Jandrax 83

Chapter 16

Jean had traveled with the others, who referred to their collectivity as the tribe, for three weeks before the Old Man returned. The Old Man got his name not because he was especially old, but through his singular character. He was not the Old Man, but the Old Man. He was Jan Andrax and he was Jean’s father.

Helene had explained it all. The refugees from old Marcel Dumezil’s pogrom had taken to the hills knowing they were too few to survive. When the melt returned and the hunters left the colony, Jandrax Jean still thought of him by the name the colonists called him – and Sabine Conners had stolen all the children under the age of six, and the refugees and the kidnapped children had gone on to follow the melt. They had been on the move ever since. Helene remembered twenty-two separate circuits and they had long since come to know their trek as well as a farmer knows his fields.

Jandrax had outdone himself. Every member of the tribe, however young, whichever sex, had learned at his knee. All were trained in scout lore and geology, geography, natural history, and survival on the planet they called simply – the land.

On the second circuit, Jandrax had spent three days hiding in the rafters of a house in the colony and none had known of his presence. He learned that Angi Dumezil and Lucien Dubois had married, knew they had an infant son, and knew, by simple arithmetic, the son was not Lucien’s but his.

Helene had advised him to steal the child and had offered to raise it herself but Jandrax refused. He still loved Angi, Helene was sure, and would not deprive her of her child. Jan watched the lad’s growth each year. He saw his son become a toddler, then an adolescent, then a man. Then he saw him as a man preparing for the hunt.

The last circuit he had not seen him at all, but the rumors were there for any who chose to listen outside the hunting kraals. It was a game that the young ones played for fun and the elders for information. Jandrax learned that his son was now a cripple through the inattention or malice of another and that he had disappeared.

Jandrax had told no one but Helene and Valikili. Even his wives did not know what had happened to his first born, and old Henri, the other surviving elder, was too senile to trust with the information.

Jandrax had many sons and daughters by his two living wives and by his first wife, now dead. In the early years, the refugees stole wives as they needed them and Marie and Helene had not objected, for survival had depended on increasing their numbers. Still, Jandrax was concerned for his firstborn, probably in part out of memory of Angi. When Vapor told his tale, Helene had known immediately that the stranger was Jean.

Jean in turn told his story. Helene was impressed and the youngsters, who were constantly underfoot, were enthralled. Even those of his own generation gave him respect, though they smiled their skepticism of the events on the island.

Vapor and Jean became friends of a sort, but Nightwind remained distant. They were of the first children stolen from the colony, though they remembered only the tribe and the marches. Nightwind in turn had taken a wife from the daughters of the colony Paulette Dumezil. more tomorrow

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