Jandrax 87

In the months that followed, Jandrax and Jean shared in the hunt and in the telling of tales. Jean learned from his father of the precursor ruins scattered about Harmony and they speculated on the nature of the presence. Jandrax questioned Jean closely about the colony, the details of Angi’s life after the purge. They discussed how old Marcel Dumezil had been killed mysteriously in his sleep. Jandrax refused credit for that act and pointed out that it had been done during low winter when the tribe was elsewhere. They speculated as to who might have done it and concluded that it could very well have been his son Anton.

“The other Anton, old Dumezil’s grandson, the one who betrayed you. What did you do about him? Did you kill him?” Jean stung under the implied criticism and explained, then added, How could I challenge him when I don’t know that he withheld fire? Primers do fail.”

“Rarely.”

“Rarely – but they do fail and I am not content to take his life while my reasoning may be wrong.”

Jandrax merely nodded, offering no advice. “What about your son?”

“Once again, I don’t know that he is mine.”

“But you are sure in your own mind?”

“Yes.”

“What will you do about him?”

Jean shrugged, “I don’t know – yet. Before I decide that, I must know if I am welcome here. I am a stranger, after all. My original intention was to return to the colony.

“And now? . . . ”

“Now I am not sure. There is little for me there, but I wonder if there is anything for me here. Your people are independent to the point of cruelty. They have your arrogance, but they have never had to face up to the opinions of others. They consider themselves the lords of creation and the colonists as subhumans.”

“They accept you.”

“Yes, they accept me. But did they ever inquire as to whether or not I accept them?”

Do you?”

“No, not entirely, although I confess a certain respect for their independence. But it it is an independence based on childish bravado and an unwarranted sense of superiority.”

Jandrax was silent then, pondering. He stirred his chota and sipped. “It is an old story, Jean, played out on Earth centuries before either of us was born the story of the nomad and the oasis. The nomad lives his life wild and, he thinks, free, looking down upon the dwellers in the oasis while all the time he is dependent on them. It is thus with us. Likewise the oasis dweller looks with a mixture of fear and derision at the ignorant nomad, whose crude existence lies beyond the pale of civilization.”

“You don’t depend on the colony.”

“No? Where did our women come from?”

Jean waved his hand as if to brush away a side issue. “You have women enough now. Nightwind could have found a woman without kidnapping Paulette.

Jandrax shook his head. “There is more to it than having an equal number of males and females. Our gene pool is too small, not only among us but on the whole planet. We – the tribe and the colonists – need each other. The day will come when we trade together again. I think it is inevitable.”

“The elders don’t even acknowledge your existence.”

“So? We exist. Let them acknowledge or not, they can’t keep their children in ignorance forever. Did you not speculate on the disappearances? The day will come when they can no longer ignore us.” more tomorrow

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