I am finishing up the final layout and design for The Elements of Alchemy. The full novel will be published on November 15th, but I wanted to give you a sneak preview. Below is the beginning of the book, along with the map from the book. Thank you all so much for your support.
Flame erupted from the wooden cottages as the firestorm embraced them. Dry timber beams blazed, scorching the stone foundation on which the houses stood. The people in the houses fled screaming or suffocated on the thick black smoke. Shouts and cries filled the small town.
The thunder of hooves overtook the roar of the fire. From the mountain pass which gave the town its name, three dozen riders charged down the wide dirt highway. The bandits rode tall and broad. They swung greatswords in both hands, which cut through the terrified crowd. Fire arrows flew through the sky from unseen archers hidden in the forested foothills around the town.
In a shop near the center of town, the shouting, fighting, and smoke awoke Jerath Arkell. He had been sound asleep, dreaming of days past and the future yet to come. The seventeen year old worked during the day at his father’s shop downstairs and helped Brother Pierce at the chapel in the evening. Tiarve had been at peace for two hundred years. Before that night, he had no reason to believe war would erupt in his own backyard.
When he awoke, he awoke with confusion and fear. The flickering glow of the flames danced across his small room from the window that faced the back alley. He threw himself from bed and raced to the hallway.
“Fire!” he shouted. “Fire! Mom, dad, wake up!”
His parents were awake and in the hallway. His father, Dagmar, grabbed a handful of healing vials from the upstairs cupboard while trying to balance the heap in his arms. His mother, Rosa, pulled at a chain shirt around her head, her longsword leaning against the cupboard.
“Jerath, get outside,” Dagmar said. He continued to sweep vials off the shelf and into his arms.
“And get out of town,” Rosa said. She still struggled with the chain shirt.
Jerath ran over to catch a half a dozen vials as they tumbled from Dagmar’s hands. “I can help you. You’ll need help.”
Dagmar opened his mouth, and then paused for half a second. “Grab your kit. And stick close to me.”
“Dagmar!” Rosa said, finally pulling the chain shirt on.
“He’ll be safer with me than alone,” Dagmar said. “Besides, the militia will need our healing.”
“I’ll see you after,” Rosa said.
“I know you will,” Dagmar said. He kissed her and slipped two vials in to her pockets. She grabbed her sword and bounded down the stairs.
“Get your kit and meet me downstairs,” Dagmar said.
Jerath ran to his room. The flames from the nearby buildings jumped to their roof. He saw tendrils of flame reaching in to his room. He grabbed his alchemy bag from where it lay next to his desk.
He searched the dozens of vials lined up on the shelf, an assortment of colors and sizes, all notated in rough cursive. He tried to remember each, and snatched several. He contemplated at the vials in his hands. One of these might slow the fire. He took a guess, he did not know which vial was correct. He tossed the contents of a large, dark orange vial around the room.
He flung books off his desk, searching for his notebooks. Grabbing a pile in the corner, he shoved several notebooks and a worn, thin volume into his alchemy bag.
He dashed out of the room, careened through the hallway, and jumped down the steps two at a time. He grabbed the best potions he could from the walls of the shop, anything that was useful in a fight: healing, protection, acids. He jammed as many as he could in to his alchemy bag and balanced the rest in his arms.
Out on the street, flames engulfed much of the town, with only a few lucky buildings spared. People ran around randomly, shouting and screaming. Some stood slack-jawed as their houses and businesses burned around them. Parents ran through the streets, shouting frantically for children lost in the chaos. A few fighters shoved aside child and onlooker in an attempt to get to the northwest side of town. Jerath did not see his father.
“Jerath!” Sevan called to him.
Across the crowded street, Sevan ran with a group of fighters towards the main attack. He was one of Jerath’s best friends. A strong man, much stronger than Jerath, he wore that unkempt look that others adored. He was to start training with the Sharatian Army next month.
“Fight’s this way.” Sevan motioned with the longsword in his left hand, but kept on jogging alongside the other soldiers. He was fully dressed, fully armed, wide awake, and focused.
“Coming.” Jerath ran after the group, threading his way between the panicked populace while maintaining the balance of his pile of potions.
The people near the edge of town were largely militia and others skilled at fighting. The blaze razed both inns to their foundations, but Otis Marks set up a makeshift command in the large yard of the Rooster. Half a dozen archers crouched behind the scorched stone wall, firing at the dark shapes moving in the forest. Small groups of fighters returned, spoke with Otis for a few brief moments, then ran off again.
“Three dead, two fleeing near the Kingsley farm,” Otis Marks said. “We pushed them back in to the woods. They’ll have come around this way to get back into town.”
“Anybody checked out the central square?” someone asked.
“I just came from there,” Jerath said, breathing heavily. “Fire, but no attackers. Everyone’s panicking.”
“Jerath?” Otis asked. “Does your father know you’re out here?”
“Yes, we’re handing out potions. Here, for the burn on you arm.” Jerath tossed Otis a small vial. He saw several injuries in the gathering of fighters. He handed out a few more. “If you see anyone badly hurt, let me know.”
“Thanks.” Otis downed his in a single shot.
Jerath lay out vials and potions on the ground. He set up a small fire to begin brewing more potions. After a few minutes, the fighters brought their incapacitated friends to the yard. A few more healers arrived. They applied bandages and performed surgeries on the men and women who lay bleeding on the burnt grass. Jerath continued to hand out the dwindling pile of healing vials.
“Jerath, we need a potion over here,” Sevan called from down the street.
Jerath grabbed a healing potion. Sevan helped his cousin, Michael, limp along the road towards the Rooster’s yard. Jerath jogged over to Michael, grabbed his other arm, and helped them hobble the final thirty yards. They set Michael on the grass next to the others, and Jerath handed him a vial.
“To your health,” Michael said. He downed it. The empty glass slipped through his fingers to the grass and his head fell back. He sighed. “I do not know if I will live.”
“You will be fine,” Sevan said. “You are not a fighter, though.”
“You are correct,” Michael said. He winced and grabbed his side. “I am more of a politician.”
“Jerath, take care of him,” Sevan said. “I’ve got to get back; we’ve almost driven them back. They’ll find Southpass doesn’t-”
“Sevan, get help!” another fighter cried as she ran towards them. “They ambushed us. Troy’s hurt.”
“Troy?” Sevan asked.
Jerath rushed past him, slinging his alchemy bag over his shoulder, and sliding two healing potions in to his pockets. He dashed down the street.
Sevan quickly caught up to him. “What are you doing?”
“Troy’s hurt, and I don’t think you know how to heal him.”
“You’re not a fighter.”
“No, I’m an alchemist,” Jerath said. “Now get me to Troy.”