Chapter 6: Blood Alchemy
“Knowledge” scoffed Amber as she flew back to her perch, “they wouldn’t even know knowledge from the wart on their foot!”
Sensing the confusion of their guests, Silver led them to their rooms. “Thunder has been very excited to meet you and has requested that you bunk with him for the night, I hope it will not be a problem.” “No, thank you. We appreciate the gesture.” Akin to a child elated to meet his childhood heroes, Thunder did a little a stupid happy dance before rushing off to get blankets. Silver shook his head as he watched the retreating figure of Thunder, “Once you have freshened yourself, join us for dinner, it has been a long wretched journey, you must be famished.”
Dinner was a delightful but simple array of bread, vegetables and meats accompanied with fruit beer, “I remembered that you don’t like milk Fullmetal, so I got rid of it.” Thunder beamed as he patted his stomach and wiped the milk moustache off his face. Alphonse gave a weak laugh as Edward’s eye twitched, “…milk”
A barrage of questions and animated answers lightened the usual grim atmosphere in the dining hall. The boys were happy to share tales of their adventures often followed by energetic clapping of Thunder and table rocking as he slammed his knee or hand against the tabletop. The already scarce staff attending to them was diving left and right like goalkeepers in vain attempts to either catch the flying cutlery or avoid being hit by food. The stoic Silver would occasionally look over to the equally engaged Amber, shake his head and sip his pint of beer.
After a night of merrymaking, the Vessel found the sleeping guests and the Familiars in the dining hall. Amber, Thunder and the Elric brothers were piled up together near the now dying embers while Silver was leaning against the wall with one hand on his sword. Gently nudging Silver awake, she told him to wake the others and to meet the Seers in the great hall. An hour later after much kicking and screaming Silver managed to drag his disheveled guests and team before the Seers. If anyone doubted Silver’s strength, should witness him hauling Thunder across the room.
“You are awake, am glad. Forgive me for not meeting you yesterday. I am the Over-Seer, I see you have met the Familiars. How may I help you?” an old man in dark robes spoke. His wrinkled face cracked up in a gentle smile. A quizzical look found its place on the young men’s faces, “I thought you were expecting us…” Alphonse looked at the Familiars as he asked the question. A frowning brow replaced the ephemeral smile when Thunder quickly chipped in, “Yea, Amber spotted you in the distance. Didn’t you say you were seeking information on Blood Alchemy?” Noting the shift in topic, Edward took lead and respectfully told the Over-Seer that they read the limited literature on Blood Alchemy and wanted to know more about it.
The Over-Seer beckoned them to come forward, “Ah, the Blood Alchemy. What do you understand of it? That it is the manipulation of blood? My dear boys, it is much more than that. Perhaps we should retire to my chambers and talk with ease and in depth.”
“Alchemy you understand is the manipulation of matter governed by certain unbreakable laws. The forbidden of all is human transmutation. By law of equivalent exchange, to perform human transmutation, you have to lose something, the only way you can do it without losing anything on your person is through a Philosopher’s Stone, but what if there was another way? Am sure this question has eaten your brain raw, hasn’t it?” the Over-Seer huffed on his pipe as his words dropped like acid, without skipping a beat the old man continued. “Blood Alchemy taps into the realm of Truth. We simply borrow the energy from Truth to do better. The Seers and I cannot directly borrow the energy so a medium is required, hence the Familiars. You must be far more confused…oh the Vessel is here, she told me that she wanted to take you for a walk, go, it will freshen your mind.”
The moment the boys stepped into the light, they found Amber with a crushed apple in her hand, “What half baked lies have they told you?” “Calm down Amber, I trust you to tell them all they need to know. Once you have regained some energy, join us for a walk.”
As they sat under the shade of an aged tree, the Vessel drew a circle in the middle. “The human body is the perfect composition of the elements of nature. It comprises of water, metal, fire, earth, wind. The mind is responsible for balancing the dark and light in you. The soul in very simple terms is the fuel that runs the body. When human transmutation takes place, this balance is disrupted, hence something of equal value is taken to restore the balance and as a deterring factor.” Pausing to draw concentric circles in the sand, the Vessel continued, “Now, like everything, the realm has certain cracks through which one may enter. The Over-Seer tried that but lost his child in the process.” Drawing lines from the centre of the circles to the outer, the Vessel continued, “Energy cannot die, it just gets transformed. The body parts or souls that the Truth takes as payment is actually a source of energy but the price paid for using it is much higher and thus forbidden. The Truth is a cruel master, It does not like to tell you what you need to learn, it makes you learn it for yourself so that you can truly understand its value.”
