I’m his pet. I’m his slave. I’m his husband. I’m his wife. I’m his friend. I’m his lover. I’m his fledgling.
Master told me that when we get back to South Africa he would tell me about his past, and I’m ready for it when we return, but he doesn’t bring it up. I want to ask him, after so much hinting and buildup I’m curious, but I told him that he needed to take his time. I love him, and I won’t rush him to do something he doesn’t want to do.
It’s a Saturday nearly a full week after we get back that he leads me to his study. He transforms me into the androgynous Asian female I was when I first woke up, which seems like a lifetime ago even though it’s been less than a year. He sits down on the ground and I do the same in front of him.
“Okay, pet, it’s time to lay everything out. If you really want to be my soulmate, my partner for all time, I need to tell you about my history.”
“I don’t think you’ve noticed this, but I never once told you how old I am.”
It’s like I get whiplash. He’s right. I don’t even know his birthday.
“I mean, I always sort of assumed you were in your thirties, Master.”
“That’s a good guess, and accurate in a way, but in truth I’m much older than that. Alchemy was started by Nicolas Flamel, and his greatest creation was the Philosopher’s Stone, which can grant immortality. I read his writing, became one of his disciples, and created a Philosopher’s Stone myself.”
He pauses, like he’s hesitating about whether or not he should continue.
“I was born on November 19th, 1676. I’m almost 341 years old.”
My jaw drops. There’s no way I just heard that.
“No, it’s true, I’m afraid. I became an alchemist in 1692 and created the stone in 1711.”
“So, a stone gave you immortal life?”
“Yes, but at a price. Aside from my tattoos that mark me as an alchemist, I’m forever marked by the stone, as it’s in my body. I never planned to show you this, but I have to now.”
He raises his hand and, to my utter shock, removes his eyepatch.
Master’s left eye is nothing like his right eye. His sclera is pitch black instead of white. He has no pupil, and his giant iris shimmers every possible shade of red.
“The stone is a part of me. I’ll never die of old age, and while I experience pain, no damage another person can inflict will kill me. I’ve been burned, shot, and poisoned, but I recovered from them all given enough time. The only way I can die is by my own hand. This is the burden carried by all who create the Philosopher’s Stone. I’ve heard rumors of an alchemist who had the stone replace their heart, another their tongue.”
He puts the eyepatch back on.
“I need to show you the events in my life integral to shaping who I am. You deserve to know. Take my hands, fledgling.”
He holds out both hands and I grab them. He closes his eye and concentrates like he always does when he preforms alchemy. When he opens his eye, it’s glowing bright blue, just like his tattoos. I feel a rush, like all the air is sucked from the room at once, and I’m plunged into another world.
The canopy of trees obscured the sun, making the light seem cold and bleak. Fauntleroy Arcangelo looked out in the desolate world he called home and sighed. He needed to do his chores.
The young man of 15 did his rounds, feeding the animals, milking the cow, collecting chicken eggs. He wanted to be there when his mother woke up so he could cook her breakfast. He hoped that his father was in a good mood, but that didn’t seem likely.
Thinking of his father made him scowl. For years that good-for-nothing had neglected his family, drifting through his life and getting drunk every night. He was a craftsman, and a fine one at that, but all money he made from that job he kept for himself, usually to spend on alcohol. That left Fauntleroy and his mother to pick up the slack and provide food for all three of them.
His mother was a feeble woman, both in body and will, so she could do nothing to make her husband change his ways. In a sense, that caused Fauntleroy to resent her, though he knew he shouldn’t. Still, it annoyed him how his mother never displayed conviction about anything but being a Christian. He did what she told him to do, reading the Bible and learning the prayers, but he never saw how it would be useful to them. If anything, it just wasted time.
The boy finished his duties for that morning and went back to the house. He heard something when he got close, something that made him stop in his tracks.
His father was yelling at his mother.
Fauntleroy wanted to go inside and put a stop to it, but was too scared. He was still small, and his father was built like an ox. A timid young man such as he didn’t have a chance.
