Dr Gnome part 31

20

Chaos reigned after Alchemy flicked his wand and the dragon enclosures all burst into flames. He knew the dragons wouldn’t be harmed before they could escape, and it made for a great diversion. Still using the chameleon spell, the elf slipped through the smoke and roars back up the stairs in search of Doctor Gnome. He’d cast the same spell on Gavin to give his friend some cover too. Only a sharp eye would be able to catch their movement as they moved up the stairs.

“Fire in the dragon pens!” a troll shouted looking down the stairs at the smoke now rolling toward the dining room.

The elves rushed above the landing so they’d be beyond the stampede of trolls and goblins that flooded down toward the chaos below. After the last one ran past, they slipped into the dining room, through the kitchen and out into the massive complex beyond. All around them, Doctor Gnomes minions ran about in a more frantic state than the normal calm efficiency Alchemy observed earlier.

“Where do we find Doctor Gnome?” Gavin asked from behind Alchemy.

“We have to go through a few halls and up some kind of moving platform/room to get to his private suite,” the wizard replied. “Not sure if that’s where he’s going to be. We’ll have to keep our eyes open for him.”

“I don’t suppose you’ve met a Grisselhand while you’ve been here?” the warrior questioned.

“Nope, but Gnome isn’t real friendly with his people, I still don’t even know the name of the gnome woman who kept escorting us around,” Alchemy said as they paused at the first intersection, the one that led back to the metal cell he’d been put in.

A screeching noise came down the corridor toward them. Alchemy flattened himself against the wall and pushed Gavin back too. Two trolls pushed a large rolling table down the hallway. The wheels screamed loudly against the passageway’s metal floor. Two large gadgets, they looked a lot like the weapons the goblins had been used in Beautamore, rested on the tables. They were much larger than the ones he’d previously seen.

“I want those,” Alchemy whispered to Gavin before the trolls rounded the corner.

They waited until the trolls ran past them, then stepped away from the wall and struck. Alchemy flicked his wand at the far one. “Burn!” The fireball struck the troll in the back of the head melting its way through the man’s skull even as Gavin’s sword swing took off the other one’s head. The rolling table kept moving a few more feet before it came to a stop with the two dead trolls laying on the floor just inches behind it.

Alchemy went over and after slipping his wand in his belt, picked up one of the large exploding tubes. It was longer and heavier than the ones the goblins used. The design was similar, but there was some kind of spinning chamber attached to the tube just above the trigger mechanism. Most of the weight of the thing was around that chamber.

“The other exploding tubes had to be reloaded,” he said handing the other one to Gavin once the warrior sheathed his sword. “I wonder if this design doesn’t”

Gavin carefully looked it over, his hands taking on the color of the metal tube. “Could be. Let’s try these out on the next folks we see.”

Alchemy smiled at his friend. “For the civilized world and all that?”

The warrior had a strange nearly crazed look in his eyes. “For all that and Buck.”

More feet ran toward them. Alchemy turned, saw several goblins dashing their direction. He raised the tube and pulled the trigger. A deafening noise reverberated off the metal corridor as the tube jerked repeatedly in the wizard’s hands. Harsh smoke filled the passage way by the time Alchemy released the trigger. His whole body shook from the thing releasing its deadly projectiles. Down the hallway, the goblins lay on the floor, their dark green blood pooling beneath them.

“Wow, that was loud and messy, a bit like Buck during sex,” Gavin said staring at the carnage. “I think I like it.”

Alchemy shook his head, Gavin sounded far away. His ears were still ringing from the weapon’s noise. A commotion was coming their way down the hall.

“You know we may have wanted to get a bit further along before we made so much noise,” he shouted trying to hear himself over his ringing ears. Then a mass of trolls rounded the corner down where he knew the strange moving room was.

“Naw, let’s just take them on,” Gavin said pointing his tube toward the charging mass of leather-and-steel-armor-covered trolls. Firing the tube didn’t look so difficult when Gavin did it, but his body still shook with the effort by the time he released the trigger and silence fell over the hallway. A few trolls still moved in the mass of flesh that now covered the metal passage, blood splattered over the shiny metal walls giving them a unique coppery color.

The end of the exploding tube drop nearly to the ground as Gavin walked over the pile of trolls almost blocking the hallway.

“You said that strange moving room was this way?” he asked as his foot covered the face of the first dead troll.

“Yeah, we’ll turn right then it’ll be on our left,” Alchemy replied falling into step beside his friend.

One of the trolls near the back of the pile moaned as Gavin walked across him. The elf stopped, bent down and grabbed a huge gray ear.

“Where is Grisselhand?” he screamed at the troll. Alchemy tried to remember when he’d heard that particular edgy tone in the warrior’s voice before.

“Guarding Doctor Gnome,” came the hoarse reply.

“Good,” Gavin snarled then snapped the troll’s massive neck. He turned to Alchemy. “Lead on.”

This was now war, Alchemy realized. Thanks to Doctor Gnome, they had to stop an army of trolls, goblins and other creatures to save the world. The wizard squared his shoulders. It wasn’t the first time he’d been in nasty bloody situations, but it never got easy. He’d never seen Gavin this set on destruction. His friend was taking his lover’s death hard. The two had only known each other a short while, but the bond had formed. It was hard to see the warrior like this, but then, war was hard. To keep the civilized world running, they would have to get their hands dirty.

They didn’t encounter any more resistance between the dead trolls and the moving room. As they stepped on the platform, Alchemy tried to remember how the gnome woman had made it move before. She’d closed the door, then pulled on the cord three times to go from the room where he and Dolce had first been held to the Doctor’s quarters, then when they were carried down to their cells she’d pulled the cord four times.

“This feels strange,” Alchemy warned as he pulled the cord four times. A couple of seconds later the platform slowly rose up.

Gavin looked disoriented. “No shit, it feels strange.”

As they glided past the complex’s other floors, Alchemy caught glimpses of the occupants frantically scurrying about. He wondered how the noises from their attacks on the goblins and trolls carried to the other floors. What would be waiting on them when they reached Doctor Gnome’s floor?

The platform jerked to a halt.

“Get ready,” Alchemy said as he reached for the metal door separating them from the hallway.

Four massive trolls, standing at least ten feet tall stood at the far end of the hallway. They looked up as the door opened. Alchemy ducked out of the way as Gavin swung his exploding tube their direction and fired. Smoke poured out of the tube as its deafening racket started again. Then it stopped.

One of the trolls slumped to the floor, but the other three roared and charged.

“Shit,” Gavin said. “Hand me yours.” He dropped his tube to the floor as he stepped out onto the metal hallway and reached back for Alchemy’s tube. The wizard stepped off the platform and handed his weapon to the warrior, then pulled his wand from his belt.

The tube roared to life as Gavin leveled it at the trolls. Two more fell before Alchemy’s first fire ball caught the last one in the chest, sending it hurling backwards to crash into the doors of Doctor Gnome’s suite. Stepping over the bodies, the elves hurried toward the cracked door. Gavin didn’t even slow down as he ran at the door, he just turned his shoulder into it and slammed his way through.

As they charged through the door, the sound of an exploding tube being fired erupted before them. Alchemy flicked his wand and shouted “Brickus!” The invisible wall formed between them and the giant troll standing over Doctor Gnome with an even larger exploding tube in its hands. They were far enough away from the wall, that Alchemy knew the chameleon spell wouldn’t be helping them now. He wished he’d had something more filling for diner. The running and the magic were beginning to take their toll on him.

The troll continued to fire the exploding rod. Sticking out above his massive gray shoulder, was the hilt of Buck’s sword. This had to be Grisselhand.

“Can you take him if I take out his exploding rod?” Alchemy asked Gavin.

A murderous grin split the warrior’s face. “Sure, he’s just a troll.”

Making sure he had a good mental aim on the troll’s rod, Alchemy leaned around the edge of his invisible wall and flicked his wand. “Burn!” The fireball shot out and caught the end of the metal tube. The intense heat melted the tube causing it to droop. The troll roared at them and threw the now useless tube. It clanged off the barrier as Gavin stepped around Alchemy and fired his own tube. One round went off before it stopped working. Gavin threw the device at the troll as he drew his sword. With matching roars the two clashed in the center of the room. The troll’s strength pushed Gavin back, but the elf relied on speed and agility to dance a deadly dance around his opponent.

Alchemy watched the two combatants for a moment before movement caught his eye. Doctor Gnome was running toward something on the far side of the room. The wizard flicked his wand at the Gnome. “Clank” Chains appeared above the Gnome and fell just short of snaring the little man. The elf ran for the villain.

