Wolves at the Door (part 62)

Waking up naked and disoriented was Gil’s new normal. He took the cold and the aches in stride, but perversely, he was thrown by the familiar surroundings. His old life and his new had never come together like this before – at least, not outside of his nightmares.

The crowd of the previous night had dwindled down to almost nothing. A few armed townsmen eyed him askance, but they weren’t currently pointing any weapons at him. His family were still here, propping each other up as they dozed. But most of the town had only been there to see whether it was all true, and how dangerous he might be if it was. Even the stranger who had brought him in was nowhere to be seen, though that was probably not surprising. After guarding a potentially ferocious beast all night and day, he must have been glad to let somebody else stand watch while he took advantage of whatever lodgings he had been offered.

Gil stretched and stood. His clothes were nearby, so he slipped out of the harness and dressed himself. The locals who had been assigned to guard him didn’t bother to tie him up again. They knew they had nothing to fear from his fighting skills. He might be able to outrun them, but where would he go? To flee now would be to admit guilt of any accusation that might be levelled at him. If he stayed and argued his case like a man, there was still a chance he might regain some honour.

The armed men were still huddled together, talking amongst themselves. They shot a glance his way from time to time, but clearly they thought that any threat he may have posed was now past. Everyone knew that this was when his kind were at their most vulnerable, just after the full moon had set. The more ferocious the beast had been in the night, the weaker the man would be when morning came, and the longer it would take him to recover.

Gil didn’t feel too bad, all things considered. Weak and hung-over, sure, but he’d had worse mornings. Maybe there was something to be said for being tied up and fed like a pig in bacon-making season.

Then again, maybe the weakness had just migrated to his wits. Because he had somehow failed to notice that one of the armed men gathered in conversation was not a local at all. He wondered if Alfvin had arrived before or after the crowd had grown bored and dispersed. It seemed a shame if he had missed the big show. It was nothing he had not seen before, of course, but the audience’s reactions would have been entertaining. Although Gil had technically been there and must have seen it for himself, he would have given a great deal to be able to remember the looks on their faces.

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