Alchemy’s head hurt. He lay there in the soft bed looking up at a too-white ceiling wondering when the pounding would stop. Slowly sitting up, he glanced around and saw Dolce sleeping next to him. The soft sheets slipped away as he slowly sat up. Somewhere in the distance, a door closed.
He recognized the bedroom of the suite the gnome woman escorted him and Dolce to. The elf tried to remember getting into bed, but the last thing he recalled was sipping tea on the couch. He didn’t remember any taste of herbs that would have caused him to sleep, but it was possible that with his scientific knowledge, Doctor Gnome could’ve come up with something undetectable even with the training he’d received from the Fragrance Guild.
On hooks near the door, two bundles of clothes hung. Alchemy assumed that they were the clothes he and Dolce were expected to wear for their dinner with Doctor Gnome tonight. One of Gnome’s people must’ve delivered them while the elves slept. He pondered what the point of drugging them had been.
Dolce stirred next to him. He reached down to the rumpled violet head and soothed her locks a bit.
“What happened?” she murmured, rubbing her eyes.
“I guess they used some kind of manufactured drug on us,” Alchemy replied. “It wasn’t any herb I’ve ever tasted.”
Dull purple eyes looked up in question. “But why?”
“I don’t know,” said Alchemy, continuing to stroke her hair. “But they also brought us some clothes to wear to dinner with the Doctor.”
“Oh Alchemy, how are we suppose to eat in the presence of gnomes? They are such hideous little creatures. And how are we to trust their food? They drugged us.” Dolce slid tight against the magician. Her closeness caused Alchemy’s body to stir. They had no idea how long they had until they were expected for dinner. Otherwise, he would’ve been tempted to have another course of Dolce.
“We’ll make it through,” he reassured her. “I’ll be right there with you the entire time.” He tried to sound brave, but wished he had his wand, but it lay outside on the hill somewhere, lost. He vowed to start carrying spares, two wands on one assignment was more than he was used to losing.
Alchemy finished adjusting the sleeves on his gray tunic when there was a knock on the door. Before he could respond, the door opened and the dark-haired gnome woman strolled in.
“Ah, Mister Pond,” she said without closing the door. “I see you have awoken from your little nap. I presume the female has too?”
“Dolce is nearly ready,” Alchemy replied looking down at the short woman. “She had a bit more to do to make herself presentable.”
“Really?” A dark eyebrow arched. “Well Doctor Gnome is ready for his dinner.”
“I’m ready,” said Dolce entering the room, draping her long purple hair over her right shoulder so it cascaded down the front of the shinny white dress.
Alchemy walked over to take her arm. “And looking very lovely, my dear.”
She giggled as she laid a shaking hand over his arm. “Thank you.”
“Very well,” the gnome woman huffed. “If you are both ready, the Doctor is waiting.”
The wizard gestured out the door. “Please, lead on.”
As they cleared the door, a pair of trolls fell into step behind them. Alchemy didn’t even glance at the two guards. The metal corridor was as bright as he remembered it. Their soft-soled shoes didn’t make any noise as they walked down the hall. Several goblins, trolls and even a brownie scurried up and down the hall, careful to keep their eyes on the shiny floor as they hurried past the party.
They stopped at a lace-metal doorway at the end of the hall. The gnome woman pushed a button set in the wall. A loud screeching, sounding almost like two swords sliding against each other, came from the far side of the door, as a pair of heavy metal cables moved something between them and the wall beyond. A platform slowly rose on the other side of the metal door before them. Dolce fingers dug into Alchemy’s arm. He patted her hand, hoping to alleviate some of her fears.
When the platform was level with hallway floor, it stopped moving. The gnome woman opened the lace-metal door and walked onto the platform. Dolce trembled as Alchemy led her forward. Only one troll followed them. The gnome woman pulled a cord at the back of the platform three times.
Dolce yelped as the platform began descending. Alchemy wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close in against his side. The platform moved down a small shaft, just large enough for the platform and the cables that moved alongside it. Walls of polished copper provided little light as the platform moved downward. Every so often, openings to new passageways appeared in the wall, they were about the height of a troll, the largest creatures Alchemy had seen in Doctor Gnome’s lair. They passed two of them before the platform came to a stop.
This time the door opened to the opposite side of the platform. Without a word, the gnome woman led them out and down another shiny metal corridor. No people moved in this hallway. Alchemy knew they were moving toward his quarry. His heart beat faster, as they approached the massive double doors at the far end of the hallway.
The dark-haired gnome took the door handle in her dainty fingers. She turned back and looked at the elves behind her.
“The Doctor is very anxious to meet you,” she smiled and pushed open the door.