Before he got there Doctor Gnome hit a small panel in the wall. The panel fell away and the gnome disappeared. There in the wall, a small chute, just larger than the gnome disappeared down into darkness.

Alchemy glanced over his shoulder. Gavin didn’t appear to be injured, yet, and the troll already had several long gashes running down its arms. He hated leaving his friend, but he couldn’t cast a spell without fear of hitting the warrior, and he couldn’t let the villain escape without trying harder to catch him. With a deep sigh, the wizard pointed his wand at himself. “Smaller” The magic engulfed him and he felt himself shrink down to the size of a small child. He hoped the chameleon spell held as he slid onto the chute and out of Doctor Gnome’s suite.

 

***

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Gavin saw Alchemy disappear near the spot where Doctor Gnome had, but the fight with Grisselhand was his first concern. The troll was big, but he was also older than most of the other trolls in Doctor Gnome’s regiment. The elf could tell from the droopy skin and exaggerated pale patches on the troll’s face. The creature used a lot of force in his blows, like he was used to just overpowering anyone who challenged him.

“You’re going to have to do better than that,” Gavin taunted as he easily dodged a heavy blow, but he winced as Buck’s sword struck the floor with a heavy crack. He’d never forgive himself if something happened to that sword before he could return it to his lover’s family.

The troll’s rage roared so strongly in his blood he was beyond words. All he could do at this point was groan, scream and roar at Gavin. The elf fought back his own rage, knowing that if he gave into his need to utterly destroy the troll in vengeance for Buck, he’d lose the edge his clear mind brought him in the fight. Swinging his sword in a sharp upward blow, he sliced through the troll’s elbow joint. The arm flopped uselessly, held on only by a little connective tissue. Grisselhand roared in pain and fury as he swung his remaining arm hard at the elf. Blood gushed out of the troll, and Gavin slipped as he ducked under the swing. He landed hard on his ass, but he rolled up and around so he could come up behind the behemoth. Before the troll could turn, the elf swung his sword hard up between the troll’s tree-like legs. The sword caught on something and Gavin had to yank it back out in tune with the roars that turned to screams of pain as Grisselhand collapsed on the floor. Without pausing, Gavin cleaved down on the bullish neck, it took three blows before the sword severed the spinal cord. The troll thrashed thrice then lay still. Gavin, chest heaving from the strain, walked over and retrieved Buck’s sword.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, Buck,” he whispered to the empty room as tears trickled down his face. “But I promise I will get this back to your family. It belongs with them.”

 

***

 

Light blazed at the end of the chute. A sword struck the slide right above Alchemy’s head. Had he been normal size the blow would’ve decapitated him. He rolled away from the troll with the sword and dismissed the dimunitzation spell. Flicking his wand toward the troll he shouted “Burn!” the fireball struck before the troll dodged and it fell into a flaming heap against the boxes piled near the chute. The elf stood up just in time to see Doctor Gnome’s light-green bald head disappear out the door.

Not bothering with the fire, Alchemy ran after the gnome. The area he was in reminded Alchemy of the lower levels where the dragons had been. He could even smell smoke from the fire he’d set in the pens.

Doctor Gnome raced along the corridor ahead of the wizard. Alchemy tried to clear his head enough to cast another spell, but he’d used so much magic recently that he was nearing empty. He wanted to go find a soft bed, preferably with Dolce in it, to lie down in and get some much needed sleep. But he ran on. He had to catch the gnome.

Smoke billowed from the corner that Doctor Gnome disappeared around. Alchemy ran with all his might, feeling more light headed by the second. He rounded the turn in the passage and found himself back in the dragon holding area. The scene of carnage was more massive than any he’d ever seen before. Once free of their pens, the dragons had obviously turned their attentions on their handlers and the other folks Alchemy and Gavin had dodged earlier to get through the dining room. The fire blazed around them, but the dragons feasted on the humanoid handlers. Staring through the smoky scene, the elf tried to find the gnome, and spotted him dashing down the center aisle, apparently heading for the far side of the chamber. Dodging trolls and dragons, Alchemy raced after him.

Doctor Gnome ran into the last pen, one that hadn’t yet been affected by the fire. Seconds later, the largest dragon Alchemy had ever seen came rushing out with the gnome perched on a leather saddle just above its wings.

“You won’t stop me, Mister Pond!” the gnome’s high voice carried over the chaos around them.

Not bothering to reply, Alchemy glanced into the next pen and saw another dragon, already saddled ready to ride. He’d never ridden a dragon before, but without thinking it through too much, he opened the pen, and jumped up into the saddle. As his hands landed on the saddle’s cantle, he felt his mind suddenly connect with the dragon’s. This explained the strange metal caps he’d seen on the manticores the goblins rode to attack them. He looked up and saw a small metal piece near the dragon’s ear. On a dragon the device was much smaller in relationship to the size of the head. It was some kind of mind control mechanism.

“Come on dragon, go after them,” Alchemy said, even though he knew he didn’t need to verbalize to get the beast to move. Without complaint, the dragon lumbered out of the pen and awkwardly charged after the larger one burdened by the gnome.

The end of the chamber opened up on the steep side of Manticore Hill. Even in the dark night sky, Alchemy could see the shadow of the large dragon as it lumbered off toward human lands. With nothing more than his thoughts, the wizard urged his mount onward. Leathery wings strained to get enough altitude.

Alchemy wondered what he would do when he reached the other dragon. It had been one thing to fight the dragon in the air when he’d been riding Ashton, the gryphon. Ashton was free thinking, and he and the wizard had worked together for a while. This dragon was being controlled by the elf’s mind. He didn’t know much about flying, let alone how dragons fight in the air.

The distance between the two dragons closed since Alchemy’s mount was smaller and quicker that the massive beast Doctor Gnome rode. Alchemy discarded the idea of using magic. He was too tired and the last thing he wanted to do was cast a large spell, pass out and leave the dragon on its own to do what it would.

They passed over the larger dragon. Alchemy looked down and realized how big the creature really was. With just a bit of mental steering he swung his mount back around for a low pass over the back of the bigger beast. As they went over the wings, Alchemy pushed out of the saddle and fell down toward the gnome’s dragon’s back.

He grabbed one of the ridges between the wings then hit the hard spine with enough force to drive the air out of his lungs. Struggling to his feet, Alchemy scrambled along the broad back toward Doctor Gnome, who by the way he was frantically staring into the dark night sky was searching for Alchemy on his own dragon.

“Looking for someone Doctor?” Alchemy asked as he reached down for the diminutive dictator’s collar.

“Pond!” Doctor Gnome shouted as Alchemy pulled him free of his saddle. The little man kicked out, catching the elf in the ribs. Pain shot through him and Alchemy grabbed for his side, letting go of the gnome. He watched as the villain fell into the dark sky, then a white mushroom of cloth opened up.

Alchemy settled into dragon’s saddle and again linked minds with a beast. “Go get him!” he shouted and angled the dragon down. The monster roared and plunged down after the escaping gnome, just as the other dragon, now free from outside control, swooped down and caught the gnome in its mouth. The high pitched scream carried over the rush of the wind as the dragon leveled out its flight.

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Dr Gnome part 30

19

As the sun finished it downward path below the horizon, Gavin followed the two trolls around the side of Manticore Hill. Wrapped up in their own noisy conversation, they gave no indication of noticing the elf following along behind them. The warrior was careful with each foot fall. He moved fast enough so he didn’t lose the trolls, but not so carelessly that he made any noise. His hand never far from the hilt of his sword, he trailed the two.

Pausing behind a large boulder, he watched them enter the wide cave mouth. Even his keen ears couldn’t pick up their loud voices once they passed through the opening. Bright flickering torch-light blazed forth from the cave. Making sure to stay in the shadows as much as possible, Gavin worked his way slowly toward the cave. He pushed all of his senses outward, listening for any sounds, watching for the slightest movement, even sniffing for the unmistakable stench of troll. Nothing.

Deep shadows against the hillside were comforting to the warrior as he eased his way along. He still couldn’t see any guards near the cave mouth. So he slipped up there. His nerves tight, he listened for any sounds beyond the opening. Silence greeted him. Easing around the lip of the cave, for a second, he stepped out into the light.

No one stood inside the cave. Large crates cluttered a narrow passageway, providing Gavin with more cover to go deeper. He leapt lightly up the crates so he could dash along the top of them, hoping if any patrol came by they might not think to look up. The stack stretched all the way to the camber’s far end.

