Read The Shelters of Stone Online

Authors: Jean M. Auel

Tags: #Historical fiction

The Shelters of Stone (69 page)

Jondalar followed her in, though he liked cold water far less than she did. He was up to his thighs, and when she got close, he splashed her. She squealed and sloshed the water around, roiling it up, and with both hands splashed a wave toward him that caught him in the face and soaked him from the shoulders down.

“I wasn’t ready for that,” he said, sputtering with a sudden shiver, and slapped the water back at her. The horses looked up at the commotion they were making in the water. She grinned at him, he reached for her, and the noisy water play stopped as they stood together with arms entwined and lips pressed together.

“Maybe I should help you wash,” he murmured in her ear as he reached between her legs and felt himself respond.

“Maybe I should help you,” she said, reaching for his hard erect member, and with the water, she rubbed her hand up and down, exposing the head from the foreskin. The cold liquid ought to have cooled his ardor, he thought, but her cool hand on his warm organ was strangely, intensely stimulating. Then she knelt down and when she took the head of his manhood in her mouth, it felt hot. He moaned as she moved back and forth, working her tongue around the head, and he felt such urgency, it caught him by surprise. Suddenly, before he could control it, he felt his ardor rise and burst forth as waves of release washed through him.

He pushed her back. “Let’s get out of this cold water,” he said. She spit out his essence and rinsed her mouth, then smiled at him. Taking her hand, he led her out. When they reached the riding blanket, they sat down, then he pushed her back and lay down beside her, raising up on an arm to look at her. “You caught me by surprise,” he said, feeling relaxed but slightly flustered. It had not turned out the way he had planned.

She smiled; it wasn’t often that he gave up his essence so quickly, he was always the one who liked to maintain control. Her smile turned to a grin of delight. “You must have been more ready than you thought,” she said.

“You don’t have to look so pleased with yourself,” he said.

“It’s not often that I can surprise you,” she said. “You are the one who knows me so well, it surprises me, and always makes me feel so Pleasured.”

He couldn’t help but smile back at her delight. He leaned over to kiss her, and she opened her mouth slightly, welcoming him. He enjoyed touching her, holding her, kissing her, in any case. He probed inside her mouth, gently, tentatively, and she did the same. Then he felt just the hint of an urge start to rise again and felt pleased. He might not be entirely spent yet, and there was no hurry to get back.

He spent time just kissing her, then running his tongue over her lips. He found her neck and her throat, nibbling and kissing them. It tickled and she had to restrain herself to keep from moving aside. She was already stimulated, and holding herself still added to the experience. When he started to move lower, kissing her shoulder and her inner arm all the way to the elbow, she could hardly stand it and wanted more at the same time. Without her realizing it, her breathing increased, which encouraged him. Then, suddenly, he took a nipple in his mouth, and she gasped as streaks of fire flashed inside to her inner place.

His manhood was growing again. He felt the roundness of her breast, then took the contracted, upright nipple of her other breast in his mouth and suckled hard. He reached for the first nipple with his hand, squeezing and manipulating it between his fingers. She pushed against him, feeling the intensity and wanting more. She did not hear the breeze in the willows or feel the coolness of the air, her entire attention was focused inside, on the sensations he caused her to feel.

He, too, was feeling the heat rise inside himself and his tumescent manhood. He moved lower, settled himself between her thighs, and, opening her folds, bent down for his first sample. She was still wet from the water, and he reveled in the cold and the wet and the warmth and the salt and the familiar taste of Ayla, his Ayla. He wanted all of her, all at
once, and reached up for her nipples as he found her hard, pulsing nodule.

She moaned and cried out, arching up to him as he suckled and manipulated her with his tongue. She was not thinking, just feeling. Then, before she knew it, she was there, feeling the surge grow and expand until suddenly it washed over her, as he felt the wetness. Then she was reaching for him, making little cries of need, wanting to feel him inside her. He rose up, found her opening, and pushed himself in, then pulled his manhood out and pushed in again.

