Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seighard of Zurich

Seighard grew up in the Swiss capital of Zurich, the eldest son in a family of three surviving children. His father was a Count from an old noble family, but under pressure from the Zurich Commune, he sold and relinquished his Baronial rights and was reduced to the status of a rich landowner. His father did not oppose the new regime in the Acht Orte (Eight Places) as strenuously as others, reasoning it was best to keep good relations with leaders of the Cantons as long as their continued military successes made the return of the Hapsburg dukes a distant prospect.

While he retained his title, the Count had scant hope that his family's political fortunes would be reversed. He had Seighard apprentice with a rich merchant friend of his, Paschal Ecke of Augsberg On the overcast morning Seighard left to apprentice in Augsburg, his father pressed a smooth pewter ring into his palm. The proud man tearfully told him that while he might yet be denied his public birthright, his families secret inheritance would be his.

Seighard was outwardly content learning the merchants trade in Bavaria, but inwardly chafed at the situation his family found themselves in back in Switzerland. While in Augsburg he was introduced to Bernard of Trévisan, an Alchemist, who was journeying with companions to meet Henry (A priest in Germany) who claimed to possess the secret of the Philosophers stone. Henry was a fraud and a disillusioned Bernard traveled back to Padua via Augsburg when he fell afoul of a zealot from the School at Basel, who so incited the town Burghers against Bernard that he was forced into hiding. Seighard had been intrigued by Bernard's tales of mystical knowledge and arcane experimentation, not to mention the promise of the legendary Philosopher's Stone and used his contacts amongst the merchants to have him smuggled outside the walls. Young Seighard had found a more exciting calling than a merchant and soon followed Bernard south to Italy, learning from one of his friends while purporting to work as a military engineer. His skills were much in demand on both sides of the Alps and he traveled working as a mercenary, firstly with Giocomi Hawkwood his teacher and then on his own as a journeyman engineer, all the while secretly furthering his Alchemical studies.

A chance encounter at a banquet before a round of political meetings in Augsburg saw Seighard somehow impressing none other than Albert, son of Ernest, Duke of Upper Bavaria. Albert found the slightly older Seighard (despite his retiring personality and lack of charisma) a ready ear for his tales of his father's overbearing nature and the young heir took a great liking to the exiled noble and an ongoing interest in his career.

At Albert's urging, Seighard made the journey to the University of Prague in 1419 in order to learn from a couple of Eastern teachers Albert had heard of. It was rumored that these teachers had a thorough grounding in the natural Philosophy of the Greeks, new scientific ideas form old Persia and even, so it was said, the know-how to create the legendary Byzantine Fire.

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