A little teaser from my young adult Steampunk manuscript:
“Yeah, yeah he did. A bad one this time, too. Pop had to call in Dr. Adolphus.” This time Oscar shot his eyes upward and caught Constance’s startled look. Billy stood facing away, peering out over the shimmering expanse of the Mississippi.
Dr. Adolphus was the alchemist Billy’s father kept on payroll at the brewery. He was a forbidding man that stood twice as tall as anyone had a right too, German or not. Even in a summer as unforgiving as this, the bushy-browed man wore a long, thick coat that swung around his ankles and a fine bowler atop his hairless head. He carried a stout cane with a cut crystal head that shone with rainbow colors even in the dark and he spoke with an accent so thick that even the Lemps had a hard time understanding him. And Billy’s father was first generation, born to a full-blooded German father.
Alchemy was hardly forbidden in medicine – the nuns at the Convent of the House of Good Shepherd might actually have a Philosopher’s Stone if the rumors were true. The Jews were rumored to use alchemy in both medicine and the creation of their hulking Golems, and the Old Italian stregas on The Hill concocted potions and poultices in the shadow of the Social Evil Hospital despite protests from the Archbishop. Even so, alchemy was the last hope for most folk. Coalminers coughing up black bits of lung, dirigible pilots burned and broken in explosions, and the mothers of stillborn babes are the sorts that look to alchemy for a cure.
“Oft as not, that sort of cure is worse than what broke you in the first place.” Oscar heard Constance repeat the old saying right alongside him. Their voices sang in a creepy unison that brought them both up short. All this talk of alchemy and Billy’s ailing brother was getting depressing.
“Well, he’s hardly going to just let Ick die. His pride and joy and all.” Billy kicked at the loose rock, sending a stone skimming across the surface of the Mississippi to disappear in the murky water. “And besides, he can hardly get out of bed this summer. If it means he can get a little sunlight, let the old alchemist pump him full of whatever he’s got.”