Gabrielle . . . Slayer in Training
-Search and Destroy-
"Okay," Gabrielle said after waiting for some kind of answer. Then she singled out the old man. "What aren't you telling us?"
"It's not the Bacchae, but . . . ."
"Well, we aren't sure what it is."
"What what is?"
"West of here, about a day's ride there are some caves. There are -- things in there. Terrible, evil things. And once a month, on the new moon, they come out and look for helpless travelers or villagers who don't know not to be out after dark."
"Why the new moon?" Buffy asked.
"It's when the night is the darkest." Gabrielle told her. "I would have thought that you, of all people, would pay attention to the moon's phases."
"Only to the full moon. That's when all the Crazies come out, and the werewolves."
"Tell me more about these creatures. What do they look like? And how can they travel around without leaving footprints?" Gabrielle said, turning back to the man.
"We don't know. But like your friend, we also have found poor unfortunates hanging by one foot. But no footprints of any kind."
"We need a volunteer to take us to these caves." Gabrielle said.
There was no response.
"Then can someone at least tell us how to get to them? Anyone?"
"Why would you want to do such a stupid thing?" A voice in the crowd said.
"Because I, we, intend to kill them. Just like we killed the wolves." Gabrielle answered.
"What makes you think you CAN kill them?"
"Because that's what we do, it's what we're trained for."
"Maybe if we make it worth your while." Buffy said.
Gabrielle looked at Buffy with a questioning look on her face.
"We won't need the silver tipped arrows." Buffy explained to her. "Let's use them to pay someone to take us."
Buffy and Gabrielle took out the dozen arrows with the silver tips.
"You heard my friend!" Gabrielle said loudly. "We have a dozen well-crafted arrows, tipped with pure silver, and we'll give them to anyone who will take us to the caves. They're worth at least ten dinars. Any takers?"
After some low whispers in the crowd, one man stepped out. "I'll take your offer. But I want one more thing. I want one of your new weapons."
"Sorry," Buffy said. "But we're going to need them."
"But what about afterward? After you've killed all the creatures, then can I have one?"
"Buffy and Gabrielle looked at each other, then Gabrielle whispered, "What can it hurt? These people don't have the materials to reproduce them. And any copies they make would be next to useless."
"Sure, if you think it's all right."
Gabrielle turned back to the man. "It's a deal, then. Be ready to leave at first light tomorrow morning."
That night they stayed in the only inn in the village, and were saddled and ready to leave when the sky was just barely showing light. The man, whose name was Donatal, insisted they give him the arrows before they left. And he complained often about the fast pace Gabrielle insisted they maintain. She wanted to get to the caves well before dusk.
They stopped just before midday to let the horses rest and to eat.
Gabrielle seemed unusually preoccupied and Buffy had to ask what she was thinking about.
"I keep going over in my mind all these little pieces of information, trying to make sense of them. But it seems like I keep coming back to one thing."
"I just get this feeling that these creatures, these vampires are, or were, Amazons."
"What makes you think that?"
"Two things, mainly. One - no footprints of any kind. Since vampires don't fly, then they must have used the upper branches of the trees to travel around. Exactly the way Amazons do when they don't want to be discovered, or followed."
"That makes sense. What's the other reason?"
"There are stories about a tribe of Amazons who would attack their enemies during the new moon, when the night was the darkest. Which was good. Attacking from the trees when it was so dark gave the Amazons a definite advantage. But when there were no enemies left, they would take revenge on those who might have slighted them or cheated them somehow. After a while they got so, well, so bloodthirsty and evil, that they were banished from all Amazon lands. And after a few years, they were never heard of again. So I'm just wondering if some of them could have been bitten by vampires and then just continued to convert their sister Amazons."
"Well, I suppose that's possible."
"But if it is them, then that would mean that not only do they have the supernatural strength of vampires, but they also have the fighting skills of battle hardened warriors."
"Now that does not sound good at all."
"No it doesn't. So, the question is -- do we go on to the caves, or wait until we can recruit and train a small army to go after them?"
"Well, being that I'm the Slayer, I say go for it now. But if you think we should wait, well, it's your call. Whatever you decide I'm with you."
"Have you two gone crazy?!" Donatal exclaimed. "How could you even think about going in by yourselves?"
"Because, it's what I, what WE, do." Buffy told him.
