From Distant Shores

The Festival

Omen shifted her weight on Gyles’ arm, causing the smuggler-turned-sophisticate to look down at the falcon. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the nearby nobles whispering and motioning to the bird. A quick glance revealed some faces etched with interest and others with disdain, among them the Roger’s mother, the Duchess of Summerfield.

She sat unmoving, her face a mask of detached interest but somehow, Gyles could tell she disapproved of his pet’s presence. He realized that Roger was speaking to him.

“…is from the mainland. Oh! Did you see that Gyles? That was barely a knick and he fell off!”

Gyles resumed his conversation with the Heir of Summerfield, discussing each pair of contestants as they were announced.

  • * * * * *

Alistair tapped his index finger against his moustache. His eyes watched the knights thunder back and forth across the tournament grounds but his mind was oceans away. He fit the various pieces together, looked at the sum total of his plan, and then took them apart. Over and over, he refined, twisted, altered…and then it was complete; beautiful in its circuity.

Varley shouldered in next to him at the fence, adjusted his sweat laden tri-corn hat and nodded. It took Alistair a moment to realize it was his companion.

“How are the lists? Anyone any good? Did Ser Aedan win?”

Alistair nodded absently, “Save my place. I’ll be back.”

The steward opened his mouth to respond, but the Alchemist had already moved off into the crowd. He threaded his way through the noontime press and made his way back to the moneylender. Knowing now that his plan would occupy him through the night and the next day, he instructed the man to take whatever winnings he had and place them repeatedly on Aedan; first in each round of the joust, and then the melee.

With the first of his many tasks complete, Alistair moved from the moneylender to the market. Like some kind of discerning grocer, he moved from stall to stall, smelling this herb, holding another up to the sun, and rubbing leaves between his forefinger and thumb. When he was satisfied that he had replaced everything that had been lost upon the road, he hurried back to see how Aedan would fair in his next pairing.

  • * * * * *

Separated in age by only two years, neither Gyles Sett nor Roger Winton could claim their twentieth name day. Seated next to one another, they spoke eagerly about whatever topic was at hand: the current knights on the field, nearby noble families, how they had each passed recent weeks, and the return of the crossbow. A dozen knights had taken the field and half as many had been unhorsed, when a murmur of silence rippled through the crowd. It caused the two young men to stop their discussion of Iron’s Bay and look up to see the heralds hoist up the blue shield and white swan of Ser Kelson. At the other end of the grounds, Aedan’s own black shield was lifted and his name called.

Roger motioned with his head ever so slightly towards a woman seated in the center of the gallery, “That’s Baroness Mercia’s son, Kelson.”

Her chair was more of a throne with great blue and white banners on either side of it. Gyles guessed she was in her fifties, her once blond hair now a platinum mix of gray and gold. She smiled and lifted her hand in acknowledgement of her son. He nodded his helmeted head to her in return and then a second time to a woman at her side.

“…and that’s her daughter, Briony.”

Roger gave Gyles a moment to absorb the young woman’s beauty. It was not hard to imagine what the Baroness would have looked like thirty years earlier. She was the very image of her mother, beautiful in white and blue, her gold hair shimmering in the sunshine. She too lifted a hand to her brother.

“She is…”, Gyles exhaled conspiratorially, “…beautiful.”

Roger looked over at her, “Yes, she is. The Baroness would like me to take her as my wife….but the Earl of Northridge also has a daughter…Ariella – though I have not seen her since we were children. He is also pressing his case for a marriage; I am not sure what will happen.”

There was a momentary flash of helplessness on Roger’s face before it was replaced with a wicked grin, “I’ll bet Aedan smashes him.”

At the other end of the field, Aedan nodded his head and the two horses raced towards one another. There was a crunch as both men shattered their lances on the other’s shield. Aedan thundered on, but the impact had shifted Kelson’s weight in his saddle; he tumbled from it uncontrollably as his horse galloped forward.

Aedan wheeled his horse around as Kelson walked over to the end of the lists, removing his helmet. He had a broad, bittersweet smile on his face, “It seems the Vigil steeled your nerves and stilled your hand, Ser Aedan; it was an excellent pass. A victory well won.”

Aedan pulled his own helmet free, “The chaos and luck of battle is the same in the lists, it could have just as easily been me that fell to your blow.”

“You are kind, Ser Aedan. Perhaps I will get just that chance when we see each other in the melee.”, Kelson extended a mailed hand.

