Finally, one of your favorite rooms of the whole castle: the alchemical laboratory. You have spent much time here, almost as much time as in the Training Hall, learning many lessons in chemina arcana from Master Arasemis. The laboratory is quite large, with many work tables, ingredient storage cabinets, a library of alchemical texts, and special weapons. To a newcomer it smells foreign, with a complex mixture of exotic scents that defy description. But for you it stirs excitement.
This is a wondrous place of knowledge and experimentation, but also danger. Earthen jars of cloudcarry are placed strategically around the laboratory, so that they can be tipped over to purify the air in the event any poisons are accidentally spilled by the students. Your Candlestone mask will also protect you. And the metal hoods placed high in the walls help vent the laboratory to the castle courtyard above. Arasemis takes safety very seriously, and regularly tells the students stories of alchemists who have died or been maimed by their own creations.
In the warm glow of the oil lamp you see a few of the students’ shroud egg belts, prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice. You like the feeling of stealthy power that comes from carrying these special weapons. But you know Master Arasemis does not like students walking around the castle with them on, lest someone becomes careless or clumsy. These eggs can poison an entire room of people when broken, so it’s best to let them be until you need them.
Still curious, you stoop to see what kind of eggs these are.
You see some eggs are marked with the symbol for lungthorn. Also known as saint sapphire, this mixture creates a poisonous, opaque bluish cloud when the egg is thrown against an enemy. You remember that it is created by boiling thornhest. The poison cloud kills all life in enclosed spaces almost instantly, but rises into the sky fairly quickly outdoors.
These shroud eggs are marked with the symbol for full sleep. These will create a burst of brown powder on a target. The resulting cloud has a sweet scent that works gradually on an unsuspecting target, causing a full night’s sleep within an hour, similar to the candle alchemist’s full sleep candle. There are no known no side effects, aside from the initial alarm and suspicion.
The powder is produced by boiling eucalyptus resin in clean water with about fifty grains of lead for twelve hours. The sticky foam is then skimmed from the top and mixed 50/50 with pigeon bone powder, then heated again until no moisture remains. Finally, brown dye from oak galls is mixed in and dried again.
You see a few marked as smoke skin, one of your favorite illusory shroud eggs. When broken, typically thrown against floors or walls, they produce a gray flameless smoke cloud. This will obfuscate the shroud alchemist for up to a few minutes, depending on the presence of wind and humidity. These are produced by boiling a mixture of tar water (30%), spirit of salt (30%), sphal (20%), soot (carbun) (10%), amber colophony (9%), and powdered mica (1%) almost to evaporation, which firms into a semisolid slush once funneled into an egg.
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You see many alchemical books in the laboratory.
Throughout the centuries, the descendants of the colonists of Pemonia shifted back and forth between adopting and shunning alchemy for religious and political reasons. Apart from some observant physicians who saw great value in exotic medicines to be found among the plants and other things of the New World, some of which proved more effective than Old World medicines, most people did not understand the workings of alchemy. They considered alchemy to be mysterious and unknowable, something to be wary of and, more often, feared.
This ignorance led to a surge in the belief among the colonists and their descendants that the original tribes of Pemonia practiced magic. Therefore, early colonial alchemists were persecuted “for spreading heathen magic” and “serving as conveyances for the curses of the wildermen.” Many alchemists and physicians of that era recanted their work, destroying their workshops and offices to avoid being burned at the stake. A precious few took their work underground or sheltered in secret societies far from the eyes of prying eyes of churchmen and magistrates.
But alchemy remained valuable to those who did not share such panicked beliefs. Supporters of various stripes preserved alchemy at the risk of their livelihoods or lives. Later, in Donovan, this included even members of the nobility such as Lord Minister Peneothen of Leauvenna, whose secret library was saved by his servant and since then owned by the lords of Thorendor Castle.
And so it was that the colonists and their children buried most forms of alchemy and destroyed tribal records of the same, while strengthening subjects that they considered to be well understood, namely metallurgy. Steel for swords and siege engines made quick work of the natives, particularly Gallerlanders who lacked such weapons, so manipulation of metals was viewed as completely different from the mysteries and heresies of other alchemical projects.
Careful students of history will find this curious, recalling the utter death of metallurgy and early machina arcana among the natives themselves. For those few who search for gems among the obscure, reading a copy of the journal of Rildning will show that the forefathers of Gallerlandia abandoned metallurgy and machines following the destruction of the Agnesci in Cedelaebos, that is, the Old World. Like the panicked colonists’ fear of primeval magic, the natives feared ships would once again bring doom to their people.
Today, our kingdom, and indeed the whole of Pemonian civilization, should be wary of these ancient fears and be reminded that alchemical knowledge has most often been used to cure the sick, nurture the fields, arm our defenders, and paint the faces of ladies, rather than summon ethereal demons.
