This area of the laboratory is where you have done most of your lessons under Master Arasemis’s watchful eye.
You see finished shroud eggs drying there on these side tables, after which they will be put into belts for use. You take a closer look at the symbols on the eggs so you can identify them.
A black powder cloud burst on a target. It smells of soot and peppery putridness, and causes acute itchy throat, vomiting, death within about a minute minute. It is produced by boiling toad skin vinegar (50%), asbestor (20%), barb snail powder (10%), gley (10%), henbane oil (5%), and honey (5%) to evaporation, then powdering the black residue.
A brown powder cloud burst on a target. It coats the eyes, nostrils, and throat while rapidly slowing breathing and heartbeat until the target falls asleep, typically for half an hour but can be cured earlier with a rising candle. Produced by mixing water (65%), lead powder (15%), carbun (10%), flashoak tincture (3%), and bee venom (7%), boiling to evaporation, then adding oak gall dye before spreading the solids to dry and be ground into a powder.
If too much flashoak tincture is used, the target will sleep longer and have extended dizziness after waking. You know that the effects of the slow sleep egg are similar to the sleep candle in the school of candle alchemy.
A black shimmering powder cloud burst on a surface. This is among your favorite eggs that you have tried, and the Naren-Dra tribe were also fond of them. It provides a brief invisibility cloak for one person up to about 20 seconds. The cloud appears like a blurring, or a shadowy reflection on water, and it reflects nearby sources of light to add confusion. It quickly dissipates, especially outdoors, and is best used at night or in dim light. It has the faint smell of browned bread. Produced by mixing powdered snake molt (30%), sphal (20%), coal soot (20%), mica flakes (20%), and powdered treefrog gastroliths (10%).
These weapons are your favorite part of shroud alchemy, and you feel that throwing them connects you to the ancient Naren-Dra people who first developed them. It was a way of life for them, scattered as they were on isolated, snowy peaks in the mountains that still bear their name. Large scale wars among them were very rare, due to the harsh weather and difficult terrain. So feuding leaders generally resorted to using a small number of shroud egg-throwing combatants for sabotage, assassination, hostage-taking, and the like. And the eggs were used for more mundane tasks by court guards and jailors as well.
Naren-Dra shroud alchemists typically wore dark clothing and long, closing cloaks that hid the types of eggs they were carrying in their belts, just as Candlestone does today. Aside from shroud eggs, they also carried knives and throwing darts, as you do. They did not use swords, preferring the stand-off range of thrown weapons over melee combat.
In the modern world, the Order of the Candlestone has integrated shroud eggs into the skills taught to every student. And other groups, such as the Widsemer Academy in Karnool, have also adapted the eggs for their poisonous powders. Arasemis said some professional wealthy bandits have even used tiny wooden boxes or capped spheres with similar effects.
Return to Map
This worktable is used by the students to make shroud eggs. You see many eggs are at various stages of the process, which is pretty straightforward. You’ve done it many times now.
First, the eggs of birds, chickens, ducks, and geese are selected based on the size needed for the weapon. After cleaning and drying, a small hole is pricked in the shell to drain the egg. Then it is filled with poisons and painted over with substances that prevent leaking and make the eggs harder to see when thrown. Master Arasemis revels in all the details, but those are the basic steps.
You can identify what kind of eggs are currently in process by the nearby ingredients and notes. They are all in the category of distractants, which are intended to distract or disable targets without causing permanent harm.
This unfinished shroud egg contains frustmust, which produces an orange powder cloud burst on a target. It causes intense coughing and a surge of saliva and spitting that distracts but otherwise does not harm the target. Produced by mixing a powder of chalk rust (70%), soot (20%), and alum (10%).
This unfinished shroud egg contains frustmust, which produces a strong, revolting, sweet-salty scent that rapidly surges through common air to induce violent, mass vomiting for anyone within a closed room, or about fifty feet outdoors with no wind. Produced by boiling gley (20%) in algaroth (40%) and urine (40%) until half-evaporated, then fed into a shroud egg before cooling, after which it becomes a semisolid slush. Master Arasemis said that he and Marlan and Garion were all affected by this when Garion accidentally dropped one of the eggs early in their training. They had no time to tip over a cloudcarry jar before they all vomited.
