Offline UndeadSpider1990Topic starter

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 891
  • Country: gb
  • Reputation Power: 13
  • UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.
  • Hey you! Join a PvP event!
City of Alchemy – A Story Inspired by Elements https://elementscommunity.org/forum/index.php?topic=53738.msg1125799#msg1125799
« on: February 11, 2014, 08:29:06 am »
City of Alchemy
by UndeadSpider1990

Below is a story, written by me, inspired by Elements the Game. City of Alchemy follows an man who was given the mark of fire, on his hunt for a mad alchemist turned kidnapper. With the help of his trusted friend, Aeden McKay takes on the role of detective — at the same time avoiding the real police, who want him for the crimes of his past.

Please note that due to posting on the Elements forum the formatting of the story is not at its best. Also, I recommend you use the links in the Contents Directory to navigate this post. It is much more convenient than scrolling through the whole story!

I am very open to comments and feedback, and would love to hear what you think. Please refrain from reiterating that the US spelling of "realise" uses a 'z' — I am from England :) Nice to meet you. There may be some issues with paragraphing due to this edited, forum version, so feel free to let me know if you find something strange.

I hope you enjoy reading! I shan't spoil it by saying which cards you may recognise from the story! :D

Madness bubbled in a conical flask. The brew joined a rubber tube which ran across the wooden table, connecting it to apparatus on an iron frame. Glass twisted downwards, circling unevenly, and in its gut dripped a thick red liquid. The bottom of the spiral joined to a metal box, the other side of which was a closed valve, and another tube stretched over the one table and down to another. Up again, it clung to a drip—an opaque bag stained orange and brown.

   In a dingy room just outside the slums at Blackwater, an alchemist made his laboratory. Caged beneath his apparatus was a trio of flea-bitten alley cats, and to their right another cage—its iron door left ajar. Further right was a doorway, rotten with damp, beyond which was the alchemist in a long grey coat.

   Tinkering at his equipment—pipes, bottles, and pouches of dark liquid—he paced across the room. He reached up and adjusted a valve, then put both hands into the tub in front of him.

   "Yes!" he encouraged. "Yes that's it."

   In the tub there was a toad as large as a cat. Though its skin was wet like a frog's, its shape was uneven. A leg twitched in two inches of brown water. Despite the alchemist's encouragement, its eyes were glazed and its body limp. He gripped a needle connected to a rubber tube at one end, and stuck in the animal's neck at the other.

   The toad kicked, and the alchemist used both hands to keep it down.

   "Yes!" he cried. "Yes!"

   The toad began to wriggle all fours, struggling to escape the alchemist. Foaming at the mouth, it convulsed and lost control of its body again.


   The toad bled beneath the skin, and in several areas cancerous bumps rose and broke open like moles unearthing in a marsh.

   "No!" he cried again.

   The animal's eyes gained new vibrancy—a lilac glare—and it recovered its movement with eerie disregard for the alchemist. It hopped away as if he was not even there. Out of the tub, it made it to the doorway while the alchemist only watched—and then it died.

   The alchemist took his hair in his hands, and cursed the world.

Chatter and the laughter of children filled a crowded street. From a dusty building, two boys emerged, chasing each other and tripping over cobbles. They ran up the street past a merchant and two women talking, and up ahead there was a pair of men walking along the street. The second child squeezed between the two men.

   "Hey you!" one of the men scolded. "Watch where you're going."

   The boy turned without stopping. "Sorry Mr. O'Farrell." He looked at the other man and called good day before turning again to chase his friend.
The first man turned his attention back to the other. "My point is," he said, "there's nothing here worth spending so much time. You do know this is a slum, right?"

   "Yes I know it's a slum—" he answered, "that's why they call it the slums at Blackwater, isn't it?" He watched the other man for his reaction. "But I don't believe there's nothing here worth my time."

   "Aeden you're not like the rest of us. You can read and write, you know the ins and outs of the city better than any upperclassman. You're strong, and tell me you're not gifted."

   "If it's a gift I didn't ask for, do I still count as gifted?"

   "Yes Aeden," he answered, "if you give a kid a pair of socks he doesn't want, then ruddy tough luck—it's still a gift."

   "That kid could give his socks to someone else."

   "Will you take me seriously? A man like you could go places, but you're squandering it away in the gutter."

   They stopped walking. "Squandering in the gutter?" They exchanged looks. "If I'm really so gifted, then I already use my gift exactly how I want. I take from the rich and stupid and give to the poor. I put your bloody socks on the feet of those children. So I don't live in a nice house? If you call that squandering then call me a pauper." Aeden turned his attention to the top of a wall one storey high, where he heard a peculiar yet familiar sound.

   "Well hello."

   A grey cat jumped down from the wall, and stared at Aeden from a distance. He crouched and returned the look, reaching into his coat.

   "Helping the children?" said the other man, while Aeden gave the cat something to eat. "The only thing you're helping is these filthy alley cats."

   "Mick's not filthy," he replied as the cat trotted away, "he just has a funny meow."

   "Be that as it may—"

   Aeden stood up, and faced his friend again.

   "—If you really want to help these children, you'll build them a school."

   Aeden clenched his jaw.

   "The guild of the alchemists is a great place to find fools but it's not where the money is. If you want to make a difference, you're going to need more than the pennies of idiots."

   Aeden didn't respond. For a time they stood still, then they began to walk again.

   "The Oracle said he wants to see you."

   Aeden gave him a quiet look.

   "You'd better drop by later today. He didn't say what it was about."

   He nodded, and the two walked ahead into the dusty streets.

Blackwater occupied a huge meander in the River Lismire, and was part of a large city which took its name. Once a quiet town, the city of Lismire had become central to the rise of science—and with it, in ever-growing numbers, came the alchemists.

   Lismire had gained a global reputation: the city of alchemists, and the world centre of elemental studies. It was in this city that six of the seven known elements had been discovered. And in its wilderness, not far outside the city, several elementals were known to reside.

   And in the slums at Blackwater there lived a man who spoke to the elementals.

   Lee O'Farrell accompanied his friend to the Oracle's house. "I'll leave you to it then." he said. "Think about what I said, won't you."

   "Alright," he replied. "I'll think about it." He turned to enter the house. "See you later."

   Lee waved, and Aeden pulled the door open.

   Inside it was dark and smelled of a musky incense. The shutters on the windows were closed, but a multitude of candles filled the room with a dim orange light. A woman stepped towards him at the entrance. Taking his coat without a word, she stepped away again, and he moved inside the house. In the centre hung a veil of curtains, behind which could be seen the figure of a man sat on the ground and surrounded by candlelight. The woman who had taken Aeden's coat drew back the curtains then sat back into the darkness. The man gestured for Aeden to sit before him.

   Once he was sat comfortably, the Oracle begun: "The child chosen by fire. Show me your mark."

   Aeden nodded and obeyed. Loosening his shirt, he revealed his right shoulder and the top of his arm. There he bore a tattoo the size of a large coal: equally black, and unmistakably the elementals' mark of fire. The Oracle studied the mark with patient eyes.

   "I am glad you came so quickly."

   "Oracle," said Aeden with a bow of his head, "I have a question."

   "Yes, but first I would like you to answer mine."

   "Of course."

   "I have two. First," the Oracle threw him a newspaper folded open onto a conspicuous headline: MONSTERS ON THE STREETS? "What do you know of this?" he asked.

   Aeden scanned the article quickly, then dropped the paper in front of him. "About two weeks ago a similar monster made the news. They called it the alleyway abomination. From what I heard, it resembled the creatures of the wilderness outside Lismire."

   The Oracle nodded. "Now there has been another sighting. What do you make of it?"

   Aeden paused before he spoke. "I don't know."

   The Oracle nodded again. "Second. What do you know of the abductions in the slums at Blackwater?"

   Aeden breathed a heavy sigh. "Very little. I haven't been able to learn anything."

   "I need your help. I believe only you can discover a clue as to their whereabouts."

   His eyes sparked. "Just tell me what to do."

   "How do you suppose the creatures, the alleyway abominations, came to be in Lismire? The alchemists?"

   Aeden nodded. "Almost certainly."

   "I believe the two things are connected: the alleyway abominations, and the abduction of the children living in the slums. If we can find the man behind one, we will surely find the other."

   "So how can I help?"

   "You have the means to enter the guild of alchemy building. You must make enquiries—learn anything you can about the monsters on the streets. They are our only lead."

   "Understood." A small smile rose on his lips. "I'll do what it takes."

   The Oracle slowly bowed. "Then, your question?"

   In his excitement he had forgotten, and when he spoke again he had less interest in the question than before. "Why was I chosen?"

   "I do not know the minds of the elementals, they simply choose to speak to me." He took a deep breath. "But, I like to think you were chosen by the fire elemental because there was already a fire in you—if you take my meaning. You are popular in these slums. Your passion is an inspiration to many. Perhaps the elementals felt this was a virtue worth sponsoring."

   "But what if I didn't want their support?"

   "Embrace your mark. It's a gift, not a curse."

   Aeden frowned, then gave a sigh. He decided the Oracle had said all that he could, and other matters pressed him now. He bowed again with more haste, and tossing back the newspaper reiterated his intentions: "If it's in my power, I'll find the culprit and bring back those kids."

   He took back his coat, and left with fire in his eyes.

The stone halls of the guild of alchemy building echoed with debate.

   "I understand your position, but I just need more time."

   "I've yet to see anything promising. Time is money—as they say."

   "Yes but I'm so close—"

   "So you keep saying, and yet you've still to show me even one piece of evidence to support that."

   "But I can feel it."

   "Listen Seamus, you're obviously very new to this so let me put it nicely: people don't invest in feelings—we invest for results. I invested in you because you showed potential. You made a lot of noise with your part in the discovery and your ideas seemed solidly aground, but even I can see that this line of science isn't going anywhere. It's time to move on, and trust me it's for your own good that you do. Find another outlet for your talents, and don't speak to me of money again until you do."

   "But sir, you're not listening to me. How can I make you understand that this is important? The life element—"

   "—The life element is a sinkhole, Seamus! I'm getting out of it and I strongly suggest you do the same."
The investor's footsteps echoed away, and the alchemist's protests failed to reach him.

Returned to his laboratory, Seamus Burns slumped onto a stiff wooden chair at a desk that was littered with notes and diagrams. Above it, a notice of rent was pinned to the wall.

   Stirring himself, the alchemist leafed through his notes. He scribbled something down on a new sheet of paper, then stood up and went to the far side of the room. Beneath an old wooden table, in a basin of water in a black iron cage, a giant toad from the wilderness watched him approach.

   Burns knelt down, bringing with him a tube and syringe. The toad stared with eyes like stones. As Burns reached towards the animal it shuffled to the back of the cage, but thereafter resigned. He pricked it with the needle, and began drawing blood.

   As the sun fell Burns continued to pace around his laboratory, attaching tubes to test tubes, and measuring flasks of blood and other fluids. He continued until late into the night, and then, sat at his desk with a handful of pages in either hand, he slammed his fists on the table.

