In-a: Ancient Greece/Rome (your choice, but traveler is stuck with no way of returning to home time)
With-a: Time Travel Cheat Sheet (link #1, link #2, or just Google Image Search Time Travel Cheat Sheet)
While-a: Citizen is being obstructionistBonus if you show the aftermath, and how half-remembered History lessons and the cheat sheet avoided the Dark Ages
It should have worked. It was perfectly calculated down to the second.
But Evan had forgotten about planetary motion through time. He was lucky there was a tree, there. He was really lucky the Earth was still in roughly the same place.
Luck had nothing to do with the cheat sheet, though. Five pages of tightly-spaced text and useful images of coin, persons of interest, and places.
This place looked nothing like ancient Rome.
Ancient Rome never had bamboo.
Evan climbed carefully down - rural medicine never changed, and was full of words starting with ‘un’. Unhygenic. Unreliable. Unmedicinal. Okay. He had a compass in with the other useful things in his pack. All he had to do was remember basic survival orientation.
Downhill and downstream. Sooner or later, you hit a town. Then get some directions.
And that was when he really knew it had all gone pants.
The rural citizens did not look like the rural citizens of ancient Rome. They looked more like the rural citizens of ancient China.
He had two options. Take a two-to-five year hike along the silk road and pick up his meddling late or…
He knew some Mandarin thanks to his grandma. He could learn the rest. This was a time when anyone could get a position they wanted if they could pass the exams.
And the emperors were always after some potion of longevity.
He knew his chemistry. It was one of the skills he’d learned to meddle in ancient Rome. Likewise some basic herbology and the foods it would be wise to eat.
He started smallish. The gold in his pack would raise questions, since he’d minted it himself. But one ounce of gold was one ounce of gold, no matter where it came from. He bought a cart and some sandals and a 'proper’ haircut from someone who knew their stuff. He exchanged some of his gold for local coin, as well as some herbs he knew were efficacious.
Then he started curing people.
It didn’t take long for word to spread around. In two months, he was before the emperor. Who was showing the signs of mercury poisoning, as well as the sallow hue of liver trouble.
“I must warn the gracious emperor that some of my methods include blood-letting.”
“Yet you rarely use leeches,” said the emperor.
“Leeches have their uses, in moderation,” Evan allowed. “I find much more knowledge in the study of blood.”
“Yes. We have seen your notes. What language is this written in?”
“The language of my home, Friidonia, your majesty.”
“You will teach some students, should your methods succeed. Should they fail…”
Yeah. He knew. “I understand, your eminence.”
The first thing he did was throw out all the potions with mercury in them. And the alchemists who used and endorsed mercury. He put the emperor on a diet that would take all the toxins out and introduced the man to colloidal silver.
A combination of diet, exercise and herbal teas, all wrapped in mumbo-jumbo of course, saw the liver heal and the illnesses leak away from the emperor.
Working out how to create oxygen in his lab and pipe it into the emperor’s bedchamber helped the old man feel awake and vigorous the next morning. And the right style of mumbo-jumbo helped keep him active and got him healthier.
Then came the students. Or rather, the students’ exams.
It was sheet after sheet of poetry.
“What in the name of the four dragons is this?”
“Your potential students, honoured physician.”
“They wrote poems.”
“Yes. The best poet is one most suited to serve the emperor.”
“Ah.” Evan picked up the sheets and threw them in the fire. “I don’t want poets. I want the kind of people who ask questions, not the kind of people who think they know all the answers.”
He took them for tours through his lab in groups of four. First, the best poets then down the list of official approval until he found one who asked a question.
The question was, “What is that Friidonian chart on your wall?” the girl asking pointed to the table of elements poster he had placed out of direct sunlight.
“You can stay and learn,” said Evan.
He found students amongst those who couldn’t write a line of poetry. He found one cleaning the floor.
And then he found the emperor in his classroom.
“I expected a certain amount of nonsense from you,” said the emperor. “But you reject the highest amongst my scholars and accept… the unclean.”
“I’ve purified them with my own methods,” Evan said. “And as I told your school administrator, I want the students who ask questions. Not the ones who think they know all the answers.”
“Why?” said the emperor.
“Because they will be interested in finding the answer.”
The emperor stayed for the time he had, which Evan used as a lesson on dumbing down science to a level the client can understand. This involved demons, dragons, and malevolent forces working against the rule of heaven and nature combined.
The five of them came up with a code, which also included the table of elements. The floor cleaner drew up a wall mural, a real work of art, that included working herbal remedies and dietary supplements cross-referenced with existing pseudoscience.
She knew. The greatest challenge was to get the patient to swallow the medicine. Including the medicine of how to keep an empire strong and healthy.
Evan was an old man when China discovered Rome. Like everywhere else they discovered, they established an embassy and small trade colony and documented the living crap out of extant civilization they found there.
Like everywhere else, they offered education and medicine in the native language and superstitions.
Evan had to wonder if the Australian natives would be happier about that than how it turned out in his own history. Hell, he wondered how history would write this down.
He changed an empire. And that changed the world.