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The Candlemaker

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Opening the Book

No one entered the shop in the next few minutes, and so Chandra could tend to his various waxes. His Candelilla was coming along nicely, with the addition of some Palm Wax, to make it harder. His oils were reducing nicely, with Sunflower, Soybean and Rice, being on the hearth. By using the Husks and seed of the plants, it was possible to extract a wax of unusual qualities. The Rice Bran wax was almost as good as the Hardest Palm wax for extending candle life. The Caltrop wax, from the spiny plants that grow in the sand, with almost no water, would provide a scent that cannot be copied. Chandra checked on these, and other waxes, which were either more common, or less. He tended to focus on the more esoteric, but not rarest, because of his nature. When he’d made the rounds of the various cauldrons and steam boxes, Chandra took time to actually look at the Book he had been given.

It was, as he had already noticed, a small thing, without any adornment, and not even titled properly.

“The candles proof against darkness”

was hardly a title, and more of a description of any truly useful candle. This observation would come back to haunt Chandra, as he learned more about his precious candles.

Just the cover, plain as it was, held Chandra’s interest for some minutes, until a customer interrupted him. It had, as an illustration, several different candles inscribed, behind the writing. They were not clearly shown, but what you could see of them left Chandra in a quandary. He had never observed such forms, in wax, and especially not for use as candles. He was about to open the cover, when the small bell, above the door, informed him that someone had come in.

“Chandra?” an overly solicitous voice called out, “How do you fare? Are you well this fine day?”

Under his breath, and out of the earshot of any customer, Chandra breathed, “Oh fuming grease!” because he recognized the voice. It was Field Marshal Grimp, and that boded no good, for anyone or anything in Chandra’s world. The man was a menace, with his constant desire for some “weapon” made of the heart of a candle. What did he expect? Oh, well, it was only another customer, and they couldn’t all be wonderful. Maybe the Marshall only needed watch candles, this time.

“Commander of the Watch!” Chandra dredged up as much joviality as he could summon, “How may I serve my good friend, on this auspicious day?” Every day was auspicious, to the Field Marshall.

“I have come seeking the ‘bright candles’ which you produced for the midsummer’s festival, this last solstice”, the Marshall told him. “I have an idea that they might be useful on the field of battle, to illumine targets for the archers, ballistae, and other siege engines.”

“I can understand your thought, but must provide you with some insight” Chandra opined, knowing already it was useless, “They cannot be used as directed light, and only provide a bright circle of illumination.”

“Yes, yes,” the field Marshall, who might even have had a name, if he had bothered to tell it, dismissed the information. “I have a notion that, thrown well in advance of the troops, the bright glow of your special candles could be a positive advantage. I’ll need some dozens, to test my theory.”

“A candle tends to go out, when thrown, but the local smith , one Harlen Glenforge, was able to make a casing for the holiday lights, which held their flame when they were fired into the air by arrow.” Chandra hoped the smith would get more work than he could do, by this admission, even though the design had been Chandra’s. Anything to buy time to make the dangerous candles the Marshall sought. When one fulminated candles, cyanide often resulted, and that could seriously ruin the day of whomever was making the thing.

“Also I would require silver, for the compounding, and that makes the candles expensive.” Chandra had an instant where he thought back to the candles he had recently sold, and wondered if he would have been so callous, had they been going to a warrior.

“Two Gold each?” the Marshall answered, “I’ll pay that, if they work.”

How about a dozen, at a single gold for each,” Chandra bargained, “And if they prove satisfactory, the full price of two gold royals would apply?”

“I can live with that contract,” The Marshall said, “And I’ll be off to the Smith, for candle holders of the proper type.”

“See me in two weeks,” Chandra finished, “If all goes well, I should have them ready.”

Chandra knew he could easily make the dozen in nine days, but wanted a few more, just in case, and to avoid risk.

“Excellent!” the Marshall agreed, “I’ll get the candle holders and begin preparations. These will be the greatest addition to warfare in an age. I’ll be so famous!”

With various local buyers, and a few friends who wanted something just a bit special, Chandra had no time to return to his small book, that day. It was evening, and he had closed shop, before he had even a moment. He has also made more than a usual amount of Profit. He went to his ‘safe’ to store the day’s proceeds.

The Safe was actually a stone box, sealed after the fashion of a ‘puzzle box’. Chandra had learned the making of it from a buyer who came from some unbelievable distant land, and spoke with an accent of unrecognizable origin. A push here, and twist there, and then to raise the back , now he could slide the entire thing forward, and the top would open, of its own accord, the twin tambour doors rolling outward and revealing the interior.

Inside were, mostly, things he had accumulated of personal value. There was a carved locket, the face of which could still touch his innermost heart. There was a portrait of his parents, which was done by an itinerant artist, when he was just a child. Here a jar of blossoms, carefully dried and sealed, because of their rarity. There was also a coin holder, and this was his current most important object, as he had much to store in it. Several gold coins, beyond the three Imperials he had gotten that very morning. Imperials... he considered. Worth a hundred royals per each, an imperial was something most men would never see. He realized that he had, in his ‘safe’ almost exactly four hundred gold royals worth of currency. He might not live to spend so much, but if that rare herb salesman came by, Chandra would make some candles of legendary reputation. That returned him to the Book, which he had yet to open. He decided that, when he was not reading it, and studying, he would keep it in here, both so as not to have it stolen, and also because somehow he thought it dangerous. With idiots like the Marshall, trying to make a weapon out of beeswax, the thought had merit.

He debated simply putting the book in the safe, and waiting till morning to try and open it, but somehow he found himself looking at the cover, again. He suddenly realized that, once in the capitol, when he had gone there for supplies, he had seen one of the candles on the front. It was a ‘watchman’s candle’, and the making of it was reserved to the mages in the royal house. Well, maybe that had just changed, he thought. He was suddenly sobered by the responsibility in his hands. What might lie within this small tome might spell fortune, or ruin, for whomever perused it.

He put the book in the safe, and decided to take it out in the morning, for fresh eyes and mind, to scan it. He went to bed, oddly troubled, but not knowing the source.

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