A red powder cloud burst on a target. It causes intense coughing, a surge of saliva and spitting like frustmust, and temporary blindness. It may be fatal in weakened targets. Produced by mixing a powder of chalk rust (50%), barb snail powder (20%), alum (9%), and henbane oil (1%).
The target becomes disoriented and faints within moments, usually forced to crouch or steady oneself. Lasts only minutes. Produced by boiling water (50%) and clay (50%), then piping dead air through the mud for a week. A portion is then mixed with starved carbun and steamed with very hot water vapor, and finally dried as a powder.
You see several ingredients stacked on the side table and filling the drawers underneath.
A blue-tinted crystalline that can be burned for light that cannot be extinguished by water. Once set alight, it will burn underwater even at great depth. Celestine has long been used as a source of light by the Lambics, who have limited access to wood on their wintery wind-blown island. It is also found in Nydenbern, where it was discarded during sulfur mining until knowledge of its properties spread from merchants who had visited Lambochardy.
Master Arasemis has taught you that this plant has very many uses and effects, primarily its brownish-yellow oil that can be pressed from the seeds or boiled from its leaves. Overall, it is toxic to humans and most animals, including fish and birds, but can also be medically useful. Merely taking strong smells of its yellow flowers can cause a gradual but unquiet sleep.
When the oil is ingested in very small amounts, it can cause loss of sensation and awareness, hallucinations, blushed skin, dilated pupils for several hours, and sometimes rage or stark bewilderment. High doses will cause vomiting, dry mouth, racing heart, memory distortions, madness, coma, and death.
Arasemis has taught you how to use it as a poison, especially as a treatment on daggers and swords, like Bertwil’s blade. It causes a fatal fester in even minor wounds. Drinking melicrate or honey quintessence can cure the effects of henbane oil if taken within a few hours. Master Arasemis also suspects henbane oil to be one of the lost ingredients of furywine.
This is a chunk of refined fossilized wax, which is used to produce the highest quality alchemical candles. It is expensive as it can only be extracted from an uncommon coal that burns with a heavy brown smoke. The wax is very long-burning and produces a bright, white hot flame when used in candles.
A red blade-shaped crystalline that can be made into knives and daggers that cause carbuncle fever. Ingesting or inhaling the powdered crystals or being cut with these blades will cause a slow death from a fever that nullifies the senses one by one. The crystals are harvested from the salt caves of southern Ovelia. You remember seeing some residue on the floor upstairs in one of the guest apartments and you reason it was probably from a carbuncle mixture.
This work table is used by the students to prepare bulk ingredients for mixture and storage. You have spent many long hours here peeling, chopping, grinding, grating, powdering, sorting, and stacking.
This is a species of oak tree native to Torxil Island, east of Barres Ministry in Donovan. You and the other students help Master Arasemis tend several copses of flashoaks in the woods near Thorendor Castle. A short tree, the oak grows exceptionally fast, completing the cycle from acorn to full grown to rotting log in two years. The wood, when dried and powdered, is administered as a sleep aid. Distillation of the wood produces flashoak tincture, which is a strong sleep agent used in shroud eggs and candle alchemy.
This gleaming white wood is from cave willows and produces white flames when burned. The raw wood is immediately corrosive to most metals. The trees grow only in the cave systems of southern Gallerlandia, particularly in the Gilgalem Mountains. The trees grow for hundreds or thousands of years without sunlight.
Moonwood was rarely used by the Gallerlander natives for ornamental purposes. Some trees were harvested by Brintilian colonists, including lumber to make trophy furniture for Marshal Hilsingor, the leader of the Frontier Corps and most ancient enemy of the Order of the Candlestone. Hilsingor became the first to understand the corrosive properties of moonwood when his sword, belt, and mail tarnished, said by some to be the “revenge disease” of the Gallerlanders for the partial looting of Gilgalem. And yet, moonwood was used to craft the first throne of Delavon Kingdom, though it was thickly varnished to protect against the corrosion.
