As Joseph set up their workbench, Onta looked around the perimeter. She was searching for an unfamiliar face. A new face, a new researcher that had written her. In the far corner she spotted a likely candidate.
“Joseph,” she said, “when you’re finished, visit the other alchemists and learn what they have to share. That is your assignment while we are here.”
“Anything in particular I should focus on?”
“No. Let your curiousity be your guide.”
Onta walked to the new researcher’s workbench.
“Master Onta,” the woman said clasping her hands in front of her. “Such a pleasure to meet you! I’m Rosa Parkland.”
Onta extended her hand and Rosa shook it firmly. “My pleasure as well. Your letter was very interesting. I’d like to see what you’re doing.”
Other alchemists had gathered and Rosa spoke to the group. “This line of research started when my son spilled pickles.”
The men grumbled.
“Oh, hush,” Onta said. “This is worth listening to.”
The men gave her surly looks, but kept their mouths shut.
“He spilled it on some coins I had left out, but didn’t clean up the pickle juice very well. The coins were awash in it for a day or so. He did try to wash the coins, but the stains could not be removed”
She held up a tarnished silver coin and a patinaed copper coin. “They were freshly minted before sitting in the pickle juice…”
Onta counted the researchers and recalled each of their research interests. She knew Rosa’s story from their correspondence. Each of these researchers had hopes of catching the king’s eye and becoming a short term specialist for him. Of course with aspirations to be his Royal Alchemist. The last one died of old age. Onta wished he’d blown himself up. That would have made and interesting story to share.
In years past, the King had asked her recommendations on which research was the most promising. For him, that meant what would make him money.
“… which all led me to the idea that these pieces of silver must be too small to see, as are most things in alchemy, unless there is a large amount. The silver is attracted to the copper in a manner I am studying. I chose to follow the conventions of the loadstone researchers and designate one as positive and one as negative.”
Onta envisioned sparkling motes of silver floating toward a chunk of shiny copper.
“The silver is in the positive state and the copper is in the negative state,” Rosa said. “The silver is attracted to the copper and deposits on the copper.”
“That’s ridiculous,” one of the men said.
Rosa held up a copper wire coated in silver and snipped it half. She passed the halves around to the group. There were murmurs of acceptance, and the dissenter was quiet.
“I call it fluxism, because there is a flow of silver to copper.”
Fluxism was a novel find, and Onta would mention Rosa to the King. Onta suspected that when Rosa found what caused fluxism, it would change the alchemical world.
Onta saw a great potential for this. She could make rings of copper and use fluxism to coat them. Who wants the gift of a copper ring? But gold… Copper was stiffer than gold, and she could make the hollow band thin and brittle so it would break easily and the poison would disperse sooner.
Today is E – electricity. This was a term created by William Gilbert in the late 1500s from the Greek word for amber, elektron. My story doesn’t happen in our world, so I must be careful about what I name reactions. Yes, electricity is a chemical reaction. We’ll come back to this.
Greek philosophers noticed that wool rubbed against amber caused other light-weight objects to stick to it. Think, balloon and hair. Therefore, Gilbert called the phenomenon with amber (elektron) electricity. My world doesn’t have this background, so I decided my character would have named it fluxism.
Back to electricity as a reaction. Electricity is defined as the flow of electrons. Therefore, a reaction that moves electrons from reactant to product produces electricity. Don’t believe me? Cell phones exist because of this. Batteries. Chemical electricity.
Rosa didn’t have a battery yet. That happens when you divide the reaction into different cells and connect them with a wire. The electrons created by one cell would flow through the wire to the other cell that required them. Stick a lightbulb in the middle of the wire, and the bulb will light.