Sunday, August 4, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - The Alchemist

34). The Alchemist

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

In all of Khromarium there is perhaps no single individual better known and yet still an enigma than the man known only as 'The Alchemist'. That he is a mage of great power is undisputed, but his origins remain unknown as does his name.

Years ago a strange ship sailed into the docks of Khromarium; a ship without sails, without crew, and with only a single occupant. It was a small ship but the man who emerged from its hold seemed too old to have crewed even such a vessel no bigger than the long boat off a galley. When he turned and lifted the ship in his hands and then proceeded to fold and refold the vessel till it was smaller than his hand, smaller than his fingers, so small that those watching had to look away as what they watched became more than wondrous; it became disturbing to the senses of what should be and what should not.

This was the arrival of the Alchemist. Not a display of raw power, but power was there, subtle and practical. He appeared as an old man of white beard and hair, not tall, perhaps shorter than average, not fat, nor thin, nor so old to appear feeble. As he turned to walk along the quay a staff of smooth white wood appeared in his hand as if a branch, straight and unblemished, grew from a dark core of nothingness.

The Alchemist settled near the Street of Trade where it crossed the Quarter of Craft before emptying into the Sea Market where the goods fresh from the holds of ships were sold and the pens of exotic animals and slaves were kept. He found an old building that had suffered in the Cold Riots many years before, partially ruined with a roof holed by fire and walls stained with smoke. A small crowd of layabouts, longshoremen, traders and sailors had followed at a respectful distance from the docks where he had arrived and watched as he step lightly across the overgrown yard littered with debris and enclosed by a short iron fence. The doors of the building had been nailed shut but they parted at the touch of the Alchemist's hand and closed silently behind him.

A flash of light burst from the windows and the holed roof, out the top of the broken chimney. The light suffused the walls, swept across the yard, caressed the iron fence, the broken gate. When the light faded the iron gate was black, the yard bare except for a carpet of wildflowers and herbs, the walls of the building a rich brown, the windows glassed and shuttered, the roof whole and the doors more solid and dark bound with what might be silver and etched with runes that none could read, and open as if waiting visitors.

The Alchemist stepped from his new abode and shut his door behind him, locking it with a small silver key and turned toward the nearby market. He shopped, and talked of small things, and laughed. He hired servants to watch his door and tend his garden and cook his meals. The Alchemist seems never short of gold and what he cannot find for sale he hires adventurers to find for him, and within his brown-walled home he sells potions and pills, salves and solutions which will dissolve steel but not harm flesh.

The Alchemist is liked, respected and somewhat feared by his neighbors on the Street of Trade, but he is well-regarded and a source of pride for proud Khromarium.

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