Aedan returned the gesture, “I would very much enjoy that.”

  • * * * * *

Alistair smiled distantly and slapped the top of the fence.

Next to him, Varley grinned broadly, “Seems like Ser Aedan’s reputation is well earned. At this rate, we should have the money for the mining company by the tourney’s end.”

“Concerns for another day, Kaleb. I leave it in God’s hands for the time being – I’m sure he’ll understand. I have more pressing business.”

Varley waited for him to continue but Alistair had returned his attention to the lists, so the steward did as well.

  • * * * * *

Sixteen more knights took to the field, then only eight, then four. Roger and Gyles continued their conversations, moving seamlessly from the action on the field to stories far from it. In particular, they had been discussing the other mysteriously, unidentified knight. She, like Aedan, bore a plain black shield and had demonstrated excellent command of both horse and lance. As they spoke, she unhorsed the last of her opponents. The final tilt would be between her and Aedan, two knights without house or sigil. The Duchess motioned for her son and Roger went to her side.

Gyles wondered what people made of such an event. Baroness Mercia was now surrounded by both her son and daughter, all three wearing tight-lipped smiles. They did not appear to be happy with Kelson’s performance in the lists. The Duchess, still speaking with Roger, seemed completely unconcerned with the events on the field. At the far end of the gallery, Gyles could make out the Earl of Northridge, and his son Rhys, both with scowls on their faces. Lord Rhys had been unhorsed during his first pass of the morning, robbing his family of the opportunity to impress the Summerfields.

The trumpets blared, quieting the crowds. At each end of the field, plain, black shields were held aloft.

“Ser Aedan Hammerhand!”, the herald shouted, sliding the shield into place on Aedan’s outstretched hand.

“The Black Knight!”, came from the other end, and her shield, too, was slid into place.

There was a flash of sunlight as the helmets nodded to one another and the horses exploded into action. Each lance found its mark and each shield moved to block it. Both riders struggled to stay in their seats despite diverting the force of the blow. New lances were placed into expectant hands, horses turned in tight circles and they once again faced each other.

One nod, then another. The horses charged forward. Aedan felt her lance shatter against his shield, but it was the shudder of his lance, as if it had struck the trunk of a tree, that caused him to grit his teeth. Across the fence, the unnamed rider had taken Aedan’s hit so squarely that while she remained in the saddle, it had sent the horse stumbling sideways. As Aedan raced towards the end of his lane, the black knight’s horse fell onto its side, tossing her into the sand.

The crowd exploded with cheers and chants of “Ham-mer-hand! Ham-mer-hand!”

Roger leapt to his feet, stomping and taking up the chant. Gyles saw the Duchess flick her eyes in his direction, and then return them to the field. Aedan turned his horse in time to see the other knight dust herself off and approach.

Trumpets blared again and the Baroness stood as their sound died away, “Knights, please come forward.”

With Aedan on horseback and the mysterious woman on foot, they approached the gallery. When they stopped, Aedan pulled his helmet from his head. Next to him, the woman did as well. A wash of black hair fell free and framed one of the most beautiful faces he had ever seen. A quiet murmur rifled through the crowd. The Baroness seemed to pause for a moment before continuing.

“Ser Aedan Hammerhand, you have won the day and in doing so, earned the right to name the Queen of Love and Beauty.”

The Baroness produced a thin, gold circlet and held it aloft. Aedan swiveled a fresh lance through its center, picking it from her fingertips.

The chant re-emerged, “Ham-mer-hand! Ham-mer-hand!”

In that moment, Gyles saw a path forward. He too took up the chant and waited for Aedan’s eyes to meet his own. When they did, he pumped his fist in the air like everyone else except he did so in the direction of the Duchess. And in those few brief seconds, Gyles saw her eyes catch his motion and realized those close to him, had also noticed it.

Aedan waited for the chant to quiet, “Baroness, thank you for this day and for your hospitality. I must speak truthfully. My heart knows that there is but one answer to whom the Queen of Love and Beauty is this day.”

He turned his horse to face the beautiful woman clad in mail, “It is my opponent, though I do not know her name.”

Still gripping her helm in one hand, she guided the lowered circlet onto her head with the other and beamed, “Thank you, Ser Aedan. I am Lady Ariella of Northridge.”

The crowd exploded into a fresh set of cheers and whistles.

