The wandering woman had sat looking at the unusual landmark for some time now, contemplating it, studying it. A paved road emerged from the ground in front of her, splitting in two ways, a single discrete signpost with foreign words marking the destinations. She understood none of the letters, nor did she understand how a road had been constructed in the wastes, so far from any hints of civilization.

The other matter was the wolf staring at her, which would not be most unusual except for the shape of the creature. Its ears were not pointy like she would expect, one flopped over on itself. Its jawline was less pronounced, softer somehow. Its eyes had an unusual intelligence to them, and it sat, unmoving, next to the signpost, watching her with strange discipline that indicated tameness.

With a sigh, she stood, gripping the strap of her pack with one hand so as to be able to throw it off if need be and grasping a dagger with the other. Cautiously she stepped forward, her and the not-wolf maintaining eye contact as she crept ever closer to the signpost. Still, the thing not break its watch, merely looking up at her as she reached the post, its pants in the cold air providing the only ambiance for miles. Even more strange to her, it didn’t growl or bare its teeth at all, as if it found her to be no danger at all.

Dagger still in hand, she observed the signpost carefully; it’d been made of wood and wrought metal of some kind, but like none she’d seen before. Even the cities she had visited had only impure metal, nothing like the solid and gleaming bands wrapping around the fixture.

Howling broke her thoughts, jolting back as the creature beside her raised its head to the sky and continued its cry. It made no effort to come towards her as she backed away, but she hadn’t wandered this long to not know that a howl would summon its companions soon enough.

“It won’t hurt you, so long as you mean us no harm.” A soft voice startled her once more, turning to see a young woman, seemingly not yet aged by the blistering suns of the wastes, now standing behind her. “How have you come to this place?”

“I’d ask you the same.” The wanderer held her dagger close to her, stepping away from the woman and creature. “The nearest city is a week away on foot; how’re you here?”

“The same way you are.” The stranger gestured to the cobbles rising from the earth. “I walked a road.”

“There are no roads here, and certainly none like that.” She slipped a hand into her pack, pulling out a far more ceremonial dagger and flipping it to point towards the strange woman. “You don’t have my eyes, either. You aren’t one of my daughters.”

“No, I am not.” The not-wolf barked, turning the wanderer’s attention to it for a moment before she looked back to find a now far older woman, seemingly even older than herself. “Nor am I a daughter of this world, to my knowledge.”

“Who… what are you?” The ceremonial dagger sparked to life, its embedded magicks beginning to crackle in the air. “Are you an angel?”

“An angel?” The stranger thought for a moment, before recalling. “Ah, no, no I am not. I could be best described as a visitor, an observer.” She looked at the dagger approvingly. “I do, however, recognize those magicks. An unusual sort, certainly, but familiar all the same.”

“You’re another witch.” She blinked. “But… if you’re not… you’re from another time, then.”

“Of a sort.” The stranger held out a hand, beckoning the wanderer forward. “I mean you no harm. It’s strange for someone to stumble upon a threshold without seeking it.”

“What is this place, then? A tear of some sort? One of the places angels transit this world?”

“Similar to, I believe.” She smiled. “If you walk this path, you will find another world, not so much unlike this one. Another time, another place. Where others of my kind watch over those not unlike your own sons and daughters.”

“Is it a better world than this one?” The wanderer looked away from the stranger and down the split path, somewhat skeptical that it could lead anywhere, though by now she had learned not to believe only what she could see. “Better for my children?”

“Perhaps. It is better now than here. But it will be worse when this world is better. All things ebb. Power rises and power fails. You may travel there, if you wish. You may travel to any number of worlds. But this one will always be your own, to make of as you wish. Not others.”

She looked from the path again, the stranger once more replaced, now a young girl barely taller than her waist. The wolf-that-wasn’t meandered to the girl’s side, looking up at the wanderer with its queer awareness, a questioning look on its face as she stood in thought.

“Will you show me?” The wanderer finally asked. “Guide me through these worlds?”

“Of course, mother of witches.”




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