A Snippet: Alchemy of Shadows

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I was born in the year 1215 in a small town in Westphalia As a boy, my parents apprenticed me to the famed alchemist Albertus Magnus. Under his tutelage I grew to adulthood and learned the mystical secrets of alchemy including the manufacture of the Elixir of Life. I have gone by many names through the centuries.

I was already centuries old when I encountered the creatures of darkness made manifest that I know only as Shadows. They have chased me down through the years for reasons I have never understood.

Light was the only weapon I had against these Shadows, light that could drive them back but not harm them. And so I ran. Every time the Shadows caught up with me I fled to a new identity, a new life, until inevitably they found me again. At long last, with nowhere left to run, I had to find some way to fight the Shadows, not just for myself, but for the people I had come to care about.

My name is Adrian Jaeger. This is my story:

“So.” Becki stood, left hand on her hip, right still hanging at her side, belligerence radiating from her. “You wanted to show us something?”

I sighed. We stood in the living room of my apartment. Jeff sat on the couch watching, but saying nothing.

Jeff surprised me. I had expected more resistance to what I had been saying from him, but he had taken what I’d said with calm acceptance. The events at the hospital had unnerved him, but he simply waited to see what I would do about my own story.

Becki, however, was a different story.

“What could I show you?” I asked. “I suppose we could wait twenty, thirty years and you’d see that I don’t age.”

“What about your philosopher’s stone? Isn’t that supposed to let you transmute base metals into gold?” Becki rubbed at her right arm. I noticed a tightening of her shoulders. The numbness of the Shadow’s touch was wearing off and the pain only just starting. Knowing what was to come, I wished I could do something, but nothing affected that freezing pain.

My lips twitched. “You know the tales. It isn’t actually a stone. It’s…well, I’ll get to that part later if you don’t mind. There’s one thing I can show you.”

I removed the vial of elixir from where I kept it tucked in a pouch behind my belt. I set it on the low table that fronted the couch.

“What’s that?” Becki asked.

“You’ll see,” I said. “One moment.”

I left her and Jeff in the living room while I stepped into the kitchen. I returned with a paring knife.

Becki’s eyebrows rose when she saw what I held. Jeff sprang off the couch. I held up my hand to placate them but they both eyed me warily.

With a quick stroke, I sliced deep into my left forearm. I quickly shifted my arm over the table before blood could drip onto the floor.

“My God! What the…” Becki stepped forward.

I dropped the knife and held up a hand to forestall Becki’s approach. Jeff slowly edged to the side, clearly trying to circle to grab me from behind.

“Give me just a few seconds,” I said. I picked up the vial and gripped the cap between my teeth. I spun the body of the vial free. Once it was open I pressed the tip of my right index finger over the opening and shook the vial to moisten my fingertip. I extended the fingertip and, holding the vial between thumb and middle finger spun it back into the cap.

I left the vial between my teeth and ran my moistened fingertip along the still-bleeding wound in my left forearm. The wound closed behind my finger, leaving a red weal as though from several days of healing. The small amount of elixir would not completely heal the wound, but this would be sufficient to demonstrate.

Another wipe of my hand cleared enough of the blood from my forearm to show the mostly healed cut.

“My…God.” Becki leaned close, grabbing my hand, she turned it to examine my arm. “How?”

“Elixir of Life.” I set the vial back on the table. “The transmutation of metals is trivial. This was the true goal of alchemy. With it you could cure any illness, heal any but the most instantly fatal of injuries, and—” I waved with my free hand indicating myself. “—extend life and youth indefinitely. I am over eight hundred years old. I am also nineteen.”

“Nineteen?” Jeff pried my arm out of Becki’s hands to perform his own inspection.

“I usually aim for a physical age of mid-twenties to mid-thirties, but I had to use a lot of elixir recently and…well, it saved my life and I suppose the drop in my apparent physical age was no real problem since I had to disappear and start over again.”

I rounded the table and sat on the couch Jeff had vacated.

“But…you could revolutionize medicine with this,” Becki said. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Jeff. From their position, they loomed over me.

“Please, sit,” I said. “How could I revolutionize medicine?”

Jeff sat in the chair. Becki, after looking around for a moment, joined me on the couch.

“What?” Becki said. “You can cure the sick, heal injuries. That would…”

“That would get me killed,” I said. “Or…something. I don’t really know what the Shadows want.”

I sighed. “Look, it’s not as easy as you think. It takes months, literal months, to make a vial of elixir. You asked about the philosopher’s stone? Well, my blood is that stone. Albertus did something, I don’t know what, but it changed me. Most of what I do requires my blood. Oh, sure, I can use the elixir to restore my blood easily enough but whatever it is that makes my blood work in alchemy is not so easily recovered.” I tapped the vial. “This is all that I have left. It will be another three months before I have more.”

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