His vision swam for a moment, making the world spin. His ears popped then cleared, as if he’d suddenly changed altitude. It was that sensation that was the real convincer, it being decided difficult to fake. As his vision cleared, he looked around, curious. The only thing he could state with utter confidence is that he was no longer in the same place as he’d been just moments ago.
Where was he?
That might have wait. He was no longer indoors, and shelter from what looked to be a significant storm on the horizon suddenly seems worth finding. He was actually standing in a clearing atop a low hill. He was alone. Aside from the clothes on his back, he was ill-equipped for the outdoors. At his feet was a somewhat crude pack, and a lantern holding several inches of fat candle.
He picked up the lantern, and then looked suspiciously at the pack. A quick search did not turn up anything obviously posing as a tool for lighting fires. Without something, the lantern was not going to be very useful when the sun set in a few hours. Regardless, this clearing was obviously not the best place to find shelter. Turning in a circle, he finally decided that the trees were slightly closer to the west, so off he set.
The pack creaked as it settled on his back, but was far more comfortable there than seemed likely. The ground at his feet was simple meadow turf, but also seemed to lack most forms of dangerous trip hazards. While it wasn’t a ballroom floor, it at least was free of gopher holes. He reached the trees and left the meadow for an open forest. Aside from a few roots and deadfalls, his way was open, and began to slope gently down hill.
Soon he found that he was almost running, as if on a trail going somewhere familiar rather than lost in the woods with no idea what might be in his pack. If he kept up this pace, he was going to be wishing for some relief from sore muscles at best, and wishing for a cure for a broken leg at worst.
With some effort, he forced himself to stop running and simply walk down the hill. When he encountered the stream in the deep gully, he was glad to have made the effort. It was not clear that he could have either stopped in time or jumped the gully had he maintained his earlier pace.
He turned slightly to the north and followed the stream rather than work out how to cross it here. Soon the gully widened out and he was able to make his way down to the water’s side, then find a likely spot to ford it and cross.
Suddenly, the view ahead expanded to include what seemed like the whole world. The stream became a waterfall, breaking up into clouds of mist as it fell at least a thousand feet before it next touched earth. It was all he could do to not simply follow it over the edge. Everything around him seemed to urge him forwards to the point where vertigo would take over.
He carefully worked his way over the spray-dampened rock to the edge.
Damn that was a long way down.
He sat down on the rock to consider his next move.
Scrambling noises from his pack caused him to pull it off and bring it around to his lap where he could look inside. Opening it, he spotted a large rat. It looked up at him, doffed its cap, and waved.
“Who are you?” he asked, he assumed it was a rhetorical question. He realized then that those were the first words he’d spoken since his sudden arrival on the hilltop. And they were spoken to a stowaway rat in shabby clothes.
Who grinned at him from his pack and grumbled “well doesn’t that just make my day. Well, get on with it then. We’re needed in that village down there by nightfall, and we’ve got a ways to go after we hit the ground.”
The absurdity of this situation was too much.
“You state the obvious all the time? Let’s go! We can’t wait around up here and just enjoy the view.”
“Do your thing. Levitate us and step off. It worked to get us up here this morning, and it worked last week.”
He stared at the rat. The rat stared back. Off in the distance there clearly sat a peaceful little village, with a mill next to the stream, fields of grain, and probably some sheep off in the further distance.
“Here. Use this.”
The rat was holding a short stick. On closer inspection it was more of a natural wand than just a stick, and had been sanded and oiled, and engraved with very fine writing all up and down its length.
“You mean I just…”
“Wave the thing, and step off. Yup.”
Well, in the face of that amount of confidence, what else was he to do?
He took the wand in hand, closed the pack and heaved it back on. Stood up, and feeling as if he was about to make the biggest mistake of his life, waved the wand and stepped out over the void.
“Hey! a little less, we do need to actually land, you know!”
He looked down, and realized that he’d walked a good hundred feet away from the cliff, and somehow hadn’t descended even an inch. Worse, physics and reality didn’t seem to have noticed him so there he stood.
“I’m not sure if I know how…”
“Just wind some of it back in, we’re gonna be late!”
Feeling slightly silly, he waved the stick once the other way around the circle, and as he did so, the world slows rose around him.
“That’s better!” came the muffled voice from over his shoulder.