The passageway narrowed at the back of the cave. After hearing no sounds of movement, Gavin dropped gracefully down from his perch atop the crates. He was careful that no noise escaped his feet as he landed. There weren’t as many torches down the next passageway, and the warrior carefully avoided looking at any of them, to preserve his night vision. It’d be disastrous if he were blinded when enemies were coming his way. As he moved further down the passage without encountering anyone, he began to wonder if everyone was a dinner.

 

***

The metal hallway remained mercifully clear as Alchemy strolled down it, careful to stay close enough to the wall that his blending spell kept him appearing metallic. At each door he passed, he listened, hoping to hear some sound from Dolce. So far everything remained silent. When he reached the far end of the hall, it t-ed. The shiny metal surfaces gave no indication as to which way the troll carrying Dolce off had gone. He’d been underground long enough, that he no longer had a sense of direction. All the hallways were the same bright silvery surface.

As he stood there, a gnome woman with mouse-brown hair appeared from a door down the hall on his left. She carried the remains of someone’s dinner on a wooden tray. Without glancing Alchemy’s way, she scurried down that hall away from him. The wizard followed.

 

***

Gavin stopped in the entrance to another passageway. This one led to stairs going down. Glancing at the steps, they were still rough and unworn. This stairway must be fairly new since the rock in the cave had been fairly soft so far and would wear quickly. That matched the intelligence he’d been able to dig up on Doctor Gnome saying that the mad man hadn’t been in the area more than a couple of years.

Partway down the stairs, a torch illuminated a landing. Gavin paused there, listening at the door to his right. Loud ruckus voices sounded from beyond the door. Figuring it must be the dinning room, he continued down the stairs. If there was one thing Gavin didn’t want to do, it was have to fight his way through a bunch of hungry trolls. At the bottom of the stairs, the passageway turned right.

Loud coughs and growls came from the end of the latest passageway. Gavin tried to figure out what the noises were, but they weren’t anything he remembered hearing before. Deciding that the cave may be distorting some of the sounds, the warrior crept forward, hand still close to his sword.

The passageway opened in a huge cavern lit by strange lights that Gavin had never seen before. They hung from the ceiling with strange cords running between them. Glowing like miniature suns, the lights glared down on large pens holding an incredible number of dragons. From what he could tell, most were about the size of the ones they had fought so far. But even that size was more than he wanted to take on by himself, one on one, let alone with the more than twenty he counted penned up around the cavern.

Several trolls and goblins moved around the chamber, tossing large chunks of meat to the waiting dragons. Gavin ducked into a small space between the nearest pen and the cavern wall. Peering through the thick wooden slats of the pen, he watched as one of the trolls tossed several large chunks of meat that looked like huge arms into the pen. The dragon rushed forward and started gulping down the arms even as Gavin recognized the golden brown ursa fur.

He sank to the ground. His heart pounded in his chest. The fear he’d been holding since seeing the battle site on the hillside came rushing forth. Buck was gone. He wanted to rush out and kill every dragon, troll, goblin and gnome in the hill, but knew he’d never be able to do it by himself. Hot tears ran silently down his face. He’d never again know the ursa’s soft caring touch, or his warm kiss.

He didn’t know how long he sat there. The dragon had finished its grizzly meal by the time the elf wiped the tears from his checks and glared through the slats at the giant reptile. He was a warrior. Buck was a warrior. He could only hope that his lover had met a warrior’s death and gone down fighting a good fight. Sudden death was the price every warrior faced, and they lived their lives knowing that.

Then Gavin remembered what the trolls on the hillside said about Buck’s sword. He had to get that sword back and return it to the ursa’s family. It had to go on, even if its latest welder did not. Gavin would do that to honor his lover’s memory. And he could only hope that Alchemy fared better.

 

***

 

Alchemy stood still against the wall of the dining hall. Around him the trolls, goblins, brownies and gnomes under Doctor Gnome’s command sat silently as their leader walked to the big table at the front of the room. The little mad man moved with a confidence that inspired loyalty in the people that followed him. Using a chair for a step, the diminutive dictator made it up on the head table. Every eye in the place watched him. It was all the wizard could do to hold still and watch. He’d followed the gnome woman down the hall and into the kitchen. Several of the kitchen workers had been talking about the appearance that Doctor Gnome was about to give in the dining hall, so Alchemy decided to go find himself a place along the wall to listen to what the man had to say.

Doctor Gnome cleared his throat before he began speaking. “As you all know the pinnacle of my plan to thwart the humans’ firebird network is about to play out. Even with the interference from the Fragrance Guild, we are still on schedule for our dragons to attack the secret nesting site with the dawn.”

The whole hall cheered.

“It is imperative that as soon as we have destroyed the firebird clutch that everyone returns to your respective governments and inform them that we have stopped the humans and are prepared to go to war with them and their allies. You must also inform your governments that it was I, Doctor Gnome, who stopped the humans, thus ensuring that the longer lived races have their rightful place in the world.”

Another louder cheer erupted. It made Alchemy realize that Doctor Gnome was very popular with his followers. This could be very bad for the Guild and the civilized world.

“Once our dragons have destroyed the firebirds, they will go on to lay waste to the human settlements around the secret hatchery,” Doctor Gnome continued as the cheering died down. “It will be very easy for us to stop the human menace before they can expand any further.”

The loudest cheer yet went up.

Gnome waited for the clamor to die down. “Now once you have finished your well deserved meal, I need my riders to report to the dragon pens for their last minute preparations. Never fear my loyal minions, I will be right there with you on the largest of our dragons.”

As the final cheer sounded, Doctor Gnome leapt off the table and marched out of the room. Alchemy stood there against the wall stunned. He knew he should contact K at headquarters, but how would she be able to help being all the way across the world in Salmania? She could only get so many people through the gates at a time, and by the time they reached Manticore Hill, the villain and his followers would be in flight toward human territory. Keeping his closeness to the wall, Alchemy followed Doctor Gnome out of the room and into a rough rock corridor.

 

***

 

Trying to move around the penned dragons was harder than Gavin first thought it would be. The beasts were much more observant than their handlers, and had a nasty reach when they wanted to. Several times he’d been pinned between two dragons each one trying to get a hold of him. Twice he’d had to crouch down and wait for the creatures to get bored and look away, giving him the opportunity to dash past. Once he’d had to use his sword to dissuade a grasping claw from getting hold of him. It left evidence of his passing, but he couldn’t find another way around it. Each time the dragons got upset and started roaring about his presence, the handlers would simply shout at them to be quiet.

As Gavin reached the far end of the chamber, a commotion started up by the stairs. He risked a glance up over the pens to see what was going on. It looked like a small group of trolls had just entered the cavern, but they acted like guards.

“How are my lovelies?” a high voice asked.

Gavin’s breath caught. Could it be that Doctor Gnome himself just entered the cavern to check on his dragons? He tried to figure out a way he could get a better look. A glance down the way he’d come dissuaded him from that path, since several dragons still had claws sticking out through the slats searching for him.

“They will be ready to fly soon boss,” one of the troll handlers replied.

“Very good,” Gnome replied. “And make sure that Firewing is saddled and ready for me and my personal driver along with two guards. I will be leading the attack.”

“He’ll be ready for ya boss,” the troll said.

“You haven’t had any problems in here this evening have you?” the high voice asked.

“Nope,” the troll responded.

The dragon nearest Gavin started roaring its displeasure at not being able to reach him. The elf ducked as heads turned toward him. He couldn’t make out the details of what was said after that. Gavin retreated to a small alcove in the wall, just out of reach of grasping dragon claws. His mind raced trying to think of some way to stop the dragons from taking off.

 

***

 

From his vantage point blending in against the wall, movement at the far end of the dragon pens caught Alchemy’s eye. He watched as the dragons near there reacted to an unauthorized person in their midst. Still unsure how best to deal with Doctor Gnome, Alchemy headed toward where the dragons indicated someone waited. Maybe the newcomer could shed some light on the situation and a possible solution.

The dragons were more attuned to their surroundings than the trolls and other minions of the good doctor. By the way they paced up and down the back of their pens, trying to find Alchemy, he knew they sensed him. A razor sharp talon, nearly two feet long almost caught his leg as he worked his way behind the pens. The dragon looked cockeyed out the slat of the pen at him, like it was trying to get its eyes to focus. After that he watched were each dragon was in its enclosure before he scurried behind it.

The trolls began moving along the front of the pens, checking to make sure the dragons had finished their meals. This drew the dragons’ attention toward them and away from the wall. As the dragons turned toward their keepers, Alchemy moved swiftly toward the spot in the wall where he’d seen the figure disappear. His heart leapt when he saw Gavin crouched in the small alcove. With his best friend at his side, they could overcome the odds and find a way to defeat Doctor Gnome.

