In a cage there was a small rat. On closer inspection one could see that this rat was entirely stone. There was in a cage nearby a number of live flesh rats in contrast to the unmoving stone one. These cages were made of stone. They stood on a bench of stone, or perhaps it would be more fitting to say that the bench was carved out of cave-wall. The whole room was in fact carved out from stone.
There were many benches carved out of the rock and many shelves that were cut directly into the walls of the room. Strewn through this stony subterranean lab were bottles of all kinds, filled with such curiosities as a bit of a shadow, a gasp of surprise or a tear of a gem. Many strange reagents lay bottled and loose around the lab. Here a leg of a particularly large roach, there a shard of some unnatural created material.
There was of course a cauldron ascending from the floor with a small home cut out at the bottom for a salamander. The salamander in question was sleeping, little puffs of flame coming from its nostrils as it dreamed whatever a small fiery lizard spirit does dream of, perhaps of burnable materials. Its flame blazed merrily on its charcoal like body.
There seemed to be quite a number of statues in the room, though not all of them were stone. Some were wood, or metal and other materials.
Sprawled out over one of the benches was a robed figure. Horns were poking out though the hood of the green robe. A lot of faint hissing could be heard from within the hood. One of this being’s hairy hoofed legs twitched. This was Capo, the owner of the alchemy lab he had fallen asleep in.
His green robe shifted and a snake emerged from beneath it. The snake was a mottled brown, with black diamond patterns along its back, it leaned forward to Capo’s head, opening its mouth fangs bared!
“Hey, Bro, bro wake up, new day and all that stuff, we got things to do”
It was in spite of appearances not a snake. It was Bolos, the brother of Capo, and he was in fact attached to Capo like a tail.
They were kind of like conjoined twins, two people with bodies attached to each other, though Capo had far more of body than Bolos did. Not that Bolos ever complained, though he made sure that Capo was always clean and well groomed.
This was not the only oddity of these brothers, they were a half-breed…
Er… or half-breeds.
In any case, Their mother had been a gorgon, one of the descendants of the cursed Queen Medusa and her many sisters, female warriors and pretty much any woman that had been under Medusa’s rule. The curse changed her hair to snakes, but most problematic and what really made it a curse was that her and those others afflicted by the curse would turn to stone any living being that met their gaze.
This of course had been the end of Medusa’s realm, its name is not even remembered. So many had turned to stone before the gorgons had learnt to see with their snake hair and not their eyes. The curse had continued to be passed down to the daughters of the original gorgons and the daughters of those daughters. Of course, many people believed the gorgons had come about some other way, the true story had long been lost to the people of Kigan. It has however been said that Medusa’s realm lay in the land of curses, Ashke’Iren. Some even say that she yet lives, but even most fools fear the very name of that forsaken continent.
Capo and Bolos’ father however, was a minotaur. A combination of cattle and man, the head and two legs of a bull or cow blended with the torso of a human. His kind were a simpler story. They were a magifactured race, that is to say a Mage created them. It was a common story before the Great Prohibition, or the Grand Pact, or any number of names the agreement of banning the creation of races, homunculi and many other things. Mages would create and unmake vast swaths of beings as they pleased, making them for armies, for worship, for servants and for many reasons, many very depressing and quite a number wicked.
The mad Mage-King Minos was one such mage and he made many minotaur to defend his great ever growing towering maze-city. The ruins of his Maze-city could still be found in Erimael for those foolish enough to dare them. In the world of Kigan, and many other worlds, plenty such fools existed.
Capo moaned. He was not thinking of the rich heritage of his parents’ races of the minotaurs’ struggle to escape the yoke of Minos and the trials they went under after freedom, nor was he thinking of the tragedy that the gorgons first faced or how they were hunted for magical reagents by heartless adventurers for many eons until alchemists discovered how to cheaply make a similar substance without having to fight and murder a woman who could turn you to stone with a gaze.
As it had turned out moulted gorgon skin worked just fine for many things with a bit of the right seasoning. Though most people really didn’t want to think about gorgon moulting.
