A New World 27: Burning Books

After a moment, Kael realized that Gemma was staring at her.  She cleared her throat and, when that didn’t stop the staring, took a long sip of her drink.

“You know….” Gemma said slowly.  “The first thing you said to me started with idiots.  But I don’t see how making a plant extinct is a good idea.  And ah -” If she had been irked about the bar, she was trying not to be angry now.  “Is that how you see everything? Beautiful painting, oh, look, a potion ingredient. Lovely landscape, look for potion ingredients”

“Pretty girl,” Kael offered dryly, “either talk too much about potion ingredients, take her looking for potion ingredients, or think about the forbidden potions where a lock of her hair would be the final touch.”

“There aren’t- those are fairy tales, aren’t they?  Drop of blood, lock of hair, that sort of thing?”

“There are fairy tales about them,” Kael agreed, hoping she’d managed to derail the anger.  She remembered some of the stories she’d heard as a child; she imagined there weren’t fewer of those tales now, although with the decrease in potions knowledge, there might be.  “Those things are nasty, and you don’t come onto many written descriptions of them. Generally, they are – or at least were – taught as a word-of-mouth thing: if you come on this sort of potion, don’t use them.  I’ve  – I’ve heard stories that the books with those potions in them were all burned.”

Burning books?”  

Kael suppressed a sigh.  She’d been doing okay at distracting Gemma – hadn’t she?  

“Burning books, driving plants extinct – I thought the – the natives were supposed to be for the land and for information.”

“When walking through the wastes can kill you if you step wrong, the land is not necessarily for you,” Kael pointed out dryly.  “And if your child accidentally puts a poisonous plant in their mouth because it looks just like something that you had for dinner – you ended up, or at least the ‘natives’ of the time ended up – not being so interested in the spirit of the plant, since the spirit of the plant was clearly trying to kill them.  And-” She took a breath, considered stopping, and then plowed on. “If a book tells you how to, for instance, bind someone else’s soul, but at the cost of a human life – or if it tells you how to bind someone’s will by bleeding them into a potion, blood that must be unwilling-”

“Those sorts of things don’t really exist!”

“I am willing to bet you your choice of trips for an entire day off that they do.  Or that they did, and likely, if anyone still has ancient potion-knowledge-”

“You mean you.  You have ancient potions-knowledge.  Is it because you were researching these – these evil potions?  Is that how you have so much knowledge?”

“No!  No, of course not!”  Kael did not even try to hide her horror.  “No! No, it’s because I know so much that I came across – mentions – mentions of these potions.  I don’t actually know any of them!” That was a lie, but the one she knew, she would never use.  “But that doesn’t meant that I don’t know why the tales tell you to keep your hair, your nail clippings, everything of yourself and destroy it in fire.”

“That’s real?  All of that, that’s real?  Why doesn’t – why doesn’t anyone talk about this sort of thing?”

“I’m still working it out,” Kael admitted.  “I’ve spent so long – so long cloistered.”  It was a good word.  She liked it, and it avoided some of the tricky questions about her rather targeted knowledge.  “I don’t know a lot of what is going on in the world unless it involves potion ingredients. If we got in a trade war with another country over something like comfrey, I’d probably know a great deal about that.”  She wrinkled her nose in self-disparaging humor. “As I said. I know a great deal about potions ingredients, including the ones that are awful, but I don’t know where some of the knowledge went. Why it’s not common knowledge.”  She was still working out what was common knowledge. “But…”  She made her smile as gentle as she could.  “As to why people aren’t going around hiding and burning their toenails, I imagine some of that has to do with people burning books that involved recipes for evil potions.”

“….Touche.”  Gemma winced. “I still don’t like burning – burning knowledge or getting rid of plants.  But I can see that you have a point.”

“That’s all I can ask for.”  At least, for today. Kael sipped her drink and decided she didn’t need to look too smug about all of this.

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One thought on “A New World 27: Burning Books

  1. 🙂

    • “…No, it’s because I know so much that I came across – mentions – mentions of these potions.  I don’t actually know any of them!” That was a lie, but she one she knew she would never use.

    > Does not compute.

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