Wolves at the Door (part 71)

When he saw that Gil was serious about his offer, something changed in Alfvin’s expression, as if he was no longer looking at a friend but a meal. He had dropped the attempt to hide his hunger, and Gil found the result quite disturbing. Aggression was an everyday reality in his culture, but he had never seen a man’s face look like this before. There was always some element of bravado in the belligerent looks he was used to; a sense that the violence they implied was latent, and would remain so if you backed off. The look in Alfvin’s eyes right now was far more honest. Gil had seen almost the same look in the eyes of wild animals. Almost, but not quite. The look of a wolf or a bear was always tempered with wariness, however much they might view you as food. Gil saw no such caution in the face that now advanced towards him. Alfvin had no doubt who was the apex predator in these parts.

Gil’s feet had been edging backwards instinctively, but he forced himself to stop. A deal was a deal. He had made his choice, now it was time to live with it. If he had chosen badly, at least he would not have to live with it very long.

Alfvin pushed him back, slowly but insistently, until the equipment loaded on his back met a tree. The hungry beast who had until a moment ago been his friend kept moving, silently closing the gap between them until the predator’s chest pinned Gil against the tree. If his instincts had been urging him to flee before, now it was all he could do to keep his clenched fists from fighting off the threat in front of him. His heart was racing. He mustered his courage and almost managed not to recoil as the other man’s face leaned in. The breath tickled his ear as he heard the predator spoke for the first and last time.

“This is going to hurt. A lot.”

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