Today, I'm pleased to have Laura Bickle return and talk about the fascinating topic of how alchemy has been used to find immortality. Be sure to check out her new release, Mercury Retrograde, from her Dark Alchemy series. Definitely on my TBR list! Also, at the end of this post, you can enter her giveaway contest for a prize of an Amazon gift card.
The Price of Immortality
By Laura Bickle
Classical alchemy has sought the secret to eternal life for centuries. Through the use of intricate alchemical processes and arcane magic, alchemists sought to find a way to extend life beyond its natural end. There were other goals, of course – the Philosopher’s Stone and transmuting base metals to gold, for example. These are all works of magic, and magic has a price.
In MERCURY RETROGRADE, the small town of Temperance was founded in the Gold Rush days by an alchemist who discovered a way to conjure gold from rocks. He was successful in that venture, but failed in his efforts to create eternal life. Not for lack of trying – and he experimented with humans.
The Hanged Men are the result of an incomplete alchemical process. They’ve been roaming the backcountry for a century and a half, disguised as ranch hands for a dynasty of cattle barons. The Hanged Men that were made first are the most human-seeming – they retain the ability to speak and are passable as men. The ones made later are more fragile and mechanical, little more than automatons. It’s been this way for over a century, as the men work in the presence of their raven familiars.
Each one was hung from the Alchemical Tree of Life, the Lunaria. It’s a mighty oak tree standing alone in a field, embodying the alchemical principle of “As above, so below.” Its branches symbolically scrape the heavens, and its roots sink deep into the earth, to a chamber of living tree roots dripping with liquid sunshine.
The Hanged Men must return to that chamber every night, to decompose and be regenerated. It’s not a pretty process. The Hanged Men are vulnerable to magic and to wood – they can be killed by a sharp whack to the back of the head with a baseball bat or staked like any other undead (or living) creature.
So far, things have worked out. The Hanged Men keep a low profile. But times have changed. The Lunaria is dying. It’s shedding leaves out of season, dropping branches, and the energy drains away from its brittle roots. The Hanged Men have tried all they know to save it, but it is clear that it will not last much longer…and neither will they.
Their only hope is to find a magical creature – a basilisk. The magical serpent has been awakened by seismic tremors and slithers through the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park, leaving a trail of bodies in its wake. The blood from the right side of the basilisk grants eternal life, while blood from the left is certain death.
It’s a terrible risk, with a terrible price – the Hanged Men are as vulnerable as any other men to the basilisk’s venomous powers. But they must find it and make an offering to the tree before it dies…and the Hanged Men, along with it.
A Dark Alchemy Novel
About the Book:
Geologist Petra Dee and the citizens of Temperance, Wyoming come up against a venomous enemy, not to mention a biker gang that’s hell on wheels, in the second book in Laura Bickle’s Dark Alchemy series.
Something venomous has come to Temperance…
It’s been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance’s resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.
Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels - the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don’t want to kill the basilisk - they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters’ own murderous skills.
Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival.
With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.
About the Author:
Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology - Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.
More information about Laura’s work can be found at www.laurabickle.com
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