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Minky's World

Chapter 5

By Paul Schroder

Minky's World

I'd managed to doze off myself for a short time. But when my eyes open then my mind starts whirling again. The thought that we were headed for someplace called the Forest of Tears and Bone Mountain doesn't make for easy sleeping. But I am a bit too comfortable to want to get up. I'm still in animal form but I've been napping on the chest of my Minky boy. I'm just large enough that, with my snout tucked under his chin, my hindquarters are resting somewhere around his belly button. I can feel the rising and falling of his chest as he sleeps and it is so soothing.

As much as I'd like to lie here forever, I've got a bladder that is near to bursting. So as slowly and carefully as I'm able, I slip off of Minky's chest until I'm standing with all four paws on the ground and quietly pad my way over to a circle of trees just below us. I'm trying to decide if I should change into boy form in order to take a whiz. I've never peed as a mink before and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to squat, raise a leg or just what. I'd probably end up peeing on myself.

As soon as I enter the circle of trees I change forms again. Better to be safe than sorry, I'm thinking. I lean one hand against an oak tree and start painting designs on it with my stream. Nearly done... and breathing a sigh of relief I start looking around a bit. In changing from my ground-hugging mink form to my boy form, my perspective has changed a bit. From this height I can view deeper into this circle of trees and see that they are actually surrounding a small pond. It's what I see in the pond that causes me to squat down quickly! If my eyes aren't playing tricks on me, there are two naked young ladies bathing in the pond!

I find myself in a quandary: I don't want to spy on people when they are bathing in the nude - especially if they are female-type people. But I owe it to Minky's safety and my own not to be caught off guard and to know what's happening around us. I think it's time I slipped back to Minky to wake him up. We can decide what to do together.

So with that bit of a plan firmly in mind, I slip back into my mink form and trot on back towards Minky. I only get part way when I see that he's awake, however. He's sitting up and grinning in my direction. Why, the little minx, he was watching me take a pee... heheheh. When I get up by his side I snicker at him. Believe me, a mink snicker is sort of a silly sound.

"My chest got a little chilly," he tells me. "My furry blanket deserted me."

"Shhhh..." I warn him, "we have some company. There is a pond in that circle of trees and there's also a couple of young girls bathing in it."

"Do they have a circlet of flowers woven into their hair?" he asks me.

"I think so, but I only glanced at them and then ducked down. I didn't want to be seen. Would the flowers mean something?"

"Yes," he says. "Come on; let us go take a look." And he changes to mink form and trots towards the trees. I bound out in front of him to cut him off.

"Do you think we should do this? I mean, they're naked, Minky. What if they catch us spying on them?"

"If they are who I believe them to be, it won't matter. But I need to see them to be sure. Besides, it's safer to know if they could be potential enemies or not."

That makes sense to me and so I trot alongside him until we nearly reach the pond. Then we basically crawl on our bellies until we are close enough to peer through the shrubbery surrounding the water.

Minky pushes his snout against my ear and whispers. "The dark haired girl with her hair in a bun is a Dryad, a wood nymph. The girl with the loose, blond hair is a Naiad, a water nymph. And they could be helpful to us."

With that said, he pushes his way through the tangle of vines and underbrush and enters the pond. He begins swimming in their direction. They both glance up as soon as they hear his approach but they make no effort to conceal themselves and don't appear in the least startled. To be truthful, I'm just a bit bashful about approaching a couple of nude girls, especially when they seem to be about my own age. I find myself hanging back.

When Minky is nearly by their side he changes to boy form. The water only rises to about mid thigh on him and so he is standing there in all his glory with everything exposed. I feel myself coloring up like a cinnamon gummy bear. I mean, that isn't quite the polite way to approach a couple of nude young girls on my world. And if he expects me to swim out there and stand around with my wherewithal showing he's sadly mistaken.

The girls are obviously sitting on the bottom of the pond as the water comes up to mid chest on them. Still, there is a part of their anatomy exposed that isn't open to casual gazing where I come from. Minky is talking but he has his back to me and I can't hear what he's saying. The girls answer him, though, and the blond says, "I am Eleion and this is Hamadry."

Minky turns and says, "Nicky, come over and introduce yourself."

Oh gawd... oh, shit! Why couldn't he have just pretended that he was alone or something? Well, if he thinks I'm gonna go over there and wave MY dingus around like that, he has another think coming.

"Come on, Nicky. Don't be rude."

