In my youth, I was a bold and arrogant young man. I was the sort of young man that the world takes great delight in ruining. I was too bold, I did not show the proper obedience to the church, to the King, to the grand council of magi. I stood tall and proud, my mind was keen and my hand was steady. I was among the best, the brightest of the Alchemists. I knew that a rational mind would triumph over their arcane puffery, their aristocratic pomp. I was wrong. The magi took great sport in humiliating the Guild of Alchemists, we were nothing more than purveyors of cheap potions. We were the stock boys for the Guild of Adventurers-Upon-Return. And then they proved that it was true, we were nothing more than potion makers for reckless warriors. Our great and wise skill was a tool of convenience for cheap heroes.

But I was not yet defeated. I thought to take up the path of those same heroes, use my own potions to fuel my rise to greatness. I would stand in the luminary company of Redgar and Mialee. Again I was wrong. I was denied entrance to the highy and mighty Guild of Adventurers-Upon-Return. A war was on, and I was drafted into the King's Army. Had I retained my position in the Alchemists Guild I would have avoided this fate. I saw warfare, I fought on the line with the levies. But I spent most of my work making potions of healing, and working as a physicians assistant. That was grim and bloody work, removing arrows, and amputating infected limbs. I saw the flower of youth bleed away, felt the intangible essence of life slip between my fingers. A seed was planted then and there that would take years to sprout.

Weldon Haylom

In his youth Weldom was a brash and brilliant alchemist. He was known for his rakish behavior, interest in haute coture, and for his long beautiful hair. But this was tempered by the fact that Weldon was a man of thought and not a man of action. His superiors categorized him as possessing great skill and ability, inflated by a double dose of ambition, but lacking a true motivation beyond his own self importance. Rank within the Alchemist Guild is not determined by sheer skill or ability, but by enlightenment. While brilliant, Weldom never accepted that one of the core precepts of alchemy was refining the base into the pure, and the ongoing project was the purification of the alchemist himself.

None of the guild masters were surprised when Weldon left the Guild. Some hoped that he would discover things about himself by traveling and adventuring as he planned to do. Others thought he was on a path to darkness and ruin, and that he should be discouraged from following the path he had chosen. A few whispers, and the Adventurer's Guild shunned him.

Baron Valkan showed me a great deal of kindness, more than had been shown to me in years. He recognized my talent, my greatness and he became my patron for many years. In that laboratory I concocted potions and tonics for the Baron and his lovely Baroness. I was given a free hand to explore what arts I would explore, and that a share of the fame would go to my patron, in exchange for my board and stocking my laboratory. This was fine, and it was that the Baroness, with her pale skin and lovely dark hair entered into my inner chambers. We became lovers, and soon she was heavy with my child, which was a great and terrible guilt to her as her husband was unable to perform his husbandly duties and there was no way to hide that the child was not his. So we conspired and poisoned him in his sleep.

His brother was a cruel and wicked man, with a ruthless eye and keen mind. He came with forces to his brother's funeral and claimed the castle. He invoked obscure noble rights to take the Baroness as his Bride clad in Black, and that he would punish Valkan's murderer. I survived his bloody witch hunt by a bracer of potions and skill I had learned fighting on the Plains of Besran. I was driven into the hinterlands, far from my comfortable bed, from my well stocked laborotory, and from the tender hot embrace of my Baroness. He had stolen from me what was mine by deed. I felt tiny, I felt harmless and vulnerable. Another seed had been planted, one that would grow faster than the first one.

