Wolves at the Door (part 31)

The sewing took longer than Gil had though it would. The knife was sharper than he expected, especially for something that had been used on so many trees the previous night. Alfvin must have sharpened it well while Gil slept. Nonetheless, it was fairly clumsy for cutting cloth, and Gil had to go slowly to avoid unintentional tearing.

Stitching was even slower. Gil was used to patching small rips and holes, not building up the structure of a garment from scratch. The needle had a vexing habit of coming loose from the thread mid-stitch, and more than once he felt the need to go and chop wood to vent his frustration before his hands were steady enough to thread the needle yet again.  After a while he learned to be more cautious, anticipating when the needle and thread were likely to part company and fixing the problem before it happened. Things sped up a bit once he was able to spend more time stitching than threading.

Eventually he had a pair of pants that more-or-less fit him. They would keep him warm enough, and if he cinched the top with a makeshift belt, he was optimistic that they might not fall down too often. Most importantly, he would be able to walk into the next town they went to without causing alarm. He may inspire pity, but he wouldn’t have to stay and live with it, so that was fine.

Making the shirt went much more smoothly. Not only was he getting better at sewing, but he was able to avoid a few mistakes by examining how Alfvin’s shirt was constructed. When he was done, the new shirt fit him pretty well, though of course it was not as comfortable as the professionally-made one that he had borrowed.

He rounded out the ensemble with a pair of slippers for his feet. They wouldn’t provide a lot of protection, but they were better than nothing. Next time they came back this way, winter would be well advanced, and travelling barefoot would become less and less practical.

Feeling almost normal now that he was fully dressed, Gil collected Alfvin’s fishing pole and headed for the stream. First he washed Alfvin’s shirt and hung it out to dry in the afternoon sun, then set about trying to catch some lunch. Normally he found baiting the hook to be fiddly work, but after spending most of the morning re-threading a needle it was child’s play by comparison.

Waiting for the fish to take an interest, he contemplated what life would be like on the other side of the doorway. Perhaps not too different, as a lot of the inhabitants seemed to live like they were camping out. With no day and night, he supposed everyone just slept on whatever schedule suited them best, as he and Alfvin were doing now. He could not recall seeing any fires there, but of course they weren’t needed for light and heat. If wood was scarce, he wondered how – or if – they cooked their food.

Did they even need to eat? Alfvin had suggested that the magic of the place sustained them without the need for air. Did the same hold for food and water? They were bringing food back to sell, but was it a necessity or a luxury?

Gil sighed, realising just how much he still didn’t know about the life he had begun to think of as his future. But, he supposed, there would be plenty of time to learn. The future would take care of itself; what he needed to think about right now was the fish tugging at the other end of his line.

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