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The Heart of Alchemy

James E Wisher

Sand Hill Publishing

Copyright © 2020 by James E Wisher

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Edited by: Janie Linn Dullard

Cover art by: B-Ro



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45


Author Note

About the Author

Also by James E Wisher

Chapter 1

Otto Shenk stood in the hall outside the guest room his mother had been using and watched her pack. She’d spent the summer and most of the fall helping Annamaria with the baby. Mother had the magic touch and now Abby seldom cried. For that mercy alone he would have thanked her a thousand times.

He’d asked her more than once if she wouldn’t consider just staying at Franken Manor permanently, but she always insisted on returning home to Shenk Barony. Since Mother could be every bit as stubborn as Father, Otto had been forced to accept her decision. And that meant going ahead of her to have a chat with Stephan, his rather unstable eldest brother.

He sighed and she looked up from the trunk. The fine lines around her blue eyes were barely visible in the bright morning light. She wore a velvet burgundy dress and tough leather boots. Her heavy wool cloak hung on the back of a chair nearby.

“Are you still worrying?” Mother asked. “Bad enough Axel fusses like a mother hen, I don’t need it from you too.”

Otto smiled and tried to keep his unease from showing. “We both love you, Mother. And given Stephan’s temperament, not to mention Griswalda’s, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they might do something stupid. It’s unlikely, I admit that, but far from impossible.”

“It’s sweet that you’re concerned, dear.” Mother closed the trunk and straightened. “But I’ve been dealing with your brother and his shrew of a wife for years. You have nothing to worry about.”

Otto nodded and let the matter drop. Once he finished with Stephan, he really wouldn’t have anything to worry about. The ether swirled at his command and lifted her trunk. They walked together towards the stairs.

At the bottom, Annamaria stood with the baby snug in her arms, sound asleep. She wore a fine white dress, her hair brushed and flawless. Whenever he saw her done up like that, he was reminded of that first day when they met. He’d been so full of hope for his impending marriage. How quickly she’d disabused him of his illusions. Now he viewed her and the baby the same way he did the long dining table. They were both permanent residents of the mansion and he was stuck with them.

Edwyn sat at said table a few feet away and heaved himself to his feet as they approached. Otto hardly believed it possible, but his father-in-law appeared to have gained at least another twenty pounds since trade got back to normal. His girth now barely fit in the dining room chairs.

“We’re going to miss you around here, Katharina.” Edwyn bowed to her and smiled, setting his many chins to jiggling.

“We certainly will,” Annamaria agreed. “I don’t know how I would have survived the last six months without you helping with Abby.”

“She’s a sweet girl.” Mother leaned over and kissed Abby’s cheek. “Once the roads clear in spring, I’ll have to come again. Take care of yourself, Otto. You still look far too thin.”

“Yes, Mother.” Otto walked her outside into the blustery fall breeze. The leaves had started to turn on the many trees that dotted the estate. A hint of moisture filled the air and he suspected they’d have a rain shower before the end of the day.

Otto guided her trunk up onto the carriage roof where one of the guards secured it. Another opened the door and she stepped in without assistance.

“Have a safe trip,” Otto said.

“Goodbye, dear.”

The driver shook his reins and the carriage clattered down the path and out of sight. Otto waited until he could no longer hear the carriage, became one with the ether, and reappeared in the courtyard outside the keep of Castle Shenk.

Graves was pacing in the training yard despite the bitter wind. Only a few days’ ride separated the barony from Garen, but the weather felt like Straken. They’d have to hope the frost held off or a fair portion of the apple crop would freeze.

The good sergeant hurried over when he spotted Otto. He looked older than Otto remembered. More gray ran through his dark hair and new wrinkles lined his face. Time, it seemed, had not been kind to Otto’s former tutor in the way of the sword.

“Lord Shenk.” Graves saluted fist to heart. Since they’d seen the power of his magic, all the guards were now far more respectful around Otto. “I’m glad to see you here. Your father and brother…”

“Yes, I heard. I’ve been putting this visit off, but Mother set out this morning so I can’t delay any longer. Tell me, is the situation as bad as she made out?”

“Three days ago, they nearly drew swords on each other. The garrison is already starting to pick sides. I’m your father’s man for life, as are most of the older guards. But many of the younger men see Stephan as the future, despite his quirks.”

“You should be a diplomat, Graves. Stephan’s insane and we all know it. That can be useful in the right circumstances, which these are not. Right now, all that concerns me is my mother’s safety. Is she in any danger from Stephan or his miserable excuse for a wife?”

“I hesitate to say for certain, my

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