"Then I suggest we mount up." Gabrielle said. "We want to get there before dark."
When they arrived at the cave it was late afternoon.
"Well, there it is." He told them. "I hope you got some kind of plan."
"Not really. But we will need a couple of torches."
While Donatal helped Buffy make torches out of dried sticks and small limbs, Gabrielle untied the two satchels from Star. They then each took six bottles of the Holy water, divided the remaining arrows evenly, and put two stakes in their belts. Then lighting the torches, they walked toward the entrance of the very dark cave, Gabrielle in the lead.
"Wait!" Donatal yelled to them. "You're not just going to go walking in there are you? You don't know what's in there?"
"Only one way to find out." Buffy told him.
"Then don't expect me to wait here for you." He asked. " 'Cause I plan on riding out of here as fast as my horse will carry me."
"You can leave any time you want." Gabrielle told him. "You've done what you were paid for. Don't worry about us."
And without another word, Donatal mounted up and whipped his horse into a fast gallop heading back to the safety of his village.
"Hey!" Gabrielle yelled at him. "What about the crossbows? Don't you want . . . ?"
"Save your breath." Buffy said. "I doubt if he's thinking about weapons right now. All he wants to do is get as far away from here as he can before dark."
The two women turned their attention away from the disappearing rider to the cave in front of them.
They walked in far enough that they were away from the light from outside, and waited until their eyes were accustomed to the gloom. Then they walked slowly and quietly deeper into the cave.
Every twenty steps or so they would stop to listen. Then the other would take the lead.
They heard the sentry before they saw her, but before she could scream out a warning, an arrow from Buffy's crossbow turned her to dust. A half second too late, one from Gabrielle bounced uselessly off the cave wall. They waited to find out if the noise from the arrow had caused any others to raise an alarm, but it hadn't.
They continued another thirty steps, then slowed when a faint glow at the end of the passage was seen. Silently, they put out the torches.
Slower still, they approached until they could make out the source of the light -- a fire was burning in the middle of a cavern. Around the fire, and well away from it, were six or eight women, all wearing Amazon garb. Another half dozen could faintly be seen lounging against the wall of the cavern. Most were talking loud and laughing. Some were going through the items of clothing that had been stripped from their victims. Others seemed to be sleeping.
Buffy took out one bottle of Holy water and pressed it into Gabrielle's hand, indicating they should throw them first to catch as many off guard as possible. Then in the confusion they should loose as many of the arrows as possible before engaging in hand to hand combat.
Gabrielle nodded in agreement. This was Buffy's area of expertise, and she would follow her lead.
Because they were closer, the ones near the fire were their first targets. And as fast as they could, the dozen bottles of Holy water pelted the Amazon vampires, breaking on contact, burning them and causing pain and confusion.
The arrows were slower in coming since after each arrow was loosed, the crossbow had to be recocked and another arrow fitted to it. Both Buffy and Gabrielle's aim was mostly accurate, turning to dust almost half of the creatures as they attacked, running straight at them.
Buffy led the charge into the cavern, staking two right away.
Mentally, Buffy was counting them as they were killed, and felt they were getting the upper hand when a half dozen or more came running out of a passage that led from the main room.
Gabrielle was able to stake three of them, but with the reinforcements, she was soon knocked down and only by rolling was she able to keep from being pinned down.
Buffy's roundhouse kicks kept most of her attackers away, but they always jumped back up. On two occasions her stake was knocked out of her hand, but was able to retrieve it before being overwhelmed.
Slowly, things began to go badly for the them. There seemed to more of the vampires than they had first thought, and they fought savagely and were relentless.
Buffy managed to throw two of them into the fire, but before they were consumed three more were there to take their places.
Gabrielle was thrown against the wall of the cave and fell into the pile of clothes. But as she hit, she felt something cold and metallic. Realizing it was a weapon of some kind, she grabbed it pulled it from the bottom of the pile. It was then that she realized it was Xena's sword!
Suddenly, the feeling of vengeance she had felt so many months ago was back. And with her newly acquired strength, agility, and stamina, she began her campaign of death.
Slashing violently, and accurately, she began decapitating her attackers. Swinging the sword left and right, often turning in complete circles, she connected with everything she aimed at. She was a woman gone wild, screaming her hatred at them as they were turned to dust.
