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The Shelters of Stone

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People were gathering on the limestone ledge, looking down at them
warily. No one made a gesture of welcome, and some held spears in
positions of readiness if not actual threat. The young woman could
almost feel their edgy fear. She watched from the bottom of the
path as more people crowded together on the ledge, staring down,
many more than she thought there would be. She had seen that
reluctance to greet them from other people they had met on their
Journey. It’s not just them, she told herself, it’s
always that way in the beginning. But she felt uneasy.

The tall man jumped down from the back of the young stallion. He
was neither reluctant nor uneasy, but he hesitated for a moment,
holding the stallion’s halter rope. He turned around and
noticed that she was hanging back. “Ayla, will you hold
Racer’s rope? He seems nervous,” he said, then looked
up at the ledge. “I guess they do, too.”

She nodded, lifted her leg over, slid down from the mare’s
back, and took the rope. In addition to the tension of seeing
strange people, the young brown horse was still agitated around his
dam. She was no longer in heat, but residual odors still clung from
her encounter with the herd stallion. Ayla held the halter rope of
the brown male close, but gave the dun-yellow mare a long lead, and
stood between them. She considered giving Whinney her head; her
horse was more accustomed to large groups of strangers now, and was
not usually high-strung, but she seemed nervous, too. That throng
of people would make anyone nervous.

When the wolf appeared, Ayla heard sounds of agitation and alarm
from the ledge in front of the cave--if it could be called a cave.
She’d never seen one quite like it. Wolf pressed against the
side of her leg and moved somewhat in front of her, suspiciously
defensive; she could feel the vibration of his barely audible
growl. He was much more guarded around strangers now than he had
been when they began their long Journey a year before, but he had
been little more than a puppy then, and he had become more
protective of her after some perilous experiences.

As the man strode up the incline toward the apprehensive people, he
showed no fear, but the woman was glad for the opportunity to wait
behind and observe them before she had to meet them. She’d
been expecting--dreading--this moment for more than a year, and
first impressions were important . . . on both sides.

Though others held back, a young woman rushed toward him. Jondalar
recognized his younger sister immediately, though the pretty girl
had blossomed into a beautiful young woman during the five years of
his absence.

“Jondalar! I knew it was you!” she said, flinging
herself at him. “You finally came home!”

He gave her a big hug, then picked her up and swung her around in
his enthusiasm. “Folara, I am so happy to see you!” He
put her down and looked at her at arms’ length. “But
you’ve grown. You were just a girl when I left; now
you’re a beautiful woman . . . just as I always knew
you’d be,” he said, with slightly more than a brotherly
glint in his eye.

She smiled at him, looked into his unbelievably vivid blue eyes and
was drawn by their magnetism. She felt herself flush, not from his
compliment, although that’s what those standing nearby
thought, but from the rush of attraction she felt for the man,
brother or not, whom she had not seen for many years. She had heard
stories of her handsome big brother with the unusual eyes who could
charm any woman, but her memory was of a tall adoring playmate who
was willing to go along with any game or activity she wanted to
play. This was the first time as a young woman that she was exposed
to the full effect of his unconscious charisma. Jondalar noticed
her reaction and smiled warmly at her sweet confusion.

She glanced away toward the bottom of the path near the small
river. “Who is that woman, Jondé?” she asked,
“and where did the animals come from? Animals run away from
people; why don’t those animals run away from her? Is she a
Zelandoni? Has she Called them?” Then she frowned.
“Where’s Thonolan?” She took a sharp breath at
the look of pain that tightened Jondalar’s brow.

“Thonolan travels the next world now, Folara,” he said,
“and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that

“Oh, Jondé! What happened?”

“It’s a long story, and this is not the time to tell
it,” he said, but he had to smile at the name she called him.
It was her personal nickname for him. “I haven’t heard
that name since I left. Now I know I’m home. How is everyone,
Folara? Is Mother all right? And Willamar?”

“They’re both fine. Mother gave us a scare a couple of
years ago. But Zelandoni worked her special magic, and she seems
fine now. Come and see for yourself,” she said, taking his
hand and starting to lead him the rest of the way up the

Jondalar turned and waved at Ayla, trying to let her know that he
would be back soon. He hated leaving her there alone with the
animals, but he needed to see his mother, to see for himself that
she was all right. That “scare” bothered him, and he
needed to talk to people about the animals. He and Ayla had both
come to realize how strange and frightening it was to most people
to see animals that did not run away from them.

