Wolves at the Door (part 88)

The days grew longer and the nights correspondingly shorter.  Gil began to have more success at hunting.  It was hard to tell if it was the increased familiarity with the landscape, the extra daylight hours to track his quarry or something less quantifiable.  Perhaps as he grew more comfortable with the beast as a part of him, he allowed himself to think the way it would.  Whatever the reason, he had bagged a couple more deer before the month was done.  He was edging ever closer to self-sufficiency.

With more skins to play with, perhaps he should start experimenting with processing them further.  Now was probably the time to do that.  The full heat of the approaching summer would only make the experience that much more unpleasant.

When the full moon approached, he was ready with a tight rope belt threaded through a couple of crude slippers he had made from one of the raw hides.  Proper boots would be too bulky to carry, and he did not want to risk losing them in the night.  If the slippers proved too much of a hindrance, they would be no great loss if he found a way to slip out of the belt and leave them behind.  If he still had them in the morning, they would be better than nothing for the return journey.

The slippers turned out to be a success, though the smell of the rawhide was more distracting than he had anticipated.  Gil wondered how he had appeared to the other forest-dwellers: wearing not only a belt, but what must have looked like leather pouches hanging from it.

The image gave him more ideas: if the belt consisted not of a rope but a tube of cloth, then he could carry more clothing stuffed in the tube without it dangling from the belt and hampering his movement.  Maybe it would even help to contain the smell of the hide shoes.  If he could carry a knife that way, his return journeys each morning need be neither naked nor defenceless.

According to the stories Gil had heard, many berserkers ended up giving in to the condition, becoming more beast than man, no matter the time of day or month.  But he felt that he was negotiating a peace between his two selves, allowing the beast to run mostly-free in the night, while not leaving him completely helpless come morning.  Getting killed  in the post-moonlight hangover would benefit neither of them.  Maybe Gil was kidding himself, thinking it was something that could be negotiated with.  But if negotiations failed, the power to banish it entirely lay just on the other side of the doorway.

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