Then he heard the first strike. His mother screamed and the boy wanted to run away from the situation, but was frozen in place.
His father started storming out the house and Fauntleroy hid. He saw his father walk off to work, leaving his wife crying on the bed.
That was the first incident of many.
As the months progressed, it kept getting worse. The man continued to hit his wife, and soon his son when they angered him. So much fear and hatred was formed in the boy. He grew to hate his blond hair, something that only made him think of his beast of a father.
He also grew to hate his mother. She pretended that everything was alright, praying like a fool that things would get better. It never did, but she never did anything about it. Fauntleroy was still young, and wanted to think that what his mother believed was right, but he grew to loathe Christianity and the learned helplessness it instilled in her.
Following one particularly bad altercation, Fauntleroy went running off into the woods, bleeding and crying. He was so tired of it all, tired of his father’s abuse, his mother’s passivity, and his own inability to change things. He wanted to finally feel like he had control over his destiny.
After quite a bit of running in no particular direction, Fauntleroy came to his senses and realized he was on his way to being lost. He began to go back, but saw something in the woods.
It was a small house.
He heard rumors from the other boys about witches that lived in shacks out in the woods, but never believed them. He wasn’t frightened, but he was interested.
He approached the wooden structure and saw that nobody was there, and from what he could see in the dreary daylight nobody had lived there in quite a while.
Curiosity taking over, he went inside and saw an empty one-room house. The only notable thing in it was a large book on a table. He picked it up, but in the dark cabin he couldn’t read what it said.
After bringing it outside he saw that the title was printed in three languages. He could only read the English translation, and saw that it said On Alchemy by Nicolas Flamel.
Fauntleroy turned to the English section and started reading what seemed like rantings of a madman. It was fantastical nonsense about a power that made a human as strong as a god. He thought it was ridiculous, but when he looked closer he noticed something.
There was a picture of a male body with tattoos all over it, and to his amazement the tattoos on the page started glowing a bright blue! He touched the image and felt the warmth! It was incredible!
He sat down and read the book in earnest, only stopping when the sun began setting and he needed to go back home before nightfall. But in that time his mind became set. His mother kept praying to God for help. God wasn’t going to save them, if He was even there at all. Fauntleroy was going to put his life in his own hands for a change.
A few days later the lad began his mission. According to the book, a human became an alchemist by getting the alchemic marks, and it provided clear instructions on how to get them.
To achieve this, something equivalent must be lost. Alchemy is a strong power, one that has the potential to do almost anything. To prove oneself worthy, one has to sacrifice something man has deemed sacred: a human life.
The aspiring alchemist cannot accomplish this by using a person dying through any means besides murder at their hands. They need to throw away something that makes them human so they can become something greater.
Once the victim is killed, the murderer simply imagines all the energy and life exiting the dead body and entering their own. If the will is strong enough, they will be permanently marked by and infused with the skill of alchemy.
Fauntleroy knew exactly who he wanted to sacrifice, and had a plan for how to do it. All he had to do was not lose his nerve.
That night his father couldn’t find his bottle, and grew in anger the more he looked. By the time he was shouting at his wife, insisting that she stole it and demanding she tell him where it was, he heard the voice of his brat son. The boy had an arrogant smirk on his face and informed his father that he stole the alcohol and was going to drink it himself.
Fuming with rage, he ran after his son, wanting to beat him for his insolence, but the brat was fast. He always stayed close enough that he never lost sight of the boy, but far enough away that he never caught up. This game of cat and mouse continued deep into the woods, until suddenly Fauntleroy dashed out of sight.
The young man ducked behind a tree and picked up the tool that would change his life forever. His hand was trembling, but he did everything he could to calm down. He had one chance to change his destiny.
When he saw the man round the corner, he thought of every humiliating strike his father had dealt, every useless prayer his mother had uttered. He steeled his will, and pulled the trigger of his father’s hunting rifle.
There was a noise that seemed to shake the forest, shake the world, and his father collapsed to the ground. Fauntleroy didn’t think it was enough. He couldn’t just drop what made him human, he had to throw it away with everything he had.
