There was a reason why people would warn others about not being able to survive a city, and Shadrach was finding out firsthand.
The sounds pounded into his brain; cries of merchants ululated, crowds shouted, and the overhead rail system roared. He could smell plenty of things, but the concoction was a mix that made his stomach wish for a quick exit. Buildings reared up from the ground, tickling the clouds. People dressed outlandish, with multicolored cloaks and shawls. Glittering jewelry sparkled in the dual sunlight of midday.
The city of Starfall snatched up your senses and tossed them in a pillowcase, bashed them into a wall a few times, and then let them loose to try to get their bearings.
Shadrach took a deep breath, keeping his hands tight on the handles, and pushed forward. He had a job to do, and he wasn’t going to let a bit of sensory overload prevent him from accomplishing what he set out to do. The Wizard slumbered in the wheelchair.
“Map to the Nobles?”
Shadrach blinked. A wiry man in a tunic of orange and brown smiled at him, unrolling a parchment with strange markings dotted throughout. It might have been a map, Shadrach considered. You had to cross your eyes, squint, and probably pass a stone, but maybe then, it would look like a map.
“No, thank you.”
“Business in Starfall, guv? You and your grandfather, right?”
Shadrach shook his head and pushed forward, having to stop more than he would like to maneuver through the milling crowd. The map-merchant sidled next to him, still flashing his smile.
“You need a guide, mate. City’s dangerous for an old man and his nurse.”
“I’m not his nurse!” Shadrach protested. “I’ll have you know that this man is The Wizard, and I am his apprentice.” It had taken Shadrach some time to learn to pronounce capital letters, but he was getting the hang of it.
The map-merchant tilted his head. His face screwed up. “Apprentice? Aren’t you a bit old to still be apprenticing?”
“Go away.” Shadrach tried to bully his way through a throng of what seemed to be horrible street performers, but had to double back and drag the wheelchair a bit sideways to make it through. The map-merchant remained.
“Do you know where you are going?”
“I’m with a group.” Shadrach batted away a dripping kebab with dubious meat, and wiped the juice from The Wizard’s hat. “They’re up that way.”
Shadrach gestured, and was ready to say something rather nasty to the merchant to make him go away, but the words stuck in his throat. In the thoroughfare, people jostled one another and laughed and screamed and bellowed. Dancers pranced. Merchants hawked wares. Pack animals neighed and clopped and, more often than they really should, relieved themselves. Residents of the buildings above screamed down upon pedestrians, hung laundry from wires, and overturned chamber pots. He saw all of this. He did not see his company.
“Oh, for the love of…” he began, but chose to shake his head rather than continue.
 This used to be a custom in Starfall with newcomers that seemed to be burdened with too much worldly wealth. After a few complaints by the right people, the custom stopped. This has inevitably led to a great rift dividing the people of Starfall, with half only desiring common decency to foreign visitors, and the other half fearing the “loss of tradition” as well as, strangely, the loss of undesirable jobs.