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Alchemy

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Image:Scroll2.png "The Alchemist is everything. He is the foot, the door and the journey. It all begins and ends with yourself. You will discover your real self. And then you will despair."
- Rupert Pycon, master Alchemist and court mage of Alahea
Alchemy
World magic
Full nameAlchemy
AvailabilityThroughout Mizahar
Learned fromUsers, books, experimentation
Key conceptCreating new substances and materials
UsesCrafting and enhancement
RisksEnergy overloads, long-term health issues


Alchemy is a discipline of world magic that creates artificial matter by elevating substances found in nature. The central concept behind Alchemy is that things undergo transformation by passing through 'doorways'. This is not just an allegory: in practice, doors are specially constructed rings in which highly accelerated Djed flows, releasing great amounts of energy. As materials are exposed to the doors, they transform accordingly, though they can slowly decay back to their original forms.

Contents

History

Alchemy is the gift and trademark of Harameus, the elusive god of transformation who is said to possess the Alchemist on the verge of a new breakthrough. Many Alchemists, even without his gnosis marks, claim that the touch of Harameus truly exists and inspires them regularly, though the gods never manifests as an individual creature. It could be said that Harameus will sometimes manifest in the Alchemical reaction itself, and the Alchemist must decode his message and benefit from his wisdom. Harameus is also supposedly the brother of the door-god Aquiras, explaining the importance of the doorway concept in Alchemy.

Alchemists were wildly acclaimed in pre-Valterrian Mizahar, partly because they were relatively rare compared to other wizards, and most fields could benefit from their research. Of all branches of world magic, Alchemy was perceived as the one posing the biggest health hazard as it involved exposure to accelerated Djed streams. Alchemists screened their labs with thick lead plating, wore protection suits, assumed herbal medicines to bolster their resistance and often used expendable golems as lab assistants, but they still had a higher incidence of long-term disease and mental poisoning than any other world magic. Unsurprisingly, a majority of wizards ended up being Magecrafters or Animators instead. Others did not mind the risk, knowing Alchemy made for brilliant careers even from the humblest social background. Indeed, in Alahea Alchemists were the most common choice for court mage and they had the largest representation in the Seven Robes. In Suvan, Alchemists were almost guaranteed to quickly achieve an officer rank in the army.

Most of today's Alchemists have no access to the ultra-high-powered Alchemical doorways of old, and the lower energy output has reduced the harmful effects of exposure, however Alchemy remains a delicate field to approach.

Overview

Alchemy is about charging 'doorways' with Djed and letting that energy imbue a material to change its essence. The resulting material is one not found in nature, and hopefully one with desirable properties. The door is ideally a metallic ring, though any closed shape will do, with the object (or, for the bold, creature) to be transformed in the very center. These rings can be laid on the ground horizontally or rise vertically like actual portals. The latter is preferable, though it requires further technical or magical solutions to keep the object suspended in the middle: usually a pedestal, but sometimes magical levitation. Also, a vertical doorway is not feasible for truly immense rings.

The rings are treated with alchemical glyphs and almost always feature highly conducive D-wire coiled around their length. The smallest doors are about the size of a dish, more advanced setups are human-sized, but there is no upper limit. Rupert Pycon's laboratory was rumored to have one that stretched across over two miles of underground space. The bigger the ring, the larger the effect, though the experience needed to operate a doorway also increases with its size. A door will also feature two so-called meridian keystones carrying two special glyphs. These keystones divide the door frame into two parts, one positive and one negative.

A doorway must be loaded, charged and activated, in that order. Loading involves the placement of items and materials in the door's frame. A serious alchemical ring will feature at least six modular slots that can be filled with any material and plugged into the ring (or left empty), though simply placing the materials upon the ring if it is laid horizontally may suffice for minor reactions. These materials, called 'chargers', will develop a strong Djed current and be in turn traversed by that of the other chargers hundreds of times per second.

