Wolves at the Door (part 85)

In the morning, Gil awoke cold and naked as usual. His muscles ached, but his head did not. He actually felt good, in a way. When he realised that the good feeling was coming from his belly, fuller than it had been for weeks, he quickly decided not to think about it too much. He opened his eyes and sat up. He still felt weaker than usual, but not as weak as other mornings.

Nearby he found the evidence of the night’s activity, and the explanation for his lack of hunger. A small deer lay nearby, the ground under its neck stained where it had bled out. A gaping hole in its belly exposed the space where many of its internal organs had once been. Gil could feel blood congealing on his face, and wiped it as best he could. All in all, a good result. Neither his skin nor the carcass were as revolting as the results of his recent attempt at butchery. He would prefer to have cooked the innards before eating them, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

The deer had not begun to stink yet, and was warm to the touch. Still pretty fresh. If he could get it back to camp, it might feed him for many days to come. Of course, that would depend on being able to find his way back at all. Currently, he had no idea where he was. The sun was beginning to rise in the east, but that wasn’t much help without knowing what direction he had come from. With nothing else to go on, he started out in the direction that the back end of the deer had been pointing.

It took a lot of scouting around, but eventually he was pretty sure that he must have come quite a long way north in the night. Returning to where he had awoken, he hoisted the deer onto his shoulders. Whatever he could feel spilling out and running down his back, he was determined to ignore. Carrying the deer would be slow, but it was a long journey either way and there was a limit to how fast he could run in rough, unfamiliar terrain in bare feet.

Deer or no deer, he was vulnerable travelling naked. If he should happen across a bear or stumble into a wolf den, he could drop the carcass as an offering or distraction while he made his escape. And if the return trip took longer than a day, he would be glad of the food. He had no tools to light a fire, but come moonrise he would not be so fussy about that.

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