Wolves at the Door (part 23)

Gil should not have been surprised to see that one of the people he had heard was Alfvin. Less expected was the way he was acting. He was leaning in close to a slave girl who looked a few years younger than him, barely older than Gil himself. It seemed oddly intimate for people who had just met. As a thrall she would have little choice in how she related to her master, but owed no particular deference to a stranger who had just come to town. Alfvin had said he could be persuasive.

Gil felt uncomfortable watching, though it was hard to pin down the reason. Their intimacy was only one factor. There was also the fact that he was spying on his new friend without his knowledge. Even leaving that aside, there was always something strange about intruding on the private lives of thralls. It was a reminder of a whole other layer of life occurring unseen, just below the surface of the world he was used to. And that was a reminder of how fragile that surface could be.

Whatever the reason that had made him avert his eyes, when he looked back again, the girl had disappeared indoors, leaving Alfvin alone. Looking around as he waited, he locked eyes with Gil. Gil’s concerns about spying on his friend were short-lived, as Alfvin smiled and waved, before motioning him to move farther off. It was a good point. He hadn’t wanted to move for fear of being heard, but in the growing light it was becoming more likely that he would be seen. He began moving off, but froze when he heard the girl return. Light or no light, she was more likely to notice him if he kept moving.

He couldn’t hear them at all any more, but he saw the girl hand Alfvin a small sack, then lean in as he kissed her gently. He pressed something into her hand, then cupped her cheek, just above the iron collar, as he nuzzled against the opposite side of her face. Once again, Gil turned away, feeling like an intruder. After a few minutes, he glanced back, but they were both gone.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he started moving again. Soon, more thralls would be out and about, beginning their work day. That meant more potential customers for Alfvin, but more chance that somebody would see Gil. If he circled back to the north end of town, he could wait for Alfvin there. If it would save him the stress of another encounter like this, he would just jog on the spot to keep warm.

He hadn’t gotten halfway when he felt the hand grip his shoulder from behind.

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