Once the ring is loaded, the Alchemist will start the charging by shedding a drop of his blood, as in Summoning or Animation, and pressing the wounded limb against a meridian keystone. Using the connection between his life and the item, the Alchemist wills the Djed from the charger materials to start moving through the ring. At first, the flow will be weak and slow, but it will increase over time as the Alchemist builds momentum and gradually accelerates the Djed flux. The ring may then begin to glow and discharge some amount of energy in random bursts, but it is essential for the Alchemist to maintain absolute concentration to keep the reaction under control. This process can take minutes to hours, depending on the desired output and the Alchemist's skill. The bigger the ring, the more skilled an Alchemist is needed to operate it. An apprentice will not be able to accelerate Djed in a big ring enough to sustain a meaningful reaction. However, rings can be activated in a collaborative fashion. A master can hire apprentices to help him activate rings that would be too large even for him to operate.

Finally, when the Djed has reached the desired velocity or the Alchemist has reached his limit and no further acceleration is possible, he will direct the entirety of the energy toward the center of the ring and simultaneously retract his hand and step back - this is known as 'activating' an alchemical setup. It is possible to slowly decelerate the Djed flux without activating it; this takes as much time and effort as the charging process.

After release, the transmuted material is usually cooled down in a bucket or vat of water in order to dissipate as much lingering Djed radiation as possible. In spite of that, Alchemical items still give off Djed emissions and can be detected with Auristics. If the material was properly charged, health issues arising from prolonged use of alchemical items are a minor concern. The same cannot be said for the results of sloppy work, though, especially if involving high energy levels.

No alchemical reaction lasts forever. Once a material is charged, it will gradually decay over time. Decay is usually expressed in terms of the reaction's half-life, that is, how long it takes for 50% of the transformation to be undone (or half the material returning to its previous state). If the half-life is one season, then the material will retain 50% of its transformation after one season, 25% after two seasons, 12.5% after three seasons, and so on. A beginner's half-life may only span a few seasons, whereas a master's work can survive for years or even centuries while maintaining much of its original power. Half-life is the reason behind the short lifespan of the Pycon race, and the fact that they shift into hardened clay upon death.

Chargers

A charger is any item placed in the door's frame to be crossed by an accelerated Djed flux. If no chargers are used, an alchemical reaction will accomplish nothing. There is no upper limit to how many chargers can feature in the same reaction, however in practice experience dictates how many can be used at once. In general, there are large advantages to using several chargers in the same reaction as opposed to performing multiple reactions with one charger each. There is less harmful radiation generated, a greater overall efficiency, not to mention fewer materials are wasted.

Some world magics are about working with structured items. Magecraft, for example, deals with existing items and attaches powers onto them; so does its dark sister, Malediction. Alchemy is on the other end of the spectrum, and works best with raw materials. This especially applies to the chargers, which should lose their structure. Solid items should be ground into powders, or melted into liquids and reshaped as ingots. All references of the charged item's original form should be stripped for it to work as intended. When possible, the material to be imbued with Alchemy should undergo the same treatment, with the obvious exception of living creatures. Trying to empower a sword is not Alchemy's way - instead, the Alchemist will empower the metal from which a smith will forge a sword.

Chargers come in two main types, founts and filters, though some Alchemists have devised exotic specialized types that count as special Lore. It should be noted that chargers are often the result of earlier Alchemical reactions. Thus, the end product for any non-trivial Alchemical task will rarely be accomplished in one round; instead, one will first create chargers that will be used to create better chargers and so on, until the desired end result is at hand.

  • Founts - elements containing a property or quality that one wants to tranfer onto the material in the center of the ring. The more concentrated the property, the better. If the transmutation succeeds, the fount loses a part of the property (permanently) and becomes useless for the purpose of further Alchemy. A select part of the fount's Djed is scraped away, accelerated by the Alchemist's will, and forced into the receiver. Djed is identity and structure; the fount loses its identity and the receiver's structure is warped, creating a material not found in nature.
  • Filters - elements that block out a part of the Djed flow in order to purify it. When a fount's Djed is scraped, pieces of its Djed are torn away and turned into a highly energetic form that still carries all the properties of the fount. These properties, if not filtered, will be present in the transmuted product, as well. For example, one can use blood as a fount and a block of iron as the receiver with the intent of turning the iron red (or just redder, depending on the relative amounts). However, the iron may also acquire the other properties of blood, including a tendency to melt and coagulate. Filters can help block the 'liquid' factor and only let the 'red' factor pass.
    A filter is like a fount, except it possesses the qualities that need to be blocked. When the Djed flow crosses a filter, it will tend to lose the main properties of the filter. One filter can block the same property from multiple founts in the same reaction: this is an advantage of using multiple chargers in the same reaction, as only one filter will be used up. Such a detail is especially important when dealing with rare or expensive charger materials.