Seeing the carnage, Buffy knew a good thing when she saw it, and renewed her efforts, staking the ones she could, throwing or kicking others in Gabrielle's direction.
And then it was over.
The two Slayers stood side by side, panting, and feeling the adrenaline as it coursed through their bodies, still ready to do battle; but it was over.
Gradually their heart beats slowed, as did their breathing.
Gabrielle lowered the sword until its point was resting on the floor of the cave. Buffy's fists dropped to her sides.
They took one last look around, checking, then looked at each other.
"I think we did it." Gabrielle said, speaking barely louder than a whisper, her voice strained from the exertion and the yelling.
"I think you're right." Buffy agreed, in a more normal tone.
"I could use a drink of water." Gabrielle said, still whispering.
Gabrielle walked over to the pile of clothes. Buffy thought she was looking for a water skin, but instead, she began sorting out the items, picking out Xena's clothes, boots, breastplate, gauntlets, and finally, her Chakram.
Buffy lit torches lying nearby and they made their way out of the cave. By now it was dark, and the crescent moon had yet to rise.
Gabrielle drank long from the water skin, then they gathered up enough wood to make a campfire, to ward off the cold.
Gabrielle tenderly folded Xena's clothes, then wrapped them in one of the blankets and tied it with rope. Together they sat down on the sleeping furs next to the fire.
For a long time, neither spoke, both near exhaustion from the grueling battle.
"You know," Buffy said, "Right now, it's probably sixty-five or seventy degrees in Sunnydale. Why are we sitting here in the cold, trying to get warm by this pitiful little fire?"
"It's what we do." Gabrielle replied, trying to make a small joke. "But you're right. There's no reason for us to stay here. Besides, the urn with Xena's ashes are over your fireplace. I need to get them. I have to take them back to Amphipolis, along with these other things of Xena's." She gently caressed the blanket as she spoke.
"Well, since you have the amulet, you're going to have to be the one to move first." Buffy said. "It's still in your saddlebag, isn't it?"
Gabrielle, nodded, placed the blanket on the ground, then went to get the amulet. She sat back down next to the fire, and even though she knew the chant by heart, she still read the words.
As soon as the final word was said, the image of Willow appeared before them on the opposite side of the fire.
"Hi!" She said cheerily. "How'd it go? Get all those evil Bacchae?"
"They were vamps." Buffy said. "Amazon vamps. No Bacchae."
"Oh. Well, I guess you must have gotten them, too, huh?
"Yeah. They're all gone. At least, the ones here." Gabrielle said.
"So, are you two are ready to come home?"
"That we are." Buffy told her.
"I need to unsaddle Star so she can graze." Gabrielle said. "Give us a few minutes first."
"Okay. Five minutes and you all are homeward bound!" Willow said happily, and her image disappeared.
"She's sure in a good mood." Buffy commented. "I wonder what's up."
"I guess we'll find out soon enough."
After releasing her horse, putting out the fire, and holding her precious bundle to her chest, Gabrielle was ready to return to Sunnydale with Buffy.
-Science and Magic-
Just as soon as Buffy and Gabrielle materialized in Buffy's living room, they were immediately taken into the kitchen where hamburgers, French fires, and pork & beans waited for them.
"We thought you might be hungry." Dawn explained as the two warriors wolfed down the greasy food, accompanied by chocolate milkshakes.
After the meal, Buffy and Gabrielle were encouraged to relate their entire experience. But all the while, both of them had the feeling there was something going on that they weren't being told about.
Finally, after the tale-telling was over, Dawn said to Willow. “Can I tell them?”
“Sure.” Willow replied.
Then she said excitedly, almost squealing, "Guess what? Willow knows how to bring Xena back!"
Both Slayers looked at Willow expectantly.
"How?" They said together.
"We can clone her!"
Buffy knew what she meant, but Gabrielle was still in the dark.
"What is clone?" She asked.
"It's a way to grow a new person, or Xena in this case, using DNA."
"I still don't know what you're talking about."
"DNA is what people are made of. It's kind of like the tiny particles of clay that makes up the bricks that a house is built of. All you need is some blood or skin or hair, anything that was growing."
Gabrielle began to get excited, and turned to Buffy. "She can really do this?"
"Well, it's never been done with a real person, at least I don't think it has."
