Mixtures

Sometimes, no matter how many precautions she took, things went wrong.

They were not the explosive accidents of her novice days, but they were mistakes, nonetheless. Improper measurements happened, sometimes from a fuzzy head after a late night. Delicate mixtures bubbled over when her back was turned for only a second. Reagents scorched when the burner’s flame was set just a little too high. Accidents were part of experimentation, and experimentation was the heart of progress.

It was benevolence that made Laele first pursue alchemy. Medics and true healers were sometimes few and far between, rarely able to travel, rarely able to attend people in isolated villages. It was one of many situations where her potions and elixirs could be of help. They would last for months on a cool cellar shelf, kept handy for the inevitable night when a child’s fever wouldn’t break and there were no medics to be found.

It was determination, however, that kept her struggling on through trial and error, mistake after mistake, and more failed mixtures than she could recall.

Months had been spent on this particular concoction. A fortune spent on herbs and distilled essences, too. She could have made them herself, but that took time, and every minute spent making her own reagents was minutes spent away from the troublesome brew she simply couldn’t conquer.

Colorful herbs stained her fingertips and her collection of mortars, each of the bowls a different color, a streak of yellow from a crushed flower marking her forehead from where she’d absently wiped away the sweat of concentration. From the moment she sat down, she’d known it would be a goal-changing night. Either she accomplished what she’d set out to do, creating one of the most powerful anti-toxins ever designed, or she’d know once and for all which of the herbs was to blame for the foul sludge she’d poured out every night for ages.

One by one, she’d tested them. Each and every one. Leaves, stems, roots, fruit and blossom all had to be tested individually; each part of the plant contained its own unique properties. And one after another, she’d found everything stable, performing exactly what she’d hoped for. Up until the last one.

Was it the shoot’s leaves or the stem she needed for that potion?

Was it the leaves or stem that had reacted badly with the mixture?

Her fingers wriggled above the reagents laid out on the counter. One or the other, she just had to take a chance. No matter what she picked, she’d have her answer, a long-plaguing problem finally solved.

She jammed the last ingredient into the glass beaker and scooped up the narrow tube of blue fluid, sucking in a deep breath before she poured it in and put it all together.

Plumes of color spread from the paste of herbs and powders in the bottom of the beaker, darkening as they expanded to fill the glass. She exhaled, beaming.

It exploded.


 

This week’s prompt was “A memory linked to their occupation/profession.” As usual, my companions are far ahead of me! You can read the lovely Megan Cutler’s take on this prompt at her blog.

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