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WHAT ARE LITTLE GIRLS MADE OF?
Chemeclees and Gabrielle walked up to the castle gate looking for all the world like lovers out for a stroll. The apprentice had one arm draped comfortably over the bards shoulder and the other held a small package. Gabrielle had somehow found the resolve to wrap her arm around the young mans waist, unable to stop herself from making unfair comparisons.
For his part, Chemeclees was thrilled beyond belief. The young apothecary paraded up to the guards as though displaying a proud possession. He squeezed the bards bare shoulder and smiled discreetly as he allowed his hand to drop and wrap around an absolutely delicious midriff.
Gabrielle grimaced slightly at the touch of his hand on her waist, but managed to maintain her smile. The guards regarded the couple warily.
"Manus. Gregor." Chemeclees nodded in recognition at each. "How goes it?"
"Alls quiet. Nother package?" The guard answered while giving Gabrielle a thorough once over.
The young man nodded and attempted to walk by with the bard.
"Where do ya think shes going?" Gregor placed his lance in front of the couple, stopping them in mid-step.
"Excuse me a moment, sweetheart?" Chemeclees asked Gabrielle sweetly, giving her bare midriff a small squeeze. The bard gritted her teeth, but smiled sweetly in return.
"Certainly, darling." She answered through clenched teeth.
The apprentice motioned Gregor over to the side to explain.
"Gregor, give me a break here, please?" Chemeclees motioned with his eyes to his "date."
Gregor looked at Manus and they both openly appraised the girl Chemeclees was trying to impress.
"You think youre gonna get somewhere with her. She looks like an amazon!"
"Thats what Im hopin for, if you know what I mean." Chemeclees poked the guard in the ribs with his elbow and wiggled his eyebrows. The guards laughed.
"All right, Chemeclees. Well let you impress your girlfriend this time. But dont make a habit of it!" Gregor warned.
"Yeah. Next time youll have to share." Manus added. They all snickered.
Chemeclees patted Gregor on the back and nodded at Manus. The guards opened the gate and Chemeclees wrapped his arm around Gabrielles waist once again to escort her through.
The guards watched the couple as they sauntered down the hall. Chemeclees treated them to the site of his hand lazily brushing against his "girlfriends" attractive rear end.
The guards laughed and watched the show for a few more moments before closing the palace doors behind them.
As soon as the gigantic doors thundered shut, Gabrielle drove a clenched fist into Chemeclees stomach forcing the young man to gasp.
"What was that for!" Chemeclees squeaked.
"Try that again and youll be talking two octaves higher for the rest of the night!"
The bard hit him again just to be sure he got the point.
Xena floated out of the blackness into consciousness.
"Am I alive?"
Was it a thought or did she whisper the words? She brought her hands up to her head and ran them through her hair. Her hands could feel her scalp and when her fingers pulled against a tangle, she felt the twinge of pain in her skin.
She heard her own voice.
She was lying somewhere, on something. It was very smooth and very cold. It was also curved because she was having a hard time lying flat and her back ached. It was not the floor.
"Where am I?"
A chill shuddered through her body. She was cold, so she must still be naked.
When her thoughts became clear enough, she opened her eyes. Yes, her leathers and armor were gone the warrior confirmed as she ran her hands down her shoulders and over her stomach.
Naked and cold.
She looked up and around in confusion. She appeared to be in some kind of cell, but not like any other she had ever been in before. There were no bars or walls. She could see up and all around, like she was imprisoned in....
She rolled over on her side and reached out to touch the almost invisible wall. It was cold and smooth, so it was indeed glass. It was then that she noticed her impossible circumstances, but her mind could not register what she was seeing as reality.
"I must be dead." The warrior stated flatly and loudly.
She looked through the glass prison and out into the room beyond. She was still in Paraclesus (what did he call it?) laboratory. However, everything about it was different. Everything about her entire world had changed, it seemed.
The room had somehow managed to grow very, very large.
Xena looked down at herself and studied her hands, her feet. She ran her hands once again over her arms and legs. She felt flesh and bone and the rough feel of her callused palm against her skin, so she must be alive.