"But she can do it with magic!" Dawn said.
Gabrielle looked at Willow. "You really can?"
"All I need is some of her DNA. And then after the body has been magically grown to full size, I can remove her soul from the Elysian Fields and put it into her new body. Just one little thing though, you didn't happen to burn up everything when you cremated her, did you?"
"Actually, I didn't."
Gabrielle went to the mantle and got the urn. She opened the top and brought out an ash covered lock of Xena's hair. "It was something I had intended to keep with me after I took her ashes back home. This will work?"
"It certainly will! Now all we need to do is find a place to work the spell, and stand back!"
"Willow!" Buffy said sharply.
"Are you sure that's such a good idea?"
"Sure I'm sure. Why wouldn't I be? If you're worried I might do the spell wrong, then there's nothing to worry about."
"It's not the spell I'm worried about. It's Xena."
"I don't understand."
Buffy took a deep, tired breath, "Gabrielle, you said you believe Xena's in those Elysian Fields, right?"
"I know she is."
"And if I've heard you right, it's a wonderful, peaceful place to spend eternity, kind of like heaven?"
"Then if it's such a great place, how do you know she’d want to leave?"
Gabrielle opened her mouth to answer, but didn't know what to say.
"When I died," Buffy continued. "I think I was in some kind of heaven because I felt warm and safe and loved. But coming back here everything was hard and cold and violent. It took me a long time before I could deal with being alive again."
Gabrielle's eyes began to water. "I never thought about that. But you're right, why WOULD she want to come back?"
"We can find out." Willow said. "We've visited the Elysian Fields before. And with Dawn’s help, I can send your spirit to find Xena and ask her."
A glimmer of hope returned to Gabrielle's face.
"Since Dawn still has that energy inside her," Willow was saying after Gabrielle was lying down and comfortable, "I can tap into it to make sure your soul reaches the Elysian Fields, and then return it to your body. We don't want your soul drifting around lost in that nasty old Void."
No, we certainly don't want that."
"Okay, just relax. Close your eyes, and the next thing you should see is Xena."
"Will see. Now just relax."
Gabrielle slowed her breathing, relaxing her body as she felt Willow's hand on her upper chest and heard her mumbling something. Gradually, the sounds seem to fade out. She felt like she was falling asleep.
The next thing Gabrielle knew, she was standing in a lush field of soft grass. Not far away was a small stand of trees. She could hear birds singing, crickets chirping, and the gurgling of a small stream. A gentle breeze was blowing warm, flower-scented air.
It was a perfect day.
Gabrielle turned around to seen Xena standing in front of her, and without hesitation, threw herself into Xena's arms, her own arms around her neck.
They stood together, holding each other for a long time. Slowly they released each other, but still kept holding onto the other.
"Oh, Xena, I have missed you so much! You have no idea how much."
"It couldn't have been more than I missed you."
Xena put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulder. Gabrielle's arm went around Xena's waist and they began to walk, and to talk.
After a while, Gabrielle said. "Xena, I have to know, how is it you let yourself be -- killed?"
Xena smiled. "I wasn't my idea."
"But how did it happen?"
"I got up to relieve myself. But before I went back to the camp, I thought I heard a very faint cry, like a child. But every time I got near it, it seemed to move away from me. And then I felt something hit the side of my head, which knocked me down. And before I could get back up, I was hit again. I may have been hit a third time, I'm not sure, but the next thing I knew, here I was."
"An ambush! I knew it had to be something like that. You'll be glad to know Buffy and I took care of them. They were vampires, and Amazon vamps at that! But they're dust now."
"That's good. But I know you didn't come here just to let me know that. Don't you have something else to tell me?"
"Oh yes! Of course! I almost forgot! Willow knows a way to create a new body for you, since I burned up your old one, and then she can put your soul back in it. She is amazing! But I need to know what you want to do -- spend eternity here, or come back and spend the next forty or so years traveling around with me?"
Xena gave Gabrielle a gentle smile.
"You know, I have never felt such peace, such contentment, as I do here. Did you know your parents are here? They are. And there are others, too. Mother is here, and Toris, and Lyceus, and Solan. My dear Solan is here! Oh, Gabrielle, you don't know how much I missed him, and how wonderful it is to see him, and hold him, and to just be with him."
Gabrielle fought back the tears.
