Tag Archives: alchemist


If you haven't read Honor Among Thieves yet, you may wish to do so before reading this post. It gives background information about one of the characters, and as such, contains minor spoilers.


About four years ago, the band of thieves who live in the tunnels below Rhendish Manor found a man lying in front of the Feyglass.  The mystery was compounded by his appearance, for he was clearly no northman. His strong features, dark hair, and olive skin suggested origins is some distant, sun-warmed land.

Days passed before he regained consciousness.  Dazed and disoriented, he could give no explanation as to how he found his way into the hidden den. In fact, months passed before he spoke a single word.

Fox, the young leader of the thieves, found a book filled with arcane symbols in the man's pockets and concluded that he was an alchemist. It seemed likely that the man stumbled into the tunnels while fleeing Rhendish. This was reason enough for him to offer a haven.

As Avidan began to speak, it become clear that his mind, although damaged, possessed a rare brilliance.  He was indeed an alchemist, capable of creating solutions to the myriad challenges facing a young thief in a city full of alchemists.

In truth, Avidan is far more than Fox realizes. He was born in Veldoon, the birthplace of alchemy, over 130 years ago.  The name Avidan Insa'amid is still remembered in Veldoon, and not just by his descendants.  From his youth, Avidan was noted for mastery of the art of alchemy, and his work with alkahest in particular.  Some predicted that his name would be listed among the nation's great Philosophers.

But a little more than 100 years ago, Avidan became fascinated with a branch of alchemy that summons creatures of great power. His first attempt proved far too successful:  His attempts to summon a benign and helpful being brought to him Mabh, the Queen of the Fairies.

But Mabh was feeling neither benign nor helpful. Incensed--and a little frightened--by this summons, she lured Avidan into Faerie, the fey realm. For several terrible years, he paid for his effronterie.

In time, however, he caught the eye of a lady of the Faerie Court.  She became fascinated first with the man, then with his knowledge.  Only much later, years after his expulsion from the fey realm, did Avidan wonder what use the fairies might make of this information.

Few mortals survive their time in the fey realms. None come away unscathed.  An intense desire to return drives most men mad.  When the longing becomes too much to bear, Avidan finds himself standing before the Feyglass, hoping for a glimpse of Faerie in its ever-shifting landscape.


Seven powerful alchemists known as adepts rule the islands of Sevrin.  Rhendish rules the largest island, which is also known as Sevrin.  The island next in importance--or first in importance, depending upon whom you ask--is Stormwall Island, which is ruled by the adept Muldonny.

A plump, fussy, middle-aged man, Muldonny is reclusive to the point of paranoia.  He seldom leaves his double-walled fortress and permits no one to enter the inner sanctum but a few carefully selected visitors.   Not even servants and guards are permitted, only the clockword constructs he builds with his own hands.  Even then, Muldonny is not a trusting man, and he keeps alchemical weapons on hand in the remote possibility that a clockwork guard might malfunction.

Anyone meeting Muldonny today might have a difficult time equating him with the warlord who played a pivotal role in the overthrow of the sorcerer Eldreath.  He is aware that his warlord image would be tarnished by his comfort-loving appearance, and he limits his visitors to his fellow adepts and visiting alchemists. Among his peers, his reputation is as bright as ever, and he is widely regarded to be the most powerful of Sevrin's adepts.

Stormwall Island is the center of Sevrin's contact with the Known Lands.  It is the only island with a deepwater port, and all goods and travelers enter Sevrin at Stormwall.  In times past, the fortifications of Stormwall held off invaders, and Muldonny's vast stone fortress is still considered the cornerstone of Sevrin's defense. 

The adept rules the island through a team of senechals and prefers to spend his time in study and research, but the mere fact that he lives is enough to make the people of Sevrin feel secure and ambitious foreigners regard the islands as unassailable.

Muldonny is passionately interested in the old races, the elves in particular.  He collects elven artifacts and has a vast personal library of learned tomes and travelers' tales dealing with elves.  He has never actually met an elf, though this is a personal and private dream.   A few of his fellow adepts know of this interest and worry about what it might portend.

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Sevrin's alchemists are fascinated by the discovery of substances in living bodies that are also found in rocks and soil:  iron, copper, zinc.  A certain race of dwarves, the Carmot, also have trace amounts of carmite in their blood and bone. 

This rare mineral attracts energy like a load stone attracts metal. Of more interest to sorcerers and alchemists is its volatility; it readily binds with other substances and in doing so, releases energy. Carmite can amplify many potions without altering them.