She looked around quickly, panic and confusion momentarily overcoming her warrior instincts. She ran her hands over the walls of her prison, feeling and judging the boundaries provided. She looked up to see the rising transparent wall of glass all around her and she realized that she was not imprisoned in a cage at all.
She was in a glass beaker, tucked away on a shelf.
And the world outside hadnt grown.
She had, somehow, become very, very small.
The sudden realization caused the warrior to jump back in surprise and slip on the smooth, clear floor of the beaker, her prison. The back of her head slammed into glass and Xena found herself sliding back into the blackness of unconsciousness onto the bottom of the flask.
Gabrielle and Chemeclees hurried down the deserted hall headed directly for the Kings private chamber area. The apprentice had been here many times and knew the way well.
"Now, Ive never been beyond this door. This is the kings private area. Gabrielle, what are you doing!"
The bard ignored him and opened the door to the inner sanctum of the palace. It was just another hallway. She walked down it quietly and silently, the apprentice could do nothing but follow.
"Where do you think youre going?" He whispered loudly in the bards ear as he caught up to her in a shuffle.
Gabrielle ignored the boy, but motioned for his silence by placing her finger up to his lips. They both stopped and listened.
There was nothing.
But there was a smell.
"What is that smell?" Gabrielle said, sniffing at the pungent odor.
"I know that smell." Chemeclees stated. "Theres a laboratory in here. He sniffed and pointed down the hall. "This way."
Gabrielle followed Chemeclees as the apprentice followed his nose. It led him to a door not far down the hall. Gabrielle listened carefully at the entrance before pushing the door inward.
It was a laboratory, indeed.
"Great Zeus!" Chemeclees exclaimed, "I had no idea the king was interested in alchemy."
"Maybe this is Paracelsuss laboratory. Maybe he is doing work for the king here?"
"Maybe." The apprentice agreed, "That could explain all the packages. And why we never worry about sales at the shop even though nobody hardly ever comes in."
"The King invited Xena to dinner. You brought the sleeping powder under Paracelsus instructions. It looks like whatever happened to Xena, they planned it together. I wonder if they planned the other disappearances as well?"
Chemeclees looked at the bard grimly.
"I cant believe the king would be involved in the disappearances of all those other people. Or Paracelsus for that matter. Why?"
"Right now my main concern is finding my best friend." The bard took a quick look around before stepping further into the chamber. "Come on. Lets see what we can find."
It only took a few steps and a glance before Gabrielles eyes found the low pallet fitted with restraining straps. Her eyes widened and she rushed closer to have a better look. The bard kneeled and extended shaky fingers to gently grab and pull at a few strands of long black hair that were sticking to the buckle of what was obviously the head strap.
Gabrielle drew in a ragged breath.
"Chemeclees! Look at this!" Gabrielle hissed.
The apprentice tip toed over and looked at the strands of hair over the bards shoulder.
"That could be anybodys." The apprentice tried to reason. The bard was having none of it.
"I want to search this room from top to bottom! There might be some more clues or a secret passage or something."
"We dont have time for this!" Chemeclees tried to grab Gabrielle by the shoulders, but the bard pulled away.
It was then that she noticed the table and the recently shattered beaker. She picked up the end of the tube, looking closely at the needle. The tube still held the remains of the splattered green fluid and the tip of the needle was crusted with blood.
The bard dropped the apparatus in disgust and began to look around frantically searching for more clues.
"What have they done to her!" She yelled, beginning to panic.
Chemeclees became concerned, both at the bards emotional state and at the noise.
"Sssshhh! Someone will hear us!"
Gabrielle began to move around flasks and funnels; she shuffled through papers and manuscripts that she noticed on the floor hoping to find some other clue, anything that would lead her in the direction of Xena.
Chemeclees was becoming very agitated.
"Come on, Gabrielle. We have to get out before someone catches us in here!"
He grabbed the bards arm and started to pull her towards the door. He pulled on the handle with one hand and pulled at Gabrielle with the other.