“Gavin,” he whispered inches from his friend’s ear.

“Alchemy?” the warrior responded just as softly. Alchemy knew with his training, the other elf wouldn’t do anything to alert the dragon handlers to their presence. The wizard laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder, the hand changed to look like the leather armor Gavin wore.

“Right here.”

Gavin smiled. “The chameleon spell. How are you doing magic without your wand?”

“How do you know I lost my wand?”

The warrior reached into his pack. “Because I found this out on the hillside,” he said, pulling out the lost instrument.

Alchemy’s breath caught as he snatched the wand from his friend. He’d never been so happy to see a silly piece of wood in his life. “Thanks, I think we’re ready for a fight.”

Wand in hand, the wizard spun around toward the nearest troll. He whispered “Burn” as he flicked the wand. The fireball caught the troll in the head and flipped him backwards into the dragon pen behind him. The dragon there roared and tore into the troll with gusto. The other troll and the goblin turned too late to see the fireball, and scrambled to try and save their friend. Alchemy flicked his wand again. “Burn” and caught the second troll in the back.

As his coworker flamed up, the goblin screamed and ran for the stairs. Gavin jumped up on the slats of the dragon pens, and took the quickest route to intercept the goblin. Dragons roared around him, but the elf ran for his life as he dodged their grabs and managed to make it off the pens to land just ahead of the goblin. His sword slashed down and the little green man died with his head split in two.

Gavin turned toward Alchemy as the wizard walked toward him. He swept the other elf up in a big hug.

“I’m so happy to see you’re still alive,” he mumbled, his voice starting to fail him. “They fed Buck to the dragons.”

Alchemy hugged his friend back. He decided to not tell Gavin that the dragons weren’t the only ones that got a taste of the ursa.

“I’m sorry about that,” the wizard said. “I saw him fall. He died in battle like any good warrior would want to. He fell defending me and Dolce.”

Gavin wiped his eyes and nose with the back of his hand. “I take it Dolce is the girl?”

Alchemy nodded. “We need to find her. Doctor Gnome has her somewhere in the complex.”

“First we need to take out Doctor Gnome,” Gavin replied.

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Dr Gnome part 29

18

Gavin stared at the ground in the center of the cluster of boulders. It looked like Alchemy and Buck slept there the previous night. He spotted two places where it appeared like the men had laid down, the sparse grass was mashed, and in one place he found a lump of Buck’s golden fur. Taking a quick sniff of the hair, Gavin’s heart beat a little faster at the thought of the big ursa’s powerful arms wrapped around him. He wanted this job done, so he could spend more time with Buck. The two hadn’t talked much about what the future held for them, but he knew he wanted the man in his life.

Both sets of footprints led Gavin out of the security of the boulders and up the hill. Alchemy’s prints went further. There, near some more rocks, the warrior found another set of prints, smaller, more delicate than his friend’s. At one point the two had stood very close together. By the position of the footprints Gavin had to assume the second set belonged to a woman. Alchemy wasn’t prone to get that close to strange men, but his attraction to women was often a problem for the young mage.

Sounds of heavy footfalls came down the hill, accented by the occasional dislodged small rock. As they came closer, the thick voices of two trolls carried easily on the evening breeze. Gavin squatted down behind the boulder where Alchemy had encountered the woman.

“Why does the boss think there’s another elf out here?” one of the trolls asked.

“I don’t question him,” the other one replied. “If he says there’s another elf out here, I come out here and look. I thought we got both of the elves and that ursa too.”

“All I know is that Slip, you know that goblin that runs errands between the boss and the garrison, said the boss was furious about the number of manticores we lost this morning to the wizard. And they never did recover his wand.”

The two trolls wandered into view. From what Gavin knew of troll age, they looked young. Something in the way they ambled amongst the rocks told him they really weren’t trying too hard to do their jobs. But even at eight feet tall, he wasn’t sure he wanted to take on both of them at the same time. Large nasty looking axes hung at their sides, never far from their mottled brown hands. The elf stayed low, hoping neither of them would think to come his direction.

“Man, did you see that sword the ursa carried?” the first one asked. “If old Grisselhand hadn’t already claimed it, I’d be happy to have that thing.”

The second one snorted. “Like either one of us is high enough in rank to claim any kind of trophy.”

Gavin’s heart stopped for a second. They had Buck’s sword. He didn’t like to think about what it had taken for the trolls to relieve the ursa of his sword. Buck was so proud of that sword. It was a family heirloom. His great grandfather had actually had it forged by dwarves over two hundred years ago.

“Hey I can dream can’t I?” the first one continued.

“Just don’t let either Grisselhand or the boss hear you dreaming,” the other warned as they walked past the rocks where Buck and Alchemy spent the night without noticing the many foot prints around the area. “You know how they feel about personal thought.”

Gavin missed the rest of the conversation as the two passed beyond earshot. So Doctor Gnome had captured two elves and an ursa. There was no doubt that it was Alchemy and Buck, but who was the woman? He looked at the tracks in the dirt. Her tracks came from the direction he trolls now headed. The bad guys had Buck’s sword, but not Alchemy’s wand. Following the tracks from the outcropping, Gavin came to the sight of the battle.

From the marks on the ground, and the amount of blood spilled, it was fairly obvious that it had been a really big fight. There were a series of scorch marks too, telling him that Alchemy had managed to get off a series of fireballs. Moving away from the trolls, the warrior looked for more evidence of what happened. Bits of fur lay scattered on the ground in one spot. Buck had been injured. He needed to get into the hill and find both his friend and his lover. Moving outside the trampled area, just downhill from one of the bigger pools of dried blood, his sharp eyes saw a carefully worked piece of wood.

Picking up the wand, Gavin inspected it. It looked fine. From the distance it lay from the closest foot prints, he had to assume it had either been knocked from Alchemy’s had, or lost from above. True his friend was often loosing or breaking wands, in this case it caused a heavy lump to form in the warrior’s throat. He gently placed the wand in his pack, and went back to looking at the ground.

A series of large reptilian prints caught his attention. They weren’t large enough to be a dragon, unless it was a really small one. He wondered what they meant.

“See, I told ya there weren’t no other elves on the hill,” the first troll’s voice carried back over the rise before they walked into sight. Gavin slipped behind a tree and watched the two return.

“We had to check,” the second one replied. The red light of the setting sun glistened off the large metal helmet sitting lopsided on his head.

“Well, I don’t want to be late for dinner,” the first one complained. “They’re probably about to eat, and I’m hungry.”

“You’re always hungry,” his companion replied. “Now let’s hope they don’t make us come back out in the dark. You know how the boss can be when he has his mind set on something.”

The two continued to chat as they disappeared down the trail they originally traveled. Gavin didn’t pause, but silently slipped in behind them to see where they went. He just hoped he’d be able to get into the villain’s lair and rescue Alchemy and Buck.

 

***

 

Alchemy studied the stark metal room the trolls unceremoniously tossed him into. They’d taken Dolce somewhere else. Her screams carried to him for several minutes after they slammed the door, but grew more distant. He hoped she’d be alright. She was a very attractive woman and he’d hate for something unseemly to happen to her at the hands of Doctor Gnome or any of his henchmen.

Alchemy’s fingers worked along the riveted seam in the metal wall. He couldn’t tell what kind of metal it was. It looked like the same metal that the halls were made from, but he didn’t know of any process that would make metal in large sheets like this. Somewhere, air flowed in, it blew in just strong enough that it he stood in a particular spot it ruffled his long blond hair. Moving around the room, he tried to figure out where it came from, and would that be enough for him to escape without his wand.

Everything in the room was metal, so there was nothing he could use as even a makeshift wand. He needed something to act as a focus for his magic, something that could conduct it from his person out so it could interact with the world. Sitting down on the cold, hard, metal bed, he tried to think of anything that might help him out of the situation.

Years ago, when old Shamus gave him his first wand, the elder wizard told him a cautionary tale about a wizard that tried to work magic without the focus of a wand. It had been dangerous just pointing a finger and whispering a magic word, but it had worked for the wizard until one day his concentration slipped and he blew off his hand when casting a fireball spell. Since then, all wizards used wands of one form or another to project their power out into the world. But it had been done in the past. Alchemy tried to decide if he were desperate enough to try using magic without a wand. If he could manage to get out of the cell, rescue Dolce and stop Doctor Gnome, it might be worth it, even if it cost him his hand in the process.

