This is a mobile proxy. It is intended to visit the IOMfAtS Story Shelf on devices that would otherwise not correctly display the site. Please direct all your feedback to the friendly guy over at IOMfAtS!

Minky's World

Chapter 7

By Paul Schroder

Minky's World

The minky boy and I had managed to find a quiet little hidey spot in the forest. By the time we got through cuddling... ahem... it started getting dark. So we hurriedly gathered some food from the bushes and settled in for the night.

Did you know that a boy makes an excellent pillow? Anyway, that's what he told me since I got to be his.

My bladder is the thing that wakes me, like most mornings. I carefully disentangle my arms and legs from Minky and walk over to the nearest tree. It's another beautiful morning. Gawd, you have to love a world where weathermen make sure the weather is always comfortable. Well, when you think about it, as often as people walk around nude here, the weather better be comfortable.

I finish painting my name on the tree and glance over towards my sleeping boy. He's still wrapped in the togas we used for blankets last night. He looks like an angel to me the way the morning sun sets off the golden highlights of his hair. Only there was nothing angelic about the way he acted last night, chuckle.

My thoughts are disrupted though when I feel something brush against my leg. Startled a bit, I jump back and glance down. There's nothing there. I've just about convinced myself that I imagined it and then I feel it again. Something soft and furry brushed up against my leg. But I'm looking at my legs and there isn't a darn thing there.

My heart is starting to beat like a kettle-drum and I'm wondering what sort of magic is happening here. Now my ears are playing tricks on me as well as my eyes, because I can hear purring - you know, kitty cat purring!

I nearly jump out of my skin when I hear a disembodied voice down at my feet ask me, "You are a mink, right? How about catching me a fish for my breakfast?"

EEEK... and I run over to Minky and start shaking him.

"Wha... what is it Nicky?" he asks me, groggily.

"Get your wits about you quick," I tell him. "There is an invisible something that wants me to catch it a fish for breakfast."

"Ohhh," he says, still groggy. "Fish for breakfast sounds like a good idea."

"No, no, no, no... it isn't the breakfast I'm talking about: there is an invisible something here with us!"

Minky sits up and looks around.

"I do not see anything."

"Duh," I tell him, "I said it's invisible."

Down by Minky's feet we hear, "You are a mink too, right? Why not help the dumb one go catch me a fish for my breakfast?"

"Yes, I am a mink too," Minky answers, not nearly as disturbed by a bodiless voice as I think he should be. "Nicky and I are both minks. What are you, if you do not mind my asking?"

"What do you mean, what am I? I am a cat, of course."

A few seconds of silence and then... "Oh, sorry. I keep forgetting I am invisible. Here, just wait a minute."

And there, sitting at Minky's feet, is a small tabby cat, its tail twitching languidly. It's sitting on its haunches, licking one of its forepaws then using the paw to clean its face.

"I'd go catch a fish myself," it says, "only I don't like getting my feet wet."

"What a wonderful ability," Minky tells it, "being able to turn invisible and all. Are you a sorcerer or a magician?"

"Hardly," it answers, still busy at its cleaning ministrations. "The King of the elfs gave me the ability after I bugged him enough for it. I got tired of the nirades, elves, nymphs and assorted creatures constantly picking me up and hugging me. What they can not see, they can not hug."

"Now, how about it? Some nice, fat perch for breakfast sounds pretty good, right?" the kitty asks, looking up at me. "There is a pond right close by and it swarms with perch. A couple of mink could gather a feast in just a few minutes."

"Well, I do not know," Minky intones. "It sounds like a lot of bother to go to for someone who doesn't properly introduce himself first."

The cat's jaw drops open. "Oh my, yes. Where the heck are my manners?"

Now, sitting in the spot vacated by a tabby cat, is a boy that is perhaps 14 years old. He's a looker too, with hair the same golden shade as my Minky boy.

"Please forgive my bad manners. Since I spent the night with you I felt as though we were already introduced."

Minky laughs, "and I thought it was Nicky that was purring last night. I figured it was because I did such a fine job of making him happy."

"What... what?" I squeak. "You slept with us last night? Did you see us, uhh... I mean, did you watch us, uhh," and my voice leaves me.

"Yes, I sure did. And you guys are hot! It made me wish lady cats were coming into heat soon. Oh, and my name is Cory, by the way. People call me Cory Cat."

I'm blushing every shade of crimson. The nerve of this guy! He was there on the blankets with us while we were... uhhh, while we were... well, you know what!

The boy looks up at me like he knows what's running through my mind. He grows a grin on his face like the Cheshire Cat.

