Dr Gnome part 21

Okay folks trying for more details here, hopefully by the end of this you’ll have a good idea what a manticore looks like. Also tried for some strong characterization and hopefully a bit of emotion. Let me know.

***

Buck Staghorn woke with a start. Hushed words sounded outside the safe enclosure of the rocks. He sat up and focused on the whispers. Then he realized it was just Alchemy talking to a woman. They sounded far enough away that even his sharp Ursa hearing only heard them as whispers. He hoped the Elf wasn’t doing anything stupid. Stretching, he wondered what Gavin was doing. Sleeping with the warrior at his side had become natural the past couple of weeks and it felt odd falling asleep without him there as the sun had cast the eastern horizon in a pale coral pink. Hopefully Gavin hadn’t run into any trouble on his way back to Buteamore and brought Griz and probably one other Ursas along with a cart back to retrieve the young dragon carcasses.

The big Ursa stood up and looked out of the cracks between the boulders they’d sheltered in. Just up the hill, Alchemy talked with an Elf woman. The wizard suavely took the woman’s arm and the two started walking around the hill. Staghorn squeezed his large frame out of the safety of the rocks and started after them.

Then an angry roar shook the morning air. He looked up and saw a manticore skirting around from the far side of the hill and dropping out of the blue morning sky toward the two Elves. The green form of a goblin, with long ears flapping in the wind, guided the monster down. Powerful legs propelled him forward. If something happened to Alchemy, Gavin would never forgive him. The wizard pushed the woman behind him and pulled out his wand.

“Shields Up!” rang out across the hillside.

Staghorn didn’t see anything, but figured that an invisible magical shield now protected Alchemy and the woman from the manticore’s attack. The echoing boom of an exploding rod sounded as the manticore swerved to the left. One of the projectiles from the rod bounced off the shield. The woman screamed and dropped below the nearest rock.

Another roar shook the hillside as three more goblin-ridden manticores swooped down from the barren top of the hill. Staghorn pulled his great sword from the sheath that hung across his back. The thick hilt felt comfortable in his hands as he came up behind Alchemy.

“Looks like we have a situation here,” the Ursa said.

“It does look that way,” the Elf replied, as the three new manticores came in close. He flicked his wand at one and shouted “Burn!” A massive fireball seared the air toward the oncoming monster. The manticore veered away, but not before the fireball caught its scorpion tail. The beast howled in pain and turned out of the fight.

“Good shot,” Staghorn said, watching as the next two came in low from his side. Both of the goblin riders brandished exploding rods toward him, he wasn’t sure how effective the projectile weapons would be from the rough ride the goblins endured. One of them fired and the shot went wide, striking a rock on the side of the hill. The other goblin didn’t bother, and directed his manticore down, with fangs and claws extended toward the Ursa.

“Burn!” Alchemy shouted again. A fireball barely missed Staghorn’s head but this time the manticores were ready for it and with swift tuck of their bat-like wings, dove out of the way. The one closest to Staghorn, landed with its lion paws on a rock for a moment before springing at the Ursa.

Only his bear-like strength kept Staghorn on his feet as the manticore plowed into him. His massive sword flew out of his hands before he could bring it to bear against the monster. His enormous paws gripped the almost human head of the creature as razor-sharp claws cleaved into his leg. Screaming, the Ursa twisted the grotesque head in his hands and was rewarded by a loud snap as the thing’s neck broke. An equally loud boom sounded just as pain tore though his shoulder. The goblin on the manticore’s back glared at him down the smoking tube of the exploding rod.

“You’re dead!” Staghorn screamed at the goblin as he yanked the body of the manticore around before the rider could free himself from the saddle straps that kept him on the monster in flight. A look of terror clouded the green face, and the floppy ears drooped. The goblin swung the exploding stick around, trying to hit the Ursa with the heavy wooden end. Staghorn grabbed the exploding stick and yanked it out of the goblin’s hands.

Another fireball passed over him as he got his hands around the goblin’s spindly neck. Green eyes, dark enough to be almost black, widened as Staghorn crushed the life out of the little creature. With the goblin still lashed to the manticore’s saddle, the Ursa let the two bodies drop to the ground in front of him.

With the immediate threat dealt with, the pain in his leg brought Buck Staghorn to his knees. Through tear-filled eyes, he looked for his sword. Maybe the massive piece of metal could support his weight. He spotted it laying just down slope from him, resting at the base of a large boulder.

“Staghorn, you alright?” Alchemy called from behind him.

“Not the best,” the Ursa replied. “Need my sword.” He started crawling toward his weapon.

“Sheilds Up!” the wizard behind him yelled again.

The rocky ground was hard as the big Ursa moved slowly toward his sword. Fire lanced through his right leg with each movement and his shoulder throbbed with a terrible ache. He pushed on, hoping that Alchemy would be able to hold off the remaining two manticores, and that no more were on the way.

“Clank!” Alchemy shouted. Heavy chains bounced off the rocks near Staghorn.

With only a few more feet to go to reach his sword Staghorn pushed himself onward. He was an Ursa, one of the largest and most powerful races in the world of Vihrea, he wasn’t going to be undone by a goblin of all things.

“Burn!” the wizard shouted again.

A manticore screamed as the Ursa’s hands closed on the hilt of his sword. He leveraged himself up to a standing position and looked around. Alchemy and the woman stood back to back just up the hill where he’d left them. The two remaining manticores stooped down from the sky above them. One of the monsters had singed fur along the brown mane that ringed its humaneske head.

A roar off to his left caused Staghorn to turn. The monster with the flaming tail headed back toward them, smoke still streaming from the stinger-ended tip.

“No!” the Ursa roared, drawing the beast’s attention away from the elves. The manticore swung toward him. Pushing the burning pain in his leg away, Staghorn braced himself for the manticore. With a great heave, during which his injured shoulder screamed at him, he lifted his massive blade in time to get it between him and the attacking monster. Finely horned steel cleaved into the human face as the beast screamed its last. The weight and momentum of the monster knocked the Ursa to the ground. A large rock in his back forced the air from his lungs and the pain in his shoulder made his head swim.

As his vision cleared, a green face, holding a long metal tube looked down at him from the back of the manticore that lay across his lower body. Staghorn tried to push the corpse off, but the weight was too much for his injured shoulder. The green face of the goblin spit into a wide grin. Its hand moved, seeming to clinch something in the handle of the exploding rod. Smoke issued from the rod just as the goblin’s head exploded.

***

Dr Gnome Part 20

14

A soft woman’s voice singing shook Alchemy from the light doze that he’d fallen into during his watch. He recalled Staghorn waking him to take his turn at watch after several hours of sleep. Stretching, he glanced over at Staghorn, the big Ursa had his soft black nose bent down to his fur-covered chest, snoring softly. Alchemy chuckled to himself recalling the man’s comments about Gavin’s snoring, but he had to admit that the Ursa’s were a lot softer than his friend’s.

Enticing song drew his attention back to voice outside their protected circle of stones. Alchemy dusted off his clothes and checked to make sure that his wand rested in his pocket before he slipped out of the rocks to find the source of the song.

Bright early-morning light blazed along the ridge of Manticore Hill, causing the Elf to shield his eyes while they adjusted. Once his vision cleared, Alchemy spotted movement up the side of the hill, not far away. He stood there waiting for something, or someone to move again. A blonde head popped up from behind one of the large boulders. An elegant Elvin woman walked through the rocks like she was looking for something while she sang her song.