No Capo was not even thinking about moulting. He was thinking how dry the inside of his mouth was and how hard his head was pounding and how he really needed a drink of water.
Capo stumbled out of the lab, Bolos carefully making sure that he didn’t knock anything over as he staggered outside. Outside in this case, was not that different from inside. Capo and Bolos lived in an underground farm, near a place called Darnuth. Darnuth was a holnhold a kind of underground settlement, with buildings cut into the walls of tunnel-like streets.
The mushroom farm Capo and Bolos lived in was in a large cavern, this one was natural rather than carved out. Set into the cave wall was their house two doors, one lead to the lab they had come from and the other lead to the house proper. Smoke roiled out of some vents in the wall, rising into the inky blackness of the unseen cavern ceiling.
Capo hauled up the bucket from their well and took a long draught, then he offered it to Bolos, who took only a few sips, he and Capo shared the same stomachs after all. They were silent for a while, staring out into the cave that was lit with crystal lamps, and natural glowing crystal, fungi and various plants.
Blotches of colour against a black canvas.
Bolos finally spoke.
“Feeding mother first?” He questioned.
Capo nodded, lumbering back to the house.
“I think we’re close to getting the right formula” Bolos chattered.
Capo merely snorted. He clearly didn’t have Bolos’ optimism.
They stopped into the house larder to grab some ingredients for a nourishing gruel. Capo quickly whipped the stuff together in a cauldron and carried it to the main room, there was a good fire there for cooking. There was some huge thing in the room, covered over with a large sheet. In the darkness of one of the corners Capo and Bolos’ mother sat on a chair faint hissing coming from her.
Capo paid her no attention, it was not like she would acknowledge his presence anyway. Bolos looked sadly in her direction, and that of the sheet covered object. Capo hooked the cauldron of nascent gruel over the crackling fire. It hadn’t died out the mushroom stems Capo used worked longer and better for a fire than normal wood or roots.
He dragged a stool over and began to silently stir the gruel, Bolos of course, began speaking almost straight away, unlike Capo, he could not cope well with silence.
“I think she’s looking a bit better today” Bolos remarked.
Capo stopped stirring and looked over at his mother, he huffed.
“Ha, I’m right aren’t I” Bolos said smugly.
Capo had to admit, she did seem a bit better, but her mind was still hiding. He was just glad that she would still accept food.
“I think the sheet is helping” Bolos continued.
Capo Nodded to Bolos. Before they had put the sheet over, they had to restrain their mother, to keep her from hurting herself.
Silence crept back, Bolos being foiled by his brother’s common reluctance to speak.
Bolos thought of something that’d be sure to get a reaction.
“It would be nice if Multhis came back with a cure, wouldn’t it?”
Capo’s hand struck the hot cauldron in his surprise at what came out of Bolos’ mouth.
Both Bolos and Capo cried out in pain. Regaining his senses Bolos took a small tin from above the fireplace and rubbed some of the paste that was inside on the burn.
“She’s never coming back” Capo said “She’s either dead, or has abandoned us, so good as dead”
Bolos never really thought much through. He was regretting his words.
“The only ones who can turn him back from stone are us”
Capo stared at the sheet covered object, he didn’t understand. That day, why had he looked? Capo didn’t know if he could forgive him, he had to have known better, so why? That day Capo and Bolos’ family had fallen apart. Their mother had lost her mind, retreating into herself, and their sister, Multhis, had run away, leaving nothing but a note claiming that she would find a cure for him.
Capo and Bolos finished cooking the gruel and fed it to their mother in silence.
Multhis had left them. Capo was still annoyed. If she hadn’t left, he could have gone, and learned more alchemy, then he’d probably have no trouble turning stone to flesh. As it was he was stuck caring for the farm and his mother, and making what use he could with his current alchemical knowledge.
Bolos believed they were making progress but to Capo, he felt like he was running in circles.
He sighed as they left the house to tend the farms.
“It would be nice if she came back with a cure. It would be nice if she came back at all”
Bolos nodded in agreement. They spoke more that day, and Capo even laughed at one of Bolos’ jokes.