After the introduction to the setting and explanation of the ranks of the Alchemists’ Council provided in the Prima Materia, the Prologue touches on events occurring five years prior to be beginning of the novel:
- The conjunction of Saule
- The search for initiation of Jaden
- Cedar’s betrayal of Saule
- The debate over whether to release the Council’s bees into the
The fact that Cynthea Masson chose to depict these events, one from Saule’s viewpoint and the other three from Cedar’s (whose essence consumed Saule’s during their conjunction) suggests that Cedar is an extremely important character, and possibly an antagonist of Jaden’s. The implication that Cedar somehow betrayed Saule during their conjunction and that somebody named Sadira might have suffered as a result further cements my impression.
The bee question is also important, and not simple. Cedar believes that if the Council’s bees are not released into mundane space to repair the world, the outside environment will suffer catastrophic failures within five years. However, Ruis insists that turning the bees loose would cause irreparable damage to Council dimension.
However, the question of whether to loose the bees isn’t for either of them to decide. Nor will it be decided here.
What is Conjunction?
Conjunction is an alchemical process in which the essence of two individuals become one. The process is reminiscent to the Sacred Marriage described in an allegorical romance entitled The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkruetz, the third manifesto of the original Rosicrucians, a German philosophical secret society active in the early seventeenth century.
When two initiates of the Alchemists’ Council conjoin, their essences combine and only one person remains. The result is variable; one personality may dominate, or the person coming out of conjunction may be a synthesis of the original two.
The act of conjunction is also a process of eliminating possibilities. Consider a hypothetical conjunction between Alice and Barbara. Should Alice’s essence consume Barbara’s, then Claire would be initiated while Diane would die of natural causes, her potential unrealized. However, if Barbara’s essence dominates, it will be Diane who joins the council, while Claire dies. While Alice and Barbara remain unconjoined, all possibilities remain in play but unrealized.
Regardless of which personality dominates, or whether two equally strong personalities form a synthesis, conjunction is Thunderdome: Two alchemists enter; one alchemist leaves.
This is important because Junior Initiates in the Alchemists’ Council aren’t ordinarily told the truth about conjunction. Learning the truth, as Jaden does later on, will shape her character and drive her actions in the novel.
What about Final Conjunction?
As I understand it, the Final Conjunction is different from other conjunctions. Rather than the essence of two alchemists combining into one (with the attendant clash of personalities), the Final Conjunction is one between the Azoth Magen (the eldest and highest-ranking member of the Alchemists’ Council) and the Lapis itself. In the Final Conjunction, the Azoth Magen becomes part of the Lapis, surrendering their individuality and returning Quintessence to the Lapis.
Just as in regular conjunctions, the Final Conjunction results in an open position within the Alchemists’ Council. A new Azoth Magen must be chosen, most likely from among the Azoths, and so on down the ranks until new Junior Initiates are recruited. The rise of a new Azoth Magen also presages the beginning of a new Council, as I understand it. At the moment, Ailanthus presides. Whether that remains the case is an open question.