Wolves at the Door (part 26)

The sun had not yet emerged above the trees, but there was plenty of light to see by, and the people of the village were beginning to go about their business. Alfvin was not keen to wait around any longer than he had to, so Gil was left once more to kill some time alone. At least he didn’t feel quite as cold now, though the growing light may have been less responsible for that than the meal he had just eaten.

Wishing he could have gone into the cleared area of the town to feel the pale morning light on his face, Gil had to content himself with walking a ways back along the road that had brought them here. Fortunately none of the locals seemed inclined to early-morning travel. Perhaps they were too distracted by the pale stranger come to town bartering magical goods.

Gil had been back and forth over the same stretch of road a half-dozen times before Afvin returned, arms laden with goods. True to his word, he carried a couple of bolts of coarse cloth, along with several more bags. After handing some over for Gil to carry, he was eager to get under way.

Their pace as they travelled north was more leisurely than it had been coming the other way, and before long the sun began peering over the forest to the east. Gil was enjoying the feel of its feeble warmth on his face, but Alfvin was not so eager. As the sun inched higher, he edged to the right, until he had to walk off the road completely to stay in the shade of the trees.

Gil was curious.

“Is it that bad? I know you said your eyes were sensitive, but it’s not even that bright.”

“It is not yet debilitating, but already it is enough to cause discomfort. I had hoped we would be off the road earlier than this.”

“It can’t be much farther. But personally, I like it. It feels like ages since I felt the sun.”

Before long, they spotted the scarred tree marking the point where they had emerged from the forest the previous night. Alfvin was much more comfortable once they were back under the cover of the trees, though as the sun rose higher he still winced at the occasional shaft of light breaking through.

“Keep your eyes open for the next marked tree. I fear I may miss it, distracted as I am.”

“How do you usually manage during the day? Or do you just have to hunker down and wait until evening?”

“I can get about well enough in the forest, but not as well as I would by night. Still, I would ordinarily make camp by mid-morning. But with your help, we can return to the portal and make camp there. I always feel more secure with an escape route close at hand.”

“If we get back there, do we need to camp? I thought we’d go straight through.”

“Not yet. You have clothes to make, and I have things to do also. On the other side, time is a precious commodity. Given the choice, I prefer to perform time-consuming tasks here, where there is more to consume. If it were not for the cold, I would always sleep on this side. The cold … and the discomfort … and the danger, of course.”

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