Silent Letters

“Onta the Alchemist” from the beginning…

Onta looked at the royal decree, and the handwriting with all the flourishes. Her name and the date were still drying.

“This is your copy,” the king said. “Always take it with you when you travel. You are my extension and should be treated as I would be.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Onta said.

“I have chosen to grant your request and provide your apprentice, Joseph, with a stipend. Perhaps if he works at it, he can earn a journeyman’s wages some day.”

Onta nodded. She knew Joseph was good enough to make it to master. They just had to survive long enough within the intrigues of the king’s court.

The king dismissed her and she went up to her workshop. Joseph had commandeered an army of servants. As their general, he had marshaled them and given them their orders. When Onta walked in, dust was in the air, and brooms and mops were hard at work on the floor.

“It’s official?” Joseph asked.

Onta handed him the parchment.

“In the king’s court young as I am! This is not a future I ever dreamt of.”

“Nor I,” Onta said looking out the window and the bailey far below. They had Master Kilderry’s old workshop in the tower. How did he ever climb the steps at the end? And did alchemists always have their workshops in towers?

“I am not good at intrigue,” Onta said.

“You did fine with Ellington.”

“That wasn’t intrigue. That was push and pull.”

“Tug of war?”

“Yes. Obvious to everyone. I’m not sure I can keep us alive.”

“You can,” Joseph said. “You made your first workshop safe. With a door you could lock. From inside.”

“You’ll have a stipend,” Onta said.

“I will? Since when do apprentices get stipends?”

“It’s not from me. It’s from the king.”

Joseph folded his arms across his chest. “Even so, it’s from you.”

“I am pleased the King thought you worth the stipend.”

“Me too! You’re last apprentice. I met him,” Joseph said.

“Oh?” Onta said.

“Are you going to kill him?”

“I was. Everyone knew I was. If I do it now, it’ll affect the king’s reputation. That would separate me from my head.”

“Unless he likes having an assassin alchemist.”

Onta laughed and shook her head. “Ellington did. I suppose once the king figures that out, he’ll like it as well.”

“Let’s start here without that. We’re the only ones that know, and I won’t tell if you won’t. Since he won’t know, he won’t expect of of you.”

“Ellington knows. I suppose he will stay quiet. It wouldn’t be good for him if word of his victims got out. But… a reputation like that could help us survive.”

“Or get us killed faster,” Joseph said.

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