Chapter One

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Time was a strange and interesting thing.  Seconds were always seconds, minutes always minutes, hours always hours; days and weeks and years and months were never any longer nor any shorter than they had been ever since the first people had begun to keep track of them.  Time was a funny thing, too.  Whole hours could pass like minutes, minutes dragged on like hours.  Years are short and pass with stunning blurriness, yet days were incredibly long and moved with the speed of a snail.  Despite everything, a person only had to look up at the sky to recognize that the sun would always set to be replaced by the stars and moon and then rise again, turning the sky first gray then pink then blue.  The sun never strayed from its intended path.  The stars changed, but as the cycle went round the same constellations would eventually return; this was also true for the moon. 

But as powerful as the sun seemed, as comforting and friendly as the moon was, as monotonous as the never-ending cycle of changes and returns, all it would take was a fraction of a second to knock it all away.  An asteroid hurtling on a path towards the earth, a falter on the axis, a powerful enough disaster; just one was all it would take.  Humankind always feared that the end was close in coming even though numerous dates for the apocalypse had been set and bypassed.  Time, it had begun to seem, was endless.

Time was not endless.  The universe was.  The cold blackness of space, sprinkled with the frost of stars and snowflakes of planets, would never end.  There was no edge where everything suddenly ceased. 

Hidden pockets between the very folds of reality added to the unending mystery.  Randomly formed, time stopped along their edges.  Always circular, the boundaries molded together to form an invincible dome entirely unnoticeable to the naked eye.  They did technically not exist.  One could walk into the boundary and find themselves on the other side with no recollection of the travel, for there had been none.  Some would call the warp science, but it was magic. 

The interior of the pockets themselves reflected the land -or sea- which they formed over, yet there were always changes.  Prolonged exposure to magic had that effect on things.  The subtleties varied; however, one constant was always present.  Time itself was not the same in a reality pocket.

 Layne knew none of this.                                                         

"Hazzi!" she cried joyously, running across the green grass of the meadow.  She tripped and landed on her face, the bundle of sticks tumbling from her arms, bow from her hand, and quiver from its strap at her hip.  Layne pushed herself back up and kept running, faster now that she was no longer laden with the extra weight.  "Hazzi!" 

From a sheltered patch of bushes near the first trees of the forest, a large nose appeared.  It was wide, wet, and black.  Immediately behind the nose was a spray of silver that eventually evened out into dark gray around the thick neck and then into a dappled gray for the rest of the body.  There were white accents around the eyes, flashes of it on the bushy tail, splotches of it on the toes of the wide paws.  Hazzi was a wolf.

He trotted forward, tail down but wagging.  His ears were laid back, shoulders sloped in a submissive manner.  When it became clear that it was excitement and not anger with which she was greeting him, his tail rose.  The pointed ears perked up and he barked, increasing his speed.

Wolf and girl met in mid-leap and collapsed on the ground together.  Hazzi snarled and yipped, writhing on the ground.  His muzzle shot back and forth, teeth gnashing.  His paws flailed, the toes spread out wide with the dull nails stretched.  The great tail wagged the entire time.

Layne giggled and lay on her side with him.  She mimicked his every move, curling her thumb into her palm and stiffening her fingers; she lashed out with her hands and met his paws each time.  She jerked her head around and clicked her teeth at him.  He went berserk.  The wolf flailed to his paws and pounced on her shoulders like a puppy, whining and squirming.  His tongue rasped all over her face.

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