A black residue powder formed alongside amber oil when decomposing amber under high heat. The primary uses of amber colophony as you have learned it is as an ingredient in rust vex and lock vex, and in the smoke skin and smoke screen shroud eggs. Shroud alchemists require lots of colophony for these important tools.
A thin liquid that is corrosive to iron-bearing metals including steel, but is harmless to touch. Its vapors are odious but also harmless. It requires at least specks of rust to be present on the surface of the targeted metal to be effective. You learned that rust vex was originally of Raffen origin, possibly used to counter Rahlampian landship incursions. Produced by mixing gode acid (50%), fysic acid (40%), rust powder (5%), and amber colophony (5%).
Rodel says he may never have joined the Order of the Candlestone were it not for Master Arasemis and his rust vex, but you’re not sure what he means by this.
You see a basket of reddish-brown ore that you are not familiar with, but you remember Master Arasemis assigning you the task of processing it as described by Oghamroy Snead. As you glance at the note with instructions signed by Oghamroy, you realize you had forgotten to do this task yesterday. You were supposed to find more anoptmer to make the furnace burn hotter, but you haven’t looked for it yet in the laboratory supply room.
By my experiments, this baux ore is typically a mix of scrapstone (25%), alumbalt (45%), iron (10%), and silic (20%). You must add the ore to a bath of molten rock salt and slaked lime in a very hot furnace. As the salt and lime steam away, I suspect more baux must be added several times to gradually transform the molten heap into solid, pure alumbalt. But I have been unable to add enough anoptmer to my furnaces to get it hot enough.
I can quickly get more baux if needed because the it is often found near the surface with little overburden, and thus easily strip mined by my workers. It is the extraction of the alumbalt that has proven difficult and expensive, and it may be impossible. I welcome any success you may have.
You see books, notes, and ingredients used by Master Arasemis to teach the students about alchemy. This area is cluttered with schematics and papers and everything else he needs to do demonstrations for the students.
This is a skull that was tattooed long after its owner died, but Master Arasemis has not explained what the symbols mean to you or the other students. He said Strajo was an alchemist who was known for repeatedly experimenting on himself, a practice that eventually caused his own death.
Arasemis has never explained how he came to possess Strajo’s skull, but he said he displays it here in the instruction area of the laboratory as a warning to students. Arasemis said it is always preferable to test new alchemy on animals or the enemies of Candlestone. In most cases, he said, someone somewhere knows enough about a particular ingredient to understand or at least suspect its effects. Trialing things on oneself should never be a step that we take.
Interestingly, you have seen Arasemis scrape moss from beneath the skull, then add it to a mixture he was working on. It was at night, when Arasemis thought the students were asleep. When you made your presence know, he immediately returned the skull to its place on the cabinet and ignored your question about the moss. Later, when no one was around, you carefully looked under the skull and found moss freshly growing on its underside. You cannot imagine what Arasemis is doing with skull moss, but you’re sure he knows what he’s doing.
Chemina arcana is about harvesting and harnessing the innumerable essences of the earth and everything in it. These essences are hidden by nature for a secret purpose—our purpose—and our ancient knowledge is the key to unlocking them.
An abundant succulent evergreen with thick green leaves and red speckles. Inside the leaves is a clear, mildly sweet, gelatinous substance used to treat burns, frostbite (as in a warming tincture), skin aliments, and sunburn. Also used in food, beverages, and candy. Despite Master Arasemis’s warning, you learned by personal experience that ingesting too much will cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
A lustrous substance of thin, very soft, fine, fibrous hair-like silic crystals believed to be impregnated with antimony. Repeated inhalation of the fibers causes asbestor sickness in the lungs, and for that reason you have learned to use it in shroud egg mixtures.
Asbestor is expensive and dangerous to mine but has many potential uses beyond shroud eggs. Its unusual properties allow it to absorb sound, resist fire and heat, and defend against acids. It can be woven into fabrics or mixed into cement, mortar, or earthenware for strength. It can also be woven into asbestor fabrics that are fire resistant and thus easy to clean by placing in a fire. For this reason, asbestor is used to make perpetual wicks by candle alchemists.
Master Arasemis said deceased Ovelian kings and queens are dressed in gem-studded asbestor garments before being cremated, so that their ashes can be easily retained and buried in the foundations of new public buildings.
