That night, Gil took some time packing up all his gear. It was a lot to carry, but anything he left behind might be here for months or even years before he returned. Wild animals, roaming hunters, rust, rot – one of them would surely ruin it if he left it unguarded.
Though he had not thought of it in weeks, the stone he had marked with a rune was still stashed away safely. Gil transferred it to somewhere it would be more accessible. Finally he was ready to make the slow but difficult journey.
When they emerged from the stone doorway into the land of clouds, it felt at once both strange and familiar. Instead of making him wait around this time, Alfvin had Gil dump his gear in Alfvin’s tent, where it would be safe. Then they both went to sell off the goods Alfvin had brought back. No matter how intriguing the merchandise he saw, Gil kept his arms glued to his sides. There would be no accidental triggering of magical burglar alarms this time.
After Alfvin had liquidated his stock, he once more transferred a little of his profits into Gil’s stone. It was about half full, but Gil had no idea what that would buy here. The items Alfvin was buying to take back as trade goods all seemed to cost considerably more. Healing stones seemed to be a staple of his business, along with a few non-magical goods, imported for their high quality and decorative value.
Once Alfvin was satisfied with his purchases, he surprised Gil by suggesting they return.
“Unless there is something else you wish to do first.”
“No. I just thought, since you were away so long last time…”
“Last time, I was exhausted and needed to sleep. Now, I have no such need.”
At Alfvin’s suggestion, Gil recovered some of his equipment before they set out. Apparently they would be venturing farther from the door in the woods this time. They had already done the rounds of the nearest villages, but those were not the only ones on Alfvin’s list. Adding an extra day or two of travelling did not bother Gil, but they would be traversing unfamiliar territory, and that gave him pause.
Perhaps his infamy would not have spread that far, but after the encounter on the road last time he was not inclined to rely on luck. If he had to lead a helpless Alfvin helpless through unknown land, they would be going very slow indeed.