short story, story promptNicolas is an alchemist and one of the more successful and well-known scientists in his field. When a woman turns up, known only as the Lady Alchemist, there are claims that she is close to the greatest alchemical secret – turning lead into gold…


“It’s her!”

“Who?” I glanced up from my desk. Marcus was leaning across the wooden surface, his eager gaze fixed on a group of people across the room.

“The Lady in the Red Cloak!”

“Again … who?”

Marcus sighed. “Don’t you pay attention to anything going on in the city?”

I shrugged. “Not really. If it doesn’t help me with my alchemical experiments, I don’t care for it.”

“I thought you’d at least know of her. She’s an alchemist too.”

This tugged at my interest. It was rare to find women in positions of science. I was a bit surprised that Marcus knew about her before I did. “Well, who is she? It’s all very well calling her the ‘Lady in the Red Cloak’, but what Higher Family is she from?”

Marcus turned wide eyes on me. “That’s just it – she’s not from a Higher Family. Well, not that anyone knows of. She’s a mystery. She simply calls herself the Lady Alchemist. No one knows her actual name, but she’s made so many advances in alchemy that the Scientific Council has decided to let her continue her studies.” He lowered his voice. “They say she has even come close to discovering the ultimate alchemical secret – turning lead into gold!”

Impressed, I turned my attentions to the group of alchemists gathered around one of the other desks. It was easy to spot this remarkable female; the deep ruby-coloured cloak clashed with the purple of the alchemists’ robes.

“She’s got herself quite a following,” I said, amused. I fought against the urge to go over there myself. I was intrigued by this Lady Alchemist, but I wasn’t desperate enough to vie for her attentions with all the other alchemists in the room.

Marcus nodded wistfully. “I was thinking about applying to her advertisement.”

“What advertisement?”

“She’s looking for an assistant. I thought I might have a go.”

I snorted and returned my attention to the glass vials in front of me. “I’m fairly certain you need some knowledge of the alchemical arts for that position, Marcus. A child knows more about alchemy than you do!”

He frowned at me. “Maybe I’m finally getting interested in the science,” he said. “You’ve tried for years to get me to study with you. I should think you’d be happy that I’m finally giving it a go.”

I shook my head at him. “I stopped trying to get you to study alchemy a while ago, and though I’d be happy for you to start now, I believe you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons!”

“Shh! She’s coming over here! Act naturally!” He propped his elbow against my desk and leaned nonchalantly against it. Sighing, I removed a bulbous vial that teetered dangerously on the edge where he’d knocked it.

Once the vial and its explosive contents were safely on the opposite side of the desk, I glanced up. She was indeed approaching my desk, grey eyes fixed on me. She stopped a few feet away.

“I’m given to understand that you are Nicolas?”

I stifled a smile as Marcus’ face fell. “I am more often called simply Nico. I’ve been told that you are called the Lady Alchemist.”

“Yes. I’ve read about your work in the Scientific Papers. Would you consider partnering with me and joining forces in our shared ventures? I believe we could push the boundaries of alchemy further than ever.”

I was flattered that she knew of me, that she’d read my works. It was refreshing to find a female in such a male-dominated field. “I would be honoured to partner with such an intelligent woman, but I muss confess my ignorance of yourself. I’ve only just now come to know of your existence.”

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