The room was huge. Three times the size of her new bedroom, it was lit with moonlight, but there was a fireplace that had what looked like a crackling fire lit. "Hologram", she was told as she looked at Gladialis with a question on her face. "Real fires aren’t really allowed on board, not without a considerable amount of paperwork. Plus…it wouldn't be safe for my collection." The collection under discussion stretched from floor to the ceiling, more than double the height of an Affini. The ceiling had these paintings on it, Terrans wearing old-timey clothes, doing all sorts of old-timey things. Even some old Terran in robes sitting on a cloud and touching the finger of another one.
There were books, everywhere she looked. Real books, the smell of paper and leather bindings warring with the sweet scent that Gladialis exuded. The shelves reached the ceiling, and a ladder was hooked up to a rail that ran around the room. And the ceiling was high, the ladder made for an Affini, Kitten saw. It was probably about twenty five to thirty feet high, the ceiling. She looked around, seeing a shelf that held rolls of…"Are those scrolls!?", she asked incredulously. She'd learned about those as a child, how ancient Terrans had used them to communicate before books and the printing press.
Gladialis nodded, a smile on her face. "They are indeed, little kitten. Though they are recreations, they ARE printed on vellum. Or papyrus, or even parchment. Depending on the time period and region that the piece was originally written in.”
There were comfortable looking chairs, wood paneling, even a window that looked out onto a garden that had the full moon shining in. And at least one of the chairs was Terran sized. “Wait…you…you have a…there’s a moon?!?!”, Kitten asked and Gladialis smiled and shook her head.
“That whole space is a hologram, but it also emits the same wavelength as moonlight and it’s…relaxing. Don’t you think so?”, Gladialis said with a smile as she walked in and looked around with a smile. Her collection. Well…the one devoted to Terrans. Her other collections were safely stored in another unit elsewhere, in addition to being digitized. There was something about having physical copies of things to read that were just unlike reading them from a tablet.
“So…umm…you…This is really cool”, Kitten said as she looked around. A desk held what looked like some kind of flower under a glass jar, and there were some cool things, like a huge globe of Old Terra, and a small model of some kind of ruined building. A few paintings on the walls, done in old timey styles with…was that actual wood?!?! Nah, couldn’t be. “Like, really cool. But this still doesn’t tell me anything”, she said, holding her plushie. “Are you a..a whatamacallit…a bookologist? You know, one of the people who lends out books and knows lots of stuff?”
“You mean a librarian, little one?”, she said with a gentle chuckle. “Oh no, Kitten”, as she sat down in her favorite chair, right in the moonlight. “I’m a researcher, and my speciality is myths and legends of different sophonts species that we Affini come across. I research them across different regions, I look for drift and for common archetypes. You can tell a lot about a culture by the things that they put into their stories and myths. Even how sophonts traded ideas with goods, and which culture met with which one. You Terrans are interesting in that you have some legends that are similar from region to region, and yet some are so amazingly different. Like werewolves, or the creation of the world. It's fascinating, it truly is. "
Kitten looked at Gladialis. She seemed to be more relaxed, but also looked proud? Yes, Kitten decided. Proud. Looking around, she figured that Gladialis had a right to be. This was like nothing she had imagined when Gladialis said that she was a researcher. "So…umm…regions? Myths spreading? But wouldn't..ummm", and blushed.
"Kitten, go ahead", Gladialis urged, pulling up a chair. "You can always ask me questions. Please never feel like you can't." She smiled as Kitten climbed into it…literally. She made a note to order a chair or two in Kittens size.
"Ok. Ummm….so what’s an example of a myth that got traded and moved around? And do you specialize in any specific place?"
"Well, to answer you in reverse, Kitten, right now I'm specifically studying Greek, Norse, and Celtic myths and legends. They intertwined in many respects, and helped shape Terran culture for centuries. For example, do you know the legend of Santa Claus?"
"Santy Claude?", Kitten asked, brow furrowed. "Of course!! What kid doesn’t? He comes every Christmas evening and gives healthcare credits and sometimes food to boys and girls who have been good all year around. And if you’ve been bad, then he takes away some of your clothing to give to someone else that was better than you."
"Santy Claude? Interesting!! I'd be curious to see how that changed over the years in your colony. Regardless, the name for most of history was Santa Claus, which in and of itself was a translation of 'Saint Nicholas', from the early Christians of the Roman Empire. But…hmmmm, here, Kitten, take a look", and Gladialis flowed up and over to the globe where she spun it for a second, while three vines waved at Kitten.
"Did they teach you much about your history and geography when you were a sproutling? Not recent Terran history, or your colony. But the long ago history of Terra that Was", and nodded when Kitten blushed and shook her head. "No matter, little one. Let me teach you something interesting."
