Jandrax 55

Nightwind stepped to the door and rapped sharply. In his left hand he carried a strip of supple hide and two hide cords. Paulette Dumezil opened the door, then opened her mouth to scream. He hit her.

Nightwind closed the door behind him and worked swiftly, binding her hand and foot and tying on the leather gag. He peered out again and saw no one. Heaving her to his shoulder, he padded down the street to the wall.

He could not climb the wall with his burden, nor lower her over the palisade with the guard nearby, so he left her at the foot of the ladder. When the guard had passed overhead, he went noiselessly up to meet him.

The guard stiffened and turned, bringing up his bow.

Nightwind smiled, crouched before him.

For a moment the guard was startled into immobility, and that hesitation was his last mortal act.

Nightwind wiped his knife, sheathed it, and dropped back to recover his quarry. Paulette was regaining consciousness so he struck her again, carried her up the ladder, and lowered her to the ground outside.

At midnight, Adrian Renou went to relieve the guard at the river wall and found him dead, his blade undrawn. In the furor and confusion that followed, it was several hours before anyone realized that Paulette Dumezil was no longer behind the palisade.

*****

This is going to be one of those notes for writers that someone just reading Jandrax for enjoyment may want to skip. It’s not quite a spoiler, but it comes close. 

By now, if you have been following the story for long, you have no doubt realized that Nightwind is one of the others Jean was discussing with Levi-Stuer, and further realized that they are Andrax and his fellows, augmented by children stolen from the main colony over the years, and that they are, as Andrax suggested at the end of Part I, following the herds.

I didn’t much like writing the last scene. Kidnapping and murder, with the implication of a rape taking place off camera – anthropologists call this marriage-by-capture and it has been going on for tens of thousands of years. One unpleasant aspect from the writer’s perspective is that we will see Nightwind again, and not as a villain, although I softened the blow for myself by at least making him unpleasant. We will see Paulette again also, and not as a victim.

Jandrax isn’t about good guys vs. bad guys. You might have received the impression that it’s bad guys vs. bad guys, since I am pitting intolerant religious fanatics against a culture of wife- and child-stealers. In fact, Jandrax is about the nomad and the oasis. It shows two ways humans, under massive stress, adapt to a near-lethal environment. Given their differences, we can expect both halves of the human community to continue to interact with hatred and intolerance for generations into the future, long after the last page of the novel.

Of course, that’s another story.

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