Wolves at the Door (part 4)

Though his family had been careful not to discuss it when they thought he was listening, Gil knew there was more to the story than he had been told.

It took no great feat of imagination to see what could have gone wrong at sea with a ship full of heavily armed raiders and one indiscriminate killing machine. True berserkergang was not a thing to be summoned with hallucinogens and chants; it could be predicted but not controlled. If it had come upon Arnulf during the sea crossing, that was terrible planning – and worse news for the ship’s crew.

With no enemies to let him loose on, saving the ship would be the right call – if you had been stupid enough to get into that position in the first place. But the fact that they would lie about it afterward suggested the crew had not had the decency to let him fight for his life. The cowards had probably tipped him overboard while he slept, denying him his proper place in Valhalla.

That was the risk of being hamrammr in these degenerate times. It was not a prospect that Gilfrid relished.

The timing was also suspicious. The berserkergang could not be controlled, but it could be predicted. Even allowing for delays and bad weather, it would take a remarkable level of incompetence to be caught out mid-crossing.

He could not help but suspect that the situation had had less to do with foul weather than foul play. The hand of a nithing had been at work: a man who had let envy take root in his heart and was no longer a man, acting deviously instead of forthrightly as a man should act. And the nithing still hid in their community: if such a one had been exposed and punished for his crimes, Gil would surely have heard of it. He could not risk falling into the power of such a creature. But ironically, the only way he could protect himself was to ensure nobody discovered his own true nature.

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