For Knowledge's Sake

by Christopher Hughes

The first rays of dawn over the range separating the Giantdowns from the Midlands brightened the sky from black to midnight blue, and made invisible the very star at which the bear had been staring through his telescope for the past half-hour. He growled impatiently under his breath and lowered the brass cylinder. So entranced had he been that he failed entirely to notice the wolfman standing behind him. When he turned to gather the rest of his instruments, the presence of another living body startled him and he nearly lost his telescope, grabbing at his chest with one brown-furred paw.

"Wanderer!" He half-snarled, half-gasped. "Do you get some secret thrill from sneaking up on me like that?"

"Sneaking, oh oblivious ursine?" The wolfman smiled toothily. "I've been standing here nigh on half an hour, wondering when you would notice my presence."

"Half an hour?" The bear was more curious than surprised at that. He reached into a pocket of his robe and pulled out a small pocketwatch. With one claw he delicately pulled open the lid, then sighed. "Ye gods. I've been up here all night again." He yawned, as much in reaction to the time as to his own exhaustion. "I don't suppose that they've started breaking fast in the commons yet, have they?"

Wanderer's smile broadened. "Actually, Chris, I had come to tell you that they were starting to serve. I called out to you thrice from the top landing, to no avail. Then I came up and saw you staring at the stars again." He tapped the telescope with a claw. "I've yet to decipher how you actually iseen anything through that contraption, with your eyes as they are."

Now it was the bear's turn to grin, though his muzzle was less suited for the job. "Simple." The bear put a paw to his chest and lifted the monocle that had dropped there from his eye, a small silver chain looped around his neck to hold it in place. "This corrects my vision enough to make the objects of my study decent. As of yet, I can't correct the colours, but with research and time, perhaps."

Wanderer chuckled. "Research, research. Tell me, do you ever plan to put into practice anything that you discover? Two days ago you were poring over magical tomes in the library, and I'd wager ten gold that inside of a week you'll be driving Pascal insane watching her mix reagents and taking notes. Yet I've never seen you actually cast a spell yourself, nor have I seen you attempt anything alchemical. You've this great interest in things arcane, but to what end?"

Chris smiled and began to gather up his supplies of the previous night -- the telescope, an astrolabe, a writing quill and stoppered inkpot, and one of his everpresent journals -- from the table set up on the rooftop of one of Metamor Keep's taller towers, and began to walk to the spiral staircase leading down into the keep's interior. Wanderer fell into pace beside him as they walked.

After a short pause to collect his thoughts, the bear began speaking. "I attended a school of magery in my youth; my parents were well-off and I was full of visions of being a spellcaster. Rather than think seriously of my skills, I attempted to follow my fantasy. Inside of two years, I was nearly destitute and no further along in my education. I could manage a few cantrips, some minor transmutations, but nothing of any import.

"I did attend a school of alchemy for a short time, working as an apprentice and putting to test what I was learning to pay my way, but I found it not to my liking. What I did find, however, was a taste for the theories. I read a few alchemical treatises explaining the nature of transmutation and the principles behind their workings. And I realised that what I enjoyed was not the application of the knowledge, but the search for it."

The conversation lulled there for a short time as the two approached the Deaf Mule. Chris and Wanderer both waved greeting to Donny behind the counter and sat at the bar, paying little attention to the others present. Once they had been served, Wanderer spoke. "You said that you enjoyed the search for knowledge. But what use knowledge without application?"

The bear smiled and swallowed a muzzleful of eggs. "Again, the answer is simple. I'll probably never be the mage that Bob Stein is, or the alchemist that Pascal is. But what I have, I've found, is the ability to take what I know and teach it to others. I can't use it myself, but I can put the knowledge into the paws, or hands in some cases, of those who can. And I'm not bad at application myself; I just don't have the dedication to improve my skills at it. Nor do I really enjoy it overmuch."

Wanderer chuckled. "So you have devoted your life in the pursuit of knowledge for the sole purpose of passing it on? And where, oh altruistic arctan, do you gain from this?"

Chris's smile softened. "I enjoy teaching. Perhaps I'm strange, but I've found no greater intellectual thrill than to see the light of comprehension dawn in someone's eyes when he or she solves some conundrum." The bear's smile became a smirk. "And I admit I get a kick out of the pursuit of knowledge, no matter how trivial."

An odd odor met the bear's nose, somewhere between ozone and singed fur. He turned, trying to pick out its source. Pascal stood in the doorway, a few wisps of smoke rising from her multicoloured quills. As she entered, both bear and wolf could hear her muttering under her breath about Vandegraff and having asked twice about grounding. As she stormed past, Chris turned to Wanderer with a bit of a sheepish grin. "Wanderer?"

The wolf smirked. "Yes, my bookish bear?"

"I think I'm going to owe you those ten gold."