Awww... crap! I push myself through the foliage and enter the water. The fact that this is the first time I've ever swam in mink form doesn't enter my mind. I just seem to glide along effortlessly. I've already decided how I'm going to transition myself when I get there, though. As soon as I pull alongside Minky, I scootch my back legs under me and when I transform I'm sitting down, just like the girls.

"Umm... hi," I say. "I'm Nicholas or Nick."

"Oh, no, Nicky. It is polite for the gentleman to stand when making introductions to a lady," he tells me.

"WHAT?" I squeak!

"Hey... you guys have some pretty weird ideas of what constitutes politeness around here. I'm sorry, but I'm NOT standing up!" And I think the tone of my voice lets him know just how I feel about the idea.

I wasn't sure just how big a faux pas I'd just committed in their society. I don't know anything about nymphs but maybe I'd just got us turned into a couple of frogs or something for my bad manners. But, darn it, a guy has to stand on his principles even if they are alien principles.

I realize I haven't put us into any real danger though when the three of them burst out into belly laughs. Minky settles down into the water and sits next to me, putting his arm around my shoulders.

"You are correct, Minky," the one calling herself Eleion says. "He is obviously from the other world." And she continues giggling.

The other girl, Hamadry, says, "do not be embarrassed, Nick. Nudity does not have the same moral strictures here as it does on your world. Think about it: here people are always changing forms from people to animals and back again. Do you think they carry sets of clothing about with them while in their animal form? We long ago got used to the nude body and it carries very little significance here."

"Besides, Nicky," Minky whispers into my ear, "there are some major differences between women on this world and on your own that I will explain later."

Then in a louder tone he says, "I'm sorry, Nicky. I told you I'm always playing practical jokes. I knew you would react that way and it was mean of me. I'm sorry."

I find myself sighing out of relief. I've not created some breach of etiquette after all. But, darn it, I'm going to have to find some way to pay Minky back for all the times he's teased me. I'm such an easy mark on this world, though: I know so little about everything.

"Well, if it's all the same to you, ladies," I reply, "I'll just take my time getting used to being nude in society. I don't think it's something I'm going to get accustomed to overnight."

"Well said," the one introduced as Hamadry tells me, "I don't know a great deal about your world, Nick, but I do realize that many customs are quite different from our own. I believe people will understand if it takes you awhile to accustom yourself to our ways."

Minky, his arm still around me, reaches over and kisses me on the cheek. "Do you forgive me for being such a tease, Nicky?"

I'm not sure what a kiss between males is supposed to signify on this world, but back home his hug and his kiss would be a dead giveaway. I feel myself doing my cinnamon gummy bear act again and practically glowing with embarrassment. I mean, we've just met these two girls and Minky doesn't think twice about kissing me in front of them.

I just kind of "ummm" and "aahhh" and nod my head in acceptance. Minky grins back at me and says, "I suppose that means that you forgive me, heheheh."

He looks back towards the young ladies, who are both smiling at us, and says, "Hamadry and Eleion, this is the boy that I love with all my heart. I haven't even told him the depth of my feelings towards him."

He turns his head towards me, a more serious expression on his face. "I suppose it is because I was afraid to find that the depth of my feelings towards him would not be as welcome as I would like it to be."

He looks back toward the girls and says...

"So, what is the pronouncement? Is there love in his heart for me as well?"

My head is just whirling now, as you can well imagine. Minky loves me? Oh my God, I can hardly believe what I've just heard.

Eleion looks at Minky with a gentle smile on her face. "It is just as you wish, mink boy, for you have truly captured the heart of this boy. Nick is yours."

"Yahoo..." he shouts, leaping to his feet, pulling me up with him in his exuberance. He's nearly squeezing me to death and jumping up and down in his effervescence. And I have a grin so wide I wouldn't be surprised if my lips met at the back of my neck. I'm jumping up and down with him, though, and every bit as excited as he is. Minky just said he loves me... ME... Stanley Nicholas Smith!

And then I realize I'm cavorting in the nude with a sweet boy who is equally nude. And this is all in the presence of two young ladies whom we've just met! I grab Minky about the shoulders and pull him down into the water with me with a splash. And I'm doing my gummy bear impression again.

Minky takes one look at my colored cheeks and starts chuckling. "Okay, Nicky. We will take the nudity thing a bit at a time. But I know Hamadry and Eleion are both very happy for us."

