf as their mascot. Then one day we had an unusually festive feast, but she drugged all the men. While they were asleep, she had the women strip them of their clothing and all their weapons and drag them into the enclosure under the pretense that they should spend some time learning what it was like to be totally controlled like they had been doing to the women before. It seemed like a game and all the women, even I, went along with it.

Attaroa had the girl hunters guard the men so they could not escape. She made it a game for the women to demean the men while they were helpless, and kept coming up with reasons for keeping them in the enclosure. It soon became apparent that some of the men were tired of the game and were getting really angry. They just did not see the humor in the situation. Attaroa then made their anger and fear of their retribution the excuse to keep them caged. All the while she was underfeeding them so their strength and resolve would weaken.

When one or another appeared to be leading the others, or just for her amusement, or if his mate was not cooperating with her, she would have the hunter girls, who by now were called the Wolf Women, get him out and tie him to a pole. She would toy with him for a while and then kill him. It only took a couple of these examples for everyone to get the idea and she soon had no resistance. She had the idea that if the men were eliminated, the remaining women would only have girl babies and we would get along quite nicely without men. She even had legs disjointed on two young boys and an adult man and killed her own son to set examples and to reduce the physical capabilities of the men.

We had deteriorated to a pitiful mess when Jondalar arrived. The Wolf Women were preparing to stampede a herd of horses over a cliff when they saw Jondalar looking at the horses with all appearances of hunting them. They snuck up behind him, hit him over the head and brought him here. Attaroa had him tied and thrown in with the other men, and then proceeded to make toy with him. While he was in the holding with the other men, he managed to make some knives and give the men heart. She enjoyed torturing men and then killing them, and that was her plan for Jondalar.

Attaroa had him tied to the pole so he was hanging in a way that his toes could just barely touch the ground; and she was starting to do things to demean him to amuse herself and to further make an example of her power and the uselessness of men. While he was hanging on the pole a spear seemingly came from nowhere and cut the ties releasing him. We all looked up and there was Ayla on a horse. You can imagine the shock that was. One thing led to another and Attaroa tricked Ayla and Jondalar into letting their guard down and at the critical time, her Wolf Women grabbed Jondalar and she jumped on Ayla with a knife. Just when it looked like Attaroa was going to fatally stab Ayla, Ayla called on the Wolf Spirit which came to her as a live wolf, a very big wolf, and it killed Attaroa by ripping her throat out.

We were free of Attaroa, but many wanted further retribution. Ayla told us to not let the evil spirits have their way and showed us the path to living and working together. They both rode horses and when they left, they rode into a blinding snow storm that blocked us from seeing them ascend back to their places in the sky."

The visitor's listened in rapt awe as her story unfolded. Their own problems suddenly seemed rather insignificant, but they had no doubt that it was the same Ayla and Jondalar that they had known or knew of.

After a rather long pause while each mulled over their own thoughts, Danug said, "That had to have been our Ayla. I remember when she brought the wolf puppy back to the earthlodge. He was so cute and playful. As he got older he became quite protective of her and a sickly child that my mother had adopted. But, he was a gentle loving animal. It is hard, but believable, to think of him killing someone. But, he would if that someone was threatening Ayla."

"You knew the wolf too," exclaimed S'Armuna!

"Yes," answered Danug, "He grew up in Lion Camp, played with our children and thought of us as his pack. He idolized Ayla."

"It is interesting. What you say is what Ayla and Jondalar told us, but we thought they just told us those things to make us believe they were ordinary people so we would put down our guard. At times they were so convincing that we did become vulnerable. This gives me much to think about."

The visitors stayed with the S'Armunai for several days getting to know more of the people and exchanging stories. The stories of a traveler were always top billing as there were so few in those ancient times.

One day a young man limped up to the visitors and asked if what he had heard about them travelling to the land of the Zelandonii to find Ayla and Jondalar was true. When they assured him that what he had heard was true, he introduced himself to them as Doban. He then said, "I am one of the boys S'Armuna told you about that Attaroa had our legs twisted out of joint. I am sure you noticed my limp." The visitors reacted with cringes and gasps at the thought of what had happened. Doban then said, "Ayla saved a lot of our lives, and she saved me a lot of pain, although I still have some and I have to be careful so my leg will not pop out again. I owe her my life, and I would be most pleased if I could join you. I am now proud of being S'Armunai and I would like to tell her how well we have done since she left."

Doban's proposition put new light on things and the visitors had to talk it over and consider all the ramifications of having someone else join them; especially one with a handicap that could limit them. The issue was complicated even more when Epadoa heard about it and came to them begging them not to take him.

Epadoa explained, "I was the one who actually twisted Doban's leg out of joint. Attaroa had made me leader of the Wolf Women and the exhilaration of such power made me do things that I knew were wrong, and I knew in my heart that the day of reckoning would come. When the wolf killed Attaroa, I knew it had arrived. The people would have gladly killed me, but for some reason, Ayla made them spare me. She spared me on the condition that I take care of Doban and make sure no harm ever came to him. I have carried out that charge faithfully, although I have to admit I have not been tested. Doban has cooperated fully and all the people have helped. Letting him leave with strangers might be my test. I am afraid of him leaving. If anything were to happen to him, I would have Ayla to answer to, and I know she would not give me another chance. I did not deserve the one I got."

Xoolie had not said much, but was greatly moved by Epadoa's story and admissions. She had not known Ayla, but what she had heard did not make her think of Ayla as the "fire and brimstone" enforcer of the will of the Great Mother Earth. So, she spoke up saying, "Epadoa, Ayla had to have had her reasons for sparing you. I don't know what they were, but I suspect that they had to do with more than just Doban. And, I also suspect that you have atoned for your wrong doing in your heart and deeds."

Danug was surprised at the insight and wisdom of his mate. He knew she was intelligent and imaginative, those qualities along with her creativity had attracted her to him in the first place, but he had not realized that inside a rather rebellious outer mien, she was so tender and insightful. He was quite pleased.

Doban noticed them talking and suspecting what was transpiring joined them. Epadoa said to him, "I was just explaining that I am responsible for you and could not protect you if you leave."

"But, Epadoa," Doban said, "You have completed your duty. I am grown up now and am taking care of myself."

"Yes," said Epadoa, "you are a man and I am incredibly proud of you, and you don't need me, but I am still watching out for you. You are still my trust. You do not understand what will happen to me if anything happens to you. You know Ayla spared me under that condition."

Doban countered, "But if we do find her I will tell her that you have met your obligation and that I have even grown to love you." Tears filled the woman's eyes. After the horrible thing she had done, he was the last person that she ever expected to love her.

Darvalo suddenly had a thought and said, "Epadoa, you could come too." It seemed like a logical thing to him.

"OH NO," she said, "They need me here."

With that Durc said, "And that is why Ayla spared you."

Durc's comment set her back on her heels. "Of course", she thought. "She was the one who knew how to do things. She was not a philosopher, or a spiritual leader, but she knew practical things like hunting, gathering, cooking and tailoring; and she had been busy helping the others learn those basic, but critical, tasks. And Ayla knew it and had to make a way for her to help the people in a way that they could accept. She had been spared for much more than to take care of Doban. A wave of relief, thankfulness and fulfillment swept over her." She broke down and cried and cried. Doban held her in his arms and comforted her. After all these years, the healing of the S'Armunai was still not complete, but it moved one step closer as the woman cried her heart out.

It took a lot of negotiating and arguing, but it was eventually agreed that Doban would go with the visitors and join the pilgrimage. The visitors all pledged to look after Doban, much to his embarrassment.

As they were preparing to leave, Cavoa approached them and rather timidly asked if they would take something to Ayla for her. She assured them it was small and not too heavy. As she handed them a small package and with tears streaming down her cheeks she said, "Ayla made my babies healthy and made this a good place for them to be. I was so afraid when I was pregnant that I would have a boy and that Attaroa would kill it. Please tell her that and that I love her so much."

They did not understand what had happened, but they were moved by the fact that this young woman felt so strongly. They promised to deliver the package.

As they were leaving, S'Armuna said to them, "If you do reach the land of the Zelandonii and meet a woman named Marthona, tell her that Bodoa sends her love. Jondalar said she was his mother."

As the group, now numbering six, continued their journey they often walked in silence, each with their own thoughts. The journey was becoming less of a journey and more of a pilgrimage.

The winter was coming upon them and they had a long way yet to go. They needed to cross the glacier during the height of winter when it was frozen solid and they had to keep moving to make it at that season. The river they were following, once they returned to it from the S'Armunai village, was now smaller, but still a respectable river. It was getting smaller gradually. Since they were travelling upstream, each time a stream or tributary joined it got smaller, but the travelers could not detect the change. Only over many days of travel was the change apparent. Doban had never seen the river either upstream or downstream from the S'Armunai region and was enthralled by the other's accounts of what it was like downstream and marveled at it as they followed it upstream..

One day Danug said, "Doban, something has been bothering me and maybe you can explain it. We met with your spiritual leader, S'Armuna, and Epadoa was introduced as the assistant leader, but we never met or heard reference to your leader. Why was that?"

"That should have been explained to you," Doban replied, "When Attaroa was killed no one was in position to be leader. S'Amodun was highly respected, and still is, and his advice is still solicited, but he is in such feeble physical condition that he cannot function as the actual leader. Epadoa was the next most capable person, but everyone hated her. She could not lead because no one would follow. So, S'Armuna had to assume the role of interim leader which she still holds. She has done well. Whenever someone feels that they have been treated wrongly and want retribution, S'Armuna asks them 'what would Ayla say?' That usually ends the issue."

Travelling west they soon left the low-lying basin of windy plains. The east-west course of the Great Mother River, which they followed, marked the line of a great battle between the most powerful forces of the earth, waged in the infinitely slow motion of geologic time. To the south was the foreland of the high western mountains, whose uppermost reaches were never warmed by the gentle days of summer. The lofty prominences accumulated snow and ice year after year and, farther back, the tallest peaks of the range glistened in the clear, cold air.

The highlands on the north were the basic crystalline rock of an immense massif, rounded and smoothed vestiges of ancient mountains worn down over eons of time. They had risen from the land in the earliest epoch and were anchored to the deepest bedrock. Against that immovable foundation, the irresistible force of continents, moving slowly and inexorably from the south, had crushed and folded the earth's crust of hard rock, uplifting the massive system of mountains that stretched across the land.*

One day as they were walking into a fairly strong headwind, Durc froze in his tracks and motioned for them to stop. Ahead and just past some bushes was a small herd of deer. There was a male with a respectful rack of antlers two females and a younger one that was nearly fully grown. They watched the deer for a while and noticed that the deer seemed to be moving towards them as they grazed. The strong wind was keeping the deer from detecting the people's scent. They waited and after some time the deer had gotten fairly close. Then for some reason that only the deer could know, the deer quit grazing and started walking directly toward the people. When the deer were within range the people let fly their spears and three deer dropped.

Danug looked at the deer and asked, "What are we going to do with three deer?" They had not had the opportunity to plan the hunt and decide which deer to kill so they had not all aimed for the same deer.

It was Xoolie who first thought of what should be done. The weather was getting cold and they would soon be needing heavy winter clothing, so she suggested that they make camp for a few days, treat the hides and make some clothing. "Besides", she said, "We are all ready for a rest." As they were tanning the hides, Xoolie noticed that Ura was studying the Manutoi clothes she wore so she asked if Ura would like to see how they were made. Ura dressed in the Clan tradition of simple tanned skins or treated furs that had not been shaped other than cutting off any unnecessary bits and wrapped around her. The wrap was folded to form pocket-like places to carry things. She was intrigued by the tailored clothing of the others. The wrap was not as impractical for clan people as one might think since

(*) The description of the landscape is taken from Jean Auel's The Plains of Passage.

their ribs got larger all the way down instead of having the bottom few ribs taper in as in modern humans. As a result they had no waist or hips. Their bodies were more pear shaped. There was no purchase for a belt. But Durc and Ura both had a waist and hips - - A trait from their modern human genes. Xoolie showed and explained what the various pieces of each article of clothing were and how they were shaped.

She showed her how to measure one's body with a piece of string to plan how to cut the hide for each piece and how to plan the cutting of the pieces out of a hide to get the most use of the material. She then showed Ura how to sew the pieces together. Ura had never seen a needle before and was totally amazed at the device. She saw the value of the needle immediately and was soon proficient with it. She also understood the value of tailored clothing although it had never entered her mind before. By the time they packed up and continued their journey, they all had new winter clothing in the Manutoi style. It took Durc a while, but he soon got used to it, and he too found that tailored clothing had a lot of advantages.

The pilgrims had been traveling along the north side of the river, but at one point they crossed to the south side. The river was now so small that the crossing was uneventful and anticlimactic. The season was well into winter and bitter cold. It was hard to remember the searing heat they had endured a few moons before. Doban slowed them somewhat, since he had to favor his hip, and they had to help him through some of the more precarious places, but they were young and strong and did not mind. He had a pleasant personality and a cleaver wit that they all enjoyed.

As they traveled west, the land started to slope up and became more rugged making traveling somewhat more difficult. In spite of the cold, there was not much snow. The glacier that capped much of the earth in those ancient times was only a few hundred miles to their north and it sucked most of the moisture out of the air. The snow mostly fell on the glacier. The great glacier dipped south in this area so the travelers were actually closer to it than they had been on their entire trip. Being closer to the glacier resulted in them seeing and watching mammoths on several occasions. They could not resist stopping to watch the majestic and intelligent beasts.

While they were watching a herd of mammoths Darvalo asked, "Danug, I understand that Manutoi means 'mammoth hunters' is that right?" "Close," replied Danug, "it actually means something more like 'The People that Revere and Honor the Mammoth'. We hunt lots of animals, but depend heavily on the mammoth. For example, we use mammoth bones to build our earth lodges since we have little wood and can usually find piles of mammoth bones at sharp turns of rivers. We also use bones for fuel and those are often mammoth bones. We sometimes hunt mammoths. We usually organize a mammoth hunt during our summer meeting each year."

As the elevation rose, the flora and fauna changed. Trees became more abundant and the large animals, especially the large antlered ones that cannot get through dense brush easily, became fewer. The temperature dropped and the river continued to get smaller. The river sometimes split into parallel channels, but would then re-unite.

They lived off the land. Even in that frozen wilderness there was food if one knew what to look for, and they did. They were all products of that harsh ancient world and understood how it provided for them. Occasionally they would camp in one place for a few days. Sometimes to rest, but usually to collect food or repair tools, weapons or clothing. With six of them, they could cut a large animal from a herd and get enough food for days, bone for tools and hide for clothes, shoes and containers.

They saw all kinds of animals and all types of terrain, but no people. They trudged on. It was strenuous, but life was difficult at best and they were hardened to it. They were especially hardened to walking while carrying heavy loads since they had been doing it for over half a year.

One day just before they were ready to stop for their mid-day meal, Ura made some "uga-uga" sounds and pointed to a point part way up the side of a foot hill to their south. They all looked to where she was pointing as saw clouds of steam rising from the forest. They then looked at each other wondering what it could be. Curiosity won and they started towards the clouds of steam. They soon came to a well worn path that was obviously of human origin; and since it appeared to be leading in the general direction of the plume of steam they followed it.

As they were nearing the source of the steam, the path came out of the forest onto a fairly level grassy clearing in front of a stone cliff with a large opening that created a cave like shelter. Inside the shelter were several structures that appeared to be dwellings. People were about doing various things. It was mid-day and most of the people were having their mid-day meal. The first person to see them let out a whoop and shouted, "WE HAVE COMPANY", in a language that none of the visitors understood. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at the visitors.

Danug stepped forward with his arms outstretched and his palms facing up and asked, "Does anyone speak Manutoi?" Everyone in the compound looked puzzled and looked at each other with gestures suggesting something like "what did he say?" After a pause, one man stepped forward and said something in another language and it was Danug's turn to shrug his shoulders and look puzzled. Then the man said something else and Darvalo said, "He greeted us in Sharamudoi, maybe I should do the talking."

Darvalo then said to the man, speaking in Sharamudoi, "Greetings we are on a journey and saw the steam. My name is Darvalo." Darvalo explained to the man that they were on a journey that was actually a pilgrimage and that they were heading to the land of the Zelandonii. He added, "We have not seen people in a long time and when we saw the steam and a path, we thought there could be people and decided that if there were we might visit. We cannot stay long as we must cross the glacier before the weather breaks."

The man responded, "My name is Danasi of the Losadunai and I am the acolyte of our Losaduna. Not many of us speak Sharamudoi. I will have to translate for you. Several of us speak Zelandonii reasonably well as we trade with them and the Lanzadonii who are closely related to the Zelandonii on the other side of the glacier. I will explain to the others." With that he walked over to the group of people clustered around the opening in the limestone cliff. He talked to them for some time and it was rather obvious that he answered many questions. Finally he returned with another man. He introduced the man as Laduni their leader. When all the introductions had been made Danasi said, "You are welcome to stay. Put your loads here on the ground and later you can set up camp in this field. I am afraid we do not have room for all of you at our visitor's dwelling, but as soon as you have rested we will share a meal with you. Later, you can tell us about your travels and your pilgrimage." The travelers also thought that they might not have been invited into the shelter because two of them were of mixed spirits, and many people despised both flatheads and those of mixed spirits; although, there had been no obvious antagonism indicated or implied.

Most of the people had eaten their mid-day meal, but all joined in to prepare food for the visitors and then joined in the meal. The language barrier stopped no one from enjoying the meal. After the meal, the visitors were introduced to Losaduna, the Spiritual leader, and Losaduna's mate, Solandia. Later the visitors and the entire cave gathered to hear about their travels and pilgrimage. Word of their arrival had spread and the entire cave was in attendance. Visitors were rare and hearing their stories was one of the most enjoyed entertainments available to those ancient people.

Darvalo told their story and Danasi translated. He told how Danug and Durc had met and how they concluded that a woman who had lived with Danug's camp for a while might well have been Durc's mother. His mother was a modern human, although they did not use the term "modern", but had been raised by the clan. When her son, Durc, was about three years old she was forced by the new leader to leave and had left Durc to be raised by another clan woman. When Danug talked about his having a desire to make a journey ever since as a young man hearing the tales of the handsome man who had come with and eventually left with the woman. The group of people hung on every word in rapt attention.

Darvalo was young, but got into the story telling with gusto partly because he believed in what they were doing and partly because he just happened to be a good story teller. He had not realized that talent before and he was enjoying it.

He went on to explain in great detail that after the woman and handsome man had left, the people of Danug's camp had come to realize that she had to have been sent by the Great Earth Mother since she had caused them to recognize a rift that was growing between the various camps and to take steps to repair it. Some even thought she might be the incarnation of the Great Earth Mother herself. With this revelation, some of the people listening, and especially Losaduna, had thoughts of a similar situation when two people visited them a few years back and caused the resolution of a problem they were having.

Darvalo then explained how Durc and Danug talked about making a journey to try and find the woman. She had said when she left Danug's people that she and the handsome man were going to his home, the land of the Zelandonii. He explained how Danug was surprised that Durc wanted to go with him and both were even more surprised when they discovered that their mates also wanted to go. So the journey and pilgrimage started with the four of them. Darvalo explained that when the four travelers came to Darvalo's home, the land of the Sharamudoi, he realized that the man they were looking for was the same man that had stayed with them a few years before and that he, Darvalo, felt towards the man almost as the man of his hearth. He had been very young at the time and had been infatuated by the man. The man had also passed through, and stayed with them for a while, when he was returning to the land of the Zelandonii with the beautiful woman. It was while the man and woman were with them that a terrible truth came out about information that all the people were keeping from their leader. It seems that the circumstances of death of the son of the leader's mate had been kept from the leader because it dishonored the son. It seemed harmless enough, but it had caused the leader to make some bad decisions and the secret created a demoralizing undercurrent throughout the people. The woman that the man had brought with him caused it to all come out in the open and become resolved. He explained that his people have been more content and productive since. Darvalo told how his people, like Danag's people think she was sent by the Great Earth Mother to fix their problem.

Losaduna kept thinking that the two people sounded a lot like Jondalar and Ayla who had visited them a few years earlier. He was convinced that Ayla had been sent to them by the Great Earth Mother because she caused Madenia to get over her despondency from having been gang raped and even made Charoli's gang, who had been the ones that raped Madenia, run back to their caves begging for mercy. Charoli had to be tracked down but when finally found he was in a sorry state and ready to face what he had coming. Finally Losaduna could contain himself no longer and asked, "I hate to interrupt your story, but is it possible that the man and woman you speak of and are searching for on you pilgrimage are named Jondalar and Ayla?"

"Yes, it is them," exclaimed Darvalo, "How do you know them?"

Losaduna answered, "Please forgive the interruption and finish your story. Then I will tell you how we happen to know them."

Darvalo picked up where he had left off and explained how he had asked to be included in the pilgrimage because he genuinely loved Jondalar and was infatuated by Ayla, and that he had been accepted and that was how he came to be there. "And," He said, "There is one more of us, Doban, and his story is the most convincing proof that Ayla actually is the incarnation of the Great Earth Mother. He then explained how Jondalar and Ayla had freed the S'Armunai of the horrible Attaroa.

Losaduna then spoke saying, "When Ayla and Jondalar were here they spoke of a problem with the S'Armunai and that it had been resolved. They also spoke of how much others had helped them and how they had grown to love the peoples they had lived with and met. They always made it sound like all the people they met had helped them. They did not tell us that they, and especially Ayla, had changed the lives of all the people they come across. This is a revelation, but it proves what I have known since they were here. Ayla, if not the personification of the Great Earth Mother, was sent by the Great Earth Mother. Now let me tell you our story."

He waited for effect and then told the story. "We too had met Jondalar, and his brother, when they passed through here on their original journey to the east. They said their goal was to travel to the end of the Great Mother River that originates not far from here. He did not meet all of us. The brothers met one of our hunting parties and continued on never actually coming here to where we live.

Danug interrupted, "Jondala did say he started his journey with his brother."

Losaduna continued. "A few years later, Jondalar returns with the stunningly beautiful woman, Ayla, and with horses that carried their gear and on which they rode. They also had a wolf that answered to her and that played with, and actually looked after, the children."

"That's them", Said Darvalo, "They travelled with two horses and a wolf who liked children."

Losaduna continued saying, "At the time, we had a serious problem. One of the young men had formed a gang and somehow attracted several other young men from various Losadunai caves to join and they had been making sport of the flatheads. As you can imagine, that caused problems between us and the flatheads that had never existed before. The flatheads were forced to take defensive measures which worked, but which made life difficult for the flatheads. When they should have been hunting, the men were out protecting the women. When the gang could no longer amuse themselves baiting flathead women or individual men, they gang raped one of our young women. It happened not long before Jondalar and Ayla arrived and the young woman was in a state of total detachment from the world. She would not talk to anyone, she would not eat, and she did not even care if she was freezing. She wanted to die. We had to do something about that gang and were starting to have meetings on what to do. One way or another, Ayla and Jondalar brought the girl out of her depression. That in its self would have convinced me of Ayla's special connection with the Great Earth Mother, but there is more.

Not long after they left, like you they had to cross the glacier before the thaw, the young men of the gang all came back to their caves begging for their lives, but willing to face whatever penalty they had to pay for their sins. They told of a man and a woman who commanded a wolf and rode horses who caught them attacking a clan woman. They thought the clan woman was alone, but her mate was above on a rock. When she screamed, the man jumped down, but broke his leg. The gang thought they could handle the two clan people and continued to attack the woman. Before they could do anything to her Ayla and Jondalar showed up and between their weapons, Jondalar's strength and the wolf, they made short work of the gang. The gang members were so terrified, partly because Ayla and Jondalar knew who they were, that they came running home. We had to track down the leader of the gang. When we found him he was half starved and barely alive. We have re-established a reasonable relationship with the flatheads, but they may never trust us as they once did."

No one noticed, but Danasi was cringing and hoping not to be noticed and wishing he could just disappear. He had been the gang member that Jondalar pulled off the clan woman. Since returning he had found a calling and was now Losaduna's acolyte. Losaduna had tried to assure him that the Great Earth Mother would forgive him and that he could be an effective holy man, but as much as he believed in his calling and as much as he showed talent for it, his guilt would not let him fully commit to the calling. He felt unclean.

At that moment, the spirit moved him and he stood and said, "Everyone here but the visitors know I was one of Charoli's gang, and that I am now Losaduna's acolyte. Although I have felt the calling and all of you have been wonderful, especially Losaduna, my past is keeping me from making a full commitment. I simply do not feel worthy. Can I join you so if we can find Ayla, I can beg of her to impose whatever punishment I have coming?"

There was stunned silence. Darvalo had been signing with clan signs the translation of Danasi's declaration and the travellers were as moved as the rest of the Losadunai. When Darvalo looked at the rest of his fellow travelers, they all nodded "yes".

After an appropriate time, Darvalo said, "It is acceptable to us for Danasi to join with us."

9

Zelandoni Who Was First, Zelandoni of the 14th and Espandli sat silently facing each other. Finally Zelandoni Who Was First spoke saying, "The revelations about Alya have me at a loss. Her power to enter one's brain and re-arrange it is incredibly disturbing. I understand why she has tried to deny it and why she is reluctant to become a full member in the ranks of the Zelandoni. She knows that once inducted into our ranks she will have to use her power."

Espandli then spoke saying, "I and my acolytes came in the hope of learning more about the ways of the spirit world and how to intercede with it to the benefit of our people. We have received far more than we ever imagined possible. We have learned much about the spirit world and much about helping our people; we have also learned many non-spiritual practical things as well. But my least expected experience was to see the great Zelandoni stumped. When I first talked to Ayla out in the valley before I got to the Ninth Cave, I felt an aura and a tingle of fear. The tingle of fear never left. Whenever I was near her I felt it, yet she always seemed so normal and earthy and even a bit shy that I kept telling myself that I was being silly to feel fear. But now I know the feeling was justified. I wish I knew what to do to help."

Finally Zelandoni of the 14th spoke saying, "I think we must meditate on what Creb told us. He said he gave her the power; and that we must protect her and that we must do what she tells us. I believe that he would not have done that had he thought there was a chance of her misusing the power. We also must determine how permanent the changes to Brukeval are. If the changes she makes to one's brain are short term, it is an entirely different situation than if they are permanent."

The three holy people sat and mused for another extended period of time.

Zelandoni of the 14th spoke again saying, "I have been arguing against Ayla becoming a full member of the Zelandoni, but I now see that she must become one. I could expound on my previous reasoning, but it is no longer is relevant." Zelandoni Who Was First raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. She only nodded. Zelandoni Who Was First then said, "The winter is upon us so it is difficult to get everyone together to do anything about it now. But, I think we should make it a priority at the beginning of the next summer meeting." Zelandoni of the 14th nodded agreement.

Again there was an extended period while the three mulled over their own thoughts.

Finally, Espandli spoke saying, "I think knowing about Ayla's power would be as disarming to the other Zelandoni as it has been for us. It might be wise to keep it a secret. I think Ayla would agree to that."

The two Zelandoni looked at each other with knowing looks and both nodded agreement. Zelandoni Who Was First looked at Espandli and said, "You are truly meant to be Espandli."

Zelandoni of the 14th spoke again saying, "There are some technicalities with making Ayla a full Zelandoni. The first is that there is no cave that needs a Zelandoni, and there are several acolytes who are ready to move up. Zelandoni Who Was First said, "The Ninth Cave is a big cave and I need an assistant of which Ayla is now performing all the duties of. But I am very uncomfortable with the arrangement as I feel inferior to her. She has never done anything to assert dominance. In fact, if anything, she plays the role of assistant with scary perfection. She really likes to stay in the background."

Again Espandli proved his worth saying, "Maybe you could create a new position. Maybe the position could be something like 'Zelandoni-at-Large' to be called on when necessary, but who is not responsible for any particular cave." The two Zelandoni again looked at each other with identical thoughts which if put into words might be something like "Brilliant idea, why didn't I think of that?"

"The only thing we have to do is come up with an argument that will convince the other Zelandoni without exposing Ayla's power," Said Zelandoni Who Was First. "We will have to think about that. At least we have some time."

The days passed and both Brukeval and Glenstancia continued to learn the clan sign language. Sometimes they would share a meal at Jondalar and Ayla's dwelling and then practice and learn the signs and sometimes Ayla, Jondalar, Jonayla and the infant would share a meal at Glenstancia's dwelling and then practice and learn. Glenstancia was even becoming quite proficient, but Brukeval seemed to be born to it. He got to where he and Ayla could discuss almost anything as thoroughly and quickly as any clan person. It was also becoming obvious, to nearly everyone of the Ninth Cave that a genuine relationship was developing between Brukeval and Glenstancia, so it was not a surprise when they announced that they would be tying the knot at the next summer meeting.

"Is this what you wanted?" Gonzo asked. Jondalar looked at the piece of wood Gonzo handed him. Jondalar was developing a new technique for knapping a particularly difficult tool for Yonokol, the artist. Yonokol needed it to inscribe the lines outlining an animal on a cave wall before he painted it. Jondalar fitted the partially finished flint tool into the cavity that Gonzo had carved into the piece of wood. The piece of wood was a short piece of a tree branch about a foot long and roughly two inches in diameter. Gonzo had carved a place where one side of the partially finished flint tool would set flat into it leaving about one third of the thickness of the tool sticking out of the wood. When he had carved the cavity near to the shape of the flint, Jondalar had showed him how to rub red ocher onto the flint and then press the flint into the cavity. Then when the flint was removed, the ocher would leave red spots on the wood where it was still too high. Gonzo would then carefully scrape off the red dye and some of the wood under it. He had to repeat the process over and over. Gradually the depression in the wood became an exact impression of the piece of flint. It was a slow tedious process and Gonzo had worked most of the day on it.

Jondalar saw that the piece of flint fit snugly and could not move once inserted into the cavity. One end stuck out so the piece of flint could be pried out when it was ready to be taken out. It was a holding fixture to hold the flint as he chipped off the last pieces. It was a tool to help make another tool. It was an extension of an old idea. The first tools to make tools were the "hammer" stones. A good tool maker kept the hammer stone, once he got one that fit him just right and he was comfortable with it, for making most of the tools he made. A properly shaped piece of antler was another tool to make tools that allowed the tool maker to apply pressure onto the piece of flint exactly where he wanted to apply the pressure. It was more accurate than one could achieve with a striking blow and did not have the impact shock of the striking blow of stone on stone. But this invention was a "holding fixture" not a force application device and that made it a radical departure from previous practice.

Jondalar's kind of people were the first to tailor tools to specific purposes, and this was another ramification of that same creativity. Their's was the ability to foresee something that did not exist and then invent a way to make that something a reality. Modern humans were not biologically prepared for ice age conditions and this very creativity made it possible for them to live through it. Living in ice age times was not bad. The cold was difficult, but food was plentiful once you had mastered the cold, and man's brain was just what was needed for that. Jondalar had no idea of these things, he just knew Yonokol needed the tool, and it was a fun challenge to find a way to make it. He also believed that Yonokol's paintings on the cave wall did communicate to the animal's spirits and helped insure their return through the valley on their next migration. So, in that way, he knew he was helping his people and not just wiling away his time.

He turned the wood one way and then another way, looking at it and how the flint fit into the impression. When he was satisfied, he turned to Gonzo and said, "It looks fine. Now I will show you what we will use it for." He held up the piece of flint, and showing Gonzo by pointing, said "You see this rounded part?" Gonzo indicated that he did. "I need to chip off a piece in this direction starting at this notch that I pointed out to you yesterday." Gonzo again indicated that he understood. "I think by now you know that the shape of the tool I am trying to make makes it very difficult to chip off that piece." Gonzo was starting to see where Jondalar was heading, smiled, and said, "There is no way to hold it so you can apply enough force." "That is exactly the point," said Jondalar. The depression you made in the wood will hold the tool while we knock off that last chip."

Jondalar then put the piece of flint into the depression in the wood, placed it on the ground and put his foot on it so that his foot held the partially finished stone tool into the depression of the wood and also held the wood firmly on the ground. He had not actually placed the wood on the dirt, but he had been careful to have put it into a crack in the limestone floor of the abri so it could not move or turn. Jondalar then picked up a piece of antler that was quite straight but had been worked to a blunt chisel shape at one end and held the chisel shaped end into the notch in the flint. He then gave the other end of the antler a sharp rap with a stone hammer and the desired chip flew off the piece of flint. He took the flint out of the piece of wood, looked it over and handed it to Gonzo. Gonzo looked it over, shook his head and said, "Wow, I would never have thought one could do that! Who taught you?"

Jondalar smiled and said, "That is the first time I have ever seen it done." "What," Exclaimed Gonzo, "You just thought of it and then did it?" "No," replied Jondalar, "We did it. You did a big part of it." Although Yonokol did need the tool, and Jondalar would have made it for him, the exercise was an essential part of Gonzo's training. He had to understand that to know how to do what you have been shown is not enough to become a master tool maker. You must be able to invent what has never been done before when the need arises. As Gonzo sat there reverently staring at the finished tool and thinking about it, he was starting to get the message and was also having serious doubts as to whether he would ever measure up. He had been getting quite good at doing what Jondalar had been showing him, and was beginning to think he could be a master tool maker, but now he was not so sure. It was a humbling realization. It was intended to be.

As the brutal winter wore on, Espandli realized that when spring came he and his acolytes would have to return to their own people. He felt they had all gained what they had come for. He thought to himself, "My one acolyte, Padrollo, seems to be taking a particular interest in the sling and the horses. He even has started riding one fairly regularly. My other acolyte, Gonzo, is more interested in Jondalar's spear thrower, detachable spear points and flint knapping. I have gained great knowledge of how to interact with the spirit world and how to use that to help guide my people. I have even picked up several ideas on how to direct our leader."

The only regret was that all three had grown to admire and love the people who called themselves Zelandonii and especially those of the Ninth Cave. Even though he still felt a bit of fear when around Ayla, as contradictory as it seemed, she also had a calming effect. He noticed that her calming effect extended to others as well. When Ayla was around, everyone seemed to feel that everything would be OK. Nobody actually expressed it, but he noticed it. Not only was he trained, he had an intrinsic intuitive ability to notice unconscious behavior in others. He was, after all, a Holy Man and that he was so was not without reason. He was also terribly curious as to how the effort to induct Ayla into the ranks of the Zelandoni as a full Zelandoni would play out. He would very much like to watch it happen. But he knew he and his acolytes must leave when spring came.

"It's like a small awl," Ayla was saying, "but it has this tiny hole in the large end." Ayla was showing two older girls and the mother of one of them her thread puller. As they looked at it and passed it around so each could have a good look, she took out what looked like a wooden stick, but was actually a piece of sinew, and started beating on it with a stone. She pulled off a fine fiber of sinew that the pounding had separated from the rest, pulled it straight and then put one end in her mouth to wet it. When it had dried stiff, she showed them how to put it through the hole in the thread puller. She then used a small square of mammoth hide as a thimble and pushed the thread puller (needle) through two pieces of deer skin leather. When she pulled the thread puller through and out of the leather pieces, the thread of sinew fiber was still in the holes the thread puller had made in the two pieces of leather. She wrapped the thread around and tied it to itself. "There", she said, "You have one stitch. You just keep doing it until you complete the entire seam." "WOW," said the older woman, "That sure would make sewing easy. Where did you learn about that thing? What did you call it, a thread puller?"

