Wolves at the Door (part 5)

Gil trudged his way through the day’s chores, distracted by the dim prospects of his future.

Keeping a secret like this was frowned upon. Secrecy and subtlety may sometimes be necessary for women, but a man was expected to be strong enough to face the world head-on. That was why herbalism and sorcery were only tolerated in women; any man who used such deceptive crafts was by definition a nithing and not a man at all.

He consoled himself with the fact that he would not have to keep the secret for long. He just needed to make it through the day without anybody catching wind that something was amiss. He would need to set out before dusk, and once he was far enough away, the people of the village would never have to worry about him again – and vice versa.

He would miss his family, but it was the only way. One night out could be explained away, but if he stayed, it would become a habit that could not escape notice. Once people knew – or even suspected – that Gil had begun walking his uncle’s path, the expectations would be enormous. Refusing to join the raiding parties was not an option. Cowardice like that could only lead to dishonour. Trying to hide his nature would lead the same way as soon as he was found out, for a true norseman would never try to deprive his clan of such a gift.

Either way, his position would become untenable. He would be challenged daily in the street, and forced to kill for his honour. Gil had no enthusiasm for violence, but if he was going to have to fight for his life, better that it should be against foreigners than his own kinsmen. Best for everyone if he just disappeared today, before he had brought shame to his family. They could assume that he had run off to seek his fortune, or that he had run foul of wild beasts; either would be preferable to the truth.

Late in the afternoon, he grabbed as much food as he could easily carry and set out to put as much distance as possible between himself and the village before the moon rose.


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