   The night dragged into the deepest hours, and Burns roused to a strange noise and the realisation that he had fallen asleep at his desk. He looked about—first around the room, for a glance at the toad, but then finally out the window. There he saw a hooded figure who he took to be his landlord. The man carried a potato sack over his shoulder, yet whatever was inside was moving around and eager to get out. There emerged a medley of alarmed shrieks—fading away as the landlord lugged them towards the river.

   Awake, and unperturbed by the sight, Burns set to his experiments again. Yet he made no discovery that night.

   In the morning while he was outside, Burns saw that the potato sack had been thrown onto a heap to be burned—yet the fire had not been lit. The chill of winter hung in the air, and his breath was visible as he warmed his hands. Approaching the sack, he saw that it was dark with wet—confirming his grisly thoughts about the contents. He began to turn away when something moved inside the bag. Something was still alive, and it began to push and claw for an exit.

   Burns approached the heap, and slumped the bag down. He untied the rope that closed it, and looked inside. Among a litter of eight or nine kittens, just one survived. Startled, it looked up at him and froze like a deer. The reflection of its eyes flicked hints of amethyst. Burns reached into the sack and retrieved the kitten—as slowly as if it were not scratching or biting him at all. He looked into its eyes—at the strange discoloration—then took it into his laboratory.

   "It's surely just a miracle—" he muttered. "The landlord couldn't do the job."

   He locked the kitten in the cage with the toad, which stared as vacantly as before. He took the kitten's blood, scribbled down some notes, and flustered around the room.

   "I'm losing my mind. It's just a lucky cat—that's all." He snapped his gaze to the washroom next door.

   Water rushed from the faucets, filling the basin with murky water. He went to the cage and took the kitten out—bringing it to the basin, and holding it under until it was dead. Drowned, the body of the cat was left on the counter. Burns assured himself he had been very foolish—yet an hour passed, and the cat began to move.

   "This is it," he thought aloud. "This is the life element!" He held the cat in his hands, as it spat water and began to claw and bite him again.

   "I have to study it," he turned to the papers on his desk, tossing them aside with a free hand. "This creature will give me everything!"

"Lee!" called Aeden. "I've got a job for you."

   Aeden came to the house of a storeowner near the river. A few other people were walking by, but they paid him no notice as he shouted up to the second floor.

   "Where are you you sod? Lee!"

   "Would you keep it down?" retorted a woman from the same building. "I've got a baby asleep inside."

   Aeden put his hands together. "Sorry miss."

   The woman retreated into the house, and Aeden sighed.


   He turned to find Lee—looking at him with an eyebrow raised.

   "Why on Earth are you arguing with my neighbour?"

   "I'm not arguing!" He scratched his head. "I was looking for you, you sod."

   "Oh," his eyebrows evened out. "Well I'm here now. What do you want?"

   "I spoke to the Oracle. How do you feel about another trip to the guild of alchemy?"

   "Could do. What's it got to do with the Oracle?"

   "I need to ask some questions he thinks might lead us to the children that were abducted a few weeks ago. I'll need a good eye to keep watch."

   "Keep you from running into any old acquaintances?"

   Aeden nodded.

   "Alright then. So what's the plan?"

   "First thing's first, we're going to need to get out of these clothes. Meet you by the gate in thirty minutes?"

   "You don't hang about, do you?"

   "Sorry mate." Aeden lifted a hand to wave, as the two parted ways without another word.

The guild of alchemy was based in an old stone theatre. Long since converted into a place of industry, the walls of the old building served primarily to keep out the lower classes. Inside was the heart of alchemy-related trade in Lismire: the meeting place of science and business.

   When the two men arrived at the main gate half an hour later, they wore the attire of the middle class. Aeden had a long-brimmed hat, behind which for most of the time he was hiding his face. He gave instructions to Lee.

   "Security will want to see membership," he said. "But they don't really care as long as they think we're legit. I've got this—so just let me do the talking."

   Lee listened without a word, and nodded on occasions to show acknowledgement.

   "Once we're inside, you don't know me. Keep me in sight, but keep your distance. If you see anybody you recognise from the last time—"

   "I'll give you a sign. Don't worry."

   Aeden smiled. "Me worried?" Aeden switched his glance behind them—to a familiar sound.


   "Well hello," said Aeden. Waiting on its hind legs, the grey cat stared with placid eyes. Aeden reached into his coat pocket, at which the cat started forward.

   "Not now Aeden!" Lee retorted, keeping his voice down. "Get rid of that thing before he gives us away."

   "I'm afraid he's right Mick," said Aeden, tossing the cat some dried food from his pocket.

   Snatching the food from the air, Mick ate as he walked—turning away like a spoilt prince.

   "See." Aeden looked at Lee. "He knows the drill. He's very clever."

   Lee shook his head.

   Aeden's voice turned serious again. "Okay. Let's go."

   The two approached the stone gate. At one side, in a security shack with bars at the window, two guards sat in comfortable chairs.

   Seeing that the guards were not paying close attention, Aeden walked close to the window. One of the guards looked up, smiled, and said "Hello."

   "Hello," Aeden replied.

   "Membership please."

   "We don't have any," he explained. "We're here for a few interviews for the Midas Gold"—a newspaper well-known only to alchemists. "May we enter?"


   Aeden smiled and gave a nod, then turned to enter.

   "Wait a moment." The guard turned to talk to the other. They spoke in low voices, so Aeden could not hear them. The guard turned back to him. "You need to sign your name here."

   Aeden forced a smile. "Certainly." He stepped closer, and the guard slipped a guest list through the metal bars.

   "Print and sign, please."

   "Just out of curiosity," Aeden went on, "why exactly?"

   "We've had a few reports of fraudsters getting into the guild lately. I'm sorry to trouble you, it's just a security measure."

   "I understand," he turned to Lee, "sounds like a story, too, don't you think?"

   Lee put on a smile, but kept his mouth shut.

   Aeden finished signing his name and handed back the pen and paper. Giving a smile, he turned to go.

   "Excuse me," the guard stopped him. "Him too."

   Aeden turned back to the iron bars. "As you wish." he began putting the pen to paper, yet the guard stopped him again.

   "He has to do it."

   Aeden gave the guard a sharp stare, then turned his head to Lee.

   "Full name, print and sign please."

   Lee pointed to himself. "Me?" He didn't move.

   "I understand it's just a security rule," argued Aeden, "but I promise you this man's not a crook."

   "I believe you," said the guard, "but a rule is a rule."

   "I see." Aeden looked again at Lee. Then he looked down. "But you see the thing is he can't read or write."

   This made the guard turn his head, and it became very clear that he wanted an explanation.

   "He's just a paper boy of sorts, you see. He's my assistant. But I promise you he's an honest man."

   The guard took a long look at Lee. The latter, putting his hands together, returned a timid smile. The guard looked back at Aeden, took a breath, then said "Alright. You can write his name."

   He began to do so.

   "You'd better sign it, too."

   Aeden smiled again. "Thank you." He wrote and signed the name, then returned the list to the guard.

   "Have a pleasant day," said the guard.

   "And you." Aeden nodded, then turned to enter. "Come along, Patrick." He wagged a finger at Lee. The latter smiled again, and followed like a good dog.

Lee's raised voice echoed inside the building's stone halls.

   "Patrick?" He retorted. "Paper boy?"

   "Keep your voice down. I got us in, didn't I?" They stopped in a quiet corner. "I'm sorry. I didn't expect them to tighten security."

   Lee kept a cross look on his face.

   "Okay I'm sorry, but be mad at me later. Right now I need you." Aeden took the softening of his face as a sign that he was receptive. "I'm going to go ahead to the trade centre. Follow me exactly like we said. Okay?"

   Lee nodded.

   "We'll be done in no time." He gave Lee a slap on the shoulder, then went ahead towards the centre of the building.

   Aeden arrived at a market place in open air. Surrounding it were walls that once held seats for an audience, but now held only more stalls for the market sellers. Yet the trade centre was like no other market. There were no food or household items—nothing of any use that Aeden could imagine. The livestock was, at largest, toads from the wilderness, but more commonly rats from the gutter; it was a market of science and alchemy—not of day-to-day things. The space was filled with middle-class merchants selling rubber pipes, glass beakers and bottles, clips, vices, metal frames, and all manner of unusual items. Scattered between the multitude were crowds of men from one of just two professions: alchemy, or business.

   Aeden approached a man at a stall behind glass dishes too small to put anything in. "Hello," he said with a smile. "I was wondering if I might have a moment of your time."

   "How can I help?" the store tender replied.

   "I'm working for the Midas Gold. I was wondering if you've heard about this story." He reached into his coat, and revealed a page from a newspaper. He showed the man the same story the Oracle had shown him—MONSTERS ON THE STREETS?

   The man inspected it closely for a few moments, then handed it back saying "I've heard about it. But I don't know much."

   "Do you think there could be a connection between the monsters and alchemy here in Lismire?"

   "I think it's a sure possibility. But I'm no alchemist." The tender stood up straight and searched the crowd with his eyes. After a moment, he pointed to a man in the distance. "The man over there is Mr. Guinsey. I suggest you try him, if he'll have you."

   Aeden gave a nod. "Much obliged."

   Meanwhile, Lee had found his way to the stalls in the old viewing decks, and was scouting the scene. He spotted Aeden, and scanned the crowds for any other familiar faces. Finding none, yet watching Aeden as he approached a pair of gentlemen, he held his position.

   "Excuse me gentlemen," Aeden introduced, "Mr. Guinsey?"

   The two men—Guinsey and another—turned from their conversation to look at Aeden. The two men were exceptionally tall—a fact Aeden was very aware of, as he was not used to being made to feel small.

   "I'm from the Midas Gold," he repeated, "I was wondering if I could ask some questions about the alleyway abominations. Do you know the story, sirs?"

   Guinsey glanced at the other man. "But of course." He looked at Aeden over a proud nose. "How do you know my name?"

   "Well sir, in my line of work I hear a lot about the pioneers of alchemy."

   "Well," the man cleared his throat, "I don't know about pioneer."

   Aeden smiled. "Do you believe the monsters could have been caused by alchemy in some way?"

   The man with Guinsey nodded with enthusiasm. "There is a whole new field developing in the experimentation with live subjects. Mr. Guinsey, don't you think it's strange how closely the monsters description resembles that of the giant toads?"


   Aeden joined in, drawing the article from his jacket. "I have that description right here."

   "You'll want to speak to some of the forerunners in that field," said the man.

   "Perhaps," said Guinsey. He glanced at the other man before speaking again. "You didn't hear this from me—" he lowered his voice, and indeed his head, to reach Aeden's ear, "but it may have been Burns."

   Aeden quizzed. "Burns?"

   "Seamus Burns. He was a promising alchemist a few months ago. More recently he was doing some experiments with toads, but then rumours have it he went mad. He's not been heard from since."

