Chapter 4: Alchemy
Darowyn awoke to the smell of baking bread and browning bacon. Successful waking of the dwarf rarely occurred by nudging, and his wife found cooking much more effective. The morning was cool, and the only thing that motivated him to unhide from his warm throws and face the day was the savor of breakfast that teased his nostrils and watered his mouth. Finding a green tunic and grey trousers tucked away in his stone dresser, Darowyn dressed. He slid on his boots, tidied his curly hair and black beard, and opened the wooden door.
“About time ye woke, I was nigh off to fetch a frying pan,” goaded Delsyia from the table where she and the children sat. “I’ve made breakfast, and ‘tis cold by now.”
“Good morning, Father,” mumbled his young adolescent son, Torwyn, with his mouth full.
“Ye have no manners at all, Torwyn,” stated Manasyia, whom was a few years younger than her brother. Torwyn belched at her in response.
“Spends too much time with he’s father.” Delsyia shook her head. “Not one lick of hygiene nor manners.”
“Hygiene and manners be for women and the rich. What has the time?” asked Darowyn.
Delsyia glanced at the hand-cranked clock behind her. “A quarter to the eighth hours.”
“I’m off to see a cleric,” announced Darowyn.
“Oh, neither ye will,” commanded his wife, “Dine with us. Rolls will be out shortly.”
“What have my youngsters done in my absence?” inquired Darowyn sitting down at the table. The question caused both of the youngsters to jump up from the table and scurry out the room. His wife scowled at him for disrupting the family meal. The glance went unheeded, for Darowyn saw it frequently. The children soon returned with their latest works.
“What say ye, Daddy?” asked Manasyia while holding up a woven shirt made with a soft mixture of green and grey colors.
“Beautiful it is, indeed.” The dwarf smiled. “Yet if made for me, it is a wee-bit small. I like it all the—”
“I worked on it for hours,” interrupted Torwyn as he handed his father a charred piece of metal shaped into a blade. Darowyn carefully examined it, running his hand over it and knocking his knuckle upon it. He listened meticulously to the resonating blade.
“The tang must be wider lest it should leave its wielder with only a hilt. A little closer yet to the shoulder; this is where the force of the hilt and blade meet. Quality must not be rushed; it needs heated more and a firm hand. The fuller of the blade, although beautiful, is inset too deep. This weakens the blade. One side is greater than the other. If the strokes are not even, then this is the result.” He then turned the blade to its side, deeply concentrating on the blade. Darowyn then pointed to a spot in the middle of the blade. “Here, though it looks unblemished on the outside, the blade is cracked within.” The dwarf realized he was mumbling to himself and the blade’s smithy sat near. “Very becoming for an apprentice,” he said, handing the blade back to Torwyn.
“After worked over the forge more and being sharped, it’ll be fit to slay an orc… or to cut Mana’s shirt to bits,” Torwyn teased, giving his sister an evil and wry look. She calmly held up the shirt.
“It is thine, dimwit,” Manasyia looked at him calmly, “And if that be the case, ‘twill be the last I shall make in your honor.”
Torwyn eyed the shirt. “Then, I shall wear it proudly under a suit of chainmail. I shall ride to battle goblins with my very own sword. I shall be great like Gamien who fought Gruthur,” Torwyn fantasized.
“Or be kilt and eaten,” mocked Manasyia.
“Aye, adventures be for the foolhardy.” Darowyn stuffed another bite in his mouth.
As Delsyia laid the rolls upon the table, she nudged her daughter. “Oh! You may find these useful, as well.” Manasyia pulled from her pocket a pair of thick cow-hide gloves.
Torwyn grabbed them excitedly. “My very own forgin’ gloves! Thank thee, Mana!” Torwyn jabbered, so excited that he hugged his sister.
After breakfast was over, Torwyn headed back to the forge, while Manasyia and Delsyia cleared the table. Darowyn informed he would be back shortly after lunch.
