Authors: Jean M. Auel
Tags: #Historical fiction
Ayla was looking at him with a puzzled expression, and it made Joharran realize that he’d been staring. He flushed slightly and looked away, and saw his brother coming, carrying a heavy load of stones. He went to help him.
“What are you doing here?” Jondalar said.
“Zelandoni wants to talk to Ayla, and Willamar would like to talk to both of you,” Joharran said.
“What does Zelandoni want? Can’t it wait?” Jondalar said.
“She didn’t seem to think so. Chasing down my brother and his Promised is not the way I planned to spend the day, either. Don’t worry, Jondalar,” Joharran said with a conspiratorial grin. “You’ll just have to wait a while. And she’s worth waiting for, isn’t she?”
Jondalar started to make protests and denials of his innuendos, then he relaxed and smiled. “I waited a long time to find her,” he said. “Well, now that you’re here, you can help me carry these stones back. I did want to take a swim and clean up a little.”
“Why don’t you leave the stones here for now. They won’t go away, then you’ll have an excuse to come back later,” Joharran said, “and I’m sure you’ll have rime for a swim … if that’s all you do.”
It was near midday by the time Ayla and Jondalar, and Wolf, found their way to the main camp area, and from their air of relaxed contentment, Joharran suspected they had found time for more than a quick swim after he left. He’d told Zelandoni he had found them and passed on her message, and he had encouraged his brother to hurry. It wasn’t his fault if Jondalar dallied, not that he could blame him.
Several people from the Ninth Cave had gathered around the long cooking hearth near the zelandonia lodge,
and just as Ayla was approaching the entrance to let the donier know she was there, the large woman who was First came out, followed by several others with the distinctive tattoos on their foreheads of Those Who Served The Mother.
“There you are, Ayla,” Zelandoni said when she saw her. “I’ve been expecting you all morning.”
“We were upstream from the camp when Joharran found us. There is a nice spring-fed pond there. I wanted to give the horses a run and brush their coats. They get nervous around so many people until they get used to them, and brushing calms them, and I wanted to take a swim and clean up after the trek here,” Ayla said. Everything she said was entirely true, though it may not have included all of her activities.
The donier regarded her, clean and dressed in the Zelandonii clothing that Marthona had given to her; then she saw Jondalar, also looking fresh and clean, and raised her eyebrows in a knowing look. Joharran was watching the One Who Was First and the woman his brother had brought home with him and realized that Zelandoni had a pretty good idea what had delayed them, and that Ayla didn’t seem to care that she hadn’t rushed. The large woman had an authoritative bearing and he knew she intimidated many, but she didn’t seem to daunt the stranger.
“We were just stopping for a meal,” Zelandoni said, walking toward the large cooking hearth, compelling Ayla to fall in beside her. “Proleva has organized the preparation and just informed us it was ready. You might as well join us. It will give me a chance to talk to you. Do you have one of your firestones?”
“Yes. I always keep a fire-making kit with me,” Ayla said.
“I would like you to demonstrate your new fire-making technique to the zelandonia. I think it should be introduced to the people, but it is important that it be shown in the right way, with appropriate ritual.”
“I didn’t need a ritual to show it to Marthona, or you. It’s not that difficult once you see how it’s done,” Ayla said.
“No, it’s not difficult, but it is a new and powerful technique, and that can be disturbing, especially for those people
who don’t accept change easily and resist it,” the donier said. “You must know people like that.”
Ayla thought of the Clan, with their lives based on tradition, their reluctance to change, and their inability to cope with new ideas. “Yes, I know people like that,” she said. “But the people I’ve met recently seem to enjoy learning new things.”
All the Others she had met seemed to adapt so easily to changes in their lives, to thrive on innovation. She hadn’t realized that there might be some who were not comfortable with a different way of doing things, who actually resisted it. It gave her a sudden insight, and she frowned at the thought. That could explain certain attitudes and incidents that had puzzled her, such as why some people seemed so unwilling to accept the idea that the Clan were people. Like that Zelandoni, the one from the Fourteenth Cave, who kept calling them animals. Even after Jondalar explained, she acted as if she didn’t believe him. I think she didn’t want to change her opinion.