People knew animals. All the people they had met on their Journey
hunted them, and most honored or paid homage to them or their
spirits in one way or another. Animals had been observed carefully
for as long as anyone could remember. People knew the environments
they favored and the foods they liked, their migration patterns and
seasonal movements, their birthing periods and rutting schedules.
But no one had ever tried to touch a living, breathing animal in a
friendly way. No one had ever tried to tie a rope around the head
of any animal and lead it around. No one had ever tried to tame an
animal, or even imagined that it could be done.

As pleased as these people were to see a kinsman return from a long
Journey--especially one that few ever expected to see again--the
tame animals were such an unknown phenomenon that their first
reaction was fear. It was so strange, so inexplicable, so far
beyond their experience or imagination that it could not be
natural. It had to be unnatural, supernatural. The only thing that
kept many of them from running and hiding, or attempting to kill
the fearsome animals, was that Jondalar, whom they knew, had
arrived with them, and he was striding up the path from Wood River
with his sister, looking perfectly normal under the bright light of
the sun.

Folara had shown some courage rushing forward the way she had, but
she was young and had the fearlessness of youth. And she was so
pleased to see her brother, who had always been a special favorite,
that she couldn’t wait. Jondalar would never do anything to
harm her and he didn’t fear the animals.

Ayla watched from the foot of the path while people surrounded
Jondalar, welcoming him with smiles, hugs, kisses, pats, handshakes
using both hands, and many words. She noticed a hugely fat woman, a
brown-haired man whom Jondalar hugged, and an older woman whom he
greeted warmly and then kept his arm around. Probably his mother,
she thought, and wondered what the woman would think of her.

These people were his family, his kin, his friends, people he had
grown up with. She was a stranger, a disturbing stranger who
brought animals and who knew what other threatening foreign ways
and outrageous ideas. Would they accept her? What if they
didn’t? She couldn’t go back, her people lived more
than a year’s travel to the east. Jondalar had promised that
he would leave with her if she wanted--or was forced--to go, but
that was before he saw everyone, before he was greeted so warmly.
How would he feel now?

She felt a nudge from behind and reached up to stroke
Whinney’s sturdy neck, grateful that her friend had reminded
her that she was not alone. When she lived in the valley, after she
left the Clan, for a long time the horse had been her only
companion. She hadn’t noticed the slack in Whinney’s
rope as the horse moved closer to her, but she gave Racer a bit
more lead. The mare and her offspring usually found friendship and
comfort in each other, but when the mare came into season it had
disturbed their usual pattern.

More people--how could there be so many?--were looking in her
direction, and Jondalar was talking earnestly with the brown-haired
man, then waved at her and smiled. When he started back down, he
was followed by the young woman, the brown-haired man, and a few
others. Ayla took a deep breath and waited.

As they approached, the wolf’s growl became louder. Ayla
reached down to hold him close to her. “It’s all right,
Wolf,” she said. “It’s just Jondalar’s
kin.” Her calming touch was a signal to him to stop growling,
not to appear too threatening. The signal had been difficult to
teach him, but worth the effort, especially now, she thought. She
wished she knew of a touch that would calm her.

The group with Jondalar stopped a short distance away, trying not
to show their trepidation or to stare at the animals that openly
stared at them and held their place even when strange people
approached them. Jondalar stepped into the breach.

“I think we should start with formal introductions,
Joharran,” he said, looking at the brown-haired man.

As Ayla dropped both halter ropes in preparation for a formal
introduction, which required contact with both hands, the horses
stepped back, but the wolf stayed. She noticed the glint of fear in
the man’s eye, although she doubted that this man was afraid
of much, and glanced at Jondalar, wondering if he had a reason for
wanting formal introductions immediately. She looked closely at the
unfamiliar man and was suddenly reminded of Brun, the leader of the
clan that she grew up with. Powerful, proud, intelligent,
competent, there was little he had feared--except the world of the

“Ayla, this is 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,”
the tall blond man said with seriousness. Then he grinned.
“Not to mention brother of Jondalar, Traveler to Distant

There were a few quick smiles. His comment relieved the tension
somewhat. Strictly, in a formal introduction, a person could give
the entire list of their names and ties to validate their
status--all their own designations, titles and accomplishments, and
all their kin and their relationships, along with their titles and
accomplishments--and some did. But as a matter of practice, except
in the most ceremonial of circumstances, just the primary ones were
mentioned. It was not uncommon, however, for young people,
especially brothers, to make jocular additions to the long and
sometimes tedious recitation of one’s kinships, and Jondalar
was reminding his brother of past years, before he was burdened
with the responsibilities of leadership.