Baroness Natasha Valkan

The Baroness was indeed a beautful woman, with fine legs and a lovely figure, but those who knew her from her childhood knew that Natasha was a bad apple. Her beauty ended at her skin. She married Hugo Valkan under false pretenses, knowing he was impotent. She had been first lovers with his younger brother Bertrand Valkan, and the two conspired to kill Hugo and absorb his barony into Bertrand's slightly larger but less populated tract of land. Hugo was not a fool, and had hired Weldon to work in his corner, bolstering his flagging health as well as using what he could from the irregular output from the laboratory. He placed too much trust in Weldon and did not suspect the handsome alchemist of fornicating with his viper of a wife. He was thusly surprised when he found himself choking on his own tongue, a side effect of common poisoning. Bertrand arrived, having been well informed of events, where he claimed both his brother's lands and his woman, and united the two baronies into a larger county. Weldon was suddenly a liability and efforts were made to hunt him down and scapegoat him for Hugo's demise. The newly wed Bertrand and Natasha laughed and drank wine toasting each other to their success.

Bertrand would later have Natasha waylaid by bandits where she eventually ended up in an unpleasant bath. This isn't relevant to the story of Weldon, but some might have wondered about that happy family.

I dwelt in the wilds, afraid for my life. I drew sickness and survived. I lived like a vagrant, moving from village to village. When I had the ingredients I would make and peddle potions. I cured diseases, impotences, healed injured people, and other such low alchemies. I was not pleased with the work I was doing, but I was happy in a low common sort of way. I still burned for something much greater than being the raggedy potion man. I wanted more. I eventually came upon an abandoned tower, the sort that sits at junctions of ley lines. These had once been popular, but geomancy had learned that ley lines could move and the fad of building towers fell out. It was not worth the time to build a tower that would function as a magical focus for only a few decades. I moved into the structure and set about repairing it. I rebuilt my laboratory, and as I was able to make potions of greater depth and potency I found more coin to stock my pantries and supply my endeavors.

I created a very fine potion. This potion, when imbibed, would turn the meekest man into a giant, his fists would be weapons, and his heated gaze would cause even stern men to quail before him. I took to using my own potion, becoming a mighty warrior, striding about my tower, killing those who dared to trespass. It was a great mirth to me that I found myself standing over the broken bodies of the men of the Guild of Adventurers-Upon-Return. With black humours and necrogenic tonics I raised up their bodies and made them serve me.

Those I found of the fairer sex, I raised up as well, but with greater care. I made them beautiful again, and I was free to use them as I felt. They could not feel pain nor emotion so I could be as cruel and brutal to them as I wished. But eventually that sort of sport grew dull. I wanted something more.

The Black Alchemist

Weldon's time as a wanderer was brief, and his restoration of the tower and of himself as a serious alchemist took a bit longer. By this point, the vitality of youth had been replaced by hard years of disappointment and the ravages of illness. His hair, once full and luxurious was thin and starting to gray. The handsome face had become drawn and haggard, his fair skin blemished by the scars left by the Black Pox. Once his tower was functional, he surrounded it with alchemically preserved zombies. Inside, he had a harem of lovely female assistants, and carried on regular correspondences with questionable characters such as Norbert of Zhuertage, and Cheleckzar the Necromancer. He remained a reclusive person, seldom venturing far from his tower on the edge of the swamps. It was during this time that he perfected the Potion of Giant's Blood. This concoction caused the drinker to swell to over twice their normal size, gaining incredible strength, the stamina of a horse god, and an impressive ability to resist damage. A common man could throw soldiers around like rag dolls. A competent fighter could shatter walls with his fists, or use things like jousting lances and great swords as one handed weapons. The potion is a success as the negative effects associated with it (loss of self control, amplified rage and lust emotions, and the like) are not an effect of the potion but rather a personal defect of the person drinking it. A chaste monk oblivious to the temptations of lust would remain chaste if he consumed Giant's Blood.

Princess Marijolin de'Oldson, she came to my tower in a mad drawn carriage. Her guards were blooded, her horses close to run to death. She was lovely in a way that Natasha had never been. The bandits persuing her were quickly butchered by my old tireless soldiers and I extended to her the hospitality of my home. She was graceful and intelligent, with dark eyes and a sort of dark disposition. She was fascinated by the tools of my alchemical trade. Instead of flinching back from the dessicated face of one of my dead soldiers she was drawn to look into its cavernous eye sockets and spoke to me of how it saw the world, how it functioned. She was charmed by the women of my harem, no longer used for carnal lust, but now seamstresses for my robes, servants to tend my tower.