Keeping a sharp eye out for manticores or other monsters, Alchemy headed up toward the woman. Maybe she knew something about what was going on here. He liked the way she moved with a grace that only an Elf had. She made the very agile Gotta look like a slug. Again she disappeared behind a rock as the wizard closed the distance between them.

Alchemy was almost to the rock when she stood up. The woman’s song ended abruptly when she spotted him standing nearby. She stared at him with huge moon-like violet eyes. Alchemy tried to remember if he’d ever seen eyes exactly that color before.

“Who are you?” she snapped, dropping the cloth bag she held and pulling a long dagger.

“You can call me, Alchemy.” He flashed her his most disarming smile. “I heard your lovely song and just had to come see if the person matched the voice.”

“What are you doing here?” she asked, still holding the dagger before her. “This is a very dangerous place.”

“I know of the dangers,” he laughed, taking a cautious step toward the woman. She had spunk, he liked spunk. He wondered how that spunk translated to other more intimate skills that didn’t involve holding him at knife point.

She shifted slightly, and the tight short blue skirt she wore rode up slightly on her shapely thigh. Alchemy tried to focus more on the knife in the woman’s hand and less on the muscular leg. He wanted to get the dagger out of her hands, but he wanted to feel those thighs wrapped around him more. Holding up his hands in a non threatening gesture, the wizard stepped closer to the woman.

She waved the dagger with a deadly look in her violet eyes. “But why are you here?”

Alchemy shrugged. “I wanted to see the manticores and maybe the dragon.”

“They’re over that way.” She pointed to the north.

“Ah yes, but you’re so much more beautiful than any of the monsters.” He smiled at her trying to appear harmless and friendly.

She blushed, it caused her pale skin to become a shade of pink that complemented her eyes perfectly. The blush went right up to the roots of her blonde hair. The effect caused Alchemy’s heart to pound in his chest.

“So Alchemy, do you talk to all the girls this way?” she asked, not lowering the dagger.

Alchemy’s smile broadened and he chuckled, feeling sure that he was beginning to chip away at her. “Only the beautiful ones that point daggers at me. Perhaps you would like to go with me to see the manticores?”

She looked thoughtfully at him over the edge of the dagger. “Maybe.”

Taking the final couple of steps that separated them, the wizard reached up and relieved her of the weapon. Her skin was soft and warm as his fingers closed about her hand. With a soft caress, he took hold of her elbow and tucked her arm in his. “So, let’s go see the monsters on the other side of the hill. I presume you and your dagger can protect us both, Miss…?”

“Dolce` Leeck.” She didn’t try to reclaim her arm from Alchemy and fell into step with him.

“Dolce`, that’s a sweet name. So what brings you out to Manticore Hill?” Alchemy turned his head so he could admire the way the sunlight played of her blonde hair.

“The scales from the manticore tails are very valuable. You know that alchemist will pay big bucks for them on the open market?”

“So you’re a collector?”

“Only in the summer, after they shed the scales. Sometimes up here I also find dragon scales. They are also very valuable.”

“So how do you tell when it’s summer around here? I thought it was warm all year around in the jungle.” Alchemy thought back to his one time collecting dragon scales. It was the event that led to him being recruited by the Fragrance Guild once he was a full wizard. He couldn’t see doing the dangerous job just for the money. If his master, Shamus the Magnificent, hadn’t needed a special incense made using the scales as a base, he would’ve left it well alone. To willing go into a dragon’s den in search of scales for the money, he wondered what Dolce`’s family did that they needed to risk her on such a craft.

“Oh, after the dry season comes the rainy season,” the Elf woman explained. “We’re almost finished with the dry season now. So, all the creatures with scales have shed them. It’s the perfect time to go out and collect. Also the neither the dragons nor the manticores are broody so it’s safer.”

Alchemy chuckled, remembering the furry of the broody dragon he and Delfinia had disturbed. Timing was everything.

An angry roar shattered the stillness of the morning. Alchemy looked up at the enraged manticore sailing down toward them. He could just make out the small green lump of the goblin on the monster’s back.

***

Dr Gnome part 19

Merry X-mas folks, here’s today’s installment. Hope everyone is having a happy holiday.

***

Alchemy checked his pocket to make sure the manticore antidote and pheromone bottles were still there. The small vials were safely tucked away in cotton batting. He hoped they wouldn’t need them, but as he and Staghorn moved deeper into the manticore territory the chances of encountering one of the monsters increased. They’d already had to stop several times when the Ursa heard or saw the beasts too close for comfort but so far they managed to avoid direct conflict. The biggest concern was if they engaged one, then others might be drawn to the sounds of the fight. They didn’t want to have to fight off more than one manticore at a time. Both of them knew they’d gotten lucky with the young dragons, and they didn’t have Gavin with them now.

In the shadowy darkness, Alchemy missed the hand signal from Staghorn to stop and bumped into the Ursa’s broad back. He took a step back and tried to figure out why the bear-like humanoid had stopped. Something moved in the underbrush near them. Staghorn knelt down and the Elf did the same. The sounds of movement got closer. The wizard used all of his magical training to be still. He knew that a still person was less likely to be seen than a moving one, but other than the pheromones they didn’t have anything to cover their scent.

Something emerged from the bushes a couple of trees down from where the waited. A heavy sniffing preceded the emergence of the strangely-human fur-covered face. The huge cat paws padded softly onto the trail. Through the soft moon light, the huge leathery wings were barely visible where they tucked tight against the beast’s back just under the deadly scorpion-like tail. The beady eyes looked down the trail toward the tree they sheltered next to. Then the nose dropped to the trail with hound-like accuracy.

Alchemy felt Staghorn tense as the monster started toward them sniffing along their trail. Then it shook its head and back trailed a bit before bounding into the underbrush on the other side of the narrow path.

Both of the men paused and it was several minutes before they let out the breath they’d been holding, once the sounds of the manticore moved far enough away that they felt safe to move.

“Many creatures mistake the smell of Ursas for bears,” Staghorn whispered as he stepped away from the shelter of the tree. “Let’s hope that more of the manticores feel the same way as this one did and don’t like messing with bears.”

Alchemy nodded. “That’d be a good thing.”

They started off again and Alchemy yawned. “We’re going to need to find a spot to camp fairly soon so we can get some rest to make the most of tomorrow.”

“I’d like to be a bit closer, then maybe find an unused cave or at least get the hill and some rocks around us. We’d be safer that way.”

They worked their way up the narrow game trail, having to stop several more times for the manticores moving about in the night. There were so many of the beasts that Alchemy began to wonder how they were managing to survive, they must be stripping the hill and the surrounding jungle of prey animals, unless Dr. Gnome was doing something to keep them well fed.

“Do we know how long the manticore colony has been here?” the Elf asked Staghorn as they walked.

“From what Griz and the other locals say, only a couple of years,” the Ursa replied.

“So do you think it’s possible that the good doctor has been encouraging them to set up housekeeping around here?”

Staghorn was silent for a few minutes as they walked. “It’s possible. A colony this large is unheard of in other parts of the world. But then this is the largest tropical jungle and they prefer the tropics.” The Ursa replied, ducking under a low hanging dragon-fruit tree branch.

“Don’t you find it a bit odd that there’s the extreme number of manticores here, but none of the normal prey animals like deer or monkeys seem to be affected?” Alchemy asked.

“Now that you mention it,” Staghorn replied thoughtfully, “they should have to spread out a bit to keep their hunting range plentiful, but these guys have had a set range since they arrived and they’re not stripping all the wildlife from it.”