"Actually," Ayla answered, "I thought of it when I lived with the people far to the east that adopted me. As you know I had an unusual childhood and the people that raised me do not make clothing like we do so as a little girl I never learned how to pick the end of the thread when pushed through the hole. I was terribly frustrated by not being able to do it, and that gave me the idea. Jondalar and the master toolmaker of the people we were living with at the time made the tiny drill for putting the hole through it, and a woman that was a master at making beads actually made the little hole in the first one." "You just thought of it?" exclaimed one of the girls.

"AYLA! AYLA!" someone called. Ayla jumped up and looked in the direction of the call, and saw a teenage boy running toward them. Panting he said, "Ayla, come quick, flatheads." She ran with him back the way he had come and toward where the path came up into the huge overhanging shelter from the valley below. There were several people, including Joharran, standing there looking down into the valley. Ayla stopped and stared. There on the valley floor near the path were four male flatheads (clan men). They clutched their wraps against the bitter winter cold as the wind swirled snow around them even though the sun was out and quite bright and it was almost spring, it was still cold. Ayla wondered why they were there. Clan people seldom, actually almost never, ventured far from their caves in the winter and she knew there were no clans (flatheads) within many days travel of the Ninth Cave. They had to have traveled a great distance to be there, and there must be a very important reason for them to have done it.

Ayla turned to Joharran and said, "Have someone get Brukeval, and then come down when I signal you unless I bring them up." As soon as there was a crisis, she morphed from one who avoids attention to one who gives orders, and gives them to whoever can best execute the task. She took charge. She handed her infant to Marthona, Jondalar's mother, who luckily had joined the group looking down on the Clan men. She then hurried down the path and then slowly approached the flatheads. She approached the leader and knelt in front of him with her head down looking at his feet in the proper position of any clan woman who wanted to say something to any man. A clan woman would be more casual with her mate, but only when in the confines of their personal living space in their cave. The leader was obvious to her by the way the four men had positioned themselves, although which one might be the leader was not at all obvious to any of the others watching from the ledge above.

The clan man had not known what to expect when they arrived, and was only there out of desperation; but the last thing he could have imagined was a woman of the others being the one to greet them and then even showing proper manners. At first he was so taken back that he did not know what to do. Then he became a bit miffed thinking that the leader of the others thought so little of him that he sent a lowly woman. Ayla was equally perplexed. And the longer the clam leader took to acknowledge her, the more perplexed she became. She realized that she might have acted to quickly and should have thought things through better before running down the path. She now realized that the clan people should have been greeted by a man. She had been so concerned about properly communicating, that she forgot proper protocol. "Well," she thought, "I am here now and I will have to do the best I can."

Finally he decided that she must be there to find out why he was there and maybe she had been sent to deliberately avoid any appearance of threat. He tapped her on the shoulder. She stood and signed to him, "Greetings, from the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii." She said Zelandonii aloud as the clan used verbal sounds for names. Knowing they could never say Zelandonii, She then said, "You can call us A'Dunna. I have been sent by our leader to greet you since I know your language and most of the others do not. I will have to interpret for them." He looked at her and wondered how she could be so fluent. He had worried that he would not be able to communicate with the 'others' once he got here. He had thought of these "others" as the clan referred to Ayla's kind, as not being very bright. Noisy and crude mannered, but not bright. She then signed, "It would please my leader if you would come into our dwelling and get out of the cold and have food." "Very civilized," he thought to himself. "So far this is going well." She continued, "May I ask your name so I can properly introduce you to my leader?" He thought for a while and then said aloud, "Geld" as he signed "My name is." He continued signing saying, "And we are here because our best hunter had an accident and broke his arm and his leg and our medicine woman died last winter. We have some provisions, but will have to hunt before winter is out. We are wondering if you have a healer that could set his broken bones."

Ayla opened her parka, reached in and removed her amulet from around her neck. She then carefully, reverently, loosened the cord holding it closed and opened it. She poured out the contents into one hand and picked out from them a piece of black manganese oxide. She held it out for the clan man to see. Before she could sign an explanation, he jumped back in shock. He recognized the sacred object that clan medicine women were the keepers of. It held the spirits of all the clan people. Ayla signed, "I was raised by a clan medicine woman and her sibling, who happened to also be the Mogar, a year's journey to the east of here. She trained me to be a medicine woman and when she died, the clan leader had me made the clan's medicine woman. I am sure my leader will allow me to attend your hunter."

Her comment about a clan medicine woman whose sibling was a Mogar made him think of a situation he had heard about. He wondered if it could be – no, not possible - - he put it out of his mind.

She then led them up the path to the shelter (being careful to actually walk behind them) and to Joharran and the small group that had clustered around him. Before she reached the group, she stopped and turned to the clan men and signed, "We speak with sounds that we make with our mouths. It will seem noisy and unruly to you, but please do not be offended. It is how we are. I will translate until a man who has recently learned your language arrives." The clan leader was impressed and not only by her ability to speak, but to be able to present the situation so clearly and with such understanding. She obviously knew clan customs. He would have to learn more about her.

She then said to Joharran while signing so the clan men would know what she was saying, "Joharran, this is Geld." Joharran said, "Greetings Geld." She then turned to Geld, and said and signed, "Geld, this is our leader Joharran, but you may call him Jarra." She knew the clan men could not pronounce Joharran. She looked at Joharran and he smiled back to let her know that he had understood the reason for her changing his name. She then told Joharran, and signed as she did, for the benefit of the clan men, of why they had come, that she had relayed to them his desire to provide them with food and shelter, and that she had told them that she was a clan medicine woman. Joharran was usually impressed by Ayla, but truly amazed at how she made these decisions, and then made it sound like he had made them. He knew it was her nature and he also knew that she had done it so it would carry the necessary authority with the clan men. He was very impressed.

Joharran called to Proleva and asked her to arrange a meal for their visitors, which she immediately went off to do. She would not actually prepare the food. She would arrange for others to do that. Joharran then turned to Rushemar, one of his most trusted advisors, and asked him to find housing arrangements for the visitors. He explained that they would probablybe leaving in the morning so it would only be for one night.

Meanwhile, Ayla again knelt down in front of the clan leader and when he tapped her on the shoulder, she signed, "I should explain some of our customs so you will not think badly of us." His curiosity showed in his face, so she continued. "You will notice that the women just walk up to any man and talk to him with the mouth sounds like you would do among men. It is our way and it does not imply a lack of respect. Also, my people will be looking directly at you, but it is because they are curious and they expect you to be curious about them and to look at them too. Again it is not disrespect or even bad manners for us to do that. Also, I beg of you to not think badly of us. We are different, but good people." The clan man was impressed by her understanding and genuine caring. He had not expected to find that. But he was troubled about how to communicate with Jarra about things he would never say to a woman.

Joharran led the visitors to Zelandoni's dwelling and took them inside. Zelandoni was not around at the time, but he knew she would understand and her dwelling was the only one large enough for everyone that he felt should be in attendance. Just as they were about to enter the dwelling, Brukeval walked up. At first he was quite shocked to see the clan men, but quickly recovered and said to Joharran, "I have been told that you need me." Yes, replied Joharran, "Ayla said to have you come. I think she wants you to interpret." "That's right," said Ayla, "There are things that a clan man would never say to a woman, and those things might need to be said." Brukeval nodded understanding and joined the group. Since Brukeval was there, she went off to find Zelandoni and tell her what was happening, and especially that they were using her dwelling and that she should probably stay away since she was a woman and the clan men would have difficulty dealing with a woman. She also explained that Brukeval was there, so even she was staying in the background.

Ayla then found Jondalar and explained the situation to him. Jondalar said, "I will get our travelling gear together and loaded onto the horses." Ayla thought for a moment, and said, "Remember when we met the Clan couple before we crossed the glacier when we were coming here?" "Of course I do. Why?" Jondalar asked. She replied, "I think we should do something similar to alleviate the feeling of debt they will feel once we have helped them. Only you can do it." She then added, "We had better take materials to make walking sticks and firm wrapping for the broken limbs. I don't know what we will find when we get there. I will get the medicines that I need. Oh by the way, they are not well provisioned for the winter. Maybe we could take a side of aurochs meat. Our hunts have been more than successful and we have plenty to spare."

Before getting their travelling gear, Jondalar went to his dwelling and then to Zelandoni's dwelling where the clan men were eating the food that had been brought. He said to Brukeval, "There is something I have to discuss with their leader, can you interpret for me? I am getting better with their sign language from sitting in when Ayla was showing you, but I just don't have the knack for it that you do." "Sure, I will be happy to," said Brukeval. He then added, "These guys are going to eat us out of house and home." Jondalar responded, "Just look at how husky they are built, it probably takes a lot to keep them going normally, and I bet they skipped several meals to get here as fast as they could."

Brukeval then approached the clan leader and signed, "Geld, I want you to meet Jondalar." He voiced both the clan man's name and Jondalar's name and immediately realized that the clan man would never be able to pronounce "Jondalar" and quickly added, "You can call him 'Gonn'." The clan man responded with the signs of "greeting" and voiced "Gonn". Jondalar signed back "Greetings" and voiced "Geld". Brukeval then signed to the clan man, "Gonn has something to discuss with you and even though he knows some of your language, he has asked me to interpret since he thinks I know your language better." The clan man indicated agreement and Brukeval turned to Jondalar. Jondalar looked at the clan man and said, "I have a heavy burden. I owe my life to the Clan. I need to do something to relieve some of that debt and I am hoping that you can help me." Brukeval interpreted, but was as intrigued as the clan man. They both wondered what could have happened that this man of the others owed his life to the Clan.

Jondalar continued, "Some years ago, I and my brother travelled far to the east. We came upon a cave lion and being young and foolish we put ourselves in danger and the lion killed my brother and nearly killed me. Ayla, who I understand you have met, and who is now my mate, saved me from the lion and nursed me back to health. I was most of the summer recovering, but I did. She had been orphaned when small and raised by a clan woman who was the best Medicine Woman in all the clans. She had taught Ayla the healing magic. If Ayla had not been trained, and trained properly, by the Clan Medicine Woman, she would not have been able to help me and I would have died and my family would never have known what happened and I would not have been properly sent off to the spirit world." Then to show how badly he had been hurt, he took down his trousers and showed the man his scars on his upper leg and groin. The Clan man and Brukeval both gasped at the sight of the massive scarring. Jondalar had recovered completely and showed no evidence of the lion attack. Even though Brukeval had seen Jondalar many times since his return, he never knew this part of Jondalar's life. Jondalar continued, "If you would let Ayla, my mate, treat your hunter and accept some meat to take back, it would repay a small part of my debt to the Clan."

The clan man was at a total loss. Of all the misgivings he had felt about coming to the "others" for help, taking on a debt to them was the most unbearable one. Clan men all owed each other for saving their lives. At one time or another all had stopped some raging animal just before it gored or trampled a fellow hunter. That debt hung heavily on each and made them closer than family. They had to protect each other. To have a similar debt toward the 'others' was unthinkable. But, he had no alternative. Now he was being handed a way out. He had the feeling that Ayla was behind the man's plea, but he also knew that they had not had time to plan it out. The man was sincere and he had been badly hurt. Whoever had healed him was skilled. And Ayla had said she was a Clan Medicine Woman and had the piece of black manganese oxide to prove it. His head was spinning. He had not known what to expect when he came, but what was happening was beyond anything he could have imagined. He had worried about how to cope with antagonism and adversity, not greetings, willingness to help and a debt needing to be repaid.

Johnalar reached into a pocket, extracted something, and held out his hand to the clan man and signed, "I want to give you this as a token of my debt." He opened his hand and exposed a perfect cave bear tooth. The cave bear was sacred to the clan, and to have a tooth from one was to have a very sacred relic. It connected you to the spirit world. And it was being offered. He took it. It frightened him to take it as it made him and this 'Gonn' almost like brothers. They now had something like family ties.

Gift giving was not unusual in that ancient word as it did establish pseudo family ties and commitments that could be used to get help to carry one through bad times. Both clan and the others practiced the custom, but to have such ties and the implied commitments that came with it between clan and modern humans was not something that either side knew of ever having been done.

Jondalar turned to Brukeval and said, "I need to explain to him what we will do." Brukeval again translated as Jondalar explained, "We will start back to where your injured hunter is early in the morning. Ayla is getting the necessary healing materials together now. How many days travel is he from here?" The clan man thought for a while. The number signs were reserved for mogurs so he motioned a wide arc as though pointing to the sun passing overhead, followed by motions indicating making camp. Jondalar realized that what the man had signed was the first day of travel. The man repeated the signs four times. Four days, Jondalar thought, they would need provisions for eight days of travel, four there and four back plus whatever time they would spend there. He then realized that they would have the horses and would probably return in three and maybe even two days. That did not change much the amount of supplies he would have to pack, but the horses would be a shock to the clan men. He realized he would have to prepare them for it.

Jondalar indicated to Brukeval that he had more to say, so Brukeval again translated as Jondalar said to the clan man, "We will be travelling with two horses." It was obvious that the clan man thought Brukeval had used the wrong sign. He looked confused as he was trying to think of what they could possibly be travelling with that had a sign something like 'horses'. He could think of nothing and had Brukeval repeat the statement. Brukeval repeated it and it was no clearer than before. The clan man signed, "What do you mean by 'horse'?" Brukeval turned to Jondalar and said, "He thinks I must mean something else when I sign "horse'. I think we will have to show him. With that he motioned for the clan men to come with them and they walked through the settlement under the overhanging stone ledge to what looked like another dwelling that stood quite a distance from the others. The other three clan men were curious and followed along. As they approached the dwelling, it was obvious that it was somewhat unusual in that there was no heavy leather drape across the doorway. When they followed Jondalar and Brukeval into the dwelling, they jumped back in shock. There were two full grown horses, a mare and a stallion, and a nearly full grown filly.

The horses looked at them with minor curiosity, and went back to eating. Jondalar went up to the stallion and petted his nose and scratched behind his ears as the clan men watched with jaws agape. Brukeval explained to the clan men that the horses answer to Ayla and Johndalar, that Ayla and Jondalar actually ride on the horses and that the horses carry heavy loads for them. The jaws were still agape. Brukeval continued explaining, "They will be taking the horses tomorrow to help carry what they are taking, and to speed their return. Ayla is still nursing the infant, so it must go too, and she will have to get back as quickly as possible." He then asked, "Would you like to touch the horses?" The youngest clan man, who was hardly more than a boy, signed "yes". Jondalar motioned for him to come over to the stallion, and showed him how to pet the nose and where to scratch. The young man's heart nearly exploded with excitement.

It took a while for the shock to abate, but the four clan men eventually realized that the horses were tame although they did not have a word or even a concept for it.

The next morning, the six people and the baby started out with Ayla and the baby riding the mare, Jondalar riding the stallion and the four clan men walking some distance away. They were still not sure they wanted to be too close to the horses. Whinney, the mare was dragging a pole drag with the side of aurochs meat and other provisions including the poles for a pole drag for Racer, the stallion, if it should be needed. Racer was only carrying side baskets. As much of the clan men's equipment as possible had been loaded onto the horses so the men could travel faster. Circumstances had it that the clan men had not met Wolf which was probably just as well. They had experienced enough shocks without that one. Ayla arranged for Marthona and Folora, Jondalar's sister, to look after Jonayla and Wolf while they were gone.

On the morning of the day they were expecting to reach the clan camp, they spotted a small herd of bison. Jondalar asked Ayla, "Do we have time to get a couple of bison?" She had mixed feelings as she wanted to get to the injured man as soon as possible, but some bison meat would be a great help to the clan people. Finally she said, "Let's go for it." They unhooked the pole drag and removed the baskets from the horses. Ayla went to the clan leader and knelt in front of him. When he acknowledged her she signed, "One other difference between us is that our women hunt. We are close to your camp and there are bison over there. Jondalar and I will try to get one. If we do we will have the horses take it to your camp." She turned, got her spears and jumped onto the mare's back as Jondalar mounted Racer. The clan men watched, not quite knowing what else to do. It had happened so suddenly, they did not have time to adjust to the idea. They wondered how just two people were going to hunt bison in an open field. Their tactics were to have several people stampede the animals through a restricted space where others waited in ambush to jab their spears into the animals as the animals crowded though.

Ayla and Jondalar rode around to get down wind of the bison and then turned towards the bison. It was a small herd and somewhat spread out. The bison ignored the horses and did not even see the people riding on them. Individual animals moved only enough to keep some distance between them and the horses. The riders advanced slowly and quietly so as to not appear menacing to the bison. They actually got within the spread out herd. They both fixed spears into their spear throwers and at nearly the same time threw the spears. Two bison slumped to the earth. It was so fast and so quiet that the other bison did not immediately panic and run. Ayla and Jondalar whooped and waved clothing to get the other animals away and started to gut the two they had killed. The clan men knew a good thing when they saw it, and at that point they ran over and helped gut the animals. They decided to leave the heads and cut them off.

Ayla and Jondalar hooked up the pole drags to both horses and the clan men put the bison on them. They re-packed the horses and continued to the clan camp. When they were some distance from the clan camp, they stopped and Ayla explained to Geld, that he should go ahead and explain that two of the "others" were coming and especially explain about the horses. She then suggested that it would be easiest if the horses could take the meat into the camp for unloading the meat and other supplies, if it would not disturb the people to much. She explained that she understood how the horses would be upsetting to his people and that Jondalar would take them away from the camp as soon as they were unloaded. Geld ran off to tell the people.

When Geld came back he said they could bring the horses into the camp, but they must be unloaded quickly and taken away. The clan people huddled as far from the horses as they could as the meat was unloaded and were greatly relieved when Jondalar took them to a meadow that was out of sight from the camp. Ayla stayed in the camp as she had to attend to the man with the broken bones as soon as possible. She was now used to people looking at her and the clan people tried to be inconspicuous, but all this was so strange to them they could not help but stare, at least to some extent. They knew that Geld might return with one of the "others" who would be a healer, but two of them plus the horses was just too much for them to take in all at once. Their ordered life did not prepare them for such unusual events. Their Mogur put on his esoteric face mask and made elaborate and conspicuous pleas to the spirits to calm himself as much as to calm and reassure the people.

Ayla went directly to the injured man. A woman was sitting with him. She signed to the woman, "Are you the man's mate?" The woman was shocked that one of the others knew how to talk. She had heard that they only made a lot of noise. She was not sure how she should behave in the presence of one of the others, but she had been asked a direct question and had to answer which she did. She signed "Yes, my name is GuGu." She spoke the name out loud. Ayla responded, "My name is Ayla and I am a clan medicine woman of high rank. Geld brought me here to tend to the injured man. My mate has come with me and will help me. I will need another woman to help, but it should not be you. A man's mate cares so much for the man that what I have to do, although necessary, will be disturbing for you to watch." GuGu indicated understanding and called another woman over.

GuGu said to the woman, "This is Ayla". She had trouble pronouncing Ayla, but did a reasonable job and Ayla let it pass. GuGu went on, "Ayla is a clan medicine woman and will need your help." The woman was obviously skeptical about Alya being a clan medicine woman and only said, "I will help". GuGu then introduced the woman as Ika. Another woman approached and GuGu did the introductions introducing the woman as Raru, Geld's mate. Raru was holding an infant about the age of Ayla's and said "I see you have an infant. Geld told me you were a medicine woman who would fix the man's injuries. Would you like me to hold your infant while you do that? I am nursing and can feed it when it gets hungry." Ayla had been holding the infant inside her parka, and looked at Raru. She knew someone would have to have care for the infant while she worked and she also knew that Jondalar would have to help her set the man's broken bones. This was an offer that relieved her of having to impose such a request on the clan.

The offer, though welcome, dredged up memories of long ago when as a young mother she had to hand over her first infant son to a clan woman because her milk had dried up, and then again a few years later when she had been cursed with death and had to leave her clan and leave her young son behind in the care of another clan woman. The woman loved him dearly, but leaving was wrenchingly heartbreaking. Her reaction to her memories was to clutch her infant closer. The clan woman, as were her kind with no verbal language, was highly sensitive to body signs, and interpreted Ayla's reaction as repulsion to having a clan woman attend her baby. She signed, "If you would rather we can make other arrangements." Ayla immediately realized what she had done and how the clan woman had read her unintended "signs". She had been raised by other clan people, and was as adept as they at giving and reading body language.

Ayla, replied, "Please do not misunderstand me. It is not you that I was reacting to, but memories of long ago when I had to give my first son to a clan woman. A clan woman found me when I was a little girl and raised be as her own. She was mother to me and I was daughter to her. She was a medicine woman of high status and taught me. When she died, I became the clan medicine woman." The other women were watching. Ayla then took the amulet from around her neck, poured out the contents and showed them the piece of black manganese oxide that the old Mogur had given her at the ceremony that had made her medicine woman. The three women knew what it was and what it meant. They stared at it in awe.

Ayla then continued her story. "When I came of age I had a baby boy but my milk dried up too soon and I had to give him to the other women to nurse. That was hard for me, but I had to. When the old leader passed the leadership to the son of his mate, the new leader who had always hated me, made me leave. I could not take my son as I did not know what would happen to me and if I were to die, then my son would die too. I had no choice but to leave him. I had to hand him over to another clan woman. She loved him and I knew she would care for him, but it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Please understand. I know you will take good care of my infant for the short time necessary, but those memories came back as I looked at your face and thought about handing my child to a clan woman. Yes of course you can watch him." She then handed the infant to the clan woman and all the women felt her pain. She was no longer a strange creature of unknown intent thrown into their midst, but a mother carrying a great loss, yearning and pain. She was one of them.

Ika got the water boiling as Ayla requested, and GuGu went off and sat, fidgeting and worrying, with the others. Ayla suggested that Ika have the Mogur come, which she did, and he did. Jondalar returned from tending to the horses carrying Ayla's otter skin medicine bag. Ika and the Mogur were impressed that Ayla had an authentic medicine bag.

Geld had told the Mogur of the piece of black manganese oxide and the people were gradually becoming more comfortable about her competence. She knelt down to the Mogur and when he acknowledged her, which he always did when a medicine woman requested his attention, she signed, "You and I have never worked together before and we do not know how we each do things. I feel it is necessary to discuss things that you might think should be understood and should not need saying or asking." He thought about it for a while and decided that she has just solved a problem that he had been worrying about. He had no idea how he should interact with her. He and their old medicine woman knew how to work together. He appeased and called in the spirits while she did the physical healing. They each knew what the other was doing even though neither could do the other's part. Just how that would all that work out with one of the "others" being the medicine woman had been bothering him. He knew that both parts of the process were critical and had to be done correctly for the sake of the injured man. And, he was curious about her and wondered what she would say and how much he should tell her. They looked at each other for a moment, each sizing up the other.

Jondalar had helped Ayla set bones on other occasions and knew the routine. He had started talking to the injured man and had started shaping pieces of wood to fit the man's arm and leg as splints to hold the limbs in place once set. Jondalar was not as fluent as Ayla with the clan language although he had improved considerably recently by participating in Ayla's sessions with Brukeval, but the clan man was astonished that he could talk at all and appreciated very much the assurances that Jonadaler gave him as to Ayla's ability. The clan man had trouble talking too as he had always used both hands and could now use only one.

Ayla explained to the Mogur, "I will give the man something to drink that will make him sleep. It is necessary to relax his muscles so I can stretch them to get the bones back into place." She was quick to explain the need to relax the muscles as it would be demeaning to imply, or even allow anyone to think, that she thought the man could not stand the pain. The Mogur caught the ploy and was most impressed that she had such insight. He had always thought of the "others" as being rather crude. She went on saying, "It is important that the man know you are appeasing and calling the spirits on his behalf before he goes to sleep. It will take a few minutes for the drink to make him sleep, so you must tell me when to give it to him." Again the Mogur was impressed. She understood that the ceremonies were as much for the reassurance of the people as for actually appeasing the spirits. He asked, "When should I start?" Ayla checked her supplies, saw that Jondalar was nearly finished making the splints and said, "Whenever you are ready." The Mogur immediately started chanting and dancing, being sure to be in plain view of the injured man.

Ayla opened her otter skin medicine bag and removed three packages which she untied and then measured out some of the contents of each into a cup. She then added water and a cooking stone from the fire. As the water heated, she examined the man. She found that the arm bone above the elbow had two breaks. It was going to be difficult to align the three pieces of bone. The leg was broken in only one place and it appeared to be a clean break. She replaced the cooking stone with a hot one from the fire and waited for the water in the cup to boil. She explained to the man that he had to drink the drink and that it would not taste good. Not tasting good actually helped the man's mood as any powerful medicine should not taste good in his mind. If it tasted good, it could not possibly be very strong medicine.

The Mogur motioned that it was time, and she gave the man the drink. When he was asleep, she checked his breathing and pulse. She pinched him to see if he would awaken. He didn't. When satisfied, she said to Jondalar, "The arm is the most difficult, we should do it first. Hold his shoulder so I can pull on the arm." Jondalar had helped often enough to know just what to do and sat on the ground supporting the man on his lap and grabbed the shoulder. Ayla then pulled on the arm just above the elbow. As many times as he had helped, Ayla's strength never ceased to amaze him. Pulling the clan man's muscles until the broken edges of bone could bypass and find their rightful positions took a lot of strength and Ayla had that strength. The Mogur and Ika watched and were equally impressed. She held the bones in place while Jondalar put the splints on the arm, wrapped them with leather and securely tied them. They then shifted to the leg with Jondalar holding the upper part of the leg near the hip. When it was wrapped and tied, she relaxed, took another packet from the otter skin bag, measured out an amount into each of two cups and added cooking stones from the fire. When hot, but not boiling, she removed the stones and gave one cup to Jondalar and kept one. It was a tea to refresh and relax the two of them. She noticed Ika watching and explained to her that it was only a refreshing tea. She then said to Ika, "GuGu can come now."

When GuGu came, Ayla said, "He will sleep for a while yet, but you should be here when he wakes up." When the man began to stir, Ayla made another drink. When he was awake enough to drink it she gave it to him explaining to the others that it would help him overcome the affects of the sleeping drug she had given him. They all sat and waited as he drifted in and out of consciousness.

Ayla and Jondalar stayed with the clan for several days monitoring the injured man's progress. They even helped with another hunt yielding several giant deer. Geld explained to the recovering man about Jondalar's debt to the clan and how having his mate help the man paid back some of the debt. That eased the man's sense of obligation. Jondalar made a walking stick, but with the broken arm, walking was difficult even with the stick. The man did recover quickly and was soon in good spirits, but anxious to hunt again.

Ayla had a serious talk with Geld and the Mogur stressing that the man must not hunt until after the snow was gone and even then only to chase the animals. He must not be allowed to make the kill until the snow comes again. He was not happy about that, but they all realized that it takes time for broken bones to mend and even longer to build up to their original strength. Geld was impressed that she understood their hunting tactics and the stress that killing an animal put on the body. The Mogur was impressed that she included him in as a part of the enforcement of the restriction. He realized that she understood that he could instill a fear into the man that would be far more effective than a direct order from the leader. He was also impressed by how subtly she brought that factor into play. His curiosity about this woman of the others grew. He did not think they were all so clever. If she was a man, she could be a Mogur.

Ayla instructed GuGu and Ika on how to care for the man. She showed them how to replace the splints and bindings and how to make the salve to keep the swelling down. She made a concoction of dried herbs and told them how to prepare it in a tea for him to drink morning and night for two moons, and longer if he was in pain. She knew that GuGu would have to watch him for symptoms of pain since he would never admit it and ask for the medicine. GuGu agreed not to tell him it was for pain, but that Ayla had said he was to take it for the bones to heal which was true, if not necessarily the whole truth.

Jondalar showed their tool maker some new techniques and all the hunters were in awe of the spear thrower, but their range of motion was simply not right for throwing a spear. By the time Jondalar, Ayla and the baby decided they would leave, they were friends with the entire clan group. Even Ayla's infant was playing with Raru's baby. It was nearing the end of winter and the daylight hours were getting longer but it was still bitter cold. They had to assure their clan friends that they would be fine and had the necessary food and equipment to make the trip. They also explained that with the horses, it would not take as long as it would if they were walking. As always the parting was bittersweet. As much as they wanted to get back to the Ninth Cave, home, they hated leaving their new friends. Then in clan style, they turned and walked away.

10

The travelers, there were seven now, crossed the glacier without serious incident although they had more than a few close calls. They were early enough in the season that the thaw had just started. During the height of the day on the last two days that they were actually on the glacier they sometimes saw small rivulets of water running across the ice and dropping into crevasses, but nothing to weaken the ice or endanger their progress as long as they remained alert, which they did.

The terrain changed as they traveled south and west after getting off the glacier. It was still cold, but not quite as cold. There was daylight for a longer part of the day, and the influence of the great water to the west could be felt even though the great water was far away. It was even far beyond the land of the Zelandonii where they were going. There was more snow than on the east side of the glacier even though it was warmer. The greater amount of snow was one of the influences of the great water to the west. Their supplies were running low and though they hunted, the animals they hunted had used their stores of fat to get them through the winter. There were not yet any grains, fruits or vegetables to be found. So the travelers were short of energy giving fats and carbohydrates. Several times they found nuts in ground squirrel nests and that helped. Whether traveling or not these people lived off the land and were expert at recognizing and finding food in that harsh cold ancient land. They managed.

They missed the Lanzadonii cave. They followed a river just one valley away; but they might as well have been on the moon. Missing the Lanzadonii was not serious as they were not looking for them or depending on them. Visiting the Lanzadonii would have been comforting as it would prove they were traveling in the right direction and they could have provided directions on how to get to the Zelandonii. They might have even given them supplies. But, this time of year, the Lanzadonii would have been critically low on supplies and not been able to help much. The land was lusher than the steppes on the other side of the glacier, but nothing like the forests that would blanket the land thousands of years in the future. The landscape was undulating plains with a deep limestone base. Rivers had, over the eons, cut wide and deep valleys into the limestone leaving high vertical limestone cliffs in many places. The limestone was riddled with deep caves. People did not live in the caves, but the limestone cliffs also had long and fairly deep horizontal recesses that offered a significant degree of protection from the elements and people established living quarters in these, especially the ones facing south.

Having Danasi join then turned out to be a godsend. He was a strong, clever hunter and he was quick witted. They all soon understood why Losaduna had taken him on as acolyte. He learned everything fast and he was interested in everything. And most important of all, he could speak Zelandonii. He did not speak it perfectly. His teachers did not know Zelandonii well, but he could speak it as good as the best combination of his teachers. Almost as important, as they traveled, he picked up all their languages, even the clan sign language to a significant degree. He was a joy to travel with as he had a quick wit and a really positive outlook on life with one exception. His past sins haunted him. Fortunately, he felt less constrained by his past with these people who had only heard references to his past and had not experienced it. Because of that, he was freer and more open to his fellow travelers than with his own people.

The first people they came across were actually Zelandonii. They belonged to one of the outlying caves, but knew of Ayla and Jondalar. As they said when asked, "Everyone knows of Ayla." The Zelandonii gave the travelers directions on how to get to the Ninth Cave. The travelers were glad to know that Ayla actually existed. They were convinced that she was the personification of the Great Earth Mother, so she could have just as well returned to wherever the Great Earth Mother resides and they would never find her. They had enjoyed the experience of the journey, so it would not have been a total loss, but she was the focus of the trip.

A boy came running up to Joharran shouting, "Visitors - - Visitors," pointing to the path that came up from the valley floor. Joharran and some others who were nearby ran to the edge of the stone porch and looked down. There were seven heavily laden people standing on the valley floor looking up. There were several people in the group looking, staring, down and Joharran asked a few of the men to join him and go down and greet the visitors. He also sent the boy who had alerted him about the visitors to find Zelandoni and tell her about the visitors.

Joharran and those joining him descended the path. He approached the group of visitors with his hands outstretched and palms facing up in the universal gesture of welcome. Since they were in Zelandonii country and only Danasi spoke Zelandonii Danasi stepped forward with a similar stance to act as spokesman. "Greetings, and welcome to the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii." Said Joharran, and continued, "I am Joharran the leader of the Ninth Cave."

"Thanks for the welcome." Danasi replied, and in his broken Zelandonii, said, "I am Danasi and acting as spokesman for our group as I am the only one who speaks Zelandonii."

They eyed each other for a while. Joharran and the others who were with him saw that there were two women in the group and one woman and a man were quite obviously of mixed spirits. One young man had a noticeable limp when he moved.

Joharran then asked, "Where are you from? What brings you to our fair country?"

Danasi answered, "Four of us come from far to the east and beyond the end of the "Great Mother River. Durc and Ura are from a Clan group, Danug and Xoolie are from the land of the Manutoi." He pointed to the two people of mixed spirits and the other woman and a very large man as he said their names. Danug was not a fat man, but tall and muscular. Danasi then pointed out Darvalo and said, "Darvalo is from the land of the Sharamudoi which is on the Great Mother River as it passes through the mountains before reaching its end at the Beran Sea, and Doban," He pointed to the man with the limp, "Is from the land of the S'Armunai. They are not as far to the east as the Sharamudoi, but still a half year's travel from here. And I am Losadunai and we live just on the other side of the glacier."

"We trade with your people and the Lanzadonii," Joharran said, "Not much and not often, but we do know of your people." He paused, getting his thoughts together, and then asked, "You are a strange mixture of people. How is it that you are traveling together?"

Before Danasi answered, Brukeval, who just happened to be one of the men that had accompanied Joharran down the path, said to Joharran, "Joharran, the woman of mixed spirits cannot speak a verbal language. She can only use the clan signs. The man who is of mixed spirits cannot understand Zelandonii but he understands the clan signs perfectly. I have been translating for them." Joharran turned and looked at Brukeval in amazement. Brukeval had always been one that worried Joharran. Joharran felt that Brukeval's sudden outbursts of rage would someday do bodily harm to someone; and that would be disastrous to the peaceful and smooth functioning of his cave. Now, like a bolt from the blue, Brukeval was performing a positive and critical function and doing it through self initiation. This was more than Joharran could have ever thought possible. Brukeval then added, "If Danasi's grasp of Zelandonii becomes a stumbling block, we might work through the clan signs." "A brilliant suggestion," said Joharran and turned back to the visitors. Brukeval then said to Joharran, "I think we should have them put down their loads."

"Please forgive me, "Said Joharran, "But your situation is so unusual that I forgot proper etiquette. Please set down your loads." He then nodded an acknowledgement to Brukeval.

By this time Danasi had collected his thoughts and said, "The journey was originally Danug's idea. When he mentioned it, his friend Durc wanted to go to and to their surprise, both of their mates wanted to go to. The rest of us are not mated, but we joined the group when they stopped at our caves. Our journey is much more than a journey, it is a pilgrimage. Our peoples have all been visited by the Great Earth Mother masquerading as a beautiful and somewhat reserved young woman traveling with a handsome man. The man claimed to be Zelandonii. In each case, once the woman had left, we realized that she had come to fix a problem that we were having. And when she and the man left, they always said they were going to his home, the land of the Zelandonii. We are hoping to find her here and pay tribute."

