First: A New World
Kael cleared her throat.
“Assume for a moment that I am who I am pretending to be.”
They both turned their attention back to her. It was Caron who spoke first.
“Okay. So.” He hemmed uncertainly. “You want us to pretend that you’re Kaelingrade Torrent-Step. And… that you lived for a thousand years?”
“No, no, that would be silly.” She smiled broadly at him. “Let’s say that a potion went wrong and I suddenly landed here, in this tower, where I was, ah, pretending to be someone pretending to be myself.”
“Okay,” Hallsey leaned forward. “This is a fun game. So you don’t know anything that happened in the last… oh. Like the, um, colonization.”
“Conquest,” Caron offered.
“They didn’t really conquer the natives,” Hallsey protested. “That requires, like, war. The natives just… either slipped away or joined into the communities. Didn’t they?”
She turned the question on Kael. Kael smiled.
“I hopped over that, remember? But if I was who I am pretending to be, I would say that the people who have always lived here have always been resourceful. And I would ask you who makes the potions at this Pfixer of yours, and who builds these buildings, so tall they scrape the sky.”
“But you’re a native. I mean.” Hallsey shifted. “I think you are? You don’t look like the pictures we see… but you don’t look like Caron or me, either. You look, uh. A little different?”
“Well.” Kael considered her potion for a minute. “I would say this. If you looked at a portrait of someone who lived a thousand years before Kaelingrade Torrent-Step you would find that they didn’t look much like her, either. And I would say that I imagine that, from the looks of the two of you, that the people who colonized this land were not from the same nation all of them, were they?”
“Well of course not. Oh!” Hallsey was not as blind as she had been acting. “So maybe – you really do look like the portrait; I always thought it was funny that it didn’t look like the natives we saw – Maybe Kaelingrade came from another nation? Like how Caron and I are blonde but Fedder at school, his hair is almost brown. Hunh.” She blinked. “Who knows about the nations that were here before? Were they nations? Or just tribes?”
“Well, that is a very good question. And the second question is: the information you can find, who is providing it, and why?”
“Who….” Hallsey stared at her. “What do you mean? Oh, like, uh. Like this history teacher we have. He doesn’t like natives – no offense.”
“None taken.” Kael smirked, although she couldn’t quite say why.
“But it means that he tells us stories like, uh. Okay, I can tell the story of my sister coming home from school late and it makes her look like Best Student Ever or I can tell it and it makes her look like a horrible delinquent and the truth is really neither of those, it’s just, um. What I leave out? What?” She turned to Caron. “I was listening, okay? And that got me thinking.”
“Good.” He smirked at her. “So yeah. It’s this question of trying to create a picture when we only have half the puzzle pieces and someone had picked out the part with the cornucopia because it’s too positive an image.”
“…What?” Hallsey looked confused. Kael didn’t blame her.
“It’s this thing that happened in Porlia State Schools a couple years ago. Images of the conquering – colonization – whatever – were removed from the textbook because it uh, displayed the natives in an unrealistic state of civilization that could not have been possible at the time of colonization. It was because they were offering the colonists a cornucopia of farmed goods.” Caron scoffed. “So we don’t have a lot of puzzle pieces, because people are giving us only the ones that meet their agenda. How are we supposed to learn anything that way?”
Kael considered that while she stirred. Three times this way, four times back. Three times forward, four times back.
“If I were who I said I was,” she said slowly, “I would say that there were, in my day, considered three kinds of learning. There was what one would apprentice for, formally or informally: a trade, a skill. How do you learn a trade now?”
“College.” Hallsey made a face. “Or uh, vocational training.’ I think it’s pretty much an apprenticeship.”
Kael nodded. Vocational training, that sounded like words that just meant “apprenticeship” anyway. “Then there is learning from books. You can learn a potion’s ingredients and how to stir them from a book, or the life of the person who first developed the potion, or the history of the nation where the plants came from, or the structure of the plant. But all of these things, as with vocational training, they come with the biases of the person who wrote the book or who is teaching you.”
“You said three.” Caron was looking at her strangely. She imagined she was doing a bad job of keeping up the pretense. “What’s the third?”
“The third is observation and experimentation. You can try a series of ingredients and find out what they do, although in this case it helps if you have a solid knowledge of each plant, or you may kill yourself early on in your learning attempts.”
Caron snorted nervously. “So when it comes to history?”
“Well, you cannot experiment with history, per se. What you can do is find other sources. Find stories that aren’t what your history teacher is telling you. Find, ah. Let’s see. Other books, other things that might indicate something else. If your teacher tells you that glass was invented four hundred years ago, look for the earliest samples of glass you can find. Do you know of people who dig up the ruins of dead nations?”
“Archaeologists? Yeah, sure. I mean, I don’t know any personally, but there’s the Natural History museum downtown – just a few blocks from here.” Caron considered. “So wait. So like, looking at things and seeing if they match facts?”
“Or just look at things and see what you can figure out from them, yes.”
“Like a crime procedural!” Hallsey bounced. “You know, XCI, that sort of thing? So you’re looking for the clues and see if they match the story… wait.” She glared at Caron. “This is about the stone building thing, isn’t it? How I said that they didn’t have the sort of technology to build stone buildings. Because that’s what they say in the books. But if there’s buildings that are stone…”
Kael had too many thoughts swirling around in her mind right now. “If you come back in one week, I may have more information for you. Some of this, ah, what’s the word. Getting it from the source. I have to talk to some people at other museums and look around for some things. I’m new to the city, you see.”
Caron gave her a very strange look.