Wolves at the Door (part 53)

Alfvin lead the way to the southeast, and Gil made an effort to pay as much attention to their path as he had last time, just to prove him wrong. It was possible that Alfvin had manipulated him into doing just that with his selective truths, but getting lost on the way back would not be worth whatever point it might prove.

Alfvin marked the trees along their path, just as he had on their last journey. Gil found it easier to match his pace this time, at least while the twilight lasted. When the full dark of night set in, he would have to slow down and watch his step more carefully. After they had gone a few miles, Alfvin paused to sharpen his knife.

“So you do need to sharpen that thing. I had wondered if it was enchanted to hold its edge.”

“No, the knife is quite ordinary. The whetstone, on the other hand…”

Last time, Gil had been lagging badly most of the way. He hadn’t seen Alfvin sharpen the knife then, but there would have been plenty of opportunity to do so while waiting for Gil to catch up. Even now, Gil could almost have missed it if he had blinked; a couple of passes of the stone across the blade and it was done. While he was at it, he asked for the spear Gil had been using as a hiking pole and gave it an instant edge as well.

“I find this a much more flexible solution to the problem. And, of course, an enchanted knife needs to be specially constructed, incorporating some kind of stone into the design. No such problem with a sharpening stone.”

Gil touched the edge of the spear’s blade. It was as sharp as any he had known.

“Do you use a lot of day-to-day magic like this?”

“Less than you might think. Such things are convenient, of course, but they are also expensive. I have a few little luxuries that can save me a great deal of time, but for most things I make do the old-fashioned way.”

A poor investment, was how he had described the translation amulets. But saving time seemed to be the one thing he was willing to invest in. It made sense, if he was constantly rushing to reach the next market in a single night’s travel. He had been unable to travel by day until he acquired a partner. Perhaps that made Gil himself the best investment of all.

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