Screaming in rage, the young man ran up to his father with a pitchfork and stabbed him again and again. He continued until his father had long since stopped moving, until there was no room for doubt that he was well and truly dead.
Panting, he tossed the pitchfork aside and put all his willpower into his task. With every fiber of his being the lad imagined the energy from the corpse of that worthless man filling his body. Using all the conviction he could muster he pictured taking it for himself.
Fauntleroy felt a burning in his body. What was happening? He was so hot, surely he was on fire! Desperately he stripped to his undergarments as the pain intensified. Just when he was certain he was about to die, he felt another sensation.
He experienced power flowing through every vein in his body. Suddenly he felt like he could kill a horse with his bare hands. To his amazement, he saw the corpse at his feet wither and crumble, decay as if years had passed in a few seconds. For a few moments pain and strength coursed through the young man’s body, but just as quickly as it started it ceased. He looked down to see a pile of dust and ash that moments before had been his father. Excitedly he ran to a nearby lake and looked at his reflection.
The boy saw his skin covered with the black tattoos from the book, but what interested him even more was how he had grown. He was taller, and where there was once thinness and softness was firm muscle. It wasn’t a staggering change, but it was enough for Fauntleroy to know he had become something more than human.
The young man leapt and cheered in joy. He had done it! He took control of his fate and threw away the life he once had. With alchemy he could provide for himself and his mother, but even more than that he thought of all he could do, all the power he could possess!
Gleefully he went back to his clothes and dressed himself to cover his new markings. With a smile on his face Fauntleroy went to a nearby tree and pulled out the bottle of wine he had stolen. He uncorked it and took a long drink to toast his new life before returning home.
Fauntleroy told his mother that he had lost sight of his father during the chase. His mother assumed her husband would find his way back eventually, but by nightfall he was still gone.
The days passed with absolutely no sign of the man. It was as if he ran off into the woods and disappeared.
To keep themselves afloat, her son took up the crafting skill of his father, and quickly developed a talent for it. She was proud of her child, enduring through the hardships and moving forward. She also noticed a change in the youth’s build, an astonishing growth spurt. The loving mother thanked God above that her shy boy was growing into a handsome, confident young man.
Fauntleroy continued to humor his mother by pretending to be a Christian, but he knew where his true strength lied. Every night he would read On Alchemy, the book that changed his life and became his most prized possession. In secret he would practice alchemy, learning new skills and increasing his strength. One day he would be the strongest person in the world. One day he could surpass God Himself!
About a year later, rumors started circulating around their village in hushed whispers. The town was experiencing a drought, and nobody’s crops were doing very well.
Nobody’s, that was, except for the Arcangelo farm.
Indeed, no matter how much the rest of them had been struggling, that house always had bountiful harvests and good fortune. It was unusual, if not downright suspicious. The father of the house had disappeared, and suddenly their cup ran over. The mother was happy and the son grew stronger and more handsome overnight.
One particularly jealous neighbor, Mamie Nathanson, had the theory that the family had made a deal with the Devil. There were stories from all around the area of witches in the towns, evil men and women who used magic to control others and reach their own selfish ends. Over the months the rumors spread, more and more people believing it as the Arcangelo household continued to thrive.
Fauntleroy knew about these rumors, in fact, they weren’t too far off from the truth, but wasn’t worried. Even if they came after them with a mob, he could protect himself. After all, he was an alchemist, more powerful than any human.
One night, the young man was shaken awake by his mother.
“Fauntleroy! You need to run!”
He rubbed his eyes.
“What’s going on?”
“The town is coming after us! You need to run away! I’ll distract them, hurry!”
One of her few friends came to warn her minutes before. A mob was coming, and they wouldn’t rest until the Arcangelo witch was dead.
Suddenly Fauntleroy was wide awake.
“No, mother, if I’m running, you’re running with me!”
“I can hear them coming! If we both run, they’ll chase us and I’ll just slow you down. You need to live!”
“I refuse to let you sacrifice your life for me!”
