Wolves at the Door (part 21)

Even at the demanding pace Alfvin set, they travelled several hours without any sign that they had returned to familiar territory. There had been plenty of time for Gil to think about the situation, and understand it as much as he was able to. Now he had more questions.

“How long have you lived there?”

“As you know, keeping track of time in such a place is difficult, and rarely worth the effort. But if I had to guess… perhaps a year? Maybe two?”

A year in the land of shining mist would correspond to much more time here. Gil tried to calculate how much more.

“Let’s see… six months here for a day there … ”

“Yes. A great deal of time has passed since I first stepped through the doorway. Of course, I have not spent the whole time there. I am constantly back and forth between the two worlds. But even so, it is a matter of centuries.”

It was surprising to Gil, but no more so than anything else that had happened since he last woke. And it might explain something.

“Is that why you talk that way?”

“And what way would that be?”

“Well… not like people usually talk. Overly formal. More words than meaning.”

“I try to adapt to current fashions, at least enough to be understood. But I suppose the influences of my own time are difficult to leave behind. Perhaps I need to make more of an effort.”

Alfvin looked uncomfortable, as if the effort were not one he looked forward to, but Gil was quick to reassure him.

“It’s fine. Most of the time I understand you okay. But nobody would mistake you for a local.”

“Good enough: I am not attempting to blend in. If I am understood well enough to trade, that will suffice. If I am taken for a foreigner, so much the better.”

“Did everyone talk like that when you were growing up? Seems like it would take twice as long to say anything.”

Alfvin smiled.

“Recent trends seem to favour a more direct style of speech, it is true. But it is not entirely down to where, or rather when, I come from. In my younger days I entertained dreams of becoming a skald, and I studied the forms and kennings common to the profession. At times they still find expression in my words, although life has taken me in a different direction.”

“That makes a lot more sense, actually. Everything you say sounds like a performance. But if you have been visiting this world periodically for a hundred years or more, you must have seen a lot of changes?”

“Things change, things stay the same. No matter the century, men remain men. In all their glory. In all their idiocy.”

Gil could not decide whether the news should make him feel disheartened or reassured. If he adopted the same between-worlds lifestyle, he supposed he would have the chance to form his own opinion first-hand.


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