Wolves at the Door (part 143)

When he felt like himself again, Gil finally got the details of how the duel had ended. Apparently, Fargrim had lost the fight as soon as he stepped aside from Gil’s blow. His combat reflexes might have saved his life, but they also took his feet off the mat. Of course, that might not have mattered so much if he had sliced Gil in two like he intended. When there’s only one man left standing, technicalities have a way of being forgotten.

When his sword had bounced off Gil’s side, apparently without harming him, Fargrim had gone to pieces. Faced with the legendary invulnerability of the ulfhednar, he completely panicked. Whatever oddities he might have seen fighting alongside Arnulf in the years before betraying him, Fargrim certainly hadn’t expected such a thing in the light of day. He had seen only his inevitable death when Gil approached, sword in hand. The reputation he had fought for was already lost, and he had fled to save his miserable life. Good riddance – or at least, that was the attitude of those who talked to Gil. Many had been afraid of Fargrim. But he had also had friends, family, and comrades-in-arms who would resent his loss, even if they could not condone his actions.

Technically, now that Fargrim was publicly exposed as a nithing, Gil would have been within his rights to demand he be outlawed and claim all his property. Instead, all he asked for was the silver traditionally paid by the loser of a duel. It was no more than Gil himself had risked, and would go some way toward repaying Gil’s family for all the help they had given him. No point making more enemies by being unduly harsh. Besides, property would just tie Gil down to a village where he had no intention of staying. As for whether Fargrim should be outlawed: let them decide after he was gone. They would be the ones who had to enforce it, not him. They had put up with the man for years after Arnulf died; perhaps they would choose to do so again.

Gil’s family were disappointed to hear the he was not going to stay, but he promised to come back and visit regularly. Even if he had wanted to remain here, he would have always been looking over his shoulder to see if one of Fargrim’s friends was plotting against him. And to be honest, he didn’t want to stay. Never had. That was the irony of it all: if left to his own devices, Gil would never have posed the threat that Fargrim had feared.

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