The trip to the Gatekeeper was nothing like in the dream; the walk there took the two of them a matter of quiet moments on the dirt paths between the fields, and soon, she was waiting in the streets for the old man to open the door. She knew what she would find, she’d been going to the Gatekeeper all of her life, but the anticipation of something else never left her bones. She kept expecting to see the silhouette of her dream Gatekeeper, the brightness of the portal. No wind lifted the strands of her hair when the Gatekeeper answered their knock. He looked up at her from below a brow that shielded his eyes from hers. She leaned down and kissed his cheek in greeting, murmuring, “Good day, Gatekeeper.”
The old man stepped aside and waited for them to enter, the frown chiseled onto his face darkening his typically cheerful demeanor. He did not approve of their trip. “My Queen, with all due respect, I do not think –”
Just when Atlas opened her mouth to speak, to interrupt the old man before he wasted his, or their, time, Ephram’s voice pierced the air in the tiny living room. “The Gatekeeper will keep his opinions to himself in regards to the decisions of the Queen.”
She had never seen the Gatekeeper’s eyes burn with such anger before, but she did not contest Ephram’s decree. Without another word, the Gatekeeper moved to them, stretching himself up to press the palms of his hands on their foreheads. Atlas felt the sharp sting of teleportation, the emptiness of the travel, then the halt of her feet on solid ground once more. Her body buckled beneath the weight of the disequilibrium that came with teleportation, but Ephram’s hand was on her elbow before she opened her eyes. He only let go when she took a step forward. The two of them were surrounded by a variety of humanoids, the likes of which Atlas had only ever imagined. Her eyes wide with a curious shock, Atlas moved through the crowd. The sounds and smells around her steam-rolled her senses until she was no longer able to distinguish between them and the world crushed her awareness.
The last thing she felt were Ephram’s arms as they caught her when her knees folded beneath her.