“It is true. Most people do like to learn a better or quicker way of doing something, but sometimes it depends upon how it is presented,” the First said. “For example, Jondalar has been away for a long time. He matured while he was gone and learned many new things, but the people he knows weren’t there to see it, so some of them still think of him the way he was when he left. Now he has returned and he’s eager to share what he’s learned and discovered, which is commendable, but he didn’t learn everything all at once. Even his new weapon, which is a valuable tool for hunting, takes practice to use. Those who have been successful and are comfortable with the weapons they know may not be willing to put forth the effort it will take to learn the new one, though I have no doubt it will be used by all hunters one day.”
“Yes, the spear-thrower does take practice,” Ayla said. “We know it now, but in the beginning, we worked at it.”
“And that is only one thing,” the donier continued, while she picked up a plate made from the shoulder bone of a deer
and put some slices of meat on it. “What kind of meat is it?” she asked a woman who was standing nearby.
“That’s mammoth. Some hunters from the Nineteenth Cave went north on a hunting trek and got a mammoth. They decided to share some. I understand they got a woolly rhinoceros, too.”
“I haven’t had mammoth for a long time,” Zelandoni said. “I’m going to relish this.”
“Have you tasted mammoth?” the woman asked Ayla.
“Yes,” she said. “The Mamutoi, the people I lived with before, are known as mammoth hunters, although they hunted other animals, too. But it’s been some time since I’ve had any. I, too, will enjoy this.”
Zelandoni thought about introducing Ayla to the woman, but once she started, there would be no end, and she still wanted to talk to her about a ceremony using the firestone. She turned back to Ayla while she added some round white roots, ground nuts, to her plate, and cooked greens, nettles, she thought, mixed with pieces of brown-capped, spongy, boletus mushroom.
“Jondalar also brought you, and your animals, Ayla. You must know how astonishing that is. People have hunted horses, and observed them with other horses, but they have never seen horses behave as yours do. It is frightening, at first, to see those horses go where you want them to, or that this wolf will walk through a camp full of people and do what you tell him,” she said, specifically acknowledging Wolf for the first time, though she had certainly seen him. He yipped a small bark when she looked at him.
It was a custom the wolf and the woman had developed that rather surprised Ayla. Zelandoni didn’t always acknowledge Wolf when she saw him, and he ignored her until she did, but when she did, he responded with a short yip. She seldom touched him, except for a pat on the head now and then, but on rare occasions, Wolf would take her hand in his teeth, never leaving any toothmarks. She always allowed it, saying only that they understood each other. It seemed to Ayla that they did, in their own way.
“? know you say that anyone could do it, if one starts with a young animal, and that may be true, but people don’t know that. They can only see it as something not natural to this world, so it must come from another world, from the spirit world. I am frankly amazed at how well they have accepted the animals, but it is an uneasy acceptance. It will take rime. And now we want to show them something else you have brought that no one has seen before. People don’t know you yet, Ayla. I’m sure people will want to use the firestone, once they’ve seen how it works, but they may be afraid of it. I think it has to be seen as a Gift from the Mother, which can be done if it is first understood and accepted by the zelandonia, and presented with the proper ritual,” the donier said.
The way she explained it seemed entirely logical, but in a quiet space in her own mind, it made Ayla realize how persuasive Zelandoni could be. “When you explain it like that, I understand,” Ayla said. “Of course I will show the zelandonia how the firestone works, and help you with whatever ritual you feel is necessary.”
They joined Jondalar’s family and some of the people from the Ninth Cave who were sitting with a few people from other Caves. After the meal, Zelandoni took Ayla aside. “Can you leave the wolf outside the lodge for a while? I think it’s important to concentrate on the fire-making, and I’m afraid Wolf would be a distraction,” she said.
