“What is the prime source of magic?” Istariel Kithraden asked the small group gathered in the laboratory near the Shrine of the East Wind. The elven Mistress of the Alchemical Arts was a bit of a mystery. While her pale hair was not unusual among the Air Lords of Kragis’Aer, the similarity ended there. Her eyes were a few shades darker, her build almost stocky, and she spoke the common tongue with a rough drawl. Rumors were that she was a planar traveler employed by Tal’teslos himself to teach the mystic science of Alchemy to those in Kragis’Aer with the potential to learn.
Clyburn knew the answer. Though he was the youngest of Istariel’s apprentices, he was also the most advanced. However, upon her request he remained silent so that new members of the class could offer their opinions.
“Magic flows from the astral plane, given form through our will.” Recited Sharant, an intelligent and accomplished wizard of the fifth circle.
“Are you on the Astral plane right now? Because I said the Prime source of magic.” Istariel quipped. “Casters,” the word sounding like CAH-sters in her exaggerated accent, “often ignore a vital step in the use of magic. Wizards particularly, since they rarely tap their own energies to power a spell. On the Prime plane of existence their source of magic is in those things that can channel or contain it after arrival from the Astral. They use components and ritual preparation of matrices to gather magic from the world around them to power their spells. Sorcerers use their spirit as conduits to the Astral plane. A cleric is given their power by gods, who in turn collect power from faithful souls, all of whom are spun from and tied to the Astral.”
Grabbing a pinch of glittering rock dust from a nearby bowl and a vial of clear liquid, Istariel held them up for display. “An alchemist does not limit themselves to one or two paths to power, because they know a source of power exists in all things. If one knows how, these can be combined to produce amazing effects.”
Dashing the dust into the vial with a precise flick of the wrist, she produced a stopper from a hidden pocket somewhere in her sleeve, swiftly inserted it, and methodically swirled the container.
“This is an extract of polymorphing. It channels power through a base element, stores it in a medium, and uses the spiritual energy of a living being as a catalyst to transmute. A novice in the science learns first how to use their own body as a catalyst, but advanced study enables the use of any creature.” As the components mixed, a blue light began to glow from within. Istariel turned, beckoning for her assistant, a skeletal-thin elf named Frinn. Stepping forward, he accepted the extract and gulped it down in one quick motion. He placed the empty vial on a stone work-table and stood calm and quiet with eyes downcast. Then his body jerked and he doubled over, a huge gasp of air bursting from his lungs. His body shook uncontrollably like a wet dog shedding water, and where the cascade passed over his body the skin and clothes seemed to twist apart and intertwine, then harden into segmented rock. When it was over a sturdy earth elemental loomed in the laboratory where the frail elf once stood.
“No incantations, no gestures.” Istariel circled the changed creature. “It would take a practitioner of the 13th or 14th circle to accomplish this with a spell, yet I have managed it with greater economy of magic.”
“I am unsure such a transformation would be to my benefit.” Remarked Kaevan, the only giant in the class. A master crafter, he was interested primarily in alchemy that might aid him in engineering projects.
Rhynis, a gnome clockwork crafter, giggled and poked his knee with her tiny finger. “Being as big as a house is not always an advantage.”
“You have a point.” He smiled at the small woman. “As well as a low ceiling in your apartments. I suppose this transmutation would make visiting less… claustrophobic.”
“Yes, I’m sure it’s great for tea parties, or spellbook society.” Smirked Senys, the young son of the North Wind. “And it’s a good thing that most of our enemies are frail old men willing to drink whatever we might give them. Otherwise alchemy would be almost useless.” Though a handsome sorcerer, Senys had poor academic skills, and worse manners. He was placed with Istariel after an excellent display of skill with potions – a reputation owed to Clyburn, who, for a price, had provided the young man with all the potions he had produced in the academy. In truth, Senys was a better at sleight of hand then magic.
“Frinn, soskennis thraf drurn Senys. Lashenti thras vishinn.” Istariel said in her strange elven dialect, pointing at the ceiling across the room. The elemental slid down into the stone floor. Senys’ smirk turned to a frown. Suddenly two rocky hands emerged from the floor beneath him and pulled him from his feet. His breath knocked from him, Senys could only wheeze pitifully as the hands dragged him across the floor and up the wall behind a tapestry. A moment later he emerged from the top and slid, dangling awkwardly across the ceiling high above, coming to a stop over a dark alcove containing an old suit of armor on a stand.
“The art of alchemy should focus on applications that enhance one’s self or one’s allies. Why would I give this power to an enemy?” Istariel asked the upside-down mage. “But since you brought it up, I will demonstrate how it can be also be weaponized.”
Withdrawing a small ceramic globe from a hardened leather belt pouch, she tossed it casually in the Sorcerer’s direction. The ball of flame that burst forth was not quite as large or impressive as a fireball spell, but it did not spread evenly like one either. Instead it focused most of its destruction in a jarring blast at the the site of impact, leaving the suit of armor in cracked pieces and Senys only slightly singed.
Another crash sounded from the other side of the room and Clyburn turned to find the worst student in the class sprawled on the floor next to the stool he’d aparently fallen asleep on. The young Ascari had been avoiding or sleeping his way through the last few months of classes at the Academy as part of an agreement with his people to educate the children of their leaders. He was a terrible student, but he was also one of the Clyburn’s few friends.
“Fall asleep in my class again,” Istariel called across the room, “and the next experiment will be fed to you, Bronin Dohari.”