Wolves at the Door (part 33)

Panic seized Gil. He was alone in the forest. The land of magic and wonder, the land he had already begun to think of as his future home, had deemed him unworthy. He had no idea why the gateway should have rejected him, but somehow it had all seemed too good to be true. His hopes were crushed, but he forced himself to stop and reassess the situation.

He was alone, yes, but he was carrying a good load of supplies. Of course, Alfvin might be back at any moment to take them from him, but he was still better off than he had been before he had discovered the doorway. He might be able to convince Alfvin to leave him some food, or a fishing line. He could probably rekindle the fire from its scattered embers, and the stout wooden pole in his hand might serve in a pinch for fighting off wild animals. Knowing what he knew, he might even still be able to make a living as a middle man, doing the leg work on this side, travelling to nearby villages to save Alfvin the time and effort. In any case he was not naked and would be careful not to lose these clothes when the next full moon came.

Now that he had a plan, the panic subsided. Thinking more clearly, he realised how hastily he had jumped to conclusions. He took one big step backwards, two to the side, and another forwards.

As the clouds closed in on him, he felt incredibly stupid. Of course the portal had not arbitrarily rejected him. But it was not very wide both he and Alfvin had been loaded down with baggage. Because of the bulk they carried, they had been standing farther apart than they otherwise would have been. He had missed the doorway, either completely or at least enough to trigger the safety mechanism Alfvin had described. Embarrassed as he was, he took a moment to be thankful that the mistake had not left him torn in half as he had once feared.

Alfvin was patiently waiting for him, completely unaware of all that had passed through his head so quickly. Gil was determined to keep it that way.

The slow journey along the unmarked path was as difficult as he had anticipated, encumbered as they were with their cargo. They could not take more than two steps at a time without stopping to catch their breath. But the load was lightened by the knowledge that every step forward was a privilege he had not expected to experience again.

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