As Darowyn neared the city from the corridor, he could see the sunlight streaming through the glittering city. The city bustled with busy dwarfs that were hard at work in their specialized trades. Music echoed in his ears as he made his way to the cleric’s guild near the center of the city. Though not the largest building in the city, the cleric’s guild proved quite large and highly unique. Having two or three stories, it somewhat resembled the chapel, but adopted a darker style.
Darowyn grabbed the great ring and used it to knock upon the door. He wondered if he would be invited into the guild. He had never been inside, and his curiosity was rising. A short-haired and shaven dwarf opened the door. He wore a green robe with the hood down.
“Can I be of service to ye?” asked the cleric.
“Aye, I am Darowyn of the Council. I and my mare were attacked by a foul giant rat. Some ill was about the rat for its mouth swelled and spat. The pony suffered a deep bite.”
“Indeed, this is not the first I’ve heard of them. I pray none other than the pony suffered from its teeth.”
“Nay, just the pony.”
“To mend such wounds, first I must gather supplies. I am known as Dathimus. I bid ye welcome to the Guild of the Clerics.”
As the door closed behind him, Darowyn marveled the inside of the structure. Sunlight streamed through the painted glass windows and brightened the great hall. Altars ran along the length of the hall, causing the room to feel akin to the chapel. Yet, it was unlike so because all walls of the room shelved books spanning from the floor to the ceiling. Clothed in brown and green robes, dwarfs carried and read books, chanted and meditated at the altars, and walked abroad wielding staffs, oblivious that a guest had entered. From the altars, a pleasant mixture of aromas and a solemn blend of chanting filled the air.
“Some are clothed as the earth and others as the grass?”
“Colors separate, from the many that are good, they whom are great,” answered Dathimus as he led the way down the hall. “They, who wear brown, are clerics of the First Order and assist those in green, clerics of the Second Order, in our daily tasks. Of those of the First Order many have other professions. The Second Order clerics are busied with servicing the sick. Our guild master, Garimuth, wears gold. He is of the Third Order. From every guild, the guild masters may be summoned to a council. The leader of that council wears white and is of the Fourth Order. Any cleric greater than he is of legend.
”There are many professions within the guild. There are those who plant reagents, who sow reagents, and who collect reagents for the alchemists. Gifted alchemists create potions with power far beyond what they can wield with a staff,” Dathimus stated while entering a smaller hall at the end of the main hall. “There are those who do healings and exorcisms.”
Wooden doors lined either side of the hall. A brown-robed dwarf carrying a vial entered the hall from one such door. Distracted by the sight of a visitor and forgetting the step in front of the door, he boldly attempted to step on air. “Blast!” he screamed, as he fell like a domino onto Darowyn whom also fell. The vial fluttered in the air before it shattered near Darowyn’s face. The liquid quickly turned to vapors that made his eyes burn.
“What sorcery is this? My eyes burn,” choked Darowyn, recovering from his fall.
“No sorcery. ‘Twas my first creation of Truth of Sight,” explained the novice, disheartened.
“Fret not Darowyn, the haze and burn shall give way to better vision. Lead ye I shall until such time. And you,” Dathimus said, turning to the novice, “should try not to walk on air for it is not a skill in thy possession.”
The apprenticed alchemist apologized and began clearing the glass shards. Meanwhile, Darowyn rubbed his eyes for his vision had become blurred. Dathimus continued to lead him down the hall until his vision had cleared. The hall now crossed a large room with a tall ceiling. Within, Darowyn beheld a broad staircase leading to the upper floors. The two dwarfs crossed the room, re-entered the hall on the opposite side, turned to the first doorway on the left, and passed into a room filled with potions, awkward smells, and organized containers of strange contents. The cleric collected a handful of ingredients, retrieved a pestle and mortar, and set a book nearby.
“Dust of the horned mare, root of a drake tree, holy water, ginseng,” Chanted the dwarven cleric as he combined the ingredients inside the mortar. He ground the mixture together until it became a whitish-green paste.
“Preparations are complete,” said the cleric, looking up from his work at Darowyn, “Lead on, fellow dwarf. I am at thy service.”
“What cost is such service?”
