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A New World

Kael was one of the most-know potion-masters of her time.  Too well known; she spent far too long dealing with would-be heroes and others who didn’t really need her help.  So she brewed up a potion to put her outside of the world for a while.

It would prove to be one of a very few potions on which she made a mistake.

All The Stories

A New World: the People

First: A New World
Previous: Taking Stock

Half Yordiy off was better than she’d expected to get, if she was being honest, and all she had to do was draw up a safer version of things she’d been doing for years.

“Thank you, Mr. Vibius.”  He reminded Kael strongly of the people she had known before she’d become a potion-mistress and ruler of her own domain.  She knew how to act around him, but that didn’t make it the least bit pleasant. “You said the food was on the third floor?”

“Yep.  It’s always there.  I don’t get it, I really don’t, but it’s always there.”

Kael suppressed a smile.  Jaoan had been working on that for years.  She wondered how long it had taken him to perfect it.  “Thank you. If nobody is here to ask me about potions, I will go and eat now.”

“You’re really taking this seriously.”  He looked at a small glowing piece of glass for a moment.  “There’s three people in the museum, but they’re taking their down  in the Lives of the Ancient Natives and Potions Then and Now displays.  The Lives one really gets a lot of attention,” he confided. “People like going through how people lived back before, uh,” he coughed, “before the modern era.  We get a lot of yelling, too.” He smiled grimly. “People who say there’s no way things could have been like that.” Continue reading

A New World: Taking Stock

First: A New World
Previous: An Arrangement

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. Continue reading

A New World: An Arrangement

First: A New World
Previous: Experimenting with History

Kael looked between Caron and Hallsey, wondering exactly what she’d said that was getting her such strange looks from both of them.

“Are you offering… to teach us?  On something like a regular basis?”

“But not potions,” Hallsey added to her friend’s question.  “But like… how to find out history?”

“That depends.”  Kael was feeling out her answer as she went,  but she was pretty sure she was on the right track.  “Do you want to learn potions, history, or both?”

“Are you for real?” Caron stared at her.  “Are you really – I mean, what would you charge?” Continue reading

A New World: Experimenting With History

First: A New World

Kael cleared her throat.

“Assume for a moment that I am who I am pretending to be.”

They both turned their attention back to her.  It was Caron who spoke first.

“Okay.  So.” He hemmed uncertainly. “You want us to pretend that you’re Kaelingrade Torrent-Step.  And… that you lived for a thousand years?”

“No, no, that would be silly.” She smiled broadly at him.  “Let’s say that a potion went wrong and I suddenly landed here, in this tower, where I was, ah, pretending to be someone pretending to be myself.”

“Okay,” Hallsey leaned forward.  “This is a fun game. So you don’t know anything that happened in the last… oh.   Like the, um, colonization.”

“Conquest,” Caron offered. Continue reading

A New World: Building Potions

First: A New World

“All right, all right.”  Halsey sighed.  “Let’s go on.  I think we have enough for the paper – I mean, we can’t write a paper on this place for Mr. Catalon, anyway.  He’s going to blow his top.”

“We at least have to see the rest of the museum.  Come on, maybe they’ll show us something interesting like where all the tools were or something.  And then we can work out what we’re going to write for class.  I mean.  We could do something on the conflicts between the displays and the book?  And then say, since we weren’t there, we can’t tell?” Continue reading

A New World: History is in the Eye of the Beholder

First: A New World
Previous: Made In the Ikitem Peninsula

A map.  She wondered if there were maps anywhere in this place.

The next couple floors proved not so helpful – informative, but not for what she wanted at the moment.  There was a diagram of what a typical house would look like in the time of  Kaelingrade Torrent-Step, which was remarkably accurate but made her wonder what people lived like in this day and age.  They even had a couple different rooms mocked up.  She was pretty sure the bedroom had come from Joaon’s home, the place he had lived before she had taken him in.

There was an explanation of potion-making that relied a little too heavily on the mundane properties of some of the reagents but explained, in detail she would need to go back and read, how certain inventions of the modern world had build off of the foundation of potion-masters like herself.

It was strange to walk up floor after floor of what she had built as, essentially, a barrier against the world and see her whole world laid out in details.  What people ate.  What people wore.  What people did. Even what people defecated in – which was an interesting one, and she was going to have to discover that sooner or later.  