That was the last thing Joharran had expected to hear, but once he thought about it, he was not particularly surprised. The list of peoples represented sounded like the places Jondalar and Ayla claimed to have visited, and Ayla could very well be who they were looking for. She and Jondalar fit the description. Ayla never acted like the Great Earth Mother masquerading as a normal woman. But, should it turn out that she is, he would not be terribly surprised. He said to the visitors, "Please come up to where we live. We will arrange a meal and find places for you to stay. You must tell your story to our Zelandoni."

He then led the group up the path onto the fairly even stone floor under the huge overhanging shelter. As they were walking up the sloping path he thought to himself, "Pilgrimages seem to be coming into vogue!" He was not sure if it pleased him or not. It was nice that the Ninth Cave was a place to pilgrimage to, but it disrupted the quiet routine a little more than he felt comfortable with. It also made him feel that the cave had to live up to its reputation and he did not know what it was that gave them the reputation and so how could he do whatever it would take to live up to it. It had worked out fine with Espandli and his acolytes, but he knew that each group would be different. He was also aware that something had been bothering Zelandoni and that certainly did nothing to alleviate any discomfort that he might have.

As they came onto the flat porch of the shelter, a group of people were awaiting to see them and to find out who their new visitors were. Among the people was Jondalar's sister Folora, and since Ayla had entrusted her to look after Jonayla and Wolf while she was away attending the broken bones of the clan man, they were both with her. As the visitors came into view, the wolf growled and assumed a stance ready to attack with hackles raised. Folora had never seen him behave like that and had no idea what to do. She nearly panicked. She immediately knelt down beside him and put her arm around his neck, as she had seen Ayla do, and talked to him in an attempt to quiet him. It was the right thing to do even though the wolf sensed that she did not have the self confidence and control that he was used to with Ayla.

Danasi, along with everyone else, looked at the wolf and he said, "That must be Ayla's wolf. It is me that he is directing his anger at." The wolf obviously wanted to attack, but he had grown to know and trust Folora so she was able to keep him from actually attacking; although, she was not sure how long she would be able to restrain him, or how she would get him away from the situation. Then Danasi said, "I met that wolf when Ayla stopped me and some others from doing some very bad things. If he tears my throat out, I have it coming. Do not blame the wolf."

Everyone looked at each other and wondered what he could possibly have done that would have been so terrible. Then, they wondered even more about his remorse. Folora was able to restrain the wolf and eventually even get him back to Ayla's dwelling where he felt at home and secure. For the moment, at least, the crisis had passed, but the wolf and Danasi knew each other, and it was obvious that their previous meeting had not been the most amenable to say the least. A new mystery, and again, Ayla was at the center of it.

Joharran suggested that the travelers set up their traveling tents on the floor of the rock shelter in a fairly open area until more permanent arrangements could be made; which they set about doing. He also had Proleva arrange for a meal. It was customary to have a communal feast when visitors came. Zelandoni arrived as the visitors were still in the process of setting up their tents, and said, "Joharran, I hear that we have visitors and that you wanted me to come." "That's right," Joharran replied, "And I think I will let them tell you their story."

When the tents were set up and before the meal was ready; Joharran introduced the visitors to Zelandoni and had them explain to her as to whom they were and why they had come. The meal was ready about the time Danasi finished telling her the same story he had told Joharran while down on the floor of the valley, but with more detail. She welcomed the fact that the meal was ready. It would give her time to think. It occurred to her as it had to Joharran that Ayla and Jondalar fit the descriptions. It also occurred to her that at least one of the other Zelandoni should hear the details of their story at the same time she did. So, she sent a runner to the nearby 14th cave to summon the Zelandoni of the 14th.

By late afternoon, when Zelandoni of the 14th arrived, the visitors were well settled in. Zelandoni Who Was First explained what she knew of the situation to Zelandoni of the 14th and explained that she felt Zelandoni of the 14th and she should hear their stories at the same time. Zelandoni of the 14th was again impressed that Zelandoni Who Was First felt that way and was starting to think that maybe Zelandoni Who Was First was actually starting to appreciate her.

The two Zelandoni's, Espandli, Joharran, Rushemar (one of Joharran's trusted advisors), and Marthona (the previous leader of the Ninth Cave and Joharran's and Jondalar's mother) gathered around with the visitors to hear their story in more detail. The visitor's told, in turn, how Ayla had come into the lives of their peoples and how in each case, she caused the people to face up to problems they were having and to then make changes that in all instances turned out to greatly help the people live happier and more productive lives. It was confirmed that the woman they described was, in fact, Ayla, and the handsome man she traveled with was Jondalar. The visitors were disappointed that Ayla and Jondalar were away at the time, but encouraged to know they really did exist and were expected back any day.

As Zelandoni Who Was First thought about the situation, several things went through her mind. It seemed that Ayla was always the first to know about new and unusual things that happened, like when Espandli came, but not this time. She was sure that everything happeded for a reason and that the spirits directed Ayla to unconsciously be at the right place at the right time. The fact that the spirits had arranged for these people to arrive when Alya was not there must therefore have a reason. That fact preyed on her mind. She also knew that these were people that Ayla had known, or that intimately knew people that she had known and loved. "Ayla will be thrilled to see these people and to find out about what has happened to those she knew and loved and how they are faring." She thought to herself. Zelandoni Who Was First was not Zelandoni without reason, and was not "first" without reason. She was extremely clever and even capable of conniving when it would help her people and she was sensitive to their feelings. Now she used her creativity and penchant to conspire to formulate a plan to maximize the impact of the situation on both Ayla and the other Zelandoni. She immediately posted lookouts to alert her as soon as Ayla and Jondalar were seen returning. She then explained her plan to everyone who was at the meeting, and they all agreed that it was a good plan.

Zelandoni Who Was First then consulted Zelandoni of the 14th and they both agreed that more of the Zelandoni should be there when Ayla was confronted with the visitors. Runners were sent out to the other caves to have as many of the Zelandoni that could come do so as quickly as possible.

It was three days later when a lookout saw Ayla and Jondalar returning from helping the clan man with the broken bones. There was a scurry of activity as everyone took their places up in the stone shelter while Ayla and Jondalar leisurely rode the horses along the valley floor below the overhanging shelter oblivious to the commotion taking place above.

Alya was saying to Jondalar, "I am glad we could help the clan man, but it is nice to be home."

Jondalar said, "Do you feel that this is home now?"

"Oh yes." Ayla replied, "I have felt like this was home the minute I first saw it. You know, it is the place that Creb kept showing me in my dreams. I have not had that dream since we arrived so many years ago."

"It hasn't been that many years," Jondalar said. "I know," Ayla replied rather dreamily, "but in some ways it is like I have always lived here. I never imagined I could ever be so happy and so contented."

After a few more steps Jondalar said, "We met many people on our Journey coming here and they all loved you and wanted us to stay and live with them. And I know you loved them too."

"That is true," She said, "And sometimes I miss them dearly. And of course I cry almost every night for Durc. But I am resolved to what must be and comfortable that I did what I had to do and that he has been well cared for. My grief is for me, not him. I just find it hard to believe that your people have taken me in and accepted me and now they even want me to be Zelandoni."

"You know it is your calling," Jondalar added somewhat remorsefully, "I hope I am able to be a good mate for you when you accept the challenge. You are performing as a Zelandoni now so it should not be much different."

"Don't even talk that way," she said. "I could not live without you. I do sometimes fantasize about hearing from the Manutoi and the people we met. If nothing else just to hear how they are and how things turned out for them. It seems like everyone was having some kind of problem. I hope the problems got resolved. Maybe a trade mission will someday bring some news."

They rode the horses up the path down river from the main part of the shelter which made them pass the entire length of the shelter before winding up the path from the valley floor. The path they took entered the shelter near the horse's dwelling. The horses went directly to their dwelling without guidance and Ayla and Jondalar made sure they had food and then brushed them down. They also gave the young filly some attention. They were in no hurry. There was a lot of day left, and they had no specific plans. They were relaxed and content.

As they walked through the overhanging rock shelter towards their dwelling, Jondalar said, "Look, Ayla, there are tents on the porch, there must be visitors here. I don't see any evidence of them though. Maybe they are on a hunting trip." They walked a few more steps and noticed Zelandoni sitting on her padded limestone seat. There was nothing unusual about that. She often sat there. It had been made specifically for her and placed exactly where she wanted it where she could view nearly all of the cave's activities. She often sat there watching someone or some activity. The people of the Ninth Cave were so used to her presence that they hardly thought about it in spite of her huge bulk and commanding presence. Ayla and Jondalar gave no thought to her as they walked by until she called out to them. When they turned and looked at her, she said rather casually, "When you have rested, I would like to talk to both of you. I will meet you at the meeting area." She pointed to the semicircular grouping of limestone blocks and logs set up for seating in one area of the limestone porch.

They looked at each other and shrugged, "We have no plans and are quite rested, we can come as soon as we put our things away," Jondalar said. "It should not take long at all."

Zelandoni indicated that would be fine and they went on to their dwelling. Alya said, "I wonder what Zelandoni wants. She did not make it sound important, but I have the strange feeling it is."

"She can be obtuse," Replied Jondalar, "We also have to stop by Marthona's and pick up Jonayla and Wolf."

When they stopped at Marthona's dwelling Wolf was so glad to see them that he did not even wait for Alya's signal to stand up, put his paws on the fronts of her shoulders, lick her face and gently take her chin in his mouth and growl as his way of showing affection and loyalty. Once the greetings with Wolf were over, they exchanged greetings and answered a barrage of questions about the clan and the man with the broken bones.

Marthona then said, "You must have noticed that we have visitors."

"Yes, we saw their tents on the porch when we walked through," Said Jondalar. "Who are they? Where are they from and what do they want?"

Marthona replied, "They arrived only short time ago. We do not know much about them yet."

Jondalar then said, "Zelandoni wants to see us about something, so we should be going. We just stopped by to collect Jonayla and Wolf."

Marthona said, "You might as well leave them here until after you find out what Zelandoni wants. A little while longer will not make any difference to them or us."

As Ayla and Jondalar approached the meeting place, they noticed that there were a lot of people there. At first they thought maybe they had misunderstood where Zelandoni meant for them to meet her, but she was seated among the others and motioned for them to join the group. When they came into the group, they noticed that it was primarily made up of Zelandoni and cave leaders. All of the Zelandoni from the nearby caves were there and a few had come quite some distance. And they were all looking at Ayla. Ayla and Jondalar sat down where someone indicated and wondered what this was all about. Ayla and Jondalar looked at the other people and the others looked at them. The silence seemed to roar on for an eternity, but was probably less than a minute. Ayla tried to read the faces to see if this was going to be a good or a bad experience. She found no clues.

Finally Zelandoni Who Was First looked at Ayla and said, "It has come to my attention that you have not told us everything about your past." Ayla was floored. She had told Zelandoni everything. She had even told her about the son she had borne while still living with the clan - - the one of mixed spirits - - the one thing that she knew would most make her unacceptable. What else could there be.

She blurted out, "But Zelandoni, I have told you everything."

"Not everything," Said Zelandoni Who Was First. The group was seated a short distance from, and in plain view of, Zelandoni Who Was First's dwelling and Zelandoni Who Was First turned towards her dwelling and motioned.

A man came out of the dwelling and toward the group. Ayla thought he looked familiar, but could not place him. He walked directly toward her and when he was just a few steps from her she realized who he was. He was the man of Charoli's gang that they had pulled off the Clan Woman just before crossing the glacier on their way here. "Could he have come here to spread lies and to discredit her, and did people believe him?" She wondered. She also wondered why Brukeval had been invited. It was unusual for him to be included in meetings of the elite. Had he turned against her and had accusations to discredit her? Had his recent behavior been an act?

When the man reached her he fell to the ground and cried out, "I have sinned greatly and am not worthy of my calling. Oh please, Great Earth Mother, show me how to atone or bring the wolf to end it now." Ayla was stunned. She was totally speechless. The other people were as surprised as she since only Zelandoni Who Was First, Zelandoni of the 14th and Joharran knew what to expect. The others had only been told that Zelandoni Who Was First said that it was of the utmost importance that they attend this meeting. Even Zelandoni Who Was First and Zelandoni of the 14th were not exactly sure of what would happen. It had not been rehearsed.

Finely Ayla said, "Get up and tell us what this is all about. Did the caves track down your gang and take you back to your individual caves?"

Danasi sat up and looked at her; tears streaming down his face, and said, "No."

"Why not? They said that is what they were going to do."

"They did not have to. When you told us to go back to our caves, we went. We ran back and begged for whatever punishment we had coming. As we left, Charoli screamed threats and ridicules at us, but he no longer had any meaning to us. The caves did have to track him down. We told then where he would be. When they found him he was cold and half starved. He had no fight in him. Actually he never did have much fight. He always got the rest of us to do it. They castrated him and it is almost funny to see how meek, timid and obedient he is."

"What punishment did they mete out to the rest of you?"

"That's the strange part. They did nothing except to tell us that we had to do what the cave asked of us and that if any one of us ever did anything wrong again, they would do to us what they had done to Charoli. It is scary because they were too easy on us."

He went on, "I have felt the calling to serve the Mother of All for my people. Losaduna has even taken me as acolyte. I find that I even have talent, but I cannot answer the call. I am not worthy. I am unclean."

Ayla then said, "And what does Losaduna tell you when you tell him that?"

"He did a ritual to wash my sins away and to purify me. But, it seemed so superficial that I can't believe that it could have worked. He is such a kind and gentle man. He told me how much our gang of ruffians had detracted from the wellbeing of the cave and of the flatheads. He explained that we should have been hunting, making tools and building dwellings to help our people and instead not only were we not doing our share but had been keeping others from doing some of the things they should have been doing. He explained how much it hurt the well being of the flatheads when the men had to protect the women instead of hunting. But he did not assign punishment. He is fine for the good people of the cave, but he is too good and too easy on me. I have to do more to atone. That is why I am here. What is it that I must do to be worthy? Is it possible for me to ever be worthy? If not, I beg you call the wolf and end it now."

Ayla thought for a moment. The Zelandoni each wondered what she would tell him. In fact, they each wondered what they would have told him.

Finally Ayla spoke, "Danasi, Losaduna is not as weak as you might think. He knows that your atonement is to carry your guilt to your grave. You will never escape it. He also knows that your guilt will make you stronger and will make you care for your people more than if you did not have it; maybe even more than him. When you council young men, you can talk to them from the heart and experience, not simply intellectually. Your past will actually make you more effective. Your atonement is to help your people in every possible way for the rest of your life.

And one more thing; stand up! I am not the personification of the Great Earth Mother. I just happened to be there at the right time."

No one, and especially Danasi, believed her last statement. They had just heard the Great Earth Mother speaking through her.

"So you see, Ayla," said Zelandoni Who Was First, "You had not told us everything. You told us about visiting the Losadunai and how much they had helped you and how much you loved them. You did not tell us that you changed their lives for the better.

Zelandoni Who Was First then again turned towards her dwelling and motioned. A young man came out and came toward them. He walked with a slight limp and went directly to Ayla and Jondalar. Jondalar recognized him first and said, "Doban? Are you Doban?"

"Yes I am Doban, master tool maker of the S'Armunai, but only because of the two of you." He spoke in S'Armunai. Danasi translated into Zelandonii. Doban knelt on one knee and said, "I personally and all the S'Armunai honor you oh Great Earth Mother and her fair haired consort. Our S'Armuna tells us that your coming was proof that the Great Earth Mother watches over her people and that if her people stop honoring her properly, she will intervene. She tells us that when the mother has to personally get involved it might not be pleasant. When someone starts talking about 'getting even' for some real or imagined wrong, S'Armuna asks 'what would Ayla say' and that ends the issue. When people stop and remember and think about what you told us, we stop thinking about revenge and start thinking about how to cooperate. And I could not have come had you not fixed my leg." And Danasi translated.

Tears were streaming down Ayla's face as she said, "I never thought I would ever see or hear from you or your people again. You can never know how much it means to me that you are here and to hear from about the others. Are there babies being born now?"

"Yes," He said, "there are babies now, and the men are stronger and hunting and learning how to do many things from the other groups that we had lost contact with during the dark times. We still do not have a leader, but S'Armuna and Epadoa are doing fine as temporary co-leaders. Epadoa and I have grown to trust and even love each other as mother and son. And Cavoa sends you this." He handed Ayla a package.

When she untied and unwrapped the package, she saw that it contained a stone Mother Figure. It had been beautifully molded in clay and then fired into a hard stone. Ayla burst into another freshet of tears as she held the figure to her chest. She then passed it around so everyone could see it. They had never seen anything like it. Firing clay into stone was something they knew nothing about. It was obvious that it could not have been carved from such a hard material, so they were astounded by the object and in awe of it. It must hold much magic. They all looked at Ayla in new light.

Ayla then said, "As much as I love you and your people, and I admit Jondalar and I helped you, I am not the personification of the Great Earth Mother. I just happened to be there at the right time."

No one, and especially Doban, believed her.

Again, Zelandoni Who Was First turned towards her dwelling and motioned. Another young man came out and came toward them. He went directly to Jondalar.

Jondalar gasped, "Darvalo!"

"Yes, man of my hearth, I am here. I am here to visit one who I love and admire." Jondalar stood and they embraced. Darvalo opened his parka so Jondalar could see the shirt he was wearing and said, "See; I have even grown into the shirt you gave me. But," as he turned to Ayla, "I am also here to pay homage for my people to the one who is the embodiment of the Great Earth Mother. Ayla, we honor you for coming and fixing a great evil that was doing great harm to the happiness and well being of our people. We regret that we did not realize what was happening and how you had been sent for the purpose until you had gone. We did not properly honor you. I am here to insure that you know that we know that it was the Great Earth Mother working through you, or coming as you in human form, that came to fix our problem. And also that we all love you as the woman you appear to be." Ayla and Jondalar understood the language, and Danasi continued translating for the others.

Ayla burst out in tears again. She then said between gasps of tears, "I love you and your people more than words can tell, but I just happened to be there when it all came out."

"No," Said Darvalo, "You made 'it all come out' into the open."

Everyone believed him.

"So you see, Ayla," Zelandoni Who Was First, "You had not told us everything. You told us about visiting the S'Armunai and the Sharamudoi and how much they had helped you and how much you loved them. You did not tell us that you changed their lives so dramatically and for the better."

"But," Ayla said between sobs, "How did it happen that they all came at the same time? They never knew each other."

Zelandoni Who Was First said, "Ayla my dear, there is someone here that can explain that to you." And again she motioned towards her dwelling. This time a rather large young man came out. He was not fat. He was tall and strong. He walked to where Ayla and Jondalar were sitting and knelt down in front of them. "Danug!" Ayla and Jondalar exclaimed at the same time.

"Yes." He said, "I am the one and only Danug, and I too have come to pay tribute from my people." Ayla nearly fainted. "You came to us as a frightened and shy, but beautiful and incredibly talented woman of 'no people'. You worked your way into all our hearts. We thought it odd that Mamut adopted you into the Mammoth Hearth, but he knew what you really were. He also knew that you did not know who you really were and that you would need training." "So she really was adopted into the equivalent of the ranks of the Zelandoni," thought Zelandoni Who Was First to herself. She had not doubted it outright, but thought it might not be quite as significant as Jondalar had made it sound. She was now thinking it might have been even more significant than what even Jondalar realized. Danug was speaking in Manutoi and Danasi, with occasional help from Jondalar, was interpreting into Zelandonii.

Ayla stopped crying long enough to ask, "Danug, do you remember the first time I hunted bison with the Lion Camp and you chopped down two trees so I could make a pole drag for Whinney?"

"I will never forget. I thought you were the most beautiful woman there was. I was so love struck that I could hardly function. But I now see you as a beautiful goddess and I have someone I want you to meet." He then motioned towards Zelandoni's dwelling and a woman came out and walked over to them. "Ayla," He said, "I want you to meet my mate Xoolie." After the formal introductions, which were rather prolonged, Ayla hugged Xoolie and between sobs said, "I am so happy for both of you and I want to hear about all my other dear friends."

Danug picked up where he had left off saying, "The commotion you created when Rydag died brought out the severity of a rift that had been developing between the various Manutoi camps. It turned out to be a much worse problem that anyone realized. But, we started talking about it and all the camps sent negotiators to work on it. The one thing that all agreed to, was that you had forced the issue, and all the Mamuts agreed with our old Manut that you had been sent by the Great Earth Mother, if you were not actually the personification of the Great Earth Mother, to force us to resolve our differences.

Crozie and Frebec worked as an unlikely though infatigueable team going from camp to camp arguing for reconciliation and working out ways to make it happen. Crozie brought status and, as you know, Frebec is a clever debater. Together they have worked out ways to bring the camps back together. They both always give you credit, Ayla. They credit you for showing them how to reconcile their personal differences, which were great, and they credit you for giving the Manutoi the chance to reconcile their differences before those differences became irreconcilable."

Ayla was stunned. The Manutoi had given her so much that she could have never repaid even had she stayed, but she had left. They should be resentful, but he had just said they honored her. She said, "Danug, I am grateful to be so honored, but I just happened to be there when Rydag died. I could not have foreseen it, and I certainly did not plan it. I owe your people far more than they owe me."

Zelandoni of the 14th spoke saying, "No Ayla, it does not happen that someone 'just happens' to be in so many places at 'just the right time' and does 'just the right thing'. Your life is somehow shaped by destiny. You probably are the personification of the Great Earth Mother herself."

"No! Cried Ayla," I am just an orphan girl who owes everything to many people who have done more than required or expected to help me. I owe them all and I love them all."

Everyone believed the part about her loving them all.

Jondalar then spoke, "This had been a stupendous and fateful happening. As Ayla and I were returning to the Ninth Cave earlier today we were reminiscing about all the people we had known and were wondering how they were and if we would ever hear from any of them again. We often think of them. Today as we talked about them our memories hung heavy on our hearts. And here you are. It is unbelievable, but wonderful." Ayla was sobbing uncontrollably.

Zelandoni Who Was First then said, "Danug is going to explain to everyone here how all of our visitors happened to arrive together. But first we have two more people you have to meet." She again motioned towards her dwelling and a man and woman came out. As they neared the group everyone realized that they were both of mixed spirits. The man and woman walked up to Ayla and both knelt in front of her and the man signed "Mother I am Durc." Ayla screamed and collapsed. Jondalar caught her and held her and he cried too.

When Ayla had regained enough composure to function, she grabbed and hugged Durc and sobbed uncontrollably. As years of grief gushed forth most of those watching cried too. Everyone had at one time or another lost a loved one and they understood, and to a large degree they felt, her emotions. She was a long time regaining any semblance of composure, but when she did she turned to the woman of mixed spirits that had accompanied Durc and signed, "And you must be Ura." The woman signed back "yes". Ayla started sobbing all over again and hugged the woman. Such outpouring of affection, and especially tears since clan people could not shed tears, was alien to Ura, but there was a strange tugging at her heart strings and she clutched Ayla and held her in her arms.

It was some time before Ayla calmed enough to continue the meeting. Once she did, Zelandoni Who Was First said, "Durc has agreed to tell us about the time that Ayla was growing up; the time she lived with the clan." Brukeval interpreted Durc's signs into Zelandoni and Danasi interpreted for Doban and Darvalo. As he signed Durc spoke in Mamutoi, as well as he could, for Danug and Xoolie even though both of them had learned enough of the clan sign language to follow most of what he said.

Durc explained that he did not remember any of the things that he would be telling them. He would be telling them things that the older people of his clan had told him. He told how the old medicine woman had found Ayla, nearly dead, and had nursed her back to health and then raised her as her own. He told how the medicine woman's mate had been killed by the same earthquake that had orphaned Ayla and the medicine woman's brother had been the Mogur. He was the greatest Mogur of all the Clans. He was 'The Mogur'. The Mogur and his sister, the medicine woman, made a hearth together and with Ayla functioned as a family. The medicine woman was pregnant at the time and soon had a daughter of her own. The daughter and Ayla grew up as sisters." Zelandoni Who Was First thought to herself "He tells the same story that Alya told."

He explained "The old folks always said that when Ayla was with them, they had good luck and lived well. She did lots of things that disturbed them, but never anything to hurt them. Mostly she helped. Everyone was surprised when I was born because Ayla's totem is the Cave Lion and that is too strong of a totem for a man's totem spirit to overcome. At first they thought I was deformed. They had never seen a baby of mixed spirits before. They made her go out to leave me to die, but she carried me to a little cave and somehow kept us both alive. She returned, and since I was still alive, the leader let her keep me. Everyone thinks that he allowed it because he was so impressed by her strength and will. The son of the leader's mate always hated Ayla, and when he was made leader he made her leave. As soon as he had done that their wonderful cave that Ayla had actually found for them many years before, was destroyed by another earthquake. Everyone thought it was the Spirits telling them that she should not have been sent away." Everyone at the meeting thought to themselves that it probably was the spirits telling them it was wrong to send her away. Their belief system and the Clan's belief system were not that different.

He continued, "I was three years old when Ayla was sent away and her sister raised me as her own. A few years before Ayla was sent away, the old medicine woman died and Ayla was made Medicine Woman for our Clan. When we went to the Clan Gathering that takes place every seven years I was only and infant. At the gathering she met another clan woman who also had an infant, a girl, of mixed spirits. That woman thought the infant was deformed. The woman and Ayla got their leaders to agree that the girl and I would be mated some day." He turned and pointed to Ura and said, "Let me introduce Ura my faithful and considerate mate." Everyone cheered.

He then told how the clan fell on hard times under the new leader and after Ayla left. The new leader was a bad leader. He told how after the bad leader died the people turned to him saying, "Your mother would know what to do". On one occasion they had travelled far from their normal hunting grounds in a desperate search for food. They were starving. He then told how they happened upon a hunting party of the "others" and joined with them in what turned out to be the most successful hunt they had ever experienced; and how he and Ura became friends with Danug and Xoolie, as well as the rest of Lion Camp, and how they concluded that a woman who had some years before lived at Lion Camp for nearly a year was probably his mother." He then said, "When Danug talked about wanting to go on a Journey, I said I would like to go too. We decided that to make a pilgrimage to try to find Ayla would give purpose to the trip. We were both shocked to discover that our mates wanted to go too. We both thought that our mates would be a problem. As we traveled, we came across other people who had known Ayla and Jondalar, and someone from each group joined our pilgrimage. So here we are."

At first there was silence. Then everyone spontaneously stood and cheered. They were all moved beyond words, but happy with the outcome.

Ayal and Jondalar spent the next several days catching up on all that had happened to the groups of people that they had known. There was news about new babies, births, funny things, simply interesting things, a few deaths; and particularly things about specific individuals whom they had interacted with most closely. They were thrilled to learn that the people were doing well. Ayla was completely overwhelmed by having her son with her and introduced him to his sister and infant brother. She told Ura about meeting her mother and making the arrangements for her to mate with Durc. As she learned more about what had happened after she was forced to leave the Clan, she became even more convinced that it had been the right thing to have done. She and Ura warmed to each other and Ura told Ayla that she wished Ayla had been there when she went to live with Durc's Clan. She would have liked to have known Ayla better. She told how all the other women of the Clan had only good things to say about her even though she was always doing strange things.

Espandli and his acolytes, Padrollo and Gonzo left a moon after. They said they had gotten more from the Zelandonii that they had expected and Espandli was confident that he could now make his leader come to his senses. If not, he would send for Jondalar and Ayla. Padrollo took his colt with him and would be riding it soon. He was also determined to get a wolf puppy.

The visitors stayed nearly a year. It was a pleasant place to stay, and they had to time their return journey to cross the glacier during the winter. They participated in the Zelandonii summer meeting. They also had many meetings with the various cave leaders and Zelandoni, both individually and in groups, during which they filled in details of their experiences with Ayla and Jondalar further confirming in the minds of the individual Zelandoni that Ayla was at the least an agent of the Great Earth Mother. When they left, they all said how happy their people were going to be to hear news about Ayla and Jondalar.

Ayla was inducted into the ranks of the Zelandonia as a full Zelandoni at the summer meeting. There was no opposition and she was ready. She was given the title of Zelandoni-at-Large as Espandli had suggested, with no specific responsibilities to any one Cave, though she would continue to live at the Ninth Cave. Ayla assumed that her title meant that she was to assist any cave in any way she could. All the other Zelandoni knew that it meant she was their superior to whom they would turn only when advanced knowledge was required and when they could not see how to resolve their differences. The infant was growing and strong, and Jonayla was a pure joy.

Ayla was a peace with herself and her world. She had no idea of that she was going to change the world she lived in.

Zelandoni Who Was First was not at peace. She was not at peace with herself and she was not at peace with her world or anything else. She was in turmoil. Creb's revelation from when she had last visited the spirit world prayed on her mind. Every time she saw Brukeval she thought of Ayla's incredible power to enter one's mind and actually re-arrange it, and her stomach would churn. Brukeval was not regressing and she was torn between being thankful and frightened. Gargron had fully recovered and one could hardly notice the slight limp he had. Every time Zelandoni saw him it reminded her of how Espandli had said Ayla had controlled his arms and hands. She knew how to deal with aggressive and irrational people, but now she was faced with a whole new set of issues. She did not even know if the issues were problems or blessings. She had no idea how she was going to cope with the world she had been thrust into. That Ayla was her normal demure self should have soothed her, but it did not.

Ayla

The Saga Continues

Part II

Edmund A. Herman

Preface

About seven years have passed since the end of Jean Auel's Shelters of Stone and Ayla is fully established in the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. Ayla continues to amaze and astound people as she grows into her destiny; a destiny that even she does not understand. This story is meant as a tribute to Jean Auel for her "Earth's Children" series that started with the Clan of the Cave Bear. I do not claim to match Jean's writing skills or style, but have been driven by the need to see a continuation of the story. This story evolves out of Mrs. Auel's previous stories and she might have had something like this in mind as she wrote the others. She seems to have set up the situation for this story and this story will have little meaning to one who has not read Jean Auel's five books. This work has not been in collaboration with Mrs. Auel and she has not had the opportunity to review it, and hence she has not commented on it. She might not approve of me having written it. Most of the characters, research and settings are hers. If the reader has not read Jean Auel's five "Earth Children" books the reader might not follow the story line of this book as it does not go into sufficient detail of the background, flora, fauna and landscapes. The setting is about 30,000 years ago in what is now southwestern France.

1

The woman walked across the relatively even floor of the recessed area under the huge overhanging stone that formed the shelter for the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. Her stride was one of confidence and purpose. She was no longer a young woman, but not yet middle aged either. She was in her prime and it showed. She had born three children and it did not show. She was beautiful, fairly tall and strikingly built. It was early spring and still rather cold and she was dressed accordingly. She wore full length soft leather trousers that were belted at her waist and a long loosely fitting leather blouse over the trousers falling to her mid thighs and belted at the waist. If she were traveling she would have her otter skin medicine bag, an axe and her sheathed knife hanging on the belt, the handle of an ax would be through a loop in the belt and she would have a quiver of spears held on by a strap over her shoulder. The blouse had a "V" neck showing some cleavage. The blouse also had lapels, a feature that she had recently come up with simply because she liked them; but they had practical value as they could be closed for warmth if needed.

Except for the practicality of closing for warmth, the lapels were out of character as she did not decorate her clothing with beadwork and painted designs as most people did. She saw no reason to. The blouse had pockets as did the trousers, but pockets could be put to practical use. She had recently accepted the custom of decorating her clothing to the extent that she included short leather fringe along the hem, lapels, pocket flaps and a single row down the outside of each arm from the shoulders to the elbow. Her clothing was immaculately neat, clean, perfectly tailored and of the softest leather. Her shoes were soft leather over the tops and sides of the feet and extending up and around the lower part of the leg half way to the knee. The soft upper leather was glued to heavy thick mammoth skin leather soles.

The four year old boy held her hand as they walked and the seven year old girl trundled along more or less beside, but often behind and sometimes off somewhere and then back. The children were as immaculately dressed as the woman. A very large wolf walked with them. The wolf tended to follow the girl as she wandered off and back.

The woman stopped at one of the dwellings and rapped on the heavy leather drape closing the doorway. A huge woman pushed the drape aside from inside and said, "Hi Ayla, I was not expecting you, but please come in." Ayla went in and walked over to a raised sleeping platform and sat on it without invitation. She was obviously at ease in the presence of the Zelandoni-Who-was-First; although the huge and domineering woman daunted most people. The huge woman poured some tea, gave the children some treats of dried fruit and tossed a bone to the wolf. The wolf had entered the dwelling without invitation. The people accepted his presence on his terms. He caught the bone in mid air, curled up in a corner and proceeded to gnaw on it. The wolf and the huge woman eyed each other for a moment. They had an "understanding".

Three years before Ayla had assumed her new role as "Zelandoni-at-Large" with little fanfare. She was comfortable with the newly invented position among the Zelandonia. She found that it imposed very little upon her. So little, in fact, that she did not even have the normal tattoo denoting one's status as Zelandoni. She viewed her new position as so undemanding that she felt (a little) guilty. The revelations presented by the visiting pilgrims' about her having helped all their peoples so impressed the Zelandonia that they knew she must have been sent by the Great Earth Mother or possibly she was actually the personification of the Great Earth Mother. They viewed her as being their superior and to only be called on when they could not find a way to work through whatever problem they might have. They were skilled shamans and would not be in need of her help often. But when she spoke, which was not often, they listened carefully. Their superstitious beliefs made the other Zelandoni uneasy that the Great Earth Mother, or her agent, was among them as a living person and could be watching everything they were doing. They were all now being a bit more careful to properly fulfill the duties of their calling as they understood those duties.

Ayla did not feel like the personification of the Great Earth Mother and brushed it off when mentioned. She felt like a very very lucky orphaned foreign girl who was mated to the man she loved, had his children and had been accepted by the wonderful people of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. She did not feel that having lived through unbelievable hardship showed any special power on her part. She thought of it as an unfortunate, but character building, testing imposed by her powerful cave lion totem. The Mog-ur, the spiritual leader of the clan people who had originally adopted and raised her from age five, had told her the testing would be hard and only those that could meet the tests were ever chosen. He had said the rewards would be great. He had also vested her with the power to look into the brains of others and actually manipulate their brains. She was terrified of her power and tried to ignore, and even deny, that she had it and had only consciously used it once. She had unconsciously used her power to get the other Zelandoni to create a position to her liking and had once used it to direct a visiting shaman while he helped her with a particularly delicate surgery, but in both of those instances she did not consciously realize what she was doing.