"It is as the mink boy says, Nick. Eleion and I are nymphs and we know those things in people's hearts. It is though the two of you are destined for one another. You need not be afraid to proclaim your love to one another any more, for you are both equally in love."

I can feel the tears gliding down my cheeks, I'm so relieved and happy. It's true then, my Minky does love me just as I love him.

Wrapping his arms around me, Minky snuggles his head into the crook of my neck. "I will always be yours, Nicky, I promise you this."

I'm full out bawling now. I've got my arms wrapped so tightly around him. Every Christmas and every birthday present I've failed to receive have just been handed to me in one beautiful package. It's a package dressed in golden, blond hair and snuggled neatly against me.

"Me too, Minky," I blubber, "I'll always be yours, I promise you too."

We spend another fifteen minutes or so with the nymphs as my emotions slowly settle. Both of us alternate from blubbering and hugging to grinning and hugging. But eventually we settle down. And it's time for us to be on our way again. This time, when Minky stands and reaches for my hand, I don't hesitate to stand up alongside of him. I suppose I'm just going to have to get over my reluctance of being nude in front of strangers. But when the girls stand up as well, to bid us farewell, I find myself occupied in looking all around the pond. "Baby steps," I tell myself... "baby steps".

Minky transforms and starts swimming towards the shoreline and I'm close behind him. Once we reach the shore and climb out, he shakes himself like a little puppy dog, a fine mist of water flying through the air. That has to be pretty instinctive, I'm figuring, so I follow suit. But where Minky manages to spray water all around us, I just manage to fall onto my side.

He's looking at me with his tongue drooping from the corner of his mouth. I've learned to recognize this as the Minky grin, and evidently my drying efforts are somewhat amusing.

"The idea" he says, "is to shake the water from your fur, not to roll in the dirt... heheheh."

But I have a quick comeback for him. "Oh yeah?"

Okay, not very profound... so shoot me. But give me five minutes or so and I can always think of some snappy comebacks in hindsight.

I pop back up to my feet though and notice all manner of disgusting leaves and yuck on my fur. So, doing a quick about face, I leap back into the pond. Once ashore again I walk up to Minky and spread my feet in a wide stance. I'm shaking myself with all the vigor I can muster, and staying on my feet to boot. And my shaking has its desired results... I've just deposited enough water on Minky to have his whiskers dripping again.

"How was that?" I grin, my tongue hanging from the corner of my mouth.

"Hee, hee... squeak, squeak! Much better Nicky, much better."

We set off, trotting down the pathway, side by side. We keep looking back and forth to one another, those silly grins still on our snouts. I feel as buoyant as a balloon after the revelations at the pond. And I can tell Minky feels the same way. Minks don't weigh a heck of a lot to begin with, but here are a couple that are barely leaving any footprints from feeling so light and happy.

"I have a confession to make to you, Nicky" he tells me.

"Oh, what's that?" I ask.

"Well, I knew the nymphs lived in this part of the forest and I took us over here on a little side trip hoping that we would find them."

That stops me dead in my tracks. I look at this little mink with new respect in my eyes. He intentionally brought me this way to put me through the nymph truth detector - love detector, actually.

"Minky, tell me honestly, weren't you afraid you might get an answer you wouldn't like?"

"Yes and no, Nicky. Back when I suggested that you should return home, so that you wouldn't be in danger from the Baron, you became very agitated and you told me you loved me. I wasn't sure how you meant that, though. But I was almost certain I could see it in your eyes whenever you were looking at me."

"Yeah, it was in my eyes, alright. And it was in my heart and my mind and my... well, let's just say that every part of me was in love with you," I tell him, bashfully.

Minkys tail wags and he begins to frolic and cavort all around me. Leaping over me, twirling and leaping back to give me a quick nuzzle and then bounding away again. My heart and body join his as we caper about one another in our exaltation. Minky is soon bouncing his way down the trail, my invitation to follow him.

It takes us no time at all to eat up a good section of the trail, me watching Minky's lithe shape rollicking joyfully ahead of me.

I call out, "Hey, where are we off to, mister?"

His squeaky, happy voice carries back over his shoulder, "To the Forest of Tears."

My butt hits the forest trail and I slide forward, coming to rest with a small pile of leaves and twigs amassed by my braking motion. Holy crap, that's right! The Forest of Tears! I'd forgotten about that. It's the destination he gave me just before he fell asleep awhile ago.

