Gil’s mind raced with the possibilities.
“Aliens, or gods, or elves, or Vanir, whatever you call them? There’s some kind of native people here?”
“Native, yes, but not in the sense that you mean. To my knowledge – and I will admit my knowledge is not exhaustive – but to my knowledge, everyone here is human. Many of them have come here through these doorway, as have you and I. But not all. Some were born here, from immigrant ancestors. And the constraints of the ancestors do not bind the descendants.”
“So if you were born here, you can walk through any doorway you like?”
“Just so. Of course, very few choose to exercise the capability. They tend to belong to the upper classes, and see no reason to leave their comfortable lives for the uncertainty of worlds beyond. Generally they rely on outsiders such as us to do the legwork. But there are some – the young, the curious, the less well off – who are willing to cross a threshold now and then.”
Gil found it hard to believe that anyone would waste such an ability.
“It seems a tremendous advantage. But most of them don’t care?”
“It is but one advantage among many they were born with. And, from their perspective, a lesser one. After all, back in your own land, technically you have the ability to enter any mine shaft you wish to. But do you take advantage of that ability? Of course not. You trade for your minerals, or send thralls to do the work for you.”
“But we’re not talking about a mine here. We’re talking about the whole world.”
“Your whole world. And you think of it that way because you were born into it. For those who were born here, this is the whole world. Why would they leave it? And yes, they see your world very much as you might see a mine. A dirty, dangerous and uncomfortable place. A necessary source of materials, but not a recreational destination.”
It’s not every day you get told you were born in a dark, nasty hole. Gil tried not to take it to heart. He could understand why people might not want to leave their comforts. But one question still nagged at him.
“How do you even know what the upper class think? I was under the impression that you lived out here on the fringes.”
“For the most part, yes. Occasionally I have cause to do business nearer the centre of things, among the privileged classes, but it is not what I would call a social relationship. Most of what I know of the inner circles comes from the adventurous few who venture out beyond the comforts of home. They are not many, but there are some who see some value in the outside world, beyond the goods that may be imported from it. Indeed, unless I am much mistaken, I think I see one of them now!”