The Chronicles of Foxton
Dour and taciturn, this former mage's apprentice has recently been appointed as the Baron's Quaesitor
My name is Quion Rake, and I am the luckiest man in the world. I’ve just been banished from my home, banned from my chosen profession and exiled to the ends of the world. It could have been much worse. The arch-chancellor had been calling for me to strung up by my balls outside the collegium gates and left there to rot until the vultures picked my bones white.
The fact that I am alive today can be traced to a unique convergence of my family’s heritage, my master’s perspicuity, and my own incompetence. Had I been able, under the duress of a magical compulsion, to duplicate the feat of which I was accused , my bones might already be scattered. Fortunately, nobody believed that I could have done what I did by accident, and since I verifiably could not do it apurpose, the case against me fell apart. On the conditions of the trial by ordeal, I was proved positively innocent of the heinous deed I had, in fact, committed.
Of course I was still considered an embarrassment to the collegia, and so, in deference to my family’s rich heritage, on which my name was now a black mark, I was shuffled out of the way. Specifically, I had been appointed to be an assistant undersecretary for the chamberlain of Foxton, a obscure position lacking any hope of intrinsic interest or possibility for advancement. I was to be a menial clerk, charged, no doubt with thinking the same thoughts over and over again every day untiI I wore a groove of bland mediocrity a foot deep in my soul. I could not have been more effectively and permanently dealt with if I actually had been strung up by my nethers.
My foolishness and wickedness, of course, began and ended with a woman. Not that I blame Candiwyn. I am sure she no more intended her part in the drama than I intended mine, and her mistake was one of ignorance while mine was… not.
The apprenticeship for an alchemist is a long one, and I was late coming into mine owning to that dire business with my grandmother’s murder. It took me almost two years to track down all the conspirators in that labyrinthine plot, and gather enough evidence to have them charged with the deed. Two years I spent questioning servants, tradesmen, apothecaries, and relatives of every degree . Quion the crowbar they called me, prying open every crack and crevice. Investigation takes no great talent, only dogged determination, and I knew my grandmother had been poisoned. By the time I was done had destroyed my own dear uncle’s family and made myself a pariah amongst all my relatives.
And so I returned to the collegia after a two-year absence and had to renew my studies from the beginning. As such I was one of the oldest apprentices at the school. The only ones older were the children of longer lived races. Still embittered about all I had lost, I buried myself in my studies, in powders and potions, ungents and poltices. A trogolodyte in a basement laboratory, I emerged into the light only to attend lectures and replenish my supplies, and people were happy to avoid me . I was never beautiful to begin with, and the fumes of my work had given my skin an acrid stink and made me sweat greenish salt . I had few acquaintances, and no friends of any note. Gods only know what Candiwyn saw in me. A challenge perhaps, or perhaps a poor wretched thing to be pitied.
As cliched as it may be to say, the Archancellor’s daughter was, by several orders of magnitude, the fairest maiden in the land. Tall, blonde, her eyes, her skin. .. word s fail me as utterly now as they did then. It was rumored that she must have some elvish blood in her, for she looked a maid of twenty though she was twice my nearly thirty years. When first my gave lit upon her I was entranced, enthralled, enraptured. I stared as unblinking as a fish, as dumb as a stone. When she turned to face me, across a table strewn with alchemical ingredients, I tried to avert my eyes lest I be struck dead by her sheer radiance. Perhaps if I had succeeded in looking away, my life would have taken some happier turn and I would not be here today, but I failed. The first of my failures, but not the greatest.
Candiwyn’s gaze fell on mine. I felt I should have crumbled to ash on the spot, but then she smiled, and said, “Hello, friend.”
I barely remember anything after that, or rather the memories are too painful to fully entertain. I cannot bear to remember them. After I made my introductions, she said she’d heard of me, of my investigation, and seemed horribly embarrassed when I flinched away from it. She tried to apologize, which made it worse, for one such as she had no business apologizing to one such as I.
We fell into conversation, or rather she led me through an intricate dance of words, leading me like an expert who can make even the most awkward imbecile look graceful. By the time we parted… by the time she left, she had teased most of my story from me and I was her thrall.
And too my surprise it did not end there. Candiwyn kept coming back to me, and I began to learn her story as well, her desultory studies in the magical arts, her impending arranged marriage to a loathsome foreign noble. I wanted to help her, I wanted to protect her, but most of all I just wanted her. She lives in my thoughts and my dreams and she began to show up in my spells.
