The next morning, Gil woke up. That in itself was cause for optimism. What had woken him was having his arms wrenched behind his back to be re-tied. That part he wasn’t so thrilled with.
He saw Alfvin still sitting guard nearby. Gil wondered what his plan was. He had talked of marching Gil back to his home village, but that must have been a bluff. Travelling by road, the journey would take almost the whole day. There was no way Alfvin could make that journey blinded as he would be by the sunlight. It also seemed unlikely that he would want to make that weakness more generally known.
Sure enough, Alfvin was soon agitating to get the trip under way.
“We should set out without delay. It would not be good to find ourselves still on the road with him when night falls. And you,” he addressed Gil directly, “do not dawdle along the way, or pragmatism may yet win out.”
Turning back to the farmer who was tightening the knots, he continued:
“I must go back and collect some things from my camp site before setting out. I suggest you start without me, and I dare say I shall catch up on the road. Unless a naked, tired, and bound boy is too much for you to manage alone for a while?”
The man with the rope swallowed his objections at that challenge. Uneasy as he may have been, he was not about to admit that his size and weapons were insufficient to ease his mind.
“All right, but don’t hang about. If this one decides to try his luck while there’s only one of us guarding him, I may have to kill him, and then we’re both out of pocket.”
As Alfvin disappeared into the woods, Gil wondered what he would actually do. They would not see him on the road, that much was certain. If he wanted to get to Gil’s village in time to do anything useful, he would have to set out immediately. He would make better time through the thick of the forest than Gil and his captor would on the roads, but after a few hours he would be unable to see well enough to continue. By the time he was able to resume the journey, they may have already reached their destination.
Of course, that presumed that he even wanted to help. He had turned the tide of public opinion last night, but he had already been on the scene. And he had done only as much as he could without jeopardising himself or his reputation.
A few days ago, Gil had thought of himself as a good investment on Alfvin’s part. But that investment was beginning to look more like a liability. The simplest course of action would be to cut his losses and return to the doorway in the woods alone.