   "Indeed?" said Aeden.

   Abruptly Aeden and the others were shunted aside. A man stumbled through them—knocking the man with Guinsey to the ground.

   "Oh oh!" the man stuttered.

   It was Lee.

   "I'm terribly sorry!" he said, bowing and making quick but profuse apologies. "Please excuse me, I absolutely must get to the inspector." He disappeared into the market without another word. The two men watched him with sour faces, but Aeden's attention was drawn another direction.

   He looked around the crowd. As sure as it was Lee who bumped into him, through an opening in the market stalls, there stood a man in police uniform. As the inspector turned, Aeden saw marks on the uniform that confirmed his rank, but also something else. He wore a band on his left arm—its royal blue colour and silver insignia making it conspicuous—which boasted the elemental mark of water.

   Aeden was so distracted by the inspector's arm band that he did not notice the man standing next to him. Drawing the inspector's attention with a tap on the other arm, the man began pointing Aeden out from the crowd—it was a man he had met in the guild before.

   Aeden turned his face, and spoke with more urgency than before. "I say Mr. Guinsey."

   The alchemist gave him his attention.

   "Would you happen to know where I might trace that Seamus Burns?"

   Guinsey nodded. "He had a lab in the Blackwater outskirts before he disappeared. You can find it on Fifth Avenue."

   The inspector made his way towards them.

   "Thank you so much—" Aeden glanced towards the inspector, "It was such a pleasure but now I have to go. Good day."

   The men said goodbye to Aeden's back, as he walked with quick but calm steps towards the exit.

   Weaving around stalls and merchants, Aeden did not look behind him, yet he continued with haste that grew greater as his adrenaline began pumping through him. He came to the stone walls where the open-air of the market closed, and coming around a corner into the building he began to run for the main gate.

   Footsteps behind him matched his own, and a strong voice aggressed towards him. "You there!"

   He did not stop.

   Aeden came to the main gate where the two guards, as sleepy as before, did nothing to stop him despite the urgency.

   The inspector got to the entrance a moment later, but as he was running he crossed paths with a man whose head was buried in a book. The man stared after Aeden as he ran, then froze as he turned to find the inspector running straight at him. With a crash the man flew to the ground, but it only took the inspector off-balance.

   "My goodness!" cried the man—Lee—getting up and going to the inspector, "Inspector are you alright? Here let me fix your coat—"

   "Stand aside." The inspector gave him a cold glare, then pushed by him to resume the chase.

   Outside, Aeden headed for the narrow streets of the slums, yet at a glance behind he saw the inspector was still pursuing. He turned down a side-alley that wound between two streets. He was already on familiar ground, and Aeden knew the streets like they were drawn on his hand; he was confident he could lose a man of higher class who did not know the slums.

   He wound through the alley, then approached its end and the street at the other side—when the inspector appeared in the opening.

   The inspector faced him, standing square. Aeden paused, drawing heavy breaths.

   "You know Blackwater pretty well," said Aeden.

    The inspector held a fierce stare. "You're under arrest on suspicion of fraud. If you run, you will face charges for resisting arrest. You cannot escape."

   Aeden turned to the side, stepping back as if to run. "I'd love to oblige you, really—" he stepped back. Upon doing so the inspector stepped forward. To Aeden's surprise, he drew the sword that was fastened at his side, and it shimmered with an aqua glow.

   "Come boy don't waste my time."

   As the inspector stepped closer Aeden reached into his coat pocket. "Now now inspector there's no need for that—" He stepped back. Aeden could tell that the inspector's sword was no ordinary weapon. Its glow was not a reflection, but a visible halo projecting from the weapon itself. It was a pillar—an item granted by the elementals to a person given their mark. It meant the inspector had powers of the water element.

   Aeden drew a round stone from his pocket, and cupped it in one hand. At sight of it the inspector halted. The stone too had a halo—though its was a warm orange. The body of the stone glinted with flecks of red through to yellow—like a glass orb of contained fire.

   Holding his sword low, the inspector clenched his jaw. "That the elementals would choose a sewer rag like you."

   Aeden said nothing, and neither man moved. They watched each other, calculating their next moves.

   The inspector viewed the distance between them. Without further forewarning he leapt forward, closing the gap by a few feet. There he slashed the air with his sword, and from it sprayed a rush of water that flew at Aeden—beginning to freeze from behind.

   Aeden waved the firestone ahead of him, and flames leapt out to meet the water with a hiss. Not waiting to see the result, he turned and ran the way he had came. The inspector gave chase.

   Back on the main street Aeden steered towards a larger crowd, but the inspector was close behind. With a swing of the sword water splashed at his heels and quickly became ice. They broke into a full sprint. The inspector threw another wave at Aeden. Briefly the latter turned, and faced the water with a spread of flames, but the water was too dense and the ice too slow to melt—some of it fell on his foot, and froze solid. He tore his boot from the ground and continued to run, but the inspector had closed the distance.

   Crowded onlookers muttered and yelped as the chase continued through busy streets. There, neither police nor suspect used their powers, yet still they ran at speed. The crowd was too small to lose the inspector, so Aeden turned again into another alley he knew well. At its end it was shut off by a high wire fence, but it was not the first time Aeden had climbed over it. Dropping the firestone into his pocket, he used both hands to vault the top bar. As the inspector came, he too put away his sword, yet as he grabbed onto the top of the fence Aeden tossed him a volley of fire. The inspector dropped back quickly, drawing his sword and protecting himself with water. But Aeden had already turned a corner into a network of alleys beyond, and by the time the inspector was over the fence his suspect was nowhere to be seen. He had escaped.

Aeden paced outside the Oracle's house. He held a hand to his bottom lip, and turned his head at each stranger that came around the street into view. Tiring himself with his swaying, he took a seat on a nearby wall, but stood again only moments later.

   Lee emerged from one of the alleyways nearby.

   "There you are," said Aeden. "I was beginning to think that sod inspector had nicked you."

   "It took a while to get away," Lee explained, "sorry to worry you."

   "Me worried? Don't flatter yourself."

   "Thanks," he said drily.

   "You're welcome mate. Anyway, I think I got what we went for."

   "You found a lead?"

   Aeden nodded. "Maybe. One of the alchemists told me there was a guy who used to experiment on big toads until he lost the plot and disappeared a few weeks ago. I reckon we can find his old lab and snoop around."

   Lee looked worried. "We?"

   "If you're still up for helping a fellow out?"

   "Well," he said slowly, "what is it this time?"

   "Much the same, I suspect. Particularly I need you to keep an eye out for that inspector with the water mark. Did you get a good look at him?"


   "Good." Aeden dropped his chin into one hand. "I want to know who he is." He looked again at Lee. "A man like that's dangerous to be on the wrong side of."

   "The Basilisk."


   "They say to look at the Basilisk is to look at your captor."

   "Lee what on Earth are you talking about?"

   "After you left I stuck about and asked some questions of my own. His name's inspector Carrick, and the sword he carries is called the Basilisk."


   As a smile came to Aeden's face, so one came to Lee. Yet Aeden's face shifted suddenly, leaving Lee confused.

   "Why did you wait this long to tell me?" Aeden retorted.

   "We were busy exchanging 'pleasantries'."

   Aeden grunted. "Well, be that as it may, that was a fine display of snooping. Good job."

   Lee sighed. "So what's next?"

   "Fifth Avenue, in the Blackwater outskirts. We'd better get out of these clothes. Meet you in thirty?"

   "I'm getting déjà vu."

   "Hang in there Lee. You'll be alright."

The two convened half an hour later on Fifth Avenue, which had a greyness similar to the slums. Greeting each other quietly, the two surveyed the street.

   "Let's walk," said Aeden.

   The street was empty. The houses and buildings at either side were closed up—fastened securely to keep safe from the slum-dwellers nearby. There were no voices in the air, so Lee kept his at a whisper.

   "How do we know which one's the lab?"

   "Just keep your eyes about you." Aeden scanned the buildings to his left and right with discrete flicks of his eyes, though Lee, turning his head in wide arches, was not so subtle. "Walk straight would you!" Aeden nagged at low volume.

   "They all look the same," Lee replied, "I don't understand how you think we can find it like this."

   "Have faith Lee. I know what I'm doing." Without a word, Aeden changed course. He crossed the street towards a two-storey house. To its side there was an open space in which was a huge grey pile. It was a bonfire—nothing then but ash—yet Aeden inspected it closer.

   "What is it?" enquired Lee.

   Aeden picked something out of the pile. He held it up. "It's a bone." There were lots of them. He went to a window at the side of the house but it was blacked out. He went to the front door, and peered inside through a crack in the corner.

   "I don't think anyone's home," said Lee.

   Aeden tried the door. The lock clicked and twanged, but it would not open. He went around the house past the bonfire area at its side, and Lee followed at a distance.

   As Lee turned the corner to the back of the house, he looked up to find Aeden atop a flight of stairs. The wooden steps were cracked and rotten, and creaked as Aeden came down to whisper.

   "Keep watch." He climbed the stairs again, then turned to the house. The door hung ajar, and Aeden peered through the narrow gap to see glass bottles and beakers, but no-one evident inside.

   Tapping it lightly, the door opened on squeaky hinges. As he entered the room he was struck by a smell that turned his nose and made it difficult to breath—like animal and gas combined. The room was small and clustered with desks upon which was a multitude of scientific equipment. Glass bottles were connected to rubber tubes, which in turn connected to various vials or sealed flasks—inside of which appeared to be nothing at all. A gas lantern was alight in the corner, but the sun was still high in the sky.

   Aeden reached the table in the centre of the room, and spread a pile of books that had been laid there. Picking up the top item, he flicked it open to an arbitrary page.

   "I have verified that there is a foreign agent in the subject's blood. If I can successfully extract it, I will be able to begin experimenting with its applications."

   Aeden looked sharp at the sound of a sudden fluttering behind him. It was a bird. He turned again to the journal.

   "I will need more subjects however. I have had little success in the outskirts, and may need to consider looking further afield."

   Something at a distance rolled along wood—then fell with a tinkle to the ground. Aeden closed the journal but did not put it down. He turned around, and spotted a door to the side that he had not seen upon entry. The doorway, wide open, led to a small room in which all he could see was a bath tub and some moist rags on the floor. The tub was slimy with dirt. Some apparatus hung from an iron frame inside the tub, and animal tracks stained the rags.

   Aeden's steps fell on hollow floor as he approached. He traced around the door before coming nearer, broadening his view of the room inside. He put one foot to the threshold, yet as he lifted his other foot to follow he was shunted aside—knocked off balance and pushed against the doorframe. A man shoved past him into the laboratory.

   "Who are you?" the man demanded, as Aeden composed himself. Not waiting for his answer, the man began gathering the books on the table. Aeden still carried the journal he had taken from the pile, and slipped it into the back of his trousers. Holding the pile of books under one arm, the man pointed an accusative finger. "I don't know you. Get out of here."

