Wolves at the Door (part 90)

The familiar old routine was a comfort to Gil.  Running all night was not as satisfying as when he did it under a full moon, but it was exhilarating in a different way.  He would never have dared such speed in such darkness without Alfvin’s sensitive eyes to guide them, but he trusted they would not steer him wrong.

When they reached their destination, Gil stopped as soon as the settlement was in sight.  The chances were slim that anyone would recognise him and know him for an outlaw, but why take the risk?  At least the weather was mild, even before dawn.  There was still some half-hearted moonlight out in the open, but Gil stayed under the cover of the trees.  Being alone in the forest was something he he gotten used to by now.

He waited patiently while Alfvin conducted his business – and, no doubt, his other business.  Gil wondered idly if it was always slave girls, or if some well-born lass, virtuously starting her day before dawn, would find herself having to conceal a wound on her neck for the next week or two.  Slaves, at least, could always conceal it beneath their iron collars.  That is, if anyone even looked at them closely enough to make concealment necessary.  For his part, Gil had never paid thralls that much attention.

When Alfvin came strolling back down the road, Gil emerged from the trees to join him.  There was some risk in travelling by road, but it would make their journey much faster and easier.  Besides, it would only be until the sun rose high enough to force Alfvin back into the woods.  It was unlikely they would meet anyone on the road this early.

Unlikely, but not impossible.  As they rounded a bend in the road, they discovered that somebody else had been travelling overnight.  The man was close enough for Gil to see that it was nobody that he knew, but apparently the lack of recognition was not mutual.  Word had evidently gotten around, because in a matter of seconds, Gil found himself looking down the shaft of a drawn arrow.

“Halt, outlaw!  Not one step further!”


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