“So, I wonder if Doctor Gnome is supplementing their diet?” Alchemy asked stepping carefully to avoid a large anthill. He’d heard about the dangers of some of the tropic species of ants and had no inclination to experience their painful bites.

“But what’s he using, or is he having something brought in? That would explain why they are all living quietly together.”

“Especially if he’s adding some kind of herb or chemical to the food to trim their aggression toward each other.” Alchemy finished Staghorn’s thought for him.

“But I didn’t think gnomes liked to use herbs.”

“They don’t, but if he’s come up with some kind of chemical substitute,” Alchemy replied. “This is very bad. I don’t like the idea of gnomes finding ways to control monsters.”

“Hey, up there.” Staghorn pointed up the side of the hill.

The jungle was so dense Alchemy hadn’t realized they were so close to the hill. He looked up and in the dying moonlight, saw several manticores resting on ledges in the mouths of caves. He looked around trying to spot a good place for them to camp.

“Let’s go around to the other side,” the Ursa suggested.

“That’s where the dragon came from.” Alchemy objected. “I’m not sure I want to get to close to that place.”

Staghorn nodded. “Let’s see what we can find halfway around. That would probably be a good safe area. I can bet that the manticores didn’t want to get to close to the dragons, and vice versa.”

“Sounds like a good idea.”

There were plenty of large rocks near the base of the hill; that rolled as far as the edge of the jungle. Staghorn found a spot where several of them had come together, but left a big enough spot that even the Ursa could squeeze in and be protected from larger predators.

As they settled into the crevice, Staghorn looked at Alchemy from the shadows. “So do you snore as loudly as Gavin does?”

Alchemy chuckled. “No one’s ever complained about me snoring.”

The Ursa nodded. “Good, we don’t need you attracting unwanted attention while we sleep. I’ll wake you in a few hours so you can keep watch.”

“Deal.” Alchemy chuckled again, recalling how loud his warrior friend could snore at times. Then, with his arm under his head, he got comfortable on the hard ground between the boulders and in seconds drifted off to sleep.

Dr Gnome part 18

Hope everyone is having a very merry x-mas eve. Sorry this is running late tonight. There will be an installment tomorrow as well.

13

“Careful there,” Staghorn said as Alchemy maneuvered his horse through the thick jungle trees. All around them the jungle night was alive with noise. Crickets were the least of it, owls hooted high above them. In the distance, a big cat screamed and closer by something large crashed through the dense underbrush trying to get away from the invaders of its peaceful realm.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Gavin asked softly.

“We’re getting near the outer line of the Manticore hunting area,” the Ursa replied. “From here on out there’s a chance we might stumble on one of them feeding.”

“Should we stop, make camp and leave the horses here?” Alchemy asked, scanning the darkness in front of them for signs of danger.

“Might not be a bad idea,” Staghorn agreed. “But one of us will need to stay here and guard the horses. There are too many things around here that would be happy to eat them given the opportunity.”

Gavin swung down off his borrowed mount. “I can stay. Buck, you know the area better than I do, and Alchemy’s magic might come in handy if things get rough.”

“Luckily you two killed the dragon,” the Ursa said, sliding down from the huge draft horse he rode.

“Yeah, but there’s still a ton of manticores,” Alchemy reminded them.

The three of them set about arranging a small cold camp for Gavin and the horses. The jungle around them suddenly went silent.

“Something’s coming,” Staghorn hissed.

A roar erupted from the undergrowth and two dragonettes charged out of the greenery. The horses screamed and ran away from the attacking beasts that were nearly as large as they were. Alchemy fumbled to get his wand out as the stench of decaying meat washed over him. From the reek, it was obvious that the two young dragons had been feeding on carcasses somewhere nearby. His fingers closed on the wand handle, and he whipped it out just as one of the smelly monsters leapt at him. “Shield up!” he shouted.

The dragonette slammed into the magical barrier that sprang up in front of the Elf. It staggered back, shaking its head. It roared and a tiny jet of flame bounced off the shield.

“Hang on Buck!” Gavin shouted behind Alchemy.

The wizard want to turn and see what was going on, but even young, the beast in front of him was still a dragon and had to be dealt with. It waddled forward and pressed its nose against the shield. The sight was almost comical, if the creature’s sharp fangs hadn’t been mere inches away from Alchemy’s face. The Elf didn’t really want to hurt the little guy. There was a good chance he’d been orphaned when they killed his mother. But this dragon wasn’t old enough to be able to be reasoned with yet. At this stage they were just as dangerous as they would be full grown, just not as powerful. The dragonette slid his nose against the shield, Alchemy wondered if it was trying to find the edge of it.

“Alchemy, look out!” Gavin yelled as something caught the wizard in the back. Alchemy flew forward into the shield that protected him from the little dragon in front of him. The collision knocked the wand from his hand. The shield vanished and he fell across the face of the dragon. The putrid odor made him gag.

Reflexively hitting with all his might, Alchemy punched the dragonette in the eye. The beast roared in pain and flipped its head out of reach of the Elf. Flying backwards, Alchemy tried to think of a way to safely land without his wand. A thick tree trunk stopped his flight, driving the breath from him as he slumped to the ground. Through bleary eyes, he watched as the dragon stepped over his wand and rushed toward him.

The roar of an enraged Ursa shook the jungle. Staghorn stepped between Alchemy and the oncoming dragon. The hunter planted his feet and caught the dragon’s head in his massive paw-like hands and with the force of his entire body behind him, twisted. A resounding crack shattered the night. The dragonette slumped to the ground at the Ursa’s feet.

As Alchemy’s vision and breathing returned to normal, he saw Gavin standing over the body of the other beast, whipping blood off his sword.

“That got a bit touchy for a minute or two,” the warrior grinned. “But my bear here knows how to take out dragons.”

“I’d prefer to leave it to you two,” Staghorn smiled back. “But you both seemed to be having a bit of difficulty with these little guys.” He walked over and caught Gavin in a huge hug before planting a big kiss on the Elf.

Alchemy eased his way back to a standing position. “Well please don’t stop your efforts, we don’t mind the help.” His back hurt from where he’d connected with the tree.

“So you think Griz will want the meat from these guys?” Gavin asked once Staghorn set him back on the ground.

“I’m sure he will.” Staghorn replied. “You know that young meat is tenderer.”

“You know we need to get the horses back,” Alchemy said. He stretched trying to releive some of the pain in his back.

“I’ll go round them up,” the warrior said. “You guys go ahead and get up Manticore Hill. I’ll ride back to town to get Griz to collect these guys. If you’re not back here by this time tomorrow night, I’ll come looking for you.”

The wizard nodded. “Plan.”

Staghorn walked over and caught Gavin up in another big embrace. “You take care, remember the forest can be dangerous.”

Gavin laughed and pointed at stinking carcasses of the two dead dragonettes. “Oh it’ll be hard to forget that.” He kissed the big Ursa. “You be careful too, you big fur ball.”

***

Dr Gnome part 17

***

Alchemy waited in the shadows beneath the window in Gotta’s bedroom. He’d found extra blankets in the chest at the foot of the bed and piled them constructively to make it look like, even in the heat of the tropical night, he and Gotta were fast asleep under heavy cover. A light meditative trance helped him push the last of the sleeping herb out of his system and pass the time while he waited for the Brownie’s accomplice to arrive. He hoped he was correct about what her slip of “we” meant.

