He left the rifle where it had fallen as he had the others. The survival of the colony depended on them.
It took only a moment to find the right key and release Helene. He had already scouted his way out and moments later a guard on the palisade fell to an unseen blow. Helene went over the palisade wall on the end of Jan’s line and into the waiting arms of Marcel and Henri.
Jan did not follow her. Instead he dragged the sentry away and bound him, then retraced his footsteps. So far he had been both careful and lucky; to go back now was sheer folly.
He slit the shutter hinges of the Chambard house where Alexandre Chambard lived with his ailing wife, his three children, and Angi Dumezil who helped with the children. Jan knew that his chances of going unheard in a household with six sleeping persons were slight, but he was determined to try.
He slipped wraithlike to the cubicle where Angi slept. It was walled off by a trihorn-hide curtain and he woke her with his hand over her mouth. She started, then relaxed, eyes wide, when she saw who it was. She put her mouth to his ear.
“What are you doing here?”
“I just broke Helene out. She is on her way to Valikili.”
“Is he all right?”
“Lame but recovering.”
“Oh, I’m so glad. Papa is mad, utterly mad.”
“How did you get her out without the key?”
“I had the key.” She suddenly went stiff and he reassured her, “Your papa is all right. No one was badly hurt tonight”
Angi was angry. “That’s more than you can say for last Sabbath. We have eight injured and we buried three others. I hope you’re proud!”
“It was forced upon us.”
“You still think we’re barbarians.”
“I think that has been amply demonstrated.”
“If only you had tried to reason with Papa instead of running . . . ”
“Then I would be dead!”
“I don’t believe it.”
“You little fool, how can you say that?”
Then they were both silent, for their voices had started to rise. Finally he said, “I have to go now. Will you come with me?”
“Are you mad? You can’t survive this way. Your only hope is to make peace with Papa.”
“Then go, and don’t expect me to follow. When the melt comes I will put siskal flowers on your grave.”
Jan jerked away and stalked to the window. Someone stirred in his sleep, but the scout paid no heed. He climbed out the window and trotted toward the palisade, unmindful of his safety, hoping that some sentry would cross his path.
Angi lay back and slipped her hands down to her lower belly. One dry sob racked her body; then she was silent.
It was true that she did not think the renegades could live, but her spoken refusal to follow Jan had been a lie. She would not go with him because of the thing beneath her fingers, deep in her body – the child she carried. Jan Andrax’s child.
Of course Angi stays behind for plot reasons. Andrax’s son will be the main character in the second half of the book. But there is more to the story. Angi, like Shashi in A Fond Farewell to Dying, has a mind of her own, and doesn’t meekly agree with everything our hero does. In both cases, the main character moves on, leaving his lover behind. I didn’t find a woman to accompany the main character all the way to the finish line until Cinnabar in the Menhir series (not yet published) and she’s a handful.
Weak women bore me. more tomorrow