“Joharran, this is Ayla of the 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.”

The brown-haired man crossed the distance between himself and the
young woman and held out both hands, palms up, in the understood
gesture of welcome and openhanded friendship. He did not recognize
any of her ties, and he wasn’t entirely sure which were most

“In the name of Doni, the Great Earth Mother, I welcome you,
Ayla of the Mamutoi, Daughter of the Mammoth Hearth,” he

Ayla took both his hands. “In the name of Mut, Great Mother
of All, I greet you, Joharran, Leader of the Ninth Cave of the
Zelandonii,” she said, then smiled. “And brother of the
traveler Jondalar.”

Joharran noticed first that she spoke his language well, but with
an unusual accent, and then he became conscious of her strange
clothing and her foreign look, but when she smiled, he smiled back.
Partly because she had showed her understanding of Jondalar’s
remark and let Joharran know that his brother was important to her,
but mostly because he could not resist her smile.

Ayla was an attractive woman by anyone’s standards: she was
tall, had a firm, well-shaped body, long, dark blond hair that
tended to wave, clear blue-gray eyes, and fine features, though of
a slightly different character than those of Zelandonii women. But
when she smiled, it was as if the sun had cast a special beam on
her that lit each feature from within. She seemed to glow with such
stunning beauty, Joharran caught his breath. Jondalar had always
said her smile was remarkable, and he grinned seeing that his
brother was not immune to it.

Then Joharran noticed the stallion prance nervously toward
Jondalar, and he eyed the wolf. “Jondalar tells me we need to
make some . . . ah . . . accommodation for these animals . . .
somewhere nearby, I presume.” Not too near, he thought.

“The horses just need a field with grass, near water, but we
need to tell people that they shouldn’t try to get close to
them in the beginning unless Jondalar or I am with them. Whinney
and Racer are nervous around people until they get used to
them,” Ayla said.

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Joharran
said, catching the movement of Whinney’s tail and eyeing her.
“They can stay here, if this small valley is

“This will be fine,” Jondalar said. “Though we
may move them upstream, out of the way a little.”

“Wolf is accustomed to sleeping near me,” Ayla
continued. She noticed Joharran’s frown. “He’s
become quite protective and might cause a commotion if he
can’t be close by.”

She could see his resemblance to Jondalar particularly in his
forehead knotted with worry, and wanted to smile. But Joharran was
seriously concerned. This was not a time for smiles, even if his
expression gave her a feeling of warm familiarity.

Jondalar, too, had seen his brother’s worried frown. “I
think this would be a good time to introduce Joharran to
Wolf,” he said.

Joharran’s eyes flew open in near panic, but before he could
object, she reached for his hand as she bent down beside the meat
eater. She put her arm around the large wolf’s neck to settle
an incipient growl--even she could smell the man’s fear, so
she was sure Wolf could.

“Let him smell your hand, first,” she said.
“That’s Wolf’s formal introduction.” The
wolf had learned from previous experience that it was important to
Ayla for him to accept within his pack of humans the people she
introduced to him in this way. He didn’t like the smell of
fear, but sniffed the man to become familiar with him.

“Have you ever really felt the fur of a living wolf,
Joharran?” she asked, looking up at him. “If you
notice, it’s a little coarse,” she said, leading his
hand to feel the animal’s rather shaggy neck fur.
“He’s still shedding and itchy, and he loves to be
scratched behind the ears,” she continued, showing him

Joharran felt the fur, but was more aware of the warmth, and
suddenly realized this was a living wolf! And it didn’t seem
to mind being touched.

Ayla observed that his hand was not as stiff, and that he actually
attempted to rub the place she indicated. “Let him smell your
hand again.”

When Joharran brought his hand around toward the wolf’s nose,
he widened his eyes again, with surprise. “That wolf licked
me!” he said, not sure if it was in preparation for something
better--or worse. Then he saw Wolf lick Ayla’s face, and she
seemed very pleased about it.

“Yes, you were good, Wolf,” she said, smiling, as she
fondled him and roughed up his mane. Then she stood up and patted
the front of her shoulders. The wolf jumped up, put his paws on the
place she had indicated, and as she exposed her throat, he licked
her neck, then took her chin and jaw in his mouth with a rumbling
growl, but with great gentleness.

