Sunday, November 11, 2007


"I have studied alchemy for three years now. It is dung."

I thought at first she was belatedly showing signs of a ladylike demeanor, disdaining the mess and stink of alchemical processes, and I was about to dismiss her with a contemptuous shrug when she continued.

"Alchemists know nothing. They piddle about with metals and can make them do a few tricks, that is all. They're like a peasant who has taught a bear to dance at the end of a chain and think they know the bear as well as its mother does."

She ran a hand over the cold alembic, a glass beaker, the wooden workbench.

"I want to know what things are made of -- really know, the way the angels do. Know what kind of stuff things are made of down at the smallest level, and how they go together. Alchemy can't teach me that."