Scene One: The Winter King's Grimoire
The truth is that Brother Jerome couldn't imagine what on earth to call his discovery. The alchemical experiments suggested by the old book called the Splendor Solis had run their course and delivered something far more bizarre than the mere transmutation of metals. It had created the light of the Sun itself. In a nearly blinding flash, the tiny speck of lead that Jerome had placed into the alembic had changed into pure energy and light of such an intensity that it was merest chance he hadn't been blinded at once. His monk's hood had accidentally fallen at just the opportune moment.
Jerome had been studying alchemy since his days at the secret schools of the Curia. He had been introduced into the divine sciences by the very Bishop, Johann, who had befriended him and who now protected him from the wrath of the Inquisition. They lived together in the church of Kostok Vlach in the Eastern end of Moravia, far too close to the armies of the Protestants to be comfortable.
Jerome had nearly given up the alchemical arts ten years ago, when his experiments had stalled out at a crucial stage of the Albedo...the whitening of the work. Jerome had a natural understanding of the intuitive side of alchemy and had even had a moment of illumination when he understood that the true art is taught by the Holy Spirit. Since that moment, he had been occasionally visited by a mysterious stranger, dressed in black with a large brimmed hat and boots. He was simply known as the Artist Elias. He patiently taught Jerome the secrets of bringing the spirit and energy of metals and stones out into life. When Jerome finally achieved the end of the Work, Elias had been there with him and congratulated him on his success.
The only problem is that Jerome had no idea in how he had succeeded. The transmutation of matter to pure energy seemed to be a lovely parlor trick, but of what use was it? Jerome and Johann often sat in the evening, pondering the significance of the enigmatic discovery. One night, deep in the wee hours, an answer came. The Protestant army had moved a couple of leagues closer and were setting off a brilliant display of explosives and cannon fire that made the ground to shake like an earthquake. That was it! The discovery could provide a weapon of unparalleled force and power. The heat and light set off in ratio to the tiny amount of matter was staggering. Somehow, the Pope must be made aware of this and the horrible excesses of the war might be finally stopped after years of misery. Surely, the Holy Spirit had revealed to them the secret of a magnificent new weapon that might finally put the True Church back into its' rightful position at the head of the temporal world.
Johann encouraged Jerome to write down the exact recipe to follow for the work to succeed for anyone. They tried it together, time after time and it was successful. There was concern that the formula might be lost or become garbled, so the two men followed the time-honored tradition of placing it into symbolic form so that other Catholic alchemists might understand it readily, but that Protestants would be baffled by their own perverted beliefs. The hired a traveling limner named Martin to paint the strange symbolic figure as if it were for the walls of the Church of Kostok. The panel was carefully wrapped in purple silk and preparations were made to bring it with the text of the work hidden inside the frame to Rome. The journey would be long and fraught with enormous danger, but the two men knew that the Holy Spirit stood behind them.
The plan was simple. Outflank the Protestants, disguised as peasants with a load of seemingly worthless scrap bound for market. The panel was built into the bottom of the cart as a cleverly constructed structural element. For a week, they traveled further and further South toward the Adriatic Sea and escape from the erratic patrols of the Protestants. It was a Tuesday morning, when they entered a strange forest, burnt and blackened by some conflagration and covered with a whitish coat of ash. It was eerie and all too revealing, with all of the vegetation burnt past recognition. The two men stopped for a moment to refresh their water-bags in a small stream when the soldiers were suddenly upon them. It seemed odd that a patrol would be this far out in the middle of nowhere with no strategic advantage. A figure riding a gorgeous black steed rode into view...Frederik V himself graced the two holy men. They bowed in reverence. “I know the whole story. Nothing escapes my attention when it comes to the Divine Art of Transmutation. News of a strange and enigmatic painting traveled all the way to the Capital and I knew it could only be a work of the Rose and Cross.” Johann and Jerome shot glances at each other in amazement at this extraordinary statement since both of them had only heard rumors of the mysterious Order of the Rosicrucians. “I am going to ask you to surrender the painting which I presume is built somehow into the cart...or I could have my soldiers rip it apart along with you. Johann assumed that the craft with which they hidden the Art in the symbols of the painting would defeat the young king. “Your majesty, the painting is yours...” He pulled the hidden spring that released the painting from its' cradle in the bottom of the cart and pulled it out with a flourish.
Frederick took it and slowly and reverently unwrapped it from it's purple velvet cover. His eyes opened wide in stark amazement as he took it in and realized what he held in his hands. “Kill them.” The honor guard struck the two holy men so quickly that their bodies still stood, impaled on the lances that had nearly severed their heads. Frederick surveyed the carnage. “Burn it all.” As he rode off, the troops poured alcohol over the bodies and the cart, starting a blazing fire in the middle of a burned world under a dark black Sun.