Tall, thin, green eyes that don’t quite seem a natural shade depending on how the light falls on them. Tip of right ear is burned or melted into an almost-human shape; scar under left eye. Hair a sort of dirty blond with a trace of violet highlights. (This may change over time.) Wears leather goggles with smoked glass lenses in bright sunlight. Usual dress consists of dull red coat with dozens of pockets over shabby clothes and leather bandoliers filled with vials. Will chew on fingernails, even though this is usually a very bad idea for an alchemist. Slightly twitchy, usually preoccupied, likes to measure and examine things and even people around him with odd instruments almost at random. Eliminates what he considers to be unnecessary words from speech.
From the personal journal of Rodmin Quicksilver, alchemist
Received note from school bursar this morning. Apparently, tuition, room and board, bookstore account, laboratory supplies account, and miscellaneous expenses account are all overdrawn. Note requests urgent action to rectify. My insistence that my work is at a crucial stage and cannot be interrupted ignored. Bursar suggested obtaining part-time employment to supplement scholarship. Nobody respects pure scientists any more.
Only opportunity for paying work is aboard ship, the Rusty Scupper, now at port. Members of crew ill; no cleric available to treat. My insistence that I’m an alchemist, not a doctor is not considered relevant. Past experience as passenger aboard freighter taking me to school has taught me that ships are smelly, filthy, noisy, chaotic, nausea-inducing deathtraps to be avoided whenever feasible. Must steel myself and get through this as quickly as possible.
Aboard the Rusty Scupper. Previous misgivings about job more than justified. First person treated was myself, with antiemetic to avoid vomiting despite ship being at anchor in port. Most crew illnesses are merely severe hangovers. Captain of ship, a half-orc lady, Zeljka by name, insists that I stay on board while treatment takes effect, due to past experience with charlatans who sold bogus potions (probably weak tincture of alcohol and cooking herbs) at inflated prices. Also seems to assume excessive familiarity with me due to shared half-human heritage. Not comfortable with this. Also not comfortable with increased motion of ship due to “choppy waters” in last few minutes; must make excuses, get paid and leav—
12 Pharast (later)
The worst has come to pass. Not in port any more. In fact, going more or less the opposite direction from port. Sudden lurching of ship caused me to lose balance, strike head on wall (“bulkhead”) and pass out; upon awaking, was told that ship had to leave harbor due to storm (“squall”) and that we were not only not near the port, but not likely to return for an indeterminate period of time, regardless of the involuntary nature of my passengership (“tough titty”). Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Protests met with laughter, backslapping—most unwelcome; not at ease with casual physical contact—and threats that “we’ll make a sailor out of you in no time, boy!” These people will be reported to the proper authorities upon the earliest opportunity. Slightly worried as supply of antiemetics is running low.
Supply of antiemetics ran out about two hours ago. Praying for death.
Stomach has adjusted to being aboard ship; mind not so lucky. My profound lack of acquaintance with the nautical arts having been demonstrated publicly via a series of incidents which unfortunately were witnessed by an ever-growing crowd of increasingly bemused crew members, I am endeavoring to adapt my laboratory techniques to my carefully-conserved field alchemy kit supplies as well as such chemicals as the ship’s stores possess, which, much like the ship’s crew, are motley, dirty, and of varying degrees of usefulness. Temporary assignment as cook’s mate terminated by cook upon witnessing the return of my nausea when I saw what that evening’s supper would consist of before he had had a chance to boil it into unrecognizability.
Tedium of seagoing life uninterrupted. Would be willing to tolerate almost anything to stop the boredom.
Well, I did say “almost.” Ship almost swallowed by hideous, enormous sea creature today. Sailors looking over the port bow thought that they saw a large, probably edible fish, attempted to spear it with harpoon. Harpoon at first appeared to be lost beneath waves, then reappeared sunk into a tentacle the diameter of the aft mast. Tentacle grabbed the would-be harpoonist and the sailor next to him and dragged them screaming under the waves. Shouting (from me, I think) brought most of crew onto deck. Then rest of creature surfaced—a vast mass of glabrous, pulsating flesh and more tentacles than I could count. Creature seized hull of ship and began to drag it over. Crew met this threat with more harpoons, spears, arrows, crossbow bolts, and at least one chamber pot, mostly full. Creature did not seem particularly hurt by the assault, and almost seemed to give a shrug with its pseudopods as it relinquished its hold on the hull, said motion itself almost capsizing the ship. It slid under the waves and the crew cheered. I did not join in their celebration. Before it disappeared, one of its eyes, the size of a wagon wheel, seemed to fix upon me with a great inhuman glare. It seemed unutterably ancient and completely scornful of humanity and its accomplishments; I had previously been dazzled by the complexity of the ship’s construction and rigging and the almost balletic coordination of the crew in operating it, but now I know that no matter how much people believe that they are masters of the world and all that is on, above and underneath it, we are but a few insects clinging to a scrap of wood and cloth skittering on the surface of an unfathomable abyss populated by unthinkable entities that let us live only because we are beneath their notice.
