“Why did you add the green vitriol?”
“I didn’t,” Gordon said. “My apprentice wasn’t paying attention…”
“I was,” she shot back. “I was making a vitamin drink. You weren’t…”
“Gordon,” Onta said. “The results?”
“Yes, well,” he said, glaring at his apprentice. “It turns out that if you take dirty water, such as that from the kitchen or bath, and add green vitriol and then add cream of lime, the colloidal suspension precipitates.”
“So you characterized another flocculation. Hardly warrants being here,” a bass voice said.
Onta turned. “Delwyn.”
Her ex-apprentice smiled.
“Gordon,” Onta said without taking her eyes off Delwyn. “Explain why you are here.”
“The sludge is easily removed and I haven’t found a use for it yet. However, once removed, the water is crystal clear. With boiling, it is completely potable.”
“How quaint. A water recovery system,” Delwyn said.
“Dear Delwyn, how have you been?” Onta said.
The crowd of alchemists was silent. They knew the history here and this was the only drama their circle had. They watched, waiting to eat up whatever was cast out.
“Oh, I think you know very well,” Delwyn said.
“Why don’t we have drink and reminisce?”
“I don’t think I’d come out alive.”
“Well, good heavens, Delwyn, why on earth would that be?”
Delwyn laughed. “Ah, Onta, everyone knows you don’t like me.”
“I taught you everything and never said a bad thing to you.”
The alchemists murmured and nodded. They knew she was good to her apprentices. Onta, one. Delwyn, zero.
“Maybe I should have that drink with you. Then everyone can see just how vicious you are.”
“Am I a mean drunk?” Onta said.
The entire room erupted in laughter. They knew Onta became very generous when she was drunk. There wasn’t a one of them that hadn’t tried to get her to drink with them.
“I’m missing all the fun,” the king’s voice called above the laughter.
Everyone bowed and the only sound was the rustling of clothes.
“I have chosen my Royal Alchemist,” the king said.
“But the conclave isn’t over!” Delwyn said.
The king raised an eyebrow and Delwyn looked at the floor.
“That’s wonderful, Your Highness,” Onta said. “Will you announce it at our farewell meal on the last day?”
“I shall announce it now,” he said with grin. The crowd inhaled. “Then tomorrow night we shall celebrate!” The king studied his audience and put a finger to his lip. He walked to the left and started to point, then shook his head. He walked to the right and started to speak to an alchemist there, but closed his mouth. He looked at Onta. She tilted her head, silently asking who?
“Onta,” the king said.
“Yes, Your Majesty? Is there something I should do before you choose?”
“I have chosen,” he said. The group of alchemists gasped.
Onta looked at them. Had she missed who he had chosen? She looked around to see who was dancing in happiness.
“Onta,” the king said. “It’s you.”
“Me?” She looked around again. Joseph’s mouth hung open. Rosa clapped and grinned. Delwyn scowled.
“Me. Absolutely not.” The room was silent again and the king’s face twisted into a snarl.
“You defy me.”
“Er, no,” she said meekly. She didn’t want the position, but she did like to have her head on her shoulders. “Thank you, Your Highness. It’s a great honor. I was just utterly stunned and spewed random words.”
The snarl left the king’s face and was replaced with his ordinary kingly smile.
The only word in Onta’s head was, “Shit!”
Today is G – Green vitriol. This is ferrous sulphate. It’s the form of iron used in iron-supplement pills. It was, and maybe still is, used to clean water. The word vitriol means glass-like. One of my earlier “Onta the Alchemist” stories starred blue vitriol. Both of these look like glassy crystals. The color of blue vitriol is my favorite.