“Tomorrow night.” Gemma had agreed to that much. “Tomorrow, if you come by the museum after yours closes, I will take you to Jamhaier. I don’t know why you want to go to that place, but I will take you.”
“Thank you.” Kael wasn’t sure she needed a guide, per se, but she knew that she enjoyed Gemma’s company and that this city had far more to navigate than just the roads and other such things a map would show.
Like these very confusing relations between the Hoija and the others, and the way that almost nobody knew about any other nations.
Had the Hoija – who had not exactly been warlike, back in her time – wiped the rest of them out? Or taken them all over and given them all their name?
No, people knew she wasn’t quite Hoija, which meant that the Hoija look was still applied to the Hoija people… probably.
She turned her best smile on Gemma. “Do we have a little more time tonight for a drink? And possibly for, mm, a little of that tutoring?”
“Maybe the drink.” Yes, Gemma was irked with her. Kael swallowed a sigh and ordered another drink.
“There’s so much I don’t know,” she admitted quietly, while their bartender was distracted and less likely to offer more help. “About my people, about our history-”
She had slept through it. She had slept through a conquest while her tower drifted in the mists of time. “I feel like I’m just waking up,” she murmured, with complete honesty in words if not in spirit. “And I feel like I have to hurry and catch up.”
“You can’t spend all your time worrying about other people, though,” Gemma countered. “What about your own life?”
“Well, I have to sort that out, too. I suppose I can’t spent it all at the top of a potions tower.”
And why not? part of her murmured. What’s wrong with staying up in the tower and offering help to those who need it?
But the thing was, she knew the answer: she had to rebuild her reputation, almost from scratch. She couldn’t lean on being Kaelingrad Torrent-Step unless she thought it was safe to let people know that she’d been sleeping for a thousand years – and if she did that, she would have to apologize for abandoning them.
She had never been a great one for apologies, at least not when she was the one making them.
“Well, if not at the top of a tower,” Gemma mused slowly, “where do you want to spend it? In the clubs and the dive bars?” She wrinkled her nose. “I imagine it’s not all going to be in academia, in research; that’s just another potion tower, even if it’s metaphorical…”
“You know…” Kael was struck with a memory. “When I was young – younger, that is, before I was working in earnest on being a potion-mistress, I liked to explore meadows and forests. Now, I have to admit, some of what I liked is that if you go deep enough into a forest, you end up finding plants and animals and even fungi that nobody else has ever seen. But I also liked just looking around, feeling the sun through the leaves on my face.”
“Careful,” Gemma teased, “you’re going to sound like one of those posters, the ones that are all about how the Hoija and others like them are ‘in tune with nature’ and ‘one with Mother Earth.’”
Kael tilted her head and giggled. “Someone spent too long talking to a druid,” she murmured. “Or they decided it was a nicer way to say ‘mud between their toes and their head in the clouds’”
“Ouch.” Gemma winced. “I- well, ouch.”
Kael smiled sadly. “I’ve heard worse.”
“Have you? I mean, i suppose you must have. People like to pretend that we’re all enlightened now, but it just means that we dress up our stereotypes. I mean, last week, I got in a long argument with a patron at the museum – not about the Hoija exhibit, the Lambardesh one. And they told me that the exhibit had to be wrong, because ‘everyone knew’ that the Lambardesh couldn’t make any good art. They were great with mechanics, sure, but the good art always came from Viaberra or from Peletona. She was Peletoneese, probably. I mean, you can’t always tell by looking, or I would have known you weren’t Hoijera, but – anyway. She went on and on and on about how there was no good art from Lambard. And I walked her over to this one exhibit, it’s ViCaronus, you know the one? Well, okay, most people don’t know that it’s ViCaronus, actually. It’s called A Midnight of Summer, at least in translation, and most people don’t realize it’s, you know, translated from Lambardesh. Ah, this one.”
She presented her smaller version of the tablet-thing Kael had been seeing throughout the day, on which there was a painting. It was, Kael had to admit, a very nice painting, in a style completely different from anything she remembered. It seemed to involve many small splashes of color to create an over-arching image.
“It looks a lot better in person – maybe we should go to the art museum some time, they have more of ViCaronus’ things, but you can see this one when you come to visit me. But it’s definitely art.”
Kael smiled at her, noting her defensiveness. “Oh, it’s lovely, I agree. I admit, I’m not great with art and knowing what is fine art and what is symbolism and such – oh.” She peered at the painting. “Is that False Water Lily?”
“This?” She did a pinch-and-spread gesture on the screen and the area Kael had been peering at enlarged itself. “I think that it’s generally called the sunset eclipse, let me see.” She did some more finger-tapping on the screen. “Ah! Yes, that’s the Hoijera name for it, False Water Lily. Less poetic but a lot more descriptive. So you do notice something about paintings,” she teased.
She cleared her throat. “I know a thing or two. That’s an interesting plant. Hard to get your hands on sometimes, and when you do, well, it’s quite dangerous to harvest.”
“Hrrm.” She frowned at her screen. “It says that they were almost extinct when the – when the Lambardesh settlement settled in here, but that careful replanting has restored them.”
“Idiots,” Kael muttered. “Some things are supposed to be extinct.”Want more?