A floorboard in the main room squeaked, bringing the Elf out of his trance. He caught up his wand from where it lay waiting across his lap. Someone moved in the silent house, they weren’t very good at stealth. The bedroom door opened. A slender figure stood silhouetted in the doorway. Alchemy tensed, waiting for the figure to move further into the room, so he’d have a better shot with his spell. Something small and round flew from an outstretched hand. It impacted the bed, and the bedclothes burst into flames.

By the light of the fire, Alchemy saw Professor Drys turn. The wizard rose out of the shadows. “Clank!” he shouted, flicking his wand toward the older Elf.

Drys held up his hand, a silver ring there flashed and a magical shield appeared between them. The enchanted chains from Alchemy’s spell landed on the flaming bed.

“It won’t be that easy this time,” Drys snarled. Another small globe came flying toward Alchemy.

The wizard dove out of the path of the globe. Where it struck the wall behind where he’d been, the dark wood burst into flames. Leaping to his feet, the elf rushed the Professor. Dodging another of the exploding globes, he tried to grapple Drys. Nimble fingers made it past the shield that was only meant to deflect magic. Alchemy grabbed hold of the wrinkled ring-adorned finger, and yanked the ring off it. He pushed the older Elf to the floor.

Alchemy stood over Drys, holding his wand level toward the professor’s head. “Now perhaps we can talk like civilized beings.”

“Failure is not an option!” Drys shouted, smacking the bulging pocket of his pants. Flames roared up around him and he screamed, sat up and reached for Alchemy. The wizard stepped back, then kicked out at Drys’s head.

The old professor fell back onto the floor, his head connected hard. A loud crack sounded above the flames’roar. Flames from his clothes connected with the flames from the wall and the bed, casting the entire room into an inferno. Waves of intense heat shot up, forcing Alchemy back.

Forced into a corner, the wizard looked about to try and see a way out of the blaze that threatened to engulf the entire cabana. He tried to think of spells that would allow him to pass through the flames. The spells for shielding wouldn’t protect him on all sides. He needed something more.

“Hey Alchemy, you in there?” Martin called from the jungle.

“Still here,” the wizard shouted above the roar of the flames. “Trying to figure a way out.” Then Alchemy’s eyes settled on the window. The flames licked the lower edge, but hadn’t made it up the sides yet. With a wave of the wand, “Shields up!” he shouted and focused the shield across the lower part of the window to keep him safe while he dove through.

The magic held as he jumped out of the window. Alchemy landed on the thick grass outside the cabana and rolled. “Where are you?” he shouted for Martin.

“Out front!” the Griffon replied.

Alchemy ran around the small house as fire roared up from the bedroom, engulfing the picturesque structure. The heat from the fire made the already hot jungle more inhospitable. Rounding the corner, the wizard spotted his waiting mount. The Elf jumped into the saddle and pulled the flying straps tight.

“Let’s get out of here,” Alchemy shouted. “We can come back in the light to see what’s left.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Martin replied, leaping into the air.

“So, you got Gotta to Sellingford alright?” Alchemy asked, glancing over his shoulder at the growing blaze in the jungle. He wasn’t over worried about the blaze spreading to the trees. The area was moist enough that even a magical fire would have difficulty getting hold.

“Yep, he was happy to have her. So where to?” Martin asked.

“Down to the corral, so I can meet up with Gavin and Staghorn.”

The Griffon laughed, “Yeah, your night’s just beginning.” He angled and soared over the jungle canopy toward the town where lights flickered between the trees.

Dr Gnome part 16

Well “Blood Moon, Yellow Sky” is finished and now available on both amazon and smashwords. So hopefully I can get back on track with Dr. Gnome. Please remember folks these are hot off the fingers and unedited. The book will be edited once it is finished.

12

Ashton landed carefully in front of the small cabana sitting amidst the thick green jungle on top of a short hill. The normal cacophony of jungle birds became oddly silent as the great predator set down to deposit his rider.

“Are you going to make it back alright?” Alchemy asked as he tied a strip of cloth, he’d torn from his tunic tail, around the griffon’s injured talon.

“I’ll be fine,” the Griffon scoffed. “I’m sure there’s someone in Buteamore than can get me patched up, and I’ll be good as new in a couple of days. It’s a good thing you’re going on foot tonight though.”

Alchemy nodded. “So send Martin back so I won’t be late.”

“Sure thing.” Ashton flapped his massive golden wings and took off into the humid jungle sky.

“Alchemy,” Gotta’s voice called out from the house. “You made it.”

“Wild goblins couldn’t keep me away.” The Elf smiled as he walked toward the Brownie, where she stood in the brightly painted doorway.

“I’m so glad you found your way up here,” the Brownie wrapped her arms around the wizard’s neck. “I just finished getting dinner ready for you.”

“I can definitely say that I’ve worked up a bit of an appetite on the way here,” he said as he bent down to kiss her soft full lips. “Perhaps we could find an appetizer before dinner. Maybe something sweet and stimulating.” He ran his hands down her slender waist.

“Why, Alchemy, I do believe you didn’t come here for dinner at all,” she laughed, taking his hand and pulling him into the cabana.

***

Professor Adwr Drys frowned at the note from Dr. Gnome.

Professor,

In light of your recent failure to remove the wizard, I have decided to give you another chance to redeem yourself. He is currently occupied at a small shack in the jungle. Please go there immediately and correct your previous failures. Use any means necessary.

DG

The Elf stared at the note which had been delivered moments before by a most distressed-looking troll who vanished seconds after giving him the note. What did Dr. Gnome expect him to do against the wizard that neither the mechanical snake nor the Goblin assassins couldn’t? He tried to think of something that’d be of use against the wizard. Drys knew the Gnome didn’t like the use of magic, but that might be the only answer in this situation. He crumpled the note and tossed it into the cold fireplace. Moments later he opened the wooden chest where he kept easy-to-use magic items that might be of some use against the wizard.

***

Alchemy yawned in the fading early evening light that came through the thick jungle canopy. Gotta looked up from his shoulder where the nimble Brownie had fallen into a light doze. He ran a hand through the thick brown curls of her hair.

“So have you worked up enough of an appetite now to enjoy my cooking?” she asked stroking the firm planes of his chest.

“I think, my dear, that I am ready for whatever you have to offer,” the Elf replied, lifting her chin up so he could kiss her.

She giggled at him and pushed away. “Then come on, I spent a good bit of time preparing this dinner for you. I hope you like it.” She swung out of the very rumpled bed and looked down at him.

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to bring it here to our little nest?” he asked coyly, giving her a wide smile.

She grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him out of the bed. “Sorry, dinner in bed wasn’t on my agenda. But if you eat all of your veggies, perhaps we can come back here for a bit of desert.”

Alchemy stood on the soft rug that covered the floor beneath the bed. “That’s the best enticement for eating my vegetables I’ve had in a very long time.”

Topical conditions made a perfect excuse to forgo clothing as they walked from the bed to the small table just outside the kitchen. The aroma was intoxicating.

“My dear Gotta, it smells divine. What have you made for us?” Alchemy asked, pulling out a well-worn chair.

The Brownie laughed lustfully as she walked past the table and into the kitchen. “Just a little family recipe, something to help you get your strength back.”

Alchemy sat there at the table and waited for the slender woman to return. A warm breeze blew from the jungle through the many open windows of the house. Even without clothes, it was very warm.

“Here we go,” Gotta proclaimed as she returned with a large steaming pot. “And it didn’t even get cold while we worked on your appetite.”She set the pot in the center of the table and reached for the stoneware bowl sitting before Alchemy. Two nearly full ladles of the chunky stew dropped into the bowl before she served up some for herself.

