Wolves at the Door (part 129)

One week later, Gil was running through the drills that Alfvin had shown him for what seemed like the millionth time. The tedium of repetition was one reason he had never had much patience for combat training when he was younger. Even now, knowing his life would soon be on the line, he was only able to stick with it because there was an end in sight. One way or another, it would all be over in seven more days. Either he would have learned enough, or … not. Either way, at least he could stop practising.

If Alfvin had stayed around to run the drills with him, that would at least have helped with the boredom, but of course that was impractical. Gil knew first-hand how dangerous his friend could be after only a few days without visiting a town to satisfy his needs. Two weeks was quite out of the question.

Instead, Alfvin had spent the first night back at the forest camp running Gil through some of the basic principles that had never lodged in his head as a boy, no matter how loud his instructors had shouted. Once Gil had a routine of practice drills that he could follow on his own, Alfvin had stepped through the invisible doorway once more. However much he had promised that he would be back well before the appointed date, Gil was not terribly reassured. He knew how much guesswork was involved in trying to time the journey between worlds.

Still, he didn’t have much choice. There was nothing to do but mark off the days as notches on a nearby tree, and run through the drills with his borrowed shield and sword. They probably hadn’t seen action since his father was a young man, rowing a longboat across the sea for adventure and glory. The arms were not in the best repair, but perfectly adequate for practising with. The only trouble was the extra logs of wood that Alfvin had insisted on tying alongside the sword’s blade. However Gil tied them , they either restricted his grip or slipped off in the middle of a drill. Perhaps training with the extra weight was supposed to make the blade feel light and nimble when it was finally removed. Alfvin had not gone into detail, but had been adamant that it was necessary. Gil was not in a position to argue.

Whatever the reason, the unaccustomed weight had left Gil’s arm feeling dead after the first day’s training. It could have been worse though – a misunderstanding with a magical burglar alarm had once left that same arm in far more pain. At least this time he had hope that the pain was a stepping-stone to strength. And indeed, the ache had lessened as the days of training wore on. Either he was getting stronger, or learning to ignore the pain. Whichever it was, it was definitely an improvement.

At the end of another day’s training, he marked an eighth notch on the tree that served as his calendar. It would not do to miss his appointment through losing count of the days, out here in the isolated forest. Gil hoped Alfvin would return soon. He may be getting stronger, but the duel could be won or lost on how he reacted to his opponent’s attacks. The trees may be perfectly fine targets to swing a sword at, but he needed to hone his shield-work against an assailant more unpredictable than branches swaying in the summer breeze.

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