Wolves at the Door (part 70)

Alfvin stared at him.

“You continue to surprise.”

“Just so we’re clear, you’re not talking about literally taking my life, are you? Just a little piece. That’s what you were doing in that first village we visited, with the slave girl, isn’t it? You weren’t just charming her for the sake of commerce.”

“You are more observant than I gave you credit for.”

“I can’t say I knew what was happening at the time. But now, it makes sense.”

It wasn’t just Gil’s powers of observation that had been underestimated. He continued, annoyed:

“Did you really think that this confession would make me run away? Maybe when I first met you. So I can’t really blame you for holding back. But even though it’s only been a few days, I feel like I’ve got to know you pretty well. Maybe better than you know yourself, in some ways. Or maybe, it’s things that you know but won’t admit. I know that you hate the way you have to live, but you’re powerless to change it. Who could understand that better than me? Two days ago, I thought that I had pulled an old woman out of her bed and dragged her off into the woods to devour her flesh. Believe me, I get what it’s like to be disgusted by the monster within.

“But I also know that you do what you can to mitigate the harm. You don’t like going back to the same place too often. That’s not just from fear of reprisals. It’s because you don’t want to take too much of any one person’s life. You spread it out, between different villages. And, thanks to the doorway in the woods, you can also spread it out over time. It may be years between visits to any one place. That way, you never have to touch any one life twice.”

But Alfvin was not done wallowing in his guilty feelings.

“Such a noble monster you paint me as! Instead of ruining one life completely, I damage countless, spread over the course of generations, of centuries.”

“You and everyone I ever met. Believe me, you can’t live without causing some sort of petty harm to those around you. You at least make an effort to minimise the damage. That’s more than I can say for most people.”

“And minimal or not, you wish to be part of this damage?”

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking forward to it. But who knows if I’ll even survive three years outside of civilisation? I doubt I would have lived this long if I hadn’t stumbled across you. Depending on the life, a piece of it might not be so much to give up. Still, I don’t intend it to be a regular thing and I’m certainly not volunteering to be seduced. But I owe you a meal, or maybe my life. Either way, I believe in paying my debts.”

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