The roots of chemina are found in the natural advancement of aerina arcana during ancient times, at least since the time of Manigant. The necessity to improve metals and other materials for weaponry, and the discovered effects of certain nourishments and mixtures, gave rise to metallurgy and alchemy, respectively. These are the two branches of chemina.
Though strange to us, metallurgy and alchemy were initially viewed as extensions of aerina, but the first masters of metals and mixtures soon established themselves as distinct from those who studied aerina to master the martial movements of the body. Metallurgy and metalworkers, such as blacksmiths, were among the oldest and most respected occupations in Almeria. Conversely, metal weaponry was shunned by some Pemonian tribes for religious reasons, most notably the Gallerlanders and their cousins, to their ultimate downfall during the Age of Exploration. Still, the seeds of Candlestone were planted in that downfall, and with it the great advancement of alchemy and metallurgy.
Despite their defeat, the chemina of those Pemonian tribes remains worthy of study. The Naren-Dra peoples, who inhabited what we now call the Narendra Mountains in Donovan, were particularly adept at shroud alchemy. This school has continued to thrive especially among the widsemers, on which I imagine the Naren-Dra might be pleased. Those original shroud alchemists kept the colonists out of their mountains long after other tribes were overrun. Other tribes were more advanced in other alchemical powers, such as curatives, but their alchemy was not developed enough as a weapon to prevent colonization.
The most significant growth in chemina came after the experience and techniques of the Old and New Worlds merged during and especially after the colonial era. The colonists’ descendants created profane alchemical weapons and false curatives. Within a short time, this caused alchemy to be shunned by a new age of honor-bound warriors and religious zealotry. And yet, the fracturing, dispersal, and competition of new and independent kingdoms across the continent ensured the secret survival of chemina. And, we now hope, revival.
…And so, anyone found reading, propagating, selling, transporting, protecting, or preserving the ancient heathen magics will be punished according to laws of the Messengian Church and His Imperial Highness and the Realm of Pemonia, of which I am protector, to include death. First the souls of all perpetrators will be purified by boiling holy water applied to eyes and all orifices, and thereafter assessed for means of execution according to the holy church laws.
You see more alchemical books in the laboratory.
…The next subject is that of conversion, which must be memorized and mastered over the span of years under the watchful eye of the instructor. Conversion is the changing of the physical properties of substances by the alchemist, using a set of knowledge and equipment to create new substances of use.
Candle alchemy is the study and practice of integrating alchemical ingredients and effects within candles. This discipline began with attempts to extend the burn time of common candles by experimenting with different materials for the wick and wax. Later experiments showed many other effects—often subtle—could be achieved, and these candle types were given names just as any tool or weapon would be named. An alchemist whose specialty is making alchemical candles is called a candle alchemist, or less commonly alt-chandler, and their shop or laboratory is called an alchemical chandlery.
Variables of Production
Alchemical candles have many variables that can be matched and modified for different effects. These factors include:
Additional terminology that will be of use to the student of candle alchemy:
Regarding classification of products, alchemists typically divide their candles into these recognized groups:
Waxes and Their Properties
Although there are nearly infinite substances and mixtures with which to make the waxes of candles for all manner of effects, every candle starts with a wax of some sort. Most alchemical candles begin with various kinds of waxes.
Wicks and Their Properties
Similarly, every alchemical candle needs at least one wick. These are usually identical to common candle wicks, meaning they are made from standard-burning wicks of braided cotton or similar material that are dipped in candle mordant. If they are braided flat, they curl when burned and become self-trimming and produce less smoke.
For harder waxes that require more heat to melt, the cotton is braided with a fine wire of lead or copper, which makes the wick more rigid and so it burns higher above the wax, melting more of the latter more readily, which is more expensive but important for harder waxes. Cotton wicks can also be braided more thickly (called “fat cotton” wicks) for smoking and other such candles, which results in a larger flame and larger pool of melted wax.
Wicks can also be a thin tab of wood, which will last much longer than cotton, have a higher flame, and give a crackle and scent like a hearth fire. Petalwicks are another type, obtained from the giant wick flower, which are used in rust candles. Other wick material can be produced from shelf conk, tinder fungus, dried reeds, and similar plants.
You see a locked chest.
Have you found the key? Use it here.
You see a desk with some alchemical samples, an open book, and a small note. The book and letter are written by Oghamroy Snead, whom you know to be a distant friend of Master Arasemis. Oghamroy rules over an island in the Calbrian Sea and is said to be even more of an eccentric than Arasemis.
This is a clear, pungent liquid that is one of the most common liquids you have learned to use in the laboratory, and it has many uses. It is strongly corrosive but can also be diluted to process leather or remove rust from iron and poor steel. Strongly heating it in clay crucibles will create flammable air, which also has many uses.
