Thirty years. He had counted the days on the wall of his cell. Thirty years since he had seen the dawn break on the hills of home. A lifetime since he had last breathed the night air. Only his mind had soared above his solitude.
They would never set him free.
It had been an accident, a by-product of his experiments. He had tossed the glittering nugget to a blind beggar outside the tavern. The baker had told of how the beggar had used it to buy bread and the tale had spread like wildfire. The story of the alchemist who could turn lead into gold reached the ears of the king… and tyranny feeds on wealth.
At least the gold had fed the beggar.
The king had given him everything he needed to fill the royal coffers in exchange for his life. He was treated well enough, if compulsion can ever be more than slavery. Yet always he had dreamed, continuing his quest for spiritual transmutation. That was the true alchemy. They did not understand and chained his soul to earth through their greed. And every night, the king came to collect the gold.
The wide-eyed serving boy had told him… of war, rape and oppression. Evil that ran like wildfire across the land… all funded with alchemical gold.
No, they would never set him free.
The alchemist turned the final Tarot card and gazed upon the grim face of Death.
A wasted life? Perhaps.
Beyond the heavy oaken door, he could hear the footsteps of the king approaching. The alchemist tended the athanor and, as the door closed behind the king, threw a glowing flask into the furnace.
Flames spread like wildfire and the alchemist smiled.
It would not be a wasted death.