Alchemist Gift – An ancient power
Alchemist Gold continued: Valentino was at the seminary at the firm request of his mother in hopes he would change his ways. I was surprised. He was a descent sort, always kind, polite and generous. He showed respect to everyone. In the course of our conversation I discovered his mother sent him away to remove him from the influence of his father.
I eventually found out that Valentino the Elder dabbled in Alchemy, the dark arts and astrology. His aims were to put order to the chaos of the world and investigate what he called the “elasticity of time.”
The journey took five days. We arrived in the late morning. The coach turned into a broad drive bordered by neatly trimmed shrubs. This wasn’t merely a house; it was an estate, complete with fountain, flower gardens and a stable all supported by a vast vineyard and winery.
The homecoming was a happy occasion. Valentino’s mother tried to stay upset at Valentino for leaving the seminary but gave in when he approached her with open arms. She could not remain angry.
Valentino the Elder just stood back out of the way at the bottom of the staircase with his arms crossed and smiled. Valentino’s two sisters heard their brother’s voice and ran in from the rear terrace abandoning some giggly game. They threw themselves so hard on Valentino they almost knocked him over. His father came over to Valentino, gave him a hug and kissed him on both cheeks. “Ah my son, I have so much to discuss with you, I have made some interesting breakthroughs. Ah my kindred soul has returned home to me. What did I tell you mama?” Valentino the Elder pulled his son in and gave him a hearty hug and patted him on the back. He then looked over to me and smiled. “And you must be Little Cicero. Val has mentioned you in his letters.”
I was introduced to everyone as Valentino’s good friend and was immediately accepted. Valentino’s twelve years old sister Lydia was very proper in her manners. Upon being introduced to me she put her right foot forward, toe down, heel slightly elevated, pinched up a little bit of her dress between her thumbs and forefingers, pulled the dress away from her body and curtsied, just the way she had practiced in front of the looking glass. Ten year old Valentina stood next to her sister and watched carefully and curtsied too. Valentino’s mother seemed a little wary of me. By dinner time she opened her smile and heart.”
“Marcella, fetch us a little bite of cheese, please, maybe an apple.”
“No apples, but there are some plums.” she said as she went to the larder.
“I saw apples there yesterday. The ones you got from the tree by the spring.”
Marcella chuckled softly, “I cut into a few, they were just too wormy.” she said as she busied herself with a knife.
Cesare grunted a reply and inspected his fingertip. It still hurt and he pressed it with his thumb until a pin pricks worth of blood came out. Marcella put out a wooden platter with some cheese, some cut up bread, some olives and a half a dozen small purple plums on the table.
“Tell me about the books.” she sat down and pushed the tray toward Cesare.
“I spent the first month I was there in Valentino the Elder’s library. He had over five hundred books. I was in heaven. Valentino must have read every book there because no matter which one I was reading he could look at the title and we could talk about even the finest points.
One morning, when I was studying in the library I heard horses outside. I went to the window and saw three gentlemen alight from a coach. The top of the coach was completely filled with all kinds of boxes and crates. Valentino the Elder and Valentino went to meet the men and by the way they embraced and showed such free and easy humor I guessed they knew each other quite well.
Valentino the Elder escorted his friends into the house. I stood by the library door and looked on. Valentino the Elder’s wife Josephina was visibly upset. She paced in front of her husband and his friends several times so they had to stop and were about to greet her when she addressed her husband as if the others were not present. With an awfully stern but sad look on her face she said, “I’ll be in the chapel praying for all of our souls until these…men are gone from my house.” She made the sign of the cross and went into the chapel and closed the door.
Valentino the Elder shrugged his shoulders and gave his guests an apologetic look. They all nodded in sympathy and took up their conversations with each other where they left off before Josephina’s little drama.
Valentino caught a glimpse of me looking through the opened door. He left the others and I backed away as he approached and entered. Then he said with his usual smile. “Ah, Plato was right, women are a different species. Poor mama, she thinks anything that is new or different is bad or wrong. She’ll hide in the chapel for the rest of the day and then come out and sulk until father’s guests leave.” He looked at the book I was holding in my hand and nodded his approval. He leaned in and spoke with excitement in his voice. “By and by, we have a very wise man. He’s a professor and the University of Bologna, Dominco Novara da Farrara.”
I had no idea who he was but I acted just as excited as my friend.
“Come and help me supervise the unloading of the equipment.”
Valentino instructed the workers who were already being very careful as they passed the crates and boxes down from the roof of the coach into the bed of a four wheel cart. When the last piece was loaded, Valentino told the coachman to return in eight days, paid him and we walked in front of the donkey cart to the “castle”.
The “castle” was a one story, roughhewn, stone building perhaps twenty paces square with a turret in the center of its arched roof. The turret was at least four paces across and twenty feet tall. It was built ages ago, probably during the reign of Justinian, and Valentino’s family guessed it to be a silo or maybe a granary, although no one was quite sure.
Valentino took a rusty brown key from his belt and unlocked the massive door. The hinges let out a terrible moan when he pulled it open. I was startled and threw my hands up in front of my face when a number of pigeons noisily flapped right over our heads and flew out of the doorway into the daylight.
The interior of the “castle” was large and open. There was an enormous hearth on the east wall. The stone walls had many alcoves and niches. Along the walls there were shelves filled with books and a number of glass and copper distillers. The worktables were crowded with glass vials and jars, small wooden boxes, flat bottom flasks, and crucibles of different sizes. One workbench held several books that were left open to certain pages. Different symbols and zodiac signs were painted on the walls.
“Why is there no roof for the turret?” I remember asking. Valentino told me that on the vernal equinox at midnight the North Star was positioned in the exact center of the opening. That piqued my curiosity.
