Wolves at the Door (part 69)

Gil flinched to see the moon in the sky, but forced himself to relax. It was visibly, if slightly, less than full. Good old Hati had begun his work for the month.

“Speaking of debts, you were also mentioned. Apparently I owe you a meal. That is, if what you told them is true.”

“Everything I say is true… if only in a technical sense. You did indeed take food from me, though I may have neglected to mention that it was freely offered. As a pretext to involve myself in the conversation about your fate, it worked admirably. But no repayment is necessary.”

“I have to disagree. Restitution was ordered, and restitution will be made. Besides, if we’re being honest, you know as well as I do that I owe you a lot more than a meal. If you hadn’t involved yourself in that conversation, I would have been killed.”

“I am not so sure of that. Discussing the option in a large group is one thing. But ultimately it would have fallen on one man to carry out the deed. Executing a bound and helpless prisoner is not so easy as one might suppose. I doubt they would have gone through with it, even without my intervention.”

“Even if that’s true, if you only maybe saved my life, that’s still worth more than a meal.”

Alfvin grimaced.

“I wish you would not talk of eating. In the excitement of the last few days, I have neglected to feed myself properly. I would prefer to take my mind off the hunger.”

“Why? I’m carrying enough dried food to last weeks. That seems like a perfect opportunity to repay you – if not all I owe, then at least what was officially ordered.”

“What I need cannot be dried and carried. You do not know what you speak of.”

“I know what I owe you, much as you might want to make light of it. And I know there’s still a lot that you don’t want to tell me about yourself.”

Perhaps it was the hunger taking its toll on Alfvin’s usual detachment. Whatever the reason, he suddenly snapped.

“You wish to know what I have been hiding? I have told you that people object to what I do. I was not referring to trading in magical knick-knacks. Not only do I seduce the young women of the villages, I take away with me a little piece of their lives. That is the real reason why I do not wish to return too soon where I have been before.

“It is an ugly way of life, but it is what I must do. And not only have I hidden it from you, I have made you complicit. Now that you know, would you offer up your life’s blood to me? Would you flee as far from me as you can get? Or will you change the subject, as I asked?”

“My life’s blood? You mean, the blood of the life that you saved? Sounds like that might be a fair trade.”

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