Beside him, Gyles’ watched Roger’s eyes widen, “That’s…Ariella?”

The young smuggler exhaled again, “It seems so. Two very beautiful choices.”

Roger fell back into his chair, “She’s…she’s…unbelievable.”

Gyles glanced over to where the Earl and his son were sitting; where scowls had been only a few minutes ago, there were now a pair of very smug grins.

  • * * * * *

As the men and women around them cheered, Alistair produced a small, folded note he had written at the moneylender’s. He extended it to Varley as they tried to make their way out of the press of onlookers, “Can you see that Gyles gets that?”

The steward nodded, trailing Alistair by only a step or two among the thickening crowd. Alistair’s head was turned sideways, speaking over his shoulder, “When you’re done, meet me back at the inn. I need-“

The Alchemist collided with the unforgiving shoulder of another passerby. His head jerked forward, and he stared into the stern features of an Oscallian man dressed in leathers. Just beyond that man’s face was another more familiar one – his sister’s.

“Alli?”, the woman said incredulously, “Alli, is that you?”

A thousand stars burst in his mind; lightning bolts that left him unable to do anything except flee into surging crowd, leaving both his sister and Varley behind.

  • * * * * *

“…and did you see the way her hair shone?”, Roger motioned with his hands.

Gyles smiled and nodded, taking in everything around him. For the Summerfields such an experience was commonplace but Gyles was having a difficult time paying heed to both his friend as well as the goings-on. Around them, servants came and went – some placing tables, others silverware, and then eventually food. Great platters piled high with delicacies from both sea and field.

“I mean, Brie is beautiful, but I…I mean, I would have never guessed that the little girl in my memories grew up to be….”, he motioned to where she had stood before the gallery, “…her. She can ride, and, by God, fight…she traded blows with Ser Aedan! She’s magnificent.”

Gyles clasped his friend on the shoulder, “Then we should do something about it. Are you planning on attending the hunt?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. I’d bet she plans on doing the same given her skills. Perhaps we can arrange for the two of you to run into one another.”, Gyles grinned.

Roger grinned back and said softly, “More sage advice from my old friend; I missed having your ideas so close at hand.”

“Excuse me, Lord Gyles.”, Varley stood a few paces behind their chairs.

Gyles did his best to hide the strangeness of the title, “Yes, Varley?”

“A message from Master Alistair.”, he offered the note.

“Thank you.”, Gyles plucked the small, folded paper from Varley’s fingers and opened it.

Stay with Roger; inn suspicious.

  • * * * * *

By the time that Alistair had reached The Sword and Crown, he had regained his wits. He did not have time to consider his sister’s presence, there were specific steps to his mayhem and he was constrained by time.

His first order of business was to root though Gyles’ things until he found Ambassador Yoreck’s journal and one of the strange Norn-wands. With them in hand, he sat down at the desk in his room and, after a few failed attempts, penned a complete letter in Kargish. He had used the Ambassador’s journal to ensure the proper selection of words and that their shape of their letters were accurate. On the back of the document, he sketched out a rough map of Caravel, marking the residences of both the Baroness and the Summerfields with their respective sigils.

When he had finished, he folded the letter crisply, then repeatedly crumpled it up by jamming it into a spare belt pouch. When he thought it looked sufficiently worn, he moved on to his next order of business. He could not afford to sleep tonight, so he set a small fire in his hearth and began brewing a strong tea laced with stimulants from the North.

Varley arrived in the midst of Alistair packing his things back into his satchels, the tea still bubbling in the fireplace. The steward’s face contorted in confusion, “What’s all this?”

“That’s what I was telling you before we…uh, got separated. I think that some old enemies are sniffing around, so we need to change where we’re sleeping.”, Alistair looked up from his satchel, “Do you think you can get us rooms down by the docks?”

“For The Alchemist and his steward?”, Varley waved a dismissive hand, “Without a doubt.”

“No, no. Not The Alchemist, just you and a crewmate.”

“What about Gyles?”, the steward jerked a thumb towards the other room.

“You’ve seen to that with my note. We’ll bring his horses with us and leave his things, he’ll send for them.”

Varley shrugged and joined in the efforts to pack up their remaining effects, “Who was that woman?”

Alistair froze momentarily then resumed packing, “Uh, what woman?”

“At the tournament grounds, looked Oscallian. She called you something for short.”