Valentino just smiled and said he and his father had come across an ancient clay jar from Baghdad that held a mysterious power within it; if you touched the two metal wires that came out of its top together, it would cause a spark. They were making a larger version of it using the turret as the vessel. He could tell I was excited and smiled at my enthusiasm.
We spent the rest of week watching the workmen seal the turret. Under the watchful eye of Valentino the Elder, the workmen lowered the copper vessel in the turret in a rope sling. He had to make sure it cleared the sides and bottom on the sealed turret. Next they lowered a large iron rod as round as a small tree into the center of the copper vessel. The carpenters made a roof for the turret that held the iron rod in place so it too did not touch the sides or the bottom on the copper vessel.
“What was all this it for?” asked Marcella.
“Patience. For the next three days great effort was made to complete the project.” Cesare felt foolish for all of his prattle when he saw Marcella yawn. “I see I am boring you.”
Marcella sat upright and shook her head ‘no’ as she spoke. “Boring? Heavens no, I find the story and your experience fascinating. It’s the wine that makes me sleepy, not you; please sir, continue.” Marcella shifted in her chair and leaned in a little closer to Cesare.
All the time Cesare spoke he illustrated the shapes and positions of the components with animated hand gestures. This delighted Marcella.
“On the day before the experiment, Valentino the Elder called for all of the spoiled wine to be brought to the “castle”. Marcella, there must have been a hundred large barrels, maybe more. Everyone was employed to fill the space between the walls of the turret and the copper vessel with vinegar.
Cesare took a sip of wine. He felt the same excitement relating the story to Marcella that he did on the day it happened a little over twenty five years before.
“When the turret was full, Val and I climbed up on to the roof of the “castle” and then on ladders to the top of the turret. Everything was ready with just a bit of the iron standing proud of the rooftop along with the piece of rectangular copper that now stood above the roofline.”
Marcella nodded and waited for Cesare to continue.
“Valentino the Elder and his guests entered into a deep discussion.
I was so wide eyed; I had no idea what they were talking about but they all were very animated and passionate.”
Marcella filled Cesare’s and her wine glasses. She looked at him differently now. She saw Cesare as much more than a kind, reclusive craftsman.
“One of the guests, Signore Antonio Turigli sent his servant out. The boy returned and handed a cloth sack to his master. The signore opened the sack and showed us a solid gold goblet. It was quite beautiful. It had engravings of strange signs and symbols. He set that on the table. Everyone admired its beauty and craftsmanship. He then produced the largest clear crystal that I had ever seen. The six-sided crystal was the size of an apple with a hole bored in it from top to bottom. That too was marveled over by one and all. The strangest and most dear object was a hollow glass wand maybe as long as your forearm and as round as a man’s thumb.”
Cesare held up his glass. The wine glowed in the candlelight. “Do you see this color, Marcella? This deep ruby red? Signore Turigli had the glass tube filled with rubies that had been crushed to a powder and mixed with a resin made from the sap of the apple tree and his own blood. He filled the glass tube with the liquid rubies and melted the ends over to seal it.”
“Rubies?” Marcella looked at the wine in her glass and then back to Cesare.
“Yes, rubies. Even as I tell you the story it sounds so fantastic, but it is true.”
“Oh sir, I believe you.” Marcella hung on every word Cesare said. Never in her life did she feel so confident and privileged to hear what only men might discuss amongst themselves.
“Signore Turigli placed the crystal in the gold goblet then he inserted the ruby wand into the crystal and the wand began to glow ever so slightly. The ether around the wand took on a red cast. We were all awestruck. He took the wand out of the crystal and the glow immediately faded. He put the wand back into the crystal and again it glowed until he carefully took the crystal out of the gold goblet and again the wand lost its glow.
The rest of the morning was spent in deep discussion and speculation. After our mid-day meal the carpenters finished their part and were sent away. We all headed to the “castle”. Turigli’s boy Stefano carefully carried the sack containing the goblet and crystal. Il Signore carried the ruby wand himself. Valentino the Elder was the first onto the newly built turret roof. He gingerly stepped to the center and knelt down where the end of the iron rod was exposed. Turigli’s boy followed and knelt next to Valentino the Elder and handed him the gold goblet. By this time Val and I were on the roof too. Turigli was afraid of heights and stayed behind. He handed the wand off to Val to carry. The metal workers cast the iron rod with a round socket a hair’s breadth smaller than the bottom of the goblet so it could be pressed in nice and snug. Valentino the Elder called to me and asked for the gold wire, some bees wax and a mallet I was asked to bring with me. I tapped the goblet into the socket and it held fast. On instruction from Turigli, Val took the crystal from Stefano and placed it in the goblet and secured it with the bees wax. Valentino the Elder wrapped the gold wire around the stem of the goblet. I remember he was very exact in the number of times. It was thirteen.”
“Thirteen.” repeated Marcella. “A wire made out of gold?”
“It was thick too. The wire was long enough to reach an exposed metal rod that was part of the copper vessel. The object was to have Stefano touch the gold wire that was attached to the goblet to the copper rod and complete the energy path. We left the wire lay there free. Val fitted the glass wand in the crystal. Our experiment was ready. We went back to the library, talked, drank good brandy and ate our fill until twilight. “
“What did they talk about?”
“How we hoped the experiment might open the door or a portal to the metaphysical planes of existence. Da Farrara was convinced such a portal had to have a certain resonance to attract metaphysical energies to our physical world. Valentino the Elder read us his treatise on his study of time.”
“Time? What does that have to do with the gold goblet and the ruby rod? Time passes and it’s gone. ” volunteered Marcella wanting to hear what Cesare would say.
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