In alchemy, all objects are reduced to their fundamental constituents, called elements. Alchemical studies have revealed fifteen irreducible elemental properties. All alchemical objects are a combination of several of these.
Alchemy and physics are closely related and were once thought to be the same, but much to the astonishment of the early alchemists, they discovered that many physical objects are not alchemical (and later discovered that the reverse was true, as well). They found it particularly surprising that many physical objects that seemed to possess the properties of one or more alchemical elements did not actually contain those elements.
This occurrence was partially explained by the introduction of Urathan's Law. Urathan grouped the fifteen elements into five groups and determined that a physical object only becomes alchemical if it has a characteristic element in at least four of the five groups. Although no one has yet been able to definitively prove Urathan's Law, no counterexample has ever been found, and the law is commonly accepted as fact. The existence of such a law has caused many alchemists to wonder whether the elements are really as independent as has formerly been thought.
No one, however, has allowed this question to prevent the widespread use of alchemy, and expert alchemists can be found in virtually every physical city of the world. By combining various elements, alchemists are able to produce a variety of spectacular effects. They are best known for mixing potions . . . and poisons.
Equally well-known are alchemical creatures known as elementals, which are usually dominated by a single element. The huge elemental bias in these creatures often allows them to make much more direct and potent use of alchemical power. Stories are told of entire villages unfortunate enough to be destroyed by wandering fire or chaos elementals when their resident alchemists were away.
Step out of the doorway, you're blocking the light. I need to be able to read this recipe. If I add too much of this powder here, the whole mixture could explode and send this building up in flames. I'll be with you in a moment . . .
There, perfect! This is just the potion Sir Nogarth will need to deal with that cold elemental he's been constantly complaining about. I knew I had that recipe in this book somewhere! I'd better bottle it up quickly . . .
You see, alchemy is a very exact discipline. Under controlled circumstances, alchemical reactions can be very accurately predicted. It takes work--there are a lot of variables involved--but they can be predicted. That's why most alchemists prefer to mix up their brews in their workshops rather than in the field. Things are much more likely to go awry when you're in a hurry. That's why the nonintelligent elementals always seem to wreak so much havoc.
Now don't get me wrong, I've done some alchemy off the cuff myself. Why, just last year, there was a sighting of an elemental near town and I found myself in the hunting party to attack it. Believe you me, that was some of the fastest, worst-planned alchemy I've ever done. I took out two trees before I finally managed to get the elemental under control! It would have been much better if I had mixed up some potions here ahead of time, but the scout who had spotted the elemental couldn't tell what type it was.
Let's see here . . . you need to be careful to store the potions in bottles that won't alter the elemental makeup of the potion itself. Usually you try to use nonalchemical bottles, but sometimes if you do that some of the potency tends to leak out before you use it. In that case, you need to find alchemical but neutral materials, which are rather hard to come by.
Ah, here we are. Now, where did I put those labels?