Chapter 23

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Chapter Twenty-three

Jaxx stopped in the doorway to the Alchemy room in the Hall of Healing. About a dozen students were milling about, shouting and laughing. Someone tossed a ball across the room and it hit the wall, narrowly missing a shelf filled with jars of herbs, powders, and colorful liquids.

"Clumsy," said a girl near the front. "Remember what happened to us the last time someone knocked that shelf down?"

Jaxx cringed, imagining all sorts of painful punishments but the others laughed.

"What? You don't want to pull weeds for the Master Herbalist again?" said the boy who had tossed the ball.

The girl sniffed at him. "You wouldn't either, if you had my allergies."

Jaxx watched them bicker for a few more minutes before edging his way against the wall to the back of the room. He found an empty table and sat behind it, trying to make himself unnoticeable.

A breeze blew in through one of the large windows, spreading a strange scent through the room that he could smell over the sweet scent of freshly washed bodies and hair. The odor seemed to come from a red solution bubbling over a candle on the desk in the front of the room. Jaxx's eyes watered and he put his hands in front of his face to block the smell. Between the noise and the odor, he was starting to get a headache.

He did not know much about alchemy, except that it was used to turn other metals into gold. He wondered why Dragon Riders needed to learn how to make gold.

The conversation in the room trailed off when the alchemy teacher walked into the room. Jaxx had never met an alchemist in person and had always imagined them to be stooped, old men with long whiskers. To his surprise, Eldress Sibill was a tall, angular woman. Her square, wire-rimmed glasses sat on the end of her thin nose and her gray hair was pulled back into a severe bun. Jaxx thought she looked like someone who would not tolerate any nonsense.

The eldress tapped on her desk with a pointer stick to get everyone's attention. "Today you will learn how to make healing potions," she said.

A boy sitting near the front raised his hand. Eldress Sibill ignored him at first, but when he began waving his arm ever more frantically, she looked toward the ceiling, took a deep breath through her nose and sighed.

"Yes, William," she said.

"With all due respect, Eldress," said William, standing up, "Why do we have to learn to make healing potions? Won't we get enough heals from the bards and the healers? And isn't it easier to go out and buy much better potions from the alchemists?"

The eldress glared around the room as the class murmured in agreement. She cleared her throat to signal for them the be quiet. "Do you intend to take a healer with you every time you hunt?"

"Well, no ma'am, but I can always take a healing potion with me," said William.

"Yes, but what if you run out of potion? What if you need more potion than you have gold with which to purchase it? Potions can be costly. Or, what if you are on a strange world and must go to an alchemist you don't know? Wouldn't you like an idea of which powders should be added to the potion you are buying so that you don't end up with something so weak it's useless, or even worse, something dangerously strong?"

The conversation had Jaxx's attention. Healing potions? Was it really possible to make a potion that would cure illnesses or fix injuries? There were many times he had shivered with fever or shook with coughing at the Caer. It would have been nice to be able to swallow a potion and feel better.

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