A rare silver-blue metal-flecked stone that is a mild radiant sometimes found with aurichalcum. When brought into the sunlight or near a fire, amiphote will glow brightly bluish-white for several hours in the night after which it will be very dim until the next day, and then this can be repeated. If heated gently while exposed to pure vital air, but not to the point of melting, the stone will keep its bright glow for much longer. Arasemis led you and other students through experiments that confirmed amiphote is composed of a natural mixture of scrapstone (60%), aurichalcum (20%), iron (10%), fosforus (5%), and klaproth (5%).
Master Arasemis said he believes amiphote to be a cousin of electrum, which was famous among the Gallerlanders for having a dim natural glow that could only be seen below ground or other dark places. Like the early colonists’ desire to seize the natives’ electrum hoards, later rulers wished for more brightly lit amiphote to adorn imposing castles. But amiphote has remained much too rare and prized by alchemists working in the dark and secret places.
This is a sample roll of elephant leather, used as armor and clothing. Elephantine shirts from Genevaros remain expensive rarities in western Pemonia, and were previously all but impossible to find. Arasemis said Genevaros rulers only permitted merchants to export it while demanding exceptionally high prices. Only the wealthiest can afford it, but cheaper counterfeit elephantine is made by washing cow leather in slaked lime.
When worn under steel mail, elephantine will stop most typical arrows. Arasemis has considered projects to make the elephantine even stronger, or, conversely, finding ways of treating it with some alchemical mixture so as to render it useless.
These leaves are from an herbal shrub that originally grew in the rocky woodlands of Gretlind and Penogavia, but can be cultivated within six years in many temperate areas with little maintenance. Chewing fresh, young leaves is a stimulant that can cause excitement, euphoria, alertness, friendless, and concentration. It can also suppress hunger and pain, and makes those who chew it have green saliva. The hunger suppressant, which you have learned to make, is called sateseed.
Dry leaves like these have significantly less effect, but can be smoked during winter or used as a stimulating tea. Master Arasemis has shown you and the students how to use it while on a mission that requires little time for sleep or eating. However, he warned that overusing catha can cause melancholy, hallucinations, and stoppage of the heart. This has happened to many people in Gretlind and those partaking in catha houses across Pemonia.
A bitter-tasting, silvery-green herb used for treating poor digestion and poor appetite, flavor spirits and wines such as absinthe and bitters, preserve beer, spice mead, and as an ingredient in mute tonic. Consuming too much can cause convulsions, seizure, and death.
A large cluster of red crystals that can be grown in a cool, dark place using a mixture of crystalized honey (25%), salt (23%), powdered vole gems (27%), realgar (12%), and spirit of salt (13%). Alchemists have long used this mineral to swindle gold from merchants to help finance their experiments. The mineral is also poisonous if one remains in contact with it for a duration time, as was discovered when it was used in jewelry. Master Arasemis has shown you and the other students how to grow it, which takes only a week if mixed in the precise proportions, so that you could sell it for coins in a pinch.
The classification of substances, both natural and manmade, is a cause of some confusion among new students of arcanae. This is particularly common when students begin studying arcana chemina, which is when substances and processes of careful attention must become the students’ focus. But classification is the foundation of all schools of alchemy and metallurgy.
To keep things simple, explain that alchemists and metallurgists will refer to all things in general as substances. Those substances found in nature are called raw materials (or often ingredients by alchemists) and are grouped into eight families, such as plants, earths, and airs. Those substances made by man are called mixtures or alloys, which are defined as at least two substances that are physically combined.
Two caveats to note for your students at this point are, first, that amalgams are considered a liquid alloy, not a separate category. And second, that natural mixtures and alloys can be found in nature, and thus classified as raw materials or alloys.
And finally, explain to your students that there are five phases, meaning forms, of substances: solids, liquids, airs, flames, and forces. They will be familiar with some of these and how they change in nature, such as water and ice, but will need careful instruction on the others…
…And I have also found that introducing chemina arcana as “materials” to new pupils is most effective for them to grasp the initial concepts. Most are familiar with simple procedures, such as dressing wounds with honey, and the dangers of handling arsenic. It is here that a solid foundation can be built so that later lessons about the essences of all things are understood without uncertainty...
