"I agree but I'll have to get the trip approved."
Balthazar said to the man from the Academy's research station in Haven. The man's name was Mortyn and he came to Balthazar to requested a meeting. Now they stood in his workshop with Trean at the door. They were discussing the new material that had been discovered at the base of the Scalvoris Mountains which Mortyn thought it would benefit the settlement greatly to get a decent amount of the strange ore for study and use while Balthazar ground phoenix wood bark with a mortar and pestle. His workshop was not a large building. It fit two tables, one of which had one of Balthazar's alchemy kits sitting opened on it and the other which he used to work reagents as he went. With the two small tables, Balthazar, Mortyn, and Trean, there was not much room for comfort.
Working in the Haven research center meant that you were generally looking for things found around Faldrass, but scientific curiosity was a persistent bug. Mortyn wanted to learn more so he was doing what he could to convince Balthazar it was worth it. He didn't have to try very hard. As soon as Balthazar heard the rumors about it being magic enhancing and weightless, he was interested. Either of those properties would have been excellent. Honestly, weightless was preferred if it was strong. If it was weightless, they could carry a lot of it back. He couldn't leave Faldrass but he could send a workforce out. However the workforce would not be as reliable as sending the man himself. He was a great leader but he did not have the resources to lead a mining mission at the base of the Scalvoris Mountain's from Faldrass... without his magic.
"I'll make a request to the Council, until then keep working on the projects you have."
Mortyn didn't seem entirely content with Balthazar's assurance but he did nod and depart from the room without making any fuss about it. Balthazar crossed out of his workshop, leaving his little project incomplete for the moment while he went to his house where the parchment and writing equipment was stored. His workshop housed one of very nice alchemy kits he had been given by the Scholar's Nook some time ago so while the building itself wasn't anything to brag about, the equipment he used was still good. Balthazar quickly wrote a letter to the Council about the ore,
To the Council,
I am writing to request the Council send Haven any of the new ore that they acquire from the base of the Scalvoris Mountains. There are individuals in the research station would would be interested in examining and studying its unique properties. Should you not have access to it, I would be personally willing to lead a small group to the base of the mountains to mine some of the ore for the settlement and research center, but I do not feel comfortable sending a group without me due to events earlier in the season. If there is anything that can be done, the people of Haven would appreciate your aid and support.
It was hardly the most heartfelt request but it was the effort Balthazar was able to put forward. People were harder to persuade with letters and he had the feeling the majority of the council that mattered did not like him. He expected that if they got anything more than a refusal, they would maybe get a few pieces. He did not expect he would be allowed to take a group to mine it and he would not send a group without him or Elisabeth... and he would not send Elisabeth out again. With the letter complete, he handed it off to Trean to read and deliver with the rest of the letters the Flame Troopers screened to and from Balthazar.
"Back to work then?"
Balthazar asked. Trean did not nod or shake his head, he waited for Balthazar and the two left the house to go back to the small workshop where the ground up phoenix tree bark was still sitting in Balthazar's mortar. He'd collected the bark he ground up now from one of the trees on the edge of the Ashwoods. He never got tired of peeling off the brown bark and revealing the unique pastel colors beneath it- or at least he had not yet. He'd even thought of a drinking game that could be played with the settlers based on the color of the wood beneath the bark but he had not tried it out yet.
When the wood had been reduced to a decent powder Balthazar moved over to his desk and cleared a little bit of space away. He set the mortar full of powdered bark on the table and began looking through the vials and other glass containers in the kit. He took a bowl and set it on the table before pouring some of the powder into it. Then he picked up a small beaker full of water he'd taken from the rain barrels and poured a splash of it into the bowl with the phoenix wood bark powder. He took a metal rod from the kit for mixing and began stirring the water into the powder but it did not go nearly the way he was hoping it would. The water and the powdered bark mixed but they did not seem to come together. There was something missing from the formula or something wrong with it. Balthazar examined his dirty water carefully for a few moments and then let out a loud sigh. He took the bowl, walked outside, and dumped the bowl out.
It was easier to make black powder than it was to make a fire proof paste and Balthazar found that a little irritating. Perhaps he should just divert all his focus into black powder and perfect the explosive for Haven. Then again what good would it do them to have bombs all over the settlement? It would be better for them to create something to throw the bomb elsewhere... or use the black powder to throw an object but Balthazar had no idea how they'd do that. The powder would likely destroy anything it detonated beside. It was moment like this where he missed his encyclopedia set about alchemy that he'd given away as a gift. He'd read many of the pages but it was not the same. He knew what he knew but he wanted to know more and those books would have given him the knowledge he needed. Or Doran would have...
One of the stranger things Balthazar had reflected on was that if he had just been willing to tell more outright lies, he would have been able to get what he wanted. If he had just lied to Doran about his interest in blood magic, he would have gotten the papers he wanted from the professor. Lies wouldn't have helped with Jacien but there were plenty of common people who would believe deception. Perhaps the time for truth was over. Regardless Balthazar cleaned out the bowl he'd been using and poured the rest of the powdered tree bark into it before taking a beaker to retrieve more water from the barrels. He knew he needed some form of binder to merge the water and powder but that was not the only issue he faced. The bark did not dissolve in the water like he'd expected it too so he decided to heat it up for the second attempt.
Balthazar started a small fire using a piece of flint and steel to ignite some dry grass just outside the workshop, then he used that fire to light a candle that had come with his kit before stomping the fire out with his boot. He moved back into the workshop, set the candle beneath a stand the beaker was on, and waited for it to slowly heat up the water. In the meantime, Balthazar moved back over to his kit and began looking over the labeled primers and binders that had come with it. The tools in the kit from the Scholar's Nook were amazing but the actual materials to use were less worthy of admiration. He recognized some things but not others and the things he did not recognize he would not use.
His mind traced back to his first lesson with Doran while he looked over his kit, thinking about the cloth Doran made more durable. Perhaps Balthazar was looking at it the wrong way. He was trying to make something to put over surfaces to make them fireproof when he should have been trying to make the materials they built with fireproof. It was immediately clear he did not have the resources he would need to work on that large a scale so Balthazar went back to his other idea to create a fireproof paste. Hopefully the second attempt would go better than the first had. While he waited for the water to boil, Balthazar poured a very small line of the powdered tree bark on the table and tore a small piece of parchment. He dipped the edge of the parchment in the water, then ran it across the powder before holding it up to the candle. The flame seemed to bend slightly around the wood for a trill before catching the dry piece of parchment and igniting it. Balthazar dropped it and stomped the small flame out, his theory proven. The powder was as fireproof as the bark.
When the water was boiling, Balthazar carefully removed it from the stand and poured it into the bowl with the last of powdered tree bark. This time, when he mixed them, the bark seemed to dissolve and merge with the water more easily than before. Balthazar took the binder he'd chosen from the kit and sprinkled some of it in before mixing again. The liquid in the bowl seemed to thicken a little as the binder was added so Balthazar shook just a little bit more in then closed the binder and put it back where he'd gotten it from. He continued mixing the concoction in the bowl curiously. He wasn't sure how well it would work but he would need to let it sit and settle for a while before testing it. He just had to remember to come back and stir it every once in a while to make sure it didn't suddenly dry into a solid... not that he thought it would, he was just being cautious.
Balthazar poured the mixture from the bowl into a jar and put a cap on it, then set it aside to allow it the time to settle while he went about cleaning his workshop. Trean watched silently while Balthazar worked. The former mage had forgotten how fun alchemy could be, but cleaning was... meh.