Wolves at the Door (part 118)

Yes, they explained to Pol, they had seen his companion.

No, he would not like what they had to tell him.

Yes, they did mean that they had seen her being evicted by unseen forces.

No, they did not know what had precipitated the extraordinary action.

Once he had taken in the news, Gil expected him to run after her, but instead he just stood for a while, with his eyes closed. Eventually he came to some decision, declaring that he knew what to do, as his eyelid snapped open and he leaped into action. But even now he was headed in the wrong direction, rushing back to the marketplace. Gil’s opinion of him dropped. How could he leave her to deal with the consequences on her own? But a short while later, he was back, dashing past them once more and through the doorway into which the girl had disappeared. Had he just needed to buy some apology gift first? Whatever it was, it had added days to the time she would have to wait for Pol to show up. Gil hoped it was worth it.

Eventually, Alfvin was free to resume his explanation.

“Before I begin, I want you to remember how much you like this place, and how much you would hate to be ejected as we just saw, and be unable to return here for your entire life. Keep that in mind, and I think this conversation should be less perilous than I once feared.

“There is one more detail about this place that I have not yet shared with you. I am almost certain it will not become pertinent. But in case I am mistaken, I would not wish ignorance to be your undoing.

“You have seen the many doorways that open from this place onto a hundred different lands. What I omitted to mention is that each one also opens into a different time. If you were able to traverse these doorways, you may find yourself in Rome at the time of Caesars, or the far east in the far future. Sometimes when people find this out, they think they can take advantage. Change the future… or the past. The difference is a matter of perspective. That is what can threaten this place’s existence, with results like those we have just seen.”

Gil considered this for a moment.

“But I can’t go through any of those doorways. So how would it even become an issue?”

“Sometimes things happen in unexpected ways. Some of the people you meet here have come from what you would consider the past; others from your future. Likewise the imported goods you may buy. For example, if the water-clock you wish to emulate is an invention from the future, that could cause you trouble. Likely not so dramatically as for Pol’s young friend, but you might find yourself unable to build one when you return to your own world and time. It is best to recognise when the potential for problems exists, so you can let go of your plans instead of making things worse. The more you resist in such a case, the worse things will get for you.”

The new information gave Gil a new perspective. He had been surprised by Alfvin’s apparent lack of curiosity about many of the wonders of this place. Perhaps it was not a lack of curiosity after all, but rather an excess of caution. Apparently if one did not first check its source, a little knowledge could be a dangerous thing.

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