The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 9

“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.”

aa-ch-9“Quite Special!”

“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…”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 10

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 8

The window blinds were rolled down and the closed sign was set on the door, an act that had made Albert wince. In the shop were Albert, Morag the dog, Sir John, Marie, Miss Henderson, and an elderly gentleman with a long grey beard.

“So, then,” said the old man, “I’m Diarmuid Mac Dubh. I daresay you’d like some sort of explanation?”

aa-closed“So, Then…”

There was a general murmur of assent although the question seemed rhetorical. Mac Dubh sighed and started to speak.

“So the history books have it that I died 300 years ago in a fire which destroyed my house and killed my family. All that remained of my life’s work were some glass oddments which were undamaged by the blaze and have been kept, until recently, in the British Museum. Some of these facts are not entirely accurate, as I’m sure you can gather.

“First, let me tell you a wee bit about alchemy. You see, the Great Work takes exactly one hundred years. Completed correctly, it elevates the alchemist beyond the corporeal form, transports him to the angelic world and brings him in contact with God. The Summum Bonum, also known as the Philosopher’s Stone or the Red Stone is a mere side effect, not the goal. Nevertheless, the powers of the Stone, to extend life and create gold, are necessary to prolong the alchemist’s life and to allow his time to be devoted to the Great Work. So first, one must find a master willing to gift some of the Stone. Then the alchemist may attempt the work himself.

“As for me, my first attempt, ending three hundred years ago, ended in catastrophe. I was a mere 121 years old and my daughter, Morag, was my apprentice. You see, I had given her some of the Red Stone meant for me, so moved had I been by her mother’s death. As the work neared completion, a small amount of the Red Stone appeared. I was ecstatic, and I leapt in joy. Alas, in that moment my concentration on the Great Work was broken and success became failure. The apparatus flared violently and the flames caught the house. The three of us, Morag, myself and our dog tried to escape. I grabbed Morag and dragged her from the wreckage of our home, my skin burning. When I was outside I realized I had taken the dog by mistake and my daughter was still inside. In despair I threw the some of the Red Stone into the burning house to try to save her.

‘Her body was destroyed, but her soul somehow …  migrated … to the dog. She spoke to me immediately, asking what had happened. I realized we would have to hide, or else she would be killed as a demon. We ran from that place.”

Diarmuid looked at Morag with tears in his eyes.

“My poor daughter, we have been running ever since,” he said.

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 9

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 5

A rotund, shabbily dressed man with a day’s growth of beard sat behind the shop’s counter. He was leaning on it and looking at the shelves filled with a myriad of unusual and tasteless decorative items. A large brown dog slept languidly next to him.

Sir John and Marie came into the shop.

“Are you Albert Cunningham?” said Sir John to the man.

“Maybe” he said, his eyelids heavy.

“You’re not sure?” asked Sir John.

“I’ve got an inkling,” said the man. “Why don’t you introduce yourself to me and then we can see if it becomes an opinion.”

“I’m Sir John Jennings, paranormal investigator,” said Sir John, “and this is my wife, Marie.”

The man’s back straightened involuntarily.

“Welcome Sir Jennings!” he said. “Just for absolute clarity, you are in no way connected to the revenue offices or the London constabulary.”

“Well, I think one of my maids is…” started Sir John.

Non,” said Marie. “We are not either of those things.”

“Oh, French,” said the man, “Enchanted! I am Albert Cunningham, owner and proprietor of this fine establishment. How may I assist you in fulfilling your hopefully myriad and expensive needs.”

“We’re looking for some stolen artefacts, with a possibly magical provenance.” Said Sir John.

aa-ch-5“Five Shillings!”

At this point a young man entered the shop. He was carrying a large bag and started walking toward the counter. Albert Cunningham started coughing.

“I am afraid sir that I have no knowledge of the whereabouts of articles from disreputable sources as I would never procure something in that manner,” Albert said loudly to Sir John. The young man quickly left the shop, looking startled.

“Look,” said Albert, leaning close to Sir John, “despite my apparent reputation, I don’t deal with anything that isn’t legitimate. But, as they say, I might know a gent who can help. If you tell me exactly what you’re looking for and perhaps purchase an item from the emporium, I may be able to guide you on your way.”

Sir John leaned in, too.

“We’re looking for artefacts belonging to Diarmuid Mac Dubh which were stolen from the British Museum.”

Albert looked carefully around him.

“Who are ‘we’?” he said quietly.

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you,” said Sir John equally quietly.

“Well then, sir, we are at what your wife might call an impasse,” Albert said.

Marie put down a small porcelain pagoda.

“’Ow much for this … Folly?” she asked. Albert grinned.

“Five shillings,” he said. “And if I were you, I’d go to the Royal Oak in New Malden and ask for Mr Bobblewit.”

Sir John handed over the money and the Jennings left the shop, taking the little porcelain building with them.

“So,” said Albert when they left, “the Foh-Lie boys are after them as well.”

The Auld Alchemist: Chapter 6

*Thanks to The Graphics Fairy  for today’s lovely image of a pagoda.