   "I'm inspector Carrick," said Aeden. "Who are you?"

   "An inspector?" The man stood with rigid back, and eyes like a startled cat's. He shook his head. "You're lying." He looked Aeden up and down. "Inspectors don't dress like that. You're some kind of crook."

   Aeden moved closer to the exit.

   "This is my house."

   "You're the landlord?"

   "Yes." His fingers twitched on his free hand. "Get out of here before I call the real authorities."

   "You're a bad liar." Aeden narrowed his eyes. "I know who you are, Burns."

   "I warned you, I'm calling the inspector." He took a step towards the exit, but stopped with a look of fear as Aeden blocked his path.

   "I want answers. Are you responsible for the monsters on the street?"

   "I don't know what you're talking about."

   "Did you kidnap the children?"

   The man stepped back, turning his head to watch his step. He navigated between objects on the floor—among them a pair of black iron cages beneath a desk at the side.

   Aeden pulled out the firestone with a whoosh of his coat. "You'll answer me or I swear I'll make you suffer."

   "Oh," the man flushed. "You carry the—the mark of fire." He stumbled on a pipe that had fallen to the ground, but continued walking back in the room. "And what will you do with it?" He grabbed the gas lamp from the corner. "Burn down my lab?" He chuckled, stepping forward again with anger in his eyes, "By all means—be my guest!"

   Aeden clenched the stone, staring at the maddened alchemist.

   "You thug!" he derided, "Imbecile! I'll teach you some respect!" He dived towards Aeden, but short of arms reach hurtled the gas lamp at him.

   Aeden dipped aside, but the gas lamp burst into flames behind him, and the fire spread rapidly across the length of the room.

   Taking the opportunity, Burns ran past Aeden with a shove, and made for the exit. At that very moment Lee appeared in the doorway, but startled by the flames and the stranger who ran towards him at speed, was pushed aside by the fleeing alchemist.

   Lee wore a confused frown, and glanced between Aeden, the alchemist, and the flames quickly filling the room.

   "Lee!" shouted Aeden, chasing Burns.

   "Aeden—" he uttered, grabbing his arm as he tried to run out. "It's the inspector—Carrick is here! Coming down the street."

   "What?" Aeden ran to the far window, and looked along the street to confirm what Lee had said.

   "We can't stay Aeden," Lee argued. "You've got to get out of here."

   Aeden thumped the wall. "Let's go."

At the house of Burns's landlord, inspector Carrick knocked three times on the front door.

   "Inspector Carrick, Lismire Police," he announced. "If you're home please come to the door."

   A pair of middle-class strangers stopped in the street behind him, looking his way. The inspector waited. He dismissed the two people, but more gathered. They began muttering, and some pointed to the house. He turned to look at them and was surprised, for they were not looking at him, but the space above him. He walked to the crowd farther away from the house, and looked to the second floor. The window glowed with fire, and from the back of the house bellowed thick black smoke.

   Carrick ran around the house, taking the hilt of the Basilisk in his hand. He took the stairs with a wave of the sword, releasing a rush of water that cleared some of the smoke. He looked into the room: it was fully ablaze—more than even he could handle alone.

   He returned to the crowd now gathered in great numbers outside the house.

   "I'm inspector Carrick," he announced, sheathing the sword and putting both hands behind his back. "If there's a witness to this let him speak to me now, or suffer the consequences of his silence."

   The crowd muttered and looked about. A voice rose from among them. "I saw them sir!"

   Carrick turned to the man—a thin man, with wild hair and an armful of books. It was Burns, though Carrick did not know it. The inspector gave him a gruff command. "Explain."

   "Two men, sir, fleeing to the slums with surely looted goods. One of them carried the mark of fire."

   Carrick turned to the house—its fires breaching the roof. When he turned again to the crowd he spoke with such command that he had to dismiss the witness's disappearance from the crowd. "Now hear this. Every able man and woman must fetch water at once. We must stop this blaze from reaching the adjacent building. Go quickly."

   The crowd's muttering increased, but they set to the task. Carrick then turned to fight the flames.

The two convened in Lee's dorm. Aeden—still gripping the firestone in his fist—crashed onto Lee's wooden bunk.

   "I had him in the palm of my hand!" he vented. "We were so close."

   "I'm sorry Aeden. I could have stopped him."

   Aeden shook his head, opening his eyes. "You did the right thing." He looked at Lee for only a moment. "It's that sod inspector's fault. If he hadn't shown up we could've chased him."

   Lee stayed quiet.

   Aeden picked the journal out of his coat. He viewed the front cover. It read simply: JOURNAL. He opened the first page, discovering that a number of pages at the beginning had been torn out.

   "Today I discovered something incredible—something so unbelievable it is surely the work of the elementals. I am not yet certain how, but I believe this will finally elucidate many of the mysteries of the life element. I have already conducted my first experiments; results were promising, and I am determined to discover what secrets this phenomena hides."

   "What exactly is that?" asked Lee.

   "The madman's diary." He leafed through a few pages. "Looks like a bunch of crazy stuff to me."

   "Oh." Lee took a seat against the windowsill. "It's no use then?"

   "I can't be sure yet." He gave Lee a calm look for the first time since the fire at the lab. "I'll have to go through it all." He flicked to the last pages—a handful of which had been left unfinished. "I don't expect it'll be the most exciting read."

   Lee shrugged. "I'd help if I could."

   "Pff! I bet you would." He smiled. "Let me tell you what I think so far." He showed Lee the front page. "Here he's writing about making some big discovery. See the torn pages?"

   "He was using the book for something else beforehand?"

   "Sure." Aeden nodded. "And from the looks of it this discovery of his is all he's written about for about a month."


   "So either he really was onto something, or he went bananas like they say he did."

   "So you think he's mad?"

   Aeden growled and slapped the book shut on the bunk next to him. "Of course I do. The lunatic just set fire to his own laboratory!" He grunted. "Sorry. I mean I'm not mad at you."

   "It's fine," he replied. "How about—"

   Aeden's ears were open to good ideas.

   "—you get out of my house."

   His arms dropped.

   "I'm sick of you anyway, but more to the point a little chill-out might do you good."

   Aeden put his hands behind his head. "Well," he sighed, "I am pretty sick of you too." He smiled. "I'm going to head home then. I'll be in touch." He picked up the journal. "This is the only thing we have that can lead us to Burns. We don't even know if he's really the one behind the abductions—but we've got to try." He stood up, and went to the exit.

   "See you later."

   Aeden rose a hand, then went out the door.

« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 02:22:26 am by UndeadSpider1990 »
Like reading? Here's a story inspired by Elements, City of Alchemy. :)

Offline UndeadSpider1990Topic starter

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 891
  • Country: gb
  • Reputation Power: 13
  • UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.
  • Hey you! Join a PvP event!
Re: City of Alchemy – A Story Inspired by Elements https://elementscommunity.org/forum/index.php?topic=53738.msg1125800#msg1125800
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2014, 08:29:20 am »

The stone halls of the guild of alchemy building echoed with whispers.

   "This," said Burns, consorting with a man in black. "This is the solution that Griffin is after."

   The two conspired in a quiet corner just off a major corridor. Burns showed the man a vial of thin yellow liquid, plugged with a blackened cork.

   "The solution?" The man repeated in whisper. "I wanted the formula! What can I do with this?" He reached out a hand to take the flask, but Burns snatched it away.

   "Pay me half now," he said with sharp eyes. "Have another alchemist prove the solution; I'll give you the formula when we're both satisfied."

   The man took a look in either direction along the corridor, then reached into his coat. His fingers tinkled in a pouch of coins, and he began counting them into one hand.

   Waiting for the man in black, Burns glanced along the corridor. Two heavy-set men were looking their way. "Quickly," he rallied.

   The man sneered at Burns.

   One of the men across the corridor took a step towards them. "You," he called, summoning his ally in an advance towards them. The approaching men became sure of themselves: "Burns!"

   Burns turned quickly from the man in black. "Meet me again—" he walked away with hurried steps, but his pursuers broke into a run.

   The first man caught hold of Burns and seized him by the collar. As Burns was flung against the wall, the second man grabbed the man in black.

   "You shouldn't have shown your face here again, you bastard." The first man tightened his grip on Burns. "We'll see who's the clever one now."

   "Let go of me you fool!" growled Burns. "There has clearly been a misunderstanding."

   "I'm seeing perfectly clear, you sod con."

   Meanwhile, the man in black struggled with the other man.

   "Who is that?" demanded the first man.

   The second threw a punch. It connected—and silver coins were sent jingling along the ground.

   "Hey—" the first man called to the other. Snatching the vial from Burns, he showed it to his associate, then turned his head to the man in black. "You can thank us later—"

   The second man let him go.

   "You want nothing to do with this bastard."

   The man in black scuttled along the floor to gather his silver, then ran out of sight. The two men closed on Burns. They pushed him, shouted, and hit him until he fell. There they kicked him, took his belongings, and spat on his face.

Burns stumbled to the slums at Blackwater bruised and ragged. The men had taken almost everything he had left. Evicted, friendless and without investment, he became first a fraudster and then a thief. That night he sat to rest next to a barn along the bridleway, alone, until a policeman came and ordered him along. He crouched beneath an arch at a shop's doorway, but the shopkeeper found him and beat him with a wooden cane. He walked out the night in a sleepless daze.

   In the morning that followed, Burns crept into his old laboratory and took the last of the vials he had stored in his vault. He took them to the streets of the suburbs—boasting his co-discovery of the life element—but he was not believed. Worse yet people were starting to recognise him. He was beaten and chased out of Blackwater.

   He staggered upstream along the Lismire, tripping into the outskirts of Three Oaks. He became a burglar—entering the house of a middle-class man and taking money and clothes. He took his vials again to the streets—flaunting his only crumb of scientific credibility—but could not find an investor.

   As the days went by his beard grew shaggy and his hair and clothes became dirty. Before he could even explain that he was once a promising alchemist, his smell gave him away. He resorted again to fraud—selling the bulk of his vials as potions claiming to do whatever his customers wanted. He began to lose his dreams of science and the life element—until he met the maid.

   She needed medicine—a middle-aged nurse with sleep-deprived eyes. Burns caught sight of her exiting a doctor's surgery. The doctor was shaking his head.

   "I understand your position," he said, "but you must take my advice."

   "But what are we to do?" she pleaded. "Your medicine made him better, oh why can't we give him more?"

   He shook his head again. "He's already taking more than he must. If he takes any more it will only add to his condition."

   The woman, open mouthed, took an uneven breath.

   "Please listen to what I said." He tried to smile. "May God be with you."

   The doctor left the maid standing alone outside the surgery. She trudged towards a park bench and sat with a stiff back. Her hands, pressed on her knees, turned white at the knuckles.

   Burns crept towards the bench, watching her as she sat. She did not notice him approaching, and was startled when she saw his ragged figure.

   "Tell me what's wrong with him," he said.