A material is regarded as a fount or filter depending on which half of the ring it is placed in, with the meridian keystones acting as delimiters. Once a ring has been created, the Alchemist will perform a simple test transmutation to find out which half carries the positive properties, and which the negative.

Formulas

While most Alchemists encrypt their work to shield it from prying eyes, the basic format for Alchemical formulas is quite standard across the board. A setup is nothing more than a sequence of founts and filters. The target material is indicated first. Founts are usually represented with a plus sign, whereas filters are minuses. Formulas can therefore be described as follows.

Iron +Gold paint -Water = Gold-colored iron

This means iron is in the center of the ring, golden paint is a fount, water is a filter (keeping the iron from acquiring the liquid properties of the paint). The result is iron with a realistic golden color. Formulas can be complex, of the type:

A +B +C -D = E
F +G -H = I
E +I -J = Z (end product)

Alchemical cyphers often replace the ingredient names with symbols known only to the initiated, for example animals, plants, virtues, gods and more.

The creation of life

While other world magics can grant intelligence and lifelike qualities to objects, Alchemy can actually create new species and races such as the Pycon. Creating these Homunculi is only for the greatest master Alchemists and will require a tremendous number of steps to isolate the necessary chargers. Plenty of animal - or sentient - creatures will be consumed in the process as Alchemical ingredients for their lifeforce to be attached to a material.

Skill progression

Novice (1-25)
At this level, the Alchemist will usually work as an assistant to a more proficient wizard, learning the foundations of the trade. When performing Alchemy on his own, he will be limited to small-sized training rings with a maximum of one fount and one filter for each reaction. Reactions will typically only change a material in minor or cosmetic ways, and their half-life ranges between half a season and a full season.
Competent (26-50)
A competent Alchemist will either work for a very skilled master or own a small laboratory. He can safely operate man-sized Alchemical doorways with up to two founts and two filters. Reactions are more intense at this stage and can provide structural advantages. The end result will still remind of the original material but with additional qualities that make it valuable. Half-life ranges from two seasons to a year.
Expert (51-75)
An Alchemist of this level would be held in considerable regard among his peers and probably own a sizeable lab with a few apprentices. He would be able to operate large Alchemical rings with up to four founts and four filters. At this stage, materials created by the Alchemist can bear very little resemblance to any naturally occurring substance. Half-life ranges between five and ten years.
Master (76-100)
A master Alchemist is basically unlimited in how many chargers he can use, or how large a doorway (though he will need apprentices for the truly massive ones). Also, his absolute control over Alchemical flow is such that his creations have half-lives spanning centuries, making them extremely long-lasting. Matter transmuted by a master Alchemist is filled with purpose and can exhibit extremely advanced properties, including life. The Alchemist can devise new extensions and charger types to further customize the transmutation process.


Part of a series of articles on Magic
Concepts Magic · Magic list · Djed · Personal magic · Gnosis · World magic
Personal magic Auristics · Familiary · Flux · Hypnotism · Leeching · Morphing · Projection · Reimancy · Voiding · Shielding
Gnosis Gnosis · Gnosis list· Gnosis Marks · Religion
World magic Alchemy · Animation · Glyphing · Magecraft · Malediction · Summoning · Spiritism · Webbing
Magic in Society Magic academies · Magic factions · Famous wizards
Lost Disciplines Architectrix · Dominion · Pathfinding · Static · Sensing
Other Antimagic · Paramagic · Wizard psychology