Jondalar noticed the gasps of astonishment from Joharran and the
others and realized how frightening the familiar act of wolfish
affection must seem to people who didn’t understand. His
brother looked at him, his expression both fearful and amazed.
“What’s he doing to her?”

“Are you sure that’s all right?” Folara asked at
nearly the same time. She could no longer keep still. The other
people were making indecisive nervous movements as well.

Jondalar smiled. “Yes, Ayla is fine. He loves her; he would
never hurt her. That’s how wolves show affection. It took me
a while to get used to it, too, and I’ve known Wolf as long
as she has, ever since he was a fuzzy little cub.”

“That’s no cub! That’s a big wolf! That’s
the biggest wolf I’ve ever seen!” Joharran said.
“He could tear her throat out!”

“Yes. He could tear her throat out. I’ve seen him tear
a woman’s throat out . . . a woman who was trying to kill
Ayla,” Jondalar said. “Wolf protects her.”

The Zelandonii who were watching breathed a collective sigh of
relief when the wolf got down and stood by Ayla’s side again
with his mouth open and his tongue hanging out the side, showing
his teeth. Wolf had that look that Jondalar thought of as his wolf
grin, as though he was pleased with himself.

“Does he do that all the time?” Folara asked. “To
. . . anyone?”

“No,” Jondalar said. “Only to Ayla, and sometimes
me, if he’s feeling particularly happy, and only if we allow
it. He’s well-behaved, he won’t harm anyone . . .
unless Ayla is threatened.”

“What about children?” Folara asked. “Wolves
often go after the weak and the young.” At the mention of
children, looks of concern appeared on the faces of the people
standing nearby.

“Wolf loves children,” Ayla quickly explained,
“and he is very protective toward them, particularly very
young or weak ones. He was raised with the children of the Lion

“There was a very weak and sickly boy, who belonged to the
Lion Hearth,” Jondalar contributed. “You should have
seen them play together. Wolf was always careful around

“That’s a very unusual animal,” another man said.
“It’s hard to believe a wolf could behave so . . .

“You’re right, Solaban,” Jondalar said. “He
does behave in ways that seem very unwolflike to people, but if we
were wolves we wouldn’t think so. He was raised with people
and Ayla says he thinks of people as his pack. He treats people as
though they were wolves.”

“Does he hunt?” the man called Solaban wanted to

“Yes,” Ayla said. “Sometimes he hunts alone, for
himself, and sometimes he helps us hunt.”

“How does he know what he should hunt and what he
shouldn’t?” Folara asked. “Like those

Ayla smiled. “The horses are part of his pack, too. You
notice they are not afraid of him. And he never hunts people.
Otherwise, he can hunt any animal he wants, unless I tell him not

“And if you say no, he doesn’t?” another man

“That’s right, Rushemar,” Jondalar

The man shook his head in wonder. It was hard to believe anyone
could have such control over a powerful hunting animal.

“Well, Joharran,” Jondalar said. “Do you think
it’s safe enough to bring Ayla and Wolf up?”

The man thought for a moment, then nodded. “However, if there
is any trouble . . .”

“There won’t be, Joharran.” Jondalar turned to
Ayla. “My mother has invited us to stay with her. Folara
still lives with her, but she has her own room, and so do Marthona
and Willamar. He’s gone on a trading mission now. She has
offered her central living space to us. Of course, we could stay
with Zelandoni at the visitors hearth, if you’d

“I would be pleased to stay with your mother,
Jondalar,” Ayla said.

“Good! Mother also suggested that we wait with most formal
introductions until we get settled in. It isn’t as though I
need to be introduced, and there’s no point in repeating
everything to each one when we can do it all at once.”

“We’re already planning a welcoming feast for
tonight,” Folara said. “And probably another one later,
for all the nearby Caves.”

“I appreciate your mother’s thoughtfulness, Jondalar.
It would be easier to meet everyone at once, but you might
introduce me to this young woman,” Ayla said.

Folara smiled.

“Of course, I was planning to,” Jondalar said.
“Ayla, this is my sister Folara, Blessed of Doni, of the
Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii; Daughter of Marthona, former Leader
of the Ninth Cave; born to the hearth of Willamar, Traveler and
Trade Master; sister of Joharran, Leader of the Ninth Cave; sister
of Jondalar . . .”