The Elf took a long sniff of the first spoonful of the stew. It was spicy and savory. Chunks of meat and several types of vegetables floated in the thick brown broth. The brew slid across his tongue exciting his taste buds with little burst of herbs and spices before flowing gently down his throat.

“You’re a most excellent cook,” he smiled at Gotta as he took a second spoon full.

By the third bite, Alchemy’s head began to swim at bit. There was something in the stew that weakened him. He didn’t recognize the taste of any poisons, but who knew what kind of things they had here in the jungle that he’d never been exposed to in Salmania, even with his Fragrance Guild training. The wizard looked over at the woman sitting across the table from him. Her spoon was still clean, sitting on the little brown cloth napkin next to her bowl.

“What did you put in this?” he asked, pushing the bowl away as he started to stand. He had get to his clothes and his emergency poison remedy.

“Only a few things to help you relax,” she replied innocently as she stood.

Alchemy turned and tried to focus enough to make it to the bedroom. He made it half way there when Gotta landed on his back, her naked body slapping hard against his. The Elf staggered under the Brownie’s weight, but managed to stay on his feet.

“I’m sorry Alchemy, but I must insist that you finish your stew. We need you to sleep,” she said clinging to him.

“Not all that hungry anymore,” he replied, reaching around to try and dislodge the clinging woman and wondering who “we” was. She knocked him in the back of the head with her fist. It made him stagger. He dropped to his knees on the hard wooden floor. The Brownie grabbed hold of his pointed ears and pulled. Pain shot through him and he tried to think of a way to remove her from his back. Fighting through the haze of his brain, he managed to grab hold of her hands before she released his ears. His strength was greater than hers, and he pulled at her. She wrapped her legs around his narrow waist, giving him a good hard heal to the groin.

Alchemy let go of her hands and fell forward. He rolled for a moment on the warm hard floor as Gotta’s weight on his back finally fell away. When his vision cleared she stood over him with the pot of stew in her hands. He kicked out at her, catching her in the knees and sending her and the pot tumbling backwards. The Elf scrambled to get out of the way as the hot stew splashed and the heavy pot came down. Gotta staggered backwards, and crashed across the back of the couch, catching her head on the heavy piece of wood there.

Wobbling a bit as he regained his feet, Alchemy walked over and checked the Brownie woman. She was still alive. He staggered to the bedroom. Through bleary eyes, he spotted his pants laying near the bed, in the pocket he found the emergency poison remedy that K promised would counteract most poisons. He also retrieved his wand.

Before pulling on the trousers he carried with him, the wizard returned to the couch where Gotta’s eyes had just opened. He swished the wand in front of her deep brown eyes. “Sleep” Her eyes closed again.

The sound of large wings landing in front of the house and the renewed silence of the jungle warned Alchemy that Martin arrived to fly him back to Buteamore. He pulled on his pants and went out to talk with the griffon.

“You ready yet?” Martin asked as Alchemy came out the door.

“Not just yet, but I do need you to do something for me.”

The Griffon looked down his beak at the Elf. “What?”

“Can you take Gotta back to town?” Alchemy asked. “Take her to Avery Sellingford. Tell him that I think she’s working for Doctor Gnome.”

“Has she flown before?”

Alchemy shrugged. “Don’t know. Doesn’t really matter, she’s out cold, will be for a couple of hours.”

“What are you going to be doing while I do that?”

“Waiting here. She gave me some sort of sleeping herb, not a killing one, I think. Anyway, she might be trying to get me incapacitated until an accomplice could get here. I’m going to wait and see who it is.”

The Griffon sighed. “Sure.”

“Oh and find Gavin, let him know I may be late tonight. Then come back here and hide in the forest. I’ll need a ride back to town when this is done.”

***

Dr Gnome part 15

Still getting the final edit, now doing the last read through, of “Blood Moon Yellow Sky” finished. Had to give my voice a rest and decided to get the next part of Dr. Gnome done.

 

***

“Are you sure this is the way?” Ashton asked as he circled the huge dragon-gum tree again.

“She specifically wrote the directions for flying in,” Alchemy replied. “It says right here, turn north at the dragon-gum tree then look for the lake.”

The griffon shook his head. “Well, I’m not seeing any lake.”

Alchemy scanned the forest canopy, trying to spot some body of water. Something sparkeled off to the north west. “How about over there?” he pointed.

The griffon hovered for a moment, getting a bead in that direction. “Looks promosing.” His large golden-brown wings carried them toward the glimmer.

***

“Here they come,” Kojo Rutu called to the trolls beside him as he spotted the wizard and the griffon turn at the dragon-gum tree. The three ambushers were balanced precariously on the mechanical air steeds that Dr. Gnome instructed them to use, trying to give them an advantage over the griffon-mounted elf.

They stayed in the forest canopy until the griffon passed over them. Then he pulled the goggles down over his eyes and hit the button on the handle bars that caused the thing to chug forward. With a roar of flames and a blast of smoke, the sky steed shot upward. It took all of Kojo’s two hours of training to avoid hitting any of the branches between him and the open sky.

A scream sounded behind him. He glanced back and saw one of the trolls falling through the trees, his metal steed tumbling after him. The goblin focused on the task of getting himself through the dense canopy and hoped that the other troll had the skill to do the same. He knew it was hard for the simple creatures to master such complicated devices, but he couldn’t get any other goblins to come with him. They were quickly becoming afraid of Alchemy Pond, but for Kojo, the last of the Rutu family, it was personal.

His sky steed cleared the canopy and blasted into open air. The griffon flew on ahead. Behind him he heard the troll clear as well. A quick look showed his helper doing better than the other one.The troll leveled the mechaical mount out and with a burst of flames moved to intersept the griffon.

***

“Okay, what are those things?” Ashton asked.

Alchemy looked back at the strange mechanical flying tubes with a goblin and a troll riding them. “No idea. But I bet they’re here to kill us for Doctor Gnome.”

“I guess we need to show them that if goblins were meant to fly they’d have been born with wings,” Ashton sneered as he circled around toward the pursuers.

The wizard pulled out his wand and gripped the flying saddle’s pomell with his other hand. “Just be careful I bet they have those exploding rods.” No sooner had the words left the elf’s lips than a blast came from the troll zooming toward them. Ashton folded his wings and dropped as the projectile roared past Alchemy’s head.

Another blast came from the goblin. The griffon swung sideways to avoid it. Alchemy watched at the troll tried to do something to the end of his rod. It looked like he was trying to dump something into it. The wizard waved his wand. “Burn!” a fireball shot out of the wand and blazed toward the troll. The troll looked up with horror plastered on its brown face as the fireball came at it. The hot ball of death slammed into the troll’s chest. A loud bang roared through the sky. The troll was knocked backward off the flying tube. It passed through the flames coming out the back of the tube as it somersaulted off. Screams of the frying troll echoed in the clear sky as it fell like a flaming comet into the unforgiving jungle below.

“Do that again!” Ashton hollered. The griffon banked around allowing the elf a clear shot at the goblin.

“Wow, don’t know if this new wand is that good, or what happened there.” Alchemy replied. “Let’s see what happens next.”

***

Kojo Rutu watched in horror as the troll, who’s name he couldn’t remember, plumetted in a spinning flaming mass toward the canopy far below them. He tried to get the powder and lead ball into the end of his exploding tube. He knew his mechanical mount wasn’t as manuverable as the griffon. His only hope would be to shoot the elf.

