The Apprentice’s Formula

The explosion was huge, much bigger than he expected it to be. It even moved the boulder he was taking cover behind. Easily weighing as much as his house, the large rock still tipped when his latest concoction went boom. He hurried back to avoid being crushed, but the boulder didn’t fall all the way over. It lost momentum and shifted back into its original position.

“That was a close one, Enifon.”

He looked over at Kolton, his apprentice. Truth be told, it was Kolton’s ideas that had made this new version more energetic than his previous formula. Enifon wouldn’t admit it, but Kolton was smarter than he was. The young man had passed him in knowledge long ago. If it wasn’t for the apprenticeship laws stating that Kolton had to serve as an apprentice for ten years before being able to practice as an alchemist, he would have struck out on his own by now.

“If you hadn’t added that fireflower root to it,” Enifon grumbled, “it wouldn’t have almost killed us.”

“Quit exaggerating,” the young man shot back with a grin. “It was close, but not that close.”

With a roll of his eyes, Enifon brushed off the dust and debris that the explosion had showered him with and walked out from behind the boulder. Kolton joined him and the two of them walked forward to survey the damage. It was impressive. There was a large crater blown into the rocky ground where the potion vial landed. Two horses could have fit into the new hole. He was suddenly glad that Kolton’s throwing arm had increased in strength during their time together.

“We’ve never made a crater this large at the quarry before,” the apprentice observed.

He was right. They’d made a hole that size in soft dirt, but never in solid rock. What did that mean for them? According to the law, they were supposed to report any advancements to the king’s men, like he had done when he’d developed the original formula. Last time that meant weeks spent in isolation, being interrogated until the kingdom’s own alchemists were positive he had held nothing back from them. It was an experience that Enifon was loathe to repeat.

Then again, he also didn’t want to withhold the information from the kingdom either. He’d seen what they did to the people they caught not sharing their discoveries. That was also something that he didn’t want to go through.

He wasn’t sure which way he wanted to handle the situation yet, but he knew he wasn’t going to make a decision yet. This was something he’d have to think over for a while first. “Go ahead and tell Falopp that we’re leaving,” he instructed Kolton, “then head home. I’m going to set off a couple of the lesser explosive bottles in case one of the others comes snooping around after we leave.”

Kolton nodded and walked away to find the quarry’s owner while Enifon pulled out two bottles filled with his original formula. Once he was sure that his apprentice was gone, he took cover behind the boulder and tossed the bottle into the newly made crater. He moved to toss the second one, stopped short, put it back in his satchel, and grabbed a vial of liquid fire instead. Enifon walked out from behind cover, stepped to the edge of the crater, and broke the glass container directly in the center of it.

Flames instantly filled the hole, rising up out of it in a burst almost as tall as Enifon himself and he took a quick step back. He hated having to use the liquid fire because of how expensive it was to make. It was necessary, however. He had to destroy any possible residues that the new formula may have left behind. Enifon liked Falopp, but he couldn’t be sure that the quarry owner wasn’t letting his competition inspect the ground after he left. Alchemy was big business and those who practiced it did whatever they had to do to make it. Enifon himself had once been able to reverse engineer a potion from a few drops left in the bottom competitor’s vial, so he knew it could be done.

As he watched the flames slowly begin to die down, he couldn’t stop his mind from going back to the problem of what to do with his new formula. A third option entered his mind: he could secretly sell the formula to the highest bidder and use the money to move to a different kingdom. He didn’t like this option either. While the coin would be nice, he didn’t want to move. His life was here. Starting over, especially at his age, wasn’t something he wanted to go through.

Still, if the money was good enough, it might be worth it.

Enifon didn’t get a chance to think about it any further. His right arm was grabbed from behind and wrenched painfully behind his back. On the left side of his neck he felt the cold steel of a sharp blade. He did his best to remain calm, particularly because he still had a bottle of explosive potion in his satchel. It would be satisfying to kill the person who was holding a knife to his throat, he didn’t want to die along with them.

“Give me the explosive formula,” a deep gravelly voice demanded.

“It’s common knowledge,” Enifon protested, confused. “Everyone has their own version of it now.”

“Not the old formula. The new one.”

If he didn’t have a knife at his throat, he would have shaken his head at himself for letting his fear make him temporarily forget about the new formula. Then he felt his fear begin to rise. He didn’t have the new formula memorized. It was written down, but it wasn’t in his notes. It was in Kolton’s. His apprentice had created the formula, so he had been the one to write it down.

The blade made a small cut, pulling him back into the moment. “Give me the explosive formula,” the voice repeated.

“I can’t,” Enifon shouted. “I don’t have it.”

“Then you’re of no use to me.”

“Wait! I can get it for you!”

“No need. I know just where it is” he heard as the man behind the voice sliced the blade across Enifon’s throat. The alchemist felt the warmth of his blood dripping down from the wound, but didn’t feel it when his body hit the ground. He looked up to see a shadow holding his satchel, keeping the contents of it safe. Just before his world turned black, Enifon heard his killer say, “It’s time for me to pay your apprentice a visit.”

7 comments on “The Apprentice’s Formula

  1. djmatticus says:

    Good start! Hooray for a new story. Can’t wait to read what happens next.

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