Wolves at the Door (part 64)

When everything was prepared, the town elder Adalrad brought the hearing to order. Once again the whole village had assembled, though this time they were pressed against the outside of the fridgard. The inside was reserved for those with a formal role to play.

The man who had brought him here recounted once more the tragedy of Berthild, that shining paragon of chicken-kind. Clearly he did not want anyone to underestimate the compensation that may be owing to him. Alfvin’s lesser claim was also noted, as was his inability to be present after sitting up all night assisting the guards.

Although there could not have been anybody present who had not also seen the events of the previous sundown, Adalrad summarised them for the sake of formality. Then Gil’s family had their turn, telling how he was a good boy, and they always knew he had potential, despite being a perennial underachiever. At Adalrad’s insistence, they eventually found their way to the matter he considered relevant: the circumstances of Gil’s disappearance several months earlier. They told how he had vanished without warning one night, though he had been conscientious enough to finish his chores before doing so. They told of how they had searched for weeks and how confused they had been to find his shirt in a tree, but with no signs of foul play. They told how they had feared for his safety, but without further evidence they had eventually given up hope of his return.

It broke Gil’s heart to hear it. When it was finally his turn to say his piece, he could quite honestly say that he regretted leaving without saying goodbye. He told of how he had felt he had to flee, for fear that he would hurt those around him when he lost control. Gil would never have lied in such a serious situation, if at all. But with several truths to choose from, he had no problem with selecting the most palatable among them. Apparently all that time spent with Alfvin had influenced him more than he had thought.

Finally, the elder asked if anybody else had anything relevant to add. This was usually a formality, observed to forestall any later complaints about the outcome of the hearing. But on rare occasions, somebody would take advantage of the opportunity. Apparently, today was just such an occasion.


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