Turning Tales Week 7: Make a Scene!

Welcome to the seventh week of Turning Tales!

This week’s writing topic: change and chemistry :alembic: :test_tube:

Prompt

An unannounced visitor knocks on the alchemist’s door. Once, twice, a third time, impatiently. The alchemist makes his way to the door. He has taken far too much of his latest elixir.

What happens next? Write this scene with a beginning, a climax, and an ending. The purpose of a scene is to show change.
Challenge your characters, push them to make decisions, and find them in a different place, position or state of mind to the one they started in.

The choice is yours... but what will the consequences be?

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TEMPEST FUGIT

I banged more than knocked on the door. It was huge and heavy and had been the barrier between the Alchemist and the rest of the world for centuries. No answer. I was now getting desperate. I had exactly 15 minutes before my portal opened again and I could get home. I banged twice more in rapid succession. That should get him!

I heard the locks start to work on the other side. I knew there were thirty. Thirty locks, and the old man moved in slow motion at best.
“Twenty -eight, twenty-nine, thirty!” I breathed a sigh of relief as the door started to open.
My mother had started bringing me to this weird and wonderful place when I was a child. Back then I had been terrified. My child’s brain could not comprehend the gift the old man was to our lives. The secret of how to open the Portal to get here had, I knew, been past down in our family for so long no-one even knew when or how it had all started and at that moment I could care less.

“Come on PLEASE!” I called out as the door slowly opened and the the old man’s hand appeared. I hated this part, always had. The old wizened hand was presented before I even saw the rest of him and I slowly kissed the veined, blue and cold flesh. It tasted like something between an old prune and Sahara sand. I had never tasted either, but a girl can have an imagination.
“Joe, I need your help please!” His full name was Josephus Pontus Anacropolis Jones. Don’t ask. I don’t know. What I DO know is that he had been getting too close to vapours again. His hair was as blue as his old dried up skin.
“And I suppose you are in a hurry my child.” He looked at me for the first time and as usual, I melted. Joe had the kindest blue eyes. They were the kind of eyes that glistened and as you looked at your reflection in them, you could feel the goodness of this man.
I felt bad, as usual. “Yes please,” I was out of breath. “I have to get back before it’s too late!”
“OK,OK”. Joe turned and shuffled along to his work bench. There were times when I loved to walk with him and catch up on the latest news. Who had been in, what time period they were from, what they wanted. You just wouldn’t believe it!! But today I was walking quickly, hoping he would catch on and move faster.
“What is it my child?” he asked. I loved how he called me ‘my child’. “Are you back for more of the magic elixir?”
“Yes please!” I only have a minute before I have to get back. Next time I promise I will stay to chat!" Something about the way he looked at me showed me quite plainly that he wasn’t going to hold his breath, In slow motion he reached up and grabbed a familiar looking bottle. I gave him my empty. I got a discount if I refilled.
Joe poured out every drop ever so slowly, capped my bottle and handed it back.
I could see the Portal opening for me. I really had’t programmed in enough time.
“I have to go…I will be back soon!”
I stepped through the Portal feeling guilty and before I knew it, I was back in my laundry room. My son’s football uniform, completely grass stained, lay on the dryer. Over the years, many mother’s had asked me how I keep our son’s uniform so white. I always made up an answer, mumbling something incoherent. I believe they all thought I had some kind of mind to mouth disease and pretty much left me alone now.
I poured some elixir on the uniform and dropped it into the washer. I had just enough time before the big game to get it washed and dried. I looked in the mirror. I dragged my hair out of my eyes and repined it, and something caught my eye. It was a long blue hair. I disengaged it from the fibres of my sweater, and all of a sudden the uniform was not my priority. I had done it again. I had let one life overtake the other.
I left a note on the table wishing our son (Joseph) luck and told him where to find his uniform. He would see the Portal had been used and know where I was.
The Portal swept me back to the Alchemist shop in seconds, and this time I landed back inside the shop. Highly unusual!
I stepped out to see Joe sitting at the ornate tea table. He was pouring two cups of Earl Grey. There was a plate of biscuits and scones along with some clotted cream and jam.
“How did you know I would be back?” I asked as I took my place at the table.
Joe just twinkled at me as his old man’s hand handed me my tea. “One lump or two?” he asked. He took a sip of his own tea and started to talk.

Alchemy Sounded Good At The Time

This is the oldest story in the book. He desires the one thing he cannot have…

After three harsh knocks pounded on the oak door, the robed figure turned the handle. The door creaked open, sending a scream of metal scraping on metal down the hallway. As soon as the door was partially ajar, the smell of rotten, fetid flesh escaped, with the haste of a child on the last day of school.

Slumped over a mahogany desk, was the Alchemist. Broken jars scattered the floor where he’d flung them off in a futile attempt to find something, or so it seemed. On a separate desk, a few feet away, lay an open casket. Displayed in the casket was a women dressed in white. Her skin was almost the same shade of white as her dress.

The robed figure took a few paces towards the man and looked at the scene. They shook their head.

Resting in the palm of the Alchemist was a scrap of parchment. With bony fingers, the figure reached down and grabbed it. He unfolded the slip and read:

‘My daring, I lay myself at your feet. And I shall stay the hands of fate. I have found a way to trick the ferryman. I have deceived the ancient gods. Cold flesh lends itself to me… its secrets. Each day brings me closer to you…for a price too high…my tragic victory… I shudder at what I have done. Chills take me as she wakes. Throat gasps tainted breath. I’ve reclaimed you… my stolen bride. Can your soul forgive my crimes of passion? As the dawning sky brings forth one forsaken thought, Death cannot win… for I now dwell in the palace of decay.’

Death shook his head and sniggered. “Foolish mortal. He’s gone and done all the work for me. Where’s the fun in that.” Death scooped the man up with ease and swung his scythe, creating a black slit in time and space. Before stepping through, he turned to the woman in the casket, “I’ll be back for you very soon, no one can cheat me.”

