24 February, 2013 by katelaity
Eduardo growled low, but did not lift his head from his paws where it rested.
The alchemist had not heard his name called anyway, as he was currently occupied with the latest of a series of tests on the new fuel. Inspired by the nearness of the Exposition’s start, Maggiormente had finally dreamed himself a solution.
Literally: after pacing their flat for days on end, unhappy with his lack of progress and unable to come up with an alternative avenue of investigation. One night he stayed up until dawn, his rhythmic tread doubtless wearing on the nerves of the folks below him, but no one complained.
That doubtless had something to do with his familiar who had managed to intimidate even their garrulous concierge into a respectful silence most of the time.
Falling into a fitful slumber at dawn, the alchemist awoke late morning with a cry of triumph. He leapt from his shabby bed to run to the workroom that sprawled across what might have been the kitchen and dining room in another existence and set to work.
An hour later—maybe less!—he had a solution.
Solution—a formula, that is, a liquid that needed to be proofed and tested. Before he could do so, Maggiormente double checked his notes, then asked a sleepy Eduardo to sniff the elixir.
“What am I smelling for?” the bemused lion asked.
“Does it smell all right?” Maggiormente asked with evident eagerness, his hair standing up in at least a dozen different directions. “Does it smell incendiary?”
Eduardo sighed. “Most of your concoctions are incendiary.”
The alchemist waved his hands with annoyance. “Yes, but no! This must be the ne plus ultra! It is both incendiary and less volatile.” He waved it about as if to demonstrate its safety.
Eduardo was less than convinced. “Don’t slosh it around like that. You are likely to get some on my fur and I do not wish to be ignited.”
Chastened, Maggiormente held the vial out slowly toward his familiar’s snout. “Just give it a quick assessment.”
Eduardo inhaled, slightly at first and then with more interest. “It’s clearly incendiary…but it’s not as acrid as your usual fuels are.”
“But incendiary—that’s good.”
The lion inhaled again, a thoughtful look on his face. “Is there cinnamon in there?”
Maggiormente laughed and shook his head. His beard bobbed up and down. “Just a pinch! I thought it would improve the scent as it burned away. A nuance, as they say. A little sprezzatura in the mix.”
“I wouldn’t mention it to the pilot. They might see it as frivolous.” Eduardo sniffed. “As your fuels have gone, this is the least objectionable in smell. Does it actually work?” He gave the alchemist a close look.
“Let us test it.” They proceeded to fire up the small engine the two had purchased with the baker’s help. The fuel worked satisfactorily in the engine, producing a reasonable speed and a light cloud of brown smoke that smelled rather faintly of cinnamon.
“Good,” Eduardo pronounced it after a serious bit of thought. One wouldn’t say it pained him to applaud his alchemist, but it had been so long since the Italian had produced something that did not precipitously explode that the lion could be forgiven for his surprise.
“Good yes,” Maggiormente agreed. “But it could be better!”
“Yes, time to distill the mixture.” Maggiormente had set to work at once but distilling was a slow process and he paced around for some time before setting to work making more of the fuel simply to occupy his time.
The elixir was nearly ready when they were interrupted by the concierge’s shouts. “Signore, signore! Do you not hear me?”
“What?” Maggiormente said absently as he raised the distilled elixir aloft, admiring its golden tone in the window’s light.
“Monsieur,” Mme. Gabor said somewhat snippily. “I have been trying to tell you.”
“Tell me what?” Maggiormente looked at the woman whose heavy kohled eyes regarded him with impatience. “What is it?”
“Your airship. She is here!” With that she thrust a newspaper before the alchemist and pointed to the column of print. “Look!”