Wolves at the Door (part 34)

When they finally emerged from the stone gateway at the end of the path Gil wasn’t sure what to do, but as usual Alfvin had a plan. Rather than trying to manoeuvre their bulky load through the crowds, Gil was to wait nearby with the bags. Meanwhile Alfvin would take the freshest of the food they had brought and sell it while it was still at its most appetising. When that was done, Alfvin returned and took another bagful of goods away to trade while Gil kept waiting. By the third time, Gil was getting thoroughly bored. He didn’t relish the idea of darting off, weaving among the crowds as Alfvin had done, but he was glad that the remaining baggage was dwindling down to a more manageable size.

While he waited, he looked around, speculating idly about the glowing clouds around him. They reminded him of times back home when the overcast sky was grey from horizon to horizon. Enough light filtered through so you could tell when it was daytime, but no more than that. The sun was up there somewhere, but you couldn’t tell where, and that meant you couldn’t tell what time of day it was. Sometimes those days felt long, sometimes short, but they were always unsettling.

If it happened while you were on a ship at sea it was more than unsettling, it was downright dangerous. If you couldn’t find the sun in the day or the stars at night, navigation became impossible. If the cloud cover lasted long enough, you could end up lost, sailing in circles.

Though he had never seen one, Gil had heard sailors talk of a sunstone, a special type of crystal that enabled them to navigate by locating the sun, even when it was invisible behind the clouds. He had been skeptical at the time. Such a thing had sounded like magic, too convenient to be true. Now he wondered if it was magic after all. Maybe sunstones were among the small, highly valuable items that Alfvin exported from this place. If so, Gil wondered what would happen if you used one here. The uniform glow seemed to come from the clouds themselves, rather than from any source behind them. Perhaps a sunstone would tell you that there was no sun. Or, equally likely, perhaps it would indicate that the sun was all around you.

Perhaps that would even be true. Perhaps this was what it would look like if you were inside the sun. Bizarre as the notion it seemed, it made as much sense as any other theory Gil could come up with to explain this place.

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