I don't know about anyone else, but that just doesn't sound like a destination I'd pick out of a travel brochure for a rollicking good time. Let's see now, The Bahamas, Disneyland or the Forest of Tears...

Minky has noticed my skid into a sudden stop. Trotting back by my side he says...

"Did I not tell you this already, Nicky? I thought I had but perhaps I only dreamed it. It was the first place I could think of to go where we could gather information to help us defeat the Baron."

I must look quite the sight; my tail stretched out on the ground behind me. I'm sitting on my haunches with the pile of debris I've managed to push ahead of me, my forelegs locked to the ground. I guess I've turned myself into the immovable object that doesn't want to test the irresistible force.

"Sigh... I know, Minky. You did tell me. I'd just managed to push it out of my mind is all. Didn't you also say something about a Mountain of Bones?" I gulp.

"It isn't as bad as it sounds. Really it isn't. The forest branches are densely covered with moss and a nightly fog condenses in it. There is a constant dripping of water from the moss. This is how the reference to tears was made. It is not because it is some place that causes you sorrow or anything. Remember when you told me that a hotdog was just a name and it wasn't really made out of dogs?"

I nod my head yes.

"Well, the forest doesn't really cause you to cry, either. It's just a name."

I find my tail starting to wag a bit at this pronouncement.

"However," he says, and my tail ceases its wagging.

"However, there are a few creatures that live there that do not exactly put you in a happy mood either."

I can see him shiver a bit and I find my forelegs pulling the pile of leaves into myself like a little hiding place. I'd stick my head in the sand right now if I was an ostrich.

"It is those darn spiders I do not like," he continues.

"Gulp... spiders?" Not one of my favorite creatures either, to be honest.

"Yes, spiders. They live in the branches and within the moss on the trees. The forest floor is damp and a perfect place for frogs and toads and salamanders. The spiders drop down onto those little amphibians and make a meal of them."

"Ummm... just how big are these frog-eating spiders, Minky?"

My little buddy stretches his forepaws apart on the ground until they are a good twelve inches apart.

"Holy crap!" I squeak. "That's not a spider! That's an Alaskan king crab!"

I look up into his face. "Do the things have venom?"

"I am not sure. I have never had need to go into that particular forest before and so I do not know about them first hand. I am hoping that we just will not come across any."

"Besides," he continues, "the goblins are bad enough. I think we would do better to concentrate on them rather than the spiders."

Crap... crap... and triple crap. I can feel myself soiling that little pile of leaves in front of me. This conversation started out bad and is slowly going downhill.

"And just what is it that a goblin is capable of doing to us? Do they like to have mink bar-b-cues or add mink bones to their Mountain of Bones?"

"Well, they could do quite a lot if they really wanted to, Nicky. They aren't the most hospitable of creatures. They live on the fringes of civilization where they can conduct raids on people. They aren't very nice creatures at all. But they spend most of their energies battling one another. The tribes are always fighting each other. So aside from occasional raids they do not have time to mess with people very much."

"Sigh... tell me again why we need to go meet with these creatures. Are they truly going to benefit us in searching for a weapon or means to defeat the Baron?"

"The Forest of Tears surrounds a huge mountain. It's called the Mountain of Bones because it is covered with petrified trees and bones of creatures that lived in the far past. It is also where the goblins deposit their battle dead so that they can add their own bones. But it is who lives on that mountain that we want to see. We need to talk with Bargrivyek, the goblins' god of co-operation. He is not as important to them as their god of war, but he is the one that keeps them from totally destroying one another. The goblins realize he is important for that reason."

"Well," I add, "I hope this god of co-operation will co-operate with us. I sure don't want us adding our bones to his mountain."

"I think he will, Nicky. In fact, I am almost certain of it. You see, the goblins hate the Baron too. There are more than a few wooden goblin statues dotted about the barony. It's the one place they are afraid to raid now. They aren't used to humans putting up a resistance."

I shakily climb back up to all four feet. I've made a promise to this boy, that I would do whatever it takes to protect him and defeat that Baron dude. And no matter how many times I wet myself in the process, I'm going to carry through with my promise. Besides, according to the warlocks, I'm the last hope these people have of defeating this guy. Crap... and quadruple crap!

We set out on the trail once again. Neither of us are as light footed and buoyant now. We are both carrying our private thoughts and images of what we are soon to be facing. And from what I'm starting to see on the trees, that might not be too long from now. Moss... more and more moss seems to be growing in the tree canopy above us.

