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Prose

Noceurn

17 July 2018

You have been trapped in Noceurn long enough to know it’s bigger than it seems. You can’t traverse all of Noceurn in half an hour. You could walk from one end of Meliwoxer to the other in the same time span. The streets here are long, winding and interconnected, so much so you often stumble onto the street you are looking for without having to double back. You have been trying to figure out how it’s put together, but it’s been challenging.

Noceurn wears on you. The regular vigour you have traveling seems to have evaporated, or been siphoned away. You have been around most of the Unified Nations of Granadina, walking at least 10 leagues every day, and traversed Warsudobih within record time but Noceurn is making you feel old, as if the years you had magicked away are being restored, slowly. The crows’ feet around your eyes are returning, it’s becoming harder to ignore the arthritis in your fingers, your satchel feels heavier each day.

In all the time you have been using Alastair as a warlock he had never made a mistake but you’ll have to ask him to check the revlondir spell you had him cast for your last birthday. Your one wish of seeing all of Granadina could not be fulfilled on old legs…

The list you stole when you were young is tattered but still has the names of 1387 towns, 943 of them with a small star, to show they’ve been visited. The list is organised alphabetically but you’ve been working through them all based on how close they are to one another. Your average of 19-and-a-bit towns each year is quite impressive. It took 48 years to get around to Noceurn and if you stay much longer that average would drastically decrease. Possibly even to the same as Peterson (who is barely managing eight towns each year).

Noceurn doesn’t have many people for you to meet, which is fine, really, you do not travel to meet people, although you do miss the opportunities to tell them where they rank in your favourite locations. The bartender at Meltaner is unlikely to let you back into the tavern since you told him that Sediz has better broth. The bartender here doesn’t offer broth; you have to subsist on the bread and vegetables you recover from bins.

At one point your landlord, if that’s what they’re called here, asked where you were from and you had to say that you honestly could not remember but it must not have been good because otherwise you wouldn’t have had such a strong desire to leave.

“You don’t miss home?” they’d gasped, and you replied a simple “No”. You miss good food, smooth, unwrinkled skin, feeling young, showing up Peterson and drawing stars on your list but not an abstract “home”.

Noceurn has an entrance with very clear “no exit” signs. You entered through the giant, iron gates but you couldn’t find the “no entrance” signs anywhere in this horrid town… Not even signs to them, no “exit this way” signs or “thanks for your visit, we hope to see you again soon” signs like there were in Yevnerstinta.

The city guard at the entrance gates was not very helpful: “Where can I exit Noceurn?” you asked politely.

“Depends where ya’r goin’ next” he replied before climbing the tower beside the gate, ignoring you until you went away.

You wander along the street where you think the cobbler is based; the soles of your shoes shouldn’t be able to wear but they are becoming thin and paired with your bad knees it is becoming more and more painful to walk. You eventually find the store on the next street over from where you estimated.

“It was quite hard to find your shop,” you tell the cobbler.

“I know, I struggle to get here every morning.”

“Is home far?” you ask, wondering at how even locals can’t find their way.

“Home is in Hewnart, so yes, quite far,” he says. You cannot tell how he feels about this, but you remember Hewnart, it was town 738 and it had the most exquisite food, you stayed there for 10 days rather than the regular seven…

“Why’d you leave home?” you ask.

“Thought to see a bit more of the world, somehow I ended up here. It seemed easier to just set up shop, ‘ken?”.

You don’t know how to respond so you hand over your worn shoes and ask him to fix the soles.

“Be seeing you” he says as you leave in your sandals. You get the sense he doesn’t just mean soon, a sense that he is resigned to being stuck here so he assumes you are too.

You resolve to escape Noceurn soon. You think if you stay too long you might forget about the rest of your list and you are starting to feel bunions again, like Alastair’s spell was never cast… You have been travelling for so long you cannot let Noceurn beat you; you survived the Poctasurk attack in Helopskivs—all that spent time learning how the creature worked. If you can figure out how Noceurn works maybe you can survive it too.

Pen and paper is scarce but you found some behind the desk at the cobblers, when you collected your shoes, and he did not seem to notice you taking it; you imagine even if he had he would not have cared. You spend the day mapping part of the town. You learnt cartography at a young age and you are an expert navigator so you make it through about 10 streets, labelling manholes, alleyways, stores and houses. The map is going to help you get out of here, you plan to return after resting and continue where you left off.

You rise early, hoping to map fifteen more streets today. It is an ambitious goal but you already have the paper and you made a strong start so you should be able to work faster today. As you glance at your map, walking along trying to figure out where to continue, you notice it is inaccurate. The map you made says that the apothecary is next to the menagerie but today there are three buildings between them, the alley that was beside the blacksmith’s forge has disappeared and there was definitely a manhole on this road yesterday but you can’t see one anywhere…

 

You attempt the manholes next. Sewerage is horrible but it will be worth it if you can follow the underground pipes out of town. Abandoning your map you instead search for entrances to the sewers and find one outside the pawn shop. You pry open the manhole and immediately gag at the rancid smell. You hope the river of waste is shallow as you descend… Only your shins get covered in the waste and your satchel is safe as you wade through the channel…

You walk for hours, looking up when there are windows of light. You come to a spot that has a ladder and hope when you ascend you will be outside Noceurn as the manhole opens to reveal the public baths. You return to the sewers and continue your journey to the next ladder. You clench your fists and the crescent moon indents marking your palm remind you not to aggravate your arthritis. You climb the ladder and once again see the public baths, you take the time to notice you are quite close to the pawn shop. You have been walking for hours and getting nowhere. It is not just what is above ground that moves in Noceurn.

The baths are rather enticing because you stink. You enter despite having heard thieves are common. The only possession you care about is your list so you keep your satchel on you as you wash your shins, hands and face under a tap. Even as you wash the smell off you realise it will take a lot more than this tap to wash off the damage Noceurn is doing.


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