The Trumpeter of Krakow
|The Trumpeter of Krakow|
|Author||Eric P. Kelly|
|Published||1928 (Macmillan Publishing Company)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Centered around the historical fire that burned much of Kraków in 1462, The Trumpeter of Krakow tells the fictional story of a family of Joseph Charnetski, a Polish noble family from Kresy (modern day Ukraine), who fled to Kraków, Poland, in 1461 after their home is burned to the ground by the Cossack-Tartars of Bogdan Grozny, commonly known as "Peter of the Button Face" because of the button-shaped pockmark on his cheek.
After seeing a spy lurking around his house in Ukriane, Andrew Charnetski hastily removes his family to a safe location. While away, Peter of the Button Face, acting under the orders of Ivan III of Russia, burns the Charnetskis' village to the ground in search of the "Great Tarnov Crystal", a mysterious Tarnov crystal that has caused many wars over the millennia and had, a few centuries previously, been entrusted by the city of Tarnów to the Charnetski family for safeguarding until its discovery by others, at which time it was to be given to the current king of Poland.
Realizing that Peter must have been after the crystal, and finding himself homeless, Andrew takes his family to Kraków, where his cousin Andrew Tenczynski lives, in order to give the crystal to King Kazimír Jagiełło. However, upon his arrival he finds that Tenczynski has been murdered and that his estate is under the control of Elizabeth of Austria, the queen of Poland. Destitute, Charnetski camps his family in the middle of the city for the day.
Charnetski's fifteen-year-old son Joseph explores the city, passing the Church of Our Lady St. Mary, from which a trumpeter plays an unfinished song called "the Heynal" [in Polish: Hejnał mariacki] four times every hour, once to each direction (north, east, south, and west). Joseph ends up saving an alchemist named Nicholas Kreutz and his niece, Elżbietka, from a wolfdog (even though the book said a dog). Kreutz offers Joseph and his family an apartment just below his on the unsavory Street of the Pigeons, a street near Kraków University where scientists and magicians often live.
Meanwhile Andrew Charnetski and his wife (who is never named) have been found by Peter of the Button Face, who has pursued them from Ukraine. Surrounded by bandits and a jeering crowd, Andrew, his wife, and Joseph (who joins them) are only saved by the appearance of Jan Kanty, a respected scholar and priest. Kanty offers Andrew the position of night trumpeter in the Church of Our Lady St. Mary. Delighted at the prospect of a job and home on such short notice, Andrew accepts both offers.
The following night Andrew takes Joseph with him to the tower of the Church of Our Lady St. Mary, leaving his wife behind with Elżbietka. In the tower Andrew explains to his son the story of the trumpeter of Kraków — a trumpeter who, in 1241, was pierced by a Tartar arrow before he could finish the Hejnał. Accordingly the song has always been abruptly cut short.
Nicholas Kreutz, meanwhile, teaches a German student named Johann Tring chemistry in the loft above his apartment every evening. Tring, however, is obsessed with the idea of obtaining the philosopher's stone, and finally convinces Kreutz to go through sessions of hypnosis, which Tring believes will open Kreutz's "Greater Mind", revealing the secret of the creation of a chrysopoeia. All Tring can glean from Kreutz's trances, however, is that the chrysopoeia is at hand (which Tring takes to mean that they have nearly discovered how to make it).
When unhypnotized, Kreutz reasons that there cannot be one stone that automatically changes brass into gold, but that there must be a process by which such a change could occur. He believes that all things are subject to change, and wishes to change the bad things in the world to good things through the use of alchemy. An example he gives is the landlady's deformed son, Stas, whom Kretuz believes could be saved through alchemical transmutation.
In the meantime, Peter of the Button Face hears Stas, the landlady's son, discussing the Charnetskis and pays him a fortune to learn of their whereabouts. He leads a burglary on the Charnetski's apartment while Andrew is up in the church tower, and discovers the Tarnov Crystal hidden in Andrew's mattress. He and his men are surprised, however, by the appearance of Nicholas Kreutz, clad in clothes covered in phosphorus and burning resin, and take him for a demon. The bandits flee and are caught by the night watchmen, but Peter stays to reclaim the Crystal. When Kreutz asks the mercenary why he has come, Peter realized the alchemist is not a demon and stops being afraid. He directs Kreutz's attention to the Crystal, then trips the alchemist and grabs the gem, heading for the door. Kreutz throws some explosive powder at Peter, who drops the Crystal in agony and escapes over the rooftops of Kraków.
Tempted by the realization that the Crystal is the chrysopoeia he and Tring have been ardently seeking, Kreutz steals the Tarnov Crystal before anyone figures what has happened. When he tries to use the Crystal, however, Kreutz realized that it only makes him think of his own desires. He realized, then, that it can only reflect back the gazer's own subconscious knowledge, and therefore will not reveal the secret of chrysopoeia unless he himself has all the pieces stored somewhere in his head.