"Here, take a look", she said, pointing at a little spot. "That was where Rome was, but its empire encompassed most of this area", and she sketched the area. "They were THE dominant power in this region of Terra for hundreds of years. Now the Norse, or as many called them, Vikings, were a culture up here", and she tapped a spot further up called Greenland. "They were fierce warriors, traders, and polytheistic, meaning they believed in a Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. They were fairly advanced, since women could own property, could ask for divorces, even become warriors themselves if they wanted. They believed that their gods sometimes traveled amongst them, testing and judging them. Seeing to it that they lived up to the standards and morality that they, allegedly, taught and stood for. Or that was their belief. Anyways, their main deity was a God named Odin, or Woden, as he was originally known. And one of his things was disguising himself as a traveler and coming to a homestead. If they acted as proper hosts, and the children gave him a gift of food and drink, then he would reward them. If they didn’t, then he would punish them. Sound familiar?", she said with a smile.
Kitten blinked, and smiled back, excited. "So wait….Santy Claude initially came from these Norse? So…so you figure that the Norse traded with the Romans and that’s how the legend spread?"
"Smart girl!!", Gladialis cooed, and had to physically restrain herself from ruffling her hair. Settling for a warm smile and quiet shake of her vines, she nodded. "Not just trading, sadly. Rome was heavily involved…umm…in the…they had slaves. A lot of them, the poor dears. Ancient Terra was advanced in some ways, and quite barbaric in others. And those slaves brought their culture with them", she said sadly, vines drooping, flowers closing slightly. "Christian Rome in its later years was, as far as my research has shown me, very invested in converting other cultures to its religion and way of life. Sometimes by force, sadly. Another method was to simply co-opt the other cultures faith and legends. Odin's character, in some ways, got melded with Saint Nicholas who then became Santa Claus. The Celt holiday of Samhain became Hallow'een, and joined to All Saints Day. Just to name two." Gladialis sounded sad, and Kitten was curious.
"Ummmm…all this…it happened thousands of years ago, right? So why….ummmm…you sound kinda sad. All these things happened so long ago." She sounded confused. “I mean, I sorta get why, because things like that are a bit sad. But it’s…it’s not like you can change it or…or anything.”
"You're not wrong, Kitten. It was quite a while ago, before even my first Bloom. But it fills me with sadness because who knows what's lost? The reindeer, Rudolphus, that supposedly carries Santa Claus around and has a winking light for a nose was allegedly created in the 1970's. But was this taken from an earlier myth, like Thors chariot being pulled by goats and blended with the Greek God Apollo, whose chariot was pulled by flaming horses? Nobody knows, and that fills me with despair for what was. Nobody is gone, Kitten, not as long as someone remembers them, tells their story. In my case, I try to remember a society as a whole. Remembering their myths and who they were, not letting them fade and be forgotten."
Kitten blinked and nodded. "I never thought of it like that. For me, the dead are gone, and the living are...well, not. There's no point in worrying about dead people, or things from that long ago. I always…ummm….you know, for a nurse it's different. I..umm…I have too many…I can’t", as her voice faltered for a moment. ‘I’d have to remember too many people’, was the unspoken comment.
"That sounds very stressful. Rewarding, to help your neighbors and friends. But very stressful as well, Kitten. I can't imagine how hard things must have been for you, especially on that floating wreck of a ship. How did you cope with that?", Gladialis gently asked, her eyes twinkling. Literally, Kitten saw. The Affinis eyes twinkled, like she was laughing at a joke…or trying not to cry.
"Ummm…I…", and she yawned. Loudly. "I'm really tired", she said, blushing. Hoping that the deflection would be enough.
"Oh, of course!! Of course, how silly of me. Come, let's get you to bed and we can talk more tomorrow", Gladialis said. Kitten’s deflection was as obvious as a supernova, but she didn’t say anything. Clearly painful, and a weight the Terran was used to shouldering alone that she shouldn't have to. There would be time to help her heal from that later, if she wanted. Gladialis caught herself from suggesting xenodrugs or anything else. She didn't want to overwhelm the girl, but she also didn't want to overstep. Kitten was already skittish. No sense in making things worse.
"Follow me", and she showed the girl to her room. "There's toothbrush, toothpaste, and all sorts of grooming equipment that you might need in the bathroom. And I put some extra blankets and pillows in the closet. If there's anything left out, please tell me", she said as she paused at the door, then took a step away from it so she didn't crowd the girl.
"Or me!!", Lena said. "Anything for you, you adorable cutie pie."
Kitten nodded, blushing, but also yawning again. She WAS tired, and it HAD been quite the day. "Everything…ummm… is fine", she said, as she walked past. Nobody followed her, no vines yanked her backwards. Gladialis was sincere about giving her space. "Ummm..good…good night, Gladialis."
"Good night, Kitten. Sleep well."
"Good night, Lena."
"Good night, cutie!!"