This tower, she realized, had been set up as a monument not just to her, but to her whole world.  It was an explanation of what had come before.

“That can’t be right.”

A voice on the stairs sent her moving for a hidden passage that appeared covered by a display on pottery.  She moved as quickly as she could, finding the display pivoted the way the cabinet she had once had her did.  

“It’s a museum, Halsey, I don’t think they’re just going to lie to you.”

“Not lie, no, but they might get something wrong.  I mean look at this.  That has to be some sort of error.  Think about what they said in history class.”

The two voices sounded pubescent, one male, one female.  Halsey was the female voice, the one who thought the displays were wrong.

Kael should get up to her potions room, but she stayed a moment to see what was “wrong” about the displays.”

“You know what Mr. Catalon thinks about the natives.”

“He’s a history teacher, Corin.  He can’t go around lying about history!” What if I was wrong?

“I don’t see why not.  History is in the eye of the beholder, right?”  The translation spell was still working, because Kael heard a whispered take the bait.  Corin, it seemed, was trying to prove a point?

“That’s beauty.  History, what is it… oh, yeah, written by the winner.”

“That’s right!  And we won the invasion!  Right?” Come on, come on, don’t make me use the big stick…

“It wasn’t an invasion…” Halsey sounded uncertain now, a why wouldn’t it be?  They were savages, right, but… lingering behind her words.

“We came in, we took their land, we set up our own government.  So uh.  We probably wrote history to suit us.”  Now even Corin sounded unsure.  “They didn’t have anything interesting, so they needed us, that sort of thing. You know.”  

Kael knew all too well.  Her own people had done that twice in her lifetime – in her first lifetime.  The second time had been the reason she had retreated to a tower in the wasteland .

“Yeah.”  Halsey’s tone was thoughtful now.  “Do you think… do you think it’s really all lies?  What else do you think is lies?  I mean.  If they lied about this, then they don’t really have to tell us the truth about anything, do they?”

“That’s, uh, that’s a little extreme, Halls.  I mean.  Yeah, they probably lied about the Red War, too.  I mean, wouldn’t you?  But that doesn’t mean, like, they’re making up presidents or anything.” What have I done?

These two, if they made it as far as her potions room, were definitely going to be interesting.  

“Okay, so.  Let’s look at this again.  They’re not making up presidents here, they’re just saying how these people lived.  So why’s it wrong?”

“You sound like Mrs. Hosmer,” Halsey complained.  “Okay, so they didn’t have the sort of technology to build stone buildings.  They lived in mud huts and they weren’t using steel or even iron tools yet.  No mining, we’ve never found any mines.”

What?  Kael should get upstairs.  But she stayed to listen, wondering what other lies these children had been taught.

“So we haven’t found any mines.  What about metal tools?”

“I… haven’t heard of any?  There weren’t any found in the Kasfour dig, I know that.  Some stone tools and some really nice glasswork.  They were really good with glass.”

Kasfour?  She needed a map.  Why hadn’t she asked the nice young man down in the gift shop for a map?

“Okay, so that’s a start.  We don’t know if they had metal tools.  But isn’t this tower supposed to be pre-colonies?  And it’s definitely stonework.”

“By magic.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong.

“So?  What’s wrong with doing things by magic?  The warships and colony vessels we sent over were magic, too, weren’t they?  And we had the mages.  They just had potions-masters.  I mean… How do you build a tower by potions.?”

Very, very carefully.  Kael had far too much to do.  She was going to need to find a way to leave the tower without risking getting “fired.”


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A New World: Made in the Ikitem Peninsula

First: A New World
Previous: Memories

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The fourth floor. She found herself smiling as she headed up the “public” stairs.  They had been cleaned up so much, she hardly recognized the area.  Of course, Joaon would not have wanted tourists getting slid back outside or put into a long sleep, not if the purpose was to bring some money in and, it seemed, educate people on Kael, or on her legend.

She stopped to read a plaque she’d missed on the first time up.

Kaelingrade Torrent-Step started her career brewing simple potions for her local village, in a time when potions were the bulk of the magic available to the common people. Continue reading

A New World: Memories

First: A New World
Previous
The Letter

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I am still loyal.

Kael sniffled.  Joaon had been loyal to her for so long – and to learn how long he had been here, without her, and still loyal, still so desperately loyal — and here he was, in this world.