Death stepped through the portal, chuckling away at the pettiness of mankind and their unholy creations.

Tapestry

“Yes, yes, yes!” he grumbled. “Who is it?”
The door swung open. OK, so it had a bit of help from my foot.
“Jace! What are you doing here?”
“Father, I need your help”
“What have you done now?
“Nothing, I just need a few things for a project. No faith in me, old man?”
“Plenty of faith that you’re up to something! What do you need?”
“Purple Murex, saffron, carmine, woad and spinach. I need the colours.”
“They aren’t all edible, you know?” he said as he busied himself with his jars and putting ingredients into little bags.
“Yes, father, I know, I’m not planning a stew, it’s to dye threads” The elderly alchemist chuckled.
“Taking up sewing, boy? That doesn’t sound like you!”
“Everyone needs a hobby, Dad. Hey, sit down, I didn’t mean to make you laugh until you.passed out.”
“I’ve heard of die laughing, but never thought I would.” wheezed the old man.
I made him some tea, with a hint of chamomile and lavender, with enough astringent leaves to open up his bronchi. He didn’t seem to be in pain, so I knew he’s had too much poppy again, but didn’t have the heart to slip him any antidote. What would it matter? The growth would kill him soon enough, if my new project failed–yes, sewing (I chuckled to myself). If it worked, he wouldn’t need any more.
“Thanks, Lad. Have I given you enough to be going on with? You can have more if you need it.” He handed over the package of small bags. That was plenty. With those samples, I could make more, though he would never know it.
“I must go, Dad, I’m meeting Gia tonight and I want to make something for her.”
“OK, son. Give her my best wishes, see you soon.”

I walked briskly down the street towards the workshops. I had everything set up ready for the dying process. On the big table, lay five skeins of lamb’s wool, each in a spotlessly clean adamantine bowl, a canvas on a hand-frame and water. I made a fire and put the water on to boil, infusing the water with a little extra spirit to quicken the process. I ran the blessed blade over the palm of my right hand, allowing a little blood to mingle with the water. I poured most of the contents of a pouch onto each skein of wool, before taking the water off the heat and waiting thirty seconds before adding a measure of water to each of the bowls. I held my hand over the first bowl, watching carefully as the herb lost all its colour into the water, then repeated the action for the other bowls, moving all the depleted substances into the bin without touching them. Dad had no idea that I could mind-move things at will, he didn’t know I could do lots of things. I duplicated the remaining samples until the bags refilled, just in case. I thought at the purple murex solution to condense it into a small drop, almost black, then carefully, oh so carefully, wove the picture of lungs onto the canvas with pictures of medicinal plants touching them, as my druid girlfriend had described, then placed one drop of black murex into the centre of each lung. The drop spread like a spider, crawling through ink. I focussed, fading the colour out of the ink, leaving behind a deep red stain, which faded as I watched. Still concentrating, I could feel the energy leaving me as the colour faded even more. I didn’t have enough power. I was going to fail.

Gia melted in from the shadows and put her hand on my shoulder, under my shirt, and I felt her warmth flow into me. I felt it flow through me and into the canvas, taking the last of the dark with it, leaving a picture of healthy lungs behind it.

When I woke up, I had a blinding headache and couldn’t see. I heard Gia’s breathing. You did it, Jace. You did it. Rest well.” I could hear her crying softly, but I was content. There is always a cost, only time would tell if it were permanent.

What It Feels Like to Drown
The night was at its darkest when the knock came. Once, twice, each in rapid succession. Their harsh noise woke the alchemist with a start, and she trudged to the door. She pulled it open to see nothing, save for a flash of fiery hair.
Could it be? No, that’s impossible. It’s just her latest elixir, the midnight blue making her see things that aren’t really there. She was warned about the side effects when she began making it. Try too hard to forget, and the lines between reality and dream start to blur.
But she could’ve sworn that hair was there, that she could’ve reached out and grabbed at its coils. So, against her better judgement, she grabbed her thickest cloak and ventured into the dark.
The alchemist trekked deeper into the surrounding forest, scanning the dark nothingness for that flash of red again. And, like the first spark of a fire, it reappeared.
Her mind went blank and she ran to find it, to see it again in its entirety. Her mind went blank — from the elixir or pure desire, she couldn’t tell — and she ran until the dirt under her feet became sand.
The lake. Of course she’s back at the lake, because that’s where Trix drowned. Or rather, where she drowned Trix. Trix, with her fiery red curls and gnawing curiousity. Curiousity was valuable in an assistant, but Trix’s was too strong. She knew Trix was too close to her, and close is dangerous in this line of work. So she lured Trix to the lake, and held her down until the bubbles stopped rising. After, she threw herself into elixirs and work to hide the pain within, the small part willing to recognize the horrors of what she’d done.
But here Trix stood, waist-deep in the river, and the alchemist found herself shedding her cloak and joining her. The only thing she wanted was to apologize to explain. It’s for your own good! She wanted to shout. And that fire in the alchemist’s heart burned hot enough to hide the icy bite of the lake as she walked deeper, deeper still. Until the bubbles stopped.

They all say the water is what killed her, but grief drowned her first.

The Elixir of Time

Ignoring the shouts from outside in the street, the hurried footfalls down wooden stairs, Cardoc carefully dropped three pinches of crushed spagyric plumbago to the blue tincture bubbling away in his distilling flask above a burning candle. At the last drop, the liquid turned crystal clear. Quickly he removed the flask from the flame and poured its contents into a beaker. The brew was ready.

Two loud bangs shook the heavy oak workroom door. The time had come. Cardoc drank down the elixir in one gulp, praying to the devil this time he had the ingredients right. He had no way of knowing where the last person to whom he had given the potion was now. At first he felt no reaction, only the warm liquid sliding down his throat, his gullet. At the third bang, he shuffled towards the door, turned the handle and pulled it open.