There are several ways to make spirit of salt, which is also seen in some texts as muriatic acid. The cheapest way is to distill it from the stomach acid, urine, or bile of people and animals. A less messy but more costly method is to boil and distill rock salt. And a third method used by more advanced alchemists with the right equipment is to capture any common smoke, channel it into water, then evaporate nearly all the water away.
…However, I predict the dangers of coal are not insurmountable. Strange as it may seem to us now, I believe these ugly, crumbly, black stones of the earth will have significant use in the future beyond our current use of them as for forges and light. Not only do they contain a heat more intense than most materials known to metallurgists and alchemists, but coal seems to be more plentiful that we realize. A better understanding of the dangers should help us exploit the hidden heat of coal, and perhaps provide additional benefits for alchemists in particular.
For more detail, the following is a compilation of these airs and components as defined by my own experiments, the experiments of Master Ultavium of Penogavia, my sampling excursion through many coal mines in southern Calbria, and interviews with many miners and their families.
A flammable vapor found in coal mines that is composed of marsh air (85%), water vapor (10%), and carbun in the form of coal dust (5%). Firedamp accumulates in coal seam pockets that can explode when penetrated by picks and shovels striking iron-bearing rocks or if the coal contains spark-inducing substances such as pyrum. It seems this danger is impossible to avoid unless we find a way to replace open flame candles and lamps with some safer form of light for use in the mines.
A toxic mixture of dead air (60%), fixed air (20%), azote (10%), and stinkdamp (10%). This air, which miners in Preton also call stythe, is what remains in a coal mine following an explosion caused by firedamp, which can cause a much larger explosion of coal dust. The high concentration of dead air in afterdamp is what starves most victims of vital air to breathe. This is why miners in Woroldia have given it its third name, chokedamp. Thus, afterdamp must be respected as a poison, suffocant, and explosive.
A colorless air slightly denser than common air, with the distinctive foul odor of rotten eggs that makes it easy to detect. For this reason, it is also found as rotten air or sour air in older texts. Very poisonous, corrosive, and flammable. In high concentrations, taking in even two breaths of the air is immediately lethal. It is typically an even mixture of flammable air (50%) and sulfurous air (50%). Aside from the mines, it can also be produced by the capturing the vapors rising from the breakdown of once-living things, such as plants and small animals, in the absence of common air or vital air. Master Ultavium wrote that it can also be collected from bubbling swamps or near volcanic areas. Alchemists may produce rotten water from stinkdamp if they feed it through common water.
A colorless, tasteless, odorless, toxic, and flammable air that is slightly less dense than common air. It easily dissipates in an open area, but in a confined room or mine it will quickly cause seizure, coma, and death after initial symptoms of headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue. Curiously, it turns the blood of its victims cherry red. Even if they saved from death by bringing them into fresh air, victims will be permanently maimed in the head and body. Miners and alchemists must use animal sentinels such as canaries or mice to detect dead air. Note that, aside from mines, this air can be produced by alchemists in several ways. Firstly, it is given off by all flames. Second, steaming carbun (such as coal dust) with very hot water vapor will produced dead air and flammable air. And third, it can be separated from fosforus and afterdamp. Note that dead air was previously called dizzydamp among alchemists in Eben.
A poisonous and flammable, but non-explosive, vapor found in coal mines that is a mixture of dead air (70%) and stinkdamp (30%). It can also be produced by the burning of other airs. As with dead air, it can only be detected by sentinel animals. As always, the astute alchemist will not trust his nose alone.
A non-flammable, unbreathable vapor found in coal mines (particularly abandoned or poorly-ventilated ones), sewers, wells, tunnels, and ships’ holds that is a mixture of azote (40%), fixed air (40%), and water vapor (20%). This type of damp is unusual because of the slow onset of symptoms such as dizziness, light-headed, and drowsiness. Because there is no obvious odor, these symptoms are often mistook as fatigue. Blackdamp is constantly put off by coal (rather than existing in pockets), and, unlike whitedamp and afterdamp, it does not require burning or explosion to be released. Sentinel animals must be used for detection. After initial symptoms, rapid fainting and suffocation occurs. Mines themselves can also exhale large amounts of blackdamp during sudden changes in the weather, potentially causing victims to suffocate at the surface outside the mine. For this reason, early alchemists and explorers of Narendra Mountain mines encountering blackdamp called it cave breath.
Arasemis, I leave this note here so as not to mark the page in my gift to you. In this book on coal airs you will find everything you requested. Also in this package you will find pyrum, which I highly recommend do you. But be careful, as I have said, for these mixtures are unforgiving.