The door was almost as cold to his touch as the metal bed had been. Laying his hand against it, Alchemy focused his magic through his hand and onto the door. He tried not to think about his hand blowing apart by the magical forces running through it. Taking a deep breath, he focused on the outcome of the spell he wanted to cast. He saw the door opening. He’d done this spell numerous times in practice and while out with his friends on some of their less than legal escapades. It worked every time he’d cast it in the last ten years. It was one of the easiest spells he knew. His brow furrowed in concentration.

“Open,” he whispered. The magic shot out of his hand and into the door. A soft click from the lock reverberated through the metal room. The wizard hoped it hadn’t gone out into the hallway as well. The door swung open soundlessly.

Pushing the door nearly closed again and bolstered by his success with opening it. Alchemy turned his attention to himself. If he just wandered out into the hallway, he’d be stopped before he got too far. He wasn’t sure he wanted to risk doing a fireball spell without his wand. Blending in would be his best option. Invisibility wasn’t one of his best spells, but he had other options. There was a spell that took a lot less energy than invisibility and it might work, unless there were folks around that paid more attention to details than what he’d observed so far.

Running his hands over the tunic that Doctor Gnome left in his room earlier, Alchemy called up the power for the spell. He had to be careful, not only was he casting without a wand, this spell was destined for his body.

“Blend,” he whispered.

The magic tingled around him. It felt raw and strange. Something changed. He held up his hand. It still looked the same as it had most of his life. He reached for the wall, and his fingers turned the same color as the wall. As he stepped closer, his hand and arm became a metallic shade. He’d have to stick close to walls, but he’d blend in.

Still wishing for a wand as a safe focus, Alchemy opened the door and slipped out into the metal hallway. He had no way of knowing where they took Dolce, but he remembered the way they’d come after leaving Doctor Gnome’s dining room. Slowly, keeping close to the wall, he headed the opposite direction, ever watchful for something he might use as a weapon, or maybe even a wand.

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Dr Gnome part 28

When last we left our hero he was about to have dinner with Dr Gnome.

 

***

Silence greeted them as the door opened onto a spacious room. The gnome woman gestured for them to enter then stepped out of the way. A small click sounded as she closed the door behind them.

Two large trolls stood on opposite sides of the doorway. They appeared not to notice the elves as they walked onto the plush carpet leading deeper into the room.

“Please come in, Mister Pond,” a high gnomish voice said.

Alchemy glanced through the room’s opulence and spotted a short man standing near the head of a long table. In the soft light that permeated the room from unseen sources, the man’s bald head had a light green cast to it. Large metal shells protruded from the side of the pale green cranium where his ears should have been.

“Doctor Gnome, I presume,” said Alchemy, starting toward the man.

A high gnomish laugh answered him. “Ah, but I am the only gnome in the room, Mister Pond. At this point who else could I be? But please, if you and Miss Leek would kindly have a seat, we can begin dinner. It has been a very busy day and I, for one, happen to be hungry.” He hopped up on the well padded chair at the head of the table.

Alchemy still holding Dolce’s hand, led her to the places waiting for them near the gnome. As they drew nearer to the doctor, the wizard noticed that the gnome’s hands weren’t exactly normal, where most gnomes had small rounded hands, more like an elf or human’s, Dr. Gnome’s were slightly elongated, more like a goblin’s. His nose was also more pointed than bulbous.

Carefully positioning himself between their host and Dolce, Alchemy pulled out her chair. She smiled weakly at him. He tried to look reassuring as he patted her hand before releasing it.

“Mister Pond, do you enjoy working with the Fragrance Guild?” Gnome asked as Alchemy settled into his own chair.

“You don’t beat around the bush do you, Doctor Gnome?” Alchemy responded.

“I’m a very busy man, Mister Pond, and I like to get to the meat of my problems as quickly as possible,” their host replied as several goblins approached the table carrying food-laden trays.

“I’ve done worse jobs,” the elf smiled as one of the goblins dished out a portion of steaming red meat onto the silver plate before him.

“Like when you apprenticed for the old coot Shamus the Magnificent?” Doctor Gnome asked, ignoring the goblins that placed food on his plate.

“Your information is very good,” Alchemy replied.

“I have my network of people. Fortunately you elves aren’t very good about keeping things quiet in your kingdom. So how is it that a person such as yourself that took so very long to complete his apprenticeship came to the attention of the Fragrance Guild and became one of their field operatives?”

Now that the plates and goblets were filled, the serving goblins placed the trays on the table and vanished. Alchemy reached for his wine goblet and took a sip before answering.

“I happen to be better than most people assume,” he smiled.

Doctor Gnome raised his glass at the elf. “That’s what I presumed with the reports I’ve been hearing about your exploits. From what my observers have relayed, you are an incredibly talented wizard with a quick head on his shoulders. I could use a man like you in my organization.”

“But I thought gnomes despised magic?” Alchemy asked as his knife slipped into the tender meat before him.

“Oh we do, Mister Pond, don’t get me wrong,” Gnome assured him. “But I didn’t build the empire I have being short sighted or narrow minded. I know that even though its future is limited, magic in our world has its uses. That usefulness is why I’m trying to disrupt the human’s firebird hatch. Did you know that those creatures actually have a hive-mind intelligence? The humans don’t like to let that out. It’s what makes them so important in long distance communications. The mother of the brood maintains a mental link with her offspring. Keep the mother close by and she can communicate with her children all over the planet. It’s so much faster than sending messages by courier.”

Alchemy didn’t respond. He and most of the rest of the world thought the birds would be used to carry messages back and forth since they fly faster than any other creatures in sky. There were no firebird nests outside human lands, so most of the other races didn’t know what the birds were capable of. If they communicated mentally, it would mean the humans had their own equivalent of the mirror network the elves and some of the other magical races had. He covered his silence by chewing on the tender meat longer than necessary.

Doctor Gnome chuckled “By your silence, I presume you didn’t know that. Of course I’ve been working on long distance communications for the races that don’t have magic. Since we can’t use the mirror network like the rest of you, we have to come up with something, or be dependent on other races to keep in touch.”

“But why not let the humans have their advance?” Dolce asked after taking a big bite of potatoes.

“Because, we can’t allow them to go on,” their host’s voice rose a couple of octaves. “Already they are becoming one of the most populace races. They have no concern for anything but their own expansion.”

Alchemy nodded. “That’s right, aren’t they threatening to push into some of the disputed lands between the gnomes and the ursas? Something about bringing peace to the area?”

“Peace? Peace?” Gnome shrieked as he slammed his fork down on the table. “What do the humans know of Peace? They will move into that land which is rightfully gnome land and within a generation they will engulf both the gnomes and the ursas. If we stop their firebirds from hatching, they will have no long distance communications without using riders and carrier birds. It will make their expansion harder.”

“So you want to protect the gnome lands?” Alchemy asked. “Then while not file a grievance with the People’s Forum?” Alchemy knew how useless the People’s Forum was in issues between the different races. But it was normally the route that most races used when they had issues with the others. The forum consisted of three members of each race, and each member had a vote, with an odd number of delegates, it was impossible for a tie, unless someone abstained from voting.

“Everyone knows the amount of influence the Fragrance Guild has in the forum,” the gnome sneered. “There’s no way they would back the gnomes. They see science and invention as abominations. No, it is far easier to move within the shadows and work out the issues there. I should know. I’ve moved in the shadows for years. I’d still be there, but one of my operatives in the human capital got caught, alerting the humans and the Guild. Now I find I must face the light for the first time in my life. But there is little the Guild or any of their allies can do to stop me.”

“What do you mean?” Alchemy asked taking another sip of his wine. “If the human’s are aware of your plan to interfere with their hatch, they are doing everything they can to make sure this clutch is safe.”

“Ah, but once I learned about the impending deployment of the firebird network, I did some research on them,” Doctor Gnome said, taking another bite of his steak. “Did you know that a mother firebird will destroy her hatchlings if she feels threatened by a dragon?”

“But we killed your dragon,” the elf replied.

“You killed one of my dragons,” Gnome said. “I’ve lived my life always having a backup plan. What you killed was a young female I’d been grooming for this, but I still have others. Before the sun rises tomorrow, my goblin and troll troops will mount their dragons and we will fly toward the secret nesting spot of the firebirds. The humans don’t have the firepower to stop a flight of dragons coming down on them. And even if they manage to take out one or two of the dragons, there will be at least one that makes it through their defenses. The mother bird will be so scared by the dragons she will set fire to her nest, destroying the eggs and any hope the humans have of getting their communications network up and working before I can inform Gnomeland Security that the way is clear for them to invade the human lands.”

“You can’t do that,” Dolce objected. “What about the innocent lives that will be lost.”