Am feeling rested and reasonably accomplished. After unsettling encounter with leviathan, was racking brain for possible alchemical defense against creature of that size and unknown physiology. On deck when noticed ship was passing through school of rainbow jellyfish. Remembered in back of mind a bit of information from lecture on naturally-occurring poisons; convinced crew to aid me with net, and borrowed stout leather gloves and apron for handling jellyfish. Captain Zeljka reluctantly gave me permission to extract paralytic poison from jellyfish, although she was skeptical about chances of using it on leviathan and stated that if any crew were inadvertently poisoned, she’d have me “keelhauled.” (Not sure what keelhauling is, not sure I want to know.) Now all I have to do is improvise a syringe as long as my forearm and figure out how to deliver it…
Although have managed to purify and synthesize many interesting and useful chemicals from sea creatures and even seawater itself, lack of materials and equipment has given me spare time to assist with running of ship. No longer the greenhorn that I was upon my accidental dragooning. Am in crow’s nest; just reported sighting of other ship in distance, not flying flag. Possibly method of shortcut home?
24 Pharast (later)
Only shortcut that other ship will offer is probably to afterlife; raised Jolly Roger not long after sighting, is now coming alongside. Larger and much more heavily armed than the Rusty Scupper. Telling us to prepare for boarding.
Have possibly useful idea; looking for captain to suggest it. If it doesn’t work, I hope that these scoundrels find my alchemy kit and blow themselves sky high with it.
Finding myself in the unaccustomed position of hero of the day. Captain accepted suggestion that we use the previously-prepared rainbow jellyfish toxin to coat the tips of our weapons to almost instantly paralyze the crew of the pirate ship with the merest scratch. Other ship—the Whore’s Regret —taken and her crew imprisoned with minimal casualties. Grog shared out and Zeljka— Captain Zeljka, I mean—acting unusually affectionate toward me. Jokes abound concerning my possible status as first mate, emphasis on “mate.” Actual first mate not amused.
Captain no longer quite as amorous following incident involving crew of Whore’s Regret. Pirate crew was held in the Rusty Scupper’s hold; ship was being towed behind ours. After paralytic poison wore off, pirate crew escaped from hold, dove overboard, swimming toward their own ship. Was unaware that a) they were still bleeding slightly from wounds and b) we were in shark-infested waters. Again, our crew gathered at rail to cheer on spectacle. I threw up onto the back of a hammerhead. Didn’t seem to affect its appetite.
Ship made anchor in cove of small populated island. Zeljka made point of telling me that island population didn’t see much traffic and were friendly toward outsiders, especially the ladies. Suggested that I might offer them a gift and gave me small advance on my pay. Young maidens do indeed seem more solicitous than the average; island could probably benefit from increased trade, as the ladies seem to be lacking a sufficient quantity of clothing. Possible medium of exchange could be their tasty fruit juice mixture, which shows some signs of fermentation. Some language barriers exist, but with sufficient patience I believe that this can be overcome. In fact, there is one young woman who seems eager to hear my theories about how alchemical reactions within the body drive certain irrational impulses, such as mating. Has already requested private audience.
Among the deficiencies in the ship’s chemical supplies are included those ingredients which would enable a hangover cure. Am regretting this fact rather personally at the moment. A pity we couldn’t stay any longer, though, as I still had many questions for the island’s inhabitants, one young lady in particular, mostly concerning certain modifications to my theories about the alchemy of reproduction upon particularly striking personal observations of late, but especially with regard to the highly unusual alchemical transformation which caused all of my gold to disappear.
Zeljka has informed me that we are now on a return course for the port which I had embarked from and that the return voyage would take far less time. Am finding myself oddly depressed at the news. Have started taking night watches on the deck, as the skies have been especially clear recently. Many alchemists posit a relationship between their science and the actions of the stars in the heavens, but I remain skeptical that the stars are anything but more distant copies of our own sun, which I believe to be nothing more than a ball of gas or perhaps liquid that illuminates via a fairly mundane (if especially energetic) chemical reaction. Am also taking the opportunity to perform a few experiments by moonlight (lantern flame being especially hazardous); I’ve become especially interested in the possibilities of black powder, even though the Rusty Scupper lacks a gun. Should Zeljka acquire one, she would need a steady supply of such powder for it. Not that I’m considering joining the crew of this or any other ship, of course, just keeping my options open. That’s all. Really.
Wind starting to pick up; should notify bosun’s mate to strike sails.