A guardsman of the King stood before him, legs astride, spear in hand. “Cardoc Mankskill, you are under arrest for poisoning the Queen and using your foul magic to make her vanish.”

One of Cardoc’s teeth fell out and clattered to the floor.

“You must…” The guardsman did not finish his words, to horrified to see more of his prisoner’s teeth drop from his mouth. Another followed. An avalanche of them until there were none left to fall. Before his bewildered eyes he watched as the old man aged rapidly. His long unruly black hair turning grey then white. Clumps of it falling to the floor. His face growing wane and drawn, his cheeks sinking into his mouth, his lips drooping. His eyes misting.

“Stop. Your magic will not—” Before the guard could say more, Cardoc faded, hollows where there should have been flesh and bone. All at once, the old man’s brown horsehair habit fell to the floor in a heap.

Cardoc had vanished.

A thousand miles away Queen Kadenza with outstretched arms and a smile to lighten the darkest of nights ran towards her young lover. “It worked, it worked!”

“Of course it worked,” Cardoc said, taking her into his arms. “Did you ever doubt?”

“A little, my sweet. But you are here now.”

Cardoc laughed. “Yes, and we are safe where no one can find us. Least of all the King. I made him a special powder this afternoon and dropped it into his wine glass. He will not wake up. Ever.”

The Visitor

An unannounced visitor knocks on the Alchemist’s door. Once, twice, a third time, impatiently. The Alchemist makes his way to the door. He has taken far too much of his latest elixir.

He stumbled towards the door, barely avoiding the various glass bottles and vials left strewn across the old, wooden floor. He pondered who would be mad enough to risk being seen outside the Alchemist’s door.

As the impatient visitor knocked yet again on the door, the Alchemist let out an irritated growl, “I heard you the first three times; you need not knock a hole through my door.”

The knocks stopped at once at the sound of his deep, gravelly voice. The Alchemist let out a brief sigh of relief, the constant pounding doing little more than worsening the headache he was trying to work through.

I should not have taken more than necessary. Gods know I brewed this batch stronger than before.

Finally, the Alchemist reached the front door and, upon swinging it open, was met with nothing but the night and the heavy rain that fell upon the street in front of him. He shook his head, ready to close the door and dismiss the pounding as an ill side effect of the elixir when he heard a quiet whimper below him.

There, huddled helplessly on his doorstep, was a young girl. She could not have been more than ten years old, but her stature was much smaller than it should be. She was thin and pale, with dark purple bruises dotting her arms. Her dress was torn and soiled from the storm, and she weakly reached out a hand, tugging slightly on the bottom of the Alchemist’s robe.

Unable to turn away from the girl, the Alchemist quickly swept her into his arms, bringing her deeper into his lab. He sat her by the fire, burning an unnatural green, and set upon making an elixir to warm her body and heal her wounds.

“What happened to you, young one,” He asked in a whispered tone. “How did you find yourself on my doorstep?”

The girl responded in a voice so weak and broken the Alchemist ad to strain his ears to hear her properly.

“The boys in the village. They do not like me much. They do not like what I can do.”

Her unexpected answer drew the Alchemist’s attention, and he halted his actions. “And what is it that you can do?”

“Magic.”

Hurridly, the Alchemist dropped his tools and crouched at the girl’s bedside. “Magic?”

“Yes. A horrible, uncontrollable magic. I have not studied one book of spells, yet magic flows through my veins and hurts those around me.”

“Can you show me?”

The girl hesitated before nodding once, shifting so she sat on the old cot upon which she was resting. Closing her eyes, the girl drew in a shaky breath, holding out her hand as a small flame materialized above. The flame felt hot despite its icy blue appearance, and the Alchemist reeled back before any harm could come to him.

Upon seeing the flame, the young girl opened her eyes and gasped in fear before extinguishing it. Her hands shook violently as her chest heaved with heavy breaths.

“Sorry. I try not to hold it too long; it loses control.”

Instead of the fear and horror the young girl was expecting, a small smile graced the Alchemist’s lips. He grasped her shaking hand in his own, holding it close.

“A magic like yours, primal and instinctive, only manifests itself once in a generation. Those who fear you because of it are ignorant, jealous creatures who do not know how to deal with those different than themselves. They shun me because of what I can make. They call me a Demon who makes deals with the Shadows of Hell, yet come running to me when they are in desperate need of aid.”

The young girl stared into the cold eyes of the Alchemist. It was true; she grew up hearing stories that warned her of the Devil in the woods, who sacrificed his soul to do dark magic, who lacked any empathy or capacity for human emotions. Yet looking into his eyes, she saw none of that. It was the boys in the village who had no souls. The Elders cried “Witch” and ostracized her from her family, which had no empathy.

The man in front of her was simply that, a man. He was a man with knowledge of the world and the magic it possesses but a man nonetheless. More than that, he was the first to show her kindness, even after her secret was revealed.

“Thank you, Alchemist,” she whispered. “Thank you for showing me kindness and understanding.”

The Alchemist smiled softly, feeling her grip loosen in his own.

“Those who have hurt you will pay for what they have done. I will train you to harness your magic, and we will show them all the truth about people like us. But for now, rest. I have a tonic that will heal your injuries and help you sleep.”

The girl nodded as the Alchemist stood and retreated to a shelf full of vials, all containing a mysterious liquid.

One day she would master her magic. And one day, she would make the whole village feel her wrath. One day she would burn the world, sparing none except the one who showed her kindness.

But for now, she would rest.

The Alchemist

An unannounced visitor knocked on the alchemist’s door. Once, twice, a third time, impatiently.

Jariko took a step toward the door, but his foot slowly sank into the wooden pool at his feet. He fought against the dread creeping into the nape of his neck. He held out his hand in front of him for balance, but even his hand was molten. He swiped his arm to catch hold of something, anything. He expected his work table to catch him, but it dodged his best efforts by sinking into the floor. He heard glass bottles breaking as he grasped for some mode of control, but the glass only dripped in a melted mess.

