Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Tour Guides for All of Knowledge"

This is the linkback perk poem for the June 7, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl, originally hosted by DW user Dialecticdreamer.  It is spillover from the May 3, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from siliconshaman.  This poem also fills the "covert group with mundane front" square in my 1-1-16 card for the Spies, Secret Agents, and Noir bingo fest. belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics. All 20 verses have been posted.

"Tour Guides for All of Knowledge"

The Order of Hypatia met in secret,
librarians from around the world
coming together to discuss how best
to preserve the information in their keeping,
for they were tour guides for all of knowledge.

Not all librarians belonged to the Order,
of course, but enough them did to buffer
the machinations of foolish men.

Perhaps it had not even begun
with Hypatia herself, but she was
the one who had gone down in history
for sneaking away volumes from
the Library of Alexandria
before its destruction.

It was because of her that
many ancient volumes survived.

It was because of them that she had
died, murdered by a mob because she
would not leave her books or her learning.

The surviving librarians
had learned to be more careful.

Today the the Order had gathered
in the Bathhouse of the Winds,
because the Pythia's patchwork skin
benefitted from the moist heat of
the Turkish bath rooms and
the water in the European ones.

Not all of them had superpowers,
either, but they knew those who did,
and that helped them to understand
the special challenges of those gifts.

It was a field still in want of information,
for which precious little was available.

There were, too, complaints about
unrest in the barbarous nations, most of those
from the librarians who had to live there.

"Those heretics are burning books again,"
Forozan complained. It was a perennial problem
in Afghanistan. "I'll push them in, see if I don't."
She had done it to one book-burning imam already.

"What do you need to seclude?" the Pythia asked.

"Only a whole collection of veterinary histories,
and another of biographies," Forozan said.

"Ah," said the Pythia. "Give me the histories.
I know a veterinarian who will guard them well."

Forozan agreed, and the talk turned to
finding a home for the biographies.

"I will take those," said Hawwa Maniku.
"The Maldives is safer than ever these days."

It was not a perfect solution, passing books
around to keep them safe from imbeciles
who found information intimidating.

It had worked, though -- for centuries.

* * *


Pythia (Kriska Sideris) -- She has hair brindled in lighter and darker shades of blonde, lidless gray snake eyes, and fair skin mottled with patches of brown and cream scales. She wears makeup in attempt to minimize the reptilian look of her eyes, but it won't cover the scales. She is Greek and lives in Arachova. She speaks English, Esperanto, French, Georgian, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish. She worked as a librarian before her transformation.
Knowledge control includes a wide range of applications to discover, store, and transfer information. Pythia has a perfect memory and a vast archive of knowledge; beyond that she can easily find out more. She enjoys learning new things, especially languages and history. She has declared herself a neutral party in soup politics and insists on being treated as such. She liberally hands out information about a person's own powers, or about superpowers in general, but is far more cautious about revealing anything on someone else's powers or that could be used to hurt anyone. Occasionally she assists superheroes or law enforcement, but her standards are very high and attempts to pressure her quickly lead to her reading the bully's life out loud which usually ends the confrontation at once. Pythia has ties with Dr. Infanta whose Time Powers similarly allow her to influence the flow of information, and they share an interest in keeping the world on an even keel without strangling free will. Relations with Granny Whammy are more tenuous due to SPOON's sometimes-high pressure tactics pushing people toward the white side of the cape.
Her Python Traits count as Poor because they cause more trouble than they're worth. She requires live or whole dead animals to eat, and hates that. So she tries to get by on things like thawed pinky mice, until her body gets cranky about it, then resorts to live food just until she feels better. Her jaw dislocates properly to swallow large prey, but afterward it doesn't always go back into the socket without help. Pythia gets sluggish in cool temperatures. Shedding time causes awful problems because her skin is patchy; she often retains some scales, including the ones over her eyes. Most people find her appearance and demeanor disturbing, so the Poor aspect can apply to some social interactions.
Origin: Along with some friends in archaeology and geology, Kriska was exploring caves in the vicinity of Delphi when an earthquake struck. Loose soil and rock blocked most of the entrance, and it took hours for rescuers to dig them out. Members of the party variously felt lightheaded, queasy, and giddy; some fell unconscious. All were taken to the nearest hospital and recovered fully. Over the next few weeks, however, Kriska's skin began to thicken and discolor in places. Within a year she had taken on her current serpentine appearance, developing Knowledge Control along with it.
Uniform: Her patchy skin makes most clothing uncomfortable, so she tends to favor a minimum of underwear with at most a loose wrap over it. In private she often goes nude for comfort. However, she enjoys traditional Greek jewelry; she frequently wears long dangling gold earrings, and puts her hair up with gold pins.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Oracle, Good (+2) Greek Folk Music, Good (+2) Impassive, Good (+2) Limber
Powers: Master (+6) Knowledge Control
Poor (-2) Python Traits
Limitation: Her manipulation of information applies only to others, not herself, a source of immense frustration as she struggles to manage her serpentine condition. Also, she cannot force people to believe her; as she puts it, "An oracle's duty is to warn, not to convince."
Motivation: To guard and transmit knowledge.

Forozan Karzai -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short mahogany hair. She speaks Arabic, Chinese, Dari (Persian), English, Esperanto, Greek, Kyrgyz, Pashto, Spanish, Sumerian, and Urdu. She despises the anti-intellectual bent in Afghanistan and has a tendency to skewer any of them who cross her path. Usually with words. Usually. And there was that time she pushed an imam into a pile of burning books. But he deserved it. And no, that doesn't make her a supervillain. If she were a supervillain, you would know it.
Origin: While trying to translate an ancient tome, Forozan experienced a blinding headache and fell into a delirium for days. When she came out of it, she had superpowers. Her intellect and linguistic ability climbed sharply, although the latter hasn't broken out of the ordinary range yet.
Uniform: Forozan dresses conservatively in dark colors and clothes that cover most of her body. However, she likes accent colors in deep or muted tones.
Qualities: Master (+6) Librarian, Expert (+4) Feminist, Expert (+4) Languages, Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Smuggler
Poor (-2) Detests Anti-Intellectuals
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Intellect
Motivation: To preserve knowledge.

Hawwa Maniku -- She has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and long straight black hair. She dresses modestly but not conservatively, covering her hair and most of her body, but she loves bright colors and loud patterns. She runs a library in the Republic of the Maldives. Although not a soup herself, she is very soup-friendly. Hawwa is worth a lot more than a female librarian gets paid in a culture that expects men to support their families.
Qualities: Master (+6) Librarian, Master (+6) Diplomat, Expert (+4) Cunning, Expert (+4) Charming, Good (+2) Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Muslim, Good (+2) Soup-Friendly
Poor (-2) Underpaid

* * *

"Librarians are tour-guides for all of knowledge."
Patrick Ness

Hypatia was a famous librarian, among the last at the Library of Alexandria.  Oh, so that's why Terramagne has so many books that our world lost.  I had been wondering for a while.

Public baths have been a feature of civilization for millennia. The Bath House of the Winds is among the most famous.  In our world, it's a museum now; in T-Greece, it is still open as a bathhouse.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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