“Run. Run. Jump over the rock. Duck under the branch. Oh my goodness that was a pretty flower!” The Alchemist narrated his adventure. He was running along a ridge outside of Tirr, by a pathway that would soon be flooded with the King’s army.
The Resistance destroyed the laboratory of a highly regarded engineer. The engineer was a hack by the Alchemist’s standards. The engineer simply built things and completed circuits. An alchemist commanded the foundations of nature. With the knowledge kept inside his head, the Alchemist could create a potion that could end the pox or melt a mountain. Engineering was for the lazy; alchemy was for a true mind of science.
The path he ran was the most likely route the King’s Army would travel. Tirr had proven itself to be a nuisance and a friend of the growing Resistance movement. It was marked for eradication. The Alchemist had grown fond of his adopted home away from home. Seeing it lie in ruin would be upsetting. All of his stuff was in Tirr.
He had spent the better part of the morning, following the laboratory’s destruction well before dawn, brewing some of his most powerful potions to date. He was rather proud of himself. His colleagues back at the academy were going to be very jealous if he survived the day. He focused heavily on the “if” of that thought.
“Put the wire up much higher, make the path below quite dire,” he laughed. He had to listen to his thoughts aloud, so he at least wanted to entertain himself. Even he could admit he was boring from time to time though.
He set traps up and down the path. The resistance to the crown was unlikely to head off the incoming army in time. He could only hope to slow the enemy.
“Squirrel tracks!” he shouted when spotting a set of tiny foot and tail prints in the snow beside a tree. He found the presence of rodent like beasts to be a portend of good things. He did not know why, but the tiny claw marks made him more at ease.
He rummaged through his satchel and pulled the last clay pot from its hold. The leather pouch had treated him well through his years, never allowing even so much as a rattle or a clang between the bottles of incredibly dangerous and volatile chemical compounds they protected.
By all rights he should have been blown to bits a half dozen times already. The ridge was icy and rocky. The hinterland of Tirr was all forest, bramble and boulder. Citizens kept to paths if they were not working the southern fields, no one beside the noble lumberjacks ventured the unbeaten path. Even walking the raw ground could spell disaster if one was not paying attention. The land had never seen a saddled horse. It was difficult to successfully avoid a sudden fatal fall when one was running the land with a pack of explosives large enough to fend off entire battalions. The Alchemist was courting his demise with every dash between trees.
The last pot was in place. He looked around the path. The trees would bear fruit come spring, dropping their berries and seeds when a strong enough wind came through, falling to the path only to be kicked or squashed by merchants or children at play. The path had done this for years, centuries even if the legends of Tirr’s origins were true. The Alchemist knew the city’s walls were not old enough to support the tall tales, but the fun of the story was not his to take away from the people.
Once the boots of one thousand soldiers of the King’s army came marching down the path, the seeds and fruits would be replaced with pots and bottles. The Alchemist would rain death where only life had been known before. If he survived the day, he swore to himself that one day he would atone for the actions that were so necessary.
He turned the empty apothecary’s satchel into a makeshift sled and zipped down the hill to finalize his trap. Wire trailed him from the trees above and he stepped into a nearly frozen rose bramble. In the spring the roses would bloom a lovely shade of blue, a tribute to the royals created by florists a generation early. The entire path lined in the colors of the King, blue roses and sprigs of lavender. The Alchemist wondered if the rose he stepped in would exist in a year’s time, after the resistance ended the reign of the crazed king.
He reached into his coat for the last piece of his puzzle. A small item, but it symbolized his extent of engineering prowess, when attached to the wire above him it created a trigger. It measured the movement of the earth it sat on. The Alchemist had estimated the seismographic impact that two thousand feet would on an ancient and settled bit of land. As soon as the trigger felt that motion, it would pull the wire into its core and the explosive bottles would drop.
The fate of Tirr rested on his calculations and the power of his compounds.
He set the trap and ran to the safety within the city’s walls. It would be nightfall before the King’s Army arrived. The Alchemist had heard the guards already in the city were removed by a turncoat Musketeer. Now it was time to fortify and await a night that would be long remembered.
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