“Have you paid attention to how fast those humans breed?” their host asked. “They are the biped equivalent of rabbits, worse, rats. The rest of the races breed slower, age slower, live longer. We are the better races, yet the elves and their allies protect the humans like they are beloved pets or something. We have to put the apes back where they belong.”

“Gnomes are almost as short lived as humans,” Alchemy observed. “There is even some evidence that the two share a common ancestor.” He’d heard many arguments over the years about which race was better, and lifespan always came up in the arguments. A lot of people thought the longer lived races were superior just due to the time they had in the world to accumulate knowledge and power. This thought pattern was particularly prevalent in magic users who did everything they could to extend their live spans.

Gnome sneered. “Trust me there is nothing human about me. Of my gnome father I could not tell you.”

“So you’re not completely gnome?” Dolce asked, a look of distaste crossing her features.

“Please, my dear Miss Leek, don’t pretend to be coy. You knew the minute you laid eyes on me that I wasn’t a full blood gnome. My mother was a goblin servant in my father’s home. I lived in the shadows after my father and his people kicked me out. But his genes gave me the brainpower to become what I am today. Once I destroy the human’s firebirds, the gnomes will welcome my genius back into their fold. I will be one of their guiding forces of intellect.”

“That’s monsterous!” the elf woman said, slamming her fork down on the table. “You’re going to destroy those defenseless firebirds because you want the gnomes to take you back? You’re a monster! No one would ever want you!”

“Dolce, please calm down,” said Alchemy putting a hand on her arm.

Doctor Gnome gestured. “No Miss Leek, you are correct. I am a monster. But sometimes, the monster wins. This time it will be all about the monster winning and there is nothing you or your magical boyfriend’s precious Fragrance Guild can do about it. You see I’ve neutralized Mister Pond here. We’ve eaten Mister Staghorn, and even as we speak, my trolls are closing in on Mister Whitehawk.”

Alchemy stared at his plate in horror and felt Dolce stiffen under his hand as she realized what Doctor Gnome had just said. With his other hand he flung his plate with his partially consumed bear steak on it at the little mad man. Gnome ducked, but the plate still clanged off his left ear. Massive hands grabbed Alchemy by the shoulders as he started to rise.

“Monster!” Dolce screamed.

“We are what we are, Miss Leek,” Gnome said straightening in his chair.

“You realize that I will stop your plan,” Alchemy said through gritted teeth.

“You are welcome to try, Mister Pond, but I assure you, it will be impossible for you to escape the prison my trolls are about to put you and Miss Leek in,” said Doctor Gnome, nonchalantly pushing the scattered food on the table away with a light green hand. “When I have destroyed the firebirds, I will be back for you. I need to arrange for quick transport of your head to the mysterious K before I kill you.” He gestured at the trolls.

Alchemy fell silent, his mind trying to find a way out as his troll captor pulled him the rest of the way out of his chair and moved him out of the room. Dolce’s screams echoed down the stark metal hallway. Alchemy noticed the gnome woman waiting just outside the door.

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To Sex or Not To Sex

To Sex or Not to Sex

There’s something I’ve been debating for a while now, and by a while I mean several years. Does gay literature have to involve sex?

A couple of years ago when I was first trying to sell “Blood Moon, Yellow Sky,” before Tal became a dragon, I was with a literary agent. After several rejections of the book she and I debated if it would sell better if there were graphic sex in it as opposed to alluded sex. “Sex sells,” she told me. I left that meeting debating a: if I wanted to put a couple of graphic sex scenes in the book and b: where I would put them if I did. The next time I talked to her and expressed a concern that I wanted to reach a broader audience than I would if I had sex scenes in it. After some thought she agreed that the story on its own was strong enough and with the right publisher behind it, it didn’t need sex. She also agreed that the sex would limit the sales of the book to gay men and women who enjoyed reading about gay sex.

Now that I’ve self published the book, along with several others, I’m finding mixed reactions. I get mostly good feedback on the series. Every so often I get a review or an email that sounds surprised that a book with mostly gay male characters doesn’t have sex scenes in it. One review of “Shadows on the Campfire” actually said “Most of the characters are gay men but there are no sex scenes, making the read suitable for Y.A. as well.” This is good in my opinion, opening my writing to several audiences, and that is my goal, to hit as wide an audience as I can. I have also gotten feedback from readers that they want more sex in my work, sorry but that’s not going to happen in these stories. Yes I have my visions of what my characters do to each other in the privacy of their own bedrooms, showers, forest, ect., but that’s not the audience I’m trying to reach.

I’ve also heard concerns that most of my main characters are in stable loving relationships, with little personal drama. Life is full of enough drama without having to go looking for more. One of my big goals in reaching a wide audience is showing gay couples in committed loving relationships. I feel that right now, when we are fighting for very human rights in the real world, it’s important to show things in as positive a light as possible. I want my characters to be as good and upstanding as possible, even if they do happen to be dragons, vampires, werewolves and mages. The drama in my stories happens around my characters through the world interacting with them, it very rarely happens with them interacting with each other. One reviewer of “Coyote’s Pup” wrote “Chance and his fellow characters are all quite likable in that they consistently behave in a pro-social manner, and I do like books about people who are undisputedly on the “good” end of the good and evil scale. The members of this Coalition of supernatural creatures are all genuinely interested in helping each other with their magic or anything else that they can help with.” I think this is a good thing. I never viewed the whole thing as “pro-social” before, but I guess in a way it is. Why not have characters more concerned with making the world a better place than in seeing how much drama they can cause each other?

One of the first things that we as writers are told is to write what you know. On the whole my life is low on the drama scale. I am happily partnered in a very stable relationship. I’ve known drama in my past, and don’t like to dwell there. I like happy relationships. It’s what I know now. I think more people need to know what happy, stable relationships can be. If my writing can help people realize these in their own life, then I’m making a good impact on my readers and the world.

I want my books to reach a wide audience. I want my readers to get a good impression of what loving gay couples can be. It would even be nice if folks want to see a little more of the qualities that make heroes and heroines as opposed to just more drama. If folks are just wanting sex with no plot or anything else to carry you through the book, I know a few writers that can fill the bill. If you want a good strong story with characters that leave you impatiently waiting for the next book, check out my stuff. Good gay fiction doesn’t need to have sex, just strong characters who happen to be sexy.

Tomorrow look for the beginning of the end of “Dr Gnome” as I try and get the novel wrapped up over the next week or so.

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Paypal censorship

I tried to post the majority of this as a comment on a different blog, but blog spot doesn’t like me today and I can’t post comments there, so might as well post this here, why waste a perfectly good rant.

Background:

For those that may not have heard, paypal has decided that writers using its service can not sell certain types of books, they have labeled things with shapeshifters, werewolves and the like, as bestiality and not allowed along with several other things. There is a lot about this all over the net right now. Writers are up in arms and rightly so.

My comment:

I started seeing this announced this weekend. There is a disturbing trend in the country about people confusing their personal morality with everything else. This type of actions need not be tolerated by the general public. Companies like Paypal and people like our politicians need to understand that they work for us, without us there would be no them. We need to let Paypal know there are alternatives to their services and if they want to get all high and mighty about stuff we can send our money through other means. I have a friend that does a lot of business through etsy and doesn’t use paypal, there is a different service that she and a bunch of the crafters use. I’m going to check and see what that service is. Sorry but they start regulating werewolves to bestiality what’s next no gay sex, no alternative religion, no mixed race couples? These companies that think they are too big to fail, need to be reminded that without their customers they would be nothing.

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Dr Gnome part 27

17

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.

 

***

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Dr Gnome part 26

***

“So, my great wizard,” Dolce smiled at Alchemy as they toweled each other off, “how do you propose to get us out of here?”

Alchemy stopped rubbing the soft white towel over her long violet hair. “I’m working on that. It depends a lot on what Doctor Gnome does. I’m curious to meet the man. He appears to have a most ingenious mind.”

Dolce shivered under the wizard’s hands. “I’ve never liked gnomes. There’s something about them. All short, they always smell of grease and oil. They seem to have an aversion to the natural world.” She gestured to the cold metal tables and chairs in the room with them. “What’s wrong with real wood? They have to work so much harder to make the metal. And where are the plants? I know we’re deep inside Manticore Hill, but there should be some kind of plants, just to make the air better.”

“You sound like my boss,” Alchemy chuckled pulling the elf woman close to him. “She’s worried that the gnome’s are trying to force their mechanical ways on the world.” He gently kissed her forehead as he glanced around the room. “I think she may be right.”

