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The beginning of Kethimev
was the height of summer in Affayasilith,
when the surrounding plains grew tall
with grass and crops, stroked by the sun
under hot clear skies marred only
by occasional thunderstorms.
Livana had returned from her excursions
to write up a monologue on her discoveries.
This was easier said than done.
Unable to identify a clear pattern,
she decided not to make an attempt
that would be difficult to defend;
instead she simply described her findings
and turned in the manuscript
to Affayasilith University Press,
complete with a sigla showing
the symbols and abbreviations
of the Mruuna maps she had used.
Then Livana filled out the forms to begin a new club,
open to everyone although primarily aimed at students of science,
and sponsored by her mentor Science Master Atroilo.
She wanted to include whomever might have
an interest in things that science could not yet explain,
in hopes of combining their observations
to formulate new explanations.
Livana spoke with the publishers at Affayasilith University Press;
and the Agriculture Guild's trade press, Arable Books;
and the Entertainment Guild's recreational press, Dogeared Books.
She invited them to send any of their authors who might
be writing about some of the same things as herself.
She went to a broadsheet press and commissioned a flyer
with news about the first meeting of the club.
She called it Mysterious Sigla,
because she felt that the world was writing
its history in a shorthand that she could not understand.
Perhaps more minds would aid in compiling interpretations.
They met at the Chatterbox, a teahouse frequented by students,
its pebbled patio bright with fabric lanterns hung overhead
and ironwork furniture topped with glazed ceramic.
Livana lounged in her summer dress with the potential members.
They drank tea, ate crisp biscuits and cold vegetable sandwiches,
smoked recreational herbs and spoke of science.
There were, of course, many students from the University,
mostly Assistants studying to be Scientists like Livana herself,
but some of them Clerks from the next-younger form,
and one Scientist in solemn indigo robes
with his hair done up in some ridiculous ethnic design
who pursued a Mastery in spatiotemporal physics.
Then there were the hobbyists, for the Empire had
quite a lot of people who loved science
but didn't or couldn't do it as a profession.
Most of these comprised amateur experts
with a narrow field of personal interest --
people who bred flowers or dogs,
people who collected rocks or Ancient artifacts.
There were the inevitable handful of frassies,
people with unverifiable interests in anomalies
or historical inconsistencies or other inconvenient topics.
Livana smiled politely and wished they would go away.
The fierce Mruuna man with suntanned skin
and the Arraffiqa woman in tribal dress
made a different impression. They scared Livana
with their critical views of the Empire
and obvious disapproval of science in general.
As the founder of the club, Livana had the right
to oust them from the meeting, but she was
new to this responsibility and hesitated
to drive people away for holding unpopular opinions.
When the second mousy little Clerk
got up and slipped away from the meeting,
the teahouse owner Miqeil came over
and shooed the two subversive visitors
off his patio and onto the sidewalk,
quietly advising Livana that they had
caused trouble before, and a monitor
could be called if one was needed.
Livana nodded, her mouth dry,
and silently resolved to go sign up
for one of the Student Leadership workshops
offered to help young scientists in need of new social skills.
It was an older matron, a dog breeder named Ityeri,
who revived the mood of the meeting
with talk of her new puppies and some peculiarities
in the development timelines of breeds around the Empire.
In Affayasilith, everyone knew about dogs
even if they didn't care for them personally,
so it made an easy topic of discussion.
At the end of the meeting, over half the visitors
signed the form to join Mysterious Sigla as members,
which according to the brochures Livana had read
was quite a successful percentage.
She was particularly thrilled to catch Scientist Truulenero,
all verifed and official on the membership form.
Like Livana, he believed that science could explain anything
if given a sufficient pool of examples to analyze.
Livana walked home through the warm summer evening,
thinking about her adventure alongside the Crystal Desert
and her studies of strange things that did not fit predictions.
Not even the weird, creepy visitors could keep her
from developing her new club.
After all, two people could hardly be
more dangerous than a time-bending desert
or more unpredictable than a world full of anomalies.

Author's Notes

This poem was inspired by the Rainbowfic Vellum prompt #19 Sigla.  It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

sigla [ˈsɪglə]
(Communication Arts / Printing, Lithography & Bookbinding) the list of symbols used in a book, usually collected together as part of the preliminaries
[Latin: plural of siglum, diminutive of signum sign]

Frassies -- in Southern Empire slang, the equivalent of "flakes," odd and annoying people with ideas of little substance.

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