“Tell them about the artefacts,” said Morag. Diarmuid sighed and continued his story.
“I suppose some people came and took what remained after the fire. These were the artefacts that resided in the British Museum. As for me, I used the rest of the stone to extend my life and make some gold, then started again. What else could I do? I managed to recreate most of my tools, but the items I had lost, well, one of the items, seemed invaluable. They were in the hands of one Sir Hans Sloane. The crucial item was only needed for the last step, so I waited until just before the work was complete. I broke into the gentleman’s house to retrieve my tools and to complete my work. I did not see it as theft, as they were mine to start with.
“Alas, again I was unsuccessful, as my physical form here attests. Some Red Stone, but no elevation. I sent back the items to Sir Sloane in frustration, but then started again. One hundred years ago I was also close and again needed that crucial item. By now the artefacts were in the museum, which is from where I ‘borrowed’ them. I hardly need tell you that attempt failed. I believed then there was a flaw in the items I had used. I set out to create new tools from scratch. Again, I returned the ‘borrowed’ items so no one would look for them, or more importantly, me, and thought no more of them until recently.
“It was just a few short weeks ago that I was carrying out a divination and I saw there were others who wished to use my tools for ill ends. I could not be sure who they were, but it was reasonably clear the tools would be stolen. I waited each night outside the museum until I saw some rogue enter the building. On his exit, I relieved him of his ill-gotten gains. I established that he was a mere hired hand and knew nothing. I brought the artifacts back here. Albert has been kind enough to let us stay, you see.
“I thought the matter over and the crisis averted until yesterday. I believe you visited a couple of days before? Ah, curses, if we had only … still, hindsight is the wisest yet tardiest wisdom. During the night there was a disturbance. I woke to see a creature of some kind, a golem I think, leaving the window. It had only taken one artefact, the most dangerous, the most powerful.”
“What was it?” asked Sir John.
“It is a glass, a lens,” said Diarmuid, “which at the very end of the process is used to turn the alchemist from his fixed earthly form to a being of spiritual light. The danger is that it may be reversed, may be used to turn a spiritual being, even a malign one, especially a malign one, into something physical. This is what I believe these people are trying to do.”
“This Draco Viridis?” said Marie. The alchemist looked at her.
“Is their their name now?” he said. “The names don’t matter. It is the intent that is important. And now they have it. And the serpent is clever, sending a golem. If it were a human who had stolen the lens, Morag could track them. But a creature of clay … it is impossible.”
“Marie,” said Sir John, “there must be something you can do? Could you try visualizing the golem to determine the direction it went.”
Diarmuid looked confused.
“My wife is a witch,” said Sir John, matter of factly. Miss Henderson glared at him.
“He means…” said Morag, “for real.”
“Oh, yes,” said Sir John, smiling lightly. “She’s very powerful. Quite, quite special actually.”
“I don’t think this visualization thing works mon cher, but I ‘ave an idea,” said Marie. “Was any of the clay left behind? On the window sill or somewhere?”
“There was a little, yes,” said Morag.
“I’ll need that,” said Marie, “and a small stone…”