“Wha- what?”, Alistair shook his head over emphatically and tipped over the bag he was working on, “I.. I didn’t see anyone; I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

Varley purses his lips and nodded slowly, unwilling to push Alistair into lying anymore then he already had. Instead, they worked in silence until the packing was complete. Alistair carefully transferred the tea to an empty wine bottle, corked it and stowed it among his things. Then, draped like porters, they made their way through the common room and retrieved their horses.

Leading four horses laden with bags through the crowded streets of a city flushed with tournament goers was a slow business. At one point when Varley indicated the fastest way to the docks was in one direction, Alistair insisted on another route. Before long, the crowds in the streets had thinned and the buildings that surrounded them were far past their glory. Many were abandoned, pock marked and ruined by time and vagrants. In what seemed to be nowhere in particular, Alistair stopped abruptly.

“Do you think you could find this place again?”, he said without taking his eyes off of a building far down the street.

“Not a lot of landmarks but…”, Varley looked around and nodded, “…I’ll look for this strange house here with the faded yellow roof. Should be easy enough.”

“Good. When Gyles asks about me tomorrow, I want you to bring him here. Tell him to consider bringing a swordhand who knows how to look the other way…but not Aedan.”

Varley’s mouth opened, the first word of a question perched inside of it.

Alistair raised his eyebrows, “Are you willing to do that?”

The steward nodded, “I know your reputation, Alistair, and I know better than to ask questions.”

“It’s better for you this way.”, Alistair slowly pulled his eyes off the building to look at the other man, “You don’t want to know any more details.”

  • * * * * *

The archery contest had been placed a short walk from the tournament grounds, shaded against the afternoon sun by the great trees which grew along the shore. Popular for drawing participants from both the common and noble classes, the number of onlookers rivaled that of the jousts. The watching nobles stood under the thickest blanket of shade while the common folk found their places where they could. A number of straw men had been constructed at various distances, awaiting the participants.

Aedan had made his way down from the tournament grounds with many of the other knights who had found in the lists. He had received just as many congratulatory slaps on the shoulder and back as he had dagger-like stares from those that he had unhorsed. As the nobles drifted in to find places for themselves, Aedan found himself standing next to Ser Kelson.

The knight from Aerondel followed Kelson’s gaze to the field where his sister, the Baroness’ daughter, was stringing her bow. Her long, golden hair had been pulled into two delicate braids which had, in turn, been wrapped around her head like a crown.

“Honorable competition must run in the blood of your house.”, Aedan said as he stepped up beside the other knight.

“Hmm? Oh yes, she has a good eye.”, Ser Kelson smiled proudly, “Perhaps it will fare better than my lance.”

“May I ask you a question?”, Ser Aedan followed the friendly jest with his usual sobriety.

Ser Kelson let the smile slowly fade, “Most certainly, Ser Aedan. What is it?”

“Kargs, Ser Kelson. Have these lands had any trouble with the Kargs?”

The blond, broad-shouldered knight sighed, “Oh yes, it seems to be the only thing we speak of. They have taken up residence in the Dunlad Forest and scared the commoners away. That means there is less game, less wood, less herbs…less everything. It feels as if we do not do something, we will become like our fallen neighbors in Aerondel. Do you know it?”

“In fact, I do.”, Aedan crossed his arms across his chest, “I earned my spurs there.”

Ser Kelson nodded approvingly, “That is good, there are not many of their people left, and those there are have been scattered. I am afraid we will suffer the same fate. Not long ago, they struck Alport from the sea; burned the entire navy in the dead of night. Now they skulk up and down the southern coast, harrying anyone and everyone. They will either burn our lands to the ground or watch us starve as they block our tradeways.”

Aedan nodded solemnly, “I know well their villainy.”

“You strike me as an honest man, Ser Aedan…”, the blond knight looked around and then lowered his voice, “…so I will confess that my Mother was hoping to impress the Summerfields with the tournament. She would very much like to see a marriage between our two houses. With the Summerfields as cousins, we might be able to shake off our Kargish ghosts. So worried about some injurious accident was she, that the hunt will take place in the tamest of our lands. We might strike down a deer, but nothing more; it is neither a true test of faith nor skill, I am afraid. ”

The first of the archery contestants stepped forward and fired into the closest target, causing the crowd to erupt into applause. The two knights paused to inspect the shot and join the clapping. When everyone had quieted, they continued.