“I’m sure Jondalar won’t mind keeping him,” Ayla said, turning to look at him. He nodded, and when she got up to leave, she told Wolf to stay with him, making hand signs as well, though they were not noticed by most people. The midday sun had been bright, which made the inside of the zelandonia lodge seem dark even though many lamps were lit. Her eyes adjusted quickly, but when the First stood up to begin speaking, the Zelandoni of the Fourteenth Cave objected.
“Why is she here?” the Fourteenth said. “She may be a Zelandonii woman, but she is not zelandonia. She is an outsider and does not belong at this meeting.”
he One Who Was First Among Those Who Served The Mother repressed a sigh of frustration. She was not going to make any obvious display of her irritation and let the tall, thin Zelandoni of the Fourteenth Cave have the satisfaction of knowing how much she annoyed her. But the question brought frowns and disapproving looks from some of the other Zelandonia, and a smirk from the acolyte of the Fifth Cave with the missing front teeth.
“You are right, Zelandoni of the Fourteenth,” the First said. “Outsiders, those who are not part of the zelandonia, are not usually invited to these meetings. This is a gathering of those who have had some experience with the world of the spirits, the ones who have been called, and the acolytes, who have shown promise and are in training. That’s why I have invited Ayla. You know that she is a healer. She was a great help to Shevonar, the man who was trampled when that bison bolted during the last community hunt,” the donier said.
“Shevonar died, and I don’t know how much help she was, I didn’t examine him,” the Fourteenth said. “There are many who have some knowledge of certain medicináis. Almost everyone knows about willow bark and its ability to stop the pain of minor aches, for example.”
“I assure you that she knows a great deal more than the uses of willow bark,” the One Who Was First said. “One of
her names and des from her previous people is Daughter of the Mammoth Hearth. The Mammoth Hearth of the Mamutoi is the same as the zelandonia, they are Those Who Serve The Mother.”
“Are you saying she’s a Zelandoni of the Mamutoi? Where is her tattoo?” The question was asked by an elderly woman with white hair and intelligent eyes.
“Her tattoo, Zelandoni of the Nineteenth?” the large woman asked, and thought, what did the Nineteenth know that she didn’t? She was an experienced and reliable Zelandoni, who had learned a great deal in her long life. It was a shame she’d been having so much trouble with arthritis during the past years. The time was drawing near when she would not be able to walk to the Summer Meetings. If this meeting were not near the Nineteenth Cave, she might not have made it this year.
“I know of the Mamutoi. Jerika of the Lanzadonii lived with them for a while when she was young and still traveling with her mother and the man of her hearth on their long Journey. One summer, many years ago, when she was pregnant with Joplaya, she was having some trouble and I attended her. She told me about the Mamutoi. Their doniers are also marked with tattoos on their faces, though not quite like ours, but if Ayla is the same as a Zelandoni, where is her tattoo?”
“She was in training, but not fully trained when she left to come here with Jondalar. She is not the same as a Zelandoni, she is more like an acolyte, but with more knowledge of healing than most. In addition she was adopted to the Mammoth Hearth by the Mamut Who Was First, because he saw her potential,” the First said.
“Are you sponsoring her to become an acolyte of the zelandonia?” the Nineteenth asked. Though they seldom spoke out, there were a few quiet murmurs from the acolytes in attendance.
“Not at this time. I haven’t yet asked her if she wants to further her training,” the First said.
Ayla felt a touch of consternation. Though she would not mind talking about healing with some of them, she had no desire
to become a Zelandoni. She just wanted to mate with Jondalar and have children, and she noticed that few of the zelandonia had mates or children. It wasn’t that they couldn’t mate if they chose, but it seemed that there were so many other demands on their time and attention when they were in the service of the Great Earth Mother that they didn’t have time to be mothers themselves.