“Blood Alchemy uses the balance and energy of the body and converts it to anything of use, be it weapons or healing. I think the Familiars will demonstrate it better.” Following the lead, Amber stood up and removed her bracelets that revealed deep scars on her wrists; taking out a well-hidden dagger, she cut a deep gash into her hand. The brothers’ eyes grew wide in shock as she calmly let the blood pool into her palm. She flashed them a mischievous smile as the crimson liquid began to boil and move as though it had life of its own, they watched as it shaped itself first into an arrowhead then the shaft. In a moment, in the centre of her bloody palm lay an arrow. Silver stood up next and in a similar method, fashioned a bow for the arrow. Thunder, not going down without theatrics, stood up, cracked his knuckles, and flexed his muscles before a rage of energy forced a blade to split the skin of his hand and his upper arm was replaced by armour. Thus began the battle of one upping each other- Amber’s finger tore open while silver talons ate her fingertips to the base of her fingers. Thunder revved up and turned into an armoured beast.
Having had enough of their childish tactics, Silver changed his hand into a broadsword and impaled his teammates. The brutal act blew the wind out of the brothers as they saw the other two Familiars gasping for air, their legs kicking the ground and finally stopping. As coolly as Silver had impaled his teammates, he sat down and wiped off the blood. Their mingled blood snaked its way to the horrified boys. Edward protectively guarded his brother when the irritated Silver snapped, “Come you two, we are running out of time.” A low groan was followed by a cough as the felled Familiars began to stir, blood trickling from the corners of their mouth.
“Do not alarmed, this is the next part of the story you need to be told. I wanted them to demonstrate their powers.” The Vessel soothingly told the boys as they watched the offensive open-mouthed wounds heal leaving but a scar. “The blood consists of water and minerals, with a manipulation of the iron in the blood or the calcium in the bones; we can either transform parts of the body into weapons or mold weapons out of them. You once said, some hands are meant to give life, similarly, we can even heal bodies, we cannot bring back the dead, that is a law that we also cannot break but with some alterations, we can, in a manner, sew you back.
“The time of the past was beautiful, wish you could see it from your own eyes. Maybe it will be possible for us to share our memories with you.” Silver’s brow furrowed in thought, nodding in agreement the Vessel asked the boys to stretch out their hands. Upon doing so in the centre of their palms she drew the alchemic symbols for decompose and day intersecting in the centre and an outer circle with the symbols of moon and sun. “Turn.”
After the blinding white light, the brothers woke to a busy street laden with overflowing carts and the air was heavy with conversation and laughter. The Familiars dressed in full armour mingled with the travelers, playing with the children. The Seers had set up a clinic in the middle of the market where they attended to people or helped make them replacements for lost limbs, they conjured transmutation circles out of thin air over the missing limb and a functioning mechanical arm took its place. Nearby were more Familiars, all bearing the same insignia of a skeletal Ouroboros in the shape of infinity with a crown on their shoulders. Slowly, the happy environment began to fade. Instead of carts of fresh fruit, lay piles of bodies and a familiar yet unrecognizable figure sat among them, laughing as it picked up fistfuls of flesh and smeared them across its face. A murder of crows picked at the carcasses of the broken Familiars mocking those who still lived. An evil smile spread across the creature’s face as its gaze burned through the boys’ heads.
Screaming in agony, the brothers woke in the present. “What are you?” Edward asked as he coughed up blood. “We are the Originals, Second Wave. You might as well know,” Silver stopped for a moment before Thunder picked up where he left off, “To successfully perform Blood Alchemy, you need a medium that will act as a portal to this world and the other. The Seers, entered into a bond with Truth that in place of their bodies, they can get a Familiar that will be a vessel for souls, for a period, the Seers are fit to use their powers as they please and they will draw the energy from the Familiars. The catch is, once the time is up, the bodies of the Seers, the Familiars will begin to crystallize with each use, and soon they will turn to dust. However, this knowledge was only limited to the Familiars but knowing that their lives would be put to good use, they did not breathe a word to the Seers but when it was time for them to die, the Familiars would transfer their remaining powers to another Familiar so that the Seer could continue their good work. Mind you, the Seers could not escape the natural cycle of death, the more they use the powers, quicker Death will knock on their doors, they live twenty years less than what they would have. To protect the art from being misused, the memories of the people were altered a bit so they would not try to replicate the art and injure themselves. Very select few were gifted to be able to use alchemy without a transmutation circle. It sounds ideal yes? You were told that the price for borrowing the energy was higher; for every soul borrowed by the Familiar, the Familiar has to live through all the pain suffered by not only that soul but also all others it is connected to, three times over; even our bodies are borrowed, so once we die, we will become part of the energy too. We have known you ever since you tried to bring your mother back.”