Ayla continued to assist the huge woman who was Zelandoni of the Ninth (cave) who also held the title of "Zelandoni-who-was-First", the highest ranking of all the Zelandonia until the position of Zelandoni-at-Large had been created three years before. The Ninth cave was the largest and demanded the most from their spiritual leader and Zelandoni-who-was-First needed help and needed more experienced help than just one or more Acolytes. Ayla filled that need. The spiritual leaders were also the healers and the intellectuals of the community. To anyone not intimately involved, the arrangement did not make sense. How could Zelandoni of the Ninth (cave) hold the title of "Zelandoni-who-was-First" and be the highest ranking of all the Zelandoni if Ayla, as Zelandoni-at-Large, was superior to all the Zelandonia? The mechanics of the arrangement was that the rank of "Zelandoni-who-was-First" was for the practical day-to-day workings of the Zelandonia. The "Zelandoni-at-Large" position was to be called on only for special issues. Ayla's assistance with the spiritual and medical issues of the Ninth Cave was not part of her position in the Zelandoni, but rather her choice to help. She was a volunteer. Only Ayla could have made such an arrangement work. Ayla was too modest to actually accept that she was as talented as she was and still regarded Zelandoni-who-was-First as her mentor. She thought of Zelandoni-who-was-First as "Zelandoni" and was as comfortable with her as she would have been with a sister.

"So what do I owe the honor of your visit?" asked Zelandoni-Who-was-First.

"Lately," Ayla responded, "I have been feeling an unusually strong desire to visit the cave that I found when we were at the summer meeting that first year I lived here at the Ninth Cave. I can not think of any reason for needing to visit, I just have the feeling. It is a feeling almost like I should or even must visit it. It is something different and more than my normal curiosity"

Zelandoni who was First thought for a few moments and then asked, "Did you come to me because those feelings seem to be coming from the spirits?"

Ayla answered, "Yes."

Zelandoni then asked, "Is there a sense of urgency?"

Ayla answered, "No."

Zelandoni then said, "The summer meeting is being held in that general direction this year, maybe you should wait until them. That would be less trouble than making the trip from here."

"That sounds like a good idea," Ayla responded.

Then Zelandoni added, "If the feelings take on a sense of urgency you might have to go sooner."

"I know," Ayla said.

Zelandoni was thinking to herself that Ayla might be getting a call to visit the spirit world and if she is, she should not be alone when she goes. She would like to be there and have some of the other Zelandoni there too. This could be the spirits delivering the message that Ayla had been sent to bring. Only Zelandoni-Who-was-First and Zelandoni of the 14th had received the message from the spirit of The Mog-ur about Ayla holding the key to their future survival. The two Zelandoni had never told the rest of the Zelandonia, nor had they told Ayla of the message. She had no clue as to the role she would be playing. But as Zelandoni-Who-was-First sat there looking at the younger woman who projected modesty, innocence and even naivety, she could not help but think how The Mog-ur, speaking from the spirit world, had directed her to let nothing happen to Ayla and to do what Ayla says. She was determined to protect Ayla through any venture into the spirit world if that was what was in store. She also wanted to be there when the message was delivered if at all possible.

Jondalar was concentrating on the piece of flint. He was a master flint knapper and was putting the finishing touches on a blade. It was not a special tool, it was going to be an eating knife when finished and hafted to a handle. Most anyone in that ancient world could make a serviceable eating knife by striking two stones together to get a sharp edged chip; but being the master he was Jondalar had to make it exactly right. He pressure flaked off a few chips to make it the right length and a few more to make it the right width and weight. He then checked the sharpness by shaving a few hairs from his arm. He smiled to himself as he laid it out with the others he had just finished. He had previously detached several basic blades from a flint core and was now in the process of refining them into the exact shape that would be ideal for eating knives. Solaban, one of the advisors to Joharran, the cave leader, was a master at making handles and was in the process of making the handles from deer antler for Jondalar's blades. Jondalar might even do some re-touching after the blades were hafted. They had to be just right. The appearance, how they felt in the hand, the balance, and the weight all had to be just right to satisfy him. They were planning to trade the knives for other things they needed, or wanted, at the summer meeting.

As Jondalar reached for the next blade, he felt someone's presence and turned to see who it was. His face lit up in a big smile when saw it was his mate Ayla. She said, "I did not want to disturb you. You were really concentrating on your work." "Woman," he said, "You can disturb me anytime. In fact you can disturb me when you are not even trying to." He stood, stretched and then took her in his arms and kissed her. She returned the affection. She looked into his incredibly blue eyes, smiled and said, "Am I another piece of flint in your hands?" "You are much more than a piece of flint," He said, "But I don't change you." "Yes you do," she said, "but the changes are deep inside; they don't show." He looked at her, thought about her comment and asked, "Are you trying to tell me something? She giggled realizing what he had been thinking, said "No, not that, but I would not mind," and then asked, "So, what are you making that is so interesting?" "Nothing very exciting," he explained, "Only eating knives, but I want them to be of high trade value at the summer meeting." She smiled and added, "You do love your work, don't you?" "Not as much as I love you." He retorted. "Umm, you do that just right too." She said as she smiled and looked coyly at him. "But that is not why I am here.

Marthona has invited us to share the evening meal with her and Willamar tonight." "Is there a special occasion?" He asked. "She did not say there was." Ayla answered, "She only said it would be nice to have her family all together since it has been quite a while since we have been. She has invited Joharran and Provela and of course Folara will be there. She has also invited Zelandoni so there might be more to it than it seems; although it is not unusual for her to invite Zelandoni to a meal." It was customary for the people of the cave to treat "those who served" to meals and to ply them with gifts in recognition for the services they provided. Those who served charged no fees. Their services were freely rendered and they, like the other individuals of the cave, had to make their own livelihood the best they could. "Gifts" from those that could give made it possible for those that served to execute their calling.

It was rather crowded in Marthona's and Willamar's dwelling. Folara, Jondalar's sister was there with her fiancé a young man named Jaquette. Marthona's son and Jondalar's brother, Joharran, the leader of the Ninth cave was there with his mate, Provela and their two young children. Zelandoni was setting on a cushioned limestone block that was there specifically for her. She preferred sitting on a raised chair as it was difficult for her to get her huge bulk up from the floor. And of course Jondalar, Ayla, their two small children and the wolf were there. They were all enjoying the meal that Ayla had helped Marthona prepare. Except for Zelandoni they were setting on pillows and mats around the low table made of a thin slab of limestone supported with a frame and legs made by bending saplings and lashing them together. Wolf, gnawing on a bone, was curled up on some old furs in a corner that he had come to know was his when visiting Marthona's dwelling. They talked about how the cave was changing. What new babies were being born, who had died, people that had moved to other caves, made journeys, and others that had moved into the cave from elsewhere. They also talked about the rumors and stories they had heard about other caves and other peoples.

Willamar reported that he had recently been to the land of the Espandlii on a trading mission and they were now doing well. He told that Espandli had been able to institute the necessary changes and the people were using the weapons that his acolytes had learned to make and use when they had visited the Ninth Cave a few years before. Unfortunately, they had to turn to a new leader and the old one did not give up gracefully. He is now living as a disgruntled hermit far from any of their caves. Willamar told how the Espandlii are in awe of the Zelandonii even though, except for the three that visited, none of them have ever been to the land of the Zelandonii. Marthona and Zelandoni gave each other knowing looks. They had known that having Espandli live and train among them, and especially having Espandi live with Ayla and Jondalar, when he and his two acolytes came for training a few years earlier would enhance the political stature of the Zelandonii.

Eventually Joharran mentioned that the Ninth Cave along with some of the nearby caves should be planning a major hunt before the summer meeting. He added, "I was discussing the idea with some of the men, and Archaman mentioned that the bison usually visit Far Valley this time of year. He also mentioned that Far Valley was near to where the summer meeting will be so the animals killed could be put in storage pits and retrieved when everyone was at the summer meeting. Archaman is too old to hunt now, but remembers when he saw bison there many times in the past. " Joharran then added "Far Valley is quite a ways from here. If we knew for sure that the bison were there we could organize a hunting party. It is hard to justify a hunting trip not knowing for sure." Jondalar took the hint and said, "Maybe Ayla and I could scout it out. I have never been to Far Valley, but I have heard of it and I am sure I know how to find it. It should only take a few days with the horses." Ayla chipped in with, "That would be fun. I have not been away from the cave in over two moons." Marthona added, "I could watch the children while you are gone." Marthona loved the grandchildren and never missed an opportunity to baby sit them. She also knew that Folara enjoyed them as much and would actually do most of work of the tending to them.

It was arranged and in a few days, Jondalar and Ayla were riding out of the Ninth Cave on their way to Far Valley. Jondalar had talked to Archaman and learned more about how to get to Far Valley and more about the bison and other things to expect. They both felt a freedom that they had both known before and cherished. Ayla had lived alone for three years when she was in her mid teens and they both had been with each other but had seldom seen other people during the year it took to travel from where they met far to the East to his home in the land of the Zelandonii. They had both learned the dangers and loneliness of being alone, but also reveled in the total freedom it afforded. They were both deeply introspective and needed some "alone" time on occasion. They were now trying to make their lives a comfortable balance and needed to "get away" occasionally. They felt exceptionally free on this outing as they were not even encumbered with the children. Ayla felt that Marthona had volunteered to watch the children for just that reason, and she was probably right. Marthona did not seem to ever need to get away from people, but she was sensitive to, and understanding of, Ayla's need.

They rode easily relishing the freedom, letting the horses go at their own pace. They followed the Wood River for a ways and then climbed to the high ground to the north. There was no path; they wended their way through the rough steppe grass of the higher ground however the horses saw fit. They wore their quivers of spears and Ayla had her sling in its usual place tucked into her belt where she could get it in an instant. The rest of their supplies were in side baskets on the horses. They had not brought the pole drags as they were out looking for information about the bison herd and not planning on hunting. They would live off the land so they would do some hunting. But they had no plans for hunting anything to bring back or large enough to require the pole drags. They generally rode abreast, but at one point Jondalar was riding slightly ahead of Ayla and when he looked back at her, tears were streaming down her face. "Ayla!" he screamed, "what is wrong?" "I'm just so happy," She replied. He stopped, slid off the horse and went to her. She slid off her horse into his arms and they embraced. They held each other for what seemed like an eternity. The horses and the wolf stood by seeming to understand the preciousness of the moment.

He stepped back and looked her in the eye with a particular glint in his. As his intention registered, her eyes opened wide, a smile crossed her mouth as it opened slightly and her breathing became deeper and slower. He led her to the front of the horse and she wrapped her arms around the horse's neck as the horse put her head across the woman's shoulder. The horse and the woman held each other and drew comfort, happiness and love from each other, as they had done so many times and especially long ago when they were each other's only companions in that valley far to the east. Jondalar got the heavy leather ground cover from a pack basket and laid it out on the ground. He then went over to Ayla, took her by the hand, led her to the ground cover and lovingly laid her down on it. He stretched out next to her, propping himself up on his elbow, and looked down into her face. He leaned over and kissed her. The horses grazed and the wolf stayed back and watched. It had been difficult to train the wolf to stay away when they made love during their year long journey to Jondalar's home but she had managed to. The wolf was nearly his full grown size then but still a puppy full of emotional exuberance.

She withered in ecstasy as he slowly, gently and lovingly made love to her. When he finally rolled off and lay spent beside her, he said, "Being Zelandoni does not seem to have changed you." "I am a woman first," she replied, and added, "your woman." She then motioned to the wolf and he came bounding to her. She grabbed a handful of fur on each side of his head just at the neck and ruffled it as he licked her face. "Yes," she said, "You were good and I love you too."

After a while they leisurely dressed, mounted the horses and rode on each absorbed in their own thoughts. Ayla broke the silence first saying, "Being Zelandoni is not like I thought it would be." "Oh!" exclaimed Jondalar, "and what did you expect?" "I just thought there would be more to it. I thought it would be more demanding." She answered. He said, "But you were already doing everything a Zelandoni does. That is why it seems no different." She thought for a while and then said, "That's what Zelandoni-Who-is-First tells me, but it just does not seem right. I should be doing more."

They rode for a while longer and this time it was Jondalar who spoke saying, "Ayla, think about all those that serve the mother that we met on our journey. None of them seemed over burdened. And they were all dedicated. Their lives were fairly normal until called upon." "Maybe that is it," she said, "maybe I have not yet been called upon." Jondalar chuckled and said, "I hardly think that can be the case. You jump up whenever anyone is sick and you comfort those that have lost a loved one or have experienced some other unfortunate situation. You are constantly being called on." She thought for a while and then continued, "Those things anyone would do." "No," he said, "not anyone, and very few can do it as well. You always say the right thing. Your mere presence brings peace and comfort to anyone who is hurting." "Jondalar," she said "you say the nicest things. You know I could not do it if you were not always there with me." "I am glad you feel that way, but all I do is watch." He added.

They traveled another short distance and came to a small valley with a little stream running through it. They stopped, stripped and washed. They had made love spontaneously on the high steppe and had no water to cleanse with. Cleansing after love making was a ritual that Ayla's clan mother had instilled in her and that Jondalar had adopted after having met Ayla.

The wolf flushed out some rabbits which Ayla dispensed of, almost casually, with her sling. Jondalar found some dry twigs suitable for a fire and using the firestone had one going by the time she had skinned and cleaned the rabbits. After feasting on the rabbits and some root vegetables that Ayla had found, and resting for a while they started off again.

They set up their tent near a small stream the first night. After feasting on deer meat from a small deer that Jondalar had speared, they snuggled together in their furs for warmth and pleasure with the wolf next to them. They were up early the next morning and on their way after a soup made with the deer meat. They took some of the meat with them, but left the rest of the deer for the scavengers, insects and natural decay. Although nearly all parts of the animal had uses, they had no immediate needs and future uses did not warrant the trouble of carrying it.

One day they were walking to give the horses a rest and to stretch their legs. The horses were following on their own accord, unleashed, stopping to graze when it suited them and then trotting to catch up. They walked faster than the humans so they did not usually have to trot much to catch up. The horses had just re-joined them as they were walking along fairly low ground in front of a long and fairly high outcropping of limestone. The limestone outcropping provided some respite from the incessant loess filled wind which gave opportunity for some fairly substantial bushes to survive on the lee side of the limestone outcropping. As they came to the end of the outcropping, they could see over, but just barely, the last cluster of bushes. Ayla was the first to look over the bushes. She stopped and motioned for Jondalar to stop and look. About a thousand yards away were eight heavily laden clan people walking almost directly towards them. The clan people had not seen them because of the bushes.

They watched the clan people for a while and then turned to each other and Jondalar asked, "What should we do?" Ayla answered with another question, "What are our options?" To that Jondalar said, "We could hide in the bushes until they pass, we could get on the horses and run away, or we could greet them." "I favor greeting them." Ayla said. We should be friendly and we might get some useful information from them." Jondalar looked at her, smiled and said, "That's my Ayla. I knew that is what you would say. You never back down or turn your back." They tied the horses and told Wolf to stay where he was, behind the bushes and out of sight. They knew that horses and a wolf that answered to humans would be most distressing to the clan people.

When the clan people were fairly close, Ayla and Jondalar casually walked out from behind the bushes and waved to the advancing clan people. The men in the clan party immediately moved their spears to a defensive position pointing them directly at Ayla and Jondalar. Jondalar signed "greetings" and Ayla walked directly toward the leader. She could tell which one was the leader by his position among the others. She had grown up with a clan and knew their language, behavior, culture and customs. She walked up to the leader and knelt down in front of him in the proper way for any woman who wanted to talk to a clan man. He could acknowledge her or ignore her, it was his choice. But, to have a woman of the "others" show proper behavior and have something to tell, or ask, him was simply too interesting for him to ignore. She knew it would be. He hesitated for a while and then tapped her on the shoulder.

She stood and signed to him, "My mate" pointing to Jondalar "and I are on a scouting mission to try to find good hunting. There are no others with us. We see that you have had a successful hunt."

He was quite surprised that they had come across some of the "others" and even more surprised that the others had not run or hid. But he was totally unprepared for them to have come up to them and greet him. He was not sure what to do, but asked, "What do you want?" To which Ayla replied, "Only to acknowledge that we saw you and to congratulate you on your successful hunt. We wish you peace and good fortune. We will be on our way."

Although far from what he had expected, her reasons sounded reasonable; even civil. He motioned and the others relaxed and put their spears away, but not out of reach.

She turned and started to walk away. She had said she would be on her way and it was the clan custom to simply walk away without fan fare. He called out to get her attention. The clan people were not completely mute. When she turned, he signed, "Do you need food?" "No," She replied, "We are well stocked." And she then asked, "Have you seen bison?" "Yes." He said, "In the next valley," and pointed to the North, the way the clan people had been coming from. Then Jondalar signed, "Is that your hunting territory?" The clan man signed back, "Not usually, but we have had to go farther lately." Jondalar then signed, "If we hunt them and kill any we will put one in a deep pit for you so the meat will freeze. We will pile stones on top so you can find it. If we kill a lot of animals we will put two in pits for you." The clan man signed "Why?" To which Jondalar signed back, "Because it is sometimes your hunting territory and we will be using it."

Ayla and Jondalar turned and walked together back to and around behind the bushes to where the horses and Wolf were. Ayla said to Jondalar, "I think it is best that we wait for them to get out of sight before we bring out the horses. Meeting us was hard enough on them without scaring them with tame horses." He nodded agreement. They knew well the terrifying affect their control of the horses and wolf had on people. They moved out to where the clan people could see them and prepared, and ate, a meal where it would be obvious to the clan people as to what they were doing. They wanted to be doing something ordinary while passing the time until the clan people were out of sight. When the clan people were well out of sight, they mounted the horses and started north.

"That was interesting meeting the clan people," Jondalar said. "Yes it was," said Ayla, "I don't think they knew what to make of it. They were quite taken back by the fact that we knew their customs and language, even though it was the ancient language and not their local language. I could tell that he had to stop and think from time to time so he had not been using the ancient language much recently."

The clan leader was also mulling over what had just happened. He had never expected a meeting with the "others" to be pleasant. And, as hard as he racked his brain, he could think of no ulterior motive that would explain the "others" behavior. They had simply acknowledged seeing him, congratulated him on the successful hunt and went on their way just as he would do if he happened across another clan group. He was especially puzzled as to why they would give his people part of their hunt. He also knew that his people would be expecting him to explain the encounter to them, and was trying to think of what to tell them. If these two were typical of the "others" he might have to re-think what he thought he knew of them. He was thinking that the seven year clan meeting would be the following year and maybe he would learn more then. His people realized that he was deep in thought when he nearly walked off a cliff.

Ayla and Jondalar crested the rim of Far Valley and looked out over it. There was a river running through it, as one would expect, and a few trees grew along the river. The trees were short. It was as though their tops had been cut off. The wind blown grit kept the trees from growing tall. Only the part that was partially protected from the wind by the walls of the valley could grow, so the trees tended to be wide and short and then only along waterways where there was water. Far up the valley was a small herd of bison. Jondalar thought the clan people must have caused them to run up there to get away from the disturbance of the clan people killing one or two of them. He thought about how difficult and dangerous it must be to hunt the way they did.

They stayed in Far Valley a couple of days and observed the bison herd. The bison did not seem to be going anywhere which was not surprising since it was not the time of year for them to migrate. They had been disturbed by the clan people, but appeared to have forgotten it. Ayla got some hares with her sling and was cooking them as he thought about the bison. It occurred to him that even though they seemed to be content, they might be more skittish than normal when a hunting party came. The hunters must be told of that. Having come upon the clan people might have been a good thing.

It took them a few days to return to the Ninth Cave and report their findings. They were happy to retrieve the children and resume their parental duties. Both children started acting up as soon as they saw their parents, but calmed down once out of sight of Grandma. Ayla said to Marthona. "Thanks so much for watching the children. Jondalar and I have not felt so much freedom since we were traveling coming here. In some ways it was much more relaxing since we did not have the worry about the dangers of travel or the reception we would get when we got here." Marthona answered, "I loved watching them and Folara did all the work. I am glad that you enjoyed your time by yourselves. I never feel that need, but it is obvious that you do." "Yes," replied Ayla, "I think living alone for three years made me appreciate the feeling of total freedom; but it also was horribly lonely and I always knew I needed other people. Even people that did not especially like me were preferable to no people. I can't believe how happy I am living here with Jondalar, having his children and being accepted by his family and all the wonderful people of the Ninth Cave. I sometimes think I will burst with pleasure just thinking of it." Marthona said, "Ayla, you are not just acceptable, you are a treasure. You have done more for the Ninth Cave than they have for you." "Those are kind words Marthona," Ayla responded, "but hard for me to believe."

The hunt was organized and again Ayla's children stayed with Marthona as both Ayla and Jondalar joined the hunting party. The party included hunters from the Ninth Cave and their close neighbors, the 14th, 11th and 3rd caves. The bison were rather skittish as Jondalar had thought they might be. Jondalar had explained to the rest of the hunters at the planning meeting how the bison had been hunted by the clan people and might be skittish. He now suggested that they capitalize on that skittishness to stampede the bison into a trap where the sides of Far Valley formed a narrow space down wind of the bison and across which they could build a barrier.

The barrier was built and Ayla and Jondalar went up wind of the bison with the horses circling wide to avoid disturbing the bison. Once up wind of the bison they wanted the bison to smell and hear them and move towards the barrier and the other hunters. Several of the fastest runners spaced themselves along the higher sides of the valley along the route the bison would take when they stampeded toward the barrier. The rest of the hunters positioned themselves on the high bluffs on each side of the valley at the barrier. Ayla and Jondalar then started the bison toward the barrier by shouting and waving pieces of clothing at them. When an animal tried to veer right or left, a hunter would run forward at it waiving something to direct it back. If the animal did not turn in the desired direction, it was felled by a spear from a spear thrower.

Joharran was impressed by how the hunters had become familiar with the role the horses played in the hunt and how they had adjusted their tactics to better fit in with what Ayla and Jondalar on the horses could do. He had been amazed at how Ayla and Jondalar had used the horses to herd bison into a surround for a hunt shortly after they had arrived several years before, but what he was witnessing now was absolutely astounding. He also thought about the new weapon, the spear thrower that Jondalar had invented. All the hunters formed a precision hunting machine in which both the horses and the spear thrower played vital roles. Each hunter knew how to fit in with what the others were doing. The horses were no longer supplementary, they were an integral part. The spear throwers made each hunter far more effective and safer. They were now having far fewer hunting accidents. He pondered the changes and their significance.

The end result of the hunt was that most animals were killed within a small area in front of the barrier. Some crashed through the barrier and some of those escaped and some lay dead just past the broken barrier. Some managed to escape back past the hunters, including Ayla and Jondalar, but many that tried that route were felled. Many animals were harvested. It was more of a harvesting than a hunt. There was a lot of work but very little sport.

When Jondalar had explained his encounter with the clan people and how he had agreed to leave them animals buried in pits below the permafrost, everyone had agreed that it was a fair thing to do. It was decided to give the clan people the two animals that were farthest from the barrier. That would eliminate the need to move them. The hunters could have simply buried the entire animal, but they properly butchered each, and put all the usable parts on top of the meat before covering it. They then built quite tall and distinctive looking stone markers over each animal.

They were several days butchering and preparing the animals after which they loaded the meat and other valuable parts on their backs and on the horses' pole drags and carted it off to a location fairly near to where the summer meeting was to be. They then buried most of the kill in pits dug into the permafrost so the meat would freeze. They would come back for it during the summer meeting. Some parts were taken back to their caves as they had immediate use for them.

One night on the return trip as they were setting around their campfires, Joharran called a meeting of the leaders of the four caves. He opened the meeting saying, "Leaving part of the kill for the flatheads was something we never would have done before." He used the more common term of "flathead" rather than "clan" to refer to the clan people since most people still thought of them as flatheads. "It is something that would never have entered our minds. Yet we all readily agreed to it. Our thinking about flatheads has changed."

Manvelar, leader of the Third Cave spoke up saying, "I still did not think of it, Jondalar suggested it." "True," said Joharran, "But you readily agreed. Jondalar and Ayla have made us realize that the flatheads are feeling caring people. And we know that we have treated them badly. It has been difficult for me to change my thinking, but I have and I sense a general change in attitude throughout our peoples." Brameval, leader of the 14th Cave spoke next saying, "There are still a lot of people that harbor deep hatred of them." "True," countered Joharran, "but I sensed none of that as we worked to preserve the two bison for them. The change in our attitudes is significant, and I hope it will make us avoid trouble with them. A small thing now and then to show that we respect them and are willing to help them and to treat them as equals might pay big dividends. If they feel pressure, such as not killing enough animals to feed themselves, they could stage raiding parties or simply attack small groups that they come across. They could even search out small groups to attack." "I never thought of that," said Kareja, leader of the 11th Cave. Brameval then said, "I know that Ayla set some broken bones on a flathead a while back. I wonder what they are thinking."

The summer meeting was underway and Ayla had invited Zelandoni to their campsite for the evening meal. Ayla, Jondalar and the children shared the summer lodge with his mother Marthona and her mate Willamar, Jondalar's sister Folara, Joharran and his mate Proleva and their two children. The summer lodge was a temporary structure, but larger and more substantial than the traveling tents. They were large enough to house several people such as an extended family, especially since when at a summer meeting people seldom did more than sleep in the lodge. As they set around the campfire discussing the issues of the day, Zelandoni, turned to Ayla and said, "As usual it was a delicious meal Ayla, I do not know how you manage all you do. You know, it is custom for people to ply gifts on the Zelandoni in thanks for the services we render. You are now a full Zelandoni, and you can now accept such gifts. In fact you should be receiving gifts. You do not have to feel the need to give." "I know that," said Ayla, "But there is really nothing I need. Jondalar is a very good provider."

Zelandoni then asked, "Ayla, do you still have the feeling that you are being called to visit the cave you found that first year you were with us?" Marthona looked up, a bit surprised that she had heard nothing of it. The rest thought nothing of it since Zelandoni knew of many things they were not privy to and were not involved with. Zelandoni continued, "Would you mind if I and Zelandoni of the 14th went with you?" "I would not mind at all, and it would be good to have the company. It is an overnight trek from here." Ayla answered. Jondalar then spoke up asking, "Can I go to? The three of you should not be traveling alone, and I am curious to see what Jonokol has been doing with all the tools I have made for him." "Of course you can come," said Zelandoni, "and I am sure Jonokol will be glad to show you his work, although what is done no longer interests him. It is the doing, not the later viewing that connects the person to the animal spirits." Marthona then spoke, saying, "I would like to come too. It will be sort of a pilgrimage now that the cave has become a special sacred place."

A few days later six people (Jonokol had joined them) plus Ayla's two children set off for Jonokol's sacred cave. It was near the 19th Cave of the Zelandonii, but knowing everyone from the 19th would be at the summer meeting, the pilgrims did not actually go to the home of the 19th Cave. As they walked through the area where the summer meeting had been that fateful year several years before, there was little trace of the hundreds of people that had camped there and ravaged the region that summer. The Great Earth Mother had erased nearly all evidence and it appeared as pristine as ever. The opening to the cave was now obvious. The brush had been cleared from the opening and the ground leading to it leveled.

They built a fire in a permanent fire pit that had been built at the location, lit torches and entered the cave. The cave was unusual in that it was nearly devoid of stone icicles hanging down from the ceiling, stalactite draperies hanging down walls and stalagmites growing up from the floor. Large regions of the walls, starting about five feet from the floor, and the ceiling had a thin covering of nearly pure white calcite crystals on impermeable marl. In places the ceiling was 15 feet high and chambers nearly as wide.*

They held their torches high and could see that Jonokol had painted some animals on the walls and ceiling. When they reached the second chamber, they came upon a large scaffold. Jonokol explained that he was drawn to that part of the ceiling, and had built the scaffold so he could work on the ceiling. He also explained that when he is up there near it, the feeling is very strong, but he does not get clear visions of what the spirits are trying to tell him.

As they looked up at the ceiling, Ayla also felt drawn to it and climbed the scaffold. Once on the top platform she lay on her back looking at the ceiling and felt a strong sensation pulling at her. It was coming from a specific rounded bulge which she reached up to and touched.

After some time had elapsed Jondalar became concerned for her and his concern grew especially acute when Wolf became very agitated. The wolf was looking up and whining.

Ayla was looking down. Not from the scaffold, but from above it. She saw herself laying on the scaffold and saw when Jondalar climbed up onto it and bent down over her. She then saw others joining him. They were getting smaller and smaller. She was looking down through the limestone roof of the cave and the cave and all in it kept getting smaller. She could then see the ground above the cave and then the surrounding landscape. Her view broadened as she kept going farther and farther away. She could see The River as it flowed near the cave.

As she moved farther away she could see other valleys and the lines of green along the rivers in the valleys running through the undulating yellow-brown landscape. The features got smaller and smaller and her view widened as she moved ever farther away.

She noticed a large patch of blue as she looked under her prone body and back past where her feet should be. It was the Great Water of the

West. Then another patch of blue appeared to her right, the Great Sea of the South.

(*) The description of the cave is taken from Jean M. Auel's, Shelters of Stone.

The blue patches got larger and larger and then she noticed a brilliant white to her left and a small patch of white straight ahead. The white to her left was the great ice cap that covered nearly a quarter of the earth and the patch in front of her was the glacier that she and Jondalar had crossed on their way to his home, the land of the Zelandonii, several years before. The great white of the north kept getting larger and larger, and when it merged with the small glacier she had once crossed, she realized that she had quit moving. All the features of the land below were staying the same. The glaciers were growing.

The Great Glacier of the North stopped its southward movement before reaching the land of the Zelandonii and then started to retreat. It continued to retreat until she could no longer see it and the glacier that she had once crossed shrank away completely. The undulating yellow-brown landscape was no more. It was replaced with vibrant green and dense forests.

She heard someone calling her name. She listened and heard it again. And then she heard it again. She heard wolf whining and felt her love for Jondalar and the wolf swell up inside of her. She felt herself moving – falling – towards the land.

When Jondalar reached the top of the scaffold he found Ayla laying on her back with her eyes rolled back in her head so only the whites showed. She was cold and stiff. Occasionally she would shake or shiver. He screamed for help. By the time others reached the top of the scaffold he was holding her and screaming her name in shear panic. There was little room on the scaffold and there was no way Zelandoni-Who-was-First could get her great bulk up onto it even if there had been room. Wolf was whimpering and whining with his front paws jumping from side-to-side in an extremely agitated state.

Ayla felt Jondalar's arms around her and tried to move hers to hold him, but they were stiff. She could not move them at first. Finally she was able to wrap her arms around him and whisper his name. "Ayla Ayla, my Ayla" he cried out. "I am here." She said, barely able to make herself heard, as she clutched him. The others wrapped her in furs to warm her as she shivered and tried to warm up. Someone passed up a cup of hot broth. She sat up with help and then drank the broth looking dazed. "What happened?" Jondalar asked. "Are you all right?"

She sat there in his arms for a while, assessing her situation, and finally replied, "I think I am fine now. I am starting to feel warmer, but I am tired." After a while when she seemed to be OK, they helped her down off the platform, helped her out of the cave, set up a traveling tent and settled her into her sleeping furs. Wolf curled up beside her and Jondalar crawled into the furs on the other side of her and she fell into a deep but comfortable sleep.

Later, Jondalar told Zelandoni how she had been when up on the scaffold and Ayla related what she had seen and the advancing and then retreating of the glacier ice cap.

2

The travelers trudged across the uncharted steppes. The undulating grasslands extended as far as the eye could see in all directions. The position of the sun in the sky gave them their bearings such as they were. Over the eons flowing water had eroded deep valleys into the limestone underpinning of the land. Coming to and crossing or following a valley did little to help the people find their way. They navigated by the sun and stars, not landmarks. There were six men and two women. All carried heavy back packs, tools and spears. As they crested a ridge they could see another valley in the distance but they also heard the low pitched humming sound. It was not loud, and it was nothing like they had ever heard before. At first the man who was walking somewhat ahead of the others thought it might be bees, but there was no place for a bee hive. It did not sound quite like a waterfall either.

They stopped and listened, looked at each other, and shrugged. They then turned to the more practical and immediate issue of how to best cross the valley. They could see that it had deep vertical cliffs in places along its length. They had to pick a place where they could descend into the valley with their heavy packs and not come down to the bottom and be where the river ran along a cliff. They also had to find a crossing of the river and had to get up the other side. Unfortunately they had come to the valley where there was a high vertical cliff on their side and they had to go upstream quite some distance before finding a sufficiently gentle slope down to the broad meadow beside the river.

It was not a serious obstacle. They were used to encountering such things as they traveled. When they got to the river, they sat down their loads and rested in the meadow beside the river and savored the relative shelter from the loess filled wind of the higher ground. They would have preferred to follow the valley to avoid the wind, but it went south and they were traveling east. They had been traveling south, but had turned east a few days before. They would have to cross the river, climb the opposite wall of the valley and brave the wind again on the high ground. It was mid afternoon, but they decided to make camp in the comfort of the valley. That would give them a chance to refresh, time to plan a river crossing and to find a good place to scale the other side of the valley. Two of them went upstream and two went downstream to assess the possibilities.

By the time the scouting parties returned, the others had camp set up and a meal ready. After the meal there was an animated discussion with pointing that finally lead to a resolution. They knew what they would do when they started out in the morning. The sound of the running water drowned out the humming sound they had heard before and for the time being they put it out of their minds.

The next morning they had their morning meal, broke camp and started out. They walked up river, to where the scouting party of the day before had found a reasonable place to ford, and crossed. They then walked a long ways down river to where the other scouting party thought they had seen a good place to climb out of the valley. Soon they were back on the wind swept grassy highland. About mid day they crested another ridge and became aware of the humming sound once more. It was now louder. They also saw three people in the distance. They watched and could see the three people were stalking some giant deer. They stopped and watched wondering if the hunters could get close enough to the deer to kill them before the deer spooked and ran off. The hunters were out in the open and in fairly short grass. The travelers were skilled hunters and knew the people they were watching had to get much closer to the animals before throwing their spears; and noticed with understanding, gained from experience of many thwarted hunts, when the deer looked up as though they saw the people. The potential for the hunter's success did not appear very good to the observers. Just as the deer were about to bound away, the people threw their spears. The travelers wondered why they would even try at such a distance, but two deer fell to the ground. The travelers gaped in shock. They walked toward the hunters.

Although the three hunters had also seen the travelers, they had two deer to deal with and proceeded to gut the animals. When the travelers were within shouting distance one of the travelers called out "Hoya" and waved his arms. The acknowledgement was returned. The traveler that had called out then said, "Are you Zelandonii?" "Yes" Replied one of the men, "Who are you and what brings you to our land?"

"We are Gaulladii and live far to the west and north of here," Replied the man who was acting as the spokesman of the travelers. He then continued. "My name is Perrion and I am leader of one of our five caves," as he held out both hands, open with palms up, in the universal gesture of friendly greeting. The hunter replied, "I am Rushemar of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii and I welcome you to our land." They grasped hands in friendly greeting and Perrion said, "We are here to see if we can establish a close working relationship with the Zelandonii. We know of you through our trading relationship with the people that live to the south of us on the shores of the Great Waters of the West. They trade with you and speak highly of your people."

