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Chapter 1: Veritas

True, without falsehood, certain, most certain


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(OOC: Important info in The Crucible, please read before posting)
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  • The Crucible

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While she half-listened to the chatter of the people around her, smiling and nodding graciously as a debuntate would do, the remarks of the priest set her thoughts turning. She took a moment to fish in her ladie's handbag and took out the letter again. It was very straightforward and impersonal as she imagined all the guests' letters were, but then there was the alchemical symbol at the top: silver she had discovered after a visit to the local apothecary.

How fitting, how ironic for here she was in the silver years of her life and her career, there was no denying that. She could not decide if it was this mysterious Mr. Rook's way of mocking her, but if so that bespoke a familiarity that escaped her memories. Certainly she had met more people in her life than she could remember at the moment.

One of the serving automatons came up to her side abruptly while she sat lost in her thoughts and musing over the letter. At the touch of its daintily gloved hand, Ms. Eleanora Swann's arm jerked back involuntarily and she turned her gaze quickly towards the smiling white mask.

Its head nodded and it placed a silver dish with a folded letter upon it at her side before retreating. Eleanora picked the letter up, opened it and studied it for a minute. Then she rose to her feet ad lightly struck the side of her wine glass with her golden spoon, commanding everyone's attention.

" It would seem, my fellow guests that we shall not have the pleasure of dining with Mr. Rook tonight, " she announced. " He states that he is unable to accompany us, but if once we are finished if we would be so good as to proceed to the grand hall through the doorway on the other side of the dining chamber then ' we may then see our drolleries laid before us and begin the great Work '. The gentleman's own words. How very odd...and dissapointing. "
Edward laughed, high and just faintly foolish. The automaton nearest him turned its head at the sound, a cocked-awkward movement that bespoke something slightly loose somewhere in its workings, just a little off-kilter behind the gentle white face. Edward, mercifully for his already-precarious peace of mind, did not notice.

"The great Work?" he echoed. "What on earth does the man mean by that?" Nobody could answer him, which was just as well because he did not particularly want an answer. In truth it was the other part that his frantic brain latched onto. see our drolleries laid out before us, what in heaven's name did that mean? It sounded sinister, despite the word drolleries (he mistrusted words, they meant more often the exact opposite of what you expected). He looked from the corner of his dramatic eye at his neighbors, determined not to rise until they did. To pass the time he straightened his cuffs, which were impeccable, and uttered another nervous laugh.
Eliphas rose from the seat a few places away from Edward. "The Great Work, in alchemy, typically refers to the quest for the transmutation of lead into gold, the archetypal search for and use of the Philosopher's Stone. The instructions for so doing are famously obscure and more than slightly mystical."

The young man straightened his cuffs, for a moment unaware of the room around him. "Many have theorized that, by utilizing lead as a metaphor for the basic human state, and gold for the state of an enlightened human being, what the ancient masters were really trying to communicate was a method for achieving a higher state of mind. That is to say, making us better people." Eliphas smiled almost imperceptibly. "Sadly, the base metaphor has captured the minds of base humanity; many see the Work as simply a way to quick riches, and destroy their fortunes in seeking it. I am unacquainted with Elias Rook's views on the topic but I do not imagine him to be a man obsessed with the material world." A glint came into Eliphas' sunken eyes. "Perhaps we will all emerge from this a little . . . transmuted."

Silence filled the room. With a start, Eliphas realized that the eyes of each and every one of the guests were upon him. He let out a yelp and stumbled backwards slightly, entangling himself with his chair.
Cavilton stood from his own chair and offered the illustrious beauty at his right his arm. "Ms. Swann, might I have the pleasure of accompanying you to the drawing room?"
Reverent Fullerton took note of this example and scrambled to his feet, actually knocking over his own chair. As he righted it the color rose in his cheeks at his undue need for haste. He coughed into his hand and then wiped it on his trousers nervously before turning to Ruby. "May I have the pleasure, Miss Hunter?" He raised an eyebrow in query and steeled himself for the rejection that might come. He was, you see, not very confident in his skills with the fairer sex.
Eleanora offered a distant and polite smile to the cuff-tugging gentleman and the nervous scholar who was currently engaged in a life-and-dignity struggle with his chair. She then turned her attention to Caviliton, taking his arm.

" Well then, let us see what the dear old gent with his whimsical riddles has in store for us then, " she said lightly to the rest of the company. " I am quite done here and am most curious. This may turn out far more amusing than I could have imagined! "

" How you remain the same my dear Cavalcade, " she said under her breath to her companion, using an old affectionate nickname. " Always eager, always the first to take action...I hope we will be able to have some time between this delightful nonsense to sit and talk privily of old times. It has been what, ten years now? " Her smile she gave him however was as distant as the one before it, tinged with the slightest bit of melancholy.

