Travelogue 1 — landing in Mizani

Codex Inversus
4 min readMay 20, 2024

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This is the first entry in a series about the city-state of Mizani, narrated by some visitors. We will see how long it will go…

Viscount Neberius, Bazim the servant, and Eos the assistant

Dear Mother, Dear Father,

I just set foot in Mizani, and I must say that the words of the famous arias “Oh, Mizani / the rainbow envies your colors / oh, free city / your perfumes and odors sing in a chorus “ are perfect to describe how overwhelming is landing here. But I was struck by the sounds most: the sailors’ yells, the clamoring of the harbor life, and the squawks of the blue seagull, all merging chaotically and promising as an orchestra tuning.

Since we were sailing on a Mizanian ship with an engagement letter, we were able to skip the customs dock: a blessing, since the procedures can be long and tedious, but also a shame, since apparently, they are employing advanced magical tools to inspect the cargos, like true-sight lens and chimeric hounds, which would be interesting to watch in action.

Lord Naberius has been very kind and never asked me to perform anything besides my duties as a secretary and a pharmacist, but I helped to disembark the trunks and luggage anyway. I had to assist Bazim, he did his best with the travel trunks, but his small fly-man frame was not suited for such heavy lifting. He compensates with determination and stubbornness, but I’m afraid that these kinds of efforts, mixed with his constant anxiety and overstimulation, may harm his little heart. At first, I was annoyed knowing we had to share the room, but now I feel relieved I can keep an eye on him. As I’m writing you, he’s finally asleep in his bed behind the windscreen, but I had to give him a sedative: even if exhausted, he couldn’t close his many eyes for a short rest.

We reside at the Infernal Xenodochium, a sort of pilgrim lodging house, like the one you could see near the sanctuary of Beelzebub’s Wings, but much bigger and much fancier. It’s more like being hosted in one of the noble palaces of Purson riverbank: even in this service room under the roof, the wooden floor is exquisitely inlaid with geometric motifs, and the windows are of excellent glass.

The Hospitaller Nuns were sorry the viscount’s quarter was “not ideal for the stature of the guest” (there are many visitors due to the upcoming Summer Festival), but seeing how ours turned out to be, his must be luxurious, to say the least.

I’m surprised by how easygoing Lord Neberius is: he didn’t make any fuss about the numerous discomforts of the journey and seemed generally adaptable. When I met him at the palace with you, Father, he was very cordial, jovial even, but I suspected they were just good manners. I have to change my opinion: he is indeed a person of cheerful and kind heart despite all the terrible things that happen to him. I think he is now chatting with the porcelain merchant who procured us the passage, a friend of a friend from Maladomini. I learned on the arrival we were traveling alongside the new dinner and tea service of the Archduke, around a thousand pieces of the finest elemental ceramic of Phenax.

The voyage was smooth, all things considered, and it gave me time to practice some Mizanian with the crew, a welcome opportunity since my main job would be as a translator. The jump from written books to speaking people is giving me quite a linguistic vertigo, but I’m confident I will manage. From what I’ve glimpsed from the sailors, the Mizanians have a knack for communicating, using a lot of gestures, almost pantomimes, to clarify concepts and explain themselves. They were also surprisingly respectful, and nobody tried any inappropriate passes at me. It seems this is because of the fame of Infernal girls: I overheard them say they consider them “like female dogs who need too much attention”. I may have not grasped the word exactly but It didn’t sound like a compliment. I guess it will help me dodge unwanted attention.

During the voyage, I had also a taste of the other sides of my assignment. I recorded all the meals the Viscount had, with as much detail as possible, as well as his impressions and comments. I had also to ask for the recipes any time I could and write them down.

Unfortunately, dear mother, I don’t think you will be able to try. You have cooked some exotic dishes for the palace court in the past, but the eccentric tastes of Lord Neberius are at a whole new level. When we made a stop on a triton island, he insisted on trying some aquatic beasts even the local fishermen weren’t sure what they were: an octopus with just five tentacles and a mackerel with lips moving as it was mouthing words. I hadn’t had the stomach to try them, but the viscount was happy to have tried them, even if, in his words, they were “surprisingly unsurprising”.

I haven’t prepared any potion yet, but it will happen sooner than later: these, dare I say, reckless and unconscionable eating habits will test all the alchemic, medical, and apothecary knowledge I have. But, father, you taught me well, and I’m sure I will be ready when the inevitable indigestion or poisoning will occur.

The bell has rung, and Bazim as sprung into action to see what the Viscount needs. I will follow him soon, surely he has some exciting ideas for dinner.

Father, and Mother, I can’t thank you enough for insisting on sending me on this journey, this is turning out to be the best possible Grand Tour I could have.

Hugs, your daughter Eos

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Codex Inversus

A world-building project. Art and stories from a fantasy world. All illustrations are mine: collages and rework of other art. https://linktr.ee/Codex_Inversus