"You have come at a good time," said Rushemar, "we are having our summer meeting so all the caves are together with their leaders and their Zelandonia. The three of us are a scouting party to try to find where we should have a major hunt and just happened across these deer. We are camped in the next valley and even from here you can hear the sound of all the people." "So that is the humming sound we heard," said Perrion, "we wondered what it could be. But I have another question. We watched you spear those deer and were astonished at how you were able to throw your spears so far. As far away as we were, we could see the animals were about to run, and you were not nearly close enough to hit them with your spears let alone actually kill them. But you did."

"It's the spear thrower," Rushemar replied as he held out the simple looking piece of wood about 18 inches long and an inch and a half wide. "It acts like a handle and with one you can throw a spear at least twice as far and with much greater force."

Perrion and his fellow travelers looked at the spear thrower, held it, turned it over and shook their heads. Finally Perrion said in disbelief, "this thing made your spear go that far? Where did you get it? Is there magic in it?"

Rushemar smiled and said, "No magic, just a lot of practice. I wondered if I would ever master it. A few years ago a couple of young men, brothers, made a long journey far to the east. They met up with a cave lion and the one brother was killed. The other got away but was badly hurt. The woman healer that treated him and brought him back to health happened to be incredibly skilled with the sling. The man spent an entire summer recovering and during that time he got the idea that he wished he could throw a spear like she could throw stones with her sling. He had the whole summer with little that he could do so he kept trying things until he came up with this. When he returned after five years away, he showed all of us how to make them and use them."

Perrion said, "It seems that the young man's bad luck was a boon to your people." Then Rushemar said, "Let us pack up what we can of these two deer and then we will lead you to our summer meeting camp and introduce you to our leaders. You will want to discuss your desire to establish closer relationships with them." The travelers where too laden to carry any of the deer so the three hunters carried all they could, leaving the rest. The scavengers would feast off it and the hunters would return soon and recover what they could such as certain bones and the antlers.

When they crested the last ridge and saw the camp, the travelers knew why they made so much noise. The entire valley seemed to be a teeming mass of people. Rushemar hailed the first cave leader he saw and introduced the travelers and briefly explained their purpose. Runners were sent out to inform the other cave leaders and Zelandonia and places were found for the travelers to set up their tents and hearths. When Joharran got the word he immediately told Provela to arrange for an evening meal for all the leaders, the visitors and whichever of the Zelandonia could make it. He then summoned the leaders for an afternoon meeting.

Joharran assumed the roll of Chairman of the meeting with the Gaulladii. He was leader of the largest and most influential Zelandonii cave, The Ninth, and was acknowledged as a fine leader. The leaders of the other caves just assumed he should chair the meeting. Nearly all the leaders were there as were some of the Zelandonia. Joharran opened the meeting by having everyone introduce themselves and during the introductions it became clear that leaders of four Gaulladii caves were in the group, three of the men and one woman. A man and a woman were spiritual leaders, the Gaulladia, and the other two were craftsmen and skilled hunters. After the introductions Joharran addressed the visitors saying, "Since you have come here, I think we should hear from you why you are here."

Perrion again spoke for the group, partly because he had the best grasp of the Zelandonii language, saying, "We have always known of the Zelandoni and have always known of you as the most advanced and important people of all. We have traded for many things that came from the Zelandonii, but indirectly by way of other people and in particular the people that live south of us and on the shore of the Great Waters of the West with which we understand you trade regularly. We hear from those people that you are a great people with renowned Zelandonia, good leaders and many crafts people. The goods we get in trade demonstrate the skill of your artisans. I am sure you have received some of what we traded to them although you might not be aware that it came from us. We have an excellent flint mine and trade flint among other things. That indirect trading relationship is working fine, but we would like to establish close cultural ties and have our artisans study under yours. When we came upon Rushemar and the other two hunters on our way here, we were treated to the most amazing demonstration of a new hunting weapon and skill in its use. We could benefit greatly from a closer relationship, although from that one demonstration I am not sure just what we have in exchange. Our Gaulladia would also like to study under your Zelandonia."

Joharran considered what he had just heard with mixed feelings of pride tempered with concerns as to how the working mechanics of such ties could be set up. He also wondered if there was any way that the Zelandonii could gain from any such arrangement. He decided to hear everyone's thoughts before making any decision. Hearing what everyone had to say was his modus operandi in most instances. He had learned that as people discussed an issue, they often reached consensus and all he had to do was keep the discussions on track and then summarize it and put in some kind of order. That was one of the things that made him a good leader. He asked, directing the question to the other Zelandonii leaders, "Does anyone have any thoughts on what Perrion has proposed?" and before anyone could answer his question he added, "I don't think we should consider anything said at this time as a commitment on anyone's part. We should bring up points to consider."

The discussions continued throughout the afternoon during which the skills and resources of both the Gaulladii and the Zelandonii became better understood by all, and it became better understood where there were areas of mutual interest and value. Finally Joharran said, "This has been a long and productive meeting, but it is now time for a meal." Provela had performed with her usual efficiency in arranging a meal for those in the meeting and all kinds of food and drink was set out for them.

The next morning, there were questions about the spiritual leaders of the Zelandonii and it was explained how each cave had a full Zelandoni and most had acolytes or an assistant Zelandoni` working and training under them. They also explained that to keep consistency and harmony, there was a Zelandoni-Who-is-First and that the person in that role was selected from among, and by, the Zelandoni of the individual caves. They explained that the present Zelandoni-Who-is-First had held the position for many years and was also the Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave. Joharran explained, "The Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave, who is also Zelandoni-Who-is-First is away for a few days or she would be in this meeting. We expect her to return any time. The Zelandoni of the 14th Cave and the assistant Zelandoni of the 19th Cave are with her." The Zelandoni of the Third Cave explained that they had recently created the position of Zelandoni-at-Large because a woman of exceptional ability and a long track record of helping other peoples identify and resolve their problems had settled in the Ninth Cave. He told how a couple of years before a contingent of pilgrims from all the peoples she had helped had come to pay homage to her and that some had traveled a year to get here. He explained how they only turn to her when situations call for drastic intervention in their affairs. He also told how they all believe she has been sent to the land of the Zelandoni by the Great Earth Mother, but it is not yet clear just why. The visitors envisioned an old, critical, judgmental, and awe inspiring personality that exuded power before which people trembled. They were not to sure they wanted to meet such an important and powerful person with such intimate connections to the Spirit World.

Joharran told how the leaders were chosen. The process was much like how the Gaulladii chose theirs. One of the issues that Perrion brought up was how to deal with the flatheads. He suggested, "I think that all the people in the region should agree on how to deal with them. I don't think it would be a good thing if one group, say us, were to try to be friendly with them and trade with them and help each other through hard times while another group was harassing them and trying to chase them out of the land." "I can not agree more." Joharran said. "In fact, we have recently had a situation where a group came asking for help and our best healer went to their cave and set some broken bones in one of their hunters. We also gave them some food since the loss of the hunter made it hard for them to get enough food."

Perrion thought for a while and had a side discussion with a couple of his people and then said, "How did they approach you and how did you know what they needed?" Joharran replied, "We have three people that know their language and two of them are very proficient. When we saw the Flatheads standing at the base of the cliff in which we live, we sent one of those people down to find out. She also knows their culture and cultural etiquette. They were a bit dazzled, but it all worked out. We have not heard from them since, but I think we started to establish a positive working relationship. It would not be good for us if others were to harass them."

Perrion was agape. It took a long time for him to get his thoughts together, but when he did he said, "When I mentioned trading and helping, I was thinking of just putting things out where they could find them, pick them up what they wanted and leave in trade what they thought they could or should. I had not considered anything like talking to them. I didn't know they could talk." Joharran was hardly able to keep from gloating, but he did, saying, "Their language is mostly hand signs, body posture and facial expression, but it is as rich with meaning as our verbal languages. Their spiritual beliefs and rituals are equally advanced. Their hunting methods are rather primitive though. We think we should be helping them."

Perrion shook his head, and after a time said, "I have to think about what you have said. You are not toying with me are you?" "I am very serious and everything I said is true." Joharran replied. The other Zelandonii in the meeting nodded affirmation.

It was noon and the meeting broke up for another of Provela's organized meals. As the visitors were setting around after the meal and generally watching the people go about their various activities, Perrion noticed what he thought to be the most beautiful woman he had ever seen walking through the camp. She had two small children, a toddler and a somewhat older girl, tagging along with her and he noticed that they too were exceptionally beautiful. She was out of character to his way of thinking since most beautiful women decorated their faces and clothing to accentuate their beauty, or at least bring attention to it, but she was dressed in simple elegance. Her clothing was perfectly tailored, of the highest quality and immaculately clean. With the exception of some short and not particularly seductive fringe, her clothing was unadorned. His experience was that most beautiful women had little talent or depth as they could get by quite nicely on their good looks. He noted that this woman stopped and talked to several people and was always gracious when someone called to her and decided she might not be a total ditz. He looked at a couple of his traveling companions and noticed that they had seen her and were appraising her also. He thought, "These Zelandonii even have beautiful women to watch." A young boy ran up to her and said something excitedly and she ran off with him. He noticed that she moved with grace and confidence.

A hunt had been planned and Joharran invited the travelers to join. Three of them did. The three Gaulladii joined the other hunters that waited on the walls of the narrow canyon near the surround in the bottom of the canyon and downwind of the animals. Being downwind would make the animals less aware of them when the animals got close. The others went around and upwind of the heard of the aurochs to stampede them into the narrow canyon and surround. They wanted the animals to know they were there so the animals would move away from them and towards the other hunters that were laying in wait.

The Gaulladii men were surprised to see a man actually riding a horse and using the horse to help keep the aurochs heading into the canyon. They also noticed a wolf that appeared to be purposely helping drive the animals into the canyon. Perrion shut his eyes and shook his head to clear his eyes and mind and looked again. He had not imagined it, there actually was a man on horseback and a wolf and they were actually herding the animals. He watched as one animal broke from the herd and ran through a gap between the hunters that were stampeding them. The man on the horse threw his spear half way across the herd from the back of the horse while at a full gallop and the animal dropped. When the gate of the surround was closed and the hunters began systematically dispatching the animals, Perrion stood gaping; he was too stunned to move. He was totally astonished at what he had just seen. People hunt horses; they do not ride them and use them to help them hunt.

Later, when the hunters along with others that had arrived from the summer camp were butchering the animals, Perrion found Joharran and said, "I don't quite know how to put this, but did I actually see a man riding a horse helping to stampede the aurochs?" "Yes you did," replied Joharran. His mate usually helps with her horse too. She is as good with the spear thrower and riding the horse as he. She is a highly proficient hunter. She is as good as any of the men. She was busy and could not join us in this hunt, but she always does when she can. Let me introduce you." Joharran called to Jondalar and when Jondalar came over to him, he introduced Perrion to him, briefly explained to Jondalar whom Perrion was, when and why he had arrived, and said, "Jondalar is the man that you saw on the horse."

Perrion looked at Jondalar. Jondalar appeared quite normal. He was quite tall, very well built, well dressed and handsome, but did not appear or act like a magician. All he could say was "how do you do it?" Jondalar sensed the man's shock and knew from previous experiences how supernatural his apparent control of the horse seemed to people the first time they were exposed to it. He explained to Perrion, "Several years ago I made a long journey far to the east where I was mauled by a cave lion. The woman who healed me had a horse that she rode like you saw me doing. The first thing I saw when I awoke from the cave lion mauling, while I was completely incapacitated, was her horse giving birth and the woman was actually being a midwife for the horse. That colt is the horse you saw me riding today. When you get them young and raise them like your own family, they bond to you and want to please you much like you want to please your mother."

Perrion shook his head not knowing what to say. Then something Rushemar had told him clicked in his mind and he said, "You must be the man that showed the hunters the spear thrower." "Yes," Jondalar responded, "that's me." Perrion then said, "You are a very special person." "Yes he is," Joharran agreed, "He is one of the treasures of the Ninth Cave."

For the time being the wolf was not on Perrion's mind. The wolf was out of sight and Perrion was sufficiently overwhelmed with other issues. Wolf was doing what comes naturally to wolves, and that was going after the smaller opportunists that were trying to snatch pieces of the kill. As familiar as the people of the Ninth Cave had become with the wolf they still thought that everything he did was because Ayla had trained him to do it or that she has some kind of supernatural control of him. It was hard to believe that so much of what he did was what a wolf would normally do. He was quite effective at chasing away the weasels, stoats, field mice and even the birds, such a kites, hawks and vultures that were trying to grab bits of the dead animals. He thinned the ranks of the smaller mammals somewhat, but even though those that he only chased away came back, the time before they returned saved some of the meat. He would not have daunted a cave lion, but none showed up. He made a pair of wolverines hesitate before advancing on one of the aurochs, but they decided to move in anyway and each had taken a big chunk of meat before the hunters could get there. Another time he held off a group of hyenas for a while. They backed off, circled around and regrouped to brave him again, but he had delayed them long enough that some hunters were able to get to the scene and dispatch the hyenas. Perrion saw none of that.

The day after the hunt, the Gaulladii visitors were again meeting with the Zelandonii leaders and this time Zelandoni-Who-was-First was in attendance. She explained to everyone that she had not been available sooner because she, the Zelandoni of the 14th and the assistant Zelandoni of the 19th had accompanied her to the sacred cave near the 19th Cave and where the Zelandoni-at-Large had received a profound vision from the spirits. She also explained that they, the Zelandonia, would have to meditate on the message. Perrion was incredibly impressed by Zelandoni-Who-was-First. He was impressed partly because he was expecting to be, but she exuded power and authority. Her shear size was part of it, but her bearing, facial expression, clothing, tattoos, manner of speaking and the obvious wisdom of everything she said made her a daunting presence. She deliberately cultivated her act as did most of the Zelandonia; but she was the master of the art. The fact that the Zelandonia had just received some kind of information from the spirit world had a tremendous impact as well.

When there was a pause in the activities and Perrion had some time to collect his thoughts, he wondered what the Zelandoni-at-Large would be like. He imagined her to be like the Zelandoni-Who-was-First but even more so; and the image made him shudder. He was not too sure he wanted to meet her. The two Gaulladia in the group were having similar thoughts. They could visualize her calling on the spirits to strike them down with lightening bolts if she did not like something they said or did. They had come thinking they might arrange to further their training by studying under the renowned Zelandonia, but they were starting to have second thoughts. It might be too scary.

Later Perrion and Joharran were discussing the mechanics of trade and other issues including the distances between the peoples and the best traveling routes between them. There was a lot of distance between them and neither knew much about the territory that they would have to travel through. One issue was how it could be surveyed and a good travel route identified. Joharran noticed Jondalar talking to someone nearby and called him over. He explained the dilemma and asked if he and Ayla might make an expedition through the area with the horses and see what they could find out. Jondalar said he thought they could and would discuss it with her. Perrion, hearing that Jondalar's mate would be helping, said, "I understand, Jondalar, that your mate is a good hunter and can ride a horse as well as you can." "That is true," Jondalar said, just as he noticed Ayla walking through the camp area, and added, "Let me introduce you to her." Jondalar then called out to Ayla and she came over to them.

Jondalar said "Ayla, Please meet Perrion Cave Leader of the Gaulladii and their ambassador to the Zelandonii." She clasped both his hands and Jondalar continued, "Perrion I would like you to meet my mate, Ayla, of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, mother of Jonayla and Crebilon, formerly Mamutoi, Member of the Lion Camp, Daughter of the Mammoth Hearth, Chosen by the Spirit of the Cave Lion and Protected by the Cave Bear." "Greetings and welcome to the land of the Zelandonii Perrion, Cave Leader of the Gaulladii and their ambassador to the Zelandonii," Ayla said and gave him one of her unbelievably stunning smiles. "Thank you for the greeting, Ayla of the Zelandonii," he sputtered totally unable to remember any of her other ties.

"Is something wrong?" Jondalar asked, "You look like you have seen a ghost." Perrion gathered his composure and said, "I am terribly sorry for being so rude, but Ayla, you simply do not fit my preconceived image." Ayla, chuckled a little and asked, "And just what am I supposed to be?" "Please do not misunderstand me, and please do not take offense as none is intended, but I hear that you ride a horse, that you can use the spear thrower better than any man, and are a prolific hunter. I have never imagined such a beautiful woman having such skill." He replied. "Now you embarrass me, she said, looking demure. I do ride the horse and hunt with the spear thrower, but I don't think I am better than the men. I know I can't throw as far as Jondalar and it is nice that you think I am attractive." Jondalar then added, "It is true that she can not throw quite as far as I can, but within her range she is more accurate than I am."

Perrion said, "Jondalar, you put on quite an exhibition during the hunt when you threw the spear half way across the heard from horseback at a full gallop and killed the aurochs that was escaping." Jondalar replied, I was actually quite close and Ayla could have done that." Perrion then said, "It is a pleasure meeting you and I must re-evaluate my stereotype of beautiful women."

Perrion then turned to Jondalar and said, "I understand you traveled far to the east and was attacked by a cave lion." "That is true," Jondalar replied, "And I almost died." Perrion continued, "Joharran said you were all summer recovering and that is when you developed the spear thrower. You must have met a good healer; you have no limp or other sign of such an accident. Were you hurt badly?" "I certainly met a good healer," Jondalar said and took down his trousers to show the horrible scar that he still had on his thigh and groin. Perrion blanched. He had never seen such damage on a living person.

It took a while for Perrion to regain his composure and to formulate his thoughts, and when he did he said, "You were very lucky to have been near an advanced people like the Zelandonii who could help you." "Yes I was lucky to be near someone who had the skills and resources to help me, but it was not an advanced group like the Zelandonii. Ayla was 17 years old and had been living alone in a small cave in a fertile valley for three years and had seen no other person that entire time until she got me away from that cave lion." Jondalar explained.

Perrion slowly turned towards Ayla, and asked in the tone of a statement, "You are that healer?" She nodded affirmatively. "You are the one with the horse that he saw giving birth when he awoke from the cave lion mauling?" She nodded affirmatively. "You are the one that is so good with the sling?" She nodded affirmatively. He turned back to Jondalar and said, "Jondalar, do you have any idea as to what a remarkable woman you have here?" "Yes I do," Jondalar replied, "But I don't think she does." They both looked at Ayla and she was looking demure and blushing.

The decision was made that the Gaulladii visitors would stay through the summer meeting and return to the Ninth Cave at the end of the summer meeting. That would let them see where the Zelandonii lived and would allow Ayla and Jondalar the use the horses to help bring the bounty of the summer's hunting and gathering back to their permanent homes. Then, Jondalar and Ayla would travel back with the travelers to their home. The horses would allow for side trips to scout the best routes. In that way, Jondalar and Ayla would know where the Gaulladii lived. They would tell Willamar how to find the place if and when he should he decide to go there on a trading mission, which would probably be likely.

Not long after, but while still at the summer meeting, Zelandoni-Who-was-First suggested that the two Gaulladii meet Zelandoni-at-Large. They asked if Perrion could be part of the meeting and Zelandoni-Who-was-First readily agreed. She sensed their reluctance and did not understand it. When she asked about it, they told her how incredibly impressed they were of her, and judging from what they had heard the Zelandoni-at-Large must be even more awesome and possibly terrifying. She had to smile and assured them that they had nothing to fear, but that Zelandoni-at-Large was going to tell the Zelandonia about her revelations one more time and it might have significance for them so they should hear it too.

As the spiritual leaders were assembling in the large Zelandoni summer lodge, Perrion was rather surprised that Ayla was there at a meeting of the Zelandoni. She was exceptionally talented so there might be a reason, like his being there. He was a little confused in that he knew he would be seeing, if not actually meeting, the famed Zelandoni-at-Large and he recognized everyone in the meeting. He thought that maybe the Zelandoni-at-Large would be making a grand entrance or simply "appear" from nowhere.

Zelandoni-Who-was-First called the meeting to order, and once everyone had settled down she lead them through several issues that needed to be dealt with. Finally she said, "As you all know, Zelandoni-at-Large had a very strong vision while we were visiting the sacred cave in which Jonokol has been communicating with the animal spirits." She then looked at Ayla, and said, "Zelandoni-at-Large, would you describe your vision so we can all hear it directly from you?" Ayla stepped forward. Perrion's jaw dropped. He had never dreamed that the beautiful, demure and unassuming, though incredibly talented, Ayla would also be the awesome, revered and powerful Zelandoni-at-Large.

Ayla explained how she had been feeling an urge to visit the cave for several moons and how the feeling had seemed to be more than just normal curiosity. She told how she sensed that it might be the spirit world calling to her, but sensed no urgency. She continued to say how Jonokol had been attracted to a particular place on the ceiling of the cave and had even built a scaffold to get to it; and when he would climb up close to the place the feeling got stronger, but never coalesced into a sense of what he should do. She went on to tell how she also felt the pull once she was in the cave. Even though she had never known a verbal language until she met Jondalar, she had since become quite good at relating her experiences and the people were caught up in and hanging onto every word of her story. Knowing that she had received word from the spirit world built anticipation.

She went on to explain how she had climbed the scaffold and felt the force strengthen and how she was transported into the sky above the cave when she touched the bulging rock from where the force seemed to be emanating. She described how she kept going farther and farther up into the sky and how it was somewhat like a searching. She then told how the great ice of the north advanced towards the land of the Zelandonii and then retreating before reaching it. There was an audible collective sigh of relief. She continued by explaining that the ice then retreated, but retreated completely out of sight and the land become covered with a dense forest of trees. She ended by saying how she heard Jondalar calling to her and how that made her come back and how cold and stiff she was when she awoke in his arms up on the scaffold.

Zelandoni-Who-was-First took back control of the meeting by saying, "We must all meditate on what Ayla has told us. She told me that she had the sense that the changes she saw will not happen in many lifetimes, but that it will drastically change how our descendents will live and we should be preparing for that." Then remembering what Creb's spirit had told her when she had sensed his presence the last time she had visited the spirit world, she added, "I am not sure what we must do to prepare, but it could involve our beliefs and customs." She wanted to plant the seeds of that thought, but did not want to press the issue, at least not yet. They all needed time to digest what they had heard.

The two Gaulladi were as shaken as any of the Zelandonia, and Perrion was simply in awe of the whole episode with no idea as to what it could mean and no intention of trying to figure it out. He just knew he had witnessed something deeply profound.

3

The eight Gaulladi people stayed until the end of the summer meeting during which time they learned more about the Zelandonii and traded what they could of the trade goods they had brought for things that would be of value to them. They then accompanied the people of the Ninth Cave back to the Ninth Cave. It had been decided that any trade or other cultural contact should be with the Ninth Cave since it was the largest and most influential group of the Zelandonii. A travel route between the Ninth Cave and the Gaulladii had to be established and both the Gaulladii and the Zelandonii should know it. Seeing the Ninth Cave helped the Gaulladii understand the Zelandonii better.

It was a large group that set out from the Ninth Cave on their first ever mission to the land of the Gaulladii. There were the eight Gaulladii people who were returning home, Jondalar on his stallion Racer, Ayla on her mare Whinney, seven year old Jonayla on her mare Gray, four year old Crebilon riding with his mother Ayla, Willamar the Ninth Cave's trademaster and Wolf. Crebilon now had his own horse, but Ayla did not feel he should be riding it yet on an actual journey. The horses were heavily laden with supplies and trade goods.

The Zelandonii knew the land for quite a distance from the Ninth Cave and explained the landmarks to the Gaulladii as they went. The Gaulladii would know and recognize landmarks once they neared their home, but there was at least a moon's travel through territory unknown to either. As they trekked through the uncharted land Ayla and Jondalar often unloaded the horses and explored in various directions finding the best travel route.

When the Gaulladii had originally stumbled onto the summer meeting of the Zelandonii they had been luckier than they had any right to have been since they had turned east from their southerly path too soon and would have missed the land of the Zelandonii completely had the Zelandonii not been having their summer meeting at that particular location and at that time. Such were the harsh realities of that ancient land. It had been a brave undertaking on their part and it could well have been a failure.

The horses again proved their worth. By riding the horses Ayla and Jondalar could investigate a wide territory in a very short time and often found better routes on their forays. Sometimes they would discover the river they had been following would veer to the east a short distance ahead, but by going west across the high ground from where they were camped, they could reach another river valley that led more to the northwest. Jondalar and Willamar made a primitive map of the route on flat pieces of shoulder bones from large animals by scratching markings indicating landmarks. When they would pass by parched white bones of some animal that had died long ago they would see if they could find the shoulder from the remains for that purpose. The older the bones the lighter the maps were to carry.

One time when Jondalar and Ayla were scouting ahead, the walls of the valley they were following grew quite steep on both sides. As they continued, the walls did not have the usual pattern of steep vertical cliffs interspaced between longer gently sloping sides to the valley, but continued to be steep and the canyon gradually narrowed. Eventually they came to a waterfall. The steep walled canyon was a blind canyon ending at the waterfall. It was a beautiful waterfall with crystal clear water in the pool at its bottom. They bathed, swam, had their mid-day meal and generally enjoyed the place. It reminded them of when they were traveling to Jondalar's home and were free to stop and enjoy whatever Mother Nature had to offer whenever they felt like it. But, if the heavily laden travelers would have followed the valley, they would have had to lug their loads for a full day just to return to a place where they could have climbed out of the valley.

They had been traveling through the uncharted territory for about half a moon time and were walking up river through a rather wide valley through a region where there was fairly dense brush on both sides of an open area that varied in width. They were traveling through the open area. Ayla and Jondalar were walking ahead of their horses and somewhat ahead of the rest of the group. Jonayla was riding Gray and Crebilon was riding on Ayla's horse, Whinney. About a half an afternoon's travel ahead, could be seen some fairly high ground although it could not be considered a mountain. As they walked, they had to pass through where the brush crowded the open area to the point that they could walk no more than two abreast; although they were not aligned in actual pairs. Just as the last stragglers entered the constriction, nine clan men stood up and stepped out of the brush surrounding the travelers with their heavy fire hardened pointed wooden spears pointed directly and menacingly at the travelers. Jondalar immediately held up his hand signaling everyone to stop and shouted out to them, "Don't anyone move". He probably didn't have to say anything as they were all too petrified to move anyway.

Jondalar had once, many years before, been in a similar situation shortly after he and his brother had come off the glacier on their journey to the east. He hoped these clan men would act the same now as those had; which would be to wait and see what the travelers would do. The clan men where powerfully built and looked ugly. The clan men were not hot headed or rash and had no interest in fighting, but that was not obvious to the travelers.

It was not a stand-off. They were trapped, pure and simple. If anyone were to reach for a weapon, they would have one of the heavy sharp fire hardened pointed clan spears passing through them before they could even get a hold of their spear. Both Jondalar and Ayla, but only Ayla and Jondalar, realized the clan would not kill them unless provoked. If the clan people had any such intentions the modern humans would already be dead.

They all studied each other for a while. Finally Jondalar asked, "Ayla, can you tell which one it the leader?" "The one just behind you," She answered. She then said, "I think I should go talk to him. A woman will not be threatening." Jondalar could think of no better plan. Actually he had no plan whatsoever, so he said nothing. She slipped off her quiver of spears. Clan women did not hunt and she knew that to be carrying hunting weapons would disturb the clan leader. She held out her hands to show that she was hiding nothing and slowly walked up to the clan leader and knelt at his feet in the proper position of any clan woman requesting to talk to any clan man. He was stunned that a woman of the others knew proper manners. He then wondered how they would communicate if he did acknowledge her. He hesitated as he pondered these things and as the time passed he became ever more curious. He did not like acting on curiosity as he knew it could get one in trouble, but he was becoming terribly curious.

The Gaulladii people were staring agape, frozen in their tracks, wondering what she was doing.

Finally he tapped her on the shoulder while wondering if she would know what it meant. Alya stood and signed, with the ancient language that all clan knew, "We were passing through and did not know you were here. Did we encroach on your territory?" That answered some of his questions. She did know what the tap on the shoulder meant and they could communicate. He also knew that the travelers had not come with the intention of doing mischief. She had stated her position well and he knew she was at a disadvantage being surrounded with menacing spears as they were. He had intended to disorient them quickly so they could not arm themselves and fight, but she was cool headed. He had a flicker of admiration that surprised him. Had it been a man he would have understood admiring his poise, but not towards a woman. They studied each other for some time.

Finally he decided that she had made the first move and was waiting for his. He then realized he did know what his next step should be. He did not have a plan, and if he had had one, whatever it might have been it would not work now. He finally blurted out "Why are you here?" She responded, "Some of us live far to the south and some of us live far to the north. We are traveling to the home of those that live to the north. We are passing through and do not mean to intrude on your territory or to do you any harm. We would be willing to help with a hunt as appreciation for safe passage." He looked at her and wondered. "How could a woman be so astute? How can she know what I am thinking? How did she learn to talk and where did she learn our customs?"

Another clan man came over to them and she realized that he was the Mog-Ur, their spiritual leader. He and the leader had a brief discussion. The leader said to the Mog-Ur, "She talks like you except I can understand what she means." The two men had known each other from childhood and the leader knew the Mog-Ur as a person as well as the one who interceded with the spirits for them and, having relaxed a bit, chided the Mog-Ur for often being cryptic as all spiritual leaders tend to be. The clan leader thought that the Mog-Ur, and sometimes accused the Mog-Ur of doing, often spoke with a cloud on his hands so that if things went wrong he could claim that what he said had been misinterpreted. The Mog-Ur had never let on that the leader was right.

The clan leader pondered his thoughts for a while longer and then turned to Ayla and asked, "Why are there horses with you?" She answered, "They help us by carrying heavy loads and we sometime ride them." "I can see that, but why do they do it?" He said. She responded, "When you get then very young and raise them like your child, they relate to you like another person and do things for you because they want to like you do things for each other. It is like when you raise a cave bear for your ceremony at your seven-year Clan Gathering. He goes wild again when he gets old, but herding animals like the horses or pack animals like the wolf think of you as their herd or pack and stay with you. With the horses and wolf it is not magic, just motherly love and care." Both the leader and the Mog-Ur reeled in shock. How could she know about their seven-year gatherings and their sacred cave bear ceremony? The Mog-Ur also caught that she had not included their relationship with the cave bear in her comment about it not being magic. She intrigued him. There was more to this woman than what there should be.

The clan leader decided to ask her more about the questions swirling around in his mind, and signed, "How do you know our language?" The Mog-Ur stayed, apparently as curious as the leader. She answered, explaining "When I was a little girl, I think only five years, an earthquake took my people and I wandered alone and hungry for several days during which a cave lioness clawed me. I was curled up in a small cave so she could only reach my leg. The same earthquake had destroyed the cave of a clan and as they were traveling to find a new home they came across me. The leader left me for dead, but the medicine woman saw I was alive and asked the leader if she could bring me with them. The leader did not forbid it, so she did. She worked her medicine magic and in a few days I was well and walking. She raised me as her own and eventually taught me much of the medicine magic. When she died, the leader made me their medicine woman." She then took the leather bag that was hanging from a cord around her neck, opened it and poured the contents into her hand. She picked out a piece of black manganese oxide and held it for them to see. Both clan men stepped back in shock with jaws agape. The piece of black manganese oxide was held by a clan's medicine woman and in it is a part the spirit of every member of the clan. She was authentic. She was telling the truth. He had detected no falsehood as she had told it and he was quite sure he would have had she lied as their language of hand signs and body positions reveal it when one lies. Ayla could not lie. She had never learned how, nor did she understand why one would. It was then that both men noticed the otter skin medicine bag hanging from her belt. They knew then that what she said was true, but how could it be.

The clan leader pressed her farther by asking, "How do you know of the Cave Bear Ceremony?" She answered, "When the clan that raised me went to the Gathering, I was already their Medicine Woman. One of the hunters that sent the cave bear to the spirit world was killed and another badly injured. I treated the injured man."

This was not going anything like what the clan leader had expected, although it seemed to be going rather well. The two groups were not killing each other as he expected would happen and which he had dreaded. They had seen the travelers when still a long way off from the vantage point of their cave located fairly high on the side of the hill leading to the high ground that the travelers had noticed earlier. They feared that the travelers might be the "others", as they called the modern humans, and that they might be coming to displace them from their home. The leader had decided to meet them at a location and under circumstances that gave the Clan the advantage. He was starting to think that might not have been necessary, and he sincerely hoped so.

Ayla spoke next saying, "If I tell my people to put their weapons on the ground will you tell your people what we are doing. I do not want you to think we are preparing to attack you." He thought about what she had said and realized that his hunters would likely think the "others" were getting their weapons to attack if they moved. "She is clever", he thought to himself. "If she were a man, she would make a good leader".

He nodded to her, called out something to get his hunter's attention and then signed to them. Ayla then called out to her group, "Hey everybody, put your weapons on the ground so they can see we intend them no harm. Try to do it so they can see you are not trying to use the weapons." When all the weapons were on the ground, the clan men moved their spears to non-threatening positions and everyone on both sides visibly relaxed.

Ayla turned back to the clan leader and signed, "The tall blonde man is leading us as we travel, but is not a cave leader. He is also my mate. He knows some of your language, so if you must talk to a man, he can probably understand. Otherwise, it will be best for me to translate. We talk with mouth sounds so we will seem noisy to you." She saw that he was thinking about what she had said, and then added, "I should get instructions from our leader."

She turned and asked Jondalar, "Any ideas as to what to do next?" Jonadalar said, "You are doing fine, but you should probably make it look like it is my idea. What do you think?" "Let's ask them to join us in a meal. We just killed two bison and still have a lot of meat. We can always get another." She suggested. "Good idea. Go for it." Jondalar said.

She turned to the Clan Leader and signed, "Will you join us for a meal. We killed two bison yesterday and have lots to share." The clan leader looked at her and then at the tall blonde man. He had just trapped them in an ambush and could have killed them, and now they were willing to share their food. He wondered what he would have done had the situation been reversed and realized he would not have handled it as well. These "others" seemed sincere. They did not seem to be scheming. He looked at her and signed, "We did not come prepared to eat. We brought no fire or eating knives."

Jondalar had been watching and understood enough of the clan sign language to get the drift and walked up to the clan leader and signed, "We have fire and I brought knives to trade. You can use them, but I will need them back." A plan was formulating in Jondalar's mind, but he did not want to blurt it our just yet. He first wanted to see how they reacted to his knives, and he still had to put some finishing touches on his plan.

The clan leader thought for a while and then signed. "We will eat." He then signed to the rest of his group and they all walked over to an area he pointed out and proceeded to prepare a campfire. Jondalar called to Willamar and said, "Willamar help me set up a campfire. We are going to share that bison meat with the clan men." Most of the group heard him and got the idea of what was happening. Some even started to help gathering fire materials. Ayla and Jondalar crouched down to start the campfire but were careful to keep their backs to the clan people. They both realized that the clan people were probably quite nervous with everything that had happened, especially about the animals, and did not need the shock of seeing them start a fire with the firestones. It was just as well if they thought that Jondalar had carried a hot coal packed in grass in the hollow of an aurochs' horn as they would do. When they had a good fire going, Jondalar carried a burning torch over to where the clan people had prepared a campfire. The clan leader took the torch and while the Mog-Ur made ritualistic gestures, he lit the fire.

