This trip took an extra day, but they visited two distant villages before returning. When it was time to return to the world of magic, Gil paused. There was still so much of that strange world to see and understand, it seemed a waste to go back there just to sleep. Especially when he could rest all day here in the woods, and follow through the doorway to arrive mere minutes after Alfvin. It would put them on different sleep schedules, but he could use the same trick on the way back to re-adjust. Wasting an extra day might be dangerous for Alfvin, but it would do Gil no harm.
He woke late in the afternoon. The sun was bright, but it was still comfortably cool in the forest shade. On a whim he dug the crystal out of his bag and looked through it. Everything looked normal. It was not surprising. It there was magic in this world, it kept itself well hidden. Even in the other world, nothing had looked different but the glowing clouds. Gil stood up and walked to a clearing where he had a better view of the sky. It was largely clear, but there were a few clouds near the distant horizon. Without the sun behind them, they would not glow, but they were still the the best approximation this world could offer. Seen through the crystal, they remained disappointingly grey. However they stayed in the sky, apparently it was not by magic. Either that or they were too far away for the crystal to work. Gil assumed that it was powered by the same ambient magic that it detected. Anything with a stored magical charge that could be extracted would not have qualified as “junk”.
Was there any other use he could find for this “useless” item? There were certain places in this world that conventional wisdom held to be magical, sanctuaries of natural wonder that were revered as sacred to various gods. Gil wondered idly whether such places really were magical, or just significant in a spiritual sense. Perhaps one day he would visit one of these places with his crystal and find out. Or perhaps he would decide that he preferred not to know.
Turning back towards camp, something caught his eye. Had the crystal detected something under the trees, or was it just a normal patch of deeper shadow? It was hard to tell from here in the sunlight. After Gil was back in the shade and his eyes had adjusted, there was no mistaking it. Some folk said that the brightest light casts the deepest shadows, but that wasn’t really true. Diffuse as it was, the light under the trees reached everywhere. Yet the crystal revealed midnight shadows, reaching out like the tendrils of a vine. They didn’t reach far before fading away into nothingness, but they all originated from the same place.
Apparently the crystal wasn’t entirely useless after all. If nothing else, Gil would never again have to guess at the location of the doorway between worlds.