A large carafe of tea sat steaming on a nearby table.

“I wonder when that arrived?” Alchemy asked as he released Dolce with a soft kiss and walked over to it. He sniffed the vapors rising from it. “Smells like a berry blend, possibly some dandelion in it.” He turned back to Dolce. “Would you like some? It might help us relax a bit.” She nodded, but her smile was tight.

Two porcelain tea cups sat by the container, on a small metal try with a bowl of sugar. He smiled at her, trying to ease some of her fears the way she’d helped ease some of the tensions in his body, back in the bathing chamber. She’d proved most skilled with her mouth and her body. The wizard wondered what it would take to have her in his bed for the rest of his stay in Buteamore.

“Would you like some sugar with your tea, my dear?” Alchemy asked as he filled the two cups with the steaming warm liquid.

She reached for her cup. “Let me sip it first.” She swallowed a bit of the brew, then nodded. “A little please.”

Alchemy took a long sip of his tea before reaching for the sugar. It was just the way he liked it. He spooned out a little sugar for her, then after a sip she nodded slightly. He took her elbow and led her over to the couch.

“Let’s relax a bit while we wait for dinner with the good Doctor,” he suggested.

 

***

 

The shattering of the second tea cup on the metal floor, alerted Blica Butuna that the sedative in the tea had done its job. The dark haired gnome motioned to the troll behind her to follow. The lumbering oath fell into step as she turned the corner in the hallway and headed toward the door to the elves’ room.

Shards of porcelain lay in front of the couch where the two elves slumped. The gnome “tisked” and motioned for the troll to stop. She should have thought of it before. She turned, walked out into the hall and called for a maid. Returning to the troll and elves, she frowned.

“Why did these things always cause a mess?” she thought to herself. Being a gnome she was used to a mess, but disliked cleaning up after other people.

“Do the woman first,” she instructed the troll. Not for the first time she wished that her stature wasn’t so diminutive, or that other creatures were smaller. Having the use the trolls as hired muscle irritated her, but the lesser races had to be good for something.

“Where?” the troll asked, a deep line furrowed his mottled brown brow.

“Carry her to the bedroom,” Blica commanded. “Put her in the bed. To one side so you can get the male in the other.” She shook her head, she hated having to spell things out so explicitly.

The elf woman nearly disappeared against the massive bulk of the troll. Blica followed and watched as he placed her on the far side of the bed. She stepped out of the troll’s way when he came back through the doorway.

“Now the man,” she ordered, not bothering to move back into the main room. She could see what the troll was doing just fine from where she was.

As the troll settled the elf into the bed, the outer door of the suite opened.

“It’s over there in front of the couch,” Blica ordered, expecting it to be the maid she’d called for. She had no idea what had kept the little goblin woman.

“I know where the cups crashed,” the high, distinguished voice of Doctor Gnome answered her. “Where is the wizard?”

Blica paled. “He’s in here, sir.” She pointed into the bedroom. “We were just getting them settled as you instructed.”

Doctor Gnome walked past the couch and the shattered tea cups on the hard floor. “So my potion worked on elves. They should be out for several hours.” His shiny metal ears swiveled just a bit as he strolled over to the bed. “It’s amazing that they still believe in magic, when the forces of science are obviously so much more powerful.”

Blica wanted to leave the room, the Doctor’s pale green skin made her shiver, and his metallic ears. She’d often wondered how, even with the wonders of gnome-made technology he could stand to have the cold things on the side of his head. He was one of the most brilliant minds in their world, but his mixed heritage gave her a shudder.

“So Blica,” the Doctor turned his attention from the bed to her. “Any problems?”

“No sir,” she replied, forcing herself not to avert her eyes from his dark-green gaze. “It was almost as if he wanted to be captured.”

Doctor Gnome chuckled, a strange noise not quite a deep gnome laugh, and just shy of a goblin snicker. “Of course he wanted to be captured. Mister Pond wanted to be inside the hill so he could figure out what I’m doing in here. He’s too intelligent to think he could sneak in. Even with his deplorable magic, he’d still stick out, like an elf at a gnome party.” The genius turned to leave the room. “Make sure that they have appropriate clothing when they wake. I wouldn’t want them showing up for dinner underdressed.”

“Of course sir,” Blica replied. “I’ll get the maids on it immediately.”

The strange metal ears caught the light as he shook his head. “Not the maids, Blica. You handle getting it done. You’ll do a better job of it.”

The gnome’s heart sank. “Yes sir.”

The door opened before Doctor Gnome could touch the handle. The little goblin maid was there with her bucket and towels. The Doctor didn’t appear to notice her as she had to stop suddenly to avoid rushing into him. The little woman’s green face paled, and her ears drooped in fear, but Gnome didn’t even pause in his exit.

“It’s over there in front of the couch,” Blica instructed the maid as she followed the mastermind out. She hoped they’d have something back in the storeroom in the right sizes for the elves. She wasn’t sure, even using the new sewing contraptions; she’d be able to get her women to crank out something to fit them in a couple of hours.

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Dr Gnome part 25

16

The dark-haired Gnome led them down a long shiny metal hallway. Alchemy watched the amazing number of people moving along the underground path. He recognized most of the races there, but there were a few he didn’t. A short man with dark skin and a large bulbous nose, had the basic build of a dwarf, but was like no dwarf he’d ever seen before. Some kind of tall insectoid with bright yellow strips along it barrel-shaped tail scurried along with a flat piece of metal like the Gnome woman carried.

The hall opened up into a large metal cavern, it looked more like an expensive inn than a cavern deep inside a hill. Another Gnome, that could have been the sister of the first, scurried up to the dark harried one.

“Mistress, the suite is prepared,” the newcomer announced.

“Very good,” the other Gnome said. “Mister Pond, you rooms are ready.”

“This is a very extensive complex you have down here,” Alchemy observed as they started off down another corridor. “I wasn’t aware that Gnomes were this industrious.”

“Doctor Gnome is of a very advanced mindset,” she replied stopping at the first door they came to in the new hallway. “But you will discover the genius of the doctor when you dine with him this evening.”

She opened the door to a suite that was larger than the small cottage Alchemy lived in back in Salmania. Thick black carpet covered the floors, a small fire blazed in the center of the far wall. Dolce` gasped as they walked in.

“Please make yourselves comfortable,” the Gnome woman said, not moving from the door once the Elves walked in. “I’ll return in a few hours to escort you to dinner. The maids have drawn baths for you both so that you may wash off the jungle filth.” She turned and closed the door, leaving the two Elves by themselves.

As the door closed, Dolce` threw herself into Alchemy’s arms. “Gnomes as such hideous creatures.”

Alchemy ran his hands down the long silky violet hair. He sighed at the feeling of her in his arms. Her firm body played well under his hands, even through the thick fluffy robes they wore.

“I’ll get you out of this, Dolce`, I promise,” he soothed into her hair. With each breath he took the soft musky floral scent of it filled him. It was a very intoxicating aroma. He wanted to take her to Lady Kamala and see if the mistress of the Fragrance Guild could duplicate it.

“But how?” Dolce` whimpered into Alchemy’s shoulder. “We are deep under the hill, and surrounded by all these awful creatures. Can’t you feel the earth pressing down on you? Elves aren’t meant to be underground. We are creatures of the green and the air.”

Alchemy recognized the growing panic in the woman’s voice. “We must meet with Doctor Gnome, then I will get us out of here. Get you back to the safety of the green above.” He put his hand gently under her chin as lifted her mouth to his. Her kiss was as sweet as her hair. He wanted more. She molded herself to his body. It may have just been the excitement and the danger they faced, but Alchemy knew she wanted him as badly as he wanted her.

He pulled away from her lips. “My dear, why don’t we go enjoy the baths they so graciously prepared for us. Clean warm water will help you relax.”

Dolce` smiled weakly. “As long as you stay at my side.”

“Of course,” Alchemy said as he claimed her hand. “It will take more than maniacal Gnomes to separate us.”

In the bathing chamber two large tubs waited, water still steaming in them. Alchemy gently lifted Dolce’s robe off and hung it over the back of a chair near the wall of the small room. He helped her into the tub.

“Here, let me rub your shoulders while you soak,” he said as she settled her lithe body into the water.

She looked back over her shoulder. “You know, there’s enough room in here for both of us.”

“Are you sure?”

Nimble hands reached up for the belt of his robe and slid it open. She pushed the robe away and took him gently in her hand and pulled him closer to the water. Alchemy’s heart beat faster as she smiled at him.

“Of course I’m sure,” she replied right before her mouth closed around him.