The griffon dropped below the trajectory of his sky steed. He looked around trying to find it as he dropped the ball into his tube. Where had the beast gone. Large metal chains appeared around his sky steed. The device rocked and pitched. Kojo grabbed the handles, trying to level out the thing before he went flying into thin air. His hands gripped the metal bars and he pulled back the way the gnome engineer told him to do. The mechanical mount roar and shot higher into the sky. The little goblin lost his seat for a moment. Fear of falling clamped his fingeres tightly around the handles. He breathed a sigh of relief as the machine leveled out, then realized that he’d dropped his exploding rod. He had to escape, get back to Dr Gnome and shamefully report his failure.

 

***

“Faster!” Alchemy cried as the metal flying tube shot away from them, flames shooting out of the rear.

Ashton poured on the speed, overtaking the contraption. He grabbed the gnome off the seat, having the yank really hard to get the little green man to let go of the handles. “Where’s Doctor Gnome?” the giffon growled at the terrified goblin.

“I’ll never tell you!” the goblin screamed and plunged a knife into the griffon’s foot.

“Shit!” Ashton yelled, and flung the goblin away.

“You alright?” Alchemy asked.

“The little shit stapped my foot,” the griffon replied.

The elf watched the golbin’s green shape pinwheel down into the jungle below as the flying tube plumeted.“So much for getting information out of him.”

“Can you get me on to Gotta’s before getting that looked at?” Alchemy asked, looked over the griffon’s shoulder to the injured claw.

“I think so,” Ashton replied. “I’ll send Martin back for you.”

Alchemy spotted a red flag waving in the distance. “There’s the flag.”

Ashton changed course to head toward the flapping cloth that the brownie had promised to hang out for them.

***

Soft brown hands lowered the far seeing scope from softer brown eyes. The sky battle had been interesting, but the goblin and his troll had failed. Well maybe gentler methods would prevail.

Dr Gnome part 14

Over the next couple of days I might miss a post or two, since the final edit for “Blood Moon Yellow Sky” is back and I need to get that finished. But if I need a break from editing I can crank out the next part.

I hope everyone is enjoying this little serial, I’m going to start sending the parts that have been posted to my editor so that when I’m done with this we can get them all collected into a book quickly and start the next book in the series. Don’t feel shy about telling what you think, and although I have plots in mind, let me know if there are things you’d like to see in this or any of my other works.

 

11

Steam rose from the bubbling hot spring out behind The Lady’s Pleasure. Alchemy let the hot water soak into sore muscles. The backlash of over exerting his magic made every part of his body ache. The quick lunch cleared his head. After a little while in the spring, he’d feel like his old self again. Gavin eased in next to him. Without his tunic, the warrior looked more like a tall dwarf, minus the beard, than an elf. Muscles rippled as the big elf slid into the water.

“Looks like you’ve been working out some more,” Alchemy noted. He knew he’d never be as ripped as Gavin, it just wasn’t something most wizards worked at. But he was active enough that he’d never get the paunch that his old master Shamus the Magnificent had. Besides, he wouldn’t get the response from the ladies if he let himself go like that.

“Hey, got to keep up the body. Been working out with Buck for a few weeks now and it’s showing,” Gavin ran an appreciatory hand over his hard chest.

“You know I never figured you for the ursa sorta guy,” Alchemy chuckled at his friend.

“Hey, he’s a real bear. All that fur is fun to just get your hands into,” the warrior grinned.

“I think someone’s talking about me again,” a gruff voice said from behind them.

“Hey Buck, back so soon?” Gavin looked up at the big ursa.

“Yeah, Griz says thanks for the dragon meat,” Staghorn stepped down into the hot water. “Says stop by for dinner tonight. It’s on him.”

Alchemy smiled at the thought of fresh dragon steaks. “Sounds good.”

The ursa settled in against Gavin, wrapping a large arm across the elf’s shoulders. “You have no idea. Griz is a fantastic cook. And when you give him something exotic like dragon, man watch out, your taste buds aren’t going to know what hit them.”

“So Buck, it looks like we’re going to need to get to Manticore Hill on the ground. Can you help us out with that?” Alchemy asked. A frown crossed the furry face, or at least Alchemy thought it was a frown. He was still learning to read the ursa’s face.

“Man, I don’t know,” Staghorn began. “The more I hear about it the less I like it. First Manticores, and now you guys just proved that the rumors of the dragon are true.”

“There were rumors of the dragon?” Gavin asked snuggling in tightly under the ursa’s arm.

The huge fur-covered chest heaved. “Yeah, they’ve been coming in for some time. Folks that go out that way come back saying they’ve seen a dragon. I mean dragon’s are extinct or anything, but you still don’t see them every day. My motto is when you see a dragon, stay away.”

Alchemy looked into the ursa’s big brown eyes. “But with the goblins working for Doctor Gnome and using manticore venom, the mechanical snake had manticore venom and the strange artifact that Berryman found near there. Our best bet for finding Doctor Gnome is out there.”

“All the more reason to be careful,” Staghorn said.

Gavin reached up and playfully tweaked the ursa’s ear. “We didn’t say we wouldn’t be careful.” The elf smiled at his bearfriend. “Besides, where’s your sense of adventure.”

Staghorn stroked Gavin’s long dark hair. “My sense of adventure left when you two got chased almost back to town by that dragon.”

“Ah Buck,” Gavin ran his hands down the furry body, “What about going in by night? We could sneak in then get out while everyone’s asleep.”

Alchemy was torn between getting the guide’s help and giving his friends some privacy. Things in the spring could get really hot really fast the way the two were going.

“What about the manticores?”Staghorn continued to object. “You know they hunt at night just as well as they do during the day.”

“I’ve actually got something that can help with that,” the wizard said. “K sent it through with Ashton.”

Gavin smiled at Staghorn. “See, we’ve got that covered. All you have to do is get us out there.”

The ursa frowned down at the elf before he bent over to kiss him. “Fine, but we leave at midnight. It’s got to be good and dark and I want to be out of there by sunrise. No screwing around.”

“Agreed,” Alchemy said.

“Master Pond,” a female voice called out from behind them.

Alchemy turned and saw Gotta standing on the wooden steps leading down into hot spring area. He hadn’t seen her in the lobby earlier. But then, being as woozy as he’d been at the time he wasn’t surprised. Her unadorned tunic suggested she wasn’t working today. He waved her over to the spring.

“Miss Bagnato,” he smiled at her, “what a plesant surprise.”

“They told me in the lobby you were out here.” The brownie knealt by the side of the pond. “I was wondering if you were busy this evening. I have the day off and thought you might be interested in a little home cooking.”

Alchemy reached up and took the woman’s hand. He gently brought it to his lips and kissed her delicate fingers. “I’d be delighted. If you could leave directions for me.”

Gotta blushed, “I’ll leave them at the front desk. Will you be using the mount that arrived yesterday?”

Alchemy nodded. “Yeah, I think Ashton would enjoy an easy ride.” After this mornings flight with the dragon the griffon would find an easy flight almost boring.

“Good.” The brownie smiled. “I live in the jungle just a short distance from town. I’m easy to find.” She reached down and stroked Alchemy’s short blond hair. She kissed the tips of her fingers and laid them on his cheek. “Until then.”

Alchemy watched as she gracefully walked back into the rear door of The Lady’s Pleasure.

Gavin whisteled. “So those suave lessons K and I have been giving you are paying off.”