Was reality really melting, or only his mind?

The knocking continued, sending ripples through the door. Is this what people meant by “seeing sounds”?

He stopped moving, allowing his molten flesh to hover over his work bench for a moment, as he gathered his thoughts. He could not yet identify what vials he had broken, so it would be best to reduce the chaos he was creating.

The sound of glass breaking, and a red stream seeping into his fluid hand suggested he only bent his perspective.

Light from the lanterns around his room refracted as though he were seeing them in bath water. Was he seeing air then?

Very well. Whether mind or matter, he knew well the best mode of transportation in water.

Jariko held his breath and swam to the door. Placing his hand on the lock, he knew that once the door opened, he would know for sure whether the absurd changes were only in his mind.

He opened the door.

The open door revealed his workroom but no one was in the room. Jariko was alone and all was as it should be.

The walls were lined with shelves of books, and in the center was a table laden with an assortment of vials and steaming liquids of a variety of colors. Cold instruments littered the table, some used for measuring, but others were marked with symbols and calculations.

He noted that none of the vials were broken. The wooden floor was intact, and the lanterns produced a consistent flame.

He turned around, and found he was standing alongside the back wall, opposite of the door.

A singular glass bottle filled with a dark liquid filled his hand. It was the same hand that only moments ago was melting into a mess.

But if this was reality, how did he only just now come to it? He looked back at the wall, noting only that it was lined with a mirror.

Everything reflected back in its proper place. Everything else but him.

He looked terrified. He felt confused, and so he knew he should find a bewildered expression. So why did he look so scared? The vial in his reflected hand was empty.

In a panic he began knocking at his reflection, who stared in horror but never returned the favor.

He knocked once, twice, a third time impatiently, but his reflection rippled like a pool of silver water and disappeared.

Now, who’s a fool

An unannounced visitor knocks on the alchemist’s door. Once, twice, a third time, impatiently. The alchemist makes his way to the door. He has taken far too much of his latest elixir.

“Good god, Sir. Let me help you to your couch you need to lie down. You look terrible”

Tom could not recognise the strange smell that insulted his nostrils. In the centre of the room surrounded by small bowls, stood a small seat similar to a milking stool but made of metal. A large wooden barrel placed on the chair oozed a strange purple foam. Tom stared transfixed as the mixture slowly filled each bowl with the peculiar elixir.

“Don’t stand there like a dumb peacock boy, why are you here. I didn’t expect you till later. You have always been a fool. Don’t just stand there place the lid on the barrel.” Tom stared at the older man. His eyes looked glazed, and his face flushed red.

“I’m expecting a visitor, be ready to greet him at the door. I have a new investor.”

Tom stared at his master, the alchemist, as he eased himself onto his couch and closed his eyes,

“Don’t calls me a fool.” Returning to the studio he looked at the mixtures in the containers around the barrel. A miniature gold nugget deliberately placed in an empty bowl by the side of the barrel sparkled by a candle’s light. A gentle knock brought him back to reality.

In the doorway, his back bent stood a smartly dressed gentleman. Years had not been kind to him. Tom noticed the tiredness in his attire, an older man who had fallen on hard times.

“Where is your master, young man? I have an appointment” Looking around the room his eyes immediately set sight on the gold nugget.

“With my help he’s going to make me rich.”

Tom stood back and suddenly realised why this old was here.

“Come in, sir. My master is asleep. He has drunk too much of his ONLY successful Elixer.” The gentleman looked puzzled at the young man, his hand trembling as he lent on his walking cane

“I’m sorry to say sir he’s drunk. He is taking your money because you think he can make you rich. He can’t. You must not give him your money.” The elderly man looked around the room, then feld out his hand to Tom

Thank you, young man take my hand. Work for me instead of that scoundrial and thief. I can’t pay you much, but I’m honest.

“Thank sir sir I will.” He looked back at the door where his ex master lay drunk.

“Now who’s a fool.”

The Alchemist

An unannounced visitor firmly knocked on the alchemist’s door. Once twice, a third time… impatiently. The Alchemist made his way to the door, his long black robe creating a whooshing sound with every step. He had taken far too much of his latest elixir to deal with an unknown visitor calling at this late hour.

The alchemist reluctantly opened the door to find his apprentice standing there with his hand perched as if he were about to knock for a fourth time.

‘Alfred, what brings you around at this time of day? And that knocking…’ the alchemist stepped aside to allow Alfred to enter.

‘Yes, sir. I mean… sorry sir, but I thought this to be an urgent matter that you’d like to know about,’ Alfred paused, seeming to gather his thoughts.

‘Keep going then, young man. The night is late and I’m ready to retire.’ The alchemist poured two glasses of a fine red and handed one to Alfred.

‘Thank you, sir… it’s just Luci’s gone missing again and I cannot find her this time. It’s almost as if she’s… vanished,’ Alfred paled as he spoke the last word.

‘You’ve checked every corner of the castle?’

‘Every corner sir… even… the dungeons.’

Luci was the alchemist’s youngest daughter and was frequently getting into mischief. She had quite the fascination with the art of alchemy and often pried into things that she shouldn’t be prying into. Locked cupboards, loose floorboards, old trunks… you name it Luci would find her way in. Except she never ventured into the dungeons exclaiming it was way too dark and scary.

Alfred and the alchemist had been working on a highly classified project in the dungeons involving time travel and if Luci had finally found the courage to meander into the depths of the dungeons it was possible that she may have wandered into said project and if that was the case there was no telling when or where Luci may be.

‘I suppose it will be a long night Alfred. We must find her or face serious consequences.’ The alchemist didn’t know what those consequences would be, but he certainly didn’t want to find out.

For now, we shall leave the alchemist and Alfred as they embark on an adventure. Time travel is complicated, but with any luck they should be able to reach Luci, but will all three of them be able to come back?

