Hugh Geber is an alchemist following his family tradition of doing research in a lab at the University of Science and Progression. Until recently, this position has always been well respected and well-funded. Things have changed because there is now a clash between the Old Way and the New Way. Hugh follows the Old Way, in which magic is respected. Unfortunately, Robert Smithson, who is the Chancellor of the college, follows the New Way. Smithson declares war on the Old Way and is determined to ruin Hugh and his reputation.