A doe, no more than a few weeks old, frantically searched for her mother. It stood in the path of the carriage driving The Alchemist south. Spring had come and with it the promise of new life and the beauty of flora emerging from dormancy. Storms came in the afternoon bringing to his nose the sweet smell of falling rain. It was a season he loved. He looked upon the frightened doe and spoke in his most reassuring tone.
“You are safe, you can’t speak my tongue, but you are safe. I’m sure you taste delicious, but that is not what we are here for today. You are a deer, a doe. You could have been a goat had things turned out differently.”
It was the mention of a goat that sent the doe running off the road and back to her herd.
“I understand my four legged friend. I understand,” The Alchemist said.
The carriage puttered forward once more. Axles churned and turned, thundering down a dirt road still wet from yesterday’s showers. He had hoped to use a team of horses to carry him eastward, but he could not afford the necessary number of equine assistants. He did not enjoy the mechanized carriage. It was loud and clunky and worked on nothing more than cog work and steam engines. There was no finesse to the machine, no magic in the gadgetry. It was just an engineering feat, and that bored him immensely. The carriage was born of solid steel coated in an alloy created by a rival of his though, so he was not too upset to make use of the device. It was not nearly as offensive as the mechanical soldiers that had been popping up through out the winter making trouble for the resistance. Those beasts were nothing more than iron toys forged in the mind of a scientist with no regard for the artistry involved in their trade.
He traveled east on word that a great relic of the ancient settlers of the country had been uncovered. A fabled onyx staff, mentioned in just a handful of old scrolls but said to have been possessed by the original alchemists of the Lorov empire, was stowed in a bunker under Royal guard. The Alchemist sought to steal it. His work in forging the aether for the Army of the People, the recently adopted name of the Resistance’s regular army, had been handed off to others so he felt his time would be best spent annoying the Royal Army.
The road leading east from Tirr was rocky and poorly maintained. The country had been divided into two parts over the winter months. The West was firmly in control of the Resistance and the East was firmly in control of the King. The King was growing increasingly nervous and paranoid and the Resistance was beginning to show the signs of its inexperience. The Alchemist was sure one side of the other would claim victory by summer’s end. Once the war was over, someone would certainly fix the dreadful road he plodded along.
The road took him from the forested mountains and foothills of Tirr, through the plains of the hinterlands and to a most serene stretch of valley and crag. He had traveled hundreds of miles and found himself in an alien landscape. The valleys appeared without noticeable origin, just sudden deep and open cracks in the surface of the earth. Grass flowed and animals grazed, something he saw outside the windows of his very home every day, but in this setting the flora and fauna seemed out of place. He looked about the land and stared at the horizon, taking in the splendor of the eastern countryside.
His pleasure with the new view ended as he saw a caravan of what could only be Royal troops appear on the horizon.
“I must vacate this road, perhaps abandon this infernal machine. I would most certainly lose my deposit though. Blast it all! Blast the King! I should not have said that so loudly. They are likely to hear me,” he said in rapid fashion.
He jumped from his seat and abandoned the carriage on the road. To make the craft appear long since abandoned, he attempted to topple it to no avail. The machine was heavy and built to withstand such drastic changes in position.
“Tip, blast you, tip!” The Alchemist shouted.
He looked to the horizon again. He had always evaded capture when tormenting the King. He could either run and hide, run and blow stuff up or just blow stuff up and walk away. There was no place to hide, no time to make things explode. These valleys and crags of the east were to be his demise.
“Into the valley then,” he said, abandoning his abandonment attempt. He darted to the perceived safety of the sunken earth. He sat on a muddy ledge just below the edge of the nearest valley. He covered himself in dirt and grass to conceal his position even further. He forced himself to quietly hum a song from his childhood, forgetting the name of the story’s farmer hero, but recalling with ease the various barn yard animals that the farmer certainly feasted on if they were not sold off.
He sat for what felt like hours. He waited and waited for the sound of boots and hooves moving by him.
“Check the coach,” he heard from above him.
He waited again.
“Nothing here, sir,” a second voice called out.
The Alchemist breathed in relief and waited for the footsteps to fall into the distance.
He waited for wait felt like an hour more.
When he was secure in the thought that he had provided sufficient time for the enemy to vacate he rose from his muddied hiding spot.
“I thought they were going to stay forever,” he said as he brushed off the grass and dirt from his clothing.
“And we thought you’d never stand up,” a soldier’s voice spoke.
“Well, this has gone terribly awry,” The Alchemist turned to face his foe.
He was shackled and led to a prisoner’s cart full of straw that had obviously been urinated on by the scruffy lot that already occupied the cart.
“We’re heading back to the Bronze Palace, friend. Perhaps you can tell us all about why you hid when we get you under lock up.”
The Alchemist was loaded into the cart and it took off, eastward, down the long rocky and poorly maintained road from Tirr.
Thanks for reading.
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