Jandrax 54

He wore no shirt, no jacket, and no cap.

The night was warm by the standards of Harmony, but none of the colonists would have dressed thus. Nor would Nightwind, had he been relaxing in his camp, but this was a mission where discomfort weighed second to mobility and he expected to remain active enough to make up for his lack of clothing.

The sun was down and Beta was up, shedding a silvery light. The fields were bloated with the excess snowmelt. He slipped from bush to bush, a shadow among shadows. Beneath the palisade wall he paused for a long time, listening. When his ears had confirmed what his eyes had seen from afar, he unwound the braided rawhide line from around his belly and made a loop, then flipped it effortlessly up to catch on the palisade wall.

He was over the wall in a moment, fading back into the shadows, coiling his line. Young Adrian Renou stood his guard, unaware that his perimeter of defense had been penetrated. Nightwind sneered.

He moved among the shadows all but ignoring the ineffectual guard and dropped to the ground. All of the doors in the town were bolted fast from the inside, so the Old Man said, but he knew where he could wait.

Slipping across the courtyard, Nightwind climbed to the second story of the town hall and the cubicle where Anton Dumezil made his home. He had personally watched Dumezil go out with the young men to hunt and knew that his wife was several years dead. It was a calculated risk that his apartment would be empty. It was.

Nightwind opened the shutters on the window overlooking the square and carefully carved out a notch. When he closed them again, they appeared unchanged, but he could watch the square unobserved. Satisfied, he dropped the bolt, wrapped himself in one of Dumezil’s robes and slept.

Nightwind woke late in the morning and that shamed him. He had lived in the open all his life and the dim light of indoors had lulled him into thinking that the night continued outside.

He went to the window and stood watching the square. People came and went. Most were women since the men were hunting and the boys were sleeping late after a night on guard. Some of the women were attractive and these Nightwind watched with sharp attention. One in particular caught his eye.

Paulette Dumezil came to the cistern for water, carrying twin wooden buckets at the ends of a staff. She moved with an almost unconscious swaying of her hips though there was no one to see her. The cistern water was days old and sour; it rankled that she could not go down to the river for fresh water, but the hunter’s council had declared that no woman should leave the palisade during the hunt. She could hardly remember the last abduction and discounted the danger. Taking the water, she returned to the cubicle where she lived alone now that her husband was on the hunt.

Nightwind tried to eat some of the supplies Dumezil had stored but found them unpalatable. He was used to fresh meat and fresh fruits. Ignoring the hunger in his belly, he lay down again in the afternoon to sleep. He had chosen his quarry and there would be no sleep tonight.

The moons moved in their complex patterns. Gamma was the first to rise, coming into view while the sun was still well up in the sky. Nightwind watched the sky for redness, though he could not see the sun from where he stood. Dusk came. Nightwind’s skin shone red in the afterglow as he left Dumezil’s apartment and slipped into the shadows. A few people were still on the street, but Nightwind had no difficulty avoiding them. more tomorrow

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