Alchemist Gift – Roland Experiences Magic
“I can’t wait.” The woman giggled. “Come on, do you think it’s true what they say about him. Get real, an alchemist in the twenty-first century.”
The couple passed Roland, one on each side. The man answered the woman. “Who cares? All I know is he’s got some really great stuff. We may never run into this kind of collection again.” Once they passed Roland the man took the woman’s hand and they playfully pulled one another along until they reached the glowing porch. They dashed up the steps and disappeared into the house.
Roland kept up his pace. He thought about Liz and what he had lost and how he had lost it. As he approached the Victorian house a strong, cold gust of wind pushed Roland toward the front porch. He grabbed onto the handrail to keep from falling over. He held on when he received another blast of now rain laden wind and decided to take refuge inside the foyer. He pulled himself up the stairs and entered a medieval and renaissance treasure trove.
The great room’s walls were hung with shields and swords, paintings, framed parchments and many tapestries. There were bronze and marble statues from antiquity, antique furniture, a suit of armor and different size battle axes. Some of the shields and swords were nicely displayed and some were carelessly tossed on the furniture of stashed in the corners to get them out of the way.
Every table top, desk top and countertop was cluttered with bizarre beakers, tarnished copper coiled distillers, crocks, different colored hand blown jars, dozens of ancient little boxes and oddly shaped, tarnished metal containers. Roland eyed a distinctively painted wooden box a little bit larger that a city directory that stood on its end half open. The Star of David on the front of the box was faded and the paint was chipped. The tattered and moth eaten interior of the box was fitted with nineteen niches. A few small blue bottles were still in their places.
Roland went to the narrow library table that was pushed up against the wall. There were two human skulls, both missing their lower jaw bones. One of the skulls was decorated in black and red paint with geometric designs and the date 1351 painted across its brow. There was an articulated human hand on a base, three stuffed birds and some indistinguishable something in a sealed glass container.
Roland caught a glimpse of the bubbly couple who passed him on the street. They were in the next room over in conversation with a nicely coiffed lady in a business suit who was holding a clipboard. Roland entered; the sales lady quickly looked him over and dismissed him with a roll of her eyes.
The man and woman were enthralled with a strange and beautiful piece of furniture. The cabinet was maybe six feet tall with a gently peaked top. A sunburst made of bronze sat in its cartouche under the peak. The sides of the piece had a definite feminine form. There were two doors that followed the same curve of the sides. Under the doors was a bow bottomed drawer. Below the drawer there was a field of bronze, shield shaped scales. Each scale had an arcane symbol or sign. The scales covered the bottom portion and the curved legs. The legs ended in gilded hooves.
The sales lady held up her clipboard and flipped a few pages back. She addressed the couple. “According to my notes this is the first piece that our collector acquired. I’m not sure where he found it, but there are strong design elements and construction techniques that put the cabinet in the last half of the fourteenth century. The letters C L are carved right here.” She stepped near to the cabinet, and with a pained expression on her face pointed to a spot on the side very close to where the scales began. She quickly took her arm away, rubbed her hand and stepped back. “I don’t know if those are the maker’s initials or roman numerals. It’s known as the Alchemist Cabinet.”
The man whispered to the woman. “Look at that price; we can flip it at auction for twice, or even three times that.” He went to the cabinet and pulled on the ring and tried to open the door. The door did not budge. He tried again, this time with both hands, the door opened slightly and then slammed shut. “Oow. What the heck?” His lips were pursed in pain. His fingertips were bleeding. “This is impossible, there’s nothing sharp to cut my fingers on.”
The woman went to him and looked at his hurt fingers. She reached into the purse and took out a hanky and cleaned the blood away. She could not find any cut in the skin.
“Let me try, sweetheart.” She went to the cabinet and pulled on the rings. Immediately she let go and put her fingertips to her temples. “Oh, God, it hurts so much”. She closed her eyes.
The man went to her side and took her arm to steady her. “She gets these migraines. She needs to sit.” With the help of the sales lady they guided her away to a sofa in the next room.
Roland approached the cabinet. He gently touched the sunburst and the outline of the cartouche. He ran his fingers over a narrow gash in the wood just above the door. Roland took the pull rings and gave them a slight tug. The doors opened easily.
Roland could feel his eyes open wider as he looked in. The cabinet was packed with scrolls, and papers and parchments. There were strange little tools, a primitive telescope and a few small blue bottles that could be mates to those in the wooden case he looked at earlier. The inner walls and door backs were covered with detailed diagrams. There were Latin phrases scribbled here and there. Roland reached in and lovingly stroked the contents.