“Perhaps you and I should bring boar spears just in case we should end up hunting more dangerous prey.”

“I would very much like that, Ser Aedan, and, after seeing you ride today, I feel poorly for whatever beast or man finds itself on the other end of your spear.”, Kelson grinned.

The soft twang of a bow filled the air, then silence and applause. Again, the warriors stopped their conversation to observe the shot, then resume.

“And now, as my Mother tries to focus on my sister’s marriage, she is pressured by merchants from the Sparrow Isles. Somehow they avoided the Kargish ships to the south and wish to see her. They could have some valuable secret or be in league with the pale-skinned devils. I am afraid our worries are many, Ser Aedan…”, he paused awkwardly, “…but I thank you for listening to my woes.”

“No gratitude is needed, Ser Kelson. I hope that I can find some way to aid your lands and your family.”

“By the grace of He Who Is Holy, an honest friend would be a welcome sight indeed, Ser Aedan; a welcome sight indeed.”

  • * * * * *

“Well, Ser Kelson didn’t win earlier, so I suppose his sister had to win this….in order to keep themselves in your eye.”, Gyles glanced over at Roger.

The two of them were in a loose crowd of nobles who were making their way across the grassy fields under the late afternoon sun. Many were returning to the castle within Calavel’s walls where they had already been provided quarters.

“Yes, I suppose so. It seemed unfair to have her compete against her own subjects but I saw many smiles; I think they are well loved by their people.”, Roger lifted a hand in greeting to another man too far away to exchange words, “I’ll have to speak to him at the banquet later. Are you going to the banquet, Gyles?”

“Banquet? My invitation must have gotten lost in all the business in Iron’s Bay.”

“You have to come! I’ll speak to someone at the castle and make arrangements. Speaking of which, where are you staying?”

“I have rooms at an inn on Wheel Street.”

“No, no, that’s too far away. You’ll stay at the castle with us, I’ll see to it.”

Gyles shrugged and smiled, “If you insist, Roger.”

  • * * * * *

There was comfort in the familiarity of air filled with the smell of water and creaking wood; in taverns where men seemed louder but more true to themselves; where places aboard vessels were earned through skill and not birth. All over the known world, in every port Alistair had been in, he felt safest by the docks. Here, everything was as it seemed.

It had not been difficult for a couple of seamen, tattooed with ships and speaking the jargon of sailors, to find rooms in such a place. Their horses had turned out to be more of a burden, but friends of friends, they say, solve problems. Their horses were stabled up the street, nestled among the others of their kind which pulled the wagons to and from the docks.

Their rooms were small and simple, and there they unloaded their baggage, save two satchels which Alistair set aside. As he readied himself to leave, Varley’s face flickered from confusion to conclusion, “You’re not staying here tonight, are you?”

“No, I’m not.”, Alistair put a satchel over each shoulder, “I have things to do in the dark. Will you give Gyles my message?”

“I will…”, Varley paused then grinned, “…if you agree to introduce me to that woman from the tournament grounds. She was beautiful.”

“Uh…I….can’t introduce you because I…eh…already told you, I don’t know who you’re talking about.”, Alistair made his way awkwardly to the door as he spoke, “I will…I….find us a mining company, will you?”

And then The Alchemist was gone.

  • * * * * *

Upon arriving at the castle, Roger had insisted on dispatching someone for Gyles’ effects at The Sword and Crown. He had followed that with the insistence that quarters be found for his good friend, and so they were. Small and insulting to many nobles, the apartments to which Gyles was led were larger and more opulent than any quarters he had ever called his own. He found his things waiting for him.

He was in the process of trying to decide which clothes were most appropriate for the banquet when there was a knock at his door. A page, dressed in Summerfields livery, bowed, “My lord, the Duchess of Summerfield invites you to be her guest as your earliest convenience.”

Gyles took only a moment to understand the meaning behind the words and nodded to the page, “Give me a moment.”

He closed the door, counted to sixty, and re-opened it with a smile, “Let’s not keep the Duchess waiting.”

He was led through what felt like a great distance of turns and stairs; the journey made Ironbark Keep seem so small in his mind. When at least they arrived, the door was opened before him to reveal a private sitting room. A great window, paned in glass, was open and overlooked the crystal blue expanse of the lake. The Duchess of Summerfield was already seated, “Please come in, Lord Gyles. Thank you for accepting my invitation.”