“She knows about you, Jondalar, and I’ve already heard
her names and ties,” Folara said, impatient with the
formalities, then held out both hands toward Ayla. “In the
name of Doni, the Great Earth Mother, I welcome you, Ayla of the
Mamutoi, Friend of Horses and Wolves.”

The crowd of people standing on the sunny stone ledge quickly moved
back when they saw the woman and the wolf start up the path along
with Jondalar and the small group accompanying them. One or two
took a step closer while a few others craned their necks around
them. When they reached the stone ledge Ayla got her first view of
the living space of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. The sight
surprised her.

Though she knew the word “Cave” in the name of
Jondalar’s home did not refer to a place, but to the group of
people who lived there, and the formation she saw was not a cave,
not as she had thought of one. A cave was a dark chamber or series
of them within a rock face or cliff, or underground, with an
opening to the outside. The living space of these people was the
area beneath a huge overhanging shelf jutting out of the limestone
cliff, an abri, that provided protection from rain or snow, but was
open to daylight.

The high cliffs of the region had once been the floor beneath the
surface of an ancient sea. As the calcareous shells of crustaceans
that lived in the sea were discarded, they built up on the floor,
and eventually became calcium carbonate--limestone. During certain
periods of time, for a variety of reasons, some of the deposited
shells created thick layers of limestone that were harder than
others. When the earth shifted, exposing the sea floor until it
eventually became cliffs, the weathering processes of wind and
water cut into the relatively softer stone more easily, gouging out
deep spaces and leaving ledges of the harder stone between.

Although the cliffs were also riddled with caves, which were common
in limestone, these unusual shelflike formations created shelters
of stone that made exceptionally good living sites and had been
used as such for a great many thousands of years.

Jondalar led Ayla toward the older woman she had seen from the foot
of the path. The woman was tall and dignified in her bearing as she
waited patiently for them. Her hair, more gray than light brown,
was pulled back from her face into one long braid, which was coiled
at the back of her head. Her clear, direct, appraising eyes were
also gray.

When they reached her, Jondalar began the formal introduction.
“Ayla, this is Marthona, former Leader of the Ninth Cave of
the Zelandonii; daughter of Jemara; born to the hearth of Rabanar;
mated to Willamar, Trade Master of the Ninth Cave; Mother of
Joharran, Leader of the Ninth Cave; Mother of Folara, Blessed of
Doni; Mother of . . .” He started to say Thonolan, hesitated,
then quickly filled in, “Jondalar, Returned Traveler.”
Then he turned to his mother.

“Marthona, this is Ayla of the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi,
Daughter of the Mammoth Hearth, Chosen by the Spirit of the Cave
Lion, Protected by the Spirit of the Cave Bear.”

Marthona held out her two hands. “In the name of Doni, the
Great Earth Mother, I welcome you, Ayla of the

“In the name of Mut, Great Mother of All, I greet you,
Marthona of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, and mother of
Jondalar,” Ayla said as they joined hands.

Marthona heard Ayla’s words, wondered at her strange speech
mannerism, noted how well she spoke in spite of it, and thought it
was either a minor speech defect or the accent of a completely
unfamiliar language from a very distant place. She smiled.
“You have come a long way, Ayla, left all you knew and loved
behind. If you had not, I don’t think I would have Jondalar
back home. I am grateful to you for that. I hope you will soon feel
at home here, and I will do all I can to help you.”

Ayla knew Jondalar’s mother was sincere. Her directness and
honesty were genuine; she was glad to have her son back. Ayla was
relieved and touched by Marthona’s welcome. “I have
looked forward to meeting you since Jondalar first spoke of you . .
. but I have been a little afraid, too,” she replied with a
similar directness and honesty.

“I don’t blame you. I would have found it very
difficult in your place. Come, let me show you where you can put
your things. You must be tired and would like to rest before the
welcoming celebration tonight,” Marthona said, starting to
lead them toward the area under the overhang. Suddenly Wolf started
whining, yelped a little “puppy bark,” and stretched
his front paws out with his back end and tail up in a playful

Jondalar was startled. “What is he doing?”

Ayla looked at Wolf, rather surprised as well. The animal repeated
his gestures, and suddenly she smiled. “I think he’s
trying to get Marthona’s attention,” Ayla said.
“He thinks she didn’t notice him, and I think he wants
to be introduced.”

“And I want to meet him, too,” Marthona said.

“You don’t fear him!” Ayla said. “And he
knows it!”