We stop around mid-day when hunger, thirst and fatigue start catching up to us. Minky finds some gourd-like fruits for us to drink from. They are just essentially hollow containers full of water. I'm the one that spots the "cues"-cumbers. Heheh... I sure like those things. We transform into boys to sip from our gourds and eat a bite of lunch while resting our backs against a fallen log.

Nude picnics are kinda fun. I don't care what the nymphs said, it will take me a long time to get used to being nude around other people. I don't mind it a bit with Minky, of course. In fact, if it weren't a slower means of travel, I'd suggest we continue on in our present form. I wouldn't mind seeing that little tush swaying back and forth in front of me. Boy howdy... that thought slaps a grin on my face.

"What are you smiling about, Nicky? Have you thought about something funny?"

"Ahemmm... well, no, I just thought of something pleasant, is all."

My boy smiles at me. We've spent most of the meal just looking at one another.

"Am I the pleasant thing you just thought about?"

My grin just doubles as I nod an emphatic yes to him.

"Yup, it sure as hell wasn't spiders and goblins you know... ha, ha, ha."

He laughs with me. Then, climbing to our feet, we tenderly dust the crumbs of our meal from one another's chests and bellies and take a final swig of water. Transforming once again, we set off down the trail.

We've been going downhill for the last hour or so and I can feel a change in the humidity. The upper forest was cool, like it is now, but decidedly drier. The trees have a shiny component to them now, as though the leaves and branches are damp. And the moss just gets thicker and thicker.

Another hour's descent and it's obvious we are in what Minky described as the Forest of Tears. The very ground is damp under our feet and there are puddles here and there. Water makes a constant drip, drip, drip everywhere you look. I'm not looking at dripping water though, I'm concentrating on spotting giant bugs that may be lurking in the overhead foliage. I'm so busy looking up, in fact, that I manage to goose Minky with my snout a couple of times, not watching the trail ahead of me.

"ARGHHH", he snorts, after the third goose. "Don't concentrate so much overhead. I nearly jump out of my skin each time your cold nose pokes me there. I am just a bit nervous too, you know."

"I'm sorry, honest. It's just that I've never been a very big fan of spiders. They give me goose bumps when they crawl on me. And the thoughts of one nearly big enough to ride doesn't exactly thrill me."

"I guess I can understand that. You just need to eat a few in order to get over that fear. They are as tasty as grubs, you know."

Hmmmm... I never thought of that. I've been using the human part of my brain all this time. By letting my mink side take over, I can visualize myself chomping down on spider steaks. Ha, ha... let the buggers come.

My mood lightens considerably and I'm able to trot behind my buddy without poking my nose into his business. A fact I'm sure he appreciates. It's a mood that doesn't last all that long though, when I feel something damp and heavy plop onto my back with a squashy sound.

If I were in my boy form, I think I would qualify for the Olympic gymnastic team right about now! I've managed to jump over and ahead of Minky in a single leap. And in the process I also do a full frontal flip, landing on my feet! I don't remain on my feet all that long though, I do another one and a half gainer to rival a champion diver and land on my back... fully intending to squish the life out of that prehistoric aphid. Then I start grinding my hindquarters into the dirt like I'm trying to dig a foxhole with my butt!

When I land on my back, I'm facing back down the trail into the face of an astonished looking mink. He spends a few seconds comprehending what he's just seen. I'm waiting for him to rush into action and set his fangs into the critter that was intent on making a meal of me. But does my boy come rushing to my rescue? Hell, no.

Minky lets out a howl to rival the wolfman and falls onto his side. Now he's on his back and yip, yip, yipping and clawing his feet into the air. "Oh my god", I'm thinking, "it's some kind of fit!"

Hmphh... it's a fit alright. It's a fit of laughter! He's yipping and snorting and laughing his ass off! That damn tongue is lolling out the side of his mouth and he's hee-heeing to the point that he's close to choking.

Well now, that's just adding insult to injury. I roll over onto my feet to see how badly I've squished my attacker. Expecting to see a pancaked maxi-spider, I instead see a pancaked glob of moss. MOSS! Just a stinkin glob of moss. No wonder he's laughing fit to choke.

"Splat," and my chunk of moss wraps itself around Minky's face! He flips over to his feet and shakes - moss flying everywhere. But he still has that smart ass grin on his snout.

"Thanks for sharing your spider with me, Nicky. But I'm really not hungry right now." And he's onto his back again, into another fit of hysterics. Wise guy!