Behind them as the guests slowly filed out of the room, the automatons flew to the table and began clearing it away.

On the panel of one of the walls, a bas-relief peacock that had been gracefully drinking its fill of a lapis-lazuli stream raised its head and then...there was the faintest of clicks and for a second, only a second, as the peacock lifted its head, a stutter of displaced motion ran down its graceful neck. In each of the automatons cleaning off the table, in that same instant that almost imperceptible stutter echoed in their smooth movements.

A small teacup fell and shattered across the floor and the echoes of the scattering fragments sounded sharply across the bejewelled tableaus on the walls.

Then the gentle-faced automatons busily cleaned it up as if nothing had happened and went about their business before finally dissapearing in single-file through a panel that opened silently in the wall and closed behind them just as silently.
Eliphas blinked rapidly and gazed about in startlement. He had tried not to form any expectations of what he would find inside the home of Elias Rook, knowing that whatever he guessed would almost certainly be wrong. But the scene in this room - if room it was - defied the senses.

Sunlight shone from on high. Wind ruffled the grass. A deer looked up in shock at the appearance of the guests and bounded away into the surrounding woods. The party had wandered from a civilized, urbane dinner into the most idyllic nature scene imaginable.

It was entirely synthetic.

The sun, though warm and bright as the genuine article, was upon closer inspection a clever device mounted upon a ceiling which itself moved, granting the illusion of drifting clouds. The grass was strangely rigid save at its base, where it connected with the ground by a curious spring contraption. And the deer, though realistically painted, had shown gears at its joints as it left the party behind.

Eliphas leaned back against a tree, trying to collect his thoughts. The tree, for its part, gave a whirring noise and adjusted itself slightly to accomadate his weight.
Verona rose on her own account at the same time as the others though she lingered in the dining room longer than most, not surprised when no one offered her an arm. In most roles that she took she was someone who naturally demanded attention. Usually that startling beauty that every man in the room has his eyes on so that when she chose her target they felt either lucky to be chosen or confirmed in their status as a man who deserved the best. That was not the angle she was going for here.

Her clothing was deliberately plain, her makeup minimal with the emotional status of someone that may be found serving drinks at a bar. Men only liked independance and attentiveness to a point afterall. Past such a point a woman might be seen as unattractive. Attempting to seem completely opposite from anything she'd ever done before, it was a welcome status. After everything she'd heard of their missing host she was possibly in more danger than she would be comfortable to admit; she had no idea how much he knew of her. Drawing attention to herself would only endanger her further.

Blue eyes lingered on the robots as they suddenly all jerked, causing one to drop a tea cup which they moved quickly to clean. That had been strange... then again she'd never seen any robots like this before in her life so what it could have been was completely beyond her.

Turning to look where everyone else was she noticed many of the party, if not all, headed into the nature room and she picked up her skirt to hurry to catch up as the wall where the robots exited closed.

Finally reaching the next room she paused as she looked about. The natural beauty of this interior courtyard made her nose crinkle. Such a place, real or synthetic, was the type reserved for when she visited men of status who lived outside of the city. Verona's own home was the edge of the darker parts of London. There were no rolling hills, only cobblestone streets.

She reached down to pluck a flower from the ground, stopping her motion of pulling it out when she realized it was only made of a thick type of... perhaps paper? It was still fragrant, she noted, and bent down to give it a sniff before leaving it be.

"...The boys at the pub would never believe me if I told them about this..." she noted softly, though loud enough that anyone close enough could hear.
For the briefest of moments, child-like wonder softened the look of skeptical amusement that lined Eleanora Swann's delicate face. Her arm slipped gently from Caviliton's as she murmured " Excuse me a moment " and walked down the inlaid stone path, one of many that wound its way through this pastoral scene. She knelt down and touched some of the grass. It was apparently made of thin sheets of verdigrised copper, designed as artfully as a backdrop to a play. A breeze, coming from where she couldn't be sure, made the grass bend and wave like the real thing. Overhead jeweled birds swept by, emerging from small trapdoors that opened on one end of the chamber and closed on the other end, as neat and orderly as clockwork. She stood up and walked down a path that led right up to the wall, and found it was made entirely of a thick layer of glass covering a liquid-looking metallic surface, somewhat like a mirror. As far as she could tell, from somewhere behind this wall or being projected from a unknown source, the illusion of far reaching fields continued, with nymphs and fauns frolicking, sometimes far in the distance sometimes quite near.