“I watched. I didn’t see anything to fear,” she
said, extending her hand toward the wolf. He sniffed her hand,
licked it, and whined again.

“I think Wolf wants you to touch him; he does love attention
from people he likes,” Ayla said.

“You do like that, don’t you?” the older woman
said as she stroked him. “Wolf? Is that what you called

“Yes. It’s just the Mamutoi word for
‘wolf.’ It seemed like the right name for him,”
Ayla explained.

“But, I’ve never seen him take to anyone so
fast,” Jondalar said, looking at his mother with awe.

“Nor have I,” Ayla said, watching Marthona with the
wolf. “Maybe he’s just happy to meet someone
who’s not afraid of him.”

As they walked into the shade of the overhanging stone, Ayla felt
an immediate cooling of temperature. For a heartbeat, she shivered
with a chill of fear and glanced up at the huge shelf of stone
jutting out of the cliff wall, wondering if it could collapse. But
when her eyes grew accustomed to the dimmer light, she was
astonished by more than the physical formation of Jondalar’s
home. The space under the rock shelter was huge, much larger than
she had imagined.

She had seen similar overhangs in the cliffs along this river on
their way here, some obviously inhabited, though none seemed quite
as sizable as this one. Everyone in the entire region knew of the
immense rock shelter and the great number of people it housed. The
Ninth Cave was the largest of all the communities that called
themselves Zelandonii.

Clustered together at the eastern end of the protected space, along
the back wall and freestanding in the middle, were individual
structures, many quite large, made partly of stone and partly of
wooden frames covered with hides. The hides were decorated with
beautifully rendered pictures of animals and various abstract
symbols painted in black and many vivid shades of red, yellow, and
brown. The structures were arranged in a west-facing curve around
an open space near the center of the area covered by the
overhanging stone shelf, which was filled with a confusion of
objects and people.

As Ayla looked more closely, what at first had struck her as a
melange of rich clutter was resolving itself into areas dedicated
to different tasks, often near to related tasks. It only seemed
confusing initially only because so many activities were going

She saw hides being cured in frames, and long shafts of spears,
apparently in the process of being straightened, leaning against a
crosspiece supported by two posts. Baskets in different stages of
completion were stacked in another place, and thongs were drying
stretched between pairs of bone posts. Long skeins of cordage hung
from pegs pounded into crossbeams above unfinished nets stretched
across a frame, and loosely woven netting in bundles on the ground.
Skins, some dyed various colors, including many shades of red, were
cut into pieces and nearby, partially assembled articles of
clothing were hanging.

She recognized most of the crafts, but near the clothing was an
activity that was entirely unfamiliar. A frame held many strands of
thin cord vertically, with a design partially formed from the
material woven horizontally across them. She wanted to go over and
look closer, and promised herself she would, later. Pieces of wood,
stone, bone, antler, and mammoth ivory were in other places, carved
into implements--ladles, spoons, bowls, tongs, weapons--most of
them with carved and sometimes painted decorations. There were also
small sculptures and carvings that were not utensils or tools. They
seemed to be made for themselves or some purpose of which she
wasn’t aware.

She saw vegetables and herbs hanging high from large frames with
many cross pieces, and lower to the ground, meat drying on racks.
Somewhat away from other activities was an area scattered with
sharp stone chips; for people like Jondalar, she thought,
flintknappers who made tools, knives, and spear points.

And everywhere she looked, she saw people. The community that lived
under the spacious rock shelter was of a size to match the space.
Ayla had grown up in a clan of less than thirty people; at the Clan
Gathering, which occurred once every seven years, two hundred
people came together for a short period, a huge assembly to her
then. Though the Mamutoi Summer Meeting drew a much greater number,
the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii alone comprised of over two
hundred individuals living together at this one place, was larger
than the entire Clan Gathering!

Ayla didn’t know how many people were standing around
watching them, but she was reminded of the time she had walked with
Brun’s clan into that congregation of clans and felt all of
them looking at her. They had tried to be unobtrusive, but the
people who were staring as Marthona led Jondalar, Ayla, and a wolf
to her living place weren’t so polite about it. They
didn’t try to look down or glance away. She wondered if she
would ever get used to living with so many people close by all the
time; she wondered if she wanted to.

Excerpted from THE SHELTERS OF STONE by Jean M. Auel Copyright
2002 by Jean M. Auel. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division
of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt
may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from
the publisher.

The Shelters of Stone
by by Jean M. Auel