Wolves at the Door (part 135)

Once more, it was Alfvin who noticed when the darkness was fading. Gil wondered how many times he had waited here for the glare of day to fade before stepping through the doorway. Now, for once, it was the light of dawn drawing Alfvin across the threshold. This early, the sunshine was weak enough for Alfvin to handle, even at the height of summer. Besides, it would take only moments to complete his task. Gil could barely make out his movements through the mist, but they seemed ridiculously hurried as he bent over the two bowls Gil had left in front of the doorway: one full of water, the other pierced and empty. If Gil had blinked, he would have missed seeing Alfvin move the empty bowl, leaving it floating in the water before stepping back into the mist.

Though there were only about a dozen steps to cover, Alfvin seemed to slow remarkably as he approached. Gil had never watched from this perspective before. It was quite unsettling. By the time Alfvin reached Gil’s position, the bowl in the forest had begun to sink appreciably in the water. It also seemed to slow as it progressed farther, but Gil knew from his own experiments that that was normal. It would take more than an hour to sink down the whole way; probably less than two. Gil had never managed to pin it down more accurately than that, but that would be good enough for today. More than three hours and he may run out of time to reach the duelling ground. Less than one, and the moon may still be up.

Once the clock neared the end of its cycle, they had to get closer to be able to see it clearly. Finally the rims of the two bowls drew so close that if they weren’t resting one on the other, they soon would be.

Alfvin wished Gil luck. Gil double-checked that he had everything he would need. It did not take long. Some food and water for the long run ahead of him, and a sharpening stone to keep his blade from being blunted on his opponent’s shield. And of course the massive sword itself, though there was no chance of him forgetting that.

No point delaying any further. Gil stepped out into the light of the day he had spent the last two weeks preparing for, and started out in the direction of home.

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