…then it became clear to us: glyphblades are a reference to a specific set of exquisite swords: The Eight Alchemical Swords of Donovan, as they were called, which marked the pinnacle of secret alchemy in western Pemonia following the collapse of the Brintilian Empire.
These swords were made for the petty kings of what later consolidated into the Kingdom of Donovan. At the time, advanced metallurgy was not shunned, but rather valued and controlled by powerful rulers to produce unique weapons. However, the fact that alchemists, not only smiths, were involved in producing the glyphblades was kept secret. The kings explained the effects of their swords as the divine power given to them by God, which was believed by the low folk and nobles alike.
These eight swords became symbols of the power of the eight kings, and eventually their unity against other kingdoms. They were produced by glading with a rare metal called Eigenark alloy, then alterlocum, then a unique process called vein etching performed by specialized etchingsmiths. They made tiny reservoir holes and veins in the blades to capture and hold substances using serpent varnish. When swiped through a substance such as smoke or fire, the glyphblade was said to have been “charged”, meaning the substance was absorbed by the blade and ready to be “thrown” out when vibrated against metal, such as the clash of swords. I reckon that all glyphblades were continuously charged with common air until something else replaces that air.
How I dearly wish to lay hands on one of the original glyphblades…
This is one of the oldest-looking books you have ever seen. Although there is no publication year, you recognize the author’s name, Owerdir. Rather than a normal publisher’s mark, you see the stone and fire symbol of the Order of Candlestone on its binding. This is one of the Order’s secret books, and therefore one of Master Arasemis’s most prized possessions.
Utmost care must be taken when handling shroud eggs and the substances used to fill them. The student must be instructed to treat them with the respect any weapon requires. New students may simply see a humble egg like the uninitiated folk and not fully appreciate the transformation that has occurred.
Shroud eggs are made using a painstaking process that new students may not appreciate. First, select fresh eggs for size according to their intended purpose, then gently wash them. Once dry, dab them with a small amount of any common wax on both ends, which will help prevent fracturing during the next step.
When this hardens, use a pin to poke through the wax to winnow a very small hole at each end of the egg. Be sure to choose a pin long enough to pierce the yolk. Now place the eggs vertically in a holder that will allow the yolks and whites to drain out into a tray. This is slow but can be sped up by having the student blow into the top hole.
When this is done, permanently seal one hole with a bit of cork or other object topped with wax. Insert a similar but longer bit into the second hole as a temporary stopper. The egg is now ready to be strengthened by dipping them in what is called an egg tunic, which is a mixture of wax (ideally stone wax) and tinder fungus. This creates a durable outer shell for handling shroud eggs or storing them in a belt.
Before the egg tunic cools, the egg is dipped in coal dust, soot, or similar carbun-rich dark powder to make them more difficult to spot when thrown (especially in low light or darkness). The egg is then gently marked with a symbol of its future contents using chalk, colored wax, or paint. With the temporary stopper carefully removed, the egg is now ready to be filled with various powders or liquids using a specially made egg holder and funnel apparatus called a filling dock.
When this is done, the hole is sealed with a daub of wax and more dark powder. Importantly, this final wax daub is impregnated with a small bead of what the Naren-Dra refer to as fulminating silver, a gray powdery residue produced by boiling silverene (50%) and napthar (50%) to evaporation.
For years I found it difficult to understand how this silver was different, as we Gallerlanders did not use such things. And its true nature remains a mystery to all today. But it should be understood to be sensitive and immediately reactive to any impact, pressure, heat, or sparks. Even a drop of liquid or a feather can set it off. A single minim of fulminating silver is harmless, but anything more can cause harm. A thimbleful will cause it to explode under its own weight. Thus, although a tiny amount is applied to the final daub of egg tunic wax, it will be enough to activate the ingredients of shroud eggs once it strikes a target.
Shroud eggs are typically carried in specially-made belts or bandoliers of leather and wire that protect them from being crushed, even while running or fighting. The narrow end of the eggs are pointed downward in the belt cups, then closed over with a protective flap. When the shroud alchemist needs one of the eggs, he flicks open the flap, pinches and pulls out the egg, then throws it at the target.