“I’m trying,” the wizard blushed. “It’s just like magic, relax and let it flow. Seems to be working. I’ve got Delphinia back at the office eating out of my hand.”

The warrior laughed. “Delphinia liked you before we started trying to make you more appealing. She’s the only one who objected, saying she liked the shy you.”

Splashing water at his friend, Alchemy rose out of the hot spring. He barely noticed a change thanks to the hot humid air of Buteamore. “You two enjoy the spring. I’m going to go get ready for my date. I’ll see you at the corral at midnight. Tell Griz I’ll get catch him some other time for the dragon steaks.”

“You have fun,” Staghorn said as Alchemy walked up the wooden steps.

***

Dr Gnome Part 13

10

The warm jungle air blew hot in Alchemy’s face as Ashton banked around for another look at Manticore Hill. The foliage was mostly dense trees, here and there clearings showed spots where the elf saw manticores basking in the warm sunlight guarding their caves. He searched for any sign of gnome activity. Everything looked too natural for there to be gnomes about. The little humanoids were notorious for stripping the land, around their villages and settlements, bare of all nature. Other than the unusually large manticore colony, Manticore Hill looked totally normal.

“Can you see anything?” Alchemy asked Ashton.

“Nothing but a bunch of stinking manticores,” the griffon replied.

The wizard sighed. “I guess we’re going to have to go in on foot to get more info.”

“Looks that way,” Ashton agreed.

“Let’s circle around to the other side and see if Gavin and Martin found anything,” Alchemy said, pointing to the north side of the hill. Ashton banked again and set out as directed.

They were just topping the hill when Martin and Gavin came flying their way at top speed. The griffon’s head feathers were laid back in fear, and the elf clung to the flying saddle in desperation.

“Dragon!” Martin shouted as they shot over the top of Alchemy and Ashton.

Before Ashton could wheel around and follow their friends, a massive dragon, covered in bright green scales with red streaks through its wing membranes came roaring toward them. The wind from its passage shook the flyers as it over took them with two mighty beats of its giant wings. A stench of rotting vegetation followed in its wake.

“Wow,” Alchemy shouted. “That’s one big dragon!”

“It looks pissed,” Ashton replied as he came around to pursue. “I wonder what Martin did to piss it off.”

“Who says Martin pissed it off?” Alchemy asked, checking his flying straps and getting a tighter hold on the pommel.

“You don’t know Martin as well as Gavin and I do. He’d piss off a dragon just for the fun of it.” The griffon settled into a level flight after the dragon that chased their friends. The dragon didn’t waver in its intense pursuit of the other griffon.

Alchemy shook his head. “I don’t see the fun in pissing off a dragon. Been there, done that, it wasn’t fun.”

Ashton laughed a loud shrieking laugh. “You were ground bound if I remember. It’s a lot more fun when you can fly.”

Ahead of them, Martin pulled up, heading high into the sky, his golden wings pumping for all they were worth. The dragon followed the maneuver, although somewhat more clumsily.

“Alright!” Ashton cheered as he followed. “This is where it gets fun.”

A belch of flame shot out of the dragon, but the more agile griffon folded his wings just in time and dropped like a stone past the enraged beast. A flash of metal extended out from the griffon as Gavin tried to wound the dragon with his sword as they flew past it.

“You know you could help a bit with a spell or two,” Ashton told Alchemy as they got closer to the dragon.

The wizard pulled his new wand. He got lucky and found it in a second hand shop near The Lady’s Pleasure. It was oak, he’d never worked with an oak wand before, but it was all he could find in Buteamore. Apparently there weren’t a lot of magical folk in the area. The wand appeared to be in good condition, and the couple of minor parlor tricks he’d done with it in the shop had worked fine. Focusing on the dragon, Alchemy flicked the wand. “Burn!” a large fireball shot from the wand.

“Hey, warn a fella,” Ashton complained as the fire singed a couple of his crest feathers.

“Sorry, it was bigger than I thought it would be,” Alchemy replied, watching the fire strike the dragon in the back. The dragon roared its displeasure and turned its attention to the bigger threat.

“Hang on!” the griffon shouted as they shot over the top of the dragon. “Shoot it again. Try not to singe my tail this time.”

Turning in the saddle as far as the riding straps allowed, Alchemy aimed another shot at the dragon. The fireball flew well, but coming head on, the dragon managed to dodge out of the way. It loosed another jet of fire.

“Sheilds up!” Alchemy shouted projecting a magical shield just past Ashton’s tail. The fire hit the shield as the elf pumped more power into it. Trying to make sure the protection held.

“This is why pissing off dragons is no fun!” he yelled at the griffon.

Ashton stooped toward the ground and the dragon’s flames fell away. Alchemy looked around for Gavin and Martin. The two were coming up hard toward the beast’s underbelly. Gavin’s sword was raised high. Alchemy wished it was a spear. Warriors didn’t fight dragons with swords and expect to win. Even he knew that dragons, like boars required spears or pikes to win. Golden wings snapped open as Ashton turned back into the sky. The jolt threw Alchemy hard against the back of the saddle. He nearly dropped the wand.

“Warn a guy next time,” he said clutching the wand.

“Get ready for something a bit more spectacular,” the griffon shouted back. “We need to bring the brute down. I bet Martin’s getting tired.”

“I thought you said this was fun?”

“It is for about the first five minutes, then it gets dangerous.” The griffon closed the distance between them and the dragon. Gavin’s sword flashed in the sunlight and a bright gush of blood poured out of the green scaled underbelly.

“Good shot Gavin!” Alchemy cheered. He brandished the wand around and summoning all the magic he could, shouted. “Clank!” Chains appeared around the dragon. They only managed to entangle one wing but that was enough to severely hinder its flight. The dragon roared it displeasure as it plummeted from the sky.

The world spun a bit around Alchemy as the cost of the massive chain spell came on him. His head hurt and each movement of Ashton’s wings sent new waves of pain through him. “Hey you got him,” the griffon shouted as they followed the entangled beast’s spiraling path toward the jungle canopy.

“Yeah,” Alchemy muttered. He wanted off the griffon and into a nice hot bath after a bite to eat. Too much magic could take its toll.

“Way to go Alchemy!” Gavin shouted as Martin came alongside Ashton.

“You got a good hit too,” the wizard replied weakly.

“Magic drain?” the warrior asked.

Alchemy nodded.

“We need to get you back to town,” Gavin said. “Martin head in. We’ll send Buck and his guys back for this thing. Griz can probably use the meat.”

***

High on Manticore Hill, Kojo Rutu watched through the spyglass that Dr Gnome had given him as the two griffons leveled out their flight and flew toward Buteamore. The crash from the dragon hitting the forest canopy rumbled over the normal jungle noises. Forest birds flew up in a great rush. The goblin pushed the spyglass together and then walked toward the hollow tree at the top of the hill. A set of stairs led down into the hill. Dr. Gnome would not be pleased at the loss of the dragon. Sending trolls to enrage the beast so it would go after the griffons and elves seemed like a good idea at the time. He never imagined that the wizard was powerful enough to kill the dragon. The wizard was proving to be extremely competent. The goblin was not amused.

Dr Gnome part 12

***

Sleep ran as Alchemy felt something in the room with him.He wasn’t sure what time it was. Gotta left after their night cap, saying that she had get home. The brownie once again proved to be a most agile distraction. Alchemy thought he’d almost be sorry to see this asignment end just for the sake time spent with her.

