Wolves at the Door (part 102)

After packing his gear, Gil stood before the invisible doorway, steeling himself to step through. He tried telling himself that it was only faint wafts of magic, drifting through the portal and dissipating harmlessly in the magic-poor environment. No more sinister than the twisting and curling of the smoke from the fire. If you could see the gentle summer breeze, it would probably look quite similar.

No matter how many times he told himself these things, he was never quite convinced. They had looked more solid, and more alive, than any smoke he had ever seen. Perhaps it was just an illusion caused by the crystal. Then again, Alfvin had said that some people considered the wild untapped magic beyond the frontier to be alive. Gil was beginning to understand why.

However much it may have looked like something reaching out to pull you across the threshold, Gil had to admit that he he could feel nothing of the sort. It was nothing but his imagination making the hair stand up on his arms. The longer he stood here, the more ridiculous it all seemed. Living or not, that magic would surround him as soon as he stepped through, just as it had every other time. It had taken good care of him then, keeping him warm, comfortable and alive. There was no reason to think this time would be any different.

Impatient with his over-active imagination, Gil stepped forward decisively into the softly glowing clouds. And again and again, until he could barely breathe. As he paused to adjust, he was definitely not thinking about what it was that he was breathing in. He decided that it might be best not to look through the crystal again unless there was some need for it. The inky blackness overhead had been a comforting reminder of moonless nights in his own world, but seeing the same thing beneath his feet might be less than reassuring.

When he finally stepped through the stone frame at the end of his journey, he looked around. According to Gil’s rudimentary understanding of the differential flow of time, Alfvin would only have arrived a short time before, even though he had left the previous night. It helped him to understand if he thought of it as like swinging a long axe around and around. The axe head, out at the end of the pole, travelled a longer distance than your hand, which was close in. Likewise, the outer world travelled through more days and hours than this world. Perhaps that was why its inhabitants seemed to consider it the centre of everything. Then again, maybe every large settlement had its own delusions of grandeur, no matter what world it may be in.


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