As a result, Carmot dwarves were hunted nearly to extinction. The long reign of Eldreath, the sorcery who ruled Sevrin until he was slain and replaced by the Council of Adepts, was infamous for its attrocities against the dwarven people. Sevrin's alchemists point to this grim history as one of the reasons for Eldreath's overthrow, as well as an argument against the use of magic.

In truth, alchemists have a keen (if secret) interest in the Carmot dwarves. Gatherers funded by Sevrin's adepts travel throughout the northland, investigating rumors of dwarf settlements and tracking down individual dwarf adventurers.  For a Carmot dwarf, there are few places more dangerous than Sevrin.

The Carmot have several distinquishing characteristics. Even among dwarves, their affinity to  stone is remarkable.  The high contents of mineral in their bodies allows them to find minerals in a manner some elves describe as "like a pig sniffing out truffles."  Some Carmot have the ability to stoneshift: to cut, shape, or move stone through the use of magic.  

Carmot dwarves are natural chameleons, able to shift the color of their hair and skin at will.  Their natural coloring is gray, and when they are not colorshifting, they appear to be sculpted of stone.

Though skilled miners, Carmot dwarves are also fond of travel, trade, and adventuring. They tend to be curious, lusty, charismatic, and possessed of a wry sense of humor.  Carmot enjoy associating with other races. If you find a Carmot dwarf in mixed company, he'll usually be the person in charge, even if he's not the nominal leader. 

Carmot are taller than some races of dwarves. A few can pass as short, muscular humans.  Humans find these Carmot physically attractive and occasional liaisons occur, but there are no half-dwarves.

A persistent legend speaks of the last king of the Carmot, an ancient dwarf who has sent his many sons throughout the northlands to reclaim old settlements and find lands hospitable to new habitations.  Most humans dismiss this as a tavern tales. They probably shouldn't.


Sevrin is the name of an archipelago of seven islands, as well as the name of the largest island.  Each island is ruled by a member of the Council of Adepts, a group of powerful alchemists who joined forces twenty years ago to defeat Sevrin's previous ruler.  After restoring peace and prosperity, the adepts increasingly left the ruling of Severin to seneschals and returned to the practice of alchemy.  Though they are not in open competition with each other, they are wary and protective of their secrets.  No words could express their attitude more accurately than a single glance at their strongholds.

Rhendish Manor is a city within a city, a walled community crowning the top of Sevrin's tallest mountain.  The eastern side of the mountain is densely settled.  Rhendish directs the work of master alchemists, journeymen, and apprentices, most of whom live within the Manor's outer walls.  Alchemists, particularly those who also design clockwork creations, require a vast array of services.  The East Wall is also home to a wide variety of artisans--coopers, leather workers, glass smiths, metal smiths, herbalists--as well as tradesmen, servants, city militia, and the adept's personal guard.

At the top of the mountain lie the workshops and warehouses needed for the production of clockwork goods for which Sevrin is famous.  This busy area is highly traveled.  Tradesmen, apprentices, servants, merchants, and alchemists come and go, all of them under the watchful eye of Rhendish's guards.

The adept's personal quarters are surrounded by yet another wall.  The actual dwelling is a surprisingly modest home of white stone, surrounded by a garden filled with flower-lined walkways and shaded by trees that grow nowhere else on the island.

The west side of the mountain is a rocky drop into the valley below.  A few goats browse the lower slopes, but the island's inhabitants avoid the wall, which is considered too unstable and treacherous to climb.  Those few who attempt it invariably die in rock slides.  Some people wonder, quietly and behind closed doors, if alchemical mysteries or well-placed arrows were the real cause of these deaths.

A notable feature of the West Wall is the Mule, a system of ropes and pulleys and clockwork machinery that carry wooden carriages up the steep slope.  Carts carry goods up the winding streets of the East Wall, but the Mule is popular with people wish to avoid the climb, as well as those who enjoy the novelty of riding in a carriage that soars high above the rocky slope.

There are rumors of other paths into Rhendish's stronghold, most of them based on old tales of a lost dwarven civilization.  Other than a few tunnels for street runoff, some excellent wells, and an underground cistern, Rhendish has found no evidence of this supposed network.

Sevrin's inhabitants known the area as Crystal Mountain, not because of the mineral content of the mountain but in reference to Rhendish's fascination for crystals and their properties. From time to time the locals wonder what use Rhendish might make of the exotic gems and crystals he collects, but for the most part they are too pleased with their comfortable, prosperous lives to ask many questions.