By midnight, the body is dry and leathery and the alchemist unrolls his tool pouch and gets to work. Hours pass, with many tiny, careful cuts made until at last he finds what he is looking for. At once he puts down his tools and picks up the egg he has removed from the man’s heart. It looks like a stone, rough and pitted, but he knows it for what it is.
The alchemist walks briskly up the stairs, never running. He arrives at the chamber of his Lord, who has not slept.
“Revered one,” he says, “it was too late by far to save him, but I have what we need.” His Lord nods wordlessly in assent and they walk together through the cloister until they arrive at a tall statue which bears a metal dish. The egg is placed into it. The alchemist brings a taper to a nearby lamp and lights the egg, which burns with a fierce light. The statue speaks.
“I was slain by a young woman in blue, who placed poison in my drink unseen. As I lay dying she placed coins in my pocket and a knife beside my belt.”
The Lord nods and motions to the alchemist, so he leaves. The next play in the game is already in motion, but his work is done and now, at last, he can sleep.
Alchemy is perhaps the single most widely practiced secret in the world. The grand schools of alchemy throughout the Lossanbrandt, Urthauld and Llaewar all trace their roots back to Granmark and the great alchemists whose work underpinned that city’s rise to power. However, there are many other traditions of alchemy with their origins in more than a dozen nations and still other alchemists who have taught themselves all that they know from first principles.
Alchemy is the study of the substance of the world. It concerns metals and gemstones, vapours and liquids, energies, plants and animals. The wider concerns of alchemists extend to cover every branch of philosophy and the common thread running through their researches is the search for a fundamental truth underlying all of existence.
The vast majority of alchemists are specialists since the field is simply too large to permit deep study of every branch of alchemical knowledge. Some are metallurgists, some mix potions from rare ingredients, some pass light through polished lenses and others study the mechanisms of the human body. There are a dozens more disciplines besides, some more reputable than others.
Whilst a well-equipped laboratory in the Lossanbrant could cost a small fortune, many alchemists make do with very little equipment, only those reagents they can find or make themselves and whatever space they can make within their living quarters. As important as experimentation is, the true search for knowledge is conducted in the mind and important work has been done in the past with nothing more than a slate and chalk.
Of all the secrets, alchemy is perhaps the most able to interact with other secrets, but this versatility comes at a price since it takes years of study to master even the basics of alchemy and most rituals and processes take considerable time to carry out.