Wolves at the Door (part 29)

For once, it was not cold, or light, or strange noises that woke Gil up. He had simply had enough sleep. It had been a long time since he had woken up that way, and a long time since he had felt this good.

The fire must have kept him very warm; during the night, he had shrugged off half of the cloth wrapped around around him. He remembered half-waking a couple of times in the night, but in between he had slept deeply.

Once again, Alfvin was gone, but this time there were no noises indicating where he might be. It was still dark, so Gil was not inclined to go looking for him. There were fresh logs on the fire, so he hadn’t been gone long.

With nothing else to do while he waited, Gil thought about how he would turn his wrappings into clothes when there was enough light to work by. He figured the main thing was not to cut the pieces too small: baggy pants could be cinched in or adjusted, but making tight clothes larger would not be an easy matter.

Soon his mind began to stray to the hunger growing inside him. He wondered if they would be able to catch anything fresh to eat, or if the bag of food from the village was all they had. Alfvin had said he had lived a solitary life in the woods for years before discovering the doorway; he must be a skilled hunter to have survived that long. But he had brought little gear with him, nothing larger than the axe he had used to chop firewood. With no bow or spears, he wouldn’t be doing much hunting. Unless he had brought fishing gear, or something to make traps with? But that was probably wishful thinking from an empty stomach.

It was some time before Alfvin returned, but when he did it was with his usual cheerful demeanour restored. The taciturn manner of the previous afternoon had disappeared with the tiredness and vulnerability that had brought it on. Now, he was back in his own element and confident again. His confidence was not misplaced: he had been productive since waking. He carried a skin full of water and a couple of generously-sized fish.

The day had started well, and was already getting better, even before the sun had risen.

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