Wolves at the Door (part 91)

Gil stopped cold.  He held his arms away from him, to show he was not armed.  His mind raced, trying to remember what the laws said about outlaws and roads.  For the most part, outlaws could be shot on sight.  Killing an outlaw was not only allowed, it was a praiseworthy act.  In some cases, it was even a civic duty.

Things were a little different for temporary outlaws like Gil.  As the elder had said, there was an expectation that he would return after the three years were done.  If he survived, that is.  If he kept to himself and troubled no-one, he could reasonably expect that nobody would trouble him.  So long as he kept to the utangard.

Did that include roads though?  They may not be enclosed by fences, but they were threads of civilisation connecting other innangard places.  Of course, most of the places a road ran through were decidedly utangard.  Because of this dual nature, an outlaw was allowed to travel by road – with limitations.  Nobody wanted to be on the road with an outlaw.  So on meeting law-abiding folk, the outlaw was obliged to vacate the road until they had passed.

“Easy now… we’re not looking for trouble.  We’ll just let you have the road to yourself now.”

Pushing Alfvin ahead of him, he moved as quickly as he dared towards the edge of the forest.  Once there they broke into a run, until they were deeper in the trees than an arrow-shot could possibly reach.  Then they settled back to a more comfortable pace, though their hearts took longer to follow suit.

Gil was extra alert the rest of the way back.  At one point their path crossed another road, and he lurked nervously at the edge of the tree line, obsessively watching the road until he was sure nobody could be within sight before hustling Alfvin quickly across to the other side.

As soon as they were safely back at camp, Alfvin curled up to sleep immediately.  Gil was not far behind, after a long night and day on foot.  The stress of the encounter on the road had not helped.  If the traveller had been a little more aggressive and a little less patient, Gil could have been lying dead in the road right now.  Nobody would have blamed him for shooting an outlaw.  Perhaps he had only held back because he had been outnumbered.

It made Gil reconsider his position.  Three years was a long time.  Even if he stayed off the roads, he was bound to cross paths with other hunters from time to time.  That would be dangerous enough as an outlaw.  If it happened under the full moon, he certainly wouldn’t get the benefit of any doubt.  Even wearing a belt, a wolf was always fair game.

He felt he still had a little more to learn here, but he was also missing the company of people, even people as peculiar as those inhabiting that strange other world.  It was time to go back.

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