Chapter 40: Incantatio
The Alchemy chamber at Isingwilde was unlike any room Rose had ever known. Buried deep in the bowels of the castle, below the marble floors of the Great Hall, beneath dungeons cut from the bedrock, was a chamber. Formed in part by the elements, a cave hollowed out by the pounding waves and driving, ice-laden winds. The remainder of the cavern had been excavated from the surrounding rock, above which, the fortress of Isingwilde was constructed.
Accessed from beyond the castle walls, the laboratory’s entrance was disguised as a traditional stone well, within which, a hundred and seventy sandstone steps wound their way down into a seemingly bottomless abyss. Each tread, hand cut from the natural bedrock, was bowed; worn down in the centre by the footfall of a thousand years of weary feet.
As Rose reached the final step, she was greeted by a soft light approaching through the darkness. A dimly lit figure sauntered towards her, silhouetted by the glow of a potens ring. An arm whipped the cloak over one shoulder as he approached. Rose instantly recognised Lord De Lille’s flamboyant gait.
“Rose, as you are here, I take it Lord Ash is correct,” said De Lille, “and you now possess the means to unify the Incantatio?”
“In here,” Rose patted the side of the leather ocultus, fastened around her torso, “I could probably do with some help?”
“Rose, I am sure that you do not need my assistance, nor anyone else’s. However, after I have acquainted you with the facilities, I will offer you some advice. Come this way, but please watch your step, the ground is rather uneven and extremely slippery in places.” De Lille lead Rose along the dark, ice-covered passageway towards a distant glowing archway - the entrance to the Alchemy chamber.
The room was lit by hundreds of candles, which cast flickering shadows onto the domed, salt-speckled, stone ceilings. At the far end of the room was a large furnace, which warmed the room, its coals glowing amber.
Rose felt the comforting heat on her cheeks as she entered. The scent of dried herbs, fragrant oils, salts and minerals filled her nostrils. The whitewashed walls were painted with ancient Alchemy symbols, signs and equations. Thick wooden benches and stone tables were piled high with clay pots and glass bottles of every conceivable shape and size. A large alcove housed an annexe filled with shelves displaying hundreds of rows of apothecary jars, each one carefully labelled.
A booming, rhythmic thumping, droned on in the background. Rose gave De Lille a quizzical look.
“It’s the sound of the waves beating on the rocks,” he said, “we are below sea level here, the other side of that wall is Knucker Bay.”
In the centre of the room sat a clay kiln, its large cylindrical oven glowing white-hot. On top of this, a metal tray held a collection of glassware - condensing orbs, beakers and boiling jars, which Rose presumed were laid out to dry after being recently washed. Beside the kiln, standing about a foot taller than Rose, was a double-sided, silver framed, oval Mirror. Rose traced her finger along the line of silver snow roses engraved on the rim of the glass, and the mirror pivoted on its frame. One side of the mirror was concave, the other convex.
“I prepared everything I thought you’d need, however…” Lord De Lille hesitated, “I mentioned I had some advice for you, and I feel it is my duty to caution you, Rose. When you began your quest for the Incantatio, I was unaware that it would entail, in effect, the use of fractionation venom and the confractio charm. This charm and its potion are driven by fyre. I have studied the relevant section of the Grimoire, and it is clear that to cast the spell, you will be required to ingest the potion. It appears the elixir functions internally, by strengthening the power of the potents. Artificially increasing the power of an individual’s potens this way will be like tossing a chunk of potassium to a beaker full of water - creating an explosive consumption of the available energy, leaving nothing left, and almost impossible to do without destroying the glass.”
Rose considered his words and their obvious implications. It would be reckless to ignore his fears, for there was nothing Lord De Lille did not know about the chemistry of potions. Could Lord Eldwyn care so little for me that the only solution he provides is one that calls for my sacrifice?
Even as Rose asked herself the question, she knew the answer. Yes, she thought, it’s exactly what he did with Elder… Why should I fare any better? Is it not for the greater good?
“In other words Rose,” De Lille rested his hand on her shoulder, obviously mistaking her silence for confusion. “What I am attempting to say, admittedly, in rather a clumsy fashion, is that if you drink this potion, not only is it certain to be extremely toxic, but very possibly lethal. That said, I can see no other way of generating the volume of magical energy necessary to freeze fyre in any configuration, especially in the form of a confractio charm.”
Rose felt a tremor in her chest, a harbinger of doom. The feeling of sheer, cold panic was vaguely familiar, she remembered feeling the same way for a brief moment at the very beginning of all this, when she had first looked out from her gold ascension casket. Maybe I was never meant to survive this, perhaps my fate is preordained, and I was always destined to sacrifice myself to save my people. I seem to have no choice in the matter, so there is little point in me worrying about it. If De Lille is right and I take the potion, I could die, but I may also save my people. If I don’t drink the potion, we all die anyway. Either way, I’m screwed.
Rose recalled what Lee had once told her, ‘There is always a choice, you can always choose something,’ He was wrong, sometimes your choices are made for you.
“Let’s get on with it.” Rose handed her occultus to De Lille, “I’ll deal with the consequences when I have to.”
Closing her eyes, Rose recalled the words of the final Incantatio.
’In cauldron, boil your Knucker’s spew,
Add the powdered hair of Rougarou,
With a finger of ice of silvery hue.
Speak the Grimoire spell in mirrored view,
One sip of Ice Potion empowers to disarm,
Fyre in the form of the Confractio Charm.’
They worked quickly. In a small cauldron, De Lille melted the finger of ice from the Frozen Falls, while Rose charred the Rougarou hair before grinding it in a pestle and adding it to the bubbling liquid. Finally, Rose uncorked the phial of knucker spew and diamond dust, carefully pouring the mixture into the gelatinous concoction in the pot. The silvery liquid bubbled, popping and crackling as sparks leapt high into the air hitting the roof of the chamber with a sizzle. Rose glanced up at De Lille seeking reassurance.
He nodded, “You need to speak the incantation Rose, the spell will work only for you.”
Holding the tattered page of the Grimoire in her left hand Rose read the incantation, ‘delebis, propter omnia in aeternu’.
Her hands shook, she forced herself to steady them. Why am I shaking? I’m just brewing a potion, I’m not going to drink it yet…
Rose cleared her throat before reading the final piece of the recipe.
“And this spell will be complete,
When you, these final words repeat,
From a page from the Grimoire in mirrored view…”
She carried the parchment over to the mirror and held it aloft, gazing at the reflection of the incantation.
“bɘlɘdiƨ, qɿoqƚɘɿ omniɒ in ɒɘƚɘɿnum,”
“I can’t even pronounce that…” Said Rose, “it makes no sense…”
“Try the other side of the mirror,” said De Lille, giving Rose a reassuring nod.
Rose tipped the mirror, swinging it over to reveal the other side. As she lifted the parchment, the warped phrase swam into focus
“belediz, progter omnip in peternum,”
Raising her hand above the cauldron, Rose spoke the words and her potens ring sparked into life. A stream of white energy flowed into the bubbling silver liquid causing it to fizz and blacken as it rapidly cooled and within seconds became crystal clear.
Rose decanted the potion into a small glass phial, lifting the shimmering liquid to the light. It seems so innocuous, so pure - like the icy water of a mountain stream, and yet it wields the sword of death as surely as a knucker’s breath.