Curious Journey

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Curious Journey

Second book in the Alchemist Series

First Book is Alchemist Gift on Smashwords in May and Amazon in June 2014

Currently crowd funding Alchemist Gift at 6 days left.



"Hold the torch lower Emilio, someone might see." Rene took a deep breath and pushed down with his foot. The spade cut easily into the soft earth of the fresh grave.

"Do not worry, Rene. I gave the groundskeeper a bottle of very, very strong brandy. No one is out this time of night; no one will see," Conte Emilio d’Benevita reassured his friend. He could not hide the hint of uncertainty in his voice.  

The moment they jumped the graveyard’s iron fence Rene had second thoughts. He made an oath to his friend that now he wished he had not. Rene tossed another spade full of damp earth into the pile next to the grave.

It had been three months since Rene made peace with the spirit of his departed wife Bella. It made no difference that he was the court physician; he could not save her. He put himself and her patient and sympathetic soul through a bone cold month of sorrow and mourning. With the winter snow deep on the ground, Rene knelt before Bella’s shrouded body that lay on a makeshift altar in her potting shed and refused to let her go. When she appeared to him, his eagerness to hold her once more broke their last earthly bond and freed her to pass through the veil.

At the first sign of winter’s passing and the warmth of Eostre’s smile on the awakening earth, Rene along with the others of Adler Lager and Adler Kralle castle who lost loved ones during the icy and lethal winter were finally able to bury their dead who lay waiting for the ground to thaw enough to receive them, wrapped in their shrouds or in their dark coffins. Rene buried his wife, his beautiful Bella, the love of his life and eternal partner in the family plot at the ancestral Hermes home.

During those four beautiful springs they shared, Rene and Bella spent many a lazy afternoon sitting under their favorite apple tree gazing down on the verdant meadows below. The breeze released the pink apple blossom petals that would float down and nestle in Bella’s long auburn hair. That is where he buried her; near that spot. He had the blacksmith fashion a new iron fence for her gravesite and asked the priest to bless the ground. The internment was simple and sad. No matter how many diversions he embraced or how deeply he immersed himself in his work and studies, Rene’s soul ached for his beloved wife, if just for a fleeting moment he could feel her presence once more.

Rene Hermes met Conte Emilio six years before by chance when Rene was returning from university. Both were alumni of the University of Padua and both men were heading to their future wives. With Rene being the court physician and the conte visiting the duke from time to time, they became better acquainted and eventually friends. They corresponded quite often discussing the sciences and philosophy and the conte’s thirsty interest in necromancy, spirituality, and the eternality of the soul.

Emilio’s fine words and logical arguments led them both to this curious endeavor, this graveyard séance. Through this newly departed girl, Rene hoped he might have a chance to commune with Bella again. Rene half heartedly convinced himself that only good would come from the act. He was doing this out of loyalty to Emilio to help him find his way to God. Commune with Bella would only strengthen his faith and of course there was the pursuit of knowledge. "Now that it is started, I cannot abandon my friend and leave this and him undone. We are merely asking this girl to share what she has seen. We are not grave robbers or body snatchers." Rene further absolved himself because he felt their experiment would not be successful. It was certain this girl; this Senta Schlafen passed through the veil. "It is preposterous the doubting Conte Emilio and me, a grieving doctor could bring someone back to life? And if our experiment in necromancy is a success, what of it, what good could come of it?" These thoughts cluttered the regions of his mind. But, he was there. Rene continued to dig.

"What was that noise?" Rene held the shovel still and cocked his ear.

Conte Emilio smiled. "I hear nothing. Maybe it is only the leaves rustling in the trees or the wings of an owl." Emilio planted the end of the torch into the mound of earth Rene added to with each shovel full. The conte swung the leather pouch off his shoulder. He pulled out a flask, took a swig of anise and handed the flask to Rene. Rene took a gulp and felt the aperitif warm his throat and chest.

The aromatic bouquet of the liquor made Emilio think of the strange, and disconcerting encounter he had a little over a year ago on his last visit to Adler Kralle castle. He was on a hunt with a small group of nobles, Rene and Duke Gunter. Emilio’s horse lagged further and further behind no matter how he tried to spur on the usually obedient animal. Out of the corner of his eye Emilio caught sight of a white stag standing not more than ten paces away. The stag slowly looked into Emilio’s eyes and in an instant made a graceful leap and ran for the shelter of the trees.

Without so much as a nudge, his horse followed as the wily animal made its own tight path between boulder and vine, tree and shrub. His horse followed. Each time Emilio thought he lost sight of the fantastic animal it would reappear almost as if it was waiting on him. When Emilio caught sight of the stag, it would bound away into the trees only to reappear again a little further along.

Emilio was unfamiliar with the land. The chase turned him around so many times he had no idea where he was or for that matter, the rest of the hunting party. He called out a few times and listened intently for a reply.

The sun steadily climbed higher, and the morning mist faded. Emilio reluctantly accepted he was lost. He saw the white stag one last time as it swiftly crossed a meadow below him. He followed a trickle of a brook down the side of a gently sloping hill into the meadow. He found the trail of crushed grass the stag left behind. The conte was heartened when he saw the gray thatched roof of a large hut that was all, but hidden under the branches of an ancient oak.

As he rode closer, he saw smoke filtering through the thatch. In a sunny patch at the side of the hut was a neat herb garden protected by a wattle fence. A raised wooden walkway of tree limbs led to the door. The walkway was lined with a row of henbane growing on one side and poppies on the other. Emilio dismounted and tied his horse to one of the low hanging tree branches. He knocked on the door. "Hallo, hallo," he called out. He was glad to hear noises coming from inside.

The door opened slightly, and he heard the labored and broken voice of a woman. "Yes, yes, you have finally come to me." The woman opened the door wider. "Come in." She smiled and beckoned for Emilio to enter.

Copyright 2014 Mark Giglio

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