“What is it you do? The alchemy and all that?” I asked.

“Well,” Gaspard said, the growing light picking out the furrow forming in his brow. “Yes. Alchemy is one of my interests. It is the science of transformation.”

“When I got here—the day I showed up—you were trying to talk to the dead.”

“Well, yes. Yes. But piercing the veil is another of the mysteries. Alchemy is related to the study of the elements, and changing—”

“Do you do that a lot? Talk to dead people?”

“I—? No, not a lot, I suppose. That was really the first time I had tried, actually.”

“The first time?”

“Well, the Kabbalah has been a secondary study for me.”

“Ah.” Right. Well, that explains it. We were quiet for a moment. Then I lowered my voice. “Can’t you get in trouble for this stuff? I mean, isn’t it like—well, like witchcraft?”

“That is a common misconception,” Gaspard answered. I don’t know who would have heard us, other than maybe Michel or Gigot, but somehow it made me a bit uncomfortable that he didn’t lower his voice. “Natural philosophy pursues an understanding of God’s laws. Witchcraft involves consorting with the infernal. Very different indeed.”

“But the two can be confused?”

“Oh, yes. Vespasien of Beziers was hanged, burned, and quartered in Tours.”

“He—what?”

“Our fields of interest are easily misunderstood.”

Here it is: The first chunk of Chapter 12. But not so fast—before I hand it over I need something from you!

When Martin’s been on horseback so far in this story, he’s ridden a horse named Roos (Dutch for Rose). Roos is a gentle soul, but (spoiler warning!) her days are numbered. A little bit further down the road (round about Chapter 17) Martin gets a new horse. This one’s a more spirited gelding, and Martin’s going to see some action with him. What’s more, Martin gets to give him a name.

And that’s where you come in. So far in my manuscript this horse has gone by “[[horsename]].” I’d like Martin to give him a clever name—something that’s referential to Martin’s home century, but works OK in 1199. Preferably (though not necessarily) something slightly geeky. My muse has not spoken to me yet, so it’s your chance to pitch in. You know, pull your weight for all the great entertainment I’ve given you over the past few months.

Make a suggestion in the comments (link below). It’s OK if your idea is a bit inside-jokey or referential or whatever, but if so make sure you provide an explanation. I’ll pick the one I like, and that person will win—dun dun duuuhhh—a one-year subscription to Dungeon a Day.

(“What’ that?” you ask. Well, it’s an online subscription-based adventure founded by Monte Cook (yes, that Monte Cook) that delivers an interesting encounter every weekday, all of which are currently building a giant mega-dungeon called Dragon’s Delve. You get the ongoing content throughout your subscription period, plus unlimited access to all of the existing content (something north of 450 encounters, as of this writing). The current mega-dungeon is nearing its climax, so during your year’s subscription you’ll not only get that whole thing (did I mention that I wrote a level and a half of it?), but eight or ten months worth (that’s 150-200 encounters) of whatever comes next. And there’s some really cool shit in there so far!)

(John Kolb took home our last prize, so John, I’m going to have to ask you to sit this one out. Of course, if you have an idea that’s absolutely stunning, I’d hate to miss it, so feel free to post—but you can’t have the prize this time.)

Once you’ve done your horse-naming, here’s your reading for this week.

Click through for a PDF.

An interesting tidbit: When I wrote the last line in this section, I suddenly realized I’d concluded Act 1 of the story. Just out of curiosity, what are your thoughts? What’s your answer to Martin’s question? I’d love to hear exactly how close to (or how far from) the mark people are. Comment link below!

New to this whole thing? You can find the first ten chapters here; and Chapter 11 here and here.

Comment below; you know you wanna! And receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right). Converse with me on Twitter at @charlesmryan, or follow my writing diary on Facebook at Charles M Ryan.

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