His laughter ceases abruptly though, when the proverbial spider from hell lands onto his tummy with a liquid plop. Minky's flip makes mine look like a poor effort and that spider goes sailing into the air! The mink lands behind me and the spider comes down on the spot Minky just vacated. But the spider lands on its back and it's obvious that it's dead. In fact, it's swollen to the point that I think it musta died some time ago. What are the odds that it would drop at that exact instant and right on top of Minky? Is that karma or what?

I'd turn around and give my shaking buddy a comforting lick, but I'm kinda busy right now. I'm busy laying on my back and laughing my ass off! "Oh gods of fate, thank you for the payback!"

"Har, har, har... snort, snort! Yip, yip yip... haaaaaar!"

"Splat!" A putrid, dead spider is dropped onto my face. And a transformed boy is standing over me with a smirk on his face.

"At least mine was a real spider, Nicky. Not a chunk of moss..."

"Yeah," I giggle, shaking the ugly thing off me. "And payback is a bitch, too... ain't it, Minky? Ha, ha, ha!"

I transform too and we wrap our arms around each other, still in near hysterics. Oh god, my stomach hurts from laughing.

When he settles down a bit and is able to draw a breath, he says, "You know, I would not be surprised if a certain little warlock did not have a hand in dropping that spider on me."

"Ya think?" I respond. "Yeah, it's too much to believe that fate would would help me out like that. I mean, fate has never been all that good to me before."

"What d'ya know?" I add. "I guess we aren't on our own out here after all."

I get a grin for a response and then he says, "They did say they would be helping us out all that they were allowed to. It is kind of nice knowing that we are being looked after, is it not, Nicky?"

"Yes," I answer, nodding my head. "But they also said it would still be dangerous. We need to rely on our own wits as much as we can, bud."

This time I get the answering nod. And we are a little more sober as we both contemplate what is still ahead of us. A gob of moss and a dead spider were just a distraction. Now we need to convince some goblins to allow us to invade their sacred mountain. And once we're there we have some kind of god to talk to.

"Minky," I ask, "this goblin god. Is he powerful? I mean, is he anything like the warlocks in his abilities?"

"I do not believe so. The warlocks have control over everything. Before they came, though, the gods were very powerful - here and on your world as well."

"On my world? Whadda ya mean?"

"Well, I only know a little about the story. But maybe we can get Bargrivyek to explain it to us. He is immortal, so he was one of the gods to be banished from your world into ours."

That gives me some food for thought. I know there were lots of gods worshiped in the past. But I never gave any credence to the thought that they might have been real. And if they were, who would have been powerful enough to banish all of them to this world? Could it have been the first batch of warlocks? Nah, that doesn't make sense. They told us they don't have that much power on my world, so it couldn't have been them.

"Yeah, Minky. I'd very much like to hear that story from Bargri-whatever myself."

"Ha, ha! Bar-griv-yek, Nicky. You should practice saying it a few times before we meet him. I do not think we should take the chance of insulting him over the pronouncing of his name."

"Point taken," I reply. And as we resume our mink shapes and continue on down the path, I keep mumbling "Bargrivyek, Bargrivyek."

When it feels like I have the pronunciation down pat, I ask him, "Minky, what do the goblins look like?"

Just as I ask the question, my buddy pulls up short. He gets my snout in his butt again but it doesn't seem to faze him. Instead, he whispers to me...

"They look just like that, Nicky."

I jump to his side and look down the path in the direction he is looking. Oh my gawd... that is ugly! No, ugly is a word to describe my crap-head step-dad. This thing is hideous! And I don't know if that is an evil grin or a leer on its face, but it's looking right at us. Now, some of its look-alike friends have silently slipped in from the surrounding forest.

The first one we spotted wanders further down the trail until he stands right in front of us. Not a tall creature, maybe three feet, but taller than a couple of minks for sure. This thing has leathery looking green skin, every inch of which is covered with bumps or warts. To top it off, he smells like something a dog would like to roll in.

"Some stupid, little, red-headed kid came here and warned us a couple of mink were going to be coming through here. Then the little bugger had the nerve to threated us with the god Bargrivyek if we tried to harm you. Well, the lispy little crapper didn't stand up too well to a half dozen arrows. We don't normally kill kids, but that one just pissed me off royally."

"The thing is," he continues, "we don't take very well to threats by you humans. And now I'm thinking that you two would make a couple of nice, furry loin cloths for my friends and I."

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead