In the sixth part of a regular series, Karen takes on Fantasy Life in a variety of 'lives' and documents her adventures.
Last week I got a lesson in Castelean civics as a paladin, and after thinking perhaps a little too much about the fact that no kingdom in Reveria seems to have any cemeteries despite all being civilizations that are advanced enough to have tools and currency, I decided to join the mysterious robe-wearing order of alchemists, determined to learn the secret of how Reveria disposes of her dead, if there are any.
On changing my life to alchemist I mention nothing of my real motivations to the guild master, who sends me to the Castele library to talk to Flamel, my new Life master. Flamel insists that he isn't absolutely bonkers but he does seem a bit paranoid, and asks if I'm here to steal his bombs or secrets. Alchemy, he insists, is all about going BOOM!, and I wonder how often we can blow ourselves up before being chastised by the librarian. Looking around the laboratory, I see no evidence of inquiry into the very nature of life and death scattered around the bubbling concoctions and the lens grinder.
My first task is to make an HP potion with the assurance that I will get to make bombs if my cocktails for adventurers prove worthy, and am sent to see fellow alchemist Fizz about materials at the waterfall in southern Castele. While in my other lives Fizz always spoke of the alchemy of cooking, which still makes me think cooks are the supreme power in Castele society. For now, Fizz insists she's not a bomb maniac and says Flamel's the only one who loves explosives. To Fizz, being an alchemist is all about making useful items like healing potions, and accessories like charms and glasses from natural resources; so maybe I'll find a use for the bunny poop and other things I've neatly filed under 'what in all Reveria am I supposed to do with this?' in my storage.
After making the HP potion to specifications Flamel tells me to take an unexciting request from the young man just outside Castele general goods. Rupert, the gentleman in question, says he's in love and tried to hand-deliver the object of his affections a letter, but bad luck involving a herd of goats, a bird, a meddling hunter (whom I suspect is slacker Huntin’ Pete) and some disrespectful kids prevented him from doing so. After hearing Rupert’s tale of woe I wonder if he’d just be better off with a paladin escort to a monastery. Just as Fizz appears from inside the shop Rupert says that a lucky charm is the solution to all his problems and went so far as to procure a recipe, but it got ruined by a herd of goats, a bird, and a meddling hunter. At this point I wonder if Rupert has ever considered donating his obviously accursed hide to what passes for science in a medieval fantasy setting. Fizz takes what’s left of the recipe and says that we'll make the charm, reassuring Rupert that she and I are the true scholars of Castelean alchemy and Flamel is just bomb-crazed. I decide not to mention what I previously thought alchemists were into.
The leather string needed for Rupert’s lucky charm is easy enough to get, but the dangerous object required is a bit more difficult as no-one has such a thing and they’re very hard to make. The shady clerk at the shady shop advises us that if we’re looking for dangerous things we should seek out dangerous people, and Fizz mentions that she saw a stranger in town that might fit the bill. We find the dangerous-looking guy asleep, but he wakes with a minor explosion. After some incomprehensible prattling on his part he takes our suspicious object, explodes again, and insists that alchemy is all about big booms — I sense that Fizz is about to blow up, but at least we have our dangerous object.
Back at the library Flamel touts explosions as the best cure for bad luck in love, and I steal off to make the charm and get outside of Fizz’s blast radius. While they argue about Flamel's love of bombs and the true purpose of alchemy he drops a halfway decent pun, but I still have to give the wordplay advantage to the miners until I hear more quantity and quality from the alchemists. I drag Fizz away from her unwinnable argument with the new charm in hand, which Rupert is thrilled with. Newly confident, Rupert runs off with nary a goat, bird or hunter in sight, and then explodes on reaching his love's house. The dangerous-looking guy reappears and smugly explains that the charm works by absorbing all of the bad luck of its holder, so it overloaded. Fizz is irate, but Rupert finally does deliver the letter. I come back after reporting our success to Flamel and find out that the object of Rupert's affections was Harmony, Castele’s most popular chanteuse. She was kind enough to let him down gently, but Rupert vows to not be deterred. I upgrade my flask at the shop and then leave Rupert to his own devices because telling him I want his body to experiment on might be taken the wrong way.
I wander back to the library and start mixing away at the workbench, putting on some glasses for that scholarly style and to minimise the complications of any chemical splashes. Flamel appears impressed by my bomb-making skills and barely tolerant of anything else. My amateur optometry and accessory-making are to the point where I’m reasonably sure nothing else I make will explode unless, of course, it’s a bomb. Although bombs take a lot of practise to work with in combat because of their limited range, Reverian gunpowder uses minty ore as a component so when they detonate they’re surprisingly refreshing.
I’m doing quite well with my collection of bits and bobs, and I think I have a few uses for that rabbit mess I collected, if it was in fact issued by a rabbit to begin with. Once it's clear that what Flamel requires of me outstrips my available materials, I take Fizz along on a shopping and gathering trip through Port Puerto and Al Maajik.
The alchemists of Port Puerto seem as well-adjusted as can be expected, and the shady shop seems especially shady in the salt air and bright coastal sun. Al Maajik is a real haven for our purposes, which makes sense as Fizz tells me that it’s the birthplace of our style of alchemy, so I wonder if she's talking about alchemy as a whole or just the scholar faction. In Al Maajik’s alchemy lab we see the dangerous-looking guy, known as Professor Snooze, and I still see no evidence of necro-philosophical inquiry. An individual in a white and blue tent-like robe tells me of the existence of the philosopher’s stone, the ultimate test of an alchemist’s skill, which is supposed to greatly enhance all lives. He doesn't say if alchemists ever get buried with them, but the nearby ruins indicate that if Reveria ever had ceremonial burial it was done away with centuries ago. Diplomatic relations with Al Maajik seem very important in this Life, even though I secretly suspect that every alchemist has serious, deep-seated issues.
When I reach mastery Flamel uses a lot of bomb metaphors, and the known alchemists of Reveria meet at the Crown, Castele’s finest purveyor of barley juice and all attendant consequences. At the party I hear mention of an 'oolong mixture' that can cure mortality, but whether or not this is fact, legend or a temporary side effect of the barley juice, no-one can say for sure. Between the factions of the crazed demolitions specialists and the bespectacled mixologists I decide that starting serious research into the exact nature of life and death might be a bad idea, but I have a growing suspicion that the magicians of Reveria might be able to illuminate me.
Rank achieved: Hero
Useful for: Enhancing an already-extant drinking problem, cultivating that intellectual look
Quality of Life: Sub-Miskatonic
Additional comments: Being an alchemist means never having to ask who blew up