…A proper metallurgist or smithy will refer to his resources as materials, whereas a proper alchemist will call these things ingredients. All of them are called substances. When combining substances, the alchemist and metallurgist will refer to the results as mixtures or alloys (with amalgams being a liquid alloy). There are five phases of substances: solids, liquids, airs, flames, and forces…
This strongbox was left unlocked.
Inside you found a key!
When exposed to common air during mining, coal naturally absorbs vital air and gives off fixed air and water vapor, all of which contributes to several hazardous airs known as firedamp, blackdamp, etc. This was first documented by the Naren-Dra tribe, who first learned to burn coal and thus inspired the entire mining practice of modern Calbria and beyond. The Naren-Dra found coal veins in the rockfaces of the infinite cave systems beneath their snowy mountains, and even on the surface of the rocky ground during the summer months.
Tree wood was sparse in their mountain realm so they mined coal to burn for heat and light. The Naren-Dra also used coal to make hot furnaces that could melt shulmel crystals so they could be processed into optical lenses for their masks and telescopes. Coal was later mined by Brintilian and Arukan colonists who encountered the Naren-Dra and learned of its properties. But slow extraction, initially dangerous mining on the edges of Naren-Dra territory, and cheaper more plentiful wood meant that coal was not initially widely mined or used by the colonists. So, its abilities to make quality alloys went unnoticed for a time.
Alterlocum is a complex method with several steps. The process centers on the use of the slurry barrel. That is, barrels that hold a liquid slurry of alchemical concoctions and materials that are used for steeping weapons—typically swords, but also armor—to convey specific properties into the metal that cannot be conveyed using other methods.
The experimenter is warned that alterlocum is expensive, time-consuming, and often requires much re-sharpening of the blade after steeping in the barrel. But this method is more efficient and longer-lasting than standard glading or treatment of metal. Also note that alterlocum is often used in combination with treating and/or glading.
Recall that treating is the least sophisticated form of altering a blade’s attributes with advanced techniques. A blade or piece of armor is simply wiped with a substance, similar to how a blacksmith may use browning or painting to protect metal. All treated blades will have their attributes wear away with time and use, and must be re-treated regularly. Also recall that glading is a method of folding in special materials when the alloy is first made by the smith. The gladed blade can also be treated or alterlocumed thereafter if desired.
Another key part of the process is the alterlocum sachet, which is typically a finely-woven mesh bag containing alchemical substances that are suspended in a mixture of acid of fysic and royal water (which will burn one’s hand) in a slurry barrel. The substances in the sachet are intended to slowly dissolve in the barrel as the acids eat away the trace impurities in the steel which are then replaced with components drawn from a sachet to convey various effects, often causing the blade to change its color…
Here you see an overflowing sack of coal. It’s dense and heavy, ugly and dirty, crumbly and oily. It burns with a foul black smoke, especially the brown variety. Master Arasemis uses it to melt metals here in the laboratory, and in the nearby forge room to strengthen iron into steel. Despite the great heat of these burning stones, as the ancient alchemists used to call them, Arasemis showed the students that coal can be easily extinguished by water or sand.
Master Arasemis said that coal could be the future of heat and power, based on experiments conducted by his Calbrian friend, Oghamroy Snead. He said that Oghamroy was considered by all alchemists to be the foremost expert on coal, as he was the first to isolate coal’s individual parts. He did this by grinding down the coal and purifying it to extract carbun and sulfur, pressing it for oil, burning it to expel fixed air, and distilling it to separate out oil, flammable air, common air, and azote.
Oghamroy seems to think it could be possible to unleash some kind of hidden work within the dirty stone. But if that were true, you think that surely the Naren-Dra tribe, the discoverers of “kowl”, would have found a way to harvest that power long ago. Although coal does make a furnace burn hotter than wood, you don’t think it will ever be more than that. Most of the known mines are in Calbria, so it is expensive. Arasemis usually burns wood, saving the coal for when he needs these furnaces or the forge to be truly hot.
© 1998-2023 Christopher C. Fuchs. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited.
Start Here: Lords of Deception ebook novel only 99 cents! Dismiss