She put the potion to one side and sniffed a few of her ingredients.  She had questions, and only a few of them she’d find standing in the middle of her potions-workshop, this fairly good imitation of her workshop.

She walked slowly down the back stairs, her fingers trailing along the block walls.  How much work she’d put into this place.  In her day, only someone like her — or like Carrenonna — could make a building like this.

She remembered this block, how she had poured the potion for it while splashing something at an attacker, something they thought was acid.  It had blinded them, yes, but only for an hour, while it showed them visions of another world, a world in which they had not made the choices they had.

She’d managed to keep that one from falling off the edge of the tower, and Joaon had walked them, unresisting, down to the dungeon.

The dungeon was easy enough to escape from, built that way.  Kael wondered what it looked like now.

Well, that, at least, she could find out.  She paused where there had been a trap and saw the letters written in — what was that, some sort of ink visible only to her eyes?  It seemed to glow, and yet if she looked at it from her peripheral vision, it was gone.  An interesting potion!  

This place is only some of what it once was.  Be careful, be mindful.  I hope it can be restored.

“Interesting.”  The handwriting was, once again, Joaon’s.  She wondered if he had left messages all over this building and, if so, if anyone else had intercepted them.

She knelt down and ran her fingers over the location of the trap.  It had been disarmed, but not removed, and it had been done so awkwardly, not by a skilled trap-finder but possibly by someone panicked after having fallen into it.  Not Joaon, then.  He had found too many of her traps the hard way, back when her sense of humor was more quirky than kind.

She could activate it, but it would take several potions and a few days of work.  There were other things she could be doing in the meantime.

She kept going down the stairs, getting a feel for what her home had become.

“Where is that girl…”  She could hear him through the wall.  Oh, the reception room.  She opened the hidden doorway, wondering if – yes, bless Joaon, he had kept the curtains, the way the door looked like one more window, making the passage truly secret.  

“I swear,” Mr. Vibius was muttering, “something about the look, or the girl, or something.  Every time we get a new one of those, they just hare off in twenty minutes.  And then I have to find another one who has the look, and who can make it look believable when they-”

Kale stepped out around the curtains. “You called for me?”

She didn’t bother with what he called her Begone you Pesky Mortals look, because he had no reason to fear her – yet.  Instead, she tried something she had not tried in a very long time, even before she fell into a millenium-long sleep.  She tried a coy look.

He looked nervous.  She probably needed to work on that look a little bit. “Where did you come from?  You can’t just pop up on people like that!”

“Oh, it’s this curtain.” She smiled broadly at him. “This is a lovely room here,” she looked around.  Her Reception Room looked much the same as it had when she last left it.  The long, thick curtains covered everything except two windows, giving the impression that all the curtains covered the same sort of view out onto – well, onto a city, now.  “I was exploring the building, as I had no tourists at the moment.  There’s a lovely back staircase, if we wanted to sneak up on someone at some time, or if someone needed to get to the potions room in a hurry.”

“Well, don’t sneak up on me.  You’ll give me a heart attack that way!”

As if she was reading it, she heard under his words:

I swear, all the Kaels are creepy, but this one is something else again.  

“I’m sorry, Mr. Vibius.”  She really didn’t do well with apologetic expressions.  She was going to have to work on that.  “You were looking for me?”

“Oh, well, I didn’t know what you were doing, and it looks like we have another group coming in.  How did the first one go?”

“I don’t really know how to judge that,” she demurred.  

“Well, if they want to stop in the gift shop, they’ve done well.  If they want to come back, they’ve done well.  This place doesn’t run on smiles and good feelings and your potion fumes, you know.”

Well, technically, it runs on a behest, but I don’t run on smiles.  

“Of course.  Tell me, when would be a good time for me to go off downtown? I have a couple errands I didn’t get to run this morning…?”

“What?  Your lunch break, of course.  Which isn’t for two more hours.  Now get back upstairs and look creepy, and make sure to suggest that they go to the gift shop.  That’s on the fourth floor,” he offered helpfully.  “We wanted to put it down here, but the behest said there was only so much we could do, and the fourth floor was empty, so.”

“Fourth floor.”  She nodded.  She could look at that on her way back up to her potions lab.  She had never seen a gift shop before.

