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WHAT ARE LITTLE GIRLS MADE OF?
When Gabrielle returned to their room with a tray full of food, she found Xena curled into a tight ball, asleep atop the small piece of fur. At first, the sight of the warrior asleep under these unusual circumstances caused the bard great alarm; normally, Xena would never allow herself to relax enough to fall asleep in the middle of such peril. Xena, however, was not herself and these were not normal circumstances. Gabrielle did not want to think what the after-effects of this experiment might be doing to Xena.
Gabrielle placed the tray of food down quietly atop another smaller table in the room and walked silently over to stare at her partner. She relaxed only after she saw the steady rise and fall of the small warriors chest, signaling a very normal breathing pattern. The bard pulled up a chair and sat down, deciding to let her warrior sleep. Obviously, the results of the experiment had made Xena weak, as well as small and very cold.
The bard furrowed her brow as she watched the small body actually shiver and burrow a little deeper into the fuzzy, white merkin in her sleep.
"Xena, what have we gotten ourselves into now?"
The bard looked briefly out the window at the dark sky. The sun had set quite some time ago and the day had shifted well into night.
Gabrielle looked at the food she brought up from the kitchen and realized that she had completely lost her appetite.
Well, theres nothing to do but wait. Wait to see what Chemeclees finds. Artemis please, let him find something......anything."
Gabrielle looked down with worried eyes at the sleeping warrior. She laid her arm carefully along the edge of the table, effectively blocking it to prevent Xena from falling should she turn in her sleep.
"Sleep, Xena. Ill watch over you this time." She whispered and settled herself back in the chair to wait for Chemeclees.
King Democritus sat impatiently in his chair, waiting for the dinner to end. His mind was not on eating. His mind was not on the trivial banter going around the banquet table. His mind was on the remarkable, unbelievable, amazing creation that was waiting for him back in his laboratory.
He could not believe what the experiment had yielded. The first truly successful attempt at transmutation was sitting in a glass flask, waiting for him in his laboratory and he had to suffer through a diplomatic dinner filling his mouth with bland food and his head with inconsequential chatter.
And while they chatted, the secret to the universe awaited.
He began to sweat and realized that his time was short. He had to finish this dinner and get back to the laboratory, before evidence of his own weak and failing transmutation gave him away in front of an entire roomful of council members.
Hades damn his diplomatic responsibilities. Nevermind. Soon he would be above all that.
Now, he had to get back to his laboratory or he would be damned indeed.
He rose from his chair suddenly, causing a flurry of activity as everyone around the large banquet table threw down their forks and spoons and pushed back their chairs in an effort to rise with their king. He smiled graciously and excused himself from the table, indicating that they should continue with the evening, promising he would see them all again tomorrow. Then he rushed quickly out of the room.
The dinner guests followed his retreating back with puzzled expressions, but they were actually relieved to be out of the kings brooding presence. They sat back down, shrugged their shoulders and continued with their dinner and conversation.
King Democritus leaned against a wall in the hallway, sweating profusely.
Soon, he thought to himself, soon they would be united. He as the king of water and air; she as the queen of earth and fire.
Then he would no longer have to worry about maintaining this weak and bothersome transmutation of his own. He will be immortal and hold the power of the universe in his hands.
The king smiled, ignoring the shaking of his hand as he wiped his brow. He headed quickly down the long, empty hall and back to the laboratory, before he lost all control.
Chemeclees unlocked the door to the Apothecary shop as quietly as was humanly possible, cringing at the loud click which echoed in the empty marketplace when he drew back the long bolt to open the door.
He cracked the door open and peeked inside. The shop was dark and empty.
Sighing in relief, the boy slipped inside and closed the thick portal behind him. He waited for a brief moment in the center of the store, listening for the sound of anyone else present. Hearing nothing, he smiled and headed directly for the back room where he knew Paracelsus kept his notes.
After shifting through a pile of scrolls and papyrus, he came across a leather-bound book entitled: Palingenesis - the resurrection of the spiritual soul. He grasped the book to his chest tightly and smiled.
The young apprentices mind was in a whirl, thinking of Paracelsus successful attempt to transmute the warrior princess into an homunculus and the implication of what the success of that experiment meant. It meant, if he was able to decipher the alchemists notes, he too would hold the secret to everlasting life.
He lit a candle, sat at an empty table and began to read.
King Democritus was barely able to walk. He stumbled down the hallway, his vision blurring as he rounded the last corner. He lifted weak arms and stumbled towards the door of the laboratory.
Paracelsus opened the door to the laboratory and practically fell inside. With every transmutation from king to alchemist, he was getting older and weaker.
The alchemist briefly examined his wrinkled hands, noticing a new road map of blue veins discoloring his thinning skin.
"I age ten years with every distillation." The old man mumbled to himself.
"But no more!" Paracelsus yelled happily to the empty room rubbing two decaying hands together gleefully. "Your king is here, my queen!"
