Alchemy's First Tale
I'll tell you a tale full of magic and delight, sorrow and betrayal, wonder and discovery. This tale starts, as many tales do, on a night full of strange portents.
It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled through the rafters of the King's Palace. Sleet bombarded the fragile rose garden outside. Through this testimony to Nature's fall fury came a single man. Around him swirled a floor length gray robe. His golden eyes flashed in time with the lightening. He stalked toward the palace gate, yet no one challenged him. Everyone knew him on sight. He traveled through the worst the weather could offer, yet remained dry. His name was Alchemy, the Gray Wizard to the King of Zukanai, whose eastern border brushed the Thor Mountains.
The doors opened without a human touch just as the thunder boomed. Alchemy stood in the entryway suddenly dripping wetly, his illusion of dryness shattered. He started to run the minute his boots touched wood paneled floor. He burst into the throne room in the middle of a herald's announcements. "Your majesty, I have returned from my harrowing journey with dismal news!" Alchemy shouted, "The western province is in full revolt over your edicts about magic! They don't believe us when easterners say magic is real! Magic is nonexistent there so I could not even show them they were wrong! They don't want to pay the increased taxes to pay for protection against something they don't believe in! You know these Westerners, if they could, they would sell you the very air you breathe!" Alchemy's eyes glowed with the intensity of his anger. His disheveled hair lent him the look of a mad man. The entire court fled out of the throne room in a panic from the deranged looking young wizard.
"Sire, if I may have your permission, I'd like to scry into the future to determine the best course of action. I might see a clue to stopping this situation that we could miss with our normal eyes!" stated Alchemy. All around the king, his guards' eyes widened in fear. No one had tried to scry into the future for ten years! It was a dangerous practice because, just seeing a possible future, could make it inevitable. What Alchemy was proposing was very risky. The king looked straight into Alchemy's passion filled eyes, than gave a regal nod of his head. Alchemy immediately went off to gather the correct ingredients. "Was that entirely wise, your majesty? What if Alchemy messes with our future in a hurtful way?" asked the king's most trusted advisor. "You forget, my dear advisor," said the king, "the last one to scry was me. I knew Alchemy would ask to use the power one day; I just didn't know why. It is his destiny to peer into the future and see something no mortal man should see."
Alchemy darted from one garden to another in the pouring rain, looking frantically for the last ingredient. Finally, he found it; a miniature rose bush, with rose quartz in the soil. It was in the smallest garden, near the back wall of the palace. He sprinted back to his workroom to complete the important potion. All of the palace workers stared on in amazement. They didn't know Alchemy could be excited! In all of the time that he had been here, he had never had a ruffled feather. He was almost cat-like in his emotions. 'Well, my careful personal image has been shattered by my actions tonight. You'd think that those who think me cat-like would understand. The cat is now on the hunt!' thought Alchemy, 'Finally, after all of the yearning and half-understood feelings, I am finally going to peer through the veil of time!' he thought, with a tiny amount of awe. He mixed the potion to perfection, poured it into a shallow bowl, and then looked into the mixture while concentrating on the current problem.
A vision formed in the depths of the bowl. The Thor Mountains towered over the scene. Nearby, a stream trickled on its merry way. Storm clouds heavy with snow came from the west. All else was utter chaos. Bodies lay everywhere. The ground was saturated with spilt blood. Men screamed in mortal agony. Two flags waved above this holocaust. One was the familiar flag of Zukanai, the other was that same flag, covered with anti-magic slogans. Then, as the vision continued, the Zukanai flag fell; right on top of the body of the current king.
