Intro Text

"Camilla: Indeed it's time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask."
- Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Diary of an Apprentice Scent Hunter, Day 2

I’m back with more updates on my progress through the ranks of Throrian Scent Hunters. I’m still a humble Apprentice but I’ve finally progressed past the first chamber. The Scientists’ council has decided I’ve polished enough empty vials to get my hands on some fragrance-making tools!
Nothing too complicated (or delicate) yet, but I’m thrilled to be moving forward. Maybe in another hundred years or so I’ll even get to mix a couple of ingredients together.

My current task is distilling essential oils from the eggs of winged lizards.

This seemingly humble ingredient had profound symbolic value to the ancient Stratinites of planet Thror. The pure essence of the winged lizard egg was seen as a symbol of fertility and procreation and is still very popular for wedding perfumes and as a birthday gift for young Throrian ladies entering marriageable age. Understandably, there is a very high demand for this component and Throrian Scientists produce gallons of it every day.

The preferred method for obtaining essence of winged lizard egg is distillation - a process commonly used on Earth for plant-based material. The material to be distilled is placed in a massive water-filled cauldron-like contraption called a still and heated at a temperature just below boiling point. The vapors created by this process rise through cooled pipes where they condense back into liquid form. The resulting fragrant oil is collected in a flask.

The whole thing is enormously exciting in theory of course, but the process can take up to twenty-four hours depending on the substance being distilled. Hence, the unfortunate Apprentice is left alone in the dark with no companion but a steaming metal barrel while true Scientists go off to hone their exquisite senses over a nice lunch. And this goes on for days. Behold the grisly images that now haunt my nightmares:

The instant I close my eyes, I am violently jolted awake by the blood-curdling thought that my burbling still has overheated by fraction of a degree or that an errant tongue of flame has licked the bottom of the tank tainting the entire batch with with a burnt odor.

Turns out scent making is about more than delicate rose petals and provocatively-shaped bottles. It’s about blood, sweat and tears (just don’t get any of that into your freshly-distilled essential oils!)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Diary of an Apprentice Scent Hunter, Day 1

As a writer I have always had my own take on the infamous piece advice given to many aspiring writers - “write what you know.” Personally, I believe in knowing what I write instead. I may not know what it’s like to be an ancient Throrian Scientist, but I can sure find out.

This is why, as part of my work on the sequel to Digging in the Stars, I have decided to come back to Thror and become an Apprentice Scent-Maker in one of the most legendary scent laboratories in the Known Galaxies. I’m studying hard, hoping to make it all the way to Journeyman level. Unfortunately, I have yet to make it past the first chamber, where I am kept busy washing and polishing scent vials. I haven’t seen so much as a sliver of tree bark. Not worthy yet. This may not sound like the most exciting job in the universe, but it has its benefits.

The vials are magnificent, each more precious and elegant than the one before. Like Throrian scents, vials have their own meanings and symbolism and pairing a newly brewed scent with the right vial is a large part of the Scientist’s skill. Each vial is unique. The key moment  of the ceremony of ushering a young Throrian into adulthood (at the tender age of seventy-five) is the unveiling of his or her own signature essence, as unique as a fingerprint. The scent is presented in a custom-designed vial carved of rock crystal or semi-precious stone, cast in shimmering metal, or whittled out of polished sea-wood taken deep from the watery mantle of Thror’s frozen core. This scent will define the young Throrian for the rest of his or her life, announcing their presence, serving as an introduction and mixing with scents of conversation, command, entreaty, celebration or love.

These are some of the vials whose company I have been enjoying, all glowing from inside and shimmering with brilliant colors. I can’t wait until the day I’m deemed ready to know their meanings and feel the fragrances locked in their hearts. I hope my mentor will be that charming young scientist with the fuzzy rose-colored head tentacles and the timid smile. Everyone calls him Rosebud.