She was meeting him, pushing closer and pulling back, arching and turning her body to feel him just where she needed him. His urge was there, but not quite as demanding as it sometimes was. Rather than having to control, he just let it build, rocking with her, moving with her, feeling the tension grow, plunging deeply with joy and abandon. She was calling out, and her wordless sounds gained in pitch and intensity. Then it reached the peak, and with words and sounds increasing they felt a great release swell up and gush forth. They held for a moment, then pushed in and pulled out a few more times, and lay still, panting to catch their breath.

As she lay there with her eyes closed, Ayla heard the wind soughing through the trees and a bird calling to its mate, felt the cool breeze and the delicious feeling of his weight on her, smelled horse from the blanket, and the scent of their Pleasures, and remembered the taste of his skin and his kisses. When he finally pulled himself up and looked at her, she was smiling, a dreamy, half-dozing, warm smile of contentment.

When they finally got up, Ayla went back into the pond to clean herself as Iza had taught her long ago. Jondalar did, too. It seemed to him that if she did, he ought to, though it hadn’t been his habit until he met her. He really didn’t like cold water. As he was rinsing off, however, he thought if there were many more days like today, he could learn to like it.

On the way back to the South Holding of the Twenty-ninth Cave, Ayla found she was not looking forward to seeing
the neighbors, which seemed somewhat inimical. Though she felt accepted by Jondalar’s kin and the members of the Ninth Cave, she realized she wasn’t especially eager to see them, either. As much as she had wanted their Journey to come to an end, and to have the company of other people around her, she had grown used to the patterns she and Jondalar had established while they were traveling, and she missed them. When they were with the Cave, there was always someone who wanted to talk to either Jondalar or her, or both. They were both glad for the close warmth of the people, but sometimes young lovers wanted to be alone.

In their sleeping rolls in the family tent that night, with everyone much closer together, Ayla was reminded of the sleeping arrangements within the Mamutoi earthlodge and found herself thinking about them. When she first saw it, she had been amazed at the semisubterranean longhouse the Lion Camp had constructed. They used mammoth bones to support the thick walls of sod and thatch, covered by clay, which kept out the intense wind and winter cold of the midcontinental periglacial regions. She remembered thinking that it was as if they had built their own cave. In a sense they had, since there were no habitable caves in their region, and she was right to be amazed; it was a remarkable feat.

Though the families that lived in the longhouse of the Lion Camp had had separate living areas around hearths aligned in a row down the center, and drapes to close off their sleeping platforms, everyone shared the same shelter. They lived less than an arm’s length away from the next family and had to pass through each other’s living spaces to come and go. In order to live in such a confined space, they practiced a tacit courtesy that allowed privacy, and was learned as they grew up. Ayla hadn’t thought the earthlodge was small when she lived there, only since she had begun sleeping in the Ninth Cave’s huge shelter. She recalled that each family of the Clan had had separate hearths, too, but there were no walls, only a few stones to indicate boundaries. The people of the Clan also learned early to avoid looking into another family’s living
Space. To them, privacy was a matter of convention and consideration.

Though the dwellings of the Zelandonii had walls, they did not keep out sounds, of course. Their homes did not have to be as sturdily built as the earthlodges of the Mamutoi; their natural shelters of stone protected them from most of the elements. Zelandonii structures primarily conserved heat inside and blocked winds that strayed under the overhanging cliff shelf. Walking through the living area under the abri, snatches of conversation could often be heard from inside each home, but the Zelandonii learned to ignore the voices of their neighbors. It was like the people of the Clan, who learned not to see into the neighboring hearth, and the unspoken courtesy of the Mamutoi. Thinking about it, Ayla realized that in the short time she had lived there, she had already learned not to hear people from the neighboring dwellings anymore … most of the time.

As the young couple were snuggling together, with Wolf beside them, hearing quiet murmurs from the other sleeping rolls, Ayla said, “I like the Zelandonii way of making a separate dwelling for each family, Jondalar, of having a home apart from others.”

“I’m glad you do,” he said, feeling even more pleased with himself for making arrangements to have a home ready for her when they returned from the Summer Meeting, and for keeping it a secret so he could surprise her with it.

