Alchemical Marriage, part 1

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 - 2:46 PM

The concept and design of the crebath is expounded upon and used here by permission of the creator, Nigel Sade.

To the crebath, everything had variations of meaning. They presented one name to non-crebath, for example, and kept their given name exclusively among their peers. Thus, Aloysius was known as Alembic to the men of the nearby city, and frequently confused with the Alembic-who-was-Honorius, who lived some miles away. As distinct as the crebath were from one another, most humans only ever saw the hat, scarf and coat. Even without, however, Aloysius knew perfectly well most humans couldn't tell them apart.

Reaching the bottom of the catacomb stairway, Aloysius went through the measured ritual of removing the ubiquitous gray work clothing, placing them on the hooks under the First Lantern.

“Aloysius, good evening.”

The slightly raspy but congenial voice came from Justinian, replete with sash, cravat and lace at his sleeves. His thick blond hair was neatly braided and pinned up in the older style of the region. Aloysius peered at him for a moment, amused.

“Dressed for tea so late?” Aloysius plucked at the sleeves of his work smock, and used the boot scraper.

“We were just getting together for a meeting,” replied Justinian. “Our gathering in the past couple of days has been extensive, and the Enclave has determined that some of us may collate offspring.”

“That is significant indeed,” said Aloysius, strolling over to his friend. The two of them moved quietly through the catacomb passages, heading downward. “What is the status so far?”

“It will be drawing lots, this time. Most castes are acceptable, so chances are very good whoever has the privilege will not have to pass it to another.”

Aloysius smiled despite himself. “Even Calcinati?”

“Oh yes. You are still obsessed with one of those?”

“Justinian, the structure I have in mind will be sublime.”

“No, no. Calcinati, not Sublimati.”

Aloysius gave Justinian a sardonic sideways glance. “Wit was clearly not something your parents bequeathed to you.”

“Yes, but charm was, and therefore you like me despite yourself.”

“...wit and logic.”

The two reached a great juncture of passages, fanning out from an austere gallery that might have started as a natural cavern. Justinian waited among the somber colors of hanging scrollwork while Aloysius went to his quarters to dress properly. The two then proceeded down long flights of stairs to the moot hall, where most of the Conclave was present. Rather than a sea of chemical-stained gray, they were resplendent in the brocades and silks they enjoyed in private.

Aloysius made some polite greetings as he moved through the large, dim stone hall, but there was little need for small talk in a Conclave. Eventually, everyone quieted as the eldest of the Sublimati, Grace, stepped forward with her assistant just behind, holding the sealed jar of the lottery.

A subtle touch grazed Aloysius's hand, and he did not have to look to know it was his dearest Lavinia. Around him, the other crebath were also standing with their chosen ones, the complementary half of who they were. Those who had not chosen stood apart; it was not their time for the Great Work.

“Attention,” said Grace again, filling the room with her golden, angelic voice. “We are all attended, now, and it is time. No doubt all here know that some shall be allowed to collate their offspring and complete a Magnum Opus. After consultation with the other caste leaders, it has been determined that two pairings shall have that privilege.”

She signaled the attendant, who stripped the wax from the clay jar, shook it several times, and then began to walk through the assembly, allowing each pair to take one token.

Aloysius consciously stilled his heartbeat, which hope had quickened. Surreptitiously, Lavinia gave his hand a squeeze, but they both kept their eyes forward as decorum demanded. They'd been ready to begin for a couple of years now, refining and designing their offspring, and with his very fortunate findings in the past week, they now had everything they needed. Of course, the fire of inspiration was not only with them; Aloysius had discussed the Magnum Opus with a number of other Conclave members, and he knew their own designs were of equal worth and inspiration.

But if it were now, it would be perfect. He steadied himself.

Then the jar was before them, and he let Lavinia reach for the token. All were still until the jar returned to Grace, who then nodded at them all in sombre ceremony.

The members of the Conclave looked at their tokens in silence. Then two pairs, including a silently elated Aloysius and Lavinia, stepped forward to raise their token as one. Two hands, one female, one male, standing together, joined to the symbol for the rebis; the alchemical marriage.

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At November 5, 2008 12:21 PM, Blogger Mark said...

So far, very interesting. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.

Have you been exposed to White Wolf's Promethean: the Created? In many ways, this story is shaping up to be a less solitary fantasy version of this setting. I say this with the highest admiration - I think it's going to be nifty.


At November 13, 2008 3:01 PM, Blogger Montgomery Mullen said...

Welcome to my blog, Mark. You managed to ninja a comment past me!

I never read Promethean; I think I scanned through it once, but it didn't do anything for me. I'm glad you are enjoying things so far, and please feel free to comment. Copiously.


At November 13, 2008 8:15 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I will post with frequency. I know how it is. In fact, feel free to comment on my blog as well (after reading it, of course). We're doing similar sorts of things.


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