So after a couple of really busy weeks, here’s another installment of Dr. 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.”