He found the strength to straighten his back and tottered over towards the shelf where he knew his treasure awaited.
What he found was an empty flask, titled on its side waiting for him on a table.
Aging hands shook out of control as his face registered first surprise, disbelief, and then intense anger.
The energy from his anger transformed itself into a physical manifestation, causing his skin to ripple and his veins to bulge. The unexpected transformation from alchemist back to king sent a scream ripping through the still and quiet air of the laboratory.
It was an enraged King Democritus who burst through the laboratory door and ran down the halls of the now empty castle.
"WHO WAS IN MY LABORATORY! WHO WAS HERE! WHO WAS IN MY LABORATORY! I WANT THEM FOUND! I WANT THEM FOUND, NOW!!!!"
His screams reverberated unanswered as he ran through the eerie darkness to find his guards.
I am sooo cold." The warrior said aloud, hugging herself with her own arms for warmth.
Then she looked around.
"Where I am?"
She was standing on a hilltop, the ground devoid of any grass or plant life. A subtle wind was blowing cold air across her skin, causing the warrior to shiver in her vulnerability. There was nothing around, nothing at all to indicate her location.
There was a cold wind blowing and she was standing on rocky soil, and that was all she knew. That and the fact that she was cold.
Xena rubbed her arms for warmth and looked around again.
"Gabrielle?" She called out tentatively, not really expecting a reply from her bard in this barren place.
Her answer came in the form of a sudden blast of hot air. It whipped the warriors hair around and almost caused the woman to lose her footing in the loose, gravelly soil. She turned her body to face in the direction of the hot wind and found herself staring at a blazing inferno.
"What is this?" She asked the spectacle of coiling flames and swirling fireballs. "Am I in Tartarus again?"
Somehow, the warrior knew she was not in Tartarus. This was neither Hades realm nor Elysia. This was a different place entirely.
The warrior dropped her arms to her side, no longer cold but somehow not hot either. In fact, she welcomed the heat and turned to face it full on, allowing the blasts to whip her hair from her face and smiling as the warm wind caressed her skin.
"Yours." A deep, hissing voice filled the air in a dark whisper.
Xenas eyes widened in alarm.
"What?" She asked, and stared out at the incredible view.
She stood on the barren, rocky hill and stared out at a valley covered by the flames of an inferno as far as the eye could see.
It was more than just swirling fire. It was blazing power and it was beckoning to her.
"Yours." The flames seemed to whisper as they engulfed the valley below.
A familiar feeling washed over Xena; one she knew quite well. It was the feeling of absolute power just within reach. It was the seduction of invulnerability within her grasp. She felt it when she yielded her sword. She knew it when she weilded the weapon high in the air, an enemys defeat close at hand. She tasted it each time she lead an army into battle. It was the same alluring feeling, but thousands of times more powerful.
The warrior closed her eyes and smiled, basking in the warmth of the familiar power as it tickled across her skin. Until she remembered.
Xenas eyes popped open and she recoiled from the feeling.
A cold blast took away her warmth and virtually blew her off of the hilltop. Loose gravel gave way and the warrior found herself falling.
The sensation of falling jerked Xena violently awake. Her body sat up involuntarily and she looked around, trying to get her bearings. She was still small, still wrapped in a piece of ripped blanket, lying atop a fuzzy bit of soft, white fur.
She was still very cold.
The warriors eyes followed the large arm that was resting across the table top, blocking the edge for her own protection, until her gaze fell upon the sleeping face of her bard.
Gabrielle was snoring softly, her head bobbing slightly up and down with every intake and outake of breath. She had fallen asleep sitting in the chair. Xena smiled and rubbed the soft skin with a small hand, wondering at how thick and long the blond down covering the skin of her bards arm appeared to her now. It was still soft. Xena caressed the skin again, feeling the warmth of the bards body radiating into even the tiny touch.
She was too cold.
The warriors body started to shiver, and she knew it was an unnatural coldness which caused it to do so.
This was not good.
Xena watched the gentle rise and fall of her lovers breast, wishing she could be resting her head upon them now.
Another shiver forced her decision.
She lifted her small body onto Gabrielles arm and carefully worked her way over the forearm and up to her bicep. Although she was small, she was able to reach a piece of the green knitted top and grabbed a hand full, then let herself swing down from the arm until she was suspended by her grip on the bodice alone.
She worked her way up carefully, small legs aiding the progress by swinging with upward momentum at each grasp. Finally, she reached for the top edge of the halter and, using the strength of her arms alone, pulled herself up and into the welcome warmth of familiar skin.
Xena happily nestled into softness. The movement caused the bard to stir and smile slightly, recognizing even in her sleep the familiar feel of her warriors skin against her own.
Once they were both settled and all tiny movements had ceased, Xena fell asleep almost immediately.
Continued in Step 12
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