Alchemist Gift – The bishop and mayor sat. Mayor Renaldi gave the bishop a smug smile then rubbed his palms together. DiMars made a hand gesture to the guard standing next to a wrought iron brazier. The guard reached into a small barrel and pulled out an unlit torch. He passed the resin soaked rag that was wrapped around the end of the wooden handle, over the flame in the brazier; the rag caught immediately and sent a sooty black stream into the air. The bishop nodded again and the guard went to his assigned spot. In a dark epiphany the guard realize, as he held the flame to the wood and looked into the teary eyes of the woman tied to the stake before him, what he was about to do. He looked away from those eyes and felt a jolt of revulsion pass through his body, but held his continence fast. Being an obedient young man he carried out the order also knowing he would remember this day for the rest of his life.
One by one the guards reached into the barrel and pulled out an unlit torch. They in turn lit their torches and waited for the order to light the pyres. The order was given; the fire was put to the kindling as each guard walked the circumference of the pyre lighting the circle as they went. In each case the kindling smoldered and tiny orange flames leapt from the straw, twigs and small sticks of wood. The guards stepped back and waited for the larger pieces of wood, on the outer edge to catch.
Signore Mezzi sat back in his folding chair and smiled. This was his wood, his contribution to the cleansing. His wife and daughter sat at his side and shared in his pride. The others gathered seemed to settle in as well. They watched the small fires consume the kindling and eventually go out. The crowd was disappointed and became a bit noisier.
The sergeant saw that all of the fires had burnt out and the wood that was so neatly stacked did not ignite. He turned to the closest man. “Get some pitch or oil.” The young man hurried through the portico of the town hall, went to a small store room, snatched up a demijohn half full of oil and returned quickly. Without further instructions he went from pyre to pyre generously sprinkling oil onto the dry wood. Again the torches were set to the wood. A dark anticipation again griped the on lookers. The oil burned bright and hot. The watchful crowd waited in silence for the wood to crackle with heat and burst into a consuming flame. The flames were tall and yellow and bright. In minutes the oil was consumed and the proud flames faltered and became smaller and weaker and again failed to ignite Signore Mezzi’s wood.
The bishop looked over to the mayor. “What is going on here?” he asked with concerned disbelief.
Mayor Renaldi shrugged his shoulders. He shared in the bishop’s concern. “Is the wood wet?”
Monsignor Petri added,” I dare say no, I looked at if myself. It was dry as stale bread. It’s from Mezzi; it’s what’s left of the cursed apple tree. The tree has been dead for three years, plenty of time to season.”
“Yes, quite a disappointment to lose something of that value, and all those pilgrims with all of their coin.” mused Renaldi.
Someone in the crowd yelled. “Burn them! Burn them!” The chant was picked up by another and then another and reached the dais with the force of a storm wave breaking on the shore.
The mayor did not like to see such public plans go astray. His term was coming to an end and he wanted the burning to be a feather in his cap and a memorable rallying point for his re-election campaign. Renaldi stood and held up his arms. “Dear citizens, patience, ask God for patience, as you see His will be done.” Then turning to the bishop and pointing,”through his most holy instrument here on earth.” Renaldi looked at Father Silva and bid him to stand. The young priest stood; his brow wrinkled. “Father, please lead us in the Lord’s Prayer.”
A very large flock of starlings noisily squawked and chirped as they flew overhead off to the west. The starlings were followed by a half dozen ducks racing closely behind. A strong and icy wind blew through the square catching the crowd off guard. A pearl gray, silk parasol took flight and landed on the other side of the dais in the fountain. The chilling breeze dragged in distant dark clouds. The clouds cast a cool gray shadow over the square and people in it.
The bishop gave an impatient hand gesture indicating he wanted the young priest to begin the prayer. Father Silva blessed the crowd who quieted themselves and waited for the ever familiar words.
Silva began,” Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…” and with the utterance of the word “will” a bolt of lightning hit the bell tower causing the clapper to fly back and forth on its pivot making the bell ring. Everyone was shocked, even the most irreverent.
Then the rain came. Gossamer towers of water descended and swayed and followed the erratic paths blazed by the wind. Each drop of driven rain felt like the prick of a pin against any exposed skin. The paving stones glistened dark red and became slick. The people scurried; some fell as they ran looking for some kind of shelter. Clothing was darkened and drenched. All the pretty young ladies whose curled hair was held fast with sugared water watched the creations of their hand maids wilt and fall under the force of the icy rain. Then came the hail; first no larger than half grain of rice. As the hail continued it became as large as walnuts. Rich and poor alike were thrust into a panic. Family groups ran here and there. Parasols were ripped by the wind and hail; heads were covered with hands that felt the sting of the icy pellets.
The burning attracted such a crowd that only a lucky few were able to find shelter immediately. Lighting exploded again hitting just outside the city burning the image of the city gates into the frightened eyes of the parishioners closest to the where the bolt hit. The prostitutes and pimps and pick pockets scrambled under the hay wagon. Everyone who could find room, jammed themselves under an overhang be it nothing more than eaves, and pressed themselves as tightly as they could against the supporting wall. The few shop keepers who happened to have their keys with them opened their doors and allowed as many people in as they could.
The Alchemist Gift is a book about the lives of people in the Renaissance and the alchemy that brought them together with its repercussions on our modern-day hero, Roland.
I am writing the novel Alchemist Gift online in real time. I will share a few paragraphs of the book with each blog. I am still writing the book. I’d like to know how you like what you are reading. Please use the comments section to share. If you make suggestions in your comments, I may incorporate your ideas into the book. We hope you will enjoy the process as much as I do, follow the saga and share it with your friends and colleagues.
2013 Mark D. Giglio, www.theartofgiglio.com
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