Something moved against the side of the bed. The bedspread tightened down as something pulled its way up. Alchemy lay there listening for some clue that would let him know what it was that stalked him. A slight metalic click came every couple of seconds. The elf shifted, wishing he’d thought to sleep with his wand under his pillow. The dark room hid everything from view. “Flash” Alchemy snapped his fingers. A minature ball of lightning danced on his finger tips for a second, long enough for him to see a silver snake’s head rising over the edge of the bed.

Darkness engulfed the room again. Alchemy rolled off the otherside of the bed. He mentally scrambled to remember where he’d left his wand. The metalic snake rustled as it rushed across the bed. Alchemy jumped away from the dangerously fast strike. Where had he left his wand.

The snake shot off the bed with surprising agility, clanging on the floor. Alchemy leapt back toward the bed, grabbing the blanket there. He held the blanket infront of him as he backed toward the door, and the suite’s front room. His wand had been in his jacket pocket. He seemed to remember the jacket laying across a chair after Gotta arrived. The snake’s metalic scales clicked on the wooden floor as it rapidly slithered toward the elf.

Alchemy pointed to where he thought the gas light hung on the wall. “Spark” a small spark shot out of his finger, striking the wick of the lamp. Light shown on the wall and down to the floor. It wasn’t much, the lamp had been turned down. But it was enough that the wizard could see the mechanized pest pursuing him. He continued to back out of the room. He couldn’t cast more than minor things without his wand.

The two lights in the sitting room blazed to life, chasing the shadows from the area. The snake stopped, as if the sudden light wasn’t to its liking. The metalic iris eyes clicked shut, then opened several times. But Alchemy never felt it lose sight of him. He spotted his jacket laying on the back of the chair closest to the long-cold fireplace. He ran for it.

The snake followed his movement. A stream of something shot out of its mouth. The liquid caught the side of the chair, and left a smoking gash there. Alchemy grabbed his jacket, and impuslivly slung it over his bare shoulders. The weight of the wand in his pocket felt good. Something in one of the other pockets bumped agianst his side. He whipped his wand out and pointed it at the advancing serpent. He flicked the wand. “Burn” A fireball shot out of the end of the wand. Flames struck the metal monstrosity causing it to rear up and spit again. This time the spit caught the end of the wand. Sparks flew from the iron-wood wand as the tip disolved. Alchemy flicked it at the thing again. “Burn!” more little sparks but no fireball. The wand was too badly damaged.

“K’s going to be pissed,” Alchemy said as he threw the useless piece of wood at the silver serpent.

The wand clattered harmlessly off the thing’s head.

Alchemy picked up the chair where the jacket had been. He smashed it down over the mecho snake. The thing shot right through the battered piece of furntature as the wizard ran for his sword. The weapon hung from a hook near the door. He grabbed the leather betl holding the scabbard and turned, just in time for the snake to drive its needle sharp fangs into his unprotected leg.

The bite began burning, as soon as the sharp fangs punctured his skin. Alchemy kicked viciously at the snake, sending it flying across the room. Glancing down, he saw smoke rising out of his leg. He remembered the manticore antivenom that Ashton brought. It was still in his jacket pocket. The wizard yanked out the bottles, uncorked the right one, and splashed it down the side of his leg as he watched the metalic snake right itself.

His leg stung, but stopped smoking and the wizard glared at the silver serpent heading toward him. He slashed at it with the sword. The weapon’s sharp edge simply bounded off with a loud clang. Alchemy backed away again, trying to think of something that would stop it before it killed him. His leg ached where it bit him. Then he had an idea.

He pointed the sword at the thing, flicked it like he would a wand. “Box!” Magic surged out of the end of the sword toward the snake. A bright silver box appeared around the mechinical repitle. After a second the ring of metal striking metal filled the room as the snake tried to find a way out of the box. Alchemy wondered if the box would hold. He ran for the bedroom on wobbly legs. He grabbed the minature magic mirror from his bedside table.

He clicked open the mirror and waited for someone to pick up. The smoke swirled before Delphinia’s voice came through. “Alchemy?”

“Delphinia, I need to speak to RD, is he around. I have a situation that could use his expertese.” The young wizard sat down on the bed to take some of the presure off his injured leg.

“Sure give me a moment.”

Alchemy remembered the chest he always carried and hobbled over toward it while he waited. He tapped the unlock code and opened the chest. There under a small pile of cloth was the emergency herb and oil kit that every member of the Frangance Guild was required to carry on field missions. He found the bottle of enhanced Tea Tree oil just as RD’s voice came through the mirror.

“Yes Pond, Delphinia says you need me.” His voice sounded shaky and a bit sleepy. Alchemy couldn’t remember what time it was back in Salemania.

“Good, RD. Yes, I’ve had an encounter with a mechanical serpent. I’m presuming it’s gnome made. Silve in color, spits manticore venom.”

“You’re okay?” Delphinia’s voice came through the magical link.

“I will be, once I get some tea tree oil on this bite,” The wizard responded, trying not to hiss as he poured a bit of oil on the open wound. “Thanks for sending the antivenom. So anyway RD, it’s immune to magic, it killed the iron-wood wand, my sword just bounced off of it and smashing it with furnature doesn’t work either. I have it imprissoned in a silver box, but I don’t know how long that will hold”

“Good Lord, it killed the iron-wood wand?” the researcher gasped. “You say it’s a gnomish creation?”

“Well I didn’t check it for a makers mark or anything,” Alchemy responded. “But it looked like some of the mechanical creatures they like to make, only much smaller.”

“I’d love to be able to study it,” RD said, all signs of sleep gone from his voice.

Alchemy sighed, “If you can help me keep it from killing me, I’ll bring you all the parts back.”

“What spells did you try?”

The wizard thought for a moment, running the fight back through his head. “It waded through a fireball, then it spit venom on my wand.”

“Anything else?”

Alchemy shook his head. “No, then the wand went dead. I had to use my sword as a wand to get the box spell to work.”

“Most impressive,” the researcher replied. “There’s not many wizards who can focus magic through metal. When you return I may have to see what I can do about making you a better wand.”

“If I return, RD,” Alchemy tried to get the other elf to focus. “What can I do to stop this thing?”

“Try normal fire,” RD suggested. “Place the box you magiced into a normal wood or coal fire. If it’s gnome made, it might not be protected from real fire just magical ones. You know how gnomes hate magic and anything that’s natural.”

“Good, I’ll get the fireplace going and toss the box in it.”

“It seems a waste to destroy such a thing. I’d love to study it,” RD said again.

Alchemy got up, carefully testing the leg where he’d poured the oil. It felt good as new. He picked up the mini mirror and head back to the sitting room.

The snake still fought against the box’s confines. The wizard tossed a few pieces of wood into the fireplace. He pointed his finger at the fire. “Spark” a spark landed in the small pile of wood. Flames roared up.

“Wait until the wood is good and hot.” RD’s voice came from the mirror. “We must be sure that no magic is in the flames, or the little beastie might not melt.”

“We don’t want that now do we?” Alchemy replied.

Minutes later, when the fire was roaring, after the heat forced him to step back a bit, Alchemy took the metal box and tossed it into the fire. The snake inside banged against the confining walls. An eerie scream emminated from the box. Then the box began to melt. The box and the snake within were quickly reduced to a pile of liquid metal.

Alchemy sat in the undamaged chair and pulled back to watch the soft metals bubble. “Thanks RD, I think that did it.”

“Please save any parts you can, my boy,” the researcher said. “They could be invaulable in figuring out how to fight these things in the future.”

“I for one, hope we don’t have to fight them in the future.” Alchemy sighed.