The light was almost gone by the time Alfvin found him. Gil had thought he would have to stack his equipment and clothes near some easily-recognisable landmark and hope for the best.
“I’m glad to see you. Did you go back to the village and find I’d already left?”
“No, I was just on my way back now when I spotted you on the road. You are alive and well, I see. I told you that you would have nothing to fear.”
“Not nothing exactly, but you’re right. It could have been a lot worse.”
It had, in many ways, been the best outcome he could possibly have hoped for. Better even than being exonerated and returned to his former social position.
“Tell me, what was the town’s decision?”
“Basically, I’m banished. Too dangerous and immature to live among them, so I’m exiled to the utangard for three years.”
“That is inconvenient, but as you say, it could have been worse. There is a great deal to be said for living outside of the enclosed spaces. Nonetheless, I am surprised. Talking with the guards, I did not get a sense that such a strong penalty was imminent.”
“There was a bit of a surprise at the hearing. But I can’t say it was entirely a bad thing. You remember that unknown enemy I told you about? Now I have a pretty good idea who it might be.”
Perhaps Gil owed Fargrim some thanks. In trying to get rid of a rival, he had not only revealed his own hand, but given Gil exactly what he wanted.
“That is a kind of progress. And in three years’ time, that knowledge may serve you well, should you wish to return.”
“I did promise my family that I’d come back. I don’t know if I could bring myself to live there again, but I’ll visit them at least. I have to find some way to repay them for their help. I wish I didn’t have to leave them to pay for that man’s chicken.”
“I am certain they would have given far more simply to know that you are still alive. And from the looks of it, they have given more to ensure you stay that way.”
Gil felt like they had weighted him down with two of everything he could possibly need to live in the forest.
“I know. More that I owe them. And I was worried that I’d lose it all when the moon comes up.”
“I think on that score at least I can set your mind at rest.”
“I know. It feels good to have help at hand when the trouble comes.”
“I appreciate that, but it is not what I meant.”
He indicated ahead, where the moon had been creeping above the horizon as they walked and talked.
“I think that if trouble was coming for you tonight, it would have already begun.”