“Different ailment, different price. Mayhap low as seven silver shillings, others may be several gold coins.”
After retracing their steps back through the halls of the guild, Darowyn led Dathimus through the stone streets. The streets were etched in square patterns and many decorated with designs. After turning left at the last intersection of these decorated streets, they drew near to the stables. Upon entering the last of stable, Darowyn noticed the rodent carcass had been removed. Reaching Faphax’s stall, Darowyn unlatched the bolt. The dwarfs then examined the pony’s leg. The pony did not feel well, yet did not show signs of degeneration. As Darowyn led the pony out from the stall, Dathimus spoke, “The wound is not serious, and thus I shall only charge seven shillings. Before this is done, I believe the rodent caught thee off guard by the door; hast thou any injuries?”
“Nay, but the creature spat on this side of my face,” answered Darowyn, pointing to his face.
“Let us start with ye then,” decided the cleric. He smeared a portion of his concoction upon Darowyn’s face. The dwarf stood awkwardly still. While twirling the staff in a circle, he began to chant, “Sivalas manast, sivalas dagrash. Dregola sava, dena sahash.” He lifted the staff above his head, and then, much to the surprise and dismay of his subject, smacked the end of the staff against Darowyn’s face.
“What’s this?!” Darowyn shouted angrily, “I’ll not pay for such a hoax, for being stricken upon my face!”
“No illness hast thou to heal.”
“Mayhap not, until you struck,” retorted the dwarf, rubbing his face. He was too engulfed in disbelief and doubt to realize his hand had returned clean.
While the cleric rubbed the ointment on the pony’s now swollen and festering injury, he explained, “If I had warned against it, ye might have declined. Mayhap thou live, mayhap thou die.” He began chanting once again.
“I’ll not stand for this mare to suffer insult to his injuries.” Darowyn pointed at him with an indignant finger. “If he comes to pain, so too shall you.”
The cleric continued his ritual and struck the wound with the staff, but the leg neither bent nor bowed, instead a blinding white light exploded from the pony’s wound. The astonished Darowyn jumped back. Quickly, the light and the wound were gone, and the leg was like new.
Darowyn held out two gold coins. “Forgive me my doubts and impatience,” offered Darowyn apologetically, “Thy service is most humble.”
“Forgiveness begets patience,” the cleric answered, taking only a single gold coin. “Patience is a virtue, and I’ve practiced it well,” stated the cleric while he dug out three silver shillings and held them out.
“Aye, better I practice to turn the other cheek, whether it need healing or not,” admitted the dwarf, pushing away the shillings, “As I said, yer service is humble, and of that virtue I do practice.”
“Do not pride thyself in it, for thou dost practice it well. It is the greatest of virtues, though it thinks itself the least.” The cleric smiled, returning the shillings to the pocket of his robe.
“If all practiced it, we wouldst all be the least, and, therefore, all equal, as it should be.” Darowyn returned the now vivacious pony to the stall and secured the latch. “Thank ye again for thy services, and if I could ever be at thine, ye have but to speak.” Darowyn promised as they shuffled towards the door. “Though I am among the council, I am also a smith.”
“Not at this time, but if we shall, you will know first,” accepted the cleric as he stepped into the streets. “Has the council spoken on the rodents yet?”
“Not yet,” replied Darowyn, strolling through the darkening streets towards the cleric’s guild. Clouds had moved between the sun and mountain and cast shadows over much of the city. “The arrangement is in order; the council speaks on the morrow. Anxious am I to speak to them of these and other matters.”
“Garimuth will surely attend or send one in his stead. Eager is he to resolve such matters.” Looking ahead, the cleric’s guild was already in view. “Or so I suppose. The master hath been strange of late, worried even. Mayhap of pestilence spreading through the city streets and plaguing our people.”
“Then I shall surely press the matter of obstructing entrance to our city from out the sewers.” The two dwarfs stood before the great wooden doors of the guild. “Until we meet again, I wish thee well Dathimus.”
“Fare thee well my friend.” Dathimus disappear behind the closing doors.