Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Alchemy

The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 16

Like most alchemists, Linus was trying to turn iron into gold. Unlike most alchemsists, Linus viewed his work not as a means to become wealthier, but as a symbolic gesture of personal improvement. After all, if he could find a way to transform iron, a base and common metal worth so little that it was used to represent the smallest denomination of currency, into the pinnacle of aesthetic beauty and inherent value that was gold, then perhaps there was a way to turn a normal person into someone special.

Like most alchemists, Linus had made no progress in his research.

Alchemy could do wondrous things. Certain reagents could combine to produce light, cure poison, or even ignite and explode. A stone wrought from the proper alchemical procedure would produce smoke when cracked. Linus frequently wished he had been around before universal solvent was discovered, because knowing the recipe now made it seem so easy to figure out. Alchemy could do a lot of things, except apparently help the alchemist to figure out what he was doing with his life.

Linus tried to push the boundaries of his field. He had studied magic, and knew a few spells, and he often experimented with casting those spells on his potions to try and create new effects. Usually he just created a mess, but a failed experiment gives more information than one never attempted, his old mentor used to say. His eyebrows tended to disagree.

There was a knock on the door. Linus stood up and walked across the small room to the staircase, which was actually a stack of crates containing reagents like bruisepatch and pepperrose. He got down to the first floor and went to open the door, peering through the spyhole and undoing the three padlocks first. A courier greeted him.

"Package for you, sir," the courier said, handing a wooden box over to the dwarf. Linus handed him back a few iron coins in return. The courier wrinkled his nose and sulked away. Linus shook his head and resealed the door. The lad didn't realize that what he held had the possibility of being worth far greater! Of course, Linus admitted, couriers were scarce these days, and it didn't do to spread ill will among them. Well, he'd tip higher when his potions started selling better.

Linus brought the box upstairs and clomped it down onto his desk. He put on his leather gloves and removed the lid, which showed a blue design of a water droplet. The bottles inside looked like they contained small beads of dew which had somehow not melted together. Linus nodded, glad to have more dewstones since his stock had grown low.

He began to set up his brewing station in preparation for his most common task, brewing healing potions. They were easy to make there was always a market for them, what with the tavern brawls and gang fights going on every night across the town. He set the first batch brewing, dropped in a couple dewstones, and moved on to a more interesting task.

While he was writing down a calculation that seemed at first to hint at a method of multiplying silver, but now looked like it was causing a division by zero, something at the brewing station caught Linus's eye. He stood up and saw that the potion, which should have been a hearty red bubbling at boil, was a sickly maroon color and was simmering at best.

Strange. He hadn't made a mistake on a healing potion since he was barely a novice alchemist. By now, he was a full-fledged novice, and errors on such simple recipes were beneath him. He scratched his beard, which was more like a scrubbing brush that had been glued to his chin.

Linus turned off the heat and wafted the smell into his nose. He cringed and coughed at the pungent odor. Starting to sweat, he used tongs to remove a dewstone from the bottle he had used. It seemed fine, but he noticed something else. The bottle itself was coated in a thin layer of some translucent oil that must have dripped into the potion when he added the dewstones.

Linus sealed the box and dumped the potion. He gathered up some of his belongings into a rucksack, unlocked the door, and bolted out into the night, leaving the door ajar. Someone wanted an alchemist dead, or worse. Someone who had access to an entire warehouse of alchemical supplies. Linus promised to whatever god was listening that if he was spared from this assassination attempt, or whatever it was, he would pay the courier more next time. For now, he had to get out of town.

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