Adrian ambled toward the door. “I’m coming, I’m coming!” he called. He was dimly aware of stumbling as he went. “Vanessa,” he called, addressing his feather quill as he glanced over his shoulder, “let the record show that the new potion can cause issues with balance.” He’d only had a few sips of it, but it was his first trial, so things were bound to go wrong.
Vanessa didn’t answer, of course. Animating his quill was one thing; giving her a mind of her own was another entirely. When he was younger, he could have done it, but not now. He was so limited.
The sound of Vanessa’s tip scratching against the parchment he’d laid out for her filled his workshop. Another frantic knock sounded at the door. “By the goddess, I said I was coming!” Adrian shouted. He was slurring his words. As he reached the door, he told Vanessa to write that down, too. Then he began to unlock the five different locks keeping it shut. Though his thoughts were somewhat addled, he had the sense to be curious. He hadn’t had a real visitor in years. Vanessa had been his only company since he was seventeen, except for once a year, when his mother dropped in. Now, five years since his exile, he wasn’t even sure he knew how to speak to another person.
Finally, Adrian flung open the door to reveal a woman standing there, her hand poised to knock again. She dropped it awkwardly when she saw him. He didn’t recognize her at first. but as he took her in–the long waves of auburn that fell halfway down her back, the brown freckles sprinkled across her pale skin, the blue-green eyes sharper than every knife he owned–his blood froze where it ran in his veins.
“Vanessa,” he said, but he wasn’t truly speaking to her, “let the record show that the potion causes hallucinations. Because surely Herminia Corbin isn’t standing in the rain outside my door.”
Vanessa dutifully copied down his words. As she did, Herminia winced. “Hello, Adrian.”
A harsh laugh tore from Adrian’s lips. The sound made Herminia recoil, but Adrian couldn’t have cared less. “‘Hello?’ Really? That’s all I get?”
Herminia shuddered. “Can I come in?”
“Hm, let me think,” Adrian said. He tapped his chin with one long finger, scrutinizing her. “No.”
“Adrian,” she beseeched. “This is important.”
He glared at her for a long time. It hurt a little, to stare into those eyes that were so horribly familiar. He’d loved them so long ago. But bitterness had long since colored his vision, and he wanted nothing more than to never see them again.
Nonetheless, they broke down his defenses, just as they always had. There was a solemnity to them. Whatever happened really must have been important. Fear spiked suddenly within Adrian as he wondered if someone had been hurt. Perhaps his mother? He turned away from the door. “Fine. Come in.”
He heard Herminia enter behind him. The door shut, and the locks slid back into place. “I could kill you right now,” he mused, more to himself than to Herminia. “It would be easy enough. Nobody here to see.”
“Just hear me out,” she begged.
Adrian lifted the vial containing his newest potion to his lips. He craved more of that sensation, that same strange haziness that had overtaken him until Herminia’s sudden presence had sobered him up. When he slammed the vial back down, he waved at her. “Fine. Go ahead.”
Herminia sighed. “Adrian, please tell me you’re not sampling your potions on yourself. That’s completely against the Mage League’s codes–”
“Have you come to lecture me?” he snapped, whipping back around. “There’s no one else here, Herminia. Or have you forgotten what you did to me?”
She held her head high, though Adrian could have sworn he saw guilt flash behind her eyes. “I don’t regret it.”
“Really?” Adrian scoffed. “Typical. You get me exiled, left with this pathetic excuse for magic.” He punctuated his words with a wave of his arm toward the potion bottles on the wall. “And you don’t even feel bad about it.”
“I did what I had to do.” It may have been his imagination, but she sounded less sure.
“You betrayed me,” he jeered. Unable to stop, he added, “All because you were jealous of my skills.”
Fury contorted Herminia’s face. “You were using dark magic, Adrian! It was rotting your soul from the inside out, rotting through the whole town! It would have gone through this world if I hadn’t reported you!”
“You were my friend!” Adrian’s voice cracked, but he didn’t care. “I told you about it in confidence!”
“It wasn’t safe, for you or anyone! I did it because I care!”
Adrian snorted. “Yeah, right. Because you care about yourself, that is. And about being the most powerful mage in town.”
Ever the peacemaker, Herminia said, “Look, can’t we put this all behind us? There are more important things than our petty feud–”
“Petty feud?” Adrian could hardly believe his ears. He was half convinced that he was hallucinating all of this. It certainly couldn’t be real. “What you told the League made them lock my magic. I’m stuck being an alchemist, Herminia. We both know that’s just cheap tricks, not magic.”
“I’m sorry,” Herminia said. “It was a poor choice of words. I just–I need to talk to you. Please.”
“We’re talking now, aren’t we?” He shook his head, mumbling curses at her under his breath. They’d have no effect, of course, not with his magic locked. But it was therapeutic nonetheless.
“This is serious, Adrian.” The solemnity in her voice made him go quiet. He’d never heard Herminia sound that grave, not even when she’d declared his sins for her whole village to hear.
“What is it?”
Herminia sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Something is…happening in the village.”
Her tone made Adrian stand straighter. “What do you mean?”
“You’re going to think I’m insane, but things have begun,” she opened her fists and shut them, searching for the words, “glowing. It started simple–old fruits in Celeste’s market, a few pieces of metal in the blacksmith’s shop. But it’s spread now. The light comes up through the cracks in the street, breaks through roofs at night. And when it touches people,” she shook her head, “it burns them. They manage to escape sometimes, but a few people–the Garrow family, that old widow, the schoolteacher–they haven’t gotten away fast enough.”
“What are you talking about?” He stared at her. “You don’t mean they’re–”
“Gone,” she finished.
Adrian stared at her, horrified. “No. No, you can’t be serious.”
“And that’s not all,” Herminia continued. “The pattern on the things that begin glowing–it’s just like the pattern that started forming on the things you rotted. Except when you rotted things, they turned black and crumbled away. But this is just pure light. It hurts to look at, it really does.”
“Hold on,” Adrian interrupted, not willing to hear any more. “What do I have to do with this? I don’t have magic anymore, remember? Surely you don’t think this is my fault.”
Herminia squeezed her eyes shut. “I don’t. In fact, I think the exact opposite.”
That caught him off guard. He cocked his head, staring at her. “What?”
“I think–or rather, the League thinks,” Herminia said carefully, “that this blight is the product of light magic used for evil deeds. And just like how the only cure for dark magic blights is light magic…”
“You think you need dark magic to fix this,” said Adrian. “Herminia, you can’t possibly–”
“I know it’s outrageous,” she said. “But it’s our only lead. If there’s any chance it could work, even just a bit…” She lifted her gaze to meet his, her brows low over her eyes. “Adrian, you’re the only person who’s mastered the use of dark magic in years.”
Adrian’s eyes widened. “You can’t be serious.”
“I am,” she said.
He shook his head emphatically. “You want me to come back, use my dark magic to get rid of this whole thing.”
“Exactly.”
“Herminia, even if I thought this was a good idea, I don’t have magic!”
“I can unlock it for you,” she said. She lowered her voice and moved toward him. “Please, Adrian. We’re–we’re scared. More scared than we’ve been in years. People are dying, and we have no way of knowing how to stop this or save our families. My parents, your mother, anyone could be next. And if we let this fester, it will spread.” From somewhere within her skirts, she drew out a long, dagger-sharp key. It was pure white, and the end of it was covered in dried red blood. The key used to take my magic, he recalled.
“You’re serious about this, aren’t you,” he said.
“I am. Dead serious.”
Adrian looked down at himself, at his tattered robes. He looked around at the workshop he’d come to know so well. Then he looked back at Herminia, the friend who’d betrayed him, and the bloodied key cradled in her hands.
He held out his palm. “I’ll do it.”