"Well," he says, "I did not intend to stay invisible and spy on you guys. I saw you two when you appeared by magic at the foot of Bone Mountain and I noticed that the goblins seemed afraid of you for some reason. I felt safer trotting along with you two. I was invisible because I did not want the stupid goblins to see me. I have no desire to become a cat pincushion. But you guys disappeared into the forest and by the time I found you I did not think you would want to be disturbed. You were rather busy." He says this with a wiggle of his eyebrows and a wink in my direction.

"So, I wandered around a bit and let you two have your fun. I did not go back until you had fallen asleep. That is when I cuddled up into your blankets with you."

Minky is giggling, partly because he sees the crimson color on my face but also, I guess, because there is a little less modesty about these things on Minky's world.

"Well, Cory, how about we strike a bargain? Nicky and I will catch us all some breakfast and in return you can introduce us to the Elfin King."

"Okay," he says, licking his hand. "Whoops," he laughs, "some instincts seem to leak over even in boy form. Only thing is, I do not know how happy the elf will be to see me again. He only gave me the invisibility potion to get rid of me. Elfs like their solitude, you know."

"Well, Cory, I do not suppose you would have to hang around after taking us there. But I would like to talk with you on the way and find out what you can tell me about him."

"Sure, no sweat. Now let's hike on over to the pond because my inner kitty is starving."

With that said, he gets off his haunches and stands up. Oh my gawd... are all the boys on this world gorgeous or what? Well, one thing's for sure, he's a natural blond alright, if you get my drift... 'wink, wink'.

I reach down and grab my toga wrap. I figure I better put this baby on right away 'cause I'm going to end up pointing at Cory, and not with my finger.

Minky sees me and grins. "Oh, don't bother putting that on, Nicky. We are just going swimming anyway."

The bugger has a mischievous glint in his eye. He knows exactly why I want to put this wrap on. I don't let that stop me though: I grab it and wrap it around my middle a few times.

"That's okay, Minky. I figure we may want a towel to dry with after our swim," and I give him an answering grin. I get a roll of his eyes in return and a chuckle.

"You might want to bring your wrap too, Minky," Cory tells him. "We continue on down the trail a ways, in the direction of the Elf's place. You probably won't want to come back for your wrap."

"I knew that," I tell Minky, giving him a raspberry.

Minky just shakes his head, scoops up his wrap and throws it over a shoulder. We commence following our new friend back towards the trail. Yep, with that Cory boy walking in front of me, I'm mighty glad to be wearing this wrap.

I guess it was a little further than Cory remembered, because we've been following him for a half an hour or so. Finally we come to a cross-roads on the trail. There is a sign with arrows pointing in both trail directions. It's what the sign says that makes my pointer droop.

<----"This way be the bog!"

"This way be the dragon!" ---->

Holy Crap! So where's the sign that says "this way be the Elfin King"? I don't wanna go either direction that sign points. For one thing, I remember something about bog lizards. For another thing, I sure as hell remember something about dragons!

Cory, without a concern in the world, takes the path towards the bog. I look over at Minky and all I get is a shrug of his shoulders. It seems that if Cory isn't concerned, then he isn't going to be either. But that's not good enough for me.

"HEY... Cory dude, hold up!" I holler.

He turns around with a questioning look on his face.

"Ahh, look," I tell him. "That sign said 'bog', it sure didn't say 'pond'. Now, I'm hoping there is a nice pond before we get to the bog because I've no desire to even KNOW what a bog lizard looks like."

"No worries, guys. The elf kingy likes to swim and play with the frogs and stuff. He sent the lizards in this particular bog packing long ago. And besides, there are dry places to walk between the bogs. Hey, trust a cat to keep your feet dry." And he chuckles.

Wheew... that takes a load off my mind.

"Besides," he continues, "I guess what lizards the elf didn't send down the road the dragon ate instead."

Oh crap, is there never an end to my worries? My head is just automatically swiveling around again, looking for shaking trees or dragon exhaust. I make a little exhaust of my own, out of nervousness.

Minky sees and hears my apprehension and says, "Nicky, remember how the ground shakes and gives you warning? Don't worry about it. Anyway, water would be a pretty safe place for a mink when a dragon is about."

Okay, I gotta admit, Minky makes some sense there. But if I feel the ground so much as shimmer, my little mink butt is gonna go scooting. Oh well, at least I'll be able to take this wrap off now without pointing at Cory.

"Come on, guys," as Cory waves us down the path. We only walk for another ten minutes or so when we start skipping from hummock to hummock, to keep out of squishy mud. And soon we stand at the edge of a