OOC: This is out of the usual sphere for this particular muse. I am working on a Steampunk bit over on Pan Historia in the novel, “The High Adventure”. Essentially, it is the Steam Barons vs. the Alchemists who want to destabilize the economy and make things more “even” among the common people by literally turning lead into gold. Faelyn and her friend and confidante, Doctor Augustin Chaubert, who heads up the local chapter of the Order of the Golden Dawn, that serves as a front for the Alchemists, are the “bad guys”. We are hoping, however, that people may be able to empathize at least a little with thier alleged “cause”..
“…and we must put aside the aside the conventional image of the alchemist as a threadbare, etiolated individual, filthy and stinking from sulphurous smoke and half-poisoned by mercury, and picture a well-dressed, articulate man surrounded by noble men and women in a vaulted chamber of a castle or palace, lecturing deferentially to people who most certainly well understood what he was talking about and who had examined his equipment to obviate any chances of fraud. Demonstrations by members of the Academie des Sciences in the presence of Louis XIV, or by Fellows of the Royal Society of London before Charles II, provide close parallels, the demonstrators being some of the foremost scientists of the day.” – P.G. Maxwell-Stewart, “The Chemical Choir: A History of Alchemy”
Upon the dais he had ascended and he had done so magnificently. After the long-awaited passing of, Leiland Worth , Augustin Chaubert was the new blood that the Society of Alchemists had been needing for so long. Even from my vantage point, I watched my friend’s breathing in that warm, classically furnished room among our so-called peers. So many of them claimed to be dedicated to the Great Work, and yet the greater secret eluded them. It was Augustin who wore the amulet that Leiland had bequeathed to him with his sudden passing. Chaubert brandished the Caduceus of Powe. The rise and fall of his chest, the posture that he held, all indicated that he had the assuredness necessary to rise so far, and according to some, so fast. The speed had been a mere six years, and I suspected that my friend had grown tired of waiting but my suspicions at this point were far from confirmed.
From beneath my black hooded robe I glanced up at Augustin and allowed myself a ghost of a smile. There were those who felt I – indeed any woman at all – did not belong here within the fraternity. Magical and ritual talent aside, there were some that felt women had no place within the order. It was inevitable that these men would level objections in my direction. Augustin, in his way, could be counted upon to listen carefully, and then tactfully change the subject back again to the Great Work. The beleaguered petitioner would finally give up after some time realising that his objections had failed to have any effect.
After the Ascension Ceremony, mon ami, Augustin, was installed and invested as the head of the Society of Alchemists, I hung back. I did not want to be accused of using my connections with the new Grand Master of the Society in order to underplay my gender. What most of these overstuffed baboons did not understand is that I often worked just that much harder. It did not matter that I was hereditarily born via my mother into a family line of Priestesses and had been trained in that direction myself. I was constantly having to downplay the fact that my father was Lord James McKay, one of the largest energy barrons in the whole of London. Only Augustin Chaubert had never let any of these factors matter in the slightest to him and treated me justly and as a true friend.
When it last was my turn before the dais, I bent my knee, as all others before me had done, the oft spoken words of my mother ringing in my ears; “Bend niether neck nor knee before any man….” Augustin knew well this admonishment I had been given and a single eyebrow raised at me as I knelt there in my robes before him. I think that it must have amused him.
“My friend,” Augustin said warmly, though softly enough to not reach the ears of the Elites who stood in line behind me. “I am utterly grateful. For all that I have achieved, all that I have accomplished, I could not have done so without your help and guidance.”
It was then I slipped into our own private dialect, a customised combination of archaic French and phoneticised Ancient Egyptian. “All that you have achieved you have done on your own and were meant to rise to these heights and more. Dua Netjer en ekh,” * I said, my lips betraying a slight smile. Even if we were eavesdropped upon, there was little chance of anyone understanding much of anything we said. In these times, such precautions had to be made.
My shoulders back, I took his ringed hand in my own. As part of the induction ritual, each member must grant Augustin their personal blessing; they did not want feuds to break out following the loss of a leader and the instillation of his successor.
“If I had my way,” he whispered in our shared tongue, “it would be you.”
“We both know that they would never allow that,” I inclined my head and pressed his ring to my forehead, my eyes never leaving Augustin’s. That small gesture of obesiance in itself was enough to cause the slight hissing of whispers among the assembled. At last I spoke my words of blessing in English so that all might hear.
“Would we but wake up and perceive the truth, we would see a stairway to heaven before us, willing to help us ascend,” my voice was clear and echoed against the columns and walls of the Great Hall. “With thy help, Master Chaubert, may we all ascend to our completion of the Great Work.”
“Thank you,” he said gravely, as though the words of the invocation seemed to strike him almost as deeply as my actions had.
I rose from my position, and backed away from the dais, never turning my back on him and taking my place amongst the Elite. That, believe me, is a skill unto itself that took more than a little of its own mastery! I was certain that Augustin and I would celebrate quietly, later in our own way once we were far from the assembled Lords,Ladies and other dignitaries.
In the meantime, however, there was much for us to do.
* = “Thank the Gods for you (m)”