Alchemy was wrenched from the vision by a hand tugging at his shoulder. The moment his gaze left the pool, he started going into hysterics. He screamed a scream fit to raise the dead. His eyes were waterlogged with tears. He started to rock back and forth at an alarming rate. Then, the one who had yanked him from the vision slapped him. This at least stopped the heart-rending scream. Alchemy peered at the face in confusion. It was his good friend, Temma, her raven black hair framing her worried, pale face. She was the one who had broken that horrible scene. Alchemy finally stopped shaking and regained control of himself. Then Alchemy started to notice other things. Light was drifting through the curtained window. "Wh-wha-what t-t-t-time i-is i-it?" Alchemy stuttered, fear still clogging his throat. "Well that depends, what time did you start scrying?" replied Temma, green eyes filled with concern, "If it was the night you came back, then you've been staring into that bowl for two days straight." "What?" he exclaimed, "That's not possible! That vision was only five minutes long!"
Temma stayed for a little longer, to make sure he was okay, and then went straight to the king. She described the encounter with full detail, and then waited impatiently. When the king didn't say anything, she asked, "What do you think could have shaken him so badly, your majesty? I mean, normally almost nothing fazes him! I've seen him watch the torture of a friend with less anguish in his eyes." "Whatever it was," replied the king, "we will find out in due course when Alchemy reports to me. Please don't show you are scared for him; it will only make it that much harder for him to look again."
While this conversation continued, in another part of the palace, the subject of the discussion was peering into the bowl again. Alchemy was unable to resist its siren-like call.
Another vision formed in the bowl. Once again, the Thor Mountains towered over the scene. Once again, a nearby steam trickled on its merry way. Once again, storm clouds heavy with snow came from the west. In the sky, the Westerner's banner once again flew high. This time though, no banner flew for the king. People met in peace, bearing gifts to the Rebels. A parade started. Then the vision focused on the front of the parade. In a glass coffin covered in flowers was the body of the current king. Beside it rode the heir, a westerner by nature if not by upbringing, who had an evil smile on his face. Suddenly, Alchemy knew who the perpetrator of this death was. It was the one person no Easterner would suspect, the heir to the throne.
This time Alchemy wrenched his gaze from the scene on his own. His lunch sat beside him, stone cold. Then there came a tentative knock on his door. It was a servant bringing him his dinner. He wolfed down the food like a starving man. After that, Alchemy ran to the private audience chamber to make a request to see the king now.
Shortly afterward, the king arrived. Unfortunately, he brought the heir with him. Alchemy glared at the heir. "Could we speak privately milord? I fear some of what I may tell you would not be appropriate for the heir to hear," stated Alchemy. The king, however, said in no uncertain terms that the heir should hear the report. In fact, some of his words were quite unseemly for the king to say. So, with some misgivings, Alchemy told the king and his heir what he had seen, though not his conclusions. Then, all of a sudden, the heir gave a screech and stabbed the king in the heart while he was asking Alchemy a question. Blood gurgled from the wound as Alchemy looked on in shock. "Thank you for revealing my plan Alchemy." said the heir, "I had wanted to do that for months! But no, my western allies said I had to wait! Well, now I will just have to frame you earlier then they thought. And you know what? You just made the frame up easier because of your messing around with the future! None of the guards will question my sanity and innocence while they have already been questioning yours!" The heir laughed evilly. Then, the heir wiped the murder weapon's hilt with a magic scarf to remove any traceable evidence from the knife and thrust both murder weapon and cloth into Alchemy's unresisting hands. The heir then screamed for the guards to come and arrest this murderer. Alchemy was locked into the castle dungeon before he could say "I didn't do it". When he tried to struggle, his captors knocked him unconscious.
The sound of dripping water awoke him. He tried to raise his head, but instead lapsed back into darkness. When he awoke a second time, it was to the scratching of a rat's paws in the moldy straw that served as a mattress. Alchemy remembered not to move his head, but still tried to get a good look of where he was. Granite blocks caged him in. Green slime dripped from between their cracks. A puddle of some noxious liquid sat in front of his nose. A stone slab covered in hanging moss served as the ceiling. On the ceiling was a magical seal, the strongest of its kind, for an entire council of wizards had helped to make it. There were no windows in this dank prison and only one door gave entrance to this abysmal scene. That door was made of solid ironwood, the one wood impervious to magic, and then it was crossed three times with iron bars to make it even harder to escape. The steady drip of water told Alchemy that his cell was one of those placed under the mighty Grantu waterfall. The floor was a slab of basalt, covered in grime. All of these factors led to one conclusion. Alchemy would have to use more then just his magic to get out of here; he would have to use his wits. It was kind of ironic to be trapped in a cell of his own design; with guards he had helped train.