While the fires were being prepared, lit and were becoming well established, Perrion took it upon himself to get out the bison meat and portion out what he thought the clam men would eat. He called to Jondalar asking, "What is the protocol for giving it to them?" Jondalar turned to Ayla who said, "Just take it over to their fire and lay it on the ground, turn around and come back."

Jondalar went to a pack basket on his horse and took out a leather bundle. He took the bundle to where Perrion had placed the meat and opened it. It contained the knives he had mentioned before and he spread out the leather and arranged the knives to display them. They were eating knives with antler handles. The clan leader explained to his men that they could use the knives to eat with, but that they had to return them. Jondalar watched with interest as the clan men looked at the knives, picked them up and studied them closely. They were obviously impressed and a bit confused. They did not know how to use knives with handles. Jondalar picked up a knife and went through exaggerated motions of eating with it to show them how to use them. Most got the picture and they showed the others so by the time their meat had cooked they could use the knives; and by the time the meal was over, they were quite adept. It was obvious that some could see the advantage of the hafted knife. Others were not so sure. The clan men ate only the meat. Jondalar's group of travelers rounded out their meal with various grains and vegetables, many of which they had gathered as they traveled.

After the meal when everyone was sitting around relaxing, Jondalar approached the clan leader, slapped himself on the chest and said "Gonn" while signing, "My name is." He knew the man could never grasp his real multi-syllable name. The man repeated the gesture saying "Drigg." Jondalar then signed, "I do not speak well so can I have Ayla interpret?" Drigg agreed and Jondalar motioned Ayla to join them.

Jondalar started to lay out his plan by telling Drigg through Ayla that they had seen a small herd of bison a short distance back. Jondalar was actually quite good with the clan language, but wanted Ayla interpreting since she would keep him from making some cultural or linguistic error that could unwittingly antagonize the clan leader. He continued, "We would like to help you hunt them and in turn you let us pass through your territory. We think you will be impressed by the hunt so we want to ask something else. We want it to be of equal value so we will not be in your debt and will you not be in ours." Drigg responded with, "What could that be?" Jondalar continued, "We need some furs, and those bison would be perfect but since we are traveling we cannot take the time to treat the hides. If we helped you hunt the bison and give you the ones we kill except for the hides, would you treat the hides into furs for us. We will pick them up in two moons when we pass through here on our return trip." The clan leader thought about it. He was not used to trading, but extra meat was always good to get, and each animal would have many other parts of value. His men would not have to kill the animals. He called his group together and they discussed Jondalar's proposition.

While the clan was discussing Jondalar's proposition, Ayla said the Jondalar, "I think your idea was brilliant, but I also know that they have no idea of how many hides they will be processing. I think we should think of some way to make it clear."

Eventually, Drigg came to Jondalar and signed, "We will." Jondalar replied, "Let's go to where the bison are and plan the hunt." It was early afternoon when they came to some high ground overlooking the valley where the bison were peacefully grazing. When Jondalar's group had taken out two the day before, the bison had stampeded; but had since calmed and resumed their grazing.

Jondalar thought about how the clan hunted and decided on a plan. He turned to Drigg and signed, "If we go upwind they will smell us and we can chase then that way." He pointed to where the valley narrowed somewhat and where there was some brush and large rocks that the clan people could hide behind. "Your men could be in the brush and kill the animals as they came through." Drigg immediately saw the possibilities. All his men would be killing. Usually over half did the chasing and only a few animals were killed in a hunt. He turned to Jondalar and said, "But how will your people kill any?" Jondalar signed, "You will see."

Jondalar then said, "Drigg, how many do you think you will kill?" The number thing was difficult even for Mog-urs and Drigg did not know how to answer. Ayla came to the rescue signing, "Draw a bison in the sand here for each one you think you can kill." That registered and Drigg picked up a stick and drew four bison." Then Jondalar took the stick and drew six bison, looked at Drigg and signed, "If we kill this many can you still treat the hides for us. You will have the rest of each animal." Drigg was way out of his depth. He had never imagined so many dead animals in his whole life. They usually only came home with one or two and more often none whenever they hunted. The situation was complicated because the clan women butchered the animals and did most of the processing of the hides and he had never considered how much work it was for them. It just always got done. But he was not leader without reason. He knew the women had to work hard normally and this would be extra work. But he also knew there would be a great amount of food. Still, the extra work would fall on the women. The extra food would take pressure off the men. And he was leader of all his people. He had to think of everything.

Ayla was first to realize his dilemma. In fact being a woman and having been raised by the clan, she probably realized the problem before Drigg became consciously aware of it. She signed, "The meat can be buried in pits dug into where the ground is frozen right out here. It will freeze and keep until you need it. The women will not have to process the animals until needed." He looked at her and then traded glances with his Mog-ur. A chill went up both their backs as they realized at about the same time that these others are very very clever, even their women, and the thought "we should not have them as enemies".

Drigg then erased three of Jondalar's bison. Jondalar said to Ayla, "I think he can only process three hides." "I think you are right," she said. Willamar had been watching and said, "We could up the anti." "Spoken like a true trade master," replied Jondalar. "What do you propose?" "Well," Willamar said, "we could help bury the animals for them so the meat will freeze for later and give them one of your knives for each additional hide they process." Jondalar then re-drew the three bison that Drigg and erased, drew a hole next to each with arrows indicating the animal would go into the hole, turned again to Drigg and signed, "Could you process all of them if we took the hides off and buried the animals for you and gave you a knife for each of these?" as he drew a knife beside each of the three bison drawings that he had just made.

Drigg had the feeling that he was missing something. It sounded like he was getting six bison and three knives for free and that he was even getting help killing the animals his men would kill. There had to be a catch. He had a long discussion with the Mog-Ur and then talked it over with all the men. He knew that some of the men had no feelings about how hard the women worked, but others were quite sympathetic towards their mates. He needed all their opinions. He was the leader of all the people, not just the men and he took his responsibilities seriously. He must not agree to what they could not do.

Finally he turned and signed, "We agree." Jondalar explained the plan to the rest of the travelers and Drigg sent a runner back to get the clan women who would be butchering the animals that they did not bury. They all then turned their attention back to the bison. Jondalar, Willamar, Perrion and one of Perrion's men held a hunting strategy meeting. They decided that Jondalar and Ayla with their horses would be the primary ones for starting the bison stampeding. Two others would help them on foot. The rest of Perrion's group would position themselves along the sides and keep the animals going in the direction of the clam hunters. As the last of the bison passed, these hunters would spear any they could but would let the bulk of the heard pass for the clan hunters to get.

It seemed like a good plan and Jondalar, with Alya's help, explained it to Drigg. Drigg had a problem trying to understand why these "others" were helping him. It was his first ever contact with them, and they were not at all like he had imagined from what he had heard and from what he knew from his "memories". But, he could find no fault with the hunting plan. He explained it to his hunters and they set off to deploy themselves. Drigg went with his hunters, but instead of positioning himself for hunting, he went part way up the side of the valley where he could watch. He had to see how this would play out. These "others" seemed far too confident. There was no way so many animals could be killed.

From his vantage point on the hillside Drigg observed that the "Others" seemed to know what they were doing. They waited until his hunters got well downwind of the bison before starting out. The "others" would be upwind and the animals would know they were there. If they got there too soon, the animals would start running before his men were deployed. But he wondered how so few people could control the stampede. As soon as the animals became aware of his hunters they would veer off in another direction.

He watched in awe as Jondalar and Ayla rode the horses around and upwind of the bison. He was shocked at how fast they could move on the horses. He then noticed the other hunters moving slowly but not too close to one side of where the animals would be running. On the other side, the valley wall was rather steep, so the animals would be less likely to veer that way. He then watched as Jondalar and Ayla rode up to the bison waving pieces of leather and shouting. The bison nearest to them were startled and ran into the herd which panicked the others. One of the stragglers started to veer off and to Drigg's total astonishment, the wolf chased it back. The entire herd was soon stampeding toward his hunters. He then saw another animal veer off. It had seen an opening and went for it. He knew that once one animal starts in a new direction the others, or at least some, would follow. He was sure that they had lost much of the herd. Just then, Jondalar saw the situation and raced towards the errant animal and while he was what looked to Drigg like too far away to be relevant to the situation Jondalar threw his spear from the back of the horse at a full gallop. The bison dropped. Drigg stared agape. Then another bison on the other side thought it had a chance and veered off in a different direction. This time Ayla came charging after the animal and threw her spear from horseback at a full gallop and the animal dropped. All the while the wolf kept hounding errant animals. Drigg could not believe what he was seeing.

As the bulk of the herd passed, the modern human hunters along the side ran in closer and threw their spears into the rushing mass. More animals dropped and those that were hit, but not mortally wounded bellowed and further panicked the others. As the stampeding animals passed the clan hunters, more dropped with clan spears stuck in them. Some of these also had spears already in them helping to slow them and draining their life. Jondalar and Ayla could have killed more animals with their spear throwers, but did not as there was no point in it. Enough was enough.

When the dust settled, Drigg could not believe the carnage. He had never seen so many animals killed in one hunt. About that time the clan women showed up. They did not know what to make of the situation, but knew what was expected of them and set to work butchering the animals killed by the clan men.

The modern human travelers immediately gutted and started pulling the hides off the animals they had killed. Then while some started to butcher the animals, others cleaned the useful internal organs in the nearby river and yet others started digging the storage pits. The clan hunters had done their job and were generally relaxing and watching the women butchering the animals.

Drigg in a display of imagination quite unusual for a clan person called his hunters together and told them they should help dig the storage pits. They were very nervous about being around the "others" and dug a pit some distance away, but they did dig a large pit deep into the permafrost and lined it with grass. By that time, the meat of one bison had been cut into large slabs and the men working on it moved to the next animal. The clan men moved the meat into the pit where it would freeze. The process was repeated with the next animal and the next.

Drigg noted that the men and women of the "others" worked side by side whether hunting or butchering. He also noted that although the "others" appeared rather frail, they made quick work of what had to be done.

As it got too dark to work, fires were built to keep scavengers away from the carcasses and evening meals were prepared and eaten. The clan people stayed in one area and the "others" in another some distance apart. Ayla explained to those in her group about clan customs and to not look directly at the clan women. The next two days were spent butchering and preparing the fruits of the hunt. The hides of the animals that Jondalarl's group had killed were rolled for keeping until they could be treated and placed neatly in a pile.

Jondalar and Drigg walked together through the area of the hunt and Jondalar made sure that Drigg would recognize each storage pit and understood that the pile of hides were to be treated and tanned when they returned in two moons time. Jondalar turned to Drigg and signed, "Your hunters are very brave to charge into the stampeding bison the way they did". Drigg replied, "That is how we hunt, and with you chasing them we killed many more animals than we usually would. We are greatly in your debt." "You will not be in our debt when we pick up those hides in two moons." Jondalar replied. Drigg thought for a while and then signed, "It is too small a price for all we are getting. Think of all the meat."

Jondalar then said, "It is not nearly enough for what the Clan has done for me." Drigg was intrigued. What could the clan have done for this tall healthy and obviously cleaver man? Jondalar continued, "If a clan woman had not saved Ayla's life many years ago and a year's travel to the east and taught her the healing magic, I would not be alive today and would not now have her as a very talented and devoted mate. I am deeply indebted to the Clan." He then gave Drigg the three knives.

The next morning Jondalar and the other travelers broke camp, packed their things and started off. No good bys were said as that was the clan way.

Two moons later, Jondalar, Ayla, Willamar and the two children returned to the valley where the hunt had taken place. They saw the markings of where the pits of now frozen meat were and set up camp. They knew they were in sight of the clan cave, but did not know where it was, and thought it would be less stressful for the clan people if they did not intrude on their home. The next morning, about mid-morning, they saw three figures approaching. When they got closer they recognized Drigg and thought the other two had been among his hunters. All three were heavily laden. When Drigg and his two hunters got to the camp, they put down their loads, untied them and unrolled the fully treated and tanned hides which were now furs.

Jondalar, Ayla and Willamar inspected the furs and felt of their exceptional softness. "These will be highly valuable trade goods." Willamar thought to himself. Then Jondalar turned to Drigg and signed, "There is one too many. You have included one of yours." "The women think you did too much. They want you to have it." Drigg Signed. "What do you want?" Jondalar asked. "I want you to have it." Drigg replied.

The travelers packed their gear and went on their way and the three clan men walked off toward their home.

4

The leaders of the twelve Clans were sitting in a circle. It was the Clan Gathering that occurred every seven years. The leaders were discussing how the clans were getting smaller and the seven year gatherings were including more, but smaller, individual clans because of it. They were discussing how the smaller clans might join to make larger clans. The joining of clans was a very complicated process since they had to work out who would be the leader of the new clan and how the extra leader and Mog-ur could fit in. They did not understand why life seemed to be getting harder. They all attested that they were carefully and properly honoring the Spirit of the Cave Bear in all ways.

One of the men said, "Could our problems be because of the others? We seem to be having more contact with them than before." Guban added, "A few years ago we were having a lot of trouble with a group of the others. My hunters had to go out with the women to protect them when the hunters should have been hunting. At the time we simply thought it was the way of the others, but we found out that it was a small group and the rest of the others did not approve of what they were doing. One time, not long after returning home with my new second woman, Yorga, she went out to collect some inner bark and tap some particular trees. I went along to protect her. While she was getting the bark, I climbed up on an outcropping to look for game. The gang of others showed up and attacked her. I jumped down to protect her and broke my leg. Three of them jumped on me and I was fighting them off when a man and woman of the "others" showed up. They had a very big wolf that answered to them and they rode horses. She used some kind of weapon; I think it is called a sling. They helped me fight off the people that had attacked us. The woman said she was a clan medicine woman and had the black manganese oxide and an authentic otter skin bag to prove it. She set my leg and the man made a walking stick for me. We never saw the ones that gave us trouble again. We think their people made them stop bothering us."

"It is strange that you had that experience, Guban," Drigg said. "We also had a strange, but pleasant experience. We noticed a group of people coming towards our cave when they were a long way off and knowing that no Clan group lived in that direction feared that it might be the "others" coming to drive us out of our cave. You know what you hear and the memories of our ancestors make us think the worst. I took my hunters and waited in ambush and when they were in the trap we encircled them and could easily have killed them. They stopped and made no move. One of their women came to me and asked for an audience in a completely proper way. She explained that they were just passing through traveling from the home of one group to the home of another group and did not know we lived there. We ended up hunting together and killed many bison. Their hunting methods are amazing. They let us have the bison they killed, except for the hides, for us letting them travel through our land if we would treat and tan the hides for them. The ones that returned two moons later picked up the hides and we had many days of food." He was ashamed to tell how much food and he conveniently omitted that little fact and that he got three beautifully make knives out of the deal.

Another leader then spoke, "It is true that we are having more contact, but it does not seem to always be bad. When we were returning from a hunting trip, a successful hunting trip, we came across a man and a woman of the others. They too could speak our language although she was far more fluent than he. They explained that they were on a scouting mission to find animals so the rest of their people could organize a hunt. They saw that we had been successful and congratulated us. They were sincerely glad for us. I was surprised that they cared, but I was even more surprised that they did not hide until we had passed by. Instead they came right up to us like I would to any of you. They told us that if they hunted they would leave one or two animals in a pit so it would freeze in return for hunting in our territory. They said they would make a pile of stones on top of the pit so we could find it. We went back to the valley several moons later and there were two piles of stones and we dug out two whole bison. They were true to their word."

Geld then spoke saying, "I too have had a pleasant experience that I must relate. I am not proud of having to do it, but my best hunter broke both his arm and leg and our medicine woman had died. We were in a desperate situation and I did not know what else to do so I and three of my hunters traveled several days to where the others live hoping they would have a medicine woman who would help set the man's bones. I had no idea what to expect when we got there.

A woman came to greet us. At first I was a bit put off that they thought so little of us that they would send a woman. But, as it turned out, and seeing it from their cultural perspective, it was the right thing for then to have done. It turned out that she knew our language, at least the ancient language, and our customs. She also was a trained clan medicine woman. She and her mate came to our cave and she set the hunter's bones. Just before reaching our cave we came across a small herd of bison and knowing we were short of food they helped us hunt two of them. The hunter has fully recovered. Our Mog-Ur was highly impressed by both of them.

There was along silence as everyone pondered these new revelations. None of the leaders who had an experience with the "others" had any idea that other leaders had also had contact and so many contacts and so many favorable situations was cause for serious consideration.

Finally after some time, the leader who was acting as the chair of the meeting signed, "It appears that all of the contacts with the "others" has involved the same two people, a man and a woman. The woman knows our language and culture intimately and claims to have been raised by a clan that lived far to the east. Are our favorable experiences unique to her or is she acting like all of them?"

Geld spoke next saying, "I and three of my men went to their cave and stayed a night with them. We were treated exceptionally well by everyone. They fed us and let us sleep on raised platforms inside a dwelling out of the wind. I sensed that the woman was held in high esteem by her people and that she made decisions, while making it appear that she was doing what the leader wanted, and the leader went along with what she did. But, she never tried to undermine his authority. She is very clever and wise."

Drigg added, "When I saw her she was traveling with a small group and they all did what she said. She did not force them; it was that she was always right so they did it."

Another man spoke saying, "Maybe we should initiate contact and find out what their true feelings are toward us."

Again Geld spoke, "I think I should make that contact. The group that she lives with is a very large and influential group and I think they feel favorably towards us. At least they have her and that will help. They might know how other groups feel and can advise us on how to approach them. They were very generous when we needed help."

The leader who was chairing the meeting then asked, "What about the horses? Some of you said the woman and man rode horses. Is that some kind of magic? Is she some kind of Mog-Ur?"

Drigg responded with, "She claims that if one gets a herding or pack type animal such as a horse or wolf when they are very young and raise them like your own, they will become attached to you and do things for you because they want to like we do things for each other. But, she could very well have some kind of connection with the spirit world. She did not act like she has special power, she just did everything well."

The discussion continued for a while during which time it was agreed that Geld would contact the "others" about establishing come kind of relationship. The meeting then shifted focus on planning the events of the seven year gathering.

The bitter cold of the deep winter had not yet set in, but it was cold in the huge stone shelter of the Ninth Cave. Ayla was in a fairly open area concentrating on weaving. She was learning how to weave from Marthona and had a fairly large and complicated work about half finished on the loom. It was slow and meticulous work requiring concentration. It was just the sort of thing that Ayla enjoyed.

A teenage boy ran up to her calling "Ayla Ayla, flatheads." She quickly tied a loose knot to hold her work in place, got up and followed the boy to the edge of the porch floor. She joined a small group of people that were staring down and looked to where they were looking on the flood plain of the valley below. There were four Clan men standing there.

She looked around at the people staring down and saw that Joharran was among them. She said to Joharran, "Should I go down and greet them, or should we get Brukeval?" Joharran replied, "I think you should go. I don't know where Brukeval is, but I have sent someone to find him."

As she went down the path to the valley floor, she was thinking, "I wonder what they want? This is like when Geld needed someone to set his hunter's broken bones." When she reached the clan men, she went to the leader, as she had done before, and knelt down in front of him. This time there was no hesitation. He immediately taped her on the shoulder. When she stood, she recognized that it was Geld, and signed, "This woman greets you for our leader. This woman is pleased to see you again and hope this occasion is not an emergency." Geld signed back, "No emergency this time. We are here to discuss matters with your leader." This time he had no qualms about including her in his business so he continued, "We are wondering what kind of friendly relationship we can develop between our peoples." She signed back, "Our leader is a good leader and I am sure he will welcome your request and consider it seriously. Please come up."

Food was already being set out when they reached the floor of the great stone shelter and as soon as introductions were finished, they all sat down to eat. The clan men looked around at the living and working areas and were amazed at the variety and quality of all the things. There were tools, hunting weapons, hides being treated, clothing being made, cooking and eating utensils in various stages of manufacture. The food they had been served was varied, of good quality and lots of it. They had not paid as much attention the first time they had been there. The entire situation had been far too stressful. But now they were more relaxed. They did not have the concept, and could not express it in such terms, but at the emotional level they realized that these "others" were very very rich. When they remembered the amazing display of hunting prowess that Jondalar and Ayla had put on when they hunted the bison the year before they started to realize that if all the "others" were so adept, they must also be very powerful.

The meal was nearly over when Brukeval showed up. He went directly to Joharran and said, "I was told you needed me." "Yes." Joharran responded, as you can see we have clan visitors and I think we will need you to interpret." "I will be glad to. I like helping my cave and this is something I can do well." Brukeval said with a smile. Ayla, having seen Brukeval talking to Joharran, came over and said, "Since you are here Brukeval I will let you translate. They will be more comfortable talking to a man. I will be nearby if you need me."

Soon the meeting was in full swing. They discussed the recognition of each other's territories, the possibility of joint hunts and trade. The clan people could see how the tools and weapons of the "others" would be helpful, but were not sure what they could trade in return. Joharran explained that he could speak for the Ninth Cave, but would have to call a meeting of all the Zelandonii leaders since they should all be party to whatever agreements were reached. He said he would arrange such a meeting and asked if Geld and his men wanted to stay until the meeting could be set up, or did they need to go and then come back some other time. Geld said, "It depends on how long it will take since we must be hunting for our people to eat." Joharran turned to Jondalar, who he had asked to be part of the negotiations, and asked, "Could we help them hunt?" Jondalar answered, "I am sure of it, and we can use the horses to take the animals we kill to their cave. It is only four or five days from here and we might be able to hunt somewhere in between." When Brukeval translated, Geld was astonished, "You would help us hunt and even take it to our cave?" "Yes," Joharran responded, "this is a very serious and important matter we are discussing. It should not be postponed and your people must not go hungry."

At one point Geld was obviously struggling on how to say what was on his mind and finally just signed, "Who, or what is this woman Ayla?" Without waiting for Joharran, Brukeval signed, "She is the personification of the Great Earth Mother, or as you would say the personification of the Spirit of the Great Cave Bear. She is the most wonderful person in the world. I was full of hate and anger and she made me at peace with myself and my world. I do not know what she did or how she did it, but I know it was her. I am now happily mated and am good to my mate." He then translated what Joharran said which was, "She is highly talented and is a most giving person. We are most fortunate to have her and Jondalar among us." Geld thought to himself, "Apparently she is outstanding even by their standards and, that makes the rest of them more real and less daunting."

Several hunters from the Ninth Cave volunteered to help with the hunt while Joharran sent out runners to arrange a meeting of all the cave leaders. The hunt was successful, even by Zelandonii standards, and Ayla and Jondalar used the horses to take the kill to the Clan's cave. They let the Clan hunters return to the Ninth Cave since they could travel faster with the horses if not slowed by someone walking. As usual, Marthona watched the children while they were gone. They stopped when in sight of the clan cave and Jondalar waited with the horses while Ayla went to the cave. She was met by the Mog-Ur and she related to him what had transpired and why they were there.

The Mog-Ur hustled everyone to a far corner and made esoteric motions and Ayla motioned for Jondalar to bring the horses to the cave. They unloaded the animals and Jondalar took the horses away from, and out of sight of, and returned. Ayla and Jondalar were happy to see their friends again and it was apparent that the clan people were glad to see them too. The clan people were also glad that the negotiations were going well. Ayla told the Mog-Ur that he might find it interesting to learn about the beliefs and rituals of the "others". It was something he had never thought of, but once she mentioned it, he thought it might be interesting. She also explained that it would be good for the spiritual leaders of her people to know more about the Clan's beliefs as well. She was quick to explain that some of them might not think so, but she knew they should know. She and the Mog-Ur agreed that it might be possible to set up some meetings of the spiritual leaders in the future, but it would not be wise to press things too hard right away.

By the time Ayla and Jondalar returned to the Ninth Cave, the other leaders had arrived and the meetings were in full swing. The Zelandonii leaders had meetings among themselves and the clan men did also. There were some meetings with the clan men and all the Zelandonii leaders, but mostly Joharran, through Brukeval, negotiated with the Clan. It went quite well considering that some of the Zelandonii leaders did not think very highly of the clan (Flatheads as they referred to them).

It was agreed that the Zelandonii and the Clan would be friendly towards each other, and some trade agreements were also consummated. Joharran explained that he thought the Gaulladii would feel the same way and promised to discuss it with them the next time they had a trade expedition with them. He also promised to send runners to discuss the proposals with the Lanzadonii, the Espandlii and the people that live to the west by the Great Water of the West.

Geld agreed to send runners to the nearby Clan groups as well. When Geld and his hunters left, they had good feelings as did most of the people of the Ninth Cave. But as could be expected, there were a few that thought Joharran had sold them out to the Devil. The undercurrents began to swirl in a new direction.

5

"Jondalar!" Joharran called out to his brother, "I need to talk to you." Jondalar turned wondering what his brother wanted, and walked toward his brother. "I have time now, at least for you." Jondalar replied.

Joharran explained, "All the Zelandonii cave leaders have agreed that we should treat the Clan with respect and that we should help them and trade with them. But, it is important that the neighboring people do the same. We have sent a mission to discuss the issue and to do some trading with the Lanzadonii. We expect them to be in agreement. Our emissaries might continue across the glacier to the Losandunai depending on how the talks go with the Lanzadonii. Willamar is preparing a trade mission to the people that live beside the Great Water to the West and to our new friends, the Gaulladii."

"That is good news." Jondalar said. "I think all those people will agree with us, although I don't know how the people that live by the Great Water to the West feel about it."

"Willamar has dealt with them quite a lot over the years and he thinks they can be convinced." said Joharran. "What I need to ask you is if you and Ayla would make an expedition to the South and discuss it with the Espandlii and some people that we have heard of that live even farther South. I am hoping the Espandlii can tell you about them and direct you to them."

Jondalar thought for a while. He and Ayla had traveled for a year coming back to the Ninth Cave from far to the East and when he got back he had vowed he would not travel again. He was sick of traveling. But it was a casual vow, not a serious one, made several years ago and they had made some rather extensive journeys since; but nothing like what Joharran was asking now. He wondered about how Ayla would feel about it and how the children would cope. The children had faired just fine when they took them to the land of the Gaulladii. It was now at the end of winter and spring was in full bloom. If they were to leave now, the journey would probably take all summer. They would be back before having to travel in the winter. He and Ayla had traveled through a winter when returning to his home and the land they would travel through this time would probably not be as cold in winter, but it would have a lot more snow. They would not have to worry about the winter this time. Finally he answered his brother saying, "I will have to discuss this with Ayla, and I can not promise anything until I do. I can not even say how I feel about is as I am of mixed feelings. I have no desire to travel, but I feel strongly about my obligations to my cave and I would be doing something I strongly believe in."

When Jondalar explained Joharran's request to Ayla, she was more favorably inclined towards it than he had expected her to be. She said, "We could do it. I have been feeling rather useless and at loose ends lately and it would give us something new to do." Jondalar said, "I can't see how you can feel useless. You take care of the sick and injured, you are helping Zelandoni more and more with the ceremonies, you take care of me and the children, you never miss a hunt, you are constantly foraging and you have the neatest and cleanest house in the entire Ninth Cave." She replied, "It is not as much as you make it sound and it is all repetitious. You are easy to take care of and you contribute more than you give yourself credit for. You know I could not do what I do without you. And the children are older now and take very little care. I also get many gifts for being Zelandoni. Remember too, that we have an obligation to help our cave and you are the best qualified to do what Joharran is asking,"

"Woman," Jondalar said, "You never cease to amaze me. I am glad you think I am qualified for this task, but I think you are patronizing your mate. You are even more qualified than me." He then took her in his arms and she held him.

Willamar told Jondalar how to find the Espandlii and scratched out a map on a piece of shoulder bone. Zigzag lines indicated rivers; prominent outcrops were indicated by elongated "Z" shapes while mountains were shown as chevrons. It was not drawn to scale but it was in sequence. When you got to a landmark you got to it; and then you crossed it, turned one way or another or followed a river. Willamar also helped select trade goods for them to take. Marthona and Zelandoni gave them things to give as gifts to the people they would meet. They were both politically astute and understood the value of having other people respect the power and wealth of the Ninth Cave; and putting them indebt to the Ninth Cave didn't hurt either. They packed up the horses and started out. Both children now had their own horse so there were four horses, the two adults and the two children. The horses carrying the adults were quite heavily loaded. The horses with the children were more lightly burdened. It seemed prudent to have those horses less likely to loose their footing and to be more able to run from danger. Jonayla was now eight and could just about take care of herself and was becoming a great help to Ayla with day-to-day chores. Crebilon was not allowed yet to ride at a full gallop, but could handle, and thoroughly enjoyed, an easy trot.

Although they were going first to the land of the Espandlii, they did not go up the Wood River valley as Espandli had came when he visited several years earlier. They knew the local area well and he hadn't. They followed The River downstream to where it joined another larger river (but one with less significance to the Zelandonii people) and then followed that river west.

The river they followed west cut a deep valley through the limestone base. In most places the valley had a rather wide upper level and a narrower and deeper valley nearer the river. In some places the river was in narrow canyons. Sometimes the river flowed right along nearly vertical limestone cliffs. In these places the travelers would stay on the higher ground, but usually they traveled close to the river. Near the river they were shielded, at least somewhat, from the incessant loess bourn wind, had access to water and could find fire making materials. There were also richer grasses for the horses to graze on.

The landscape they traveled through was to them what it was and would always be. They had no way of knowing that the land was bulged upward as the great weight of the mass of the ice, two to three miles thick covering a quarter of the earth, to their north depressed the crust of the earth causing pressure in the underlying mantle which bulged up the crust for several hundred miles from the edge of the glacier. They were traveling through that bulge and the river had cut a deep valley to get to the sea. The mass of ice to the north also used up much of the earth's water so the sea to which the river was flowing was several hundred feet lower than what it would be many thousands of years later when the ice had mostly melted. Far in the future, when the ice finally melted and the earth's crust under it could return to its higher level, the land they were now traveling through would rebound to a lower level, the sea level would rise with the water from the melting glacier and the river would have a far more level course. The flow of the river would slow, and the waters would drop off along its way the silt collected from eroding the higher levels. The result, in tens of thousands of years, would be a shallow wide valley of highly fertile soil farmed with machinery into a gigantic manicured green, and with patches of lavender at certain times of the year. It would be a garden feeding and otherwise providing for hoards of people. The peoples of that far distant future would look out over the valley in awe of the beauty even as these travelers were in awe of the very different beauty of the younger, harsher and majestic landscape they were traveling through. And just as the travelers honored the Great Earth Mother for providing for them, the peoples of that far distant future would give thanks to their God for providing for them. The understanding that the earth provided for the people would be a common bond for all peoples through all time.

They lived off the land as they traveled. It was early in the season, but even so, there was food if one knew how to find it. They were the product of those ancient times and they knew how to find the food. The children had inherited their parent's love and skill for hunting and Jonayla, at eight, was nearly as good with the sling as her mother. They often ate Jonayla's kill which made the young girl pleased with herself. Since it was so early in the season, they often topped off a meal with some fat rich traveling cakes; but as the season progressed and the animals they killed started to have some fat, they relied less and less on the traveling food.

The people of the Ninth Cave knew of the river valley that Jondalar and his family were traveling through and most knew a fair amount about it, but very few had ever ventured into it. What they did know was that no people lived there. It was a totally new experience for Ayla and the children, but Jondalar still felt he was in his homeland even though he had never actually been there before. That changed when they came to where another large river joined the one they had been following. That was where they had to follow the new river upriver and to the south east. As soon as they turned away from the original river and started following the new one upstream and to the south East, Jondalar sensed that he was truly in foreign territory. He became more alert and more aware of his surroundings.

The second river valley was not much different from the first, but they could come upon other people that they did not know about. Jondalar had never heard of any people living there and Willamar had not mentioned any people when he told Jondalar to follow that river. Still, he was on the lookout for signs of people. One never knew what to expect when coming upon unknown people and he knew well the affect the horses and wolf had on other people. He wanted to see any people before they saw him and his family so he could plan out how to approach them.

They were fairly close to the Great Waters of the West, and the affects of the ocean showed on the land. There was more vegetation and the air was not as dry. The winds were not as incessant. But the sea was still many miles away. It was much farther away than what it would be many thousands of years later when the sea level had risen with the melt of the great glaciers. They did not experience actual coastal weather.

Jondalar frequently studied the shoulder blade map that Willamar had made and searched the landscape for the unique outcropping of stone where a creek coming from the south would join the river they were following and which would lead them to the Espandlii. After several days of travel he saw what he thought must be the place and they followed the small rill upstream to the south. As small as it was, it went for a long way and they followed it for several days.

One day, as they were rounding a small hill they noticed some hunters in the distance. They stopped out of sight of the hunters and observed. They watched as the hunters deployed themselves downwind of the small heard of megaceros, or giant deer with such huge racks of antlers that they were grazers of the open plains rather than forest creatures like their smaller namesakes. Ayla was surprised that the hunters were not wearing antlers and deerskins to try to look like the deer. Then she said, "Jondalar look! There is a hunter on a horse upwind of the deer." He looked and to his surprise there was a hunter, he assumed a man, on a horse. And as they watched, the man on the horse started the deer moving towards the other hunters who by now had all found cover so the deer would not see them. The man on the horse did not stampede the deer at first, but got them to move closer to the other hunters. Then when they were quite close and likely to become aware of the hunters, he shouted and waved flapping pieces of leather. The deer ran from him right into the other hunters. Several fell with spears in them.

Jondalar and Ayla looked at each other and nodded approval. It is how they hunted now that they had horses and usually hunted with other hunters. It was not a technique they were using while traveling, since it required more people, but with several hunters it was extremely effective.

Jondalar then said, "Ayla, do you think that could be Padrollo? We should be close to where the Espandlii live." "I think it must be." She answered. Then Jondalar said, "Whoever it is rides a horse, so I don't think it would startle them for us to ride up to them."

The hunters were busy gutting and preparing the animals they had killed and did not notice the travelers approaching until Jondalar called out, "Hoya! Hoya!" At the sound of his voice, all the hunters looked up, but one got a big grin on his face and called back, "Jondalar, Ayla, is that you?" "Yes it is us." Jondalar replied. Jondalar was close enough that he now recognized that the man was in fact Padrollo and continued saying, "Padrollo, it is good to see you and to see that you learned well." "Jondalar," Padrollo said, "I had the best teachers in the whole world, and I am glad that you approve." "We could not have done better!" exclaimed Jondalar.

Jondalar and Padrollo ran up to each other and gave each other a big bear hug. Padrollo then turned to Ayla and knelt down on one knee and bowed his head much like a clan woman would do when she wished to talk to a man. "Padrollo, get up. You look silly," she said. "I don't care, we owe you so much." He said. He stood and addressing both said, "My people are living much better using what we learned from you."

"We heard that you were doing well." said Jondalar. "Our trade master was here a couple of years ago and reported that you had to get a new leader and the old one was living way from your people as a kind of outcast." "That's right and he seems to be stirring up trouble with the Sapandorii people that live to the south and east." Padrollo replied. "What kind of trouble?" Jondalar asked. Padrollo answered, "I had better have you talk to our new leader about that. As soon as we can gather up all this meat, we will go to our cave and you can meet him. He has heard a lot about the two of you. Espandli will be thrilled to see you too."