“Son, it’s fine!” she insisted, even as tears fell from her eyes. “I’m at peace with it. If I have to die so you can live, I’ll do it gladly. This is all part of God’s plan.”
Fauntleroy lost his patience.
“Don’t speak that ‘God’ nonsense to me! We need to take control!”
His mother raised her arm and slapped her son’s face as hard as she could.
“Never, EVER speak ill of the Lord like that! I’m still your mother! You still have to do what I say! You have to live! You MUST LEAVE!”
The young man was struck dumb by what just happened. He realized that his mother was never going to let go of her ways. He couldn’t talk sense into her.
With a heavy heart, he ran off into the woods and waited until the sun had risen. Terrified of what he would see but unable to resist, he made his way back to his house.
When Fauntleroy got back he saw something that shattered his heart.
Up on the boughs of a tall tree near their house was a rope, and from that rope hung the lifeless corpse of his mother.
The young man fell to his knees. He felt a life-shaking sorrow in his heart, but to his surprise, he didn’t cry. He didn’t scream. He wasn’t even that shaken.
Instead the pieces of his heart reassembled and hardened. Something in his mind changed at that moment. He calmly realized that his mother had died because she was weak. She let her faith consume her and leave her vulnerable. She was blind to the way the world really was. Fauntleroy would not make that mistake.
If God even existed, He had abandoned them. The young man was at peace with that. If God wasn’t going to provide justice, he would simply do so himself.
Despite everything, the boy smiled. His eyes glimmered hungrily.
The town wanted a witch. Very well. A witch they would get.
Strange, horrible events began happening in the village not long after. The first was Mamie Nathanson spontaneously bursting into flames in the square. In an instant, her entire body was on fire and she fell to the ground, dying in seconds.
Next was the cattle mutilations. Morning upon morning cows would be found dead, killed in any number of awful, unnatural ways. Farms would be hurt in other manners. Crops would wither away and die overnight, and occasionally somehow die of frost in the middle of the summer.
Many believed that the ghost of the Arcangelo witch was haunting them, making them pay for killing her.
Fauntleroy had never had so much fun in his life. He was a godlike being, and the townspeople were nothing but his toys. He got more creative as time continued. He burnt the words “you have slain the innocent” onto the walls of every house. He even used alchemy to give himself horns and a tail and terrorized the villagers at night. It felt so good, watching them ask their God for help when he continued to exact his will over them.
He eventually left, more because he got bored than deciding that justice had been dealt. He would devote his life to alchemy, make himself so powerful that nobody could ever hurt him again.
As the years went by, he got older and stronger, both as a man and as an alchemist. His life was all about experimentation, finding new ways to conduct transmutations and increase his power. When he needed supplies, he’s simply take them, whether they were wood or stone or food or even people. He grew to view murder as part of the process, a means to an end in this ultimately meaningless life.
It was in his mid-twenties when something happened that scared him. He was running away from a man with a gun he had been robbing and had a nasty fall. The ground suddenly gave way under him and he rolled down a long hill. By the time he got to the bottom he knew several bones were broken. For the first time, he used alchemy to heal himself. He succeeded and fixed his bones, but lost so much body mass he nearly died in the process.
Despite his power, that event was a sobering reminder of his mortality. If Fauntleroy was really going to surpass God one day, he couldn’t die. That made him decide to begin a process he thought he needed years more experience to consider: making a Philosopher’s Stone.
The book On Alchemy mentioned the stone, but gave no detailed instructions on how to make it. To find what he was looking for, Fauntleroy traveled to Europe, a place with older civilizations and hopefully more information.
It took almost ten years of hard work. After searching, gathering supplies, murdering, lying, stealing, doing every terrible thing a man could do, at age thirty-four he had all the necessary ingredients. Concentrating with all his power, he performed the ultimate feat of alchemy.
When he did, he felt a blinding pain in his left eye, it boiled, twisted, warped into something new. The transformation took almost an hour of agony, but finally the pain subsided.
Fauntleroy looked at a mirror and smiled. His left eye was now a Philosopher’s Stone, strengthening his alchemy and giving him eternal life.