After Gil was done filling his mouth with food, Alfvin filled the time by asking his opinion.
“Now that you have seen the place beyond the doorway and had some time to consider, tell me what you think of it.”
“Well, it’s confusing. Incredibly crowded, but surrounded by emptiness. Full of light, with no sun to be seen. Warm but covered in a blanket of mist.”
“It is indeed unlike any place here. But I am sure your ancestors told many tales of other worlds. Has it occurred to you that some of them might have been true?”
That gave Gil pause. Why not? He had stumbled into another world. Alfvin had done the same, many years before. Why not others? They would certainly have come back with fantastical stories.
“If so, wouldn’t you have met them?”
“Not necessarily. I do not spend all of my time lurking around the portal. Besides which, many of the stories go back far beyond my time.”
“I guess it’s possible. The people there look like people, but I suppose you could mistake them for gods. Giants and dwarves, not so much. If what you told me about magic is true, then that sounds a lot like Vanaheim. They say that magic first came from the Vanir. Or it could be Asgard, though I didn’t see any sign of the honoured dead. It’s misty like Niflheim, but certainly not dark and cold. Actually, all that light seems like what I’ve heard of Alfheim. But you’d probably know more about that than I, wouldn’t you, Elf-friend?”
Gil grinned, but Alfvin did not look amused.
“The meaning of my name notwithstanding, I have no evidence one way or another. It is possible that all these were inspired by memories of the one place. Personally, I find that the surrounding emptiness puts me in mind of Ginnungagap, the primordial void from which our world and many others were born. For all I know, perhaps Midgard was indeed summoned from the raw magic of that place.”
“What would that make the gateway itself? Bifrost? I didn’t see any rainbows.”
“True enough. But I do suspect that the tales of Bifrost originated with descriptions of the path between worlds. The unsteady footing, the shortness of breath, mist as far as the eye can see. The sensations of climbing a rainbow into the clouds, if such a thing were possible, would be quite similar.”
If the legends were indeed based upon the kind of things Gil had experienced last night, one important element had been missing.
“In any case, I didn’t see any sign of the world-tree there. Unless that’s some kind of metaphor I didn’t understand?”
“No, trees of any sort are conspicuously absent. Nonetheless, I frequently find myself feeling like Ratatoskr, constantly scurrying back and forth between the eagles above and the serpents below – no offence intended.”
“None taken.” Gil knew all too well how easily a snake in the grass could hide among men.
“I must say, it is good to be able to talk all this through with somebody. Obviously, when I am trading in Midgard, I cannot usually talk freely.”
“What about when you’re there?”
“I can and do discuss cosmology at times, but it is not the same. Nobody there shares my point of reference. You and I may be separated by centuries, but in this at least, we have more in common with each other than anybody else.”