They were introduced to the rest of the hunting party and went with them back to their settlement. The settlement consisted of several wooden houses built on a fairly level terrace and close to a south facing limestone cliff. The terrace was about 50 feet above the stream which fed into the small rill that Ayla and Jondalar had been following when they came upon the hunters. Although the settlement was not actually in a shelter like the Zelandonii, they benefited from the stone wall that protected them from the winds and reflected heat from the sun during the winter. The houses were made by trimming and bending long thin trees into hoops and embedding each end into the ground. A series of the upside down hoops formed the frame of the structure and tree bark was interwoven between them resulting in a remarkably tight and water shedding enclosure. In the plan-view each house was about ten feet wide and up to twenty feet long rounded on each end with a straight section in the middle. The sides were vertical for four or five feet and continued into a domed roof. The framing hoops for the rounded ends were half hoops terminating near the top of the roof dome where their ends were lashed together and lashed to the first full hoop of the straight center section of the dwelling. The frame was strengthened with horizontal pieces of saplings about an inch in diameter. On hot summer days, pieces of bark could be slid sideways to make openings for the wind to blow through. A hearth encircled by stones was near the center and a smoke hole above the hearth could be opened or closed with a short stick. The bent tree "hoop" frame needed no center pole to support the roof, so the interior was unobstructed with structural members and could be divided with movable screens in any way the occupants wished. The entrance was closed with a large heavy leather drape. The region was more heavily forested, although only in a relative sense, so the use of wood was more economic than in many other parts of Europe where the landscape was mostly steppe and wood was scarce.

Ayla studied the construction carefully noted to herself how people invented shelter constructions to utilize available materials and naturally occurring features of the landscape. There was no single pattern or method.

Espandli was so glad to see them he actually cried.

Jondalar and Ayla were introduced to the group's leader, a man named Amialago. After the formal introductions where everyone's ties and titles were listed, Amialago said, "I am most honored that you have come. We are much in your debt. Espandli and his acolytes learned much from you and your people and have applied it to our great advantage. They have counseled me honestly and generously and always give the Zelandonii, and especially the two of you, all credit for their knowledge and insight. So, now what do we owe the honor of your presence?"

Jondalar responded saying, "We are here as envoys of our leader Joharran. We have recently had encounters with the flatheads, who refer to themselves as Clan, and have decided to develop a civilized relationship with them. They are not coping well and are quite stressed. We have helped them on a few occasions. We have also decided that we do not need them as enemies. That would be mutually destructive. But, if other caves were to harass the flatheads it could turn them against us even though we are trying to befriend them. We are here to try to establish an agreement on how all people will relate to the flatheads. We hope that agreement will be to cooperate with them."

Amialago had to think about what Jondalar had proposed. It was the farthest thing from his mind and had many ramifications. It was not something that could be agreed to immediately as there were three other Espandlii camps and they all had opinions about flatheads. Amialago also knew that many Espandlii harbored dislike for the flatheads although as he thought about it he realized that he knew of no logical reason for the dislike. Their relationship with the flatheads was not a subject that came up often so he had never given it much thought.

After a long pause while Amialago was mulling these things over, he said to Jondalar, "As you know there are other caves of the Espandlii and we must have unanimous agreement on an issue like this. We will have to have a meeting with all the leaders and I will want you to tell all of us more about the encounters you have had with the flatheads and what you know about them."

That was exactly the response Jondalar was expecting. He then asked, "When do you think such a meeting can take place?" To which Amialago replied, "less than a moon."

Ayla had been keeping Wolf close to her, but he was eager to play with the children of the camp who were staring at the newcomers and especially the wolf. The horses were not so unusual since Padrollo had returned with one and rode it often. He even let some of the older children ride his horse. Ayla asked Espandli to explain to the mothers that the wolf liked children and wanted to play with them. When he called the mothers together and told them about the wolf, it was obvious that in spite of his high esteem among his people, the mothers were not buying his story.

Ayla decided a demonstration was in order and stood back a couple of steps from the wolf and patted the fronts of her shoulders. The wolf jumped up putting his paws where she had indicated, licked her face and took her chin in his mouth while she fondled his neck fur. He growled quietly as he held her chin. When he got down there was no marks where he had held her. She then took the five year old down from his horse and told him to play with Wolf. Both the child and Wolf were delighted, both having been restrained for so long. The boy grabbed the wolf and they both tumbled over each other on the ground. The boy even got on the wolf's back and rode him a ways. He then threw a stick and the wolf chased it and brought it back. All the people gaped in surprise and shock. This control of the animal was powerful magic.

Ayla had Espandli explain that the wolf was protective of children and especially weak and sickly ones and that no one should do anything that the wolf might think to be an attempt to hurt a child as the wolf would protect the child. Everyone appeared to accept what he said that time, but they were still not so sure about letting their children play with the wolf. At a time that could not have been better if planned, a two year old could stand it no longer and when no one was looking her way she went after the wolf. Before anyone could react, she was pulling his hair, reaching in his mouth and poking his eyes while he licked her face. When the mother saw her child with the wolf, she screamed, but soon realized that there was no danger.

It was a small encampment so Jondalar and Ayla set up their tent instead of moving into an existing shelter. They were soon blending into the normal routine of the camp and the mothers were soon relying on Wolf to baby sit their children, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Ayla and Jondalar lived with the Espandlii for about a moon. During that time they were constantly answering questions and telling about their travels and experiences. The people were enthralled when Ayla demonstrated the mostly silent sign language of the Clan while she translated in Espandlii. She had picked up much of the language when Espandli had lived with them, and was quickly becoming proficient as she lived with them. The people started to think differently of the Clan (flatheads) as they learned about their language, culture and beliefs. Like other modern humans they had little contact with the clan and the stories and lore had not endeared them to the clan. Now they were starting to see the clan in a new light. Ayla and Jondalar spent a lot of time in the meetings of the Espandlii leaders explaining the kind of arrangements the Zelandonii were trying to make with the Clan and how all the modern human groups should be acting alike towards the Clan.

One day Espandli noticed that Ayla was crying and tried to comfort her by asking what was wrong. "Oh Espandli!" She said, "Its so sad." "What is so sad, my dear?" He asked.

"The Clan will not be with us much longer." "What do you mean?" He asked. She explained, "The Clan can not cope with what the future will bring. It might be many generations, but they are doomed. I don't think that I realized it before, but that is why the old Mog-Ur was so sad and had lost his interest in everything. I think he realized it when I followed them into the cave and became part of their ceremony. The realization hit me as I was looking at how you make your dwellings." He waited to let her gather her thoughts. Eventually she continued, "Our kind makes warm dwellings, we hunt efficiently and we make warm clothing. But we do not all do it the same way. We somehow come up with ways to do what must be done with whatever there is available. They can not do that. They only have one way of doing anything and if that will not work they will die."

Espandli did not know what to make of what Ayla had just told him. So he said, "Ayla my dear that is a long way off. Please do not dwell on it. Think about today and how blessed we all are." She smiled at him knowing he was doing his best to comfort her.

One day Jondalar approached Amialago and said, "I understand there are other people that live to the south and east of here. Do you know much about them?"

"Yes, we know of them." Amialago replied, "They are the Sapandorii. Unfortunately, we suspect that our ex-leader has been trying to stir up trouble between us and them."

"Padrollo mentioned something about that when we first arrived." Jondalar said. "What kind of trouble is he able to cause?"

Amialago continued, "A while back we sent out a trading party and they were treated very coolly. They did trade, since it was in their best interest to do so, but my people did not feel welcome. Always before we had been treated like kinsmen. They acted like they did not trust us, like they were afraid to turn their backs to us. I can't say for sure, but our previous leader must be behind it somehow." The Jondalar said, "Our instructions are to continue on and visit the Sapandorii. I think you and I should plan out how Ayla and I should approach them unless you would rather we not visit them. Our instructions are to visit them only if our meeting with you indicated that it would be a good thing to do. Let's think about it for a while."

Then Amialago said, "One of the other leaders brought up the question of how we should approach the flatheads. Another asked what the flatheads thought about working with us. It seems like we have to ask them, but how do we do that?" "Good points." Jondalar responded. "Let's ask Ayla."

They called Ayla over and Jondalar said, "Ayla, Amialago has brought up some good points. If they are going to formalize good relations with the Clan, how can they find out what the Clan in their area think of it and how can they work together?" Ayla thought for a while and then asked, "How far from here are the clan people and what interaction have you had with them?"

Amialago answered. "We have only seen them in the second valley south of here and then we have only seen them. We have never tried to approach them and they have never tried to approach us. When we see each other, which is rare, we both go away from the other. Neither of us run, or show fear; but we don't mix."

Then Ayla asked, "Have any of you ever harassed them in any way? It is important to know if you have as it changes how we approach them." "Why would we harass them?" Amialago asked. "It has happened." Jondalar responded. "Some people we met on our journey told of bands of their young men harassing clan for sport."

Amialago shook his head. "I have never heard of it, but I can see how it would complicate the relationship. I will have to ask around, but I don't think so."

After considerable discussion it was decided that Amialago, one of his trusted advisors, Ayla and Jondalar would make a journey to try to find the nearest clan. They would first approach the clan with the idea of trading. They would take some knives and bowls to trade. The children, horses and Wolf would stay in the Espandlii camp. The women were already taking quite fondly to the children and were becoming dependent of the wolf baby sitting for them. They decided not to take the horses as the tame horses would be upsetting to the clan.

They had traveled for several days and Amialago thought they were getting close to clan territory. As they reached the top of and looked beyond a fairly sharp but easily climbable ridge, they saw down into the valley before them four clan hunters running down an aurochs. The hunters had separated a young cow from the herd and were taking turns getting her to chase them. They had formed a large circle and they were taking turns getting her to chase them. As she chased one hunter, he would run towards another hunter who would then run in front of the charging animal to get her to chase him. By the time she got back to the first hunter he would be sufficiently rested to take another turn. They were tiring her out and when tired enough they would run up to her and plunge their spears into her. The travelers watched the hunt play out. The travelers were looking over the ridge, not standing on it, and so they were not obvious to the hunters; and the hunters were preoccupied. The hunters did not see them.

Finally the clan hunters killed the beast and started to gut it in preparation for taking it to their cave. As they worked, the travelers approached. When they got as close to the hunters as they thought they could and still appear to be non-threatening the travelers stopped. Ayla took off her quiver of spears, and put down her spear thrower and sling. She then walked toward the hunters. As she approached them they looked up in obvious astonishment. She held out her hands, palms up, to show she had no weapons. She could tell by how they stood and how three of them showed obvious deference to the other that he was the leader. He signaled the others to get their spears and stand ready which they did. She walked up to him and knelt with her head bowed, looking at the ground in front of his feet, in the proper way for a clan woman asking to talk to a clan man. He was shocked. The hunters then noticed the other travelers standing quite a distance away. All the hunters wondered what was happening.

The clan leader wondered too. He could not imagine why any of the "others" would approach him, and he wondered even more how one of their women would know proper manners. He had always heard that the "others" were noisy and crude. He looked out at the other three travelers who were standing and watching. They showed no threatening signs. The landscape was entirely open and it was obvious that there were no more people. He was curious. He tapped the woman on her shoulder to recognize her and to let her know that he would hear her out.

Ayla stood. She was a head taller than the man and she tried to look down and assume a stance to be as inconspicuous as possible. He noted that she was trying and was impressed even though, to him, it was not working. She was most conspicuous, but definitely not threatening.

Ayla then started signing to him using the ancient clan language. She assumed that he would not understand any of the common signs that she knew from any of the local clan groups that she had met and certainly not those of the clan that had raised her; a years travel to the east. He was even more shocked that she knew the ancient language. He even had to stop and think from time-to-time as he did not use it much. Ayla explained, "My leader, one of the men in the group over there, wonders if my people can trade with your people. He does not know your language so he asked me to talk to you. Some of the 'others', far to the north, have traded with and even helped some of the clans in their area."

The clan leader pondered what she had said and then signed, "What does he have that we might want?" She replied, "Can he approach and place it on the ground for you to look at?" Just then, one of the hunters coughed. He coughed again and then had a coughing fit that lasted several minutes. Both Ayla and the clan leader looked over at him. Finally he settled down. The clan leader then looked at Ayla and signed that her leader could display his goods. Ayla then signed to the clan leader, "We talk with voice sounds instead of hand signs. When we talk, it will sound noisy to you, but that is how we do it." He acknowledged her comment.

Ayla turned to her group and called out, "Amialago, bring the trade goods here." Amialago placed his weapons on the ground and picked up the sack of trade goods and walked over to where she was standing and set the bag on the ground. Ayla said to him, "I had better introduce you first, and turned to the clan leader and signed, "Please meet my leader. His name is 'Alag'." She deliberately shortened his name so the clan man could say it. The clan leader signed, "My name is 'Org'." He said his name out loud and Ayla translated for Amialago. Ayla then turned to Amialago and said, "Set out what you brought." Amialago spread out a large piece of leather and placed the knives and bowls on it. Org looked over the items, picking them up one at a time and studying them. He then looked at Amialago and signed, "What do you want for them?" Ayla translated. Amialago said, "We would like treated furs and prepared flint nodules but will consider other things. What do you have that you feel is worth the same as what we have brought?" Ayla translated into clan signs. Trading was not new to the clan leader. They regularly, though not frequently, traded with other clans, and he was impressed with the quality of the knives. The fact that they were hafted to handles impressed him as well. The bowls were of less interest to him, but he knew the women would like them. He knew that each bowl was a lot of work to make. He would like for his people to have the knives and bowls he was looking at.

The clan leader signed, "We know where there is flint and we can treat hides, but we have none to trade now." As Ayla translated, she noticed that the herd of aurochs had not run far after stampeding away from the clan hunters and got an idea. So, after translating Org's message to Amialago she suggested, "We could kill two or three aurochs, give the meat to the clan along with the knives and bowls, and come back in a moon to get the treated hides. Maybe they would even add a few nodules of flint." Amialago said, "Good idea, ask him if that would work?" She turned back to Org and signed the proposal to him. He asked, "When will you kill the aurochs?" She looked up at the sun, and then at the herd. She thought about how long it would take to get to the herd. She had to think about it as she was used to using the horses and this would have to be done on foot. She turned back to Org and signed, "Today." He was stunned. His hunters had been all morning getting one animal and there were four of them. How could the three of the "Others" kill three aurochs in what was left of the day. It did not occur to him that she would help and he knew nothing of their long range weapons. Yet, if they could, he would get a tremendous amount of meat and many other body parts from whatever animals they could kill and would only have to treat the hides. He signed, "I agree." To which she signed back, "If we kill four will you treat its hide for us also and add some good nodules of flint? We will come back in one moon to this place to pick them up." He agreed, but doubted that they would kill four of the beasts.

She turned to Amialago and said, "Get moving, we have work to do." Amialago smiled as they trotted back to where Jondalar and Amialago's advisor were patiently waiting. After a brief explanation and creation of a hunting plan, the four of them trotted off towards the herd of aurochs. As the clan hunters returned to their work, the leader realized that the woman had actually done the negotiating and had made it look like she was translating. As he thought about it, he realized that she had made many of the decisions without consulting her leader and when she did consult her leader, their body language showed that she was getting approval from her leader, not direction. He was impressed. He also was wondering where she came from and how she knew the ancient language and the clan customs. He was intrigued.

The four people slowly approached the herd of aurochs from downwind. When they could see that the animals were starting to sense their presence, they ran toward the herd and threw their spears. All four used spear throwers and all four got one animal each. Two only wounded the animals, but it slowed the animals enough that a second spear did the job. Jondalar was actually able to kill two.

The clan leader watched from where his men were preparing their kill for transport back to their cave, and when the dust cleared he was amazed to see five dead aurochs. He wondered how they did it, and then a shiver ran down his back. He could not quite organize his thoughts, but he knew these "others" had superior hunting methods and that could be far more important than what it might seem. He did not share his thoughts with his hunters, but he was going to have a long talk with his Mog-Ur when he got back to their cave.

The clan women had been watching the hunt from their cave and once they knew the hunt had been successful they had started off to butcher the auroch that their hunters had killed. They arrived at the scene about the time their leader was assessing the five aurochs that Jondalar and his people had killed. He and his three hunters walked over to where the five dead aurochs were. It was getting late in the day, and there would not be much time left. He saw that the four "others" were starting to gut the animals, and he and his hunters pitched in and between the eight of them soon had all the animals gutted. They then made fires around each animal to keep away predators and they all pitched their tents, made a meal and settled in for the night.

The next morning Org looked over the scene and shook his head. He half expected it to not be there, that it had been a dream. The clan men took the butchered meat and other body parts of their animal back to their cave and the women started butchering the other five animals. Jondalar, Amialago, Amialago's advisor and Ayla started pealing the hides off the animals and rolling the hides for keeping until they could be worked and treated. The clan women were astonished at how the men of the others worked with Ayla doing work that clan men could not do. They even helped with much of the butchering. When the clan hunters returned they took the next load of what had been butchered to their cave. The clan hunters continued making trips back to their cave with the treasure. They worked all day and camped there a second night.

That following morning, Ayla said to Org, "I am a medicine woman and I notice that one of your hunters has a cough. Will you allow me to treat him?" The clan leader had also noticed the man's cough and was concerned. As leader he was conscious of everything about his people. He wondered how competent she was, but also realized that the "others" had to have healers and finally agreed. She got some leaves and powders from her medicine bag and boiled them into a thick syrup. She asked the leader for a small cup which he got from one of the women. It was made from the end of an aurochs horn. She told the leader, "Have the man drink half a cup of the syrup each morning and night until his cough stops."

She then said, "My leader Alag is only my leader while my mate and I are here. My mate and I are from far to the north and are only visiting. We will soon be returning to our home in the north. Alag and none of his people know your language. We have to work out a way for them to trade with you after my mate and I have gone." Org thought for a while and then signed, "If they come to this spot and camp we will see them and come to meet them. They can set out what they have to trade and we will set out what we have. I think we can work it out." Ayla then asked, "If they have someone who would like to learn your language, will you help him learn?" Org indicated that he would. She then said, "We are going now. Alag will be back in one moon to this place to get the finished furs and the flint." He nodded agreement and the four people turned and walked off. They had left their trade goods where Amialago had spread them out on the ground to display them.

About mid morning Amialago said, "Do you think they will honor the agreement?" Ayla said, "Yes they will. They will always do what they say they will do."

Jondalar then turned to Amialago and asked, "Do you have any suggestions as to how Ayla and I should approach the Sapandorii? Should we even try? Maybe we should just go home and forget them?" Amialago said, "I would like to know that we had a good and solid trusting relationship with them. Maybe as an outsider you could help establish it. Maybe you could find out why they were so cold to our trading party. I would appreciate it if you would try. Espandli has great respect for your ability. If anyone can do it you can. All I can tell you is that we think it is our old leader who is causing the trouble."

Amialago told them how they could find the Sapandorii, scratched a rough map on a piece of bone, and explained that it would be a half moon journey.

6

The man, woman, two children, four horses and the wolf continued their journey to try to convince other people to adopt positive relationships with the Clan. So far, it was going better than what either of them would have imagined a few years before. People, in general, were more rational and less bigoted than either had originally thought. There were the exceptions, but those were the exceptions, and not usually in leadership positions nor were they very influential outside of their small groups of immediate friends.

They followed the river upstream in a generally south east direction watching for the landmarks that would show them to follow a tributary upstream to the south. One day Jondalar noticed that Ayla was in a dreamy introspective mood and asked her, "Ayla, are you taking a little vacation in your head?" It took her a while to shake herself out of her reverie and even longer to realize what he was talking about, but once she did, she laughed and said, "Oh Jondalar, I was just thinking about how easy and yet fulfilling my life is. When I was alone in my valley I never dreamed that I could ever be living so good and be so happy."

Jondalar said, "Ayla, I don't know how you did it. You took care of me and you had plenty. You had food, clothing, shelter and you did it all and even took care of me. It must have been terribly hard."

"Yes, it was hard." She said. "But the work was not the problem. The loneliness was the worst of it. I was used to working hard. I had to when living with the clan just to do what was expected of a woman. The freedom actually made the work easier. I don't understand why, but it did. But I never got used to the loneliness. I worried about not being acceptable to other people. It seems like all the people we have met have accepted me and even went to great effort to help me. Now, with the exception of a few enemies I truly feel accepted. In fact, in a strange way, even my enemies seem to accept me. They just don't like me. I am afraid that I am getting lazy and indolent. I am never lonely now. In fact I cherish times like this when just you and I and the children can get away by ourselves for a while. I need some freedom."

He looked at her with his vibrant blue loving eyes and said, "Ayla, you have no idea how special you are. Your enemies fear you. You show them to be the mean spirited people they are, and that frightens them. Good, hard working, talented and honest people who are contributing to the well being of the others in their group have nothing to fear and they instinctively love you. You are their role model. And don't worry about becoming lazy and indolent. There is no one in the entire Ninth Cave that does more than you. You do everything that needs doing and then more for me, your children, your animals and all the people of the Ninth Cave and even others when needed."

"Oh Jondalar," She responded, "You make me sound like a super woman. Compared to my early life with the Clan and when I lived alone in the valley, life is easy, fun and fulfilling. I feel guilty. It is like I am cheating fate."

Jondalar replied, "Ayla, I think you are living the reward for the testing your cave lion totem put you through. You have been tested beyond anything that most people could have endured and you passed the test. It is now your time to reap the rewards. Remember when Zelandoni Who is First told you that the responsibilities of the Zelandoni are great, but also are the rewards. Don't feel guilty. You have paid your dues."

"I hope you are right," she said.

As they traveled, they saw many animals and pointed them out to the children. They explained to the children the habits, diets and peculiarities of each. They tried not to disturb the animals unless they needed food. They marveled at the landscape which, other than being hillier, was much like what they had been traveling through. There were more trees than around the Ninth Cave or where they had met far to the east. They were used to seeing trees along the rivers, but they were now traveling through a region where small forests, or maybe 'woods' would be a better description, dotted the landscape. The wooded areas were small enough that they did not usually obstruct the panoramic views. They traveled leisurely and enjoyed the land, each other, the children, the animals that were traveling with them and life.

They talked openly about the wonder of it all. They talked about how the Great Earth Mother created everything; the grass, the trees and all the animals; and how she did it all for the people. They talked about how they must honor the Mother and care for the fruits of the earth so she would continue to find them worthy of her blessings.

The children listened as Jondalar and Ayla talked of these things, and thought about what had been said and what it meant. It was not formal and structured teaching, but the children learned and internalized the lore and the belief systems of their people. Millennia in the future, people would figure out much more about how the earth got the way it is, and how it really functions; but its wonder would not be diminished with the greater knowledge. The knowledge and belief systems the children were learning worked well for them. It gave them meaning and importance as individuals and a behavioral ethic that served them well.

"Look." Jondalar called out, "That outcrop on the left just past where that tributary joins this river looks like the landmark Amialago said would be where we would find the small river to where the Sapandorii live." As he was getting out the map that Amialago had scratched on the piece of bone, Jonayla said, "There are people." And she pointed toward the small tributary. Jondalar and Ayla looked and sure enough the girl had seen people. The people were close to where the small tributary fed into the river. Jondalar said to the girl, "You have a sharp eye. You are like your mother." The girl beamed. They were on the horses and there happened to be a slight rise between them and where the tributary joined the larger river which, except for their heads and shoulders, put them out of the line of sight of the people Jonayla had seen. They were still nearly a quarter of a mile from the people and they had been traveling directly towards the people so they had not presented any motion to attract attention. They had not been seen. They dismounted to be completely out of sight.

"Any ideas as to how we should approach them?" Jondalar asked.

"Not really." Ayla replied. "What are our options?"

Jondalar thought for a while and answered, "One of us could approach them while the rest waited here. We could leave the children here with the animals and both of us approach them. We could walk in holding the horses on tethers. Or we could ride in. Riding in would create fear and awe especially if we charged in fast, and if you went in alone it would signal weakness. All other approaches are in between."

Ayla said, "I don't think that charging in on the horses would be wise. But leading then with long ropes so the people could see that we are really people with children might be a good balance between projecting peaceful intentions with power if needed."

Jondalar said, "Good Plan, let's go." They put the halters and lead ropes on the horses and started towards the people on the beach. As they walked Jondalar said, "They are probably Sapandorii. Amialago said some of them know the Espandlii language. We learned some Espandlii when Espandli lived with us and I know you picked up more while we stayed with them. Let's hope we know enough to talk with them."

The people were busy butchering a giant deer that they had just killed and did not notice the travelers until Jondalar called out "Hoya!" When the people looked up from their tasks and saw the entourage that was approaching them, they first froze in terror and then grabbed their spears and held them pointing at the travelers. Jondalra and Ayla stopped and held out their hands with palms up to signal peaceful intentions. The people could see that it was a family approaching them, but the domesticated animals were, to them, unnatural. The relationship between the people and the animals had to be supernatural. They were terrified. They had heard of an evil person that could ride a horse lived among the Espandlii and had helped their evil Espandli enslave the Espandlii people and they had no desire to be confronted with such evil power. And here, facing them, were four horses that were obviously under the control of people. The fact that the people looked like a normal family was even more terrifying than if they had looked like evil spirits (although there was not clear definition as to what an evil spirit might look like). Evil spirits masquerading as something common or benign were often the most dangerous. It was a small hunting party of three men and a boy and they dearly wished Sapandori, their holy man, was with them.

Jondalar called out in broken Espandlii, "We are ordinary people and come in peace. We can explain the animals." Neither Jondalar nor Ayla had any idea of the Sapandorii's belief that evil people that had taken over the Espandlii. His speaking in Espandlii only added to their fears.

A man responded, "Are you Espandlii?" Jondalar responded, "No. I am Zelandonii, but know some of the Espandlii language and thought you would be more likely to understand Espandlii than Zelandonii."

The man said something to the other hunters and then shouted, "Go away – go away!"

Jondalar and Ayla had to glance at each other and smile. They knew well how the horses and wolf intimidated people the first time they met. What they did not know was the additional fear that these people felt because of what they had heard. They also did not know that the fear these people felt had been implanted by the previous leader of the Espandlii. They had many unknown obstacles to overcome.

Jondalar then looked back at the hunters and said, "Do any of you know Zelandonii?"

"No! Go away."

Jondalar did not go away, but did not advance either. Reverting back to Espandlii he said, "We bring you no harm. We are on an official mission from the leaders of the Zelandonii regarding our relationship with the flatheads. We only use the horses to help us make the journey. We can explain how we trained the animals and can show you how to do it. It is not magic. It is a simple skill, like flint knapping, that you can learn. We are a normal family."

The hunters had another conversation and finally the one who had been the spokesperson said. "Set up your camp here. We have to take our kill to our cave and we will return with our leader and Sapandori in two days."

Jondalar and Ayla unpacked the horses and set up their camp. The hunters packed up their kill and left.

Jondalar and Ayla looked at each other and laughed. "What have we gotten ourselves into? Jondalar said. "I think we might find out in two days." Ayla answered. "I just wish we knew their language." After a while Jondalar said, "I will bet that they will return with every able bodied man of their cave for support and protection." Alya grinned, "In a way it is kind of fun, but I feel it is wrong to make them think we are spirits. I wonder what we can do to show them that we are real."

Mid morning two days later Ayla heard a commotion and looked up to see several people approaching. Leading the group was an individual who was obviously their holy person. She could not tell if it was a man or a woman. The shaman wore a mask that was twice as long as his/her face and a bit wider than the head. Two small holes allowed the wearer to see, but big white tall and fairly narrow eyes were painted around the openings. Most of the rest of the mask was black, but it had several heavy red enigmatic lines. The red lines did not seem to form a pattern but probably did if one knew what the patterns meant. The person wore a head piece that was made of the feathers of a large bird and the head of the bird looked out over the top of the mask making the shaman appear very tall. He/she wore a heavy bearskin cloak with bear forelegs including the paws and claws attached. These swung as the shaman moved and it was obvious that he/she deliberately moved in a way to make them swing to appear menacing. The shaman threw out a powder onto the ground in front of where he/she was walking and chanted an esoteric call as he/she repeatedly pushed out toward them and pulled back an elaborately decorated mace. The mace was not pointed at them like a spear but held vertically. The shaman was obviously trying to dissuade evil spirits from staying around. Both she and Jondalar concluded that the shaman was their holy person and was Sapandori, the person the hunters had said they would return with.

Most people would be intimidated, but Ayla was Zelandoni even though she had no markings. She was dressed about as ordinary as anyone could be except her clothes were of the highest quality and clean in spite of the fact that they were traveling. She knew it was their power over the horses and wolf that the people feared, and she also knew that the antics of the holy person were pure invention. She knelt and put her arm around the wolf to calm him. When the shaman was about five yards away he shouted. "Go away, go away." She could then tell it was a man. Jondalar was standing beside her and he was no more afraid than she, and since she was holding the wolf, he stepped forward, held out his hands palms up and said, "You have no need to fear us or the animals and we bring no harm. We can explain the animals if you give us a chance. We are Zelandonii from far to the north and are here on a diplomatic mission for our leader. We are real people and not spirits."

The shaman then said, "If you are Zelandonii why do you speak Espandlii?" Jondalar responded, "I thought you would not understand Zelandonii, but if you do, I will speak it as I know it much better than Espandlii." Sapandori turned to his people and there was some discussion as they obviously tried to decide what to do. Sapandori turned back to Jondalar and said, "Did you stop at the Espandlii caves?" Jondalar answered, "Yes." Sapandori then said, "Do you bring their evil with you?"

Jondalar was rather puzzled by that query and hesitated. Ayla was taken back too. They knew nothing of the misinformation that the old leader of the Espandlii had been spreading although Amialago had alluded to the possibility. Finally Jondalar said, "We stayed with the Espandlii for a moon. They treated us well and we saw no evidence of evil. They are very prosperous."

Then Ayla had an idea, and said to Jondalar, "Here, hold Whinney's lead and calm Wolf, maybe I can show them that we are real people." Jondalar took the horse's lead rope and knelt down and put his arm around the wolf and talked to him to try to calm him. Ayla walked away from the rest of her family and the animals and a little closer to the group of Sapandorii. It was a hot summer day and she wore little and what clothes she had on though perfectly tailored were totally devoid of any decoration. Her clothing was not intended to be suggestive, but it did show off her perfect figure. Directing her comments to the Sapandori she said, "Look, I am a perfectly ordinary woman. You can see that I am not a spirit. I bleed when wounded, I cry when sad, I laugh when happy and I have to eat and sleep just like everyone else."

The Sapandori looked at her, and although he was a holy man, he was a man and was nearly overcome by her beauty. It registered in his subconscious that she walked with grace seeming to nearly float across the land. He did not consciously think about it or he might have realized that it was the gait of a stealthy lone hunter rather than the careless walk of one driving a heard along with many others or waiting in ambush with several others. But the affect in his state of mind was the impression that she was floating across the land and that was unnatural. She also walked with a confidence born of having met and overcome many hardships. Her unconscious emitting of such confidence also registered in his unconscious and made him feel even more that she was unnatural; although he could not quite form in his mind why he had the feelings. And as he looked at her he thought to himself, she may or may not be a spirit, but she is definitely not just an ordinary woman. She did not realize it, but she had not exactly achieved the affect she had intended. She thought of herself as an ordinary woman and one that was tall and ugly, but no one else did, and certainly not this Sapandori.

There was more discussion among the Sapandorii.

As the Sapandorii discussed the situation, Ayla studied the beach where the tributary joined the larger river. It was a rather wide flat stony beach and a yellowish glint caught her eye. When she looked more carefully, she realized that there were firestones among the many stones on the beach. She then moved back to where Jondalar was waiting.

The Sapandori then still speaking Espandlii, which convinced both Jondalar and Ayla that he did not know Zelandonii, asked, "What business do you come for?"

Both Ayla and Jondalar had understood for a long time what a shock their tame animals were to people they met for the first time. Taming animals to do one's bidding was so unheard of, unimagined of, that it could not be natural. It had to be supernatural. Supernatural things were not always good, and it was not easy to know if a supernatural happening was good or bad when one came upon it. Except for the clan couple and the S'Armuni, all the people they had encountered before had been people that Jondalar knew or people that knew someone Alya and/or Jondalar knew or had known. Those encounters had nothing in common with the situation they now faced. Now they were facing people that were total strangers and were obviously highly suspicious and fearful of the only people that both knew, the Espandlii. As Jondalar pondered the situation, he realized that they could turn and leave or continue to try to establish a relationship with these people. He also knew that he really had only one option. Ayla would never turn her back on a threat and she would never turn away from a sickness or injury; or any other problem for that matter.

He replied to the question, "Our caves have established good relationships with the Flatheads and want to talk to you about doing the same if you have not already done so."

"Flatheads!" The man shouted with considerable revulsion, "Why would we want to talk about them? They are of no value to us!"

Jondalar continued, "That is why we are here and I think we can explain why it is important, but only after we get past the fear and distrust that we now face. Now that we are here, I also think that we can resolve some misunderstandings about the Espandlii. But we must first convince you that we are not spirits, that we normal people and the control of the animals is a practical skill and not supernatural. We need to be able to talk and negotiate as people. I am sure we can show you things that will help you."

There was more discussion among the group.

Sapandori, still banishing the mace, said to them, "If you are not spirits, how can you control those animals?" Ayla said to Jondalar, "Let me try something else." "Go ahead," He said, "I have no ideas right now."

Again she stepped away and a bit toward the Sapandorii and thinking that since they wanted to believe in the supernatural she would play along with them. She had learned from the spiritual leaders that she had met, known and studied under that great good could be achieved by playing to the natural superstitions of the people. It was against her nature to do so, and she almost thought it was a lie, but said, "We control the animals because I am Zelandoni, a spiritual leader among the Zelandonii. I am not dressed the part as we are traveling, and I have only recently been inducted so I do not yet have my tattoo. Our magic is good magic. I can show you fire making magic and I can also show you how to use it."

There was more discussion among the group.

Sapandori then asked, "What kind of fire magic?"

Ayla answered, "I can only show all the people. The magic can not be a secret for only the spiritual leader."

Sapandori was not sure he liked what she said, but magic fire would be interesting and possibly useful. He said, "Show us."

Ayla pointed to a place near one of the fire stones and said, "Have someone prepare a fire here on the beach but do not light it. Be sure there are fire starting materials waiting to be lit. Also leave a piece of flint beside the fire materials. Any piece will do. It can even be a knife or axe but it must be worked flint. A piece covered with caulk will not work."

Sapandori barked some orders and a couple of men ran off a few yards to where there were some trees, dry grass and bushes. They came back with the necessary materials and prepared a fire where she had indicated, but did not light it. They then returned to their group.