You will find the pyrum to be a hard, brittle mineral with pale silver-brass metallic luster that forms in simple cubic crystals or raspberry-shaped masses. It is a natural alloy of iron (96%), sulfur (3%), and gold (1%). It rusts quickly if left exposed to water, common air, or vital air, so keep it in a box or other container. It can be used to light fires if struck by jasper, flint, or obsidian to make a spark. People in the Far East use it in jewelry because it is more abundant there.
My studies suggest pyrum can be found in smaller amounts throughout Pemonia, often in quartz veins, coal beds, fossil filler, and in minerals containing arsenic. A very small amount of gold can be melted out of pyrum using royal water, but of course this is not its true value.
-- Oghamroy Snead
You see a workbench with metal hoods that capture dangerous fumes and channel them safely outside the castle. On the workbench is a collection of tools, flasks, alembics, burners, and notes.
Here you see a mixture in an alembic being gently heated on a burner. You wonder what Master Arasemis is making. You look at the nearby notes, written in his hand:
Method 1. Try to improve the quality of the fosforus by mixing in sand during heating.
Method 2. Abandon use of urine as starting material. Try the new method of producing from bone ash. First, roast and then distill bones in a hot furnace, or otherwise de-grease them. Treat them with any strong acid. Then grind, heat, and mix with coal or charcoal in an iron pot before a final distillation.
Fosforus…now you understand. This is a toxic mineral that becomes luminescent and decomposes when exposed to vital air or common air. During your training, you were fascinated by how it burns brilliantly and that it is very difficult to extinguish. You recall that it gives off smoking fumes of dead air, which is why Master Arasemis has placed it under the protective hood.
The students were initially put off by the fact that it can be made from human or animal urine. You learned how to boil it to a paste before heating it and piping the vapors through water to capture small amounts of crystalized fosforus. Thankfully, it was also the first lesson in using the gill fern fronds in your protective mask. Arasemis said fosforus could also be extracted from some plants, but he wanted you and the other students to experience the less favorable parts of alchemy as well.
You wish you could touch this fosforus stone now. The fosforus will continue to glow for a time even after being stoppered in a jar, where it will build up dead air inside. You see a nearby pail of water, knowing forforus is safer when stored under water. Arasemis taught you that this mineral is used as a fertilizer but can also be weaponized as an explosive and poison.
You see several jars of different kinds of fosforus, all submerged in protective water.
You see a wall full of shelves with glass orbs that contain various alchemical airs. Some are captured ingredients to be used later, others are prepared mixtures. Master Arasemis has taught you and the other students a bit about handling airs, but such things are considered more advanced lessons in chemina arcanae. You climb the ladder to have a closer look at their labels.
You recall Master Arasemis boasting of this little creation. Lichen is known to grow very slowly, often needing decades to carpet even one face of a boulder. But he found an alchemical method, which he has not shared with you or the other students, to make lichen grow very quickly.
To demonstrate, he put a small bit of star lichen in this orb, which is plugged at the bottom, then added a healthy pour of a thick liquid and a pinch of some dark powder, both of which he declined to identify. Before your eyes, the lichen stretched out across the inner surface of the sphere. The implications of this growth would be the subject of a future lecture, he said.
You remember this is a colorless and odorless air that is usually harmless except in high concentrations, which leads it to displace vital air and cause suffocation. Master Arasemis said azote is one of the only airs that is termed inert, meaning it is not flammable or poisonous. Azote is also abundant, found in common air, underground, and even inside plants and animals. In some texts it is called burnt air.
This is the second air that students learn about, after the common air that surrounds you now. It is the air required for life in humans and animals, and even for fires to burn. Your own experiments, guided by Master Arasemis, showed a candle eventually expiring when a flask is placed over it, because he said the flame consumes the vital air. It can also be mixed into common air at a higher concentration, called nutritious air, for use as a medicine for breathing problems.
Interestingly, Arasemis said gently heating many metals in the presence of vital air increased the weight of the metals. Early alchemists believed this was proof that earths, like living things, required vital air to live. Even after seeing the flame die, you are not sure what this really means.
This one is a colorless air that is much denser than common air, so it settles along the ground or into low areas. Master Arasemis exposed the students to small amounts of fixed air, then steadily increased the dose. You detected a sharp acidic odor that caused drowsiness and headache. He stopped the experiment there, but said it would have caused dysfunction of the eyes and ears, unconsciousness, and eventually suffocation.
You learned that fixed air is found almost anywhere: exhaled breaths, decay of living things, burning anything, hot springs, swamps, and even seawater. And, most importantly for Candlestone members, the fronds of the gill fern can be used as filters that convert fixed air or breathed air into common air. This is why you and the other students were taught how to grow gill ferns, how to use them in your masks, and how to replace the fronds when they become saturated.
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