The Butterfly Book of Salt

My dearest Sextus Sergius, it is so weird to speak to you through letters, letters that I do not know where to send even if I were to dare and do just that. My problems seem so small when compared with fighting to protect everything we know from certain destruction. Canuleia and Gegania believe that I need to talk with someone about what happened in the Temple of Saturn. It pains me to admit, but despite Canuleia being a self-assured cow, in this issue she is absolutely right. Probably nobody, much less you, will ever read these words, but what does it matter? They are just an outburst to let me find some measure of peace.

*

I just had the most disturbing dream. A book, of all things, a long scroll that promise to reveal the secrets behind of the tales that we repeat to each other and the lies that we sell ourselves. A document important enough to disquiet my sleep, and yet, I am unable to recall its title or author. Foxgomlob… Fossgolos… the name dances in my head, the very script itself dancing from the familiar into Coptic and Etruscan, even alien ones I never saw before. My mind cracked like a head as I tried to steal a name from Lethe, the situation not improved when I focused in the author of such mysterious book instead. Nothing, except for a disconcerting belief that it was something dignified and patrician, probably with a touch of ancient Etrurian lineages.

*

After tormenting my servants and force them to look into every nick and crevasse of the Temple in search for a phantom that I could barely even recall, I laid with the poppies in an attempt to rekindle the dream. Phantosos was generous, carrying me back to the moment. In one hand I held the bound scroll, any letters within rejecting order or sense. In the other, an elegant note, defining the documents as something borrowed by me. Suddenly everything aligned, as if I had the book in my possession for months, remembering whole passages describing the relationship between Man and the fantasy of innocence, as well as the complicated relationship between culture, knowledge and the will to remain in the darkness. Despite this burst of familiarity, the name of the book remained foreign to my person. The person that was supposed to have lent me the text, their identity was clear in the note, but not more recognizable; Lucius Viburnius.

*

Today I spent all my day around the genealogy of gens Viburnia. Curious family this one; apparently there are mentions of them as far back as the Second Founding, but nothing concrete. No a single magistrate position, no victorious officer, not a single propriety in the Urbe. Had I found something more bizarre than an ephemeral book, a patrician family without ambition?

*

I was torn away from my futile research by the most unexpected of visitors. Aeneid paid me a courtesy visit, under the pretext of checking on me and how I was dealing with my trials at the Temple of Saturn. She – and yes, she, the rumours about this Triumphant are true – is the more stimulating person I had ever had the pleasure to talk with. We were at it for hours. Today was a good day, in which I discovered very interesting things about me that made me smile in private.

*

Our sisters in Tibur answered to my requesting, sending me all they had on the Viburnia. Apparently, something happened early in their history that they stopped being mentioned directly, all mentions to them replaced to discreet notes about butterflies. They were probably Sabines. I must investigate further.

*

Frustration after frustration pile up, Sextus, driving me to the limits of my endurance. Tarpeia is quick to remind me that I am in the best position I can be, that we have the opportunity to do things outside of the reach of any other women in Rome. So I say that what we do is not enough! To my left I have you facing the Gauls, to my right Aeneid facing tyranny and protecting us from our own worst excesses. And what do I do, Sergius? A Vestalis should be above such concerns, a Vestalis should be wholesale focused with the preservation of the Roman culture, community and learning. Does that mean to remain a recluse, copying old texts and assuring that nothing is lost to time? That is not why I became a Vestalis. Only something brings me more pleasure than learning something new, and that is to apply what I know to improve someone’s day, even if it is just a bit. My spirit will only relax if I am to bring in something more meaningful. I need to ponder on this.

*

Success. Tired of chasing butterflies, I became the book that so tormented me into something real. I carved it out of the best salt that I could buy with my salary, creating a crude simulacrum of the text that I seek. Using it as a symbol of my quest, I sacrificed the fruit of my craft to the flame of the Goddess as an act of alomancy. Between the patterns left by the vanishing salt I found the guides to my path. Viviana read Numa. I noticed Egeria. Ovidia saw a spring coming to life.


*

Nobody knows what happened to you, Sergius, or those that know are not talking. Concern haunts me, almost ruining my offering in the sacred grove of the nymph Egeria. A swarm of butterflies surrounded my oblation of milk and honey. The auspices could not be better, I finally know what to do, but despite that, I was never so afraid. Someone must do it. I will prepare an expedition and restore the books of Numa Pompilius to the Roman people.

*

I could not rest my eyes the entire night. It is the day. I leave to catch butterflies.