"Of course! How selfish you must think I am! After everything you've been through, this is where you belong. You should be with your family. And you should have all peace and contentment there is. What was I thinking? I'll tell Willow not to do it. And maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll be back in another forty, or fifty, or sixty years. If you will, tell my parents I miss them, and I hope one day I'll see them again. I love you, Xena. And someday I'll see you, too."
But before Gabrielle was able to have Willow and Dawn bring her back, Xena said softly, "Gabrielle, I wasn't finished."
Gabrielle waited, wondering else there was.
"Before you interrupted me, I was about to say that as wonderful as is here, there is something missing."
Gabrielle looked at her questioningly.
"You! You're not here."
"You still don't understand, do you?"
Gabrielle shook her head.
"When I was younger, back in my bad old days with Borias and all the others, I never believed in all the talk about destiny. I always thought that we made our own destiny. But after I met you, and after all the years we spent together, I began to believe that it was the Fates who joined us, and that we were destined to spend our lives together. Of course, when found myself here, I thought that was the end of it -- I'd be here until you lived out your life, and then we'd be together again. But now that you tell me there's a way we can be together again, without having to wait for you to die, then it has to be the Fates giving us another chance. So, yes, I do want Willow to work her magic and return me to you."
"But -- but what about your family? What about Solan? How can you leave them?"
Xena laughed gently. "They will be here for all eternity. And when the time has come, we all will be together again, including you. But if I have the chance to be with my Soulmate again, right now, then I'm taking it!"
"Did I happen to mention how much I love you?" Gabrielle asked, now letting her tears flow.
"I think you may have mentioned it a time or two."
After a lengthy embrace, Xena told Gabrielle to return to her body and have Willow begin the spell.
"Will you have time to say goodbye to everyone?" Gabrielle asked.
"They already know. Go now. I'll see you in a bit."
"Okay, the lock of hair goes right here on the center of the bed." Willow instructed. "Gabrielle, I want you to stand at the head of the bed. Buffy, you and Dawn need to be on either side, it doesn't matter which side you choose. And I'll be at the foot. Now, to make sure this works like we want it to, all of you need to clear your minds because I need to join with each of you at the same time. The actual cloning part will be easy, relatively speaking, of course. But afterward, I'll need all of you to help guide Xena's spirit from the Elysian Fields here to her waiting body. Any questions?"
There were none.
As three of them waited patiently, Willow began a low sing-song chanting, her eyes closed, her body slightly rocking back and forth.
As they watched, a light gray mist began to form around the lock of hair. The mist began to swirl as it grew to cover the entire bed. As the chanting and swirling continued, the dark area on the bed that was the lock of hair began to grow. The mist grew and became thicker until only its grayness could be seen.
Gradually, the mist began to dissipate, and as it did, the naked body of the Warrior Princess could be seen lying on her back, eyes closed, looking as if she were asleep, her breasts slowly rising and falling with each breath.
Before the mist had totally cleared, Willow began another chant, and as she did, Buffy, Dawn, and Gabrielle could feel the tendrils of Willow's thoughts touching, then joining with theirs.
They felt themselves traveling through the dark gray Void that exists outside of normal Time and Space.
Next, they experienced a change from confusion to serenity as they entered the Elysian Fields, and then met up with the thoughts and emotions that told them Xena was with them.
Once again they entered the Void. And suddenly they were standing around the bed, looking down at Xena.
No one spoke or moved, waiting to see if Xena's spirit had actually entered the body. As they watched, her breathing grew deeper, then her eyes opened.
Gabrielle reached out and touched Xena's cheek. Xena looked up to see Gabrielle's smiling, upside down face, and reached up to touch her hand.
Gabrielle moved to the side of the bed and helped Xena sit up.
“How do you feel?” She asked.
“I’m not sure. Okay, I think. I feel strange, though.”
"Well, after all, it is a new body." Willow told her. "It may take a little getting used to."
“Think you can stand?” Gabrielle asked.
Xena slipped off the bed with Gabrielle and Buffy on either side of her.
"So far, so good.” Xena said. Then as she stood there looking down at her body, Dawn handed her a robe. But for the moment, Xena ignored her, looking at her chest.
“What happened to my breasts?” She asked. “They don’t – sag.”
