The fourth book in the Earth's Children series describes Jondalar and Ayla's journey from the Mamutoi Summer Meeting (in present-day Ukraine) to the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii (in present-day France). Their epic journey spans some 4,000 kilometers (~2,600 miles) of rugged Ice Age terrain, including scorching plains, wetlands, forests, mountains, treacherous river crossings, and even a glacier.
During much of their journey, they follow the course of the Great Mother River (the Danube or Donau) from its delta at the Black Sea to its headwaters in present-day Germany. Along the way, Jondalar became skilled at controlling Racer, and he continued to refine the lighter spears that he used with the spear-thrower that he had invented in the The Valley of Horses.
Jondalar was focused on reaching the glacier in time. If they did not reach it before spring, it would be too dangerous to cross the glacier, and they would be forced to take a detour through Clan territory.
Journey to the SharamudoiEdit
During the first leg of the journey, the young lovers crossed the vast steppes on their way to the delta of the Great Mother River. This part of the trip was relatively uneventful. They met the Falcon Camp of Mamutoi, who were initially wary of the strangers who controlled animals. They eventually invited the couple to camp with them, but Jondalar declined. They left the camp the next morning, after sharing dinner and breakfast with the last Mamutoi group that they would meet.
As they neared the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, they saw a pleasant-looking valley and decided to make camp. This turned out to be a bad decision. That night, Ayla had a prophetic dream in which Creb warned her to get out of the valley. She bolted awake, only to discover that the rain had progressed to a heavy downpour. The pair managed to escape the flash flood in the nick of time, but some of their supplies were lost.
Luckily, they found a Mamutoi camp. The people were gone for the summer, but the couple's need to replenish their supplies and repair their damaged gear was great. During this time, Jondalar built a Mamutoi bowl boat, which they used to haul gear and keep things dry while crossing rivers. Jondalar also invented a detachable spear point, which reduced the need to replace broken spear shafts.
When they reached the delta, they saw smoke rising from a large island. They went toward the smoke, hoping to find friendly people. Instead, they found an abandoned camp that showed signs that it had been occupied moments before. Jondalar surmised that the people were hiding from what they thought were evil spirits.
Later, as they traveled through Sharamudoi territory, they saw a Ramudoi boat and several people on the opposite shore. However, the people fled from the strange-looking horse-people.
The season was beginning to change when Jondalar and Ayla neared the Sharamudoi settlement where Jondalar had lived for three years. They were picking blackberries when they saw Darvalo. He told them that his mother, Serenio, had left with a Mamutoi man named Gulec. He also told them that Roshario had fallen from a cliff and broken her arm a month earlier, but no one had set it. (Shamud had died during the previous winter.)
That afternoon, Ayla examined Roshario's arm and saw that it had begun to heal. She decided to re-break the arm and set it properly. The procedure went well, and Roshario was expected to regain use of the arm. Roshario was grateful that she was no longer condemned to be a helpless woman.
That night, a feast was held in honor of Jondalar's return and Roshario's recovery. When it became apparent that Ayla was raised by flatheads, Dolando flew into a mad rage. His hearth son, Doraldo, had been killed by flatheads, and he harbored an intense, irrational hatred of them. When it was accidentally revealed that Doraldo had been killed while attempting to force a Clan woman, Dolando's rage began to soften.
During her short stay with the Sharamudoi, Ayla became fast friends with Tholie. Markeno and Tholie lost their counterpart family when Jetamio and Thonolan died. Tholie proposed that Jondalar and Ayla become Shamudoi and be cross-mated to Markeno and Tholie. Ayla would have been happy to stay, but Jondalar was loath to give up his identity as a Zelandonii man. He declined their offer, citing his desire to inform his mother of Thonolan's death and to get Zelandoni's help in helping Thonolan's spirit find its way.
Jondalar and Ayla continued on their journey, but not before sharing the spear-thrower and two-piece spear, the firestone, and the thread-puller.
The Sister River and the HadumaiEdit
Jondalar and Ayla deviated from the course of the Great Mother River in order to cross the Sister River (a large and swift tributary) when it was smaller. The Ramudoi leader had warned Jondalar that they should attempt to cross the Sister before the autumn rains were added to its flow. Their progress toward the river was slow; the horses, travois, and bowl-boat hindered their movement in the densely wooded mountainous terrain.