###Future Gifts

An unannounced visitor knocked on the alchemist’s door. Once, twice, a third time, impatiently. The alchemist makes his way to the door. He has taken far too much of his latest elixir.

“I’m coming… though whoever you are better have an extremely good reason for disturbing me while I’m working.”

Well, working wasn’t exactly what he was doing. He had been trying, once again, to make an immortality elixir. The plauge was killing people left and right. By the time anyone could get close to solving how to stop the plague, they died of it. So here he was, trying to cheat death and failing.

The knocks sounded again causing his irritants to raise even higher. His shin slammed into a bench that he had forgotten about, the pain causing curses that would make his mother turn in her grave.

“Dagflabbit. I said I was coming!”

Finally he made it to his heavy wooden door and flung it open.

“Now what do you w----.”

A strange man stood before him wearing a brown cap, brown button up shirt, brown shorts, and even brown shoes. In his had was some sort of flat surface where a price of parchment lay, from what the Alchemist could see.

“Sorry to disturb you, my good sir!”

The man was annoyingly chipper.

“If you were sorry enough then you wouldn’t have done so in the first place.”

The man chuckled.

“I suppose you are right. Are you Archibald Greyson?”

“Depends who’s asking.”

That caused the man to chuckle again.

“Can’t say I haven’t heard that before. Considering the specifications 9n this delivery I would say that is exactly who you are.”

The brown dressed man’s jovility was getting on the Alchemist’s nerves.

“What do you want?”

“I have packages for you that require your signature. So if you could just sign here…”

He held out the board that had parchment on it and some weird, pointy thing. He held the pointy thing up and looked at the man.

“What is this?”

“That is a pen, my good sir. It’s what you use to sign that paper I gave you.”

The Alchemist glanced over where his quill, ink, and parchment laid on his desk.

“I do not know what sorcery this is but I do not believe I want any part of it.”

He tried handing back the ‘pen’ and parchment.

“Oh, I’m sorry but I can’t take anything back. I need you to sign this paper so I can unload my truck. My instructions were very clear.”

“Your what now”?

The Alchemist could feel his head buzzing from his latest elixir. Maybe he added too much scorpion’s venom in this one and he was hallucinating.

The brown dressed man sighed, his jovial mood dipping just a little.

“Look, this is my last delivery of the day so if you could just…”

He reached over and went to show the Alchemist how to use the pen. The Alchemist moved his hand away angrily.

“I am not some elderly man who has lost his wits!”

“I apologize, my good sir. You just seemed confused.”

The glare that the Alchemist sent the man could have burned him had the Alchemist had any magic. Hastily he scrawled an X where the man had shown him. He shoved it back to the man, the edge of the board pushing into his chest.

“There. Now go about your day and leave me alone. I have work to do.”

“As you wish, my good sir.”

Without missing a step the brown dressed man moved back from the Alchemist’s door and disappeared into the darkness beyond. He blinked as he looked beyond his door, usually seeing the castle a mere 50 feet from it. A blessing and a curse to work for the King. The Alchemist sighed and went to close his door, chalking up the fact he couldn’t see the castle to the mishap of yet another wrong elixir.

“Hey! Don’t close the door!”

The voice of the brown dressed man floated back to him. He turned in time to see a stack of parcels being rolled towards him.

“What is this???”

“The packages I am to deliver to you. Do you want them out here or inside?”

The Alchemist simply stood aside in answer.

It didn’t take long for the brown dressed man to unload the parcels and make his way back to the door.

“Well, that’s all. I hope you have a wonderful night.”

He turned around and disappeared out the door and into the strange darkness beyond. The Alchemist walked over and stared at the darkness for a few beats before moving to close the door.

“You look like a turd!”

Having just flung his insult into the nothingness he shut his door and moved back over to his newly delivered parcels. He used a letter opener from his desk to slice into the parcels, all the while wondering where they had come from. Once the top was cut off he gazed down in even more confusion at the sight of a goblet, many bottles of liquid. Some of the liquid even looked like water.

“What in the wonderful land of Hades are these…?”

A paper laid folded on top of the contents. He picked it up and squinted to read the writing. It was his own.

