A New World 24: Mistress and Apprentice

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“Perhaps I will teach you.”

Was she looking for an apprentice?  Or for – well. Certainly she hadn’t been at a lack for invitations since she woke up.  Of course, she had spoken to more people who did not work for her in the last day than she had in many months, perhaps many years, in the time before her long nap.

“I might enjoy you teaching me.”  Gemma smiled at her with an expression that might have been interested in learning – or in other things.  “You have a fascinating way of looking at the world. What is it that you do, that isn’t pretending to be an ancient potions-mistress?”

“Well, mostly, I am a modern potions-mistress,” Kael admitted.  “It helps to have someone in the Tower, I suppose, that knows what sort of potions will actually work, which won’t do anything, and which could be fatal if handled incorrectly.”

“It certainly has to add verisimilitude.   But there have to be other things you could be doing – working for one of the big corporations…”

“Much of my expertise is in historical research,” she demurred.

“Well, sure, but those big corporations, they save lives, you know – I’m sorry.  I’ve had this argument with my sister probably fifty, a thousand times. She’s in potions, too.  You should talk to her. But what she does is do research for the U – that’s the local university – on plants that were here before the ‘invasion’ and which ones could have been used as potion reagents.  You might enjoy the conversation; she tried talking to one of the older Kaels and ended up quite frustrated.”

“I might enjoy it,” Kael agreed.  “Finding replacements has to be interesting. I’ve run into that in my own research, as well.  Just a small change, a slightly different variety, can make a potion go completely differently.”

“In the bigger corps and some of the really well-funded universities, I hear they’re working on standardizing all of that.  Some people don’t think it’s very scientific to have a cure for something made out of things you can pick on the side of the road.”

“Where do they think that potion ingredients come from, then?”  Kael was baffled. She wondered if there was something wrong with the translation potion, or if she simply was missing something because Gemma was foreign in so many ways.

“Well, they think you ought to be able to blend them up in a laboratory.  Of course, you have to take something to start with, ingredients don’t just come from nowhere, but they are spending a lot of time looking for, say, the essence of mugwort, the chemical that makes it work in potions.”

“But its-”  Kael threw up her hands.  “All right, all right. I’m not going in to corporate potion making, but I do feel like I might want to take on an apprentice.”

“An apprentice?  How old-fashioned.”  Gemma winked at her. “Will you make them clean your bottles and sweep your floor?”

“I believe I have a cleaning crew for the floor.”  Kael wasn’t sure what she should say to being called old-fashioned.  “I think I’ve spent too long in one sort of potions tower or another.”  That was putting a bit too fine a point on it. “Maybe I have some knowledge others would find useful.  Even if they do have to clean bottles to get it.”

“I’m sure you have something that others would like to know.”  Gemma was nearly purring, but there was a thoughtful expression on her face.  “You know, when my sister was in school, she said that a lot of the instruction was lacking something, and the most useful classes she had were hands-on, the ones where the instructor was right there brewing potions with them.”

“How else-”  Kael shook her head.  “No, I think you are right and I am definitely ‘old-fashioned.’  Much about potions isn’t something that is easy to write down; it’s the way that the liquid feels or the smell of what you’re putting in.”

“You have – well, I mean, I barely know you.  But so far, it looks like you have a really interesting take on things.  I’d love to put you in the same room as one of those corporate execs. I mean, the people in charge, I don’t think they even know how a potion works, but even their laboratory heads… you could probably teach them a thing or two.”

“Ah.”  Now Kael smiled.  She was on solid ground here.  “But why would I? A potion-mistress’ secrets are her own, to be taught to who she chooses and the results of which to be given out as she sees fit.   A corporation, that wants to make money from my secrets – why share?”

“But that puts a lot of power in the hands of one person.  All those decisions…”

“That-” Kael was grinning.  She knew this argument. “That is why we had many towers, with many potion-mistresses, back in the day.”

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