Wolves at the Door (part 83)

From time to time, in a spare moment Gil would find himself wondering how long it would be before Alfvin returned. There was really no was to tell. The journey between the woods and the stone doorway was short in terms of the steps taken, but slow because of the frequent stops to catch one’s breath along the way. Gil could not imagine making the round trip in less than an hour. Then, if Alfvin took another hour to conduct his business there and came straight back, then he could be arriving any time from now onward. Of course, it was just as likely that he would need to sleep after the arduous trip between worlds, stacked on top of the all-night journey back from Gil’s home village. In that case, it could be two or three months more before Gil saw him again.

Gil had marked a trail of trees from the old camp to the new one. He hoped that would be enough to lead Alfvin to him, whenever it might be. He hoped that Alfvin would want to find him. He had smoothed things over somewhat before they had parted ways, but there had still been some tension. Gil did not have much of a way with words and it had rarely bothered him, but this time he wished he could have explained his decision better. He had gotten the distinct impression that Alfvin disapproved of his plan.

It was not hard to understand why. Alfvin had fled this world to get away from his monstrous nature. But though he had escaped the sunlight, he had brought his hunger with him. And every day or two, it drew him back here. A world where magical protection was commonplace would have been far too dangerous a hunting ground.

Gil, on the other hand, had the option of walking away from his inner beast entirely. If he so chose, he could live a long life on the other side of the doorway and never have to deal with the moon again – full or otherwise. Of course, that would mean never seeing his family again. He had been willing to make that trade before, when he thought it would spare them from suffering. But his shame had fallen upon them anyway, and now that the price was paid, it seemed foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity that had come with it. In time, he could return to visit and repay his debts, if he could attain some – not mastery, nor even harmony – but some kind of truce with his shapestrong nature.

Perhaps Alfvin had forgotten what it was like to have living family. Everyone he had known in his younger days must be long dead. Considering the hunger that Gil had seen in him, it may not have been the years that were responsible. Gil had heard tales of similar tragedies when the berserkergang struck for the first time, of men waking up surrounded by the bodies of loved ones, with no memory of what they had done. He counted himself lucky that his own victims included nothing larger than wildlife and chickens.

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