'We grow old,' she would say, the gray in our hair, the wrinkles forming around our eyes, our mouths. She kissed me and I allowed her and her men, shaken to the bone, to leave. I prepared, I expected soldiers to come, for my tower to be ransacked and my to be put in chains. The soldiers did come, but there were only four of them, and they brought wagons of supplies to assist in my work, stacks of books copied from De'Oldsons personal library, and gold coin to purchase things hard to find. I had a new patron and she asked nothing of me.

But I knew what she wanted, the same thing I wanted. Youth. I was old now, my joints ached, and my eyes were not what they used to be. My hair had gone white, and my face was pale and unpleasant. I had expected to live a life of luxury, of soft cushions and aged wines and fine cheeses. Instead I lived in seclusion, an animal in exile and my body had paid the price. I put myself to work.

The Old Seed

Weldon worked for years, recieving regular supply from de'Oldson, and irregular visits from her. They developed a strong friendship, he traded her his thoughts and opinions, acting as one of her most trusted advisors, and she brought him the nice things he had craved in youth. The seed grow, sprouted, and soon flowered.

I had held the stuff of life in my hands once, I remembered that and sought after it. After much work I had it again. I could distill life force, vim, that primal essence from others, and I could take that into myself as a potion. I sent Marijolin an invitation. She arrived in her traveling finery, to find a banquet table set and two youths hanging from the ceiling. We ate as I told her the things I had been doing. She smiled, looking at the two teenagers hanging from the ceiling rafter. They would struggle against their bonds, against the gags in the mouths. Once we were done I invited her to inspect them, to see and touch their firm young bodies. She knew I had done it, or perhaps thought I had lost my mind, that thought had occured to me a time or two. I slit the first youth's throat and bled him out into a silver bowl. The process was simple, so simple it was maddening. I crafted the potion, bowed to de'Oldson and drank it. Old age bled away from me, my skin smoothed, my hair grew full and dark again, and my feeble heart grew stout in my chest. She was delighted and asked to gather the blood for her potion. I felt affection for her as she cut the throat of the fair headed girl and bled her out like a lamb.

The potion turned her hair into a glory of glossy raven black curls. Her chest filled out and her old face became young again, and she laughed a bright happy sound. She admired herself in the mirror. 'How long does this enchantment last,' she asked. I told her it was no sorcerers trick of the eyes, that the youth she saw and felt was her own. So long as there were bodies to steal the vim of life from, and my steady hand to make the potion, we had forever.

We made love that night.

The Raven Queen

Marijolin de'Oldson returned to her domain and quickly deposed her sister the Queen and assumed the throne. Weldon was invited to the capital, where he would reside as the Lord-Master of the Guild of Alchemists and Magicians. This upset many people, but his skill with potions and a rudimentary grasp of immaterial magic earned the fear and grudging respect of his peers. How they hated this upstart, with his smooth face, but old satirical tongue. The the Raven Queen was feared as well, for she too had command of sorcery herself. Most tales would have the two wed and rule as bitter and immortal sovereigns. Instead, the Raven Queen ruled alone, not requiring a King to steady her hand. She had the cunning and bile of an old bitter woman fueled by the bright vigour of youth. Her chief advisor, the head of all the magic users in the domain was much happier being a sycophant of the court, as well as being the cruel taskmaster and head of the magi. But there was a cost, the years stolen from youth don't last as long. The two require a regular supply of sacrificial victims to maintain their vitality. Most of these victims are taken from the prisons and gaols, but on rare occasion a particular youth draws one of their attentions. Young womenw ith striking black hair, fair skin, and ample bosoms tend to draw the Raven Queen's eye, while Weldon rarely persues anything beyond what he needs. When he does, he takes youths he considers to be pompous arrogant fools, those who personally offend him.

Forever is a long time, but I have a great deal of wine, a great deal of money, and the gratitude of the Raven Queen.

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