Kael slid herself into the bustle of people with the strange feeling that no time at all had passed. True, when she had been – when this had been her land, say that – she had needed to put a little more work into a disguise. True, the clothing was stranger now, the faces had a wider variety of shapes, the hair colors and skin colors were more varied. True, the buildings – other than her Tower – were taller, and there seemed to be far more of them than there had been around her Tower before she went to sleep.
But the people bustled around and talked in much the same ways. They were worried about children, and partners, and money, and food. What to wear and where to get it, all of the things that had been common a thousand years before.
She paused by a building that was labelled both in the Hoeraijen style and in this new language. A look over it made her chuckle; they had kept the old foot-print of the market, and many of the design elements, although the stone had to be far more recently carved – either that, or her potion had stretched out much further than she’d intended.
She would have to ask Joaon, if and when she found him. Or perhaps a few cleverly-aimed questions at her “students” or at other people who came to the museum.
The museum. She looked around. That building said it was selling insurance, a concept the potion explained to her but still left her confused. That, that was a library.
A library – a place for books. And it said Free right in the name. She would have to explore that in more depth.
Not what she was looking for today, though. Today she wanted to know where people bought things, and where Pfixer was. She wanted to know what people sounded like.
A carriage moved past her at an alarming rate, and then another one, and another. They seemed to own the place in the middle of the road, and they obeyed some sort of signals hanging in the air. Red for stop, green for go. That was a good code. She watched the way people crossed, following their own sets of lights. It was a reasonable system, as long as everyone obeyed the rules.
She found someone selling some sort of sausage in a bun on a cart next to the road, and bought one with the strange piece of plastic. He seemed unsurprised by her confusion. “Tourist, hunh? Here you go, try it with the ketchup and a bit of the mustard. Careful, you don’t want it spilling all over your pretty shirt. Look, if you’re just visiting, you have to try out the Tower – we have the biggest Tower anywhere – and the science museum, that’s down Ballington by about three blocks, that way and our library is pretty amazing. Oh, and check out the Liberty Statue, that’s over there on Hanglington and Vine.”
She followed his gestures with as much care as she could. “Thank you,” she told him politely, because that was what the potion told her to say, although the sounds of it – the sounds were something like she might say to a deity. How times had changed!
She had, obviously, already seen the Tower – although she was rather pleased to know that it was the biggest one “anywhere” – but she could follow Ballington down to see the science museum.
It was open for three more hours, she was fairly certain, and the woman at the gate surprisingly asked her if she worked at the Kaelingrade museum.
“You’re wearing your name tag,” she pointed out, which Kael attributed to one of the potions. “Go on in. The museums around here have a free joint membership for all other museums. Maybe I’ll come check yours out one of these days.”
“You should,” Kael agreed with a smile. “Now, where should I start?”
“Oh, it’s a bit juvenile, but start at the children’s section. It’s so much fun!”
Three hours later, the closing announcement of the museum found Kael staring at the section on potions. Science. The potion told her that it meant systematic study, but what she was seeing looked as if they had thrown out every piece of knowledge that had been built and then taken only a few pieces trivia and similar, and attempted to study all of potions-making from them.
Had the Hoeraija hidden all of the good information? Or were these people simply so arrogant that they couldn’t believe that the Hoeraija had knowledge that they didn’t?
She was staring, in specific, at their attempts to make a building potion, and the smug conclusion, spelled out in so many words, that the legends of the Towers being built by potions must have been incorrect, or referring to making people stronger to haul the wood (something they had managed but only with huge side effects), or to acids to cut the stones from the ground.
“Were these people absolute morons?” she muttered. “How amazingly full of yourself do you have to be? How did they ever manage to conquer the Hoeraija?”