The drawer rattled until Roland opened it. It was filled to the brim with illustrations on velum, drawings, loosely bound papers and a few small pouches and boxes. Off to the side in the rear right hand corner, just barely visible, was a legal size envelope. It looked so out of place with the yellowed and crumbling artifacts in the drawer Roland had to see why it was there. He turned the envelope over and saw his name and the date typed on it.
Shocked, Roland opened the envelope. It was stuffed with bills. He took out the stack of currency and fanned it open; he counted thirty one hundred dollar bills. Roland put the cash back into the envelope and slipped it into his pocket. The drawer quickly closed by itself. He tugged on the pull but it would not open.
The sales lady returned to the room. She gave Roland a dry look. “I don’t suppose you brought your reserve invitation did you?”
“No, I didn’t, I didn’t know I needed one.”
She shrugged her shoulders, “well, you’re here and haven’t been driven out of the room yet by that thing.” She looked over at the cabinet and shook her head.
“Do you know anything about the collector?” he asked.
“I understand his name was Aaron Newton, he was supposed to be related to Sir Isaac Newton. But, who knows. He did make a fortune in precious metals before and during the Viet Nam war. After Viet Nam he was a terror on Wall Street. Then he disappeared or went into seclusion. They found him dead in his bed four months ago. His next of kin live in Europe and they hired us to sell off his personal property.”
Roland listened intently. “How much for the cabinet?”
She looked Roland up and down. Being a consummate salesperson she answered. “We’re asking four thousand five hundred.” She sighed and continued. “Since it’s been such, let’s say so inaccessible to anyone other than you, why don’t you make me an offer.”
Roland took the envelope out of his pocket. “Three thousand dollars cash.” He held the envelope out to her.
“Sold.” Pleased and surprised she took the envelope and opened it, quickly counted the hundred dollar bills. “Let’s get you a receipt and your address. We can deliver after four today; and thank you again.”
Roland spent the next few minutes in a surreal daze. The last twenty four hours had been so strange. Roland couldn’t understand why or how things were happening. For his own sake he did not try. He knew that he lost his girlfriend, hallucinated and was now the owner of a cabinet that may hold the secrets of the ages. Overwhelmed and excited he left the estate sale. He opened the door and entered a very different world.
* * * * * * * *
From inside the house Marcella heard the donkey bray and the muted voices of the men. She cautiously opened the shutter so very slightly and looked out of the kitchen window. She was so relieved to see Cesare and their friend Giovanni Bellini returning from town. Marcella exhaled a breath of relief at seeing Cesare. Marcella was twenty five years old. Her face was fine and her large and kind eyes were nestled under downy eye brows. Her nose was aquiline but soft and flanked by high cheek bones. Marcella’s lips were thin and fine. Her teeth were small and pearl like and her chin was round and distinguished with a deep dimple. Of late, because of her condition she had become buxom. Her hips were boyish. Her arms, hands and fingers were delicate as were her legs and feet.
Marcella wore slippers in the house and wooden clogs when she tended the garden or went to fetch water at the spring. She owned two more dresses, also black, a dull gray shawl and a heavy cape and some men’s trousers and shirts. She had no jewelry except for a small gold cross that was a gift from her Great Aunt Prunella given to her when she made her First Communion and her mother’s wedding ring. Marcella’s only vanity was her complexion; milky white and clear and luminescent.
As a child she often wondered how she happened into a family of sturdy, olive skinned hat makers. In fairy tales, the princess always had fair skin; it was a sign of nobility. More than once when she had the rare luxury of a day dream, Marcella would trace the paths of the pastel blue veins on the backs of her hands or, in the looking glass, on her neck with her fingertips, close her eyes, and imagine they were roads leading to distant castles where she would be recognized as a long lost daughter and be embraced by joyful parents who would offer her innumerable choices of nearby kings and princes to marry.
Marcella came to Cesare three years earlier. Cesare was unsure at first why any townswoman’s family would want their daughter to be hidden away in an out of the way cottage with a semi recluse such as himself. After all, Cesare’s needs were so minimal and the cottage could only be kindly described as cozy.
Cesare got his answer when Marcella’s Great Aunt Prunella who was close to eighty made the long slow trek accompanied by a great nephew. Cesare welcomed Prunella into his humble home. Prunella sent her great nephew off on an errand to buy some honey from the apiarist who lived a good ways further down the country lane. She sat at the table and produced a small flask of brandy. The two shared the brandy as Prunella, after making Cesare swear on the “Blood that flowed from the wounds of Our Savior” never to tell a soul what she was going to divulge, and only after he did, would she relate the Andano family saga.
To read the Alchemist Gift book from the beginning click here.
Get an Alchemist Gift Bookmark signed by the author, Mark Giglio
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
All rights reserved. This article may not be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in part or in whole, without written permission of Mark D. Giglio. Use of this article without permission is a violation of federal copyright law.