“I told you this was a new body. " Willow explained. “It’s never had children.” Then a few seconds later she added, “And it’s never had sex.”
It took Xena a few more seconds for the statement to sink in, then she looked at Willow.
“Are you saying I’m a – virgin?”
Willow laughed a little. “That’s right.”
“I don’t know if I like that or not.” Xena replied as she slipped on the robe.
“Because if I remember right, my first time was kind of painful; the first few times, in fact, now that I think about it.”
“You heard that, didn’t you?” Buffy said to Dawn. “Painful!”
“Oh, Buffy. Please!” Was the reply.
“You know, I’m kind of hungry, and thirsty.” Xena said. “Any chance of getting something to eat any time soon?”
“Sure is. We’ve got a kitchen full of food.”
While Xena was filling her Hollow Spot with soup and a ham sandwich, Willow continued on. “There are a couple more things you might want to know about this body. Since it is a new one, everything is like it was the day you were born, mostly.”
“Well, your lungs and your heart and your arteries aren’t polluted with all the things you put in the other body over the years. Which means barring accident or disease, or anything violent, you could live another sixty or seventy years.”
“Which means she could out live me by what -- twenty, thirty years?” Gabrielle asked.
“Well, that’s just great. Just when I thought we were going to grow old together, I find out we won’t.”
“You never know what will happen.” Xena said. “We could go back and die in a flood or earthquake tomorrow.”
“You have a point.”
“I hope you’re going to stay a few days with us before you go back.” Dawn said to Xena.
“Sure. It’ll be nice to spend some time with all of you. And I’d like to see Xander and Anya again.”
“I still have your clothes upstairs, but they’ve been put up for quite a while so they might be a bit musty.” Buffy said to Xena. Then to Dawn she said, “Why don’t you go get them and throw them in the dryer with one of those smelly, I mean, scented sheets. That should take the odor out of them.”
And even though she wanted to stay and talk to Xena, Dawn ran upstairs to get the clothes.
After three days of videos, TV, girl talk, junk food, and even one night of patrolling, Xena decided it was time to go home.
“Any particular place you want to go?” Willow asked as Gabrielle and Xena were putting on their old clothes.
“At least they still fit.” Xena commented as she put everything on. “Didn’t realize I missed this.” She said as she put her Chakram on its hook.
“I’d like to go back to the cave.” Gabrielle replied. “I’d want to gather up the belongings of those people that were killed from that village and take them back to their families. I’m sure they’ll want them. And I want to get some of the things that belonged to those vampire Amazons. I want to take them to my Amazons. Maybe someone there will know what tribe they were from, and maybe where they went. And they can spread the word about them.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were ready to leave.
“Willow, there’s no way I can ever thank you, or repay you, for giving me my life back.” Xena said as she hugged her.
“That goes double for me.” Gabrielle said. “You returned to me the most precious thing in my life. I don’t know how I could have gone on without her.”
“Think nothing of it. I have a few things to atone for, myself, you know. And if I can make things a little better, even in a land two thousand years in the past, then I’m more than happy to do it. Plus, I like it a whole lot better knowing Xena’s alive and healthy.”
Gabrielle turned to Buffy.
“And there’s no way I can say thanks enough for everything you’ve done for me. You know if there’s EVER anything we can do, anything at all, all you have to do let us know.”
“I know, and the same goes for us.”
“I’m gonna miss you guys.” Dawn told them, blinking back tears, as all of them were.
“Miss you big time.” Xander added.
There were hugs and kisses and words of love and affection all around, then it was time.
“How about putting us back there the next morning?” Gabrielle asked. “That way we won’t have to huddle around a pitiful little campfire trying to say warm.” She smiled at Buffy.
“Sure, easy as pie.”
After final words of goodbye, again, Willow recited the words of the spell, and the Warrior and the newest Slayer were gone.
“I sure wish they’d come back to Sunnydale for good.” Dawn said sadly.
Buffy put her arm around her shoulder. “So do I. But they have a life, and family back there. But who knows? Maybe some day, when they’re old and gray, and the cold makes their bones ache, they just might want to come to good old balmy Sunnydale to stay.”
“Yeah!” Willow added. “And you all can come to visit me in the Old Witch’s Home and we can sit around and play Parcheesi, and watch terrible videos and eat cholesterol-laden chips with Clem!”
(Probably Not )