Wolves at the Door (part 132)

The next night was largely more of the same, along with some practice swinging the heavy duelling sword. The night after that, it was time for something different. Alfvin had put it off for as long as he could, but it was time to visit another village.

As it happened, this would also be good practice for Gil. All the weapon training in the world would be useless if he couldn’t reach the crossroads in time. Confident as he was in his running ability, he was used to travelling light. But on the morning of the duel, he would need to cover all that distance while carrying the heaviest sword he had ever lifted. He had not been too worried about going into the fight with tired legs; in the cramped quarters of the duelling mat, footwork was not going to be a deciding factor. Tired arms, however, could be crucial.

So, as they ran through Gil’s eleventh night back in the forest, he kept trying different ways to carry the weight without slowing himself down or straining his arms too much. The sword’s single-edged design gave him the option of sharing the load between both his hands without the risk of accidentally cutting his fingers off. Then again, supporting the back of the sword with his other hand meant that he was running with the sharp edge upwards. Which was fine as long as he did not trip, but potentially disastrous if he did. Fortunately the waxing moon cast enough light to see where he was putting his feet, but he still found himself going more slowly than usual. If he was not careful, one hidden tree root could end up saving Fargrim a lot of trouble.

The distance to the village was comparable to what he would have to travel to reach the crossroads from the doorway in the forest. They arrived just after sunrise. While Alfvin went off to see to his business, Gil rested and did some quick calculations. At this time of year, the days were roughly three times as long as the nights. If he had made it here in one night, he should be able to reach the crossroads in one morning with hours to spare.

The return trip was, as always, slow and painstaking. Guiding a nearly-blind Alfvin through the forest was not exactly fun at the best of times, and the summer sun was not their friend. For Alfvin, it made the glare that much worse, even under the cover of the forest canopy. For Gil, it meant that even the gentle walk left him sweating just as much as running in the cool of the night. But he could live with a little sweat, if it meant his muscles got a much needed rest.

Slow as their progress was, they reached the camp site well before dusk. They were both badly in need of a few hours’ sleep, but that was all they would be getting. Once the sun went down, they could not afford to waste precious training time. The duel was only three days away, and tonight would be their last chance to train together with neither the sun nor moon causing problems. Better make it count.

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