 
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Next: Made in the Itikem Peninsula 

A New World: The Letter

First: A New World
Previous: Myths

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The potion was sweeter than she remembered it, and for a moment, Kael worried that she’d made a mistake with an ingredient. Impossible.  It might have been a thousand years, but to her mind, it had been barely more than a nap.  She could no more have forgotten the ingredients than she could have forgotten her own name.

Her eyes cleared and she went for the note, glad she’d thought to put it away before the tourists showed up.

The letters shimmered and twisted until they were legible and understandable.

Lady Kaelingrade,

I do not know what potion you wrought, but you wrought it well indeed.  The entire tower slept for quite some time.

Under the words, she seemed to read: I wish you’d warned us.  There were people I would have liked to say goodbye to.

This note can only be read by you, but as a precaution, I wrote it in the script I first found a hundred-plus years ago, when I returned.  You’ve shown signs of stirring, lately, and I think it might finally be time for you to awaken.

Finally.  You were closer to the smoke, of course.  That’s why you slept so much longer.  But I could have used you, so many times, since we came to this strange place you delivered us unto.

I have set things up to give you a place to learn about the world before you decide what you must do.  Do not mistake me: I and the others are still loyal to you.  But a man can not stay in one place, these days, and pretend to be his own uncle, or simply never age and claim to be one of the Great Ones.  Belief is too thin and people are too willing to mob someone, looking for secrets that are not mine to share.

I am still loyal.  I am still loyal.  I am still loyal.

I will return.  I hope, if you have awakened and gone out into the world by then, that you leave me sign in the same method, or another similar method. Until then, beware others you meet who seem like you.

You’re not going to be strong enough, not yet.  You need me.  You’ve always needed me.

Kael blinked.  She was reading – was reading three lines into each line: the letters, which she could not read herself, the meaning of the words, and the meaning behind the words. What had Joaon – no.  Something in the potion had been a little bit off.

She was going to have to find a way to grow and collect her own ingredients again.  She was going to have to find staff again.  And Joaon, who had always been more than staff.

He’d been back a hundred years.  Some part of her bristled.  He could have woken her!  He could have – he’d lived for 100 years?  Without her?

Well, he’d always been more than staff, more than an apprentice. The potion for long life was not all that difficult a one, if you knew where to get the ingredients.

How did you take an apprentice, these days?

No, the matter at hand.   She looked back down to the letter.

The set-up I’ve created for you will restrict you a bit, I’m afraid, but it provides you with cover while you get used to the world.  These people are foreigners, or we would have called them that in our time.  

You have no idea how hard it was for me to adjust, without that, how hard it was for all of us, and I hope you never do know.  It is our job to make your life easier, after all.  It has always been our job..

She blinked twice, and realized she was blinking away tears.  “Joaon… oh, Joaon.”  

I assume you understand how it is that I am still alive, a hundred years after coming to this place.  I have always been very attentive.  And you had already kept me alive long past my allotted time.

This is more than that.  I had grandchildren, once.  Now I may, somewhere, have descendants.  Do I dare to try the potion that would tell me?  And if my line has died out…

Do be careful: there are ingredients today with similar names to the reagents of our day that do something completely different. I have attempted to stock the stores with only those things that you will recognize, but sometimes those I put “in charge” of the tower have their own wishes.

How they can manage not to believe in proper potion work, while standing in your Tower, I will never know.

I hope I see you again soon.

I hope I see you again.

Your loyal servant,

I am still loyal.  I am still loyal.  I am still loyal.

Joaon of the Red Rushes

 

A New World: Myths

First: A New World
Previous: Carrenonna

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“That is… a very good question.  But I suppose the answer lies in the fact that Kaelingrade is said to have disappeared, isn’t she?  Whereas Carrenonna-”  She trailed off, hoping someone knew.

“Kaelingrade vanished without a trace, tower and all, in a cold spring one day during the Aterpian Wars,” read the father. “What are – oh, those were some of the wars before we landed, weren’t they?  Skirmishes?”

Kael raised her eyebrows at the man. “Skirmishes?  You are talking about battles when thousands on thousands of people died.”

“But they didn’t have real technology here, did they?  Before we, I mean, before colonists came.  That was a long time ago, but I know there wasn’t anything like modern warfare.”

“Oh, come on, Dad.”  The older daughter rolled her eyes.  “Just because we can drop bombs and blow up entire cities now doesn’t mean that we’re superior or something.  And besides, they had magic back then, real magic, didn’t they?”

“Aria, what did we say about-” Continue reading