(On a related note, Bast's cheerfulness in this scene makes me think he is hiding something. But what? Also, this is from the viewpoint of my mysterious, unnamed, newly formed dude. He'll be known as Syfr, although that doesn't come up here.)
Settling into my life as Bast’s semi-permanent houseguest was remarkable simple. As I might have guessed, he gave his whole life over to his studies and seemed, to me, to be pursuing no less than a dozen lines of research and inquiry.
As he showed me through his small house – kitchen, bedchambers and study – he apologized several times for the clutter and the fact that he was not much of a cook since he rather tended to forget food when he was deep into his research.
“It’s a rather common failing among most Alchemists,” he laughed. “But perhaps having someone else about will aid my memory regarding such matters. This,” he continued, pushing open a door, “is my study.”
I had been about to protest that he need not take any extra worry for my sake, that I did not wish to disturb his life or routine and that perhaps I might repay his generosity in some small way and take on the tasks of the kitchen. But this all died on my lips as Bast’s study was revealed.
The room was bright in the morning light and I saw that there were wide windows on three of the walls. Below each window sat a desk, each one polished to a glossy sheen and all of them the same warm-toned wood. Two of them were immaculately organized, each item placed precisely, everything squarely stacked. It was mostly books and papers on those, although a few devices whose purpose I couldn’t begin to guess at were also present.
The third desk was the most fascinating. On it stood untidy stacks of paper, several of which seemed likely to fall over at the slightest provocation. Various colored glass bottles stood in jagged groups, several of them unstoppered. There was also the occasional bit of rock in as many varieties of as there were colored bottles. A striped brown and green chunk the size of my head dominated the others for mass, but my attention was also caught by a dull glint of silvery metal and the sparkle of something a light lavender that seemed to catch and refract the sunlight.
Bast noticed my taking inventory and gave a low chuckle. “Yes. Those are the things that do not keep my interest so much as the more abstract questions of energy.”
“Energy?” I echoed politely. I had no idea what sort of questions anyone might have about the matter, let alone how it could possibly be abstract.
“Such as the energy of light,” Bast elaborated, confusing me further. Wasn’t light just there? Did it do anything that could be construed as energetic? Fire seemed to have a dance of its own; maybe that was the sort of thing the Alchemist meant. Though I still didn’t see what questions one might ask of a blaze.
“What’s in all those bottles?” I asked, rather than show my confusion.
Bast’s face lit up with a broad smile, as though pleased I should take an interest. “Most people would be afraid to ask such a thing,” he informed me.
I paused, fearing I had made some grave social blunder.
But Bast was still grinning as he continued. “Then again, most people have some experience of having asked an Alchemist a very simple question only to receive an hour’s lecture for their curiosity. When an Alchemist gets to be as old as I am, he has learned that no one will willingly speak to him of science save his colleagues.”
I laughed, for Bast did not appear so very old to me. “I am happy to learn anything,” I replied earnestly. “You will find a willing audience in me.”
“So you say now,” Bast’s voice held a note of warning and I could not tell how serious he might be. “Come, I will show you what I am working on and you can say whether you would rather sleep in the streets.”
He stepped into the room as he spoke and beckoned for me to follow. I did this with alacrity, truly interested in the knowledge Bast might impart. Every time we spoke, I learned much – and not only about Alchemy, but also religion, history, politics and law. He had yet to speak on any topic with anything less than perfect assurance.
Of course, I was woefully ignorant and the Alchemist might have only been giving the impression of knowing more than he did. But it seemed that other people had listened with respect to what he’d had to say.
And that's when my stop came. More to come. God knows what or when.