“Most certainly, Duchess. Thank you for extending it.”

She inclined her head as the smuggler-turned-sophisticate settled into a nearby chair, doing his best imitation of Roger’s sitting posture.

“I understand that you played a critical role during the events at Ironbark Keep. That is was your bravery and wit that allowed Roger to weather it as he did. That you were there both as a wise counselor but also as a brave rescuer.”

“I was there but it was Roger who led at Ironbark when the moment was darkest. It was Roger who struck the Norn with his last weapon, unwilling to be captured without a fight.”

The Duchess reclined with a coy smile, “This tournament seems to be one of surprise. From your unexpected presence, to the final combatants in the joust. For your part, you certainly seemed to have made an impression today with your bird, as well as your apparent relationship to Ser Aedan Hammerhand. But remind me again, what lands do you call home?”

Gyles smiled, “Your Grace, you honor me with your words but today is not about me, it is about your family. It is about Roger’s future and the two beautiful women struggling for his attentions.”

“Indeed, that seems to be the very crux of this festival, doesn’t it? What do you know of these lands and their labors?”, the Duchess sipped from a slim glass.

“I know that many of these lands are struggling against the Kargs. While some of the Kargish tribes come in peace, there are others that come as warriors and traitors. Their ships have been seen off the southern coast and, if the rumors are true, they have ruined the fleet in Alport.”

“Those are just the affairs of war. What of Lady Briony and Lady Ariella? What of their families?”

Gyles shifted in his seat, “For what it is worth, I believe Roger is quite taken with Lady Ariella.”

The Duchess pursed her lips in annoyance, “Yes, it seems everyone at this tournament is smitten by her. Do you know the Earl of Northridge?”

A handful of memories flickered in Gyles’ mind; past deliveries made on behalf of the House of Northridge.

“I have done business with Lord Northridge several times and it was he, in fact, who introduced me to Lord Humphrey – which is how I ultimately came to meet Roger. He is…”, Gyles paused to take a drink from his own glass which had appeared, “…he is an ambitious man who would try hard to either please your family or revenge himself upon it, depending on the future of his daughter’s hand.”

The Duchess sat unmoved by his words, “And what of the Baroness and her family?”

“I think these are wonderful lands and gracious people but I do wonder about their future. Kargish marauders to their west and south, their navy destroyed. Without the right support, I think there may be long, dark days in store for their family.”

For the first time in their conversation, the Duchess’ posture seemed to relax. A very slight smile crept into her features, “You seem remarkably well informed, Lord Gyles. Roger tells me that you provided wise council and valiant help in his hour of need.”

She paused to take another drink, “I could use a man of your talents in the upcoming days. Momentous decisions approach and I too will need sage council of my own; the same that you rendered to my son. I would ask you to keep an eye open as these days pass. I would like to know what it is, exactly, that the Earl and Baroness would have from my family. A counselor who could answer such questions would be well rewarded.”

“Duchess, it would be my great honor to help you, and Roger, with this duty.”

“Then I consider the surprise of your presence here a pleasant one, Lord Gyles. Now, if you will excuse me, I should prepare for the banquet.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”, Gyles stood and made his way to the open door. As he stepped through into the hallway, the voice came over his shoulder.

“Know that you did not answer my question, Lord Gyles; serve faithfully and much can be overlooked. Serve with infidelity and one’s own secrets may become the price.”

The door closed behind him with a soft click.

  • * * * * *

On the street where he had led Varley earlier that day, Alistair picked out a crumbling two story building and made his way inside. The sun had partially slipped below the edge of the world, painting the streets in dim red-golds. On the second floor, amongst the ruin, he discovered the view of Rogosh’s building was a clear one. This would do for his temporary roost.

With concerted effort, he moved what remaining furniture there was to his liking, fashioning a makeshift desk with a crate to sit on. Onto the table, he unpacked vials and jars, tinctures, powders, liquids and mixtures of all kinds. Then, able to glance up and see Rogosh’s abode, he began his work. Two mixtures, one that would light with great ferocity and whose blaze would be the color of emeralds. The second would be applied to a rag, then held over a mouth or nose, so it would be inhaled. It would need to bring on a deep sleep in fast order without having to be ingested. As his mind worked through the attributes, his fingers danced among the containers set out before him. He tapped, he measured, he mixed and waited. The sun disappeared, and the moon crept into the night sky.

The Alchemist continued to work and watch.

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