Caron and Hallsey had left, leaving Kael alone in her tower again but with far more to think about.
She had, she realized, spoken more words to other people today than she probably had in a week back in her old life.
And she knew nothing about the world outside. She was only managing as well as she did because of the translation potion, and when that failed her, she was going to be left looking blankly at people while they talked about matters that were ancient history to them and still far in the future for her.
She inventoried her ingredients slowly and began a list. Some of these things were incorrectly labelled; she added a tiny notation to the bottom of each label in her own script. Some of them were getting stale. A few were missing altogether.
One of those made her wonder. Palon’s Hand, of course, you wouldn’t put in a place where people were “pretending” to make potions; they might kill someone. Similarly for Steer Horns; unless you wanted one of those tales where everyone slept for a hundred years, you didn’t want to put more than a pinch of that into anything.
But cochineal? Or, more importantly, red current-root? Those two were often used as the base ingredient in potions.
The set-up was identical to her own: shelves of glass jars of various sizes, all within her reach, with the very top shelf empty (because she was not all that tall, and certainly not as tall as this room) and the bottom two shelves holding things like cauldrons and other tools. She sat down on the floor, finding that her robe offered less freedom of movement than her actual robes allowed, and started looking through the cauldrons.
Mr. Vibius was going to show up at any moment, she knew. He seemed to have a way of doing that. She hadn’t looked over her shoulder like this in year – well, in over an aeon, but what she remembered was maybe two hundred years, back when she herself was an apprentice.
Was taking apprentices really the best idea? She barely knew how the world now worked; she was settled here without any actual means or name, and she didn’t actually know how to get any of those things.
If she hadn’t been sitting down, she might have done so then. She was poor. She had worked for decades to have a name and a reputation and everything she needed, so that if she wanted something, she could simply brew up a simple potion and people would pay her anything she asked for the privilege of having a safe and reliable potion.
Now there was “Pfixer,” whoever they were. It didn’t sound like a proper name, but if in her time away, there had been a conquest…
She needed to find Joaon. And quickly.
“So how’s your first day been so far?” Mr. Vibius walked into her potions room as if he owned –
oh, he probably believed that he did own it. Or at least run it.
“It’s been quite interesting. The children are very eager to learn and the adults are very set in their ways.” She did not bother getting up. If he didn’t recognize that as putting him in his place, well, that was not her fault.
“Isn’t that always the way?” He chuckled as if he had said something very funny. “Oh, if you want something to eat, there’s always something of a spread down on the third floor. I don’t pretend to understand it, but it’s safe, it’s tasty, and it never goes away.”
Ah, so that trick had lasted. She smiled at him. “I could use some food, yes. And perhaps a drink. Ah, tell me. What are the -” She struggled, but the translation potion provided her the words “-the hours of this position?” Surely it wasn’t as it had actually been for her, a lifetime job.
“Don’t they tell you anything at the agency? It’s Juresdiy through Pandiy, Feshdiy off. From sunup until sundown, which yeah, I didn’t make the rules. Means you have more free time in the winter, but we all get paid the same.”
The potion carried with it both the part of the calendar that filled and that he thought it was a bit much. Kael pushed.
“Six days a week, then? That seems a bit extreme.”
“Well, we have to keep the museum running, you know. We’re open every day but Feshdiy, and that’s just because nobody shows up on Feshdiy.” He haruumphed. “You’re getting it easy today. There’s going to be a school tour on Carindiy and another one on Moondiy, and they generally spend an hour up in the Kael room, asking questions. Gotta say, don’t know how the agency picked you, but the people that’ve come through, they’ve said you seem really knowledgeable. Most of our Kaels take a few weeks to get up to speed.”
“I’ve always been interested in potions,” Kael answered, or at least suggested an answer with complete honesty. “And potion-making itself is fascinating and complicated. But I was thinking…” She ran tha calendar through her head. Today was… Yordiy? Yordiy. “How about a half-day on Yordiy, depending on if there are these school tours or not? You can have the Joaon from the gift shop or – are there other staff?”
“Two others, both part time. And then the cleaners.”
“You could have one of them say that Kael is busy and not seeing people, or even just have someone just stand in the room in a red robe with the door mostly closed, stirring the cauldron. You get the feeling, but it gives me a little time to get to know this city.” She smiled brightly at Mr. Vibius.
“But what about people that have questions?” He was ready to fold, he was just trying to see if she would fold first.
“Well, it’s authentic, from what I’ve… read, isn’t it? Kaelingrade Torrent-Step wasn’t always available for heroes – oh!” She grinned despite herself. “I know. You can set up a challenge, something even the younger kids can do but the older ones can have fun with, something like “heroes sometimes had to undergo a quest before they could see Kaelingrade.”
“You’re pretty clever for an actress.” Mr. Vibius’ tone carried with it the feeling that he really thought he was being complimentary. “All right. You draw that up after you get some food, and you can have half of Yordiy off going forward.”