Dear me,

I hope this finds you in time. We have succeeded. More than just helping ourselves live longer in order to figure out this elixir.

I have traveled the world over to find what we need to save our people. In here lies many things of myth that claim to give eternal life. The Holy Grail. Water from the Fountain of Youth. Use them well.

Forever you,

The Alchemist.

P.S. He does look like a turd.

Relief and amazement filled the body of the Alchemist as he held the letter in his hand. Just when he had been about to give up he had found himself an answer…

With renewed determination he picked up the Grail and the Water and headed back to his table to get back to work. His people needed saved.

Meeting Fantasia

An unannounced visitor knocks on the alchemist’s door. Once, twice, a third time, impatiently. The alchemist makes his way to the door. He has taken far too much of his latest elixir. He grumbles with slight irritation about kids bothering him while he needs to focus on his work, he was also a bit confused since it was late for any sort of guest to come by, but as he opened the door revealing a young girl all of that was replaced with curiosity. She looked lost but when she looked up at him, she looked more scared than anything.

“S-Sorry sir,” was all that she could get out when a sudden strike of lightning lit up with the sky. He watched as the young girl who looked no older than thirteen shrink from the crack as if the lightning was yelling at her. “Can I please come in? I think I’ve lost my way a bit with the storm coming” the girl continued rather hastily. The alchemist thought for a moment but then let the young girl enter into his home out of the cold. He got to work making tea for himself and his new guest while she looked around the small area.

“What’s back there?” the girl pointed out curiously seeing the glow of different colors beneath the screen that hung in front.

“Don’t go back there. That’s none of your concern” the alchemist said sternly without even looking around. The girl took one last look at the curtain before she joined the alchemist at the small round table that could easily seat four people. He sat across from the strange girl that landed on his doorstep curious of how she even managed to get here in the first place.

“Do you live here alone?” The alchemist was a bit taken back by the question as he stared at the inquisitive child. “I’m mean, I’m sorry I just thought that you might have lived with someone. My mom would have been upset for being nosy” the girl added almost at the same time scolding herself for asking such questions.

“No, I don’t. But who are you and how did you end up here?” The alchemist found him answering aloud and asking his own curious questions about the young girl. She looked up at him as if she thought the questions were fair enough since she did get nosy about his own personal life.

“I’m Fantasia, an orphan. I was running away, the storm winds kind of twisted me around. I’m also not the greatest map reader either” Fantasia said her eyes had turned to her hands that she was intertwining together. The scream of the tea kettle sounded, and the alchemist stood from his seat and tended to the kettle bringing back two cups the hot water, tea, and sugar.

He watched as Fantasia took a small portion of each, enough for herself but she was a growing girl who was undoubtedly smart. He let her enjoy her warm cup of chamomile tea that he always had in the cupboard that his wife loved when she had a hard time finding sleep. The girl yawned exhausted from her travels to wherever she was headed when she placed her cup back down.

“I should probably go now. Thank you so much for your hospitality and I’m sorry for bothering you” Fantasia said, and the alchemist stood up.

“Why don’t you stay here? We have plenty of room and my wife Violet won’t mind a bit” Fantasia smiled sleepily at the alchemist as she nodded her head and followed him to an empty room where a warm bed waited for her just as the rain from the storm started coming down on the house.