'Why has this happened? Where did I go wrong?" thought Alchemy, 'Why, oh why did it have to be the King! He was kind to practically everyone and ruled fairly! Why couldn't the cold, dead body have been me!' He broke down into helpless sobbing, mourning the death of his king. Several hours later, after he had regained control of himself, he looked around once more, trying to find a flaw in the "perfect" cell. Then, suddenly, he saw it; the door to his escape. In the magic seal upon the ceiling, covered by a bit of moss, was an infinitesimally small crack. So small was this crack in the mystical cage, even a midget ant would have trouble getting through it; yet this small flaw was Alchemy's ticket out of this dismal dungeon. He focused all of his magic towards the crack and as he did so, it got bigger and bigger. It continued to grow as Alchemy's magic widened the flaw in the magical seal. Sweat dripped down Alchemy's back, pooling onto the floor. An hour had gone by and the crack was now large enough to admit a cat. Alchemy did an internal check; almost all of his magic reserves were used up! He couldn't make the hole any larger! 'Well,' he thought, 'if I can't make the door any bigger, I will just have to make my body smaller.' Alchemy used his remaining mystical energy to take the form of a lead gray cat, one of his favorite transformations.
With his golden eyes shining in the darkness, his newly formed cat paws stepping lightly on the stone, he climbed through his newly created door. He emerged at the top of Grantu's mighty falls, near the window to his own workshop. The start of all of this trouble, that vile concoction to see into the future, was still sitting serenely in the otherwise ruined and ransacked room. It called to Alchemy, promising a solution to all of his problems, if only he dare look. Against his better judgment, Alchemy slipped into the room. He slinked towards the bowl. Standing just tall enough on his catty paws to peer in; he took a deep breath and looked into the future once more.
The vision that formed this time was vastly different from the other two. It was of a high mountain pass, with a valley in the middle. In this valley lay a gray lump of a city, with three rivers of running water coming out of it. Then, Alchemy's visionary eyes widened at the sight of the fourth river coming from the ugly city. This river was of pure magic, flowing from the heart of the city out towards the surrounding mountains. Alchemy suddenly recognized the surrounding mountains as the familiar Thor Mountains! Then his gaze was dragged back to the river of magic by the force of the vision. The magic seemed to be bulging and widening in one spot. This bulge formed the silhouette of a baby during its struggle. Then a highly female voice rang in Alchemy's mind. "WHO DARE WITNESS THE BITRTH OF MY DAUGHTER! WHAT SORT OF WIZARD ARE YOU! Oh, 'tis you, Alchemy of Zukanai. That is all to the good then. YOU, mortal, and no other shall guard and teach this precious babe until I say otherwise! I lay this geas upon you, to serve her well, in your present form, until her destiny is fulfilled. Go now, to the Castle Que at the northern most tips of the Thor Mountains and find your charge. To remind you of your geas, one of your eyes shall turn as gray as your coat, until your job is done. Only then shall you be free!"
With that final word, Alchemy was hurtled out of the land of visions. He was thrown away from the visionary pool, and as he fell, he knocked over the bowl containing the potion. Alchemy stared at his reflection in the newly formed puddle. Dawn light glistened in the background. His cat face stared back at him. Alchemy's once beautiful golden eyes were now mismatched; one being a dull lead gray instead of its proper golden color. 'Well, now I've managed to land myself in two messes at once! Not only must I avenge my king, but I must also go to the northern border of the Thor Mountains to teach to teach the daughter of some Goddess! How do I get myself into these messes?' thought Alchemy.
And so, off went Alchemy to search for his ward. He went through many trials and tribulations, yet persevered. It took him ten years, but he finally found his charge. What happened during his harrowing journey and afterwards is another tale that I'll tell at another time.