Ayla held out her hands, open with palms up so they could see that she held nothing in them. She had no sleeves and her shorts where fairly skimpy with no folds or pockets in which to hide anything. She had even taken off her belt on which she normally carried a variety of tools and things hanging on loops or ties. She walked to the fire holding her hands out so all could see them. She knelt down, picked up the piece of flint that one of them had placed there, looked it over, and then picked up the firestone. She made obvious to those watching that she had picked up the piece of flint they had placed there, but the other stone appeared to have randomly selected. She held the stones, one in each hand, and then struck the firestone with the flint. The group was too far away to notice the spark in the bright daylight, but soon there was a wisp of smoke and in a few heartbeats there was a fairly robust fire.

None of the Sapandorii had ever seen anyone start a fire so fast without using a hot coal or torch and it was obvious that she had neither. There were gasps, oohs and aahs and comments that she did not understand but the meaning was obvious. They were impressed.

Sapandori asked, "You will show us how to do that?"

"Yes." She answered. "But I will show all the people, not just you."

It was not exactly the answer that he would have preferred, but he realized that, other than a refusal, it was the only one she could give since so many of his people had seen the demonstration. And he was the spiritual leader of his people and dedicated to helping them however he could and withholding this fire making trick from them would be withholding something that could help everyone. He knew they all should know how to do it.

Jondalar and Ayla were not being accepted as just ordinary people as they wished, but the barriers were coming down.

The people crowded around her as Ayla demonstrated the fire making magic. She first said, "The trick is in the selection of stones. As you could see, I used what was here. I did not bring anything with me to set up the trick. I used the piece of flint that you gave me and you saw me pick up the other stone from the beach. It probably looked like I just picked up any stone from the beach, but that was not really true. I had noticed these special fire stones mixed in with the others before I suggested showing you the fire making trick." She then held up the firestone so they could all see it. They all recognized it as like ones they had seen before since it had a yellowish color that one would naturally remember simply because it was somewhat different than most other stones. "When you strike the firestone a glancing blow with a piece of flint, you get a long lasting and hot spark. You quickly learn how to strike the stones so the spark will go where you want it, which is into the tinder. Now watch as I do it again." She explained how she held the stone and how she did a glancing blow as she went through the motions slowly so they could all see. She then set up the fire making materials again and lit another fire.

The Sapandori asked if he could do it, and she helped him. After a few tries, he too had a little fire going. Then others tried and soon everyone had started one or more fires. Before long the whole beach was covered with little fires. It had turned into a game and a competition.

After the fire making excitement died down, Sapandori introduced their leader, a man named Edvaroli to Jondalar and Ayla. Edvaroli made introductions all around, turned to Jondalar and asked, "We know that Ayla is Zelandoni and I assume that means spiritual leader, but what role do you play?" Jondalar said, "I am a flint knapper and other than that I provide for my family and help my cave in any way I can as any man would." Edvaroli looked at Jondalar with raised eyebrows and said, "Riding a horse, befriending a wolf and coping with someone like Ayla is not doing 'just what any man would do'". Jondalar replies, "You are right that Ayla is special, and I am very lucky that she does not realize how special she is; but the rest are things that anyone can learn to do." Edvaroli did not quite believe him, but did not press the issue.

Jondalar then said, "I do have something that I think your hunters would find helpful." That got Edvaroli's attention as anything that could help hunting would benefit his group. He asked, "And what might that be?" "I call it a spear thrower," Jondalar replied, "but it is best introduced with a demonstration. It does not look like much when you first see it."

"What kind of a demonstration?"

"A spear throwing demonstration."

"Oh. OK."

Edvaroli shouted some orders and several men ran off. They came back with targets and proceeded to set them up. They were hides suspended on frames and folded to hold straw mixed with dirt. Outlines of animals were painted on the sides facing the person that would be throwing the spear. When finished, Jondalar looked them over and said, "They will do, go ahead and set them out." Edvaroli looked at him with a puzzled look and said, "They are set out." Jondalar said, "They must be at least twice as far for this demonstration." Edvaroli was curious, but smiled and quipped, "What do you do, call an eagle to carry your spear to the target?"

"Not exactly," Jondalar replied, "but you will be impressed."

The men moved the targets, came back and watched Jondalar take out a spear shaft. It was a little lighter than what they usually hunted with, but fletched and well made. They were first curious that it had no point. Jondalar then took a point with a short shank from his pocket and placed it into a hole in the end of the shaft giving it a twist to insure that it fit tightly. He then placed the spear on a slender board that he held with two fingers through thong loops at one end and pushed the back end of the spear onto a hook sticking up from the other end of the board. The end of the spear had a hollow carved in it to fit onto the hook. Except for holding the board along with the spear, he held the spear as they would. He took a couple of running steps and let fly. As he threw, the board lifted up and continued to impel the spear after his arm started arcing down and could not have added thrust without the thrower acting as a handle. The spear landed nearly in the middle of the target. There were gasps of surprise. No one had ever seen a spear thrown so far and so accurate. Most would have had trouble hitting the center of the target from where they had originally set it.

But, what was even more shocking was that within a couple of heart beats, a second spear landed in the target, but in the middle of the neck of the animal painted on the target. Everyone had been watching Jondalar and no one had noticed Ayla making the same preparations.

Jondalar turned to Edvaroli and said, "It is simple, but it helps."

Edvaroli just gaped, open mouthed; first at Jondalar, then at the targets with the spears stuck in them, then at Ayla and back to Jondalar.

As the men recovered from their shock they wanted to know more about the "magic" weapon and most wanted to try it. At first those that tried were disappointed since it takes a lot of practice to get to where one can hit what he aims at, but they got the extra distance right away and that gave them encouragement.

Sapandori went over to Ayla and said, "Ayla, could we talk?" "Sure", she said, "what do you want to talk about?" He said, "You claimed to be Zelandoni and I wondered if we could compare our practices with yours." "I would love to." She replied, "I am fascinated with how different peoples interact with the spirit world and I hope you are a healer since that is my first love and I love to compare healing practices and learn from other healers." His eyes opened big as he said, "You are a healer too!" "Yes." She said, "Is it not common for a spiritual leader to be a healer?"

"Well yes; but you can do so many things it is just surprising that you can also be a healer."

She then said, "Before we get totally distracted with esoteric stuff you should meet 'Wolf'." She used the Manutoi word for wolf which she used for his name, but Sapandori just thought that was what she had named the animal. She continued, "He usually stays quite near me and he has had to stay with the children and horses for quite a while. Until he gets to know you he will be quite nervous for my safety." She then whistled for the wolf and he came bounding to her, jumped up and put his paws on the fronts of her shoulders, took her throat in his jaws and growled his delight. She ruffled his fur and took his jaw in her mouth returning the love and enthusiasm. As always when anyone witnesses the show of wolf affection for the first time, Sapandori was shocked and frightened for her safety and was still dazed when the wolf got down and she said, "Hold out your hand so Wolf can smell it. That is how he gets to know you," She took the shaman's hand and held it to the wolf. Wolf sniffed it and then licked it. She then said, "He likes to be petted and scratched." She petted and scratched the animal as she explained it to Sapandori. Sapandori did as told and found he rather liked the animal.

Sapandori then turned to Ayla and asked, "Why did you first try to make us believe that you are just ordinary people when you both control such magic?" Ayla shook her head and said, "Because we feel like ordinary people. We really do not control any magic. It might look like magic since you have not seen it before, but we can explain how to do everything you see us do and then any of your people can do it too. But, I have to admit, much of what we have shown you took a lot of time and practice." Sapandori then said, "But you did say you were Zelandoni." "Yes." Ayla replied. "I have recently been inducted but in a minor position. It was necessary if I was to continue to practice healing and I have felt a call. The calling is not particularly clear, but I have felt it and have trained." He then asked, "Have you visited the spirit world?" "Yes." She said, "But only a couple of times. I don't care for it. It is very frightening. I don't think I could do it if I did not have Jondalar to call me back."

He pressed on asking, "You said you hold a minor position, can you explain what that means?" She answered, saying, "It is called Zelandoni-at-Large. I am not responsible for any particular cave, although I help our cave's Zelandoni. She is very good. In fact, she is Zelandoni-Who-is-First. It is a large cave and she cannot do it all by herself. I am not exactly her assistant; I am more like a volunteer. I am to be available when any of the other Zelandoni needs help."

Ayla spent the rest of the day comparing legends, ceremonies, healing practices and chants with Sapandori. Jondalar spent the day explaining how to make and use spear throwers. He also met the group's flint knapper and they started comparing techniques. Finally Edvaroli said to everyone. "It has been an interesting day, but a long one. You all must be hungry. I know I am. Let's go up to the cave and eat." He then turned to Jondalar and said, there is a field near the cave where you can put the horses, but we invite you and your family to stay inside.

Although they accepted the invitation to stay inside with the Sapandorii, they set up their travelling tent in the field with the horses so it would not become permanently wrinkled and so it would air out.

They stayed with the Sapandorii for several days during which Ayla gave demonstrations with the sling, she and Jondalar gave horse riding demonstrations and they both showed how they used the horses and the wolf to help hunt. Ayla and the children became quite fluent in the language and Jondalar gained a basic working capability. Sapandori was amazed at Ayla's range of knowledge and one day said, "Ayla, you said that a minor position was created within the Zelandonia for you. Do you know why you were not made a regular Zelandoni?" She answered, "I think it was that they felt that I should be in the ranks since I was a good healer, but no cave needed a Zelandoni. The Zelandoni of my cave, the one who is First, really pushed me to make the commitment and also pressured the others to accept me. I am not sure why, she just said that I should be prepared when I get the call."

He pondered her answer thinking "she is far too skilled to be delegated to a secondary role. There must be more to it than she says, or wants to admit." It also went through his mind that few really beautiful women were so talented. Most got along quite nicely on their looks alone and did not feel the need to develop a skill, let alone hunting with novel and difficult weapons. He also noticed how she doted on the children, the animals and Jondalar. No one could fault her for neglecting any of them. He concluded that she was more than she claimed in spite of her benign demeanor, and he surmised that she had a core as solid as flint. Not cold and uncaring, but strength and resolve when it was needed. He was not Sapandori without reason. He understood people and felt their sorrows and happiness's; and he felt their needs and fears as though they were his own. He was a good judge of character and he was in total admiration of Ayla. He did not develop the same closeness with Jondalar, but what he did observe reinforced his judgment formed from association. He did not believe that Ayla would accept any less for a mate.

7

They finally got around to their purpose which was to try to establish agreement among all the peoples to treat the Clan people fairly and kindly. Jondalar was talking to Edvaroli about a variety of things and decided to bring up the subject. He started by asking, "Edvaroli, what kind of a relationship do you have with the flatheads?" Edvaroli looked at Jondalar with a rather puzzled look and replied, "We don't have much of any relationship with them. We mostly avoid each other. I understand they are not good to eat so we do not hunt them. Why?" Jondalar said, "Most people do not realize it, but they are thinking, caring and sensitive people that honor the spirit world much like we do. Different, but they are real people. Our ancestors chased them from the best living places and some still harass them for sport. They are starting to discuss how they should deal with us in their general councils. The leaders of the Zelandonii caves have decided to deal with the flatheads with respect and kindness. Their hunting methods are rather primitive and we have already helped them in a couple of hunts, and Ayla set some broken bones for one of their hunters."

Edvaroli said, "Wait a minute, we must be talking about different things. The language barrier might have made me think you were talking about the creatures we call flatheads. You are not describing them. Let's start over."

Jondalar then said, "Describe the flatheads you know of around here."

Edvaroli said, "They walk on two legs like we do, but they can not talk and they run away from us like any wild animal. They are rather short. We call them flatheads because of the way their foreheads slope back. But they are not people. Sometimes the young men chase them, but I have never known of anyone actually catching one or killing one. Like I said; we have heard that they are not good to eat, so we never hunt them."

Jondalar smiled as he listened to Edvaroli's description. It was much like he would have described the clan when he was younger. He then said, "Edvaroli, I really believe we are talking about the same creatures. They chose to avoid us, and probably for good reason. We have treated them badly in the past. But, once you get to know them, they are a lot more like us than you might want to believe. They do talk and have a rich and complex language, but it is mostly with hand signs and not sounds like we talk. They also have rituals honoring the spirit world like we do, although they honor the Great Cave Bear rather than the Great Earth Mother. And if you do not know something, or someone, who could be your enemy, you are in a very dangerous position. That is why our caves have decided to communicate with them and treat them with respect and dignity and to help them when we can. We have even initiated some limited trading with them."

Edvaroli called to Sapandori and asked him to join them. When Sapandori sat down, Edvaroli said, "Jondalar has just been telling me some crazy stuff about the flatheads. Jondalar, repeat for Sapandori what you just told me?" When Jondalar finished, Sapandori thought for a long time and then said, "If what you say is true, and I doubt that you would have traveled here if you did not believe it, we should probably do something about it. I am not sure yet just what we should do, but we can not ignore them."

Sapandori looked at Jondalar, and asked, "How can you be so sure of all this?"

Jondalar looked Sapandori in the eye and said, "Ayla was raised by them. She was orphaned when she was five. An earthquake killed her family and she had wandered alone for several days. The same earthquake had destroyed the cave of a group of flatheads, killing some of them and the rest were traveling to find a new home when they came upon her. She was sick, starving and suffering from being clawed by a cave lion. The medicine woman took her and treated her and adopted her as her own child. The medicine woman's mate had been killed in the earthquake so she and her older male sibling who happened to be their spiritual leader set up a hearth and raised Ayla as a family. In my travels I have had several contacts with them and I can speak with my own authority that they are human and humane."

Edvaroli and Sapandori sat shaking their heads. Jondalar had just related the most inconceivable tale they had ever heard. Could he be telling the truth? What reason could he possibly have to fabricate such a story?

Finally Edvaroli turned to Jondalar and asked, "What can we do?"

Jondalar said, "I would suggest that we go talk to them. Do you know where we can find them?"

Edvaroli answered, "We sometimes see them on the other side of the river you were following when you came upon us."

Jondalar said, "Then I think that you, I and Ayla should scout that territory and try to make contact. We should be a small group so we will not appear threatening. Ayla will talk to them since she knows their language."

It was agreed and they set out early the next day. They did not take the children, horses or the wolf since the tame animals would spook the clan people. Jonayla was perfectly capable of taking care of her brother and the animals so they left them in her care.

Wanoota, Edvaroli's mate was a bit overcome and more than a bit miffed by the responsibility of the two children, four horses and a wolf that had just been thrust upon her. Her anxieties eased somewhat as she watched Ayla's children, Jonayla and Crebilon, playing with, and looking after, her own four year old, little Edvarnnie. She was amazed at how the wolf played and looked after the children. One time when Wanoota happened to be watching, an older child tried to tease little Edvarnnie and in the process made a move that the wolf identified as threatening. The wolf bared his teeth, growled, raised his hackles and was ready to leap at the boy. Jonayla grabbed the wolf around the neck to assure him and the boy jumped back. Everyone got the message. The wolf would protect the youngest and weakest. Not long after, they were all playing together as though nothing had happened. Little Edvarnnie would pull the wolf's fur, push is hand into the wolf's mouth and poke at the wolf's eyes and the wolf seemed to actually enjoy it.

Jonayla obviously knew how to care for the horses as well. Wanoota watched as the young girl brushed them, talked to them, patted them, fed them some grain and even rode each of them a little. When Wanoota mentioned to her how much attention and work the horses needed, Jonayla said, "I am trying to give them extra attention because they miss Mother when she is not around."

Later in the afternoon, Wanoota's anxieties reared again when she could not find Jonayla. She asked Crebilon where his sister was and he said, "She went to get our evening meal." Wanoota asked, "Where did she go and what is she going to get?" He replied, "She went into the woods and she will get what she finds." Wanoota then said, "But it is dangerous for a small child to be in the woods alone. She could get lost." He then said, "She knows what to do and will not get lost. Wolf is with her and he will protect her." Wanoota was not convinced, but there was nothing she could do at the moment. If the girl did happen to find some berries or root vegetables they could round out the meal she was planning.

Soon, Jonayla came walking into the encampment with two hares, a fox and a bag full of leaf and root vegetables. She was nearly as good as her mother with the sling and Wolf had found her some targets. She immediately started skinning the animals and started the hares cooking. She then pealed the vegetables, cut them up, started them cooking in water that she heated with cooking stones and added some deer meat and fat that they had got while traveling along with some herbs for seasoning. Wanoota watched in amazement. The boy had meant what he said. The girl was making their evening meal. She said to the girl, "Jonayla, you did not have to make your meal, I was going to have you eat with us." Jonayla replied, "Oh, that's OK. We should not be making extra work for you." Wanoota then said, "You could still join us. You could bring your food and add it to what I am making and we could all share. I would like to see how you prepare your food." Jonayla agreed and they shared the evening meal. Wanoota had no doubt that the girl could prepare an adequate meal, but was quite surprised when she tasted it and discovered that it was far more than adequate. If fact it was quite delicious.

She had to ask, but knew the answer, "Your mother must have taught you how to cook. Most girls your age, and many adult women could not do as well under the circumstances." "Yes she did." Jonayla replied. "She can do everything and is trying to teach me how too. I have a lot to learn yet. I am lucky that Mother and Jondalar can do everything and take the time to teach us. The mother of one of my friends can't do much. My friend's mother's mate can't do much either. So my friend does not have much and is not learning how to do things except what I show her. I feel sorry for her." Wanoota looked at the girl and wondered, "Just who are these people."

The next day Wanoota noticed that Jonayla looked sad and seemed to be uncharacteristically just mopping around. She thought something might be wrong and asked, "Jonayla you do not seem to be your normal cheerful self. Is something wrong?" Jonayla replied, "I know it should not bother me, but the boys do not want me to practice spear throwing with them." Wanoota let it drop, but that evening during the evening meal, she asked her older son about it. Jonayla was a bit embarrassed that the subject came up, and the boy squirmed and tried to avoid answering. But Wanoota persisted and finely he blurted out, "Because she is better than any of us." Wanoota suppressed a smile. Her curiosity had been satisfied. She decided it would be best to let the children work it out between themselves, so she did nothing. But she did wonder why a young girl would be so skilled at spear throwing. It was obvious that she was well cared for and did not have to take care of herself, but she was fully capable of taking care of herself.

One day when Jondalar, Ayla and Edvaroli had just started out after their mid-day meal, and as they were approaching the crest of a fairly low ridge, they heard the sounds of stampeding aurochs from the other side of the crest. They hurried up to look over the crest, hoping they would not meet the stampede at the top, to see what was happening. A group of five clan hunters were in the process of cutting a cow from the herd and running her down. They had formed a circle and as she chased one of them, he would run to the next hunter who would distract her and make her chase him while the first rested. The second would run to the third and so on until they made a full circle and the first would then take over once again. The activity had caused the rest of the herd to stampede away from the commotion. The ridge that Edvaroli, Jondalar and Ayla were on sloped steeply down towards the stampede so they were quite close to the raging animals, but the steep slope deterred the animals from charging in their direction.

The clan hunters were on the other side of the herd.

Just as the last of the herd was passing the hunters, an old bull decided to attend to the situation and charged one of the clan hunters. The hunter did not see it coming, but another clan hunter did and screamed at him. Just as the hunter turned to see what was happening, the bull dropped, nearly at his feet, with two spears sticking out of him. The cow got away, but another dropped with two spears a little farther away.

Edvaroli had seen the demonstrations of the spear throwers, but this was the first time he had seen them actually used and was nearly as impressed as the clan hunters. The clan hunters had no idea what was happening. They had not seen the group approaching. They just stood there looking dumfounded.

Ayla quickly removed her quiver of spears and her sling. She did not want to disturb the clan hunters even more by being a woman that hunts. She then walked slowly, but deliberately, up to the Clan leader and knelt in front of him in the way any clan woman would show a clan man that she wanted to talk to him. His mind was in turmoil. At first he thought the spirits had intervened, but now it was clear that the "Others" had killed the bull and the cow and had saved his hunter's life. He was glad for his hunter, but not so pleased about the debt to the "Others" that they now owed. Then he was puzzled by how they did it. Except for the woman asking for an audience, they were all still far away and they were just standing there. They were not approaching or leaving. Nor were they making claim to the animals they had just killed. He looked again at the dead animals. Each had two spears sticking out of them. Rather skinny spears and with feathers on the ends, but the animals were very dead and dead by explainable cause. His hunters were every bit as shocked and confused as their leader. They just stood where they were looking over the situation not knowing what to make of it or what to do and glad they were not the leader. At least they would not have to work it out.

He decided that the only way to find out what was going on was to talk to the woman, but he knew the "Others" could not talk. They were just noisy. She was showing proper etiquette which surprised him. He tapped her on the shoulder.

Ayla stood and faced him. Then using the hand signs of the ancient language that all clans understood, she addressed him saying, "My leader," and she pointed to Edvaroli, "wishes to talk to you about how we should respect and acknowledge each other. He can not speak your language, so I will have to interpret. My mate," she pointed to Jondalar, "can speak some of your language but not as well as I. But first you should tend to the dead animals. You must not waste the meat. We can help if it would please you."

He looked at her. Although he did not know what to have expected, he knew it would not have been what he just heard. He motioned to his hunters. One ran off and Ayla knew he was going to get the women to butcher the animals. The other hunters went to the dead animals and started to bleed them and remove the internal organs.

The clan leader then turned back to Ayla and signed, "How do you know our language?" She explained how she had been orphaned and then found and raised by a clan group. He said, "I have not heard of a girl of the others being adopted by any clan." She said, "It was a year's travel to the east. It is a long story and now is not the time to relate it." He looked her over and spotted the otter skin medicine bag hanging from her belt and recognized what it was. He wondered if she actually knew what such an article meant and should be used for so he asked, "Why do you carry the otter skin bag?"

This was getting complicated and leading away from their mission, but she decided she would have to work through his questions and then get to the business of their mission. She said, "While I lived with the clan that raised me, I lived as the daughter of their medicine woman. She taught me the healing magic and when she died, the leader made me their medicine woman." She then took off the leather pouch that hung from her neck on a thong, opened it and poured out its contents into her hand. She picked out a piece of black maganese oxide and showed it to him. He gasped as he recognized the object that was given to a clan medicine woman. It held part of the spirit of every clan person for her to keep in exchange for her medical services. Since she already had a piece of their spirit, they would not owe her more when she helped them. He was shocked. Except for being obviously one of the "Others" she had all the credentials of a full medicine woman. And she even knew the ancient language. His mind reeled. And, what was he to do about his debt to these others for saving his hunter's life and giving them two aurochs? Maybe he should give them the animals. She had clearly said that he should not waste the animals. He hated to, they desperately needed the food, yet he could not claim them. He could only accept them as a gift, and accepting a gift was accepting a debt. And these "others" wanted to talk about respecting and acknowledging each other.

He decided to postpone any decision and see what these "Others" wanted.

The clan women came, butchered the animals and prepared to cart the meat away. Ayla, Jondalar and Edvaroli ignored them by busying themselves with other things.

Edvaroli was a confused as was the clan leader. Yet as he watched he saw that the clan people were acting like people and they were communicating with hand signals as Ayla had said they did. He saw that the clan leader was organizing the work just as he would have done. He realized that had he come upon the same scene without the benefit of Jondalar and Ayla explanations of the clan people he would not have recognized the communication and directing of the work. It was a revelation that shook his deeply ingrained beliefs. He also realized that he had no clue as to how to proceed. He also realized that Ayla and Jondalar seemed to have no misgivings whatsoever and that puzzled him too. Who were they and want powers did they command. He decided to wait and see what would happen.

It was late in the day when the last of the meat was prepared for removal and the clan people, both men and women, made camp for the night. Edvaroli, Jondalar and Ayla did the same.

Early the next morning both camps made their morning meals; and the clan women loaded the meat into baskets and walked away with it. The men stayed. It was obvious they had accepted the gift, but Ayla knew they were not comfortable with accepting the gift because of the onus of debt it placed on them. Edvaroli did not understand how the clan felt about the debt of gifts, but once Ayla explained it to him, he realized it was not so different from his own. The giving of gifts was a subtle way of cementing relationships between distant groups as a safety net in case of hard times. When needed, they could collect on the investment. He had not seen the killing of the animal that was to gore one of the clan's hunters as the same as a calculated giving of a gift. But once she explained it, he could see how it could be so construed and it made the clan people seem even more human. He looked at the woman and thought "How can she be so wise?" "Just who is she?"

After the morning meal Jondalar walked over to the clan leader and gestured a greeting. The clan leader returned the greeting. Jondalar then signed, "I do not speak well, but please try to understand me. I hope the two animals will in some small way help repay my debt to the clan." Now the clan leader was really confused. What debt could this man of the others possibly owe to the clan? Jondalar continued, "My mate, the woman over there whom you talked to yesterday, was raised by a clan group and trained as a medicine woman. When I was on a journey with my brother and far from home we were attacked by a cave lion. My brother was killed, but the woman who is now my mate saved my life. If her life had not been saved by the clan and if she had not been properly trained as a medicine woman I would be in the spirit world now. I owe the clan my life, and the debt weighs heavily on me."

Jondalar's claim sounded farfetched to the clan leader, but possible. Moreover, he wanted to believe it as it provided a way out of his dilemma. He had the feeling that these "others" were somehow manipulating his life and that made him uncomfortable. But, so far they had only helped and appeared not to be threatening. What could they want? He had the strange feeling that he was confronted with superior intellect, but he could not put the feeling into a conscious structure such as words or signs, he only sensed it as a tingling of fear. Yet, there had been no show of hostility.

After some thought he responded to Jondalar, "You provided us with two animals, but you also saved my hunter's life. That should repay your debt to us."

Jondalar replied, "It is not certain that your hunter would have been killed, or even seriously hurt, so I can never feel that my debt has been fully repaid, but your acceptance of the animals will help ease my burden."

The clan leader said, "We will accept the animals on that condition. Why are you here?"

Jondalar answered, "We wish to talk about how we can respect, honor and help each other."

"Why"

Jondalar seemed to be getting along reasonably well with the language. At least the clan leader seemed to understand him and was being tolerant of his ineptness. He answered saying, "If we do not work together and understand each other, occasional meetings would cause fear and maybe fighting. That would lead to more fear and mistrust. But, if a misunderstanding or unfortunate event should happen we could meet and discuss it. We could find a way to make it right and insure that it not happen again. We would all be more at ease. Also, we could discuss where each should hunt, or even have joint hunts. Our hunting methods are quite effective. My mate and I have come from far away. Our people have started to work with the clan near us and are establishing trust with them. We are here to get the 'others' who live near here to do the same. We do not want our kind of people who live here causing trouble with the clan since that could undermine the trusting and cooperative relationship that we are building."

The clan leader had to think about what Jondalar had said. It was not the kind of thing he was used to dealing with. It was new and required change. Change did not come easily for the clan. He not only had to deal with the issue himself, he would have to get the rest of his clan to understand. Yet, he realized that it could be a good thing. He and his people mistrusted the "others" and always avoided them. There had been times when avoiding the others had spoiled a hunt or had caused them to run away from food, such as those blackberries last year, only to watch as the "others" harvested it apparently unaware that his people were even nearby.

While Jondalar was talking to the clan leader, Ayla observed that their conversation seemed to be going well and then realized that no one of the Sapandorii would be able to talk to the clan once she and Jondalar left. She turned to Edvaroli and asked, "Do you have anyone who might be willing to learn the clan language? It should probably be a young man."

Edvaroli thought for a while and then said, "I think that one of Sapandori's acolytes might be willing. We can talk to him when we get back."

Ayla then walked over to Jondalar and knelt at the clan leader's feet. When he tapped her on the shoulder, she said, "When my mate and I return to our home, these others," and she pointed to Edvaroli, "will have no one that can speak your language. But, there is a young man among them that might be able to learn. Will you try to teach him?"

The clan leader looked at her thinking, "This woman is more than she seems. How can she think of so many details?" He then thought about how one would go about teaching someone how to talk when that someone did not know it was the hand signals. Yet, she had somehow learned, and learned well. Maybe it was possible. He would have to discuss the issue with the Mog-Ur. Maybe they could work it out between them. He turned to her and signed, "We will try." She went back to Edvaroli and explained to him what the clan leader had agreed to. She also explained that she would coach the young man on how to deal with the clan people before her and Jondalar leave to go back to their home.

She then had another thought and asked Edvaroli to feel the quality and texture of her leather clothing. He was amazed at the subtle softness and commented on it. She then explained that the clan worked their leather to that quality as a matter of course. She added, "It might be possible to trade with them for worked hides; both leather and furs." "But what would we give them in return?" he asked. You might cooperate in a hunt where you give them some of the animals you kill in return for the treated hide from those animals. I suggest that you keep the animals you kill and let them keep those that they kill, except those that you want them to treat the hides for you."

Edvaroli studied Ayla, He had the strange feeling that he was confronted with superior intellect, but he could not put the feeling into a conscious structure of words, it was more of a sensation with a bit of tingling fear. "Just who are these people he wondered. Their leader knew who to send on this kind of mission. They were probably picked because of their uncanny abilities." He had no way of knowing that he would soon develop proficiency in communicating with the clan leader and that a strong mutual respect and actual friendship would develop between them. At a time in the not too distant future he and the clan leader would be sharing their thoughts and impressions of Jondalar and Ayla. They were to be amazed at how similarly they both appraised Jondalar and Ayla and how they both wondered if the spirits had sent them. They would recount how their visit had greatly helped the two peoples, but that benefit would have little if any affect on the Zelandonii who had allegedly sent them. The spirits must have had a hand in it. He then said to Ayla, "tell the clan leader about your idea and see if he is receptive." She did and he was.

They agreed to meet the clan people at the same place in one moon, introduce the young man who would be learning their language and hopefully have a joint hunt.

8

As they were traveling back to the home of the Sapandorii, Edvaroli said, "Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined anything like what just happened." Alya said, "Life is too harsh to have misunderstandings and enemies."

When they got back, Wanoota said to the returning group, look at the outfit that Jonayla made for Little Edvarnnie. They all looked at the little boy who was posing to display his new outfit. Edvaroli spoke first asking, "That is a really nice outfit. How did she come to make it?" Wanoota said, "I started to work the roe deer hide you brought the other day, and she set-up beside me and started working on the fox pelt that she got with her sling. She asked what I was going to make with the deer hide and I said that I might make something for Little Edvarnnie to wear when it gets colder. I asked her what she was going to make with her fox and she said she had not made up her mind, but that it would make a nice collar. She then asked if she could make the outfit for Little Edvarnnie. I was reluctant to let her. I hated to waste a perfectly good deer skin, but she had shown so much capability and seemed to want to so badly that I let her. As you can see she did a fantastic job. She used the most amazing thing that she calls a thread puller. She told me that she even made it herself, but that Jondalar made the tool to bore the little hole in it." Jonayla then spoke up explaining, "I made the clothes a little large since they are for the cold weather and Edvarnnie will be bigger then." Everyone looked at each other. They had been admiring the quality of the clothing, and had noticed it did not fit quite right but did not want to criticize the little girl. They now realized that it was intentional and that made her skills even more amazing.

Over the next few days Ayla coached the young acolyte and to her pleasure found that he was excited about learning the clan language. Although he was so taken by her beauty he night not have totally understood what he was agreeing to. He would have refused her nothing. She taught him some basic signs and explained the clan customs.

Jondalar sat down with Edvaroli and broached a subject that had been bothering him, saying, "I fear that there are some misunderstandings between your people and the Espandlii."

Edvaroli said, "We have heard that an evil shaman with great evil magic has enslaved the people."

Jondalar then asked, "How did you hear that?"

Edvaroli responded, "Their previous leader was just able to escape and now lives alone between their land and ours. He sometimes comes to us to trade furs for supplies. He told us about it and warned us to avoid them so we would not get trapped by the evil magic."

Jondalar thought for a while. At least he now understood what the problem was. Finally he said. "As I mentioned before, we visited the Espandlii before coming here. We stayed with them for nearly a moon. We worked with them to establish a good working relationship with the flatheads that live near them just as we did with you. There was no sign of evil. They were happy people and open to visitors and open to establishing the new relationship with the flatheads just like you. But now I understand what has happened. I must start at the beginning for you to understand.

A few years ago, Espandli, their spiritual leader, along with two of his acolytes made a pilgrimage to our land. He showed up at the Ninth Cave where Ayla and I live. He explained that his people had fallen on bad times and that he blamed himself for not having the skills needed to deal with the problems. He said the root of their problems was their leader and some of the skills he needed to develop were those needed to deal with the leader. He said he had heard of the Zelandonia and knew that they were exceptionally gifted and wanted to study under them. His hope was to develop his skills to be able to help guide his people back to prosperity. He and his acolytes stayed with us for nearly a year. He actually lived with Ayla and me. He was carefully evaluated by our Zelandonia and trained by them. While they were with us, the acolytes learned how to ride horses and how to get them and train them. They also learned how to make and use spear throwers and slings. One of the acolytes studied flint knapping under me and became quite skilled.

When we visited them before coming here, we saw that they were using the skills they learned and that the people were again prosperous. We also learned that the old leader would not change and had been made to leave. We also learned that the old leader was very bitter and was living as a hermit some distance from any of the Espandlii people. As you know, when first faced with tame animals that do our bidding and weapons that seem magical, it is hard to believe that such things are simply skills to be learned.

I suggest that when we leave to go back to our home, you and some of your people join us as far as to where the Espandlii live and discuss your misunderstandings with them and try to establish a trusting relationship. We will stay with you as long as you feel it is necessary, but I do not think you will need us."

When Ayla and Jondalar felt they had done all they could, they left for home with the Sapandorii delegation in tow. The misunderstandings between the Sapandorii and the Espandlii were worked out quickly and Ayla, Jondalar and family left for home.

It was the middle of fall when they reached the Ninth Cave and reported to Joharran and Zelandoni on what they found and accomplished. They had missed the summer meeting and had to catch up on all that had happened. Joharran sent out runners for all the other cave leaders to come to a meeting on the subject. Joharran had Jondalar and Ayla tell the other leaders about all that had happened. He congratulated them on being successful ambassadors saying that they "were exceptionally effective". It seemed that the issue of misunderstandings with the clan had been resolved.

Zelandoni had a private talk with Ayla and said to her, "Ayla do you have any idea of how special you are? Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are always fixing problems. Often you fix problems that people do not even know they have." Alya was quite uncomfortable with such high praise and countered with, "I really just do what anyone else would do. And besides, it was Jondalar that got the Sapandorii and the Espandlii to work out their misunderstandings." "That is true," said Zelandoni "you are wearing off on him."

Joharran, Marthona and Zelandoni had a little private talk about how Ayla had come into their midst and had continuously surprised them with her ability and modesty. Maybe creating a trusting and respectful relationship with the Clan was what she had been sent to do. As Jondalar had suggested, it could have saved them from a lot of trouble. Zelandoni suspected that there was more to it than that. She remembered Creb's message from the spirit world where he told her that his people could not adapt to the challenges of the changing world ahead. They were doomed. He had also told her that her people could meet the challenges of the future. So, she knew that any help they could give to the Clan would only forestall the inevitable. In doing so, they could be saving themselves a lot of trouble and so it was worth it. However, she realized that in the larger scheme of things, it was not all that important. She kept her thoughts to herself.