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"If you want to know how two chemicals interact, you do not ask them; they will lie through their lying little chemical teeth. You put them in a beaker and apply heat."
Grayson Dawes is one of the best known alchemists (both academically and notoriously) of this or any other age. His achievements range from the entirely pedestrian (the apocryphal coining of the term "Beaker'') to the fantastically insightful (discovering no less than thirteen medical applications for chemicals found within Girasol); from the famously heroic (his single-handed - albeit somewhat gleeful - destruction of the Cellulitic Plague) to the shamefully puerile and base (allegedly offering to pay the entire tribe of Ainslough Fairies a crate of whiskey for a "group thing").
But who was1 Grayson Dawes?
"Everything - every sentient being - lies. Only a Fact does not lie, and even that cannot be entirely trusted, as it was observed by a pack of liars."'
One of the most renowned 'scientists' (another term coined by Dawes) in academia, Dawes was unrelenting in his pursuit of factual, observable proof, repeating experiments until verifiable, repeatable patterns not only emerged, but created grooves in the floor. Over the course of his career, he was granted tenure six times at the University of Bodea - seven times at the Lotnikk University2, and was granted the title of Alchemist Errant by the Grand Duchy Of Kroon (subsequent to a four-month interment within the Ducal dungeons beneath Bodea-Lotnikk).
In short, his brilliance as man of learning and insight is unquestioned.
"Syphilis prevents domestic violence; yet another reason the fairer sex finds me irresistable. That, and money."
His brilliance (or, for that matter, even competence) as sentient or social being is often called into question, and has in fact been the subject of more than a dozen doctoral theses in a surprisingly disparate number of academic disciplines. Some claim that Dawes was a developmentally-stunted sociopath who had been unable to make the 'logical leap' to full-scale genocide; others theorize that his early childhood was a cause, or that he suffered recurring bouts of Bedlamb. Regardless of the cause, the result is indisputable; despite his brilliance, Dawes was difficult if not impossible to deal with for extended periods of time, and spent large amounts of time traveling.4
"I would hate anyone interfering in my personal life, which is why I cleverly avoid having one."
Dawes only had one constant in his lifetime, the poet Hugh Gabilshatush, who spent a great (some would say unbearable) deal of time with the genius. It is through Gabilshatush that we have full accounts of the achievements, adventures, misadventures and heroics that would otherwise have gone entirely unknown; the aerial mapping of the Charnel Road, the ghost of Saint Howsat, or the first diplomatic (to use the term loosely) encounter with Exerprad. It is through the poet that we know much of the man -- some of it even good.
Although it his achievements (both scientific and despicable) for which Dawes should be best remembered, it was his exploits as nominal 'captain' of the roaming airship Humorless that made him famous amongst the masses. Acting as a floating warship/brothel/tavern/laboratory/exploratory vessel, the Humorless attracted the brightest (if not always best) minds and gave birth to the most popular (and raucous) tales of adventure and hedonism (retold today aboard even the Humorless herself). Many a theatre crowd has brayed its appreciation for dramatization of "Dawson and the Ji'Li Tribesmen", the incredibly inaccurate "Un-Littlesmithick Zombeys", and the yuletide classic, "Sniffleheim Dreams".
The (near) Martyr
"The logic is simple, so try to keep up: if you make someone miserable, they will do what you want, simply to make the misery go away. This tactic is tried, tested, and true, and I am living, misery-invoking proof."
In what was, perhaps, the first encounter with a vertically-oriented continent5, the Humorless documented the existence of the Xtant Mountains and brought word of this discovery back to the so-called civilized world.
For this, the crew of the Humorless were branded traitors and heretics. Many fled the region (using what magical, mechanical, or tachymensional means were at their disposal), but Dawson remained to present "The Facts As I Know Them"6 to a disbelieving and in fact angry populace. For a week, Dawes dry, acerbic voice reverberated from every metallic object in the greater Bodea-Lotnikk region, enumerating the horrors the Humorless had discovered.
Dawes was, for perhaps the the last time, stoically (though insultingly) allowing himself to be publicly reviled in order to save those for whom he had little or no obvious regard.
"Either you betrayed me and want absolution or you didn't and want praise. In either case, I am not interested."
In the end, the Duke issued an ultimatum: Dawes was to stop his 'broadcasting' to the angry and frightened public, or the Duke's own autorockets would blast the Humorless out of the sky.
Dawes declined, and spent a half-hour engaged in a public dissection of the Duke's own subconscious transgender impulses as a 'bonus revelation for the heaving masses'.
In the end, it was Hugh Gabilshatush who (depending on one's point of view) saved Dawes from a fiery death... or betrayed him... by knocking Dawes unconscious and turning him over for incarceration. Some say he escaped the next day -- most believe he died in the dungeons below the Cities, screaming that The Others? were coming.
Gabilshatush's story goes on beyond this point, but it here that Dawes's ends (or, if local legends are true, it is where the story has paused). Some say that the Alchemist Errant will return, now that the horrors? of the Xtant Mountains encroach upon the very borders.
Some -- this scholar among them -- pray that they are right.
1 - Alledged sightings of Dawes persist to this day, despite the fact that should be long-dead. Unfortunately, such reports cannot be wholly discounted, due to Dawes's well-known and often sensationalized use of Closet Dimensions and his protracted study of Tachyderms around the time of his disappearance.
2 - It remains a quirk of academic politics that he actually managed to be cast out of both Universities3 an incongruous total of twenty-seven times, despite only having been officially part of the staff for thirteen.
3 - Charges for these expulsions included "Assault with a Fengak", "Geltic Axe Hurling Outside a Sporting Arena", "Crimes Against Logic", "Crimes Against Mankind", "Crimes Against Trollkind", "Salacious Slander", "Diplomatic Incident" (the "Dorniala Twins" scandal), four charges of "Lascivious Behavior Unbecoming", two counts of burning down the Department of Obvious Studies, and six counts of "Catastrophic Musing".
4 - To be fair, these bouts of wanderlust often coincided with one of Dawes's numerous punishments of exile (invariably lifted when a sovereign had need of him) or excommunication (which he largely ignored).
5 - Only for the sake of argument. The Xtant Mountains exist, of course, but what they are is still a matter of hot (and often fatal) debate.
6 - A self-proclaimed 'combat agnostic' who had (in Gabilshatush's words) 'encountered a half-dozen deities and simply... hadn't found them relevant', it may be fair to say that the only Higher Power that Dawes worshipped was Fact.