   She looked through wild hair into his lightless eyes. She didn't answer.

   "I heard your conversation with the doctor."

   "Excuse me," she said, her voice rising, "You shouldn't listen to—" a tremble in her throat "—to other people's conversations."

   "If you let me see him, I can help you."

   Burns explained that he was one of the alchemists who discovered the life element. He told her that he had studied the element for a long time, that its properties could heal a person, and that—by using it—he had already made a number of serums.

   She took him to a house that sat on a green hill—overlooking rooftops for streets and streets. They had come to the manor of a nobleman, who Burns met lying in a silk-adorned bed asleep and barely breathing.

   He took a vial from his coat. It contained a crimson tar, the sight of which brought the maid to cover her mouth. He gave her a stern look, and she permitted him to use the potion.

   The next day the nobleman opened his eyes and spoke—as the maid explained—for the first time in days. Burns feigned confidence in his potions, as if he had used them a hundred times before. He accepted payment and an order for more, yet he knew his supplies would run out.

   When he told the maid he had no laboratory to make more serum, the lord gave him everything.

   Unlimited by the wealth made available to him, Burns built a new laboratory inside the manor. He rekindled his experiments, gathering quantities of equipment he could only have dreamed of. Yet he could not perfect the potion. He needed special subjects—forest toads would not suffice. He tinkered in his lab for days that crossed through sleepless nights, leaving the manor only to treat the nobleman—and to find the items his experiments required.

   Within a week the lord was on his feet, but his temperament changed. He became at times depressed, at times skittish like a bird, and other times overwhelmed with feral fury. And while he walked the gardens of his manor as he had always done, he was not the same man. He began speaking less and less, until he lost his voice all together. He wandered the midnight halls of his manor in darkness.

   And still the alchemist spent endless nights in the laboratory: looking for something always out of sight—his mind dissolving in a flask of acid.

Lee stamped up the steps of a ruined church.

   "Aeden!" he called.

   Aeden was reading Burns's journal on a low bunk. He looked up—a look of annoyance on his face. "What on Earth is it?" he complained.

   "See for yourself." Lee slapped a paper on his lap.

   Aeden placed the journal beside him with a reluctant tut, keeping the page. He flicked the paper open, gave it a once-over, then rose to his feet. He paced across the room as he buried his head in the page. "...on suspicion of arson?" he exclaimed. He looked at Lee. "That sod Carrick thinks I'm the one who torched Burns's lab!"

   "What are you going to do?"

   Aeden shook his head, double-checking the poster. "Oh no, oh no," he paced. "I have to move. I'm too well known."

   "You don't think someone would sell you out?"

   Shaking his head, "Every sod in Blackwater knows the bloke with the bloody fire mark doesn't he?"

   Lee did not say a word.

   "Sorry." He took the firestone from his pocket, "It's this ruddy thing I ought to be mad at."

   Lee gave a little smile.

   "Well it's hardly subtle is it?" he shook his head. "I've got to go. I can't take the risk. The sod Carrick!" He paused. "If there's a reward I'll be found for sure. You have to go too, Lee. As sure as people know me, somebody will have seen you around. You've got to keep your head down till the fuss dies out."

   "Aeden," he pleaded, "you're not making a lot of sense. Where can we go? And what about Burns?"

   "I'll keep working on Burns." He ruffled through the journal. "Look at this," he handed it to Lee.

   "I've been forced upstream by thugs and spineless pharmacists. They are talentless, unrelenting money-grubbers. Nobody cares for science, nor the life element albeit undiscovered. I am alone in my dreams for its potential. Few of these primates have even heard of it..."

   Lee handed it back with a shrug. "So what?"

   "The first sentence. When we saw him at his lab, it was as if he was only picking up a few bits. And he torched it, Lee! He must have a new lab. Somewhere upstream of Blackwater."

   "But that doesn't tell us where he is."

   "No, but it's a start." Aeden began gathering things from around the room. "I'm going away from here, upstream the Lismire. Lee, get yourself to Maidsfield; you have friends there right?"

   "Well, yes but—" he stuttered "—I'm coming with you."

   Aeden shook his head. "It's too dangerous. If Carrick finds out we've been working together he'll have it in for you, too. I'll find you when the time is right."

   "Alright." Lee nodded.

   "Come on then, we'd better move fast."

Aeden packed as much as he could carry into a small bag made of tablecloth. Alone, he trekked along the river, passing out of the slums through the middle-class areas of Blackwater, then into its outskirts. He crossed into the outskirts of Three Oaks, where he searched for a place to sleep for the night.

   Three Oaks had no slums—a fact which bereaved Aeden as it meant he would have to try harder to find a place to stay. He trailed around the poorer areas keeping his eyes open.

   On the corner of a quiet street, he came across a tall brick building. Its windows were smashed, adding glass to a moat of broken furniture that had been dumped around it. It had only one entrance—a rotten door, buckling at the hinges.

   The door cracked open, and Aeden peered inside. Patchy sunlight struck through the windows—enough to see rags and empty bottles strewn against the walls. Ahead of him was a staircase to the second floor, but underneath it—with hair as ragged and grey as a rat's—an old man slumped on the ground.

   Entering the building, Aeden stepped towards the man. "I just want somewhere to stay," he said. The building stank of urine and alcohol.

   The old man said nothing. He did not move at all.

   Aeden went across the room to a spot near one of the windows. He swept a clearing with his boot, and was surprised to see that much of the glass was green.

   He dropped his tablecloth bag and was about to take a seat, when the stairs creaked behind him. Slow steps plodded from above. There was a gruff voice: "Who are you?"

   Aeden turned to face the man on the stairs, but discovered there were at least two others behind him. "I've come from Blackwater. I just need somewhere to lie down."

   "You ain't welcome," said the man.


   "You 'eard 'im," said another man, stepping off the stairs. "Get out."

   Two more men came down the stairs—each in tattered attire. They stepped towards Aeden.

   "Alright," he said, "I'm going." Aeden picked up his bag and left.

   Walking along the street outside, Aeden noticed two of the figures emerge and begin to trail him. He turned a street corner ahead of them, yet by the time they came around it he was nowhere to be seen. They gave up, and returned to the ruined building.

   Aeden breathed a sigh. Hiding in a small side alley, he peeked around the corner to confirm they were gone, then he carried on his way.

   The sky darkened, but his search for a shelter continued. Rain clouds clustered overhead, and as they began to open Aeden was forced to take shelter under a narrow bridge. He crawled into a corner and sat in the dirt.

   "Well this is my life," he muttered. His stomach rumbled, and he opened his bag to fetch a nugget of bread. He sighed, turning the bread in his hands. He took a few mouse-like nibbles, then put the rest away. He pulled out Burns's journal and a dirty grey blanket. Covering himself for warmth, he tried to read the night out, but the rain did not stop. He was forced to sleep beneath the bridge—the wind whipping him with rain.

"Fortune has struck at last," read Burns's journal. "The old man has come awake—and honestly, I am amazed. It's comical now that I've become so at home with fraud, that what surprises me the most is when my cures actually work. This morning the old man regained his voice and used it to promise me everything I could ever dream of. Food, board, lab; wealth whatever I require—he was most willing. Tomorrow the nurse will show me where I can rebuild my laboratory, but one thing troubles me. The old man promises every penny to his name in order for me to make him better—and I'd oblige him gladly—but there's something money cannot buy. I still require subjects. It seems there's nothing for it but to find them myself."

   Aeden clapped the journal shut. It was morning. The rain had stopped, but he was still under the bridge and damp from the night before. He had slept for an hour at most, yet he welcomed the sunrise as his saviour from the torturous night. "Where are you?" He sighed and shook his head.

   He had read everything. The journal ended just a few pages from the end, shortly after opening his new laboratory. It made no mention as to where. The journal revealed two things: that Burns was upstream of Blackwater, and that he was being funded by a man of substantial wealth. With his mind in the journal, Aeden barely noticed the strangers that approached him—two uniformed men.

   "Boy," said one.

   Aeden looked up. Two policemen looked back at him over upturned noses. His grey blanket still hung on a stone off the bridge arch.

   "Move along," the officer spoke through a thick moustache. "You can't stay here."

   Aeden averted his eyes, turning his face to the side. "Yes sir," he muttered, shaking to his feet and bundling his belongings into his arms. He could sense them staring as he walked away. One of the officers looked to the other, but they did not go after him. They turned and went back towards Blackwater.

   Aeden stumbled until he found himself at the river. Further upstream than he had ventured before, he did not recognise the opulent neighbourhoods. A park bench overlooked the river. Tired, but aware of his appearance, he took a seat. He looked either way along the river, and only when he was confident there was no-one around could he breathe a sigh of relief. He scratched his head, and admired the view with sleepy eyes. Rousing himself, he slouched the bag off his back and took out Burns's journal. He held it shut in both hands.

   He groaned. He flicked the book to one of the last pages, read a few words, then shut it again. He rocked back his head, and closed his eyes—enjoying a little sun on his face. With his mind again absent, he once again failed to notice the stranger coming up on his right. The stranger crept close, stopping at a few meters' distance. Aeden's eyes cracked open, and he gave a sleepy gaze. It was no stranger.


   Aeden smiled. "Hello."

   Mick sat expectantly.

   "Fancy seeing you here. Are you here to turn me in?"

   It looked at him with big, blank eyes.

   "Good chap." Aeden reached into his bag. He snapped off a piece of bread, and held it in his lap. The cat did not move, so he wagged the bread. "Well," he said, "come on then."

   Mick crept closer, and Aeden followed its eyes as it neared. It waited in front of him—the bread still high in his lap. Aeden reached down, and as the cat swept up the bread, Aeden took hold of him, pulling him up and holding him in his arms.

   "Mick," he complained.

   "Good chap." Aeden yawned, resisting the cat as it tried to escape. "You're a bit like me," he said. "You're all over the place. Where do you live Mick?"

   Aeden waited.

   "The alleys? There's a lot of alleys in Lismire. You sure live it large, Mick." Aeden furrowed his eyes. "I bet you have a lot of friends, don't you?" He freed one hand, at which the cat again tried to escape, but he held him fast. He used his free hand to pick open the journal. His voice rose, clutching the wriggling cat. "Hang on mate." He scuffed pages, fidgeting with the last few, then opened it to the last entry.

   "I've been given a room in the tower to build my lab. The house is impressive. From up here I can already see—" Mick rolled around "—alleyways, crawling with subjects."

   "What do you think Mick?" Aeden smiled. "Who do you think it is he's been doing his dodgy deeds on?" He packed the journal and stood up, keeping Mick in his arms. "Not kids or rats, I think!"

   He took his things, and carried the reluctant cat through a fast tour of Three Oaks. He strode through waves of increasing wealth, by houses each more elaborate than the last. He paused only at crossroads—and only to choose the richer streets to follow. He came to a busy intersection between city homes and pricey boutiques where he put Mick to the ground. It leapt out of his arms at the first chance, and strutted towards the alleys. Aeden followed.