I was in my laboratory, brewing up potions for my practical exams. Brooding and brewing, wishing and whisking, dreaming and distilling. If only there were some magical solution to Candiwyn’s problem. To my credit, I did not think of poisoning her betrothed. I was far too intimate with the poisoner’s art already. But what could I, a mere apprentice, do about the affairs of the mighty, potions and politics are immiscible. And there was Cadiwyn, hovering in my vision… and before I realized what I was doing, I had mixed up a potion of stamina with a sleeping draught. The whole concoction turned pink and spelled vaguely of cloves, ruined.
Now most people think that magical potions are just combinations of elements in particular formulas, but there’s more to them than that. To make them work, the alchemist must fill them with intent, with purpose, with magic from his own wellspring. Frustrated, I gathered up all my thoughts of Candiwyn all my dreams and frustrations, and wants and fears and stuffed them into the potion. Anything to get them out of my head.
It worked, draining me temporarily of her obsessive presence. What I should have done then was throw the cursed concoction away. Instead, in a fit of pique I bottled it, sealed it and locked the magic in. Maybe that would stop me from obsessing about things I could not change.
It was not two hours later when Candiwyn came down my stairway to engage me in our usual evening’s conversation, and it was not a few minutes after that that she noticed the bottle. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. It smells nice. What is it.”
“Essence of Candiwyn,” I said.
She laughed, dipped her finger in, lifted it to her lips—
“No!” I cried. “I don’t know what it will do.”
She checked a ring on her finger, a tellstone, I realized designed to change color in the presence of danger or hostility. “It’s not poisonous,” she said. “So if you don’t know what it does, why did you make it?”
I turned red to the ears. “It was. I was…”
She laughed and licked her finger. “Hmmmm…. delicious.”
“Stop!” I pleaded. “Just because it’s not poisonous doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”
She paid no head but lifted the flask to her lips and took a slow pull that made her pale throat flutter. The way her lips caressed the lip of the flask, made me wish I was that bottle.
When she looked up at me again, her eyes smoldered, and her voice came out as a throaty purr. “You made, this did you?” She strolled toward me, swaying at the hips.I backed away until I encountered a that was too heavy for me to push. She glided in until her flat belly was against my gaunt one. I could feel the heat of her through several layers of clothing. Pulling my shoulders away only levered my hips forward. “Milady, please.”
She ground her hips into mine, and proffered the bottle. “Drink,” she purred.
What I should have done was wrestled her into a closet and sough an antidote for this thing I had done to her, but her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes bright with desire. Little whimpering noises came out of her throat.
“Drink,” she whispered.
Sometimes, I can be a real idiot. I drank.
The beastmasters say that when minks mate, they can keep it up for hours at a time. We put the mink to shame. It was full daylight before proctors finally found us and pried our sweating , slick, and sticky bodies apart. Candiwyn was still moaning and grinding her hips against me, and I was still trying to find the strength for a greater effort.
I only saw her one more time, in the gallery overlooking my trial. She was scowling. I could not meet her gaze.
The only merciful thing about the trial was its brevity. I made no defense for my actions. I had despoiled the arch chancellor’s daughter. I had wrecked an important marriage treaty. Most importantly, I had violated my only friend. I should have died. I deserved to. Only my master’s clever advocacy kept my head, and other important bits, from the noose. He argued that I lacked the skill to produce an aphrodisiac of the potency of the one Candiwyn had consumed, and this is true. I know how to make a lust potion in the same way an apprentice smith knows how to make a sword, and I have just as little chance of doing it successfully. I was placed under a high tier spell of compulsion and ordered to recreate the potion I had used on Candiwyn, and of course I couldn’t. For one thing, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d done it the first time. For another, I didn’t want to do it again, at least not like that, the desire to take and to have was gone, replaced by a soul-deep shame and sorrow. The magic just wasn’t there.
My master then proposed two alternate hypothesis as to what had really happened. Either someone from my uncle’s family had done this in revenge for what my investigation had done to them, or some enemy of the collegia had done this on purpose to wreck Candiwyn’s marriage alliance, and the collegia concluded that both of those scenarios were more likely than a mere apprentice whipping up a potion like that by accident.
As guilty as I was, I still didn’t want to die, so I kept my mouth shut. The obvious holes in their logic drifted by, unnoticed . I was exiled, stripped of my license to practice magic (a mere technicality as I had not passed my practicum in the first place) and shipped out to Foxton to spend the rest of my life writing up title deeds to mine shafts.
Little did I know…