Chapter 3: Diffraction Lens

CW: dissociation, drug use

Astragalus root for the heart, lungs, and fatigue; burn it for energy and to stave off exhaustion.
Ginseng for stress, anxiety and sore muscles; burn it for clear sight and a clear mind.
Reishi for aches and restless sleep; burn it for strength in body and soul and the courage to do what must be done.
Opium for pain and broken hearts; burn it for euphoria and escape.

-Excerpt from Baer Matriarch’s “Learning Smokework” appendices; mnemonic for students.



The first thing you remember, a long time later, is a shining crystal. It hangs above your head, reflecting the light this way and that, in bursts of color that shift and change through the prismatic glass.

“He’s conscious,” someone says, “just not really reacting.”

The crystal hangs a little lower. There’s something else in it. A voice. A force.

“Major Scheffen, what are you doing?”

“Oh, me? Just playing. He’s so little.

You recognize her voice. You heard it, in the dark. The dark is still there, below you, somewhere cold, somewhere that didn’t hurt and ache and feel everything, but there’s the crystal as well.

The force in it vanishes, and you find yourself reaching for it – the crystal. It’s cold in your fingers, too. A different kind of cold, though; solid and smooth with points and ridges and curves, and bits that click against each other, joints minuscule.

“You like it?”

You have trouble taking her in as more than a disparate set of colors and features. Blue. Jacket. Black. Hair. Gold. Buttons. Black. Eyes. And then they come together like a puzzle. Something clicks. Now she’s the woman you saw before. Before. You can’t –

You nod.

She smiles. “Do you remember my name?”

You don’t remember anything. You might remember the conversation with her later. Right now, all you can summon up are her lips moving, and the impression of her voice on your mind.

“Sylvia. Sylvia Christadocht Scheffen.”

Sylvia. Sy-lu-vee-a.

“And you. Are you staying with us?” she asks. You don’t know what she’s asking, and nod blankly. It’s quieter, after she arrives; although you can’t describe what all the noise before was.

You pick up words, here and there; sometimes, their meanings. Laudanum. Astragalus. Reishi. Ginseng.  Somewhere in your dreams, scraps of thought, images, blurs of motion, echoes of sound – they roll around, repeat, with no context. You think you’re supposed to have it. You taste the things the words describe in your mouth and make the connections. You are..



The name sticks around.

So do you.


Do check out the Smokework page if you haven’t already and you’re curious about the medicines mentioned in this chapter! I’m a historian and have put a lot of work into researching herbal and non-synthesized medications – not because I don’t appreciate the medications we have today (I very much do, actually) but because in the time period BCaC is modelled off of, they simply weren’t available. Laudanum really was used this casually in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, as well as cocaine, opium, nicotine and other worrying substances like belladonna, mandrake and wolfsbane. Synthesized medications didn’t start being used until the fifties and sixties.

Edited June 19th.


Bell, Clock and Candle is free to read online and I don’t plan on changing that; however, if you like it and want to support its author, please consider supporting me with a Patreon pledge or a Ko-fi donation! For bonus goodies, Patreon readers get every chapter a week early.

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