The Englishman was sitting on a bench in a structure that smelled of animals, sweat, and dust; it was part warehouse, part corral.
I never thought I'd end up in a place like this, he thought, as he leafed through the pages of a chemical journal. Ten years at the university, and here I am in a corral.
But he had to move on. He believed in omens.
All his life and all his studies were aimed at finding the one true language of the universe.
First he had studied Esperanto, then the world's religions, and now it was alchemy.
He knew how to speak Esperanto, he understood all the major religions well, but he wasn't yet an alchemist.
He had unraveled the truths behind important questions, but his studies had taken him to a point beyond which he could not seem to go.
He had tried in vain to establish a relationship with an alchemist.
But the alchemists were strange people, who thought only about themselves, and almost always refused to help him.
Who knows, maybe they had failed to discover the secret of the Master Work—the Philosopher's Stone—and for this reason kept their knowledge to themselves.
He had already spent much of the fortune left to him by his father, fruitlessly seeking the Philosopher's Stone.
He had spent enormous amounts of time at the great libraries of the world, and had purchased all the rarest and most important volumes on alchemy.
In one he had read that, many years ago, a famous Arabian alchemist had visited Europe.
It was said that he was more than two hundred years old, and that he had discovered the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life.
The Englishman had been profoundly impressed by the story.
But he would never have thought it more than just a myth, had not a friend of his—returning from an archaeological expedition in the desert—told him about an Arab that was possessed of exceptional powers.