Aboard the Advena Avis
It’s known today as a study that originated in ancient Egypt, but it’s also a skill, even a culture. Egyptian techniques were blended with Greek philosophy and Hermetic practices, passed down through the Arab world, and combined with the European Renaissance. Originally associated with using ordinary metals to create gold, it gradually became an attempt to create an artificial life separate from God‘s hand before evolving into the pursuit of eternal life itself.
But immortality cannot be considered the alchemy’s ultimate goal. It has no ultimate goal. Alchemists bury themselves in research day after day in search of a way to make possible the impossible, but in doing so develop new interests, new questions, and are ultimately unsatisfied with their results. They lose sight of themselves in their constant desire to obtain the unobtainable.
Alchemists faced obstacles at every turn, became the envy of the people around them, were misunderstood by the populace of an ever-changing world, and were thus forced to pursue alternate methods of research in the midst of their own frustrations. But their efforts weren’t in vain; many modern advances in science owe their existence to alchemy, including the discovery of gravity by Sir Isaac Newton. It is by no means a counterfeit science.
Occasionally, however, people call it sorcery, and try to blur the line between it and black magic; they think the two are one and the same. Though a few have been known to dabble in it, most alchemists disregard sorcery entirely because it involves praying and a belief in entities that cannot be proved real by science.
If the existence of black magic and demons could be confirmed, however, they would only become another stepping stone in the alchemist’s ultimate objective to achieve the impossible.
The ship was swallowed by the darkness of the night. In its midst, a group of people stood listening to a voice. They were alchemists who had left their homes, bound for the New World.
Together, they’d managed to convert the myth of black magic into a reality.
“Did you just call me a demon? Well, nevermind. Have any of you ever even seen God, or even an angel? Demon has such a wicked connotation, there are so many other words you could have used instead... Well, nevermind. No one’s summoned me in a hundred and three years. If you‘d been three years earlier... Well, nevermind. That’s just my pet phrase, by the way, don’t worry about it. I think having a pet phrase is a little strange when I’m speaking directly into your minds, but... Well, nevermind.”
The demon was extremely talkative. In accordance with his own covenant, though, he agreed to pass on his knowledge to the alchemists who had summoned him.
“We want to know the everything there is to know about immortality.”
“You mean... Are you implying that you would like to be immortal? Well, nevermind.”
A container filled with liquid appeared on the ship’s deck, in the middle of the group of alchemists.
“Drinking that will make you immortal; what you do afterwards is up to you. I’m also an Immortal, but my thoughts are far broader than yours--wait, wait, hear me out. I’m very generous, there’s enough of that elixir for everyone on board. Divide it amongst yourselves without fighting. Now, if you ever grow tired of your immortality and want to die...”
The demon went on, explaining what to do in the event that one of them desired death.
“Locate another person who drank the elixir. That person should place his right hand on your forehead and think, ‘I want to eat.’ They have to mean it. Your life will end, and you’ll be sucked into that person’s right hand, along with all of your knowledge. The last one standing will possess the collective knowledge of all the thirty-odd people here. If that person grows tired as well, they have only to summon me again and I will eat them, which will give me the knowledge of all thirty of you. Oh, I know it’s a little after the fact, but there is one condition: no one who drinks this elixir will be allowed to assume a false name. A temporary alias among humans is fine, but because your body is impervious to any worldly harm you’ll be forced to use your real name when conversing with your immortal peers--their presence will restrict what you call yourself. How would you be able to find each other otherwise?”
The alchemists considered this, then split the elixir with each other and drank. It tasted like liquor.
“Oh right, I still have to tell you everything about immortality. Well I’m not sure what you mean by that, so I’ll just teach you the recipe for the elixir. But I don’t want to tell everyone here, just the man who actually summoned me. The rest of you will have to ask him if you want to know.”
The alchemist who received the knowledge was a young man who didn’t understand what happened next. The demon had no form; one moment there was nothing, and in the next the recipe was suddenly in the man’s mind.
The demon’s voice vanished.
The man spent that night thinking over what had happened. He considered sharing the secret recipe with his younger brother, another passenger on the ship, but then another thought occurred to him.
“I think I’ll keep the recipe a secret,” he told his companions the next day. They objected, but he refused to give in.
Later that night, something happened.
The man with the demon’s knowledge remained uneasy. He woke up around midnight, when he felt someone enter his cabin. A fellow alchemist was standing in the middle of the room, over the bed on the other side. Their right hand rested on the forehead of his sleeping brother.
He was wide awake in an instant, but it was too late. He watched as his brother was sucked up into that hand like magic.
“I don’t believe it, it’s started already,” the demon murmured to himself, watching from the darkness. “Humans really are a greedy race. I suppose this is all my fault, but it’ll be fun to watch.”
His voice dropped then, and he added a soft, “Should be more interesting than last time...”
And then the “demon”, as the humans had called him, couldn’t be heard at all anymore, and the darkness spread around him as if he’d never been there.
And so, time flowed on.