Friday, April 20, 2012

N is for Nopperu

Hi there.  N looked hard, but I thought about one of my and my wife's favourite bits from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, a delightful tale of the Japanese spirit world.  No-Face is one of the more interesting characters of his movies...


Although the curse of the Dopplegangers, and their tragic quest, is well known throughout the Civilised Lands, along with the fear and suspicion associated with shapechangers and impersonators, a different type of shapeshifter is known to exist in the lands to the south of Kheldaria’s border; the Three Cities, the Dunish Marshes and the Plain of Blood.

A misty, damp land, with large tracts of uninhabited moors, stonefields and dank primeval forests in the northern and eastern reaches, many strange beasts are known. The prime source of detailed information is from the wild peoples of the Whorim Hills, even through their vicious, degenerate and insular behaviour prevents most conversational contact.

The rural population inhabiting these lands survives through the years, helped by their knowledge of hedge magic in the form of rough sigils and charms to protect hearth and home, and a number of traditions and taboos to prevent misfortune.

Although these actions generally allow them to resist the depravations of fey and goblin, the stories of the faceless ones send a shiver down the spine of all who must travel through these lands at night.

The word Nopperu is not part of the local languages, and is thought by scholars to be a remnant of the peasant style of speech during the First Empire’s reign of these lands. Etymology aside, although little physical evidence has been found of these human like demons, enough similar stories from all manners of people have established a common pattern.

The Nopperu are also known as the Faceless Ones, and are used to frighten unruly children. They appear usually as normal humans, seen from behind, or engaged in a pursuit where hair covers their face. When a person approaches, they will turn, and the viewer may be confronted with familiar features – that of their friends, family, or even themselves. And then the figure will simply wipe these features off, leaving a smooth blank sheet of skin where their face should be.

This is frightening to normal peasants and those of high breeding, and they usually flee, followed by a high pitched giggling laughter, to be found lost and terrified the next day. Those of a stronger character may retreat with some dignity, still faced with that terrible laughter. Of those who have stayed and attempted to fight, charm or converse with the figure, all that can be told is from the fragmented ramblings of those who observed the featureless face cracking open to reveal an impossibly wide, shark-toothed slash of a mouth with which they swallowed the intruder. Those who retained a semblance of sanity upon seeing this have also described seeing the Nopperu suddenly adopting the form, mannerisms and face of the individual just swallowed.

This may explain the not uncommon disappearance of lone families or small communities from isolated farms or holdings, as a well known family member or friend, arriving at night is sure to warrant a quick invitation inside, therefore negating any form of magical warding or protection from creatures of fey. Once inside, a killer who can adopt the faces of any present will soon lead to its downfall. Of those few that have been reported slain, through the use of silvered or elven blades, or magic of ice or fire, no physical trace survives the dawn, with all subliming to a low crawling mist.

Others, however, especially children lost at night have spoken of people with blank faces leading them towards known places, although usually ruins or deserted towns rather than places of light and voices. And well armed and armoured travellers can sometimes tell stories of practical jokes being played on them, from bands of travellers or even taverns, in the middle of nowhere, inviting them in and conversing with them in strange repetitive speech or random garbled phrases. After a suitable period of time to allow for confusion and panic, the entire crowd of strangers, including any buildings, dissolve into mists, and a high pitched laughter flows from the distance.

Kiloch of Bolis Rock, an ex-mercenary of those lands, tells how his troop came across and spent the night at a hostel in moors where no building had ever been known. In the morning, he woke resting on a pile of leaves in the damp peat instead of the soft bed he remembers, but, more sinisterly, only twelve of his twenty soldiers remained. The other eight had faded away along with the buildings. All through their two day trek across the swamp to the nearest town, they were followed by a faint but high pitched noise that some said might be laughter.

All that comes from this is that lone travellers away from the main highways are told not to travel at night, and even large groups should note the locations of towns and inns, and be careful not to be caught in the moors or forests after dark.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting concept. Beings with no faces are always frightening because they are inscrutable. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month. My alphabet is at