There was no sign of Alfvin. Of course, he wouldn’t need to have gone far before the misty magical glow would have hidden him from view. Gil could probably have caught up, but what would be the point? From Alfvin’s perspective, they had just parted. Besides, Gil was excited – if a little nervous – to go exploring on his own. He was hopeful that if he got into any trouble, the translator hanging around his neck would give him a chance of getting out again. And if for some reason he failed to rendezvous with Alfvin afterward as they had planned, recognising the gateway to his own world should no longer be a problem.
He set out at a jog. As far as Gil could tell, he and Alfvin were the only ones using their portal on a regular basis. None of the others nearby seemed to have significantly more traffic. The deserted doorways were intriguing in their own way, but were unlikely to reveal any answers to the many questions they raised. If Gil wanted to learn something, the place to do it seemed to be at one of the handful of busy doorways he had passed while exploring with Alfvin.
Knowing where he was going and how far it was, Gil made pretty good time on the journey. Or so he assumed, at least – with no sun, moon or stars, there was no way to tell how much time had passed except by his own innate, if flawed, senses.
Before long he was approaching the packed thoroughfare leading from the busy stone doorway to the even busier central district. When he was near enough to hear voices, he noticed that the words were all unfamiliar. Not really surprising: at other gateways he had only caught bits and pieces of overheard conversations, and the crowds were much thicker here. Gil hoped that their proximity would not render his translator completely useless.
The various signs nearby were also incomprehensible, though Gil was not sure if he would have been able to read them even with a perfectly-working translator. It had not occurred to him to ask if they were supposed to be effective on written language, or just speech.
Even if he was able to talk to somebody, he may not be able to find anyone willing to spare the time. Everyone seemed to be in a rush. Hard to blame them: spending an hour here meant sacrificing a week of your life on the other side. For normal people, that was a big deal and anything they could do to shorten their trip would be worthwhile. Normal people, who had lives to go back to. Who hadn’t already outlived everyone they knew, and who didn’t have a three-year exile to wait out. Many of these normal people might never travel more than fifty yards from the doorway that had brought them here. No matter how many times they came, they would never know even as much of this world as Gil had already seen in his brief visits.
For once, Gil was glad not to be normal.