Again, disaster strikes, possibly for last time. Wind went from mild breeze to near-gale force in nothing flat. Stayed topside to aid in striking sails; was blown overboard by gust. Luckily, landed in lifeboat, but then boat caught wind and ropes snapped. Spun away from the Rusty Scupper like a stone skipping across a pond. At daybreak, no sign of ship. No oars or sail on this boat. Meager rations of water and dried vegetables. No hook-and-line or net or other way of catching fish. Still have my bag with assorted chemicals in it, for what that’s worth, i.e. almost nothing.
Saw fish several feet away from boat; am not good swimmer (at least not as good as a fish), got idea to make small bomb to kill fish. Bomb worked, fish floated to surface, but drifted away from boat. Cried profusely, making sure to gather my tears in my hands because I am becoming quite thirsty. Am starting to wish that I had become a chirurgeon so that I could amputate and eat my legs. (Alchemist acquaintance of mine claimed to be able to regenerate limbs. Saw no hard proof, but at this point, am willing to risk it.)
Ate the last of the dried vegetables with the last few mouthfuls of water; am feeling quite light-headed. I do not think that I will be alive by this time tomorrow. Will try to write one more journal entry, if I have the energy.
on the last day of my life
I no longer fear death. The haze which had started to draw a veil across my vision was suddenly whipped away and I saw the heavens revealed above me with unparalleled clarity. How foolish I was to dismiss the insights of my elders when they connected alchemical processes and elements with the cosmos! As above, so below! Each of the myriad points of light in the sky is its own sun with its own worlds and its own beings discovering the innumerable wonders of nature, all acting in harmony as individual elements of the universe, just as there is a universe within each one of us as we are composed of millions and billions of particles ourselves in alchemical harmony; we are part of the gods just as we are gods ourselves. Even though I may die, as gods may die, the constituent elements of my being will go on and become part of some other being; there is no destruction without creation, and vice versa. We are part of a grand chain of being, stretching from the infinitesimal to the infinite and from the past to the future without end.
How shall I celebrate this revelation on the verge of my own extinction? I shall use what chemicals are left to me to create a great light and noise so that, perhaps, someday, on some world orbiting a distant star, some being may witness a brief spark in the greater glory of the cosmos and wonder about he who created it.
Wasn’t expecting to be writing this. Wasn’t expecting to be breathing. Am recovering in the Rusty Scupper’s sick bay from exposure, dehydration, mild starvation, and poisoning by the hallucinogenic mushroom that was accidentally included in the dried vegetable rations. Zeljka complimented me for improvising fireworks and sending up flare not long before ship would have gone out of visual range of the pyrotechnic display.
Have much time on my hands to contemplate recent vision and revelations. Have had teachers and mentors insist that undue weight should not be put on chemical-induced visions experienced under trying situations, but have long had suspicion that our consciousness only allows a tiny amount of sensory information through to our awareness at any given time. The doors of perception may not stay open for long, but once they have opened we are aware that they are there and may reopen again under right set of circumstances. Am no longer totally skeptical regarding oracles and their visions, although I still recognize that some are outright frauds, as are most harrowers.
Disembarked from the Rusty Scupper today, with much more than enough money to settle my debts. Zeljka expressed thanks for my service, extended open invitation to rejoin the crew at some later date, gave me a hug, and grabbed me in a place that I’m still not accustomed to being grabbed, let alone in public. Crew gave out a cheer at that.
Watched the Rusty Scupper set out to sea again. Restrained self from diving into water and trying to swim out to vessel.
Bored. Bored bored bored BORED.
Rejoined school, paid off debts; bursar suggested that I might fund a new building, or a new wing of an existing one, or a laboratory, or perhaps just a set of glassware. Most colleagues didn’t notice my absence, although some note was made of my variegated clothing, my suntan, assorted scars (the tip of one ear is permanently gone and I look almost full-human on that side), or my habit of slapping people on the back as a sign of approval, which wasn’t a good idea in the case of Eldred, who was working with volatile chemicals at the time. (He looks better without eyebrows, anyway.)
And they tell the same jokes over and over and teach the same lessons from the same books and once in a while publish a paper based on someone else’s work in a more exciting place. Another six months of this and I will go mad.
Went to seaport tavern; felt more at home there. Exchanged rounds of drinks with an old venture-captain, Mathieu Belmonte, who listened with sympathy to my tale of past adventures and current boredom. Was appreciative of my ability to improvise tactically useful mixtures out of materials at hand in non-laboratory, non-optimal conditions. Suggested that I might take advantage of an upcoming opportunity that he was putting together that would combine a chance for some field research with profitable situations and perhaps even an insight or two into the nature of existence. Suggest that I meet him on an agreed-upon date at a certain tavern near the docks in Senghor.
I’m already packed.