All for love

Tap, tap, tap. There was a knock on the door. The alchemist was too busy to answer. It was late and he was testing his latest creation. A possible cure for poor eyesight like his. He hoped it would work.
Tap, tap, Tap. There it was again. The alchemist was still partially blind without his spectacles. HE was also beginning to think he’d made the elixir wrong. Or taken too much of it.
Bang, bang, bang! Whoever was at the door sure was impatient. The alchemist slowly put his glasses back on and got to his feet. He grabbed his walking stick and made his way to the door walking a bit unsteadily. He’d definitely taken too much of that elixir. His eyes couldn’t focus.
Whoever was at the door stopped knocking when they heard the dull thud of the walking stick. Or knew better than to knock again at this hour of the night. It was past dinner time and mothers in the town were trying to put babes and children to bed.
When the alchemist open the door to his hut he squinted in the light of his visitor’s lamp. He could make out a cloaked figure. “Move the lamp a bit. Want to blind me for good?”
“Sorry.” Came the reply. The lamp was thankfully raised a bit higher.
When his eyes adjusted he saw that his visitor was the wood cutter’s soon. The alchemist hadn’t had much to do with Adam or his father in years. The lad he remembered was almost a man now. His free hand was still in a fist from banging on the door.
“What’s your business calling at this time of night?” The alchemist was a bit worried. There had been anger and pain the last time Adam had come to him for help.
“I must speak to you. It’s an urgent matter.”
The alchemist could have guessed that by the hour. Plus, he was sure to have been the last person Adam had wanted to ask for help.
“If it’s so urgent you ‘d better come in.” Adam entered the hut and the alchemist closed the door behind him. It was a simple dwelling with hardly any furniture other than bookshelves, an arm chair, a table and chairs and a bed. All in one room with a second doorway leading to the laboratory.
“Put your lamp on the table. Than we can discuss this matter of yours.” The alchemist suggested.
After Adam had placed his lamp he and the alchemist sat down at the table. Only then did Adam lower the hood of his cloak. He looked much like his father. Same green eyes and serious expression. “ Is the tale true? Are you able to create gold? Or turn another material into gold?”, he asked.
The mention of gold worried the alchemist. Even though his powers were strong enough for such a thing he couldn’t risk causing trouble. There was a law against anyone creating gold, or silver. The alchemist chose his words carefully,” Technically I can. You are aware of the law? Such a thing is illegal.”
Adam almost got up from the table at that point,” Father said men like you are useless. Either you’re too weak or scared. At least I offered you a second chance.”
There it was. The jab at the need for the town to even have an alchemist. The last time Adam or his father had asked the alchemist for aid a tragedy had occurred. Adam’s mother had died. It was clear that the years had done little to lessen the pain Adam felt. Or the fact that he blamed the Alchemist.
The alchemist was used to treatment like this. Some in the town judged him, or made jeered at him. Called him a fraud. Claimed the alchemist had never helped anyone. Or that he was no good.
The chance to prove himself to at least one doubter in town was tempting. If the alchemist helped Adam he might gain some forgiveness for the tragedy. It had been purely an accident after all. “ Please wait. Tell me your trouble. Are you and your father in need of money? I could loan you some.”
Adam shook his head,” It’s not that. We make due with our shop. Don’t need any charity.”
Even though the effects of the elixir were wearing off the alchemist was still confused. He didn’t understand why Adam had asked for such a dangerous thing if it wasn’t for money. “Why ask for gold if you don’t need money?”
Adam carefully pulled a small parcel from the pocket of his cloak. He unwrapped it and showed the alchemist an ornate wooden hair clip. It had a trio of stars on it,” My finest work yet. I made it as a gift for Elizabeth.”
The clip was finer and more detailed than anything Adam’s father created. The alchemist was impressed by the quality of Adam’s work. “A piece like this will make a fine gift. It hardly needs to be altered.”
Adam was even more disappointed in the alchemist. The old man couldn’t understand. No one in town did. “It isn’t just any gift…”
Adam turned the clip over in his palm. The alchemist saw a faint inscription carved into the back of one of the stars. There was a daisy and next to that a heart followed by an infinity loop.
The inscription said more than Adam could. This clip was meant as a love token. For the fairest lass in town. “Elizabeth deserves better than me. Everyone in town says so. The captain of the guard has his eye on her as well as me. He can afford gold without breaking the law.”
The alchemist couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Adam. He knew the pain of heartache. As well as how far some would go for the one they loved. Even if there was little need for it.
There was a way that the Alchemist could help Adam. Or at least even the lad’s odds. The law only made it dangerous to artificially create gold and silver. It didn’t ban all precious metals.
He didn’t want to cause any more pain. Especially not to someone he’d already caused grief. “ I can’t turn your gift into gold or silver. Do you think bronze would do?”
For the first time he saw a flicker of hope in Adam’s eyes. The young man sat back down t the table across from the alchemist. “If it’s possible. A bronze clip would suit her. Almost match her curls.”
The alchemist smiled,” I bet the captain of the guard is only eyeing her for her looks. I hope that’s not the case for you.”
Adam shook his head,” Far from it. I’ve loved Elizabeth for years. I care more for her than he ever could.”
That settled the matter for the alchemist. Adam had not only sought out his aid in the dead of night. He’d also been sincere enough not to give up after his first request for aid was rejected. Even confiding in someone he had reason not to trust. “I’ll help you. I may be old, but I still understand affairs of the heart.”
Adam actually smiled. He hadn’t expected the old man to be on his side. Especially not with how he’d spoken to the alchemist earlier. “Thank you sir. I can’t pay much, but I’ve saved enough for this.”
He placed a small purse of coins on the table. The alchemist counted the fee from back when Adam was a child. It still left half the purse. He put the remainder back in the purse and returned it to Adam,” A good heart is more precious than gold.”
He got up from the table and ushered Adam into the laboratory. They had work to do. The alchemist didn’t mind company while completing the task. Adam was better company than most in town. Including the captain of the guard. Eight years ago he had failed the lad. Tonight the alchemist wanted to make it up to Adam. Earning forgiveness and helping his own conscience.

An unannounced visitor knocks on the alchemist’s door. Once, twice, a third time, impatiently. The alchemist makes his way to the door. He has taken far too much of his latest elixir. His footsteps waver and his eyesight is blurred but he makes his way slowly and a fraction unsteadily to the door. Only those in need of desperate assistance come to his door. You see, an alchemist is regarded as a man of mystery. Part witch-part healer, but always suspicious, never to be trusted. His lodging looks bland on the outside and even his work room where visitors are invited is basic. After all he likes to remain mysterious. However if you got lucky enough to be privy to his inner sanctum the pure luxury would boggle your mind. Velvet drapes conceal the wooden walls. Satin pillows fall in piles to be laid upon. Small marble tables scattered throughout the room hold bottled wines and platters of tempting fruits such as figs, grapes and dates. Candles keet the darkness at bay and a rippling waterfall holds place of honour in the centre of the room allowing bathing and frolicking whenever the desire takes hold. Several scantily clad nymphs were currently playing harps in one corner of the room.Very few had ever seen this side of the alchemist and still walked the earth or the heavens to talk of it.
The alchemist opened the door a slither and peered into the sunlight through his bleary eyes and blinking several times thought to himself that he really had overindulged in his latest potion. He had obviously added too much Salvia divinorum and he was now hallucinating wildly. He closed the door gently and leant against it his heart thudding rapidly and his mind racing.
‘Dear Goddess, it couldn’t be, not after all these years.’
Three more hearty knocks landed on his door causing him to jump away, his hand going to his mouth to smother his shriek of surprise or terror, he wasn’t sure which emotion was strongest.
He reached forward and this time opened the door wide enough for the women on the other side to see him. ‘M…m…m…medusa?’ he stuttered
The statuesque woman marched past him straight through his work rooms to his inner sanctum calling over her shoulder, ‘No, Gerry. Hello Daddy.’

Never disturb a worker working.

The alchemist was working on his potion. It took him 3 month. He was doing the final step. One wrong move and he had to to start from the beginning.

Suddenly there was one knock. Then a second. After a third. It didn’t stop.

The alchemist couldn’t focus. He still use his last effort to do the last step. Then he push a button to open the door. Meanwhile he was analysing his potion. His guest was trying to avoid his traps to survived until the guest room. Then he had to wait for several hours until the alchemist arrived. The alchemist was thinking about his potion and it’s potential. Meanwhile the guest was trying to make a deal with him. After raising the price. The alchemist literally kick his guest out. Then he prepared his laboratory for another experience.