"Come on! Were out of here!"
As the door opened, a beam of light filtered through the doorway and glittered against a pile in the corner catching Gabrielles attention. Her eyes widened at the sight.
Folded and placed tidily on a bench in the corner were Xenas leathers, amour and chakram. Greaves, boots, and gauntlets were stored neatly underneath, and the warriors sword was leaning in the corner.
The light trickled in through the door and was reflecting off of the chakram.
"NO!" The bard screamed out, "XENA!"
She rushed to the items in a panic, taking a quick inventory, trying to grab as many of the personal belongings in her arms as she could.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOURE DOING!" Chemeclees yelled, closing the door quickly.
"Put those down right now."
Gabrielle fought him to maintain ownership as the apprentice tried to pull the chakram from her hand.
"You cant take these now, Gabrielle. Put them down! Put them back!"
Gabrielle pulled back on the chakram.
"GIVE THAT TO ME!" She yelled, unwilling to relent.
The tug of war was on.
The yell pulled Xena abruptly out of darkness. She heard voices arguing, her haze clearing quickly as the cold of the glass caused a shiver to run along her skin.
She rolled on her side and opened her eyes, looking for the source of the voices.
The warrior could see clearly that two figures were arguing over the possession of something very shiny across the room.
It was her chakram. It looked huge to her. A sudden realization brought the warrior to complete awareness.
That was Gabrielle arguing over her chakram!
She was a giant!
Xena closed her eyes and shook her head, which didnt helped the throbbing in her temples.
"I must be hallucinating!" She swore to herself.
She opened her eyes.
The giant Gabrielle was still fighting for possession of her chakram and other belongings. Her opponent was the apprentice, Chemeclees. He was also a giant.
Xena had a sneaking suspicion that this might be a dream, but regardless, Gabrielle was here and she had better get her attention.
The warrior began to bang against the glass of the beaker and yell. Her voice echoed loudly within the beaker, but the warrior was not sure that her lungs were strong enough to throw her voice out of the flask and across the room.
Especially since Chemeclees and Gabrielle were making enough noise to wake up the dead.
"WOULD YOU BE QUIET!" Chemeclees yelled, finally silencing the bard.
"Do you want to bring all the guards in here!" The apprentice hissed at the bard in an angry whisper. Gabrielle glared back.
They stared at each other in stubborn silence.
"Gabrielle!" Bang! Bang!
The bard continued to stare angrily at the apprentice as the young man slowly took the chakram and leathers from her hands.
"We cant take this stuff with us right now, Gabrielle. We have nothing to carry it in. Nothing to hide it. Someone will see it. Put it back. Well come back for it, I promise." Chemeclees talked calmly and quietly, slowly removing all the cherished items from Gabrielles arms.
"Gabrielle!" Bang! Bang!
Xena took a deep breath and pounded on the glass with all of her strength.
Bang! Bang! "Gabrielle!"
The bards eyebrows knitted together.
"What was that?" She said, cocking her head to one side.
"What was what?" Chemeclees asked, hearing nothing.
"Ssshhh!" Gabrielle placed her palm over the apprentices mouth.
"Gabrielle!" Bang! Bang!
"Did you hear that?" Gabrielle asked Chemeclees, her hand still covering his mouth. The boy nodded quickly.
Gabrielle removed her hand from Chemecleess lips and began to look around the chamber, listening carefully for the sound.
"Xena?" She asked, experimentally.
"Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Over here!" Bang! Bang!
The bard definitely heard that, and she followed the call, frantically looking around until the banging brought her attention to a shelf, and the small voice brought her eyes to a beaker, and then her mind could not believe what her eyes were telling her she was seeing.
Gabrielle stood in front of the shelf, staring at the beaker directly in her line of sight.
As impossible as it seemed, there was someone *in* the beaker.
"Xena?" The bard choked and rubbed her eyes.
Xena was in the beaker.
Gabrielle shook her head and blinked. The vision hadnt cleared.
Xena was naked and in the beaker.
There was a tiny, naked Xena in the beaker.
Continued in Step 7
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