Travelogue 3 — Looking for a guide

Codex Inversus
4 min readMay 31, 2024

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From what I read, I imagined Mizani carpeted by cats, with streets flooded by purring fur: I know it was an exaggeration, but felines are nonetheless omnipresent. This morning, I had to dodge and jump over at least three cats cleaning themselves in the middle of the alley, unbothered by the coming and goings of the passersby who gracefully avoided them. Every time I looked up, I met the eyes of a cat glancing down from a roof or a balcony.

Mizaninans are a bit like cats, as they are both proudly indifferent and irreparably curious: they act like they have seen it all, yet they look around for something that will surprise them at last.

Today, I was walking alone in the Infernal district. The Viscount and Bazim had to go to the money changer and write a letter of two back to Maladomini. My task was to find the green papers with the names of the city venues. The nuns at the Xenodochium were dismissive and gestured in a general direction when asked for the bookshop.

Everybody here walks: there are too many canals and narrow alleys for horses to ride around, and only donkeys are used, sparingly, for goods and heavy stuff. Nobles and beggars, lawyers and cobblers, all pass by each other, stepping on the same stones. The streets themselves have the same unconcerned promiscuity, with residences, shops, institutional buildings, inns, and temples one next to the other without rhyme or reason, like they were dealt out of a shuffled deck.

The bookshop was run by a gnome (the first one I have ever seen up close), an older gentleman with fuzzy hair and piercing teal eyes. He was chatting with a Lepin priest (another first-time encounter!) about some digests of the Infernal Operas plot, with the rabbit cleric very indecisive and the owner very impatient. The gnome immediately pinned me as an infernal and asked me to be the tie-breaker between an anthology of Spring Operas rewritten in prose or a collection of librettos by Belfor Astaroth. Since they are both translations I timidly suggest the former: Belfor is the master of the farce, with hilarious works under his belt, but I don’t think a translation could render his wordplays justice. Since the priest was looking for comedies, I dared to guess he may like some jokes at the expanse of the Diabolist clergy, so maybe he’d enjoy something by Cain of Purson, old but good stories full of bishops acting like fools and nuns tumbling down staircases.

He was intrigued by my suggestion and, while the seller dragged his stairs to look for such a volume on the massive bookcase, we chatted. He was from Emuna, the nation of the floating island, and he went back and forth accompanying pilgrims. I talked a bit about my work as a translator and he generously complimented my language skills. We had an uncomfortable moment when we exchanged our names. My name is Eos, like Eosphorus, the dawn bringer, the greatest martyr, and the epitome of all evil in the angelic faith. His name was Mazzy, from Mahzitho-el, the slayer of Eosphorus, the greatest warrior for the Angelist and the greatest villain for us. How could two people named after their respective divine nemesis have such a lovely talk?

The gnome broke the awkwardness by bringing the book of Cain Comedies. Mazzy started looking for the coins, and I asked for the green papers, which I learned are known as Quartos. The gnome was sorry that the one with the events of the summer festival was not out yet, but I was fine with the one with the taverns. The sheet, folded in four, consisted of eight “pages” covered with a list of places and their addresses, with a couple of sentences to describe them. Well, one of the pages acted as a cover, with a wood-printed portrait of the author, a clearly vain Naga gentleman.

Mazzy, before leaving, suggested I go to a tavern with specialties from his lands, the GOLDEN PEGASUS. The gnome suggested instead the BLUE PINEAPPLE, a place where to taste the delicacy of the Southeast Sheikdoms. He also recommended going to the DWARVEN BAZAAR, if I hadn’t been there already because due to the approaching summer festival, it will become very crowded soon.

I wanted to ask him more, about the places where to eat, but also the books and the Quartos and the printing press of Mizani, but some gnomes arrived, walking a donkey loaded with tomes and parchments. While the bookseller attended to his (I guess) suppliers I walked back, losing myself in the alleys and skirting around a couple of felines, before arriving back to my room.

where to go next? (you can suggest in the comments!)

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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