The Trumpeter from Krakow Study Guide

The Trumpeter from Krakow By Eric P. Kelly

The Trumpeter of Krakow is the story of a family given a priceless artifact to guard, a mercenary sent to steal it, and a pair of alchemists who believe it holds the secret of transmutation.

Andrew Charnetski, whose family has been entrusted with the Great Tarnov Crystal, sees a spy near his house and immediately relocates his family to Krakow, as he has orders to give the crystal to the king of Poland should it be discovered. He learns that a mercenary named Peter of the Button Face has burned his old house down and is clearly after the Crystal.

When he arrives in Krakow, he finds that the cousin he expected to stay with has passed away, and he accepts an offer from Jan Kanty, a respected priest, to be the trumpeter at the Church of Our Lady Saint Mary, and stay with his family on the premises. He accepts. While learning his new trade, he learns the story of the Trumpeter of Krakow, who was playing a legendary song called the Henjal when he was killed by a Tartar arrow. Ever since then, the Hejnal has always been cut short on that note whenever it is played.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Kreutz and Johann Tring, alchemists, are trying to turn brass into gold, but they need a chrysopoeia - a Philosopher's Stone - to do it. They go to extraordinary lengths such as repeated deep hypnosis to find it.

Peter of the Button Face learns of Charnetski's whereabouts and raids his room while he is trumpeting. He discovers the Tarnov Crystal just as Kreutz, covered in alchemical fire, appears and scares his men away. As Kreutz spies the Crystal and realizes it may be the chrysopoeia he seeks, he struggles with Peter and gets away with the Crystal. When he tries to use it, however, he realizes it isn't what he sought.

Andrew, aware that he may be attacked and killed, teaches his son Joseph the Hejnal. One evening, Peter and his men capture the two, and order Andrew to take him to the Crystal - but it is two o'clock and time for the trumpeter to play, so Peter orders Joseph to play it. Thinking quickly, Joseph doesn’t stop at the broken note, but plays it all the way through. Kanty, alerted by the song, grabs some watchmen and rescues father and son. Peter flees the city.

Much later, Kreutz reveals the Crystal to Tring, who gazes into it and starts to recite a recipe. Excited, they try it only to blow up their lab. Jan Kanty discovers Kreutz later on the street, and drags him back to the church, and gives the Crystal back to Andrew.

Finally, Kanti, Kreutz, and the Charnetskis obtain an audience with King Kazimir and tell their combined stories. The king summons Peter of the Button Face, who reveals why he is after the Crystal - it was to be used to bribe a barbarian clan to invade the Ukraine and capture it for Russia.

Kazimir banishes Peter from Poland for life. The king becomes transfixed by the Crystal, and Kreutz, crazed, grabs it and throws it into the river Vistula. Kanty and the king discuss events, and conclude

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