   Breaking into a skip, Aeden trailed Mick through the back alleys now rich with waste food and other garbage. The occupants—with more luxury than economy—filled them with a bone picker's banquet. Periodically the cat sniffed and poked his head between spaces, but he did not stop. Hopping onto a wall, the cat challenged Aeden to follow.

   Mick strutted along the wall with ease, while Aeden—scampering along the narrow bricks—ducked beneath a hedge and nearly fell off. Mick hopped down where the wall met a house, where Aeden had to hang and drop. As they turned into the next street, Aeden stopped in his tracks.

   Mick had joined an alleyway swarming with cats. Well-fed and well-used to human interaction, the cats paid no notice as the two strangers came among them. Aeden stared onwards. There stood a house in the distance: a stone manor built upon a hill—its tower surveying the streets below.

   An excited grin hit his lips. Aeden stepped back, then turned and ran from the alley. He fled Three Oaks with one direction: Maidsfield.

"Lee!" he shouted.

   "Aeden?" Lee puzzled. "How did you find me?"

   "Never mind that!" He wore a relentless grin. "I need your help."

   "Alright, well slow down."

   "I found the sod."

   Lee's eyes widened. "Burns?"

   He answered with a nod. "I need your help."

   "Alright I'm in, but on one condition."


   Lee put his hands at his waist. "Wash up you filthy sod. You're a mess."

   Aeden smirked. "It's a deal."

Late the next day, the two studied the Three Oaks manor from the bottom of a steep hill.

   "This manor belongs to an old nobleman," Lee explained, having done the reconnaissance earlier that day. "And he's been here a while. He doesn't seem to have any family."

   "Lee," Aeden pulled a face. "Who cares? What exactly were you doing when I asked you to check this place out?"

   "Do you want to know what I found out or not?"

   They exchanged looks. Aeden rolled his eyes. "Go on then."

   "Right. As I was saying it's a nobleman's house." He rose a finger to point. "The tower is part of the old building, but it's joined to the manor; there's no way in from the outside."

   "So how do we get in?"

   Lee dropped his finger. "I suggest the front door."


   "—and before you say anything, it's not a daft idea! Look." His finger hovered over the front gate.

   Aeden took a closer look at the manor. At the top of the hill, it claimed the plateau with an imposing iron fence—but its gate hung ajar. Within the grounds its gardens grew wild, and brambles encroached the walkway from the gate to the house. The old buildings stood in stone, yet the new ones wore a coat of white paint that was crumbling away with neglect.

   "It's dilapidated," Aeden commented.

   "Hardly anyone lives there. From what I heard, the last time anyone saw the lord outside the house was two years ago. The only reason anybody knows he's alive at all is the nurse."

   "Cracking." Aeden put his hands together. "Piece of cake then. Good job."

   Lee gave a patient sigh. "So what's the plan?"

   "First we've got to find those kids, then I'm gonna give Burns what he's got coming to him."

   "Which is?"

   "I'll knock his mad brains out—that's what. Then I'll see him to our favourite inspector."

   Lee nodded. "Alright. Where do I come in?" He did not give Aeden long to answer. "Let me guess."

   Aeden smiled.

   "Right. Watch duty."

   "You can never be too careful."

   "Aeden If I forget to mention guard dogs you won't blame me if something bites you on the backside will you?"

   "I'll cope. See you soon."

   "Be careful."

   Together the two climbed to the iron gates, where Lee stood guard as Aeden slipped inside.

The front doors were a pair of dark oak slabs, ornamented with black hinges and a bolt. The lock clacked in Aeden's hand. Drawing the firestone from his coat, he made an open palm with his free hand. Fire concentrated in the open hand, then with a solid thrust he smashed the lock and a small section of the door. He pushed inside, and slipped the firestone back into his pocket.

   Aeden entered a hall with a grand staircase that lead to the second floor. Above him, a gold chandelier hung without sparkle. The only visible windows in the hall were behind him, and the grey sky outside left it dark. He crept to a door to the right of the stairs.

   The door groaned on its hinges. In the darkness beyond he could make out a piano in the centre of the room, draped with a sheet that used to be white. A host of other instruments lined the walls around the room, but in the far corner was another door. He stepped around the piano and tried the doorknob, but it was locked. He peered through the keyhole and, seeing nothing but grass outside, turned back to the hall.

   Upstairs there was a corridor extending both left and right. He tramped up to the top step, and looked both ways. Through the shadows he could make out the frames of closed doors on either side, but there were no windows. He could not see to the ends of the corridor.

   Knowing that the tower was on the right, he moved accordingly. He twisted the first doorknob on his left; it was a bedroom in blackness. He moved on. The next room was another bedroom, but the last was a lavatory. He walked through the narrow washroom to the window, and peered outside. A tiled roof connected one of the old buildings on the first floor to the base of the tower. He went downstairs.

   A door to the left of the staircase led into the kitchen. This was the first room in the house to show any convincing signs of habitation. To the left a smattering of vegetables had been placed beside a cutting board, alongside an array of knives. The appliances and utensils were clean. Straight ahead one of the pantry's double doors was ajar, but to its right there was another door which seemed to have no place. The space around it was barely enough to get it open. Twisting the handle, Aeden opened it to a dark space, and walked inside.

   The old building he had entered was a decrepit chapel. The windows were stained glass, but many of them had been smashed and not all had been boarded up. At either side were rows of pews that were rotten and no longer aligned. And ahead of him—standing in the walkway between the pews—there was a man. Wobbling towards the altar, he did not notice Aeden behind him. The latter watched as the crooked figure took slow steps away from him. Reaching the altar, the old man turned around, and retraced his steps on shaky legs. His eyes fell on Aeden, yet he did not react. Aeden took a step forwards.

   "Are you the nobleman that owns this manor?" he asked.

   There was no response. The old man continued walking towards him with his eyes fixed—yet he did not see him. His stare was vacant, so even as he advanced towards Aeden it was as though he was invisible. As the nobleman drew nearer, Aeden stepped back with a gasp. His eyes had taken an inhuman quality: his pupils stretched upward like a cat's, and as he turned again to walk back towards the altar, Aeden caught a coloured glint that was not yellow, but amethyst.

   As he redoubled his steps, Aeden had seen enough. He walked past him keeping his distance, and headed to the one door at the back of the chapel. Heaving it open, he entered the tower.

   The tower was wider and more unpleasant than most of the houses he had known in the slums. It was dusty, and surrounded with patchy cobwebs. A set of stone steps reached upwards to the rooms above, but Aeden already knew who was there. Burns's ranting echoed down the stairwell, and his footsteps knocked on a wooden floor as he paced around the room. His muttering voice rose and fell like a fever.

   Aeden clenched his fists and took a breath. Readying himself, he crept up the stairs, and pushed open the door he found at the top.

Burns stood by the only window with his back to the door. He was fidgeting with something, and glass tinked as he poured substances from one container to another. Aeden closed the door silently as the alchemist continued working. He lifted a vial of clear red liquid into the light, but in the reflection—

   "You!" he denounced, hurrying to put away all of his vials and instruments. Stuttering, he demanded explanation.

   "Let me guess," said Aeden, raising a fist to his chest, "You're the bloody landlord." Saying so he swung his fist at a nearby array, scattering glass and powders across the floor.

   "What are you doing?" Burns took quick steps towards him, but backed away again in defence of his other projects.

   Aeden took a better look around. The lab was stuffed with a madness of frames and glass vessels—in shapes and sizes much like the impractical kinds he had seen in the guild of alchemy building. Aeden's eyes ignited. "You monster!" At the far side of the room was a child, lying across a wooden table either asleep or dead. Aeden advanced towards her.

   "No, stop!" Burns took a path through the desks and apparatus to intercept, but as he came into range Aeden put a hand on his shoulder, then punched him in the face.

   Aeden looked over the child. Her skin was pale; her lips were blue.

   "She isn't dead," said Burns.

   "She bloody well looks it to me!" he glared at the alchemist.

   "Well what would you know? You ignorant brute! Look at her arm."

   The girl's left arm had been wrapped with white bandages, and on the inside of her elbow a little blood stain could be seen beneath the dressing.

   Burns went on. "I injected her with that," pointing to a pouch of the clear red liquid, "she'll be happily playing in another half hour."

   Aeden looked to and fro between the girl and the alchemist.

   "See I'm not a monster you idiot. Now clear out of here before I call the inspector!"

   Aeden shook his head. "Oh no. You're no friend of the inspector." He took the journal out of his pocket. "I know all about you, Seamus, and I'm shutting you down."

   "You know nothing about my experiments—"

   Aeden went to lift the girl.

   "Stop! You can't take her—" he ran to Aeden and put both arms around him, pulling him away.

   Falling over backwards, they crashed through a desk and sent more glass sailing to the ground. They wrestled for a time, thumping the wooden floorboards until Aeden broke free with an elbow to Burns's stomach. He got up and went again to the child.

   Burns stood up behind him. "I won't let you take her!"

   He had her in his arms.

   They stared in anger—Burns barring the exit to the laboratory. The alchemist grabbed a fistful of pale powder from a tin on the side, and held it ready to throw. "If you get this in your eyes it could kill you."

   Aeden turned around to put the girl down. "What are you doing to her?" he asked.

   Burns answered with a shaking voice. "It's nothing you could understand! I'm using the life element—"

   "What you think I don't know anything about elements?" Aeden spat. He stuck his hand in his coat pocket and grabbed the fire stone. "There's a couple of things I'd like to teach you about elements right here!"

   "No, wait, I—"

   "Drop the dust!" Aeden shot a spit of fire at Burns.

   Burns jumped aside, but some of the powder in his hand escaped between his fingers.

   "I said drop it." Aeden glowered at him.

   "Alright alright." Burns opened his fist, and dusted off his hands.

   "Now tell me what you're doing to her."

   "That's none of your business!"

   Aeden smashed a shelf against the wall with a ball of fire. "I'm making it my business!"

   "Alright alright you want to know?" Burns held out his palms. "I'll tell you, wait," he went to another journal on a desk.

   "Wait," said Aeden. "Where are the others?"

   Burns shook his head. "You want to know what I'm doing, well it's here, it's all—"

   "Shut up! I said where are the other kids, Burns?"

   "The others?" he repeated. "The other kids—"

   Aeden glared, and as the alchemist delayed he fired another shot at the lab.

   "Alright they're dead!"

   "How many?"

   "Three in total, including this one. But she's alive, I promise you that!"

   "Liar." Aeden took a deep, slow breath. "I don't believe a thing you say."

   "You must believe me! The others—there was a terrible accident, but you must let me treat the girl."

   A fire bolt scathed across Burns, exploding on the desks behind him. As the alchemist drew closer to the door Aeden narrowed the distance—forcing Burns around the room until he was nearly at the window where he started. "I'm stopping you," said Aeden.

   "You can't—this is science!"

   "It's lunacy and it's bloody monstrous!"


