Elmer the Alchemist

28 Feb

Enric grunted as he lifted the massive basket of herbs.  The heavy load made his back ache, and he had to struggle to keep it upright. “Master Elmer!  Hold the door please!” he begged as he approached.  From the doorway, Enric’s youthful looking, long haired master looked up.  He smiled and held the door open.  His wide sleeves hung from his slender arms, and made the man look almost frail.

“I told you to only fill it halfway, Enric.” he scolded gently.

“I didn’t want to make more trips than one.  You’re going to teach me that pain-killing potion today, aren’t you?  I  want to start learning it fast!” Enric grinned broadly. “I might even need to use it!” He laughed.

Elmer covered his mouth and began to laugh as well. “Clean up once you’re done.  I won’t teach a boy with a dirty face.”

Enric stuck his tongue out and grunted as he set the stuffed basket down.  Dust shot up from inside the basket, and he wrinkled his nose, then sneezed.  He wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Yeah, yeah.  Calm down, Master.  I just got out of the forest!”

“Get a new shirt on, too.  We don’t have snotty sleeves when we work.” He shook his head and walked into his small, cozy log house and began to prepare for the lesson.  Prepared vials and a small pot seemed to appear out of thin air near the fireplace as Elmer prepared for his student’s lesson.  After a few moments, he paused and looked at the pot.  It was starting to show signs of wear, and needed to be replaced soon with something that did not crack so easily.  A slender, soft finger slowly trailed the crack.  It was a legacy of the first lesson with Enric.

Fond memories flooded his mind.  Enric came to his door one day claiming to be a professional medicine maker.  At the time, Elmer had the remains of a cold, and let him in, in hopes that the boy’s youth was deceptive.  Elmer felt incredibly lazy then, and his cough prevented his sleep.

The boy demanded a pot.  He was missing some teeth to the aging process of every child, and once in the light, Elmer discovered how grimy the boy was and demanded he bathe first.  The boy bathed in a small, clear river behind the old alchemist’s home, and re-entered, partially-dressed in his grimy clothes.  Elmer stripped him and gave the boy one of his own old tunics and a rope belt.

When the child finally got down to business, he demanded a hundred gold coins for his services, but Elmer deftly bargained him down to keeping the clothes and then getting some silver coins, because a hundred gold crowns would be very heavy, after all.  The boy haphazardly tossed some leaves, sticks, and dirt into the provided pot, then threw some water in after it was very hot.  Stinking smoke and hot steam filled the room and sent Enric fleeing right into Elmer’s leg as the man held the door open.

“Really, you’re hopeless.” Elmer murmured as Enric dragged the entire basket over to where the assembled equipment waited. “I told you before, you need seven avia leaves, fourteen plump nornor berries, water, some of the salt in the kitchen, and two well-burnt sticks the size of a woman’s forearm.  I’ve told you time and time again that you need specific ingredients.  Need I remind you of the last time you mixed haphazardly?” His tone and smile were gentle as he pointed to the prominent crack in the iron of his pot.

Enric blushed and turned away. “I have all of it but the water and salt.  Give me some credit.  I just brought it over here so we can sort it more easily later when we’re watching the pot…” He scowled and pouted, and Elmer laughed.

“I’m sorry.  I thought you were going to try to make more potion than we had jars for again.”

“I only make the same mistake once… twice if it’s hard to remember… three times if it’s fun.” He shot his teacher a grin, and the man laughed.

“Sit down and shush.  I’ll show you how to prepare.  You have your pestle, right?”

As the two began their lesson, Elmer lost himself to that ever-present urge to daydream and reflect.  He smiled as he went over every lesson with the boy since he officially took him under his wing, a good six months after the boy began to come over for lessons every day.  Now, the boy lived with him.  It was better than the church alley, where the child had once begged for scraps and pennies.

The church.  His thoughts darkened.  The church still sought his head, even if he did nothing harmful.  Perhaps, though, that was precisely why they hunted him.  He did more good than they did.  They took donations and only gave a tenth to those in need, while the rest was used to buy solid gold candle sticks and other useless things.

Meanwhile, he made and gave potions for free to those in need.  The sick became well under his care, rather than that of the church.

He wondered how they would react to his taking an apprentice.

Not well, he was certain.  He pondered moving to avoid their wrath, but he’d never lived anywhere else in his life. He looked at Enric for a few long moments, then returned to the lesson and his thoughts.

The church was a problem for another day.  Today, his biggest concern was making sure his home wasn’t destroyed by his clumsy student.

A week later, the pair loaded a newly-bought cart with their belongings and hitched their donkey up.  Enric finished packing first, and helped Elmer with his things. “That’s everything.  You go ahead, Enric.  I’ll catch up.  I want to see to a few final things first.”

As Enric rode away with all of Elmer’s belongings, the master turned to look once more at his home.  He felt a twinge of remorse before he turned to join Enric, a sense of unease deep in his gut.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Semihistorical Fiction


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