***

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Dr Gnome part 24

So after a really busy couple of weeks, here’s another installment of Doctor Gnome.

***

Several Gnomes appeared as the Trolls extracted the two Elves from the net. Alchemy watched one of the Gnomes, a woman with short black hair, nervously tapping the rectangular piece of metal she held. The sound of her nails on the metallic surface rang through the chamber. When they were finally freed of the net, it managed to catch on every buckle, button and even ear on each Elf, she stepped forward trying not to look at the Trolls looming over them.

“Mister Pond, we’ve been expecting you for some time now,” her high voice rang out. “If you would please follow me, we need to get you processed.”

Alchemy raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been expecting me?”

Her large round ears swiveled unnervingly toward them asthe Gnome paused in her turn away from them. She looked over her shoulder at him. “You, but not the woman.” She gestured at Dolce`.

“We come as a package,” Alchemy smiled at her as he put his arm protectively around Dolce` delicate waist. The Elf woman didn’t resist, and plastered herself to his side.

“So we noticed,” the Gnome sneered and resumed her march across the chamber. “First we must make sure that you are free of any magical contamination.”

“Any what?” Alchemy asked, well aware of the Trolls close behind them as they followed the Gnome.

“Magical contamination,” the woman repeated as they reached a door at the far side of the chamber. “Unfortunately we Gnomes are very susceptible to magic, so we must make sure that you are not exposing us to any.”

Alchemy wished he hadn’t lost his wand. “Magic isn’t something that can contaminate people. It’s all around us. It’s part of the force that binds the world together.”

The Gnome snorted in disbelief. “That is what you Elves are always telling everyone. Gnomes get by just fine without magic. We remove it from the world whenever we can.”

Alchemy wanted to come back with a sharp retort about that was why the Fragrance Guild viewed the Gnomes as a threat, but kept his mouth shut as they entered a brightly lit hallway. He wanted to find out more about the operation here inside Manticore Hill, and he wouldn’t do that by irritating their host. Better to try charm.

“It looks like you’ve made some recent advancements,” he said, looking at the flameless lights running along the ceiling of the hallways.

“Doctor Gnome is a brilliant man,” she replied without stopping. “You’ll see many things here that you’ve never even dreamed of.” She paused at the large looming metal door that covered the end of the hallway.

***

The Gnome woman led them through the doorway into a metal room. The Trolls didn’t follow. Several other Gnomes occupied a series of tables and benches. They looked up. Their large round eyes grew bigger at the sight of the two Elves in their midst. They all wore matching white coats that covered their tiny frames. All the Gnomes appeared female. Alchemy wasn’t an expert in Gnome physiology, but most of the Gnome men he’d met had larger noses than the ones he faced. Several of them also had tiny round earrings in their large lobes. The men tended toward more exaggerated decorations. The Gnome who led them to the room walked over to the nearest table and laid the piece of metal she carried on it. Alchemy noticed a piece of paper on the metal just as another gnome picked it up.

“If you would please remove your clothes,” the dark haired Gnome woman said, walking toward them.

“You know this jacket cost me a lot,” Alchemy objected with a smile.

The Gnome woman looked up at him with an intensity in her black eyes that made him pause.  “Mister Pond, you are a guest here in name only. If you anger me, or anyone working for Doctor Gnome, we are authorized to kill you.” Then she turned her attention to Dolce` who clung to the wizard’s arm in alarm. “Or perhaps harming the woman would be more effective. Now please, remove your clothes. They will be decontaminated from any exposure to magic and you may reclaim them when you leave.”

Alchemy patted Dolce`’s hand. “I think we better do as she request my dear.”

He pulled off his coat carefully and folded it so that it would be small enough that the Gnome who stepped up to take it from him wouldn’t drag it on the floor. As he pulled off his trousers, a gasp sounded from the Gnomes gathered around. Alchemy couldn’t help but smile. He was used to pleasing women of many species, but this was the first time he’d gotten a gasp from a room full of Gnomes. Other than the smile he didn’t acknowledge their reaction, but turned to look at Dolce`.

The wizard wanted, more than ever, to sweep the comely Elf off her feet and carry her to the nearest bed. Her body cried out for his attentions. There was something about the way her breasts perked up in the chill of the underground room that caught his eye. Without clothes, the paler parts of her body had a more pronounced faint-violet cast to them than he noticed outside. He wanted to wrap her in his arms and make her warm. Protect her from harm, while at the same time claiming her for his own.

“This way,” the Gnome woman ordered and walked toward a strange brass contraption hanging on the wall. A number of gears and dials covered the outside of the thing. The Gnome reached into the contraption and pulled out a long tube made of some kind of metal and cloth, the cloth part extended toward them, while the metal covered the end. She turned two of the dials then stepped toward Dolce`.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Dolce` said, covering her upturned breasts with her arm.

“I won’t hurt you my dear,” the high voice replied. “We just have to make sure that there is no magical residue on you.”

Dolce` glared down at the smaller woman. “He’s the wizard, not me.”

“You’ve spent time with him,” the Gnome sneered. “You could have magic on you. We can’t be too careful.” She waved the strange tube around the shaking Elf woman. Some lights sparkled on the wall. The Gnome woman frowned and shook her head.

“You are acceptable. Please go wait over there while I deal with Mister Pond.” She gestured to the other side of the room where another Gnome from the group at the tables waited, holding a bundle of brown cloth.

“Now Mister Pond, if you would please step closer,” the Gnome leered at Alchemy.

He took a couple of steps toward the machine. The thing emitted a strange energy. He noticed it when the diminutive woman passed it over Dolce`, but as he got closer it became more obvious to him. The energy was something he’d never encountered before. The contraption was obviously Gnome made.

As the woman passed the tube near him, the energy pulsed strongly. Then a loud clanging noise sounded from the contraption. The Gnome smiled at him.

“Just as I suspected,” she sneered.

“What do you mean?” Alchemy asked, as strange apprehension building in his gut.

“You’re need to be cleansed,” the Gnome smiled.

“What does that mean?”

The woman ignored him. “Step over here, Mister Pond.” She walked over to a large metal grate in the floor. It looked like a sewer grate. She reached up and placed her cold hands on his hips positioning him in the middle of the grate. “Now stand perfectly still.”

She stepped back away from him with a leering smile on her tiny face. Had she been a goblin, pointy little teeth would have been showing, and her ears would have been flopping. Something told Alchemy he wasn’t going to enjoy this.

Without warning, a cold thick fluid washed over him. It stank. Alchemy didn’t recognize the smell, but it was awful. Gagging as the fluid poured down over his head, into his long blonde hair, across his shoulders and down his well sculpted chest, he managed to close his eyes just in time to prevent the fluid from getting in them. He shivered as the last of the gunk passed between his toes and into the grate.

“You’re not done yet, Mister Pond.” The Gnome’s high voice said before he could open his eyes.

Water, colder than the fluid, poured down from above. The deluge lasted longer than the fluid had, leaving the Elf shaking from the cold. When the water ended, he carefully opened his eyes. Dolce` stood where she’d been, but now she was clothed in a thick brown robe.

“Come back over here if you would please, Mister Pond,” the Gnome demanded as she walked back to the fabric and metal tube. Alchemy followed her and stood there shivering as she passed the tube around him again. She frowned when a light blinked on the panel, but no alarm sounded.

“So, it appears I’m now clear?” Alchemy said cheerfully as the Gnome slide the tube back into the contraption it extended from.

The tiny woman sighed. “It appears so. It’s possible you weren’t as contaminated as we feared.” She raised her brow ridge that passed for eyebrows. “Which is strange, considering you are a wizard. Could it be that you aren’t a very good one? Or maybe Doctor Gnome has improved the cleansing gel.” She walked over to retrieve her metal with the paper on it. “Please, Mister Pond, if you would cover yourself.”

Alchemy walked over to the attendant who held out a folded brown robe that matched Dolce`’s. The strange soft fluffy fabric felt good against his skin. It blocked most of the chill from the underground metal room and soaked up the bit of water left on his skin. Leaning over, the Elf wrung some of the water out of his hair, not bothering to move to the grate, then gracefully stepped over the puddle.

“Now Mister Pond, and woman,” the Gnome began.

“Her name is Dolce`,” Alchemy interrupted her as he pulled the Elf to his side.

“Oh how sweet. So, Mister Pond, if you and Miss Dolce` would please follow me, Doctor Gnome has prepared for you.” She turned and walked toward the door opposite where they’d entered.

Alchemy sighed. “Seems we have no choice.”

“Stay close to me, Alchemy,” Dolce said as they followed the Gnome. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

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