As she closed her eyes, Ayla was thinking about having her own dwelling someday, with walls. To her, the walls of the Zelandonii dwelling afforded a measure of privacy unknown to the Clan, or even to the Mamutoi. The internal partitions enlarged on that privacy. Although she had been lonely, Ayla had learned to enjoy her solitude in her valley, and traveling alone with Jondalar had reinforced her desire to put something between herself and other people. But the closeness of the dwellings gave her the security of knowing that there was always someone nearby.

If she wanted to, she could still hear the comforting sounds of people settling down for the night, sounds she had
heard all her life: low voices talking, a baby’s cry, a couple making love. She had hungered for those sounds when she lived alone, but in the Ninth Cave there was also a place to get off by oneself. Once inside the thin walls of each dwelling, it was easy to forget that anyone else was around, but the undercurrent of background sounds gave her a fundamental feeling of security. She thought the way the Zelandonii lived was just right.

When they started out the next morning, Ayla noticed that their number had grown. Many people from the Twenty-ninth Cave had joined them, though not, she noticed, the people from Reflection Rock, or at least none she recognized. When she mentioned the increase to Joharran, he said most of Summer Camp, nearly half of South Face, and a few from Reflection Rock would be traveling with them. The rest would start out in the next day or so. She recalled that Jondalar had mentioned something about returning to Summer Camp to help with the pine-nut harvest and got the impression that the Ninth Cave had closer ties with West Holding than with the other Holdings of the Twenty-ninth Cave.

From Reflection Rock, if they proceeded along The River upstream, they would first head due north at the beginning of a broad bend that curved around to the east, then curved south and east again, making a second large loop that ended up going north again, making an extensive S curve. The waterway then continued with easier meandering curves toward the northeast. There were a few small stone shelters at the northern end of the first loop that were used as temporary stopping places when people were traveling or hunting, but the next settlement was at the southernmost end of the second loop, where a small stream joined The River through Old Valley, the home of the Fifth Cave of the Zelandonii.

Unless they were traveling by raft, which required poling upstream for almost ten miles, it was easier to reach Old Valley from Reflection Rock by going directly cross-country rather than following The River around the generous bend to
the north and back again. Over land, the home of the Fifth Cave was only a little more than three miles east and somewhat north, though the trail itself, taking the easiest way across the hilly terrain, was not quite so direct.

When Joharran came to the head of the clearly marked trail, he veered away from The River and started up a path that traversed the side of a ridge, then crossed a rounded top, where it met the high trail coming from the Third Cave at Two Rivers Rock and went down the other side to the level of The River again. As they walked, Ayla was interested in learning more about the Fifth Cave and decided to try to encourage Jondalar to talk about them.

“If the Third Cave is known for its hunters, and the people of Fourteenth Cave are recognized as good fishers, what is the Fifth Cave known for, Jondalar?” she asked.

“I’d say the people of the Fifth Cave are known for being very self-sufficient,” he said.

Ayla noticed that the four young people who had volunteered to lift the travois when they were crossing The River the day before were still traveling near them and crowded in closer when they heard her question. Though they had lived at the Ninth Cave all their lives, and knew the various neighboring Zelandonii Caves, they had never heard them described so that a stranger would understand them. They were interested in Jondalar’s characterizations.

“They pride themselves on having skilled hunters, fishers, and experts in every craft,” Jondalar continued. “They even make their own rafts, and say that they were the first Cave to make them, though the Eleventh Cave takes exception to that claim. Their Zelandonia and artists have always been well respected. There are deep carvings on the walls of several of their shelters, others have painted or carved plaques, mostly of bison and horses, because the Fifth Cave has a special connection with those animals.”

“Why is this called Old Valley?” Ayla asked.

“Because people have lived here longer than most of the other settlements. Their counting number alone shows their age. Only the Second and Third Caves are older than the
Fifth. The Histories of many Caves speak of ties to the Fifth Cave. Most of their wall carvings are so old, they don’t really know who made them. One is of five animals that was carved by an ancestor so long ago, it is mentioned in the Elder Legends and is a symbol of their number,” Jondalar said, “and the zelandonia say five is a very sacred number.”

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