   Aeden nodded. "Yes."

   "You—" he stuttered, the pressure and anger building inside, "You can't shut down my dream!"

   Burns gasped, and turned his attention away from Aeden instead to his right—to the window. Aeden too turned his head to look. Ghostly grey, but black against the darkening sky, there was a cat. It balanced on the narrow frame with perfect economy. It was alert and proud: the perfect specimen. As it turned its head to Aeden, an amethyst glint reflected in its eyes—the same as in the eyes of the old lord. It opened its mouth, widening its jaws until it bore its teeth, and hissed. Then, with rapid feet, it came into the room. It leapt onto a desk that had fallen over next to Burns, and pounced on him.

   It bit him on the hand, and Burns recoiled with a violent fling of his arms. The cat, with its teeth still sunk into Burns, transformed in midair. Its body became a cloud of ash, and suddenly the cloud leapt up and poured itself onto a desk that stood nearby.

   Aeden looked on in confusion and horror.

   Around the bite on Burns's hand, a dark bruise spread until it filled a circle as large as an apple. The bruise formed a six-strutted pattern, spiralling with perfect symmetry, and as the image completed the colouring darkened and it became his permanent mark.

   Burns's mouth gaped. Staggering back, he stared at the mark on his hand. "This—" he said ecstatically. He showed it to Aeden. "Do you know what this is? It must be—but I never dreamed—"

   No words came to Aeden.

   "The mark," he grinned, "of death!" He started to laugh. Still Aeden watched and said nothing, as the alchemist exalted. "And this!" he went to the other desk where the cat had poured itself into a small mound of grey dust. He took a pinch in his fingers. "This is death's pillar." He stared at it bedazzled. Holding the powder in front of his eyes he rubbed his fingers together, but as the powder fell to the ground—freeing itself from his skin—a trail of ice crept after it, freezing on the floor.

   Still Aeden watched in confusion.

   "Ice?" said the alchemist in a rising voice. With all of his fingers, he took a larger amount of the powder and went to the window. With a wide movement of his arm, he tossed the dust away—but this time it was followed by a blinding flash of light. He did not understand, yet when he stepped away from the window he felt rejuvenated. He turned to look at Aeden, who stared on in astonishment. Then he looked back to the powder on the desk, and both men had the same thought.

   Aeden rushed to the powder but Burns was closer. He swept up a handful and hurled it in Aeden's direction. The powder exploded into flames that filled the room and engulfed Aeden for a second, dispersing thereafter.

   Aeden covered his face, but he was singed and his shirt caught fire. He rushed it off, and threw it to the middle of the room.

   Burns laughed. Pinching more of the powder, he threw another attack at Aeden. Ice came again, but in much greater force than before. Aeden clutched the firestone to defend himself. A wave of fire defeated the ice, and the smirk on the alchemist's face vanished. He grabbed more of the powder, but Aeden shot a bolt of fire at him.

   Burns was hit, and fell back wailing. Through gritted teeth he threw the powder again. This time Aeden was rushed by barbs of light. They struck through his body like lightning, and he fell to his knees, blackened.

   Burns too fell over, both men panting. They held a bitter, yet exhausted gaze. Burns looked at the desk that was now just out of arms reach, but this time their ideas differed. As Burns rose to one knee, Aeden stepped up and started to run towards him. Burns took a fistful of the grey dust, but Aeden threw a bolt at the desk—making that handful the last.

   Taking up an iron bar from the apparatus in the lab, Aeden swung at his head.

   Burns was too slow, and as he swung his arm most of the powder fell from his hands harmlessly. The rest of the powder hung in the air—activating in the atmosphere. As Aeden brought the iron bar across Burns's head, the motion in the air erupted into a force that blasted the two apart, slamming Aeden against the far wall and leaving him deafened.

   With ringing alone in his ears, Aeden lifted his head and saw the fire spreading around the laboratory. He looked at Burns—collapsed on the floor—and stood on shaky legs. Burns lay without motion, and all that remained of the grey dust was a smidgeon beneath his limp and open hand. Aeden went to the girl on the wooden table.

   As he reached her he stumbled, balancing with a hand on the table. The ringing in his ears was fading, yet he was dizzy. He held his neck with one hand, then stood strong. He picked up the girl and turned around, but stopped as he took his first step.

   He heard a muttering as his ears began to clear. It sounded like "help".

   He turned around again, and put the girl down. He could hear voices—children's voices.


   He tracked the noise to a space beneath a table along the wall. A green curtain shut them in—two young boys locked inside a cage for animals.

   They backed away as he appeared in front of them. "Please help," said the older boy.

   "I'll get you out," he said. "Where's the key?"

Outside the manor, Lee leaned against the iron gate with his hands in his pockets. He was whistling a casual tune when he saw someone approaching. The whistling stopped.

   The stranger climbed the hill and paused as the two came face-to-face. Turning his head with a contemptuous frown, he gave Lee a demeaning glare.

   Lee gestured the tipping of a hat, though he was not wearing one. "Evenin' sir. Can I help?"

   "Police business," he answered. "Who are you?"

   "Oh no-one of consequence, sir. Just enjoying a little fresh air. You?"

   The inspector went towards the gate, drawing his aqua sword. "Stay here till I get back."

   Lee turned his head as the armed inspector walked by, but his smile was shocked into a look of alarm. A wave of water and ice congealed at his feet—then rushed as high as his waist. He stuttered to speak, "Si— Sir!"

   The inspector kept walking.

   "I dare say it's getting a little too fresh!—Sir?"

The iron lock opened with a crack.

   "Come on," said Aeden, hurrying the boys out of the cage. "Get the door for me."

   The children, at first stunned by the flames and heat, did as told—while Aeden went to the girl on the table. He took a long look at Burns, and shook his head thinking of the girl. "I really hope you weren't lying about this." He took her in his arms, and went with the boys to the door.

   In the tower stairwell the two boys waited a few steps down, looking up at Aeden and the girl.

   "Hurry boys," he said.

   The boys ran down the steps into the chapel. Aeden followed with a heavy thump on each step, wobbling with the girl who might have felt lighter were it not for his fight with Burns.

   Aeden opened the door to the chapel with his foot, and hastened past the altar. A man stood in the aisle—but it was not the old lord.

   "You." The voice came out of the dark.

   Aeden stopped in his tracks, and the two boys stood close beside him—watching the man with fearful eyes. Aeden stood in shock, but then gave an entertaining smile. "Inspector Carrick. I should have known you'd be here. I give up—you caught me."

   Carrick did not move.

   "Burns abducted these children. They have family and homes in the slums at Blackwater; you must see them back—"

   "—I must do nothing you ask," he scowled. "You are a wanted man. I suspected you're no stranger to Burns and here you are again. Tell me how you know him."

   Aeden clenched his jaw. The smile dropped from his face, and he rose his voice, "This girl is sick. She may die tonight if we don't get her to a doctor. I will answer your questions but for God's sake not here."

   Carrick was quiet.

Flames flooded the laboratory in the tower, and black smoke fumed from the window. Between the fallen desks and broken glass, Burns lay unconscious on the ground. The spiralling mark of the elementals blackened his hand.

   His eyes twitched, and his fingers began to move. He lifted his head as though it was made of stone, then he stopped, staring at his hand. He lifted it, and some of the chaotic powder fell like sand to the ground.

   "Death," he said. "The elementals." He seized the powder in a bitter fist, and staggered to his feet. Flames raged around him. He stumbled to a table against the wall, and swept it clear in order to find a sealed glass beaker full of the red liquid. "They want me to go on!" He unsealed the beaker and lifted his hand. He poured the grey powder into the solution.

   "Life and death—" he swirled the beaker in light of the flames. "Make me immortal!"

The chapel door crashed open. Carrick and Aeden turned to look.

   Burns bore down on them with maddened eyes. "Give me the girl!"

   Aeden took a step back.

   "Seamus Burns!" shouted Carrick. "Don't be a fool—you're coming with me."

   Burns gave him a filthy glance, but continued to glare at Aeden.

   "Be careful," warned Aeden. "He's an elemental now."

   Burns continued to trudge towards them, and Aeden stepped back until he was side-by-side the inspector.

   "Don't take another step," Carrick warned, yet it was Burns he pointed his sword to. "Nor you. Stop right there."

   Burns continued unheeding.

   Carrick grunted and swung his sword. The ice pinned the alchemist up to the knees, and caused him to yell and curse. Burns's body convulsed, and his screams became those of pain. He clutched his head with both hands, and looked at the two with incensed eyes.

   "Give me—" his voice tore, "My—experiment!" His pupils dilated, and his whites flashed amethyst. He began clawing at the ice, tearing it away in chunks.

   Carrick glanced at Aeden, but when he looked back at Burns he had already broken free. He ran at them, and leapt at Aeden and the girl.

   Carrick threw another wave of water which froze like a shield in front of Aeden, tumbling Burns into the chapel pews.

   The alchemist picked himself up to a crouch, snarling like a dog. The hair on his body stood up. He switched his glare to Carrick.

   A third rush of water pinned the alchemist down, but he raged and lashed at it with powerful hands—the nails of which began growing long and thick. He clawed free, and Carrick shot another wave to contain him.

   Aeden stepped back. "Come on boys," he said, leading the two boys and breaking into a run for the exit.

   "Stop!" yelled Carrick—but he was taken off-guard by a savage claw.

Aeden escaped into the kitchen with the girl in his arms. "Come on," he said again. "That way." The two boys went ahead of him and got the door, and he carried the girl behind them. They ran through the hall to the front door, and hurried outside.

   From the entrance Aeden could see Lee by the gate. He ran to him with heavy steps.

   "Lee!" he said. He saw the ice around his legs.

   Lee was shivering. "Get me out," he demanded.

   Aeden laid the girl to the side, and instructed the boys to take care of her. Then he took the firestone and used cautious flames to weaken the ice.

   "Oh bloody hell." Lee's teeth chattered. "Are you okay?"

   "I'm fine mate." He tore off a chunk of ice. "Come on, out this way."

   With slow lifts, Lee put his legs through the gap in the ice and was free.

   "Can you walk?"

   Lee nodded.

   "Good. Get these kids to the oracle—if anyone can help the girl its him."

   Lee nodded again. "What about you?"

   Aeden clenched a fist. He looked back to the house. "I have to go back."

   "Back?" he stammered. "You can't. Carrick's in there!"

   "I know—" he paused. "But I—" He didn't finish the sentence. He bumped Lee on the chest with his fist. "I'll see you soon. Keep your ears out." He went back through the gate.

Burns gave no response to the inspector's attempts to parley. When Aeden returned, Burns's hair had grown longer and his pupils had expanded to the point that his eyes were more black than white. He was suffering a cruel transformation: taller and more muscular, yet agonised by the wrenching of his bones.

   Carrick fired a wave of ice, but the hulking alchemist struck through it with a powerful claw—shredding it like wet paper. Burns leapt at Carrick, smashing him with brutal strength. The inspector crashed against the pews, and the ice that crept at the alchemist's feet was no hindrance.