As Eleanora watched, a nymph laughing silently dashed by, pursued by a eager faun. The sylvan creature's head turned as she ran by. Eleanora saw her wild young face, circled by black ringlets and flowers and the nymph locked her eyes with Eleanora's. They were black eyes, as black as her own but with a feral shine to them. The unearthly nymph tossed her head, her soft lips parted:

Come join us... she mouthed silently.

Her ardent lover caught her about the waist and sent the both of them tumbling into the grass where he began to kiss her on the mouth and throat and breast. She turned her head again, playfully indifferent to her suitor's attentions to gaze at Eleanora and now the slow smile and the narrowed merry eyes seemed to mock her.

Come join us...

Eleanora reached her hand out...and her fingers met the cool hard resistance of the glass wall.

It was all illusion. A moving magic lantern show projected against the wall, produced by actors who possibly were not even alive anymore, who had only left these tantalizing ghosts moving across the wall. As she stood watching, the action looped itself and she saw the nymph and faun dash across the hand-tinted fields once more. She dropped her hand and her face resumed its cool indifference.

She turned her attention to the far end of the chamber, and walked up an artifical hill where a ring of Greco-style columns stood. Arranged in a neat semi-circle benath the shadow of the columns were etruscan-style couches. At the center was a stone dais and upon that stone dais a human-sized figure stood in silence, draped in grey, its hands held up.

A little plaque on the column nearest the figure said that this automaton was officially known as Orant and was the oldest of all the automatons here, first built by Albertus Rook in 1786. Albertus had apparently been in the habit of affectionately referring to this figure as the Cassandra. She had formally greeted guests with the itinerary and pertinent announcements since the Musaeum had first opened and was set to speak at precisely nine-thirty. A clock on the wall behind the columns, looking as though it floated in mid-air above the fields, showed the time as being nine (more)
Eleanora stepped a bit closer and studied the Cassandra. Her eyes were obscured by the grey drape of her cloak so all that showed was the bottom part of her face. Long white hair hung from beneath the shadow of her hood, done up in braids and intricate silver fastenings. Her head and hands appeared to be made of ivory and it was quite yellowed and cracking in places. It was plain to see that she had been reworked and repaired over the years, but the design still remained far more simple and primitive than any of the other automatons they had seen, and she appeared to be stationary, fixed to the dais upon which she stood. She was covered in a fine layer of dust and cobwebs but Eleanora could hear the steady ticking of clockwork machinery beneath the grey filmy robes that stirred with every breath of the artificial wind, clockwork ticking like a heartbeat.

The presence of this automaton, so silent and gravely majestic began to unnerve Eleanora. She stepped back and sat down on one of the couches.
Eliphas had trailed along the same pathway as Eleonara, reddening and averting his eyes from the play of the faun and the nymph. He now stood transfixed in the courtyard, as still as the automaton that had captured his attention. For a long time he said nothing, gazing up at the metal Cassandra with an unreadable expression. Then, speaking softly, as if to himself:

"A woman of brass and ivory and gold. I wonder - is her heart of brass as well?"

He stepped closer to the dias, reaching up as if he would touch the automaton but, hesitating, let his hand drop back down to his side.


"IF by a heart you mean whatever wheels and things that work her then most likely..." Verona answered, coming up the steps, stopping as she placed a hand on one of the roman like pillars. "These things are just as capable of a heart as a pocketwatch."

The tone she spoke in was not of someone seeing it from a scientific view but more from the view of someone who had met alot of men. The type who would slightly sneer at the fawn and nymph that she'd passed on her way up.

"It would be more reassuring if there was someone of flesh and blood around here other than ourselves... this place is beautiful but it all feels a bit... cold. I'd rather a grumpy patron than none at all..."
"Oh, but to me the very coldness of this place makes it all the more beautiful." Eliphas shifted his gaze to the young lady. "Can you not see it? No blade of grass is out of place. Every gear moves in lovely synchronicity. Nothing organic brings chaos to the system; there is only order here. That is to say . . ." A pause. ". . . This place is perfect."

Eliphas hunched his shoulders slightly, perhaps fearing he had spoken out of turn. But he said nothing to amend his eccentric statement.
"Perfection," Cavilton mused, "save for our presence. Our humanity marring this clockwork reality and yet I think we must be necessary for something, else why would we be here?" He was speaking to no one in particular, just thinking out loud.
The preacher adjusted his tie and pursed his lips. Robert cast a slightly critical eye across the landscape. "Truly, this is a marvel, but only the Lord Himself can create perfection. As you can see by the cobwebs and decay, those beauties that are wrought by man are soon to fade."
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  • The Crucible

    This is the bulletin board for " Naked Came The Alchemist " Any questions or general OCC (Out Of Character) comments can go below and I may…