Wolves at the Door (part 67)

Gil was given until sundown to get out of town. At least this time he would be able to bid his family farewell. They made sure he was loaded up with as much food, clothes, tools, and other supplies as he could carry. He felt bad enough that he was leaving him with the responsibility for his debts, but there was nothing he could do about that. It wasn’t like he could stay and work to pay it off himself. Perhaps he could arrange for Alfvin to bring them whatever Gil was able to earn while he was away. Then again, they probably wouldn’t have any use for a stone full of magic.

Once the goodbyes were said, there was no point hanging around. He wanted to be well clear of the town before night fell. Alfvin would just have to find him on the road. After promising his family that he would in fact return after the three years were over, Gil set out. Before he was out of sight, he paused to glance back at the village that had been his home for so long. With the sun in his eyes as it dipped down over the rooftops of his hometown, he could barely see a thing. There was probably something fitting in that. Last time he hadn’t spared the place a backwards glance, hadn’t expected ever to return. This time he had made a commitment to come back, though only time would tell if that was a good idea.

He hoped that Alfvin would be able to find him before sundown, but he couldn’t risk slowing down. He wasn’t sure what would happen when the moon rose. If he had been able to get a good look at it, he might have been better able to judge whether it would still be full enough to influence him. But of course, he had been rather preoccupied when the moon was in the sky each of the last three nights. He would have to wait and see if the divine inspiration, as Adalrad had put it, would return to him tonight. If it did, he needed to be far enough away that there would be little risk of his backtracking to the village while his choices were not exactly his own.

If he was lucky, Hati would catch the moon tonight and spare him the difficulty. That had been a favourite story when he was younger, of the wolves Hati and Skoll chasing the moon and sun across the sky. The sun was always too fast for poor Skoll, but Hati would gain on the moon, taking little bites out of it through the month until it was skinny enough to hide from him and grow fat and slow again.

At the time, he had cheered for the clever moon, escaping its enemy over and over. It had never occurred to him to applaud the wolf, who managed to catch the moon again every time. He certainly hadn’t expected that the big bad wolf would one day be both his kinsman and his protector against the moon’s tyranny.

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