   "Hey!" Aeden shouted, as Burns climbed over the pews towards Carrick. He fired a bolt of flame.

   Struck in the chest, Burns turned to Aeden with a roar.

   "What you can't even talk? Come get me you mad bastard!"

   Burns scrambled from the pews on all fours. Aeden fired another bolt that struck his head. Burns's shirt—falling off already—caught fire, yet he broke into a run towards Aeden as if he did not notice.

   A wave of fire divided them, but as Burns stepped away he was slashed from behind by the inspector's sword. The shirt fell off, and the men saw that his back was covered with long, dark hairs.

   Aeden shot him again, and Burns ran back whining.

   Carrick stood next to Aeden.

   "What the hell happened?" said the latter.

   Carrick shook his head. They looked at Burns—his appearance and demeanour changing as one. He roared at them. Aeden shot him again, and with a final howl he leapt across the pews, and flung himself out the chapel window.

   The two went to the shattered glass. In the distance they saw the hulking figure disappear into the streets of Three Oaks. They lost sight of him, then turned to one another.

   Panting, Aeden had no more energy for jokes. When he looked at Carrick—uninjured—he saw he was no less at his mercy than when they had met before. There was a moment of silence.

   "Why did you come back?" the inspector demanded.

   "I didn't burn down that lab."

   Carrick did not respond.

   "I just—" he looked at the man's unmoving eyes. "It was for the children."

   "Are you telling me the truth?"

   Aeden nodded.

   "Then you'll explain everything at the station."

   He took a step back, shaking his head.

   "You will come," Carrick repeated. "And we'll see if you're innocent. You say you are not an arsonist?"

   Aeden nodded.

   "But are also wanted for fraud. Come with me." He stepped towards the exit.

   Aeden took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair, then followed the inspector out.

From the reports of Inspector Carrick.

   "I found two suspects in the nobleman's manor at Three Oaks. Suspected arsonist Aeden McKay was taken into custody, but the other suspect escaped arrest. The alchemist Seamus Burns, wanted on suspicion of fraud and misdeeds of science, escaped custody having taken an elemental mark and transforming into a beast. Absurd as it sounds, his mutation gives us hope that, now he's gone, we will have seen the end of what the papers were calling "alleyway abominations". I have no doubt they will find a new catchphrase for the wolf-like man seen escaping from Three Oaks to the Lismire wilderness.

   The suspect McKay was not charged for the fire in the Three Oaks manor. Being marked by the fire elementals, he confessed to using his elemental pillar in self-defence—and having seen what I saw, I believe he is telling the truth. McKay escaped the manor while I was under attack from Burns, taking with him three children, yet after they were gone he returned of his own accord. His cooperation was taken in his defence.

   McKay's earlier charge of arson could not prosecute. He accuses Burns of setting fire to his own lab, and again from what I have seen, I believe him. At the time of the fire Burns approached me to blame McKay—yet he gave me no indication as to who he was. In either case, we can neither prove nor disprove him. The suspect was released with a warning.

   As for the fraudster who escaped me at the guild of alchemy building, he was never found. I will keep an ear ever-diligent to the gutter, but somehow I feel I may never find him. I sincerely hope that, wherever he is, he has learned obedience to the law, and is working towards an honest trade.

   Weekly report, Insp. Carrick.

"Sorry Mr. O'Farrell!" Two boys pushed through a crowded street.

   "You two!" Lee called after them. Sneering after the children, he turned his attention back to his friend. "As I was saying Aeden—you've lost it! You said it yourself, the man has it in for you."

   Aeden shook his head. "Well, I thought so too, but there's no way he could've forgotten."

   "If you say so. But you're quite sure he isn't stupid?"

   "Lee, I used the firestone—it's not something you forget that easily."

   "Well alright, I guess so."

   Aeden paused. He looked at the streets around him with a smile. "It's good to be home."

   Lee nodded.

   "Something's missing though." He pulled a face. "Well, not that you'd care."

   "What does that mean?"

   "Literally nothing. You wouldn't care so I shan't bother telling you."

   Lee scratched his head. Aeden was still pulling sad faces. "What?"

   "Well it's—" he paused "—um, Mick."


   "I haven't seen him since I got ba—"

   "You're upset about that festering alley cat?"

   "He's not festering!" Aeden retorted. "He just has a funny way of saying hello."

   "I know drainpipes that say hello like that."

   "I told you you didn't care, cold sod."

   "Right," Lee put a hand on his hip. "You're sad because you lost Mick."

   Aeden shrugged. "Not really. I have a feeling I know where to find him."


   Seeing the annoyed expression on Lee's face gave Aeden great pleasure, but nevertheless he changed the subject. "The Oracle?"

   Lee nodded. "Yeah. You'd better pay him a visit. No hurry but I'm sick to death of you."

   "I'll see you around, Lee." He turned away with a lift of his hand.

   "See you later," said Lee, loud enough to be heard, "you mad—cat man."

Aeden entered the shadowy room of the Oracle's house. Ahead of him, the Oracle waited behind the curtain veil—his silhouette shuddering in the candlelight. The woman attendant came to remove Aeden's coat, and as he approached the Oracle she came forward again to pull back the curtains from around him.

   The old man looked up with a smile. "Sit down," he said, gesturing with his hand. "Child chosen by fire, show me your mark."

   Aeden did as he was told, loosening his shirt to below the shoulder.

   "Aeden," the Oracle began, "we owe you a debt. Well done."

   "Oracle, how's the girl?"

   "She appears healthy. She woke up just as you said she would. She's behaving—" he hesitated "—as you might expect."

   "What do you mean?"

   He drew a slow breath. "Those children suffered quite an ordeal. But they are back with their families now. The greatest danger is behind them."

   Aeden smiled. "That's good to hear. Oracle, I have another question."

   He nodded.

   "When I was fighting the alchemist, he got a mark. He said it was the death element, but I'm not so sure. Does that even exist?"

   "I do not know all the elements—only those that speak to me."

   "So you haven't heard of it."

   "No, but that doesn't mean it isn't real. It's clear to me, however, that you do not think it is."

   "The mark—" he showed the Oracle his own hand "—on the back of his hand, like this. It was shaped like a spiral. And the pillar he used was—" he stuttered "—bizarre. It was some kind of dust—a few handfuls at most. And when he threw it at me it changed into different things every time. It even turned into fire."

   The Oracle gazed with a finger on his chin. Aeden looked back at him for answers, but instead he asked a question. "Do you think it was death?"

   Aeden shook his head. "No."

   "The pillar you described sounds as chaotic as the mind of any madman. Perhaps that's why the elemental chose him. If you believe it is not death, then I suspect you are right. Though what it really was, we will have to leave the alchemists to discover."

   Aeden smiled. "With respect, Oracle, that didn't work out too well last time."

   "Indeed not. But if a stronger person were to seek it out, perhaps the truth would come to him. The fire elemental has spoken to me, Aeden."

   "It did?"

   "It is very pleased with you. I believe the elemental values your sense of virtue."

   Aeden returned a humble look. "Thank you."

   "I'll say another thing. I am beginning to think that the elementals—much like the one that marked the alchemist—are somehow playing out experiments of their own."


   The Oracle nodded. "It seems to me that those given an elemental's mark are not chosen at random."

   "Oracle, what exactly are the elementals?"

   "That is something I would also like to know. Perhaps," he smiled, "the truth will come to he who looks for it. Can you think of anyone?"

   Aeden smiled. "I don't know any alchemists, Oracle, but I have one more question."

   The Oracle already knew what he was about to ask.

    "Where can I find the elementals?"


back to contents | bottom

- Epilogue -

Bubbles gurgled in a swamp beneath cloud-blotted stars. Somewhere in the wilderness, the moon failed on a lifeless body of water. Dead matter greyed its surface, and crooked reeds protruded like needles in a pincushion.

   In the centre of the water there was a small island, on which were two broken trees that jutted out like headstones. The saturated earth sustained neither life, nor footsteps—as a man waded towards it through the water. In a glass jar held above his head, he had a black cloth—its fabric shimmering with elemental power.

   His free hand took a fist of sludge as he grasped for the island's bank. Trudging towards the broken trees, he found a dead root in the earth, and dredged himself out of the water.

   Slipping, he found his way to firmer ground away from the water. At the centre of the island, an abyss dropped into darkness. The hole—with edges secured by sharp black rock—fell into a pit he could not see the bottom of.

   He removed the lid from the glass jar, and took the black cloth in a fist. "You hellish creature," he denounced.

   From the pit rose a draft as warm as breath.

   "I am here to take your power."

   He put a foot on the black rock, then leapt into the abyss.

back to contents | top

View Comments Below
« Last Edit: February 12, 2014, 10:27:34 am by UndeadSpider1990 »
Like reading? Here's a story inspired by Elements, City of Alchemy. :)

Offline UndeadSpider1990Topic starter

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 891
  • Country: gb
  • Reputation Power: 13
  • UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.
  • Hey you! Join a PvP event!
Re: City of Alchemy – A Story Inspired by Elements https://elementscommunity.org/forum/index.php?topic=53738.msg1125801#msg1125801
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2014, 08:30:15 am »
Reserved. Please let me know if you find any errors in the post.

Anybody fancy a Wild Goose Chase? :)
« Last Edit: April 24, 2015, 06:20:28 pm by UndeadSpider1990 »
Like reading? Here's a story inspired by Elements, City of Alchemy. :)

Offline 1011686

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 90
  • Reputation Power: 5
  • 1011686 is a Spark waiting for a buff.
  • Young Elemental
  • Awards: Slice of Elements 10th Birthday Cake
Re: City of Alchemy – A Story Inspired by Elements https://elementscommunity.org/forum/index.php?topic=53738.msg1237243#msg1237243
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2016, 12:18:00 pm »
This is my favorite elements-based story. The is setting is just so much like a proper fantasy setting, even somebody who had never played elements would enjoy it I think, and you didn't force in the game mechanics that would feel strange in a literary setting.
How wonderful that we have met with a paradox.
Now we have some hope of making progress. -Niels Bohr

Brawl #6 Pyrocloaks

Offline UndeadSpider1990Topic starter

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 891
  • Country: gb
  • Reputation Power: 13
  • UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.UndeadSpider1990 is taking their first peeks out of the Antlion's burrow.
  • Hey you! Join a PvP event!
Re: City of Alchemy – A Story Inspired by Elements https://elementscommunity.org/forum/index.php?topic=53738.msg1255642#msg1255642
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2017, 05:05:46 pm »
This is my favorite elements-based story. The is setting is just so much like a proper fantasy setting, even somebody who had never played elements would enjoy it I think, and you didn't force in the game mechanics that would feel strange in a literary setting.

Thank you ^_^
Like reading? Here's a story inspired by Elements, City of Alchemy. :)


blarg: UndeadSpider1990