Alchemy is an extremely complicated art, slightly hidden behind 'mainstream' magic. Treated as one of supportive types of magic - together with techmaturgy and genmaturgy - it however allows to achieve many things that pure users of theurgy and thaumaturgy can only dream off. There are also surprisingly many 'pure' alchemists that focus only on it, without being magicians (and equally many magicians that also dabble in art of alchemy). The biggest problem in studying alchemy is its secrecy. Creating healing potions from herbs is a lowest floor of an expansive tower, with highest floor being a pure metaphysics. Above the purely 'craftsmanship' level there are no books filled with recipes. There are alchemical treaties filled with complicated symbolisms, that requires expansive knowledge to decipher (which is considered a form of test that divides those worthy of it from those unworthy). As a sort of a curio, high level alchemy tends to be monotheistics in theme, with most of the best alchemists hailing from Khard, Visenia and Inrithia. High level alchemy is an art of changing the state of the world not via the power of the Dark as magic does it, but by understanding the deepest rules that gover the matter, which is possible only by understandng both the matter and its creator.
Three thousands new alchemists leaves our school each year. Demand? Ten times bigger. Every noble and wealthy patrician in empire wishes to have his kid grow strong, smart and beautiful. It requires alchemy. Adventurer Training Guilds in the empire need mutagens and healing poultices to produces adventurers quick enough to replenish the losses. It requires alchemy. Medicines? Every single city in the Empire literally begs for more healers, as the bigger the population the bigger the risks of plagues. This, too, requires alchemy.
The question isn't why you should rise our funding. The question is why do we even have this talk.
Dean of Imperial University Alchemical Department
during the audition regarding increase in funding.
Calling alchemy an art of creating potions is a great understatement. Even on a purely craftsman level, alchemist create not only potions, but also dusts, pills, salves, liquid injectable via primitive syringes, poisons, extracts to soak bandages or bands with, and so on. There is even a special - oftenly underestimated even by master of alchemy - 'school' of alchemy that deals in creating meals out from alchemical ingredients, causing certain effects. Not to mention an alchemical incenses and tobacco-analogues. Alchemists can create drugs, mutagens, stimulants, poisons, antidotes, utilitarian chemicals (for example mosquito repellants) and, of course, medicines. Even average village alchemist, that sits atop the fence between herbalism and alchemy, can create a medicinal pills with painkiller or antipiretic effects equalling those available on Earth today. Alchemical mixture will not made a hand of combatant grow back in the middle of the fight, but right poultice will immediately - and for long - stop bleeding. Right potion with replenish lost blood within few minute. In 2-3 days even the most serious wounds can be healed. What's more, the most powerful alchemists (one close to finishing the Magnum Opus) can actually make the hand (or even arm) grow back, but it will require fairy exotic ingredients and many months of working. Alchemy can also be dangerous. Taking too much in short period of time can kill more efficiently than a sword. It is especially true in case of mutagens, where even weak ones overdosed kill. Slowly and painfully. But, in fact, everything can be deadly in sufficient dose. Regular intake highers the tolerance threshold. Novice that drinks an essence-based mixture will end up staining people with blood leaving him through every possible hole.
When I was a kid I wanted to become a magician. Then I saw how my father treats alchemists.
Youngest son of a certain noble.
Important element to understand the alchemy is Magnum Opus (Great Work). It can be described as a road of an alchemist to create a philosopher stone, in alchemical symbolism meaning perfection in both art and understanding the material world. There are several important steps that must be completed by every achemist aspiring to Magnum Opus. First is creation of Alkahest, an universal solvent capble of dissolving all matter into its basic elements. With it, it is possible to move from purely material level into metaphysical one. Alchemists beyond that level tend to use matterial ingredients less and less, rather than that focusing on mixing their essences. Matter becames and uneccesary addition. Second step to finishing Magnum Opus is Azoth, substance also treated as universal solvent but one much more efficient from alkahest, that allows to obtain even purer essences. Simultaenously to this, alchemists discover the secrets of Prima Materia, an universal, 'blank' matter, its quintessence, necessary to creating philosopher's stone... and matter - for example lost limbs or homunculi. Last, third step is, includes Elixir Vitae that gives immortality and Panaceum that heals all ilnesses by reverting the body to its perfect state (also 'healing' old age, turning the clock back into early adulthood). Transmutation - changing one type of matter into another one - is also possible. At the pinnacle of that level is Magnum Opus, a symbol of complete understanding of matter as a whole capable of changing it with their sheer will. Of course, third step alchemists are creatures practically nonexistent in the wild, at least not oficially. It is sure that they exist, but they tend to distance themselves from the world, hiding beneath nicknames and pretending to be much less powerful than they truly are. Which tends to have something in common with their lack of interests in prolonging lifes of rich elite. Imperium most likely knows where to find few of them - they are sometimes very useful - but tends to avoid pressuring as long as they aren't doing somehing to endanger Karadia.
Last adventurer company assigned to our magical anomaly suffered 64% losses in manpower within a year. Due to the value of alchemical ingredients and aether collected, I declared the losses acceptable.
Commander of Imperium of Karadia outpost in magical
anomaly, during audition and prior to promotion.
There exists and uncountable ammounts of alchemical ingredients in the world. Herbalism is a great example. Flora of Gates of Eternity is even more diverse than on Earth, giving tens of thousands potential ingredients. Number of receipts is actually much more smaller, as many ingredients (for example pain relieving ingredients) are interchangeable as long as relatively similar in streght. It is mainly because most of the herbal components are simply weak. Lowest of levels, achievable even by the worsest alchemics. It barely works, so the differences in that matter are abysmal. Truly strong herbal ingredients can be aquired from... exotic sources. For example magical anomalies, often covered by plants heavily irradiated with magic. Some of them can even have several effects at once (for example flower petals might cause hallucinations, while leaves can be poisonous. Or be a potent painkillers. Gathering many of them requires professional knowledge, otherwise it can be easily wasted. Besides herbal, there are also ingredients animal (or one coming from sentient beings, which Imperium dislikes) and mineral, for example powdered metals or liquified (that's a really high level of skill) jewels. Which are a completely separate matter, as they can also serve as extremely high grade base for liquid mixtures. Bases for mixture are actually a similar, and very important matter. Many liquids can serve as them. Water (distilled or spring water, depending on the receipt), alcohol, milk, blood... sometimes even rather exotic (like virgin blood - from quite obvious sources). More advanced alchemists use much more advanced and specially crafter alchemical bases (being elixirs on their own) or liquified jewels. On higher, metaphysical level of alchemy, ingredients have to be properly refined to be used to maximum effectiveness. Essences aquired via alkahest are the so called 'simple essences'. Herb dissolved in alkahest with leave a bit of material waste and a few drops of very light liquid (it can be gathered from the surface of the alkahest) that are pure essence of dissolved ingredient, much stronger in working. Essences aquired through azoth are the so called 'complex essences'. Rather than being an essence of dissolved material, they are its dissolved 'archetype'. Painkiller herb will leave an essence of painkilling. Every painkiller ingredient will leave exactly the same ingredient, just in varying ammounts depending on how strong it was. It is the same with every existing effect.