As they came down from the mountains, the rains began to fall. They sought shelter in an abandoned summer camp and made preparations for their most dangerous river crossing. The animals and people survived the crossing, although Jondalar and Ayla were hypothermic, and Wolf had a bruised rib.
As they approached the Great Mother River, which they planned to follow west, they met a band of Hadumai hunters. Jondalar recognized Jeren from his previous encounter. Jondalar resisted the temptation to ask whether Noria had a child of his spirit. Despite the language barrier, the couple was invited to visit the Hadumai camp. Jondalar declined the offer, because they were traveling in different directions. Jeren tried to warn them not to go north into S'Armunai territory, but Jondalar didn't understand the nature of the warning.
While they were camping along the river near mountains (the Sudetes), Whinney was captured by a nearby herd. Jondalar tracked the herd into S'Armunai territory. When they caught up with the herd, they did not realize that S'Armunai hunters were trying to drive the herd over a cliff. Jondalar and Ayla were separated during the confusion, although Ayla managed to rescue Whinney.
The S'Armunai hunters believed that Jondalar was trying to steal their meat. They struck Jondalar on the head, rendering him unconscious, and carried him back to their camp. At the camp, he was stripped of his possessions and held as a prisoner.
The S'Armunai camp was ruled by a tyrannical woman named Attaroa, who learned to hate men after enduring an abusive childhood and an abusive mate. Attaroa taught the women to hunt and called the best of her hunters "Wolf Women." The Wolf Women were led by Epadoa, who was loyal to Attaroa.
However, they were not very competent hunters, and because Attaroa forbade them to gather, food was scarce even during the season of plenty.
Meanwhile, the men were imprisoned in a surround and deprived of shelter, clothing, food, and water. Attaroa kept the men in a weakened state so that they were easier to control. Women were not allowed to stay with the men or to bring them food, although some managed to sneak into the Men's Camp. As a result of the forced separation, few babies were born.
When Attaroa met Jondalar, she was determined to break him. She enjoyed the challenge of breaking a man and then making an example of him by killing him. However, Jondalar was not an easy man to break.
While he was imprisoned, Jondalar met a Losadunai man called Ardemun who spoke some Zelandonii. Ardemun was captured by the S'Armunai many years ago. Because of his knowledge of several languages and his dislocated leg, he was allowed more freedom of movement and was something of a spokesman between Attaroa and the men.
At the Men's Camp, Jondalar met two men who spoke Mamutoi. Jondalar learned that men who resisted were maimed. One old man had a putrefying spear wound and died a few days later. Attaroa had also ordered Epadoa to dislocate the legs of two boys. He also learned that Attaroa killed her own child for helping a young woman to run away with the man she loved. The man was also killed, but Cavoa (the woman) was temporarily spared when it was discovered that she was pregnant.
On the way back from the funeral of the old man, Jondalar asked Ardemun to pick up two pieces of flint, which he secreted in the Men's Camp. During the next few days, Jondalar secretly made a few tools, including some spear points and a spear-thrower. He also wanted the two lame boys to learn a skill.
Jondalar met their S'Armuna, who spoke perfect Zelandonii. (She had lived with the Ninth Cave for several years.) Jondalar blamed her for the mistreatment of the men; One Who Served should not abuse her position. S'Armuna was secretly ashamed of what she had allowed to happen.
One day, Attaroa decided to play with Jondalar. First, she told him that the penalty for stealing was death and accused him of being a liar. Then she pretended to offer him freedom in exchange for Pleasuring her. Jondalar refused, which infuriated her. Attaroa ordered her women to tie Jondalar to the practice target.
Just as Attaroa was about to hurl a spear at Jondalar, Ayla rode in and freed him by throwing a spear at the ropes that bound his hands. Ayla had been surreptitiously observing the camp for several days, learning their habits and even some of their words. She ordered Attaroa to make her hunters stop, and then she lectured Attaroa about hospitality and the Mother's ways. She ordered Attaroa to return Jondalar's things to him.
Attaroa tried to trick Ayla into staying with her and sharing a feast, but Ayla found an excuse to leave by offering to bring something for the feast. Attaroa's women tried to track the couple but were too slow. However, Jondalar and Ayla stunned everyone by returning.
They stayed in S'Armuna's lodge, where they learned more about Attaroa and her past. They learned that S'Armuna had once been a close friend of Marthona. S'Armuna also showed them her discovery of firing clay to make ceramic.
At the feast, Attaroa tried to kill Ayla. She would have succeeded if Wolf had not intervened to protect Ayla by killing Attaroa. Afterwards, the men demanded retribution. They wanted Epadoa and the Wolf Women to suffer for their crimes. However, Amodun, a wise old man, thought it would be better if Epadoa made restitution by having to take care of Doban, whom she maimed.
Jondalar and Ayla stayed for a few days to help. Ayla taught the camp about foods that could be found during winter, and she reset the dislocated legs of Doban and Odevan. Jondalar made some tools, offering to show anyone who wanted to learn. They showed them how to use the spear-thrower and firestones. Ayla suggested that they use the wood from the Holding for a ceremonial firing.
Ayla helped Cavoa to deliver her twin babies just before continuing on the Journey.
After Jondalar and Ayla left the S'Armunai, they eventually reached Losadunai territory. Like most strangers, the Losadunai were wary of the horses and the Wolf, but they welcomed Jondalar and Ayla.
During their stay, they learned about a man named Charoli who led a band of young men. Charoli's gang had been making trouble with the Clan, baiting the men and forcing the women. However, the Losadunai were outraged when Charoli and his band raped Madenia, a young woman who had not even had First Rites.
As a result of the rapes, Madenia no longer wanted to have anything to do with men. However, after Losaduna performed a cleansing ceremony (with Ayla's help), Madenia's mood began to improve. After feeling attracted to Jondalar and secretly witnessing a session of Pleasures between Jondalar and Ayla, she decided to go through with First Rites.
During their stay, Ayla quickly learned the Losadunai language. She learned several legends from Losaduna and a way to make soap from rendered fat, wood ash, and water.
As they neared the glacier, Jondalar and Ayla came upon a Clan couple who was under attack by Charoli's band of six men. They had attacked the blond Clan woman, thinking that she was alone. The woman's mate leapt from a high rock to defend her, breaking his right leg. However, the couple still managed to put up a good fight, and with the help of Jondalar and Ayla, the band was routed and sent back to the Losadunai.
Ayla was able to communicate with them by using the Clan's ancient language and learned that they were named Guban and Yorga. She eventually persuaded Guban that she was a Clan medicine woman, and he allowed Ayla to reset his leg. Meanwhile, Jondalar made some crutches for Guban, which he insisted on using the next day.
Guban worried about owing a kinship debt to a woman of the Others. However, Jondalar asserted that Ayla belonged to him, so any debts owed to her were owed to him. He then cleverly suggested that they exchange debts. Jondalar said that he owed a debt to the entire Clan for saving Ayla, who later saved Jondalar's life. They exchanged tokens of kinship, revealed the locations of each other's camps, and introduced the possibility of trading in the future.
Jondalar and Ayla reached the glacier in the nick of time. The crossing was difficult. They had to make boots for the animals to protect their feet from the sharp ice, and they ran out of fuel and water. Once, Ayla fell into a crevasse and was nearly lost. On the final day, the foehn (southern wind) arrived, and the glacier became treacherous. They made it off just in time, sliding down the glacier in their bowl boat.
Ayla had stopped taking her contraceptive tea while she was on the glacier to conserve water. The day after the crossing, she and Jondalar shared Pleasures, and Jonayla was conceived.
Jondalar and Ayla visited the Lanzadonii (led by Dalanar) for a few days. No one had expected to see Jondalar again. While they were there, it became clear that Joplaya, Jondalar's half-sister, was in love with Jondalar and had been holding out, hoping that he might flout tradition to join with her. However, she gave up that hope when she saw that he was in love with Ayla.
Before Jondalar and Ayla left, Joplaya agreed to be mated to Echozar, a man of mixed spirits. Although Joplaya did not love him, she knew that Echozar loved her and would be a good mate.
They reached the Ninth Cave in late spring or early summer. Ayla recognized the overhanging rock from her dream and knew that she had finally come home.