The Quicksilver and the Undead
By Laura Bickle
Once upon a time, classical alchemists sought to create gold from base materials and unearth the key to eternal life. Lofty goals, eh? Alchemists processed chemicals in their labs, seeking to distill the impossible through their powders and salts and fires. Generally, they managed not to poison themselves too often with lead or mercury. Most of the illustrations I’ve seen have indicated that the practitioners managed not to burn off their eyebrows.
But things have gone pretty awry in Temperance, the setting for DARK ALCHEMY. Temperance was founded by an alchemist during the Gold Rush days. Lascaris conjured a steady supply of gold, but died mysteriously in a fire. The secret of turning rocks into gold vanished with him, more than a hundred years ago.
Lascaris left behind some monumental screw-ups and half-finished experiments, legacies that persist to the present day. Chief among them are:
*The drug lord, Stroud. Tracing his bloodline back to Lascaris, Stroud continues his efforts to find the elixir of eternal life, with a sideline of cooking meth and weaponizing living mercury.
* The Lunaria, the Alchemical Tree of Life. The symbol of the perfected alchemical process, the tree’s roots dig deep in the earth and its branches reach to the heavens in perfect symmetry. The Lunaria is hidden in the ranch lands of a cattle baron, much weakened, but still sought by Stroud.
* The Hanged Men, the local undead. As ranch hands, these men are bonded to the Lunaria, to which they must return for regeneration each night. The Hanged Men are the result of a flawed and incomplete attempt at an immortality process. Always in the company of their raven familiars, they bide their time until they can overthrow the cattle baron controlling the Lunaria.
*The Venificus Locus, a magic detector that feeds on blood. This artifact is accidentally found by Petra Dee, a newcomer to town. As a geologist, she doesn’t believe in anything she can’t see and measure. And she’s seeing and measuring some pretty weird stuff in Temperance.
When Petra finds the Venificus Locus, she stumbles into the crosshairs of the Hanged Men and Stroud. With only a coyote and a pair of antique pistols as allies, she finds herself in the middle of a secret war for the remnants of Lascaris’s alchemical empire.
Stephen King’s The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad in Laura Bickle’s novel Dark Alchemy.
About Dark Alchemy:
Some secrets are better left buried…
Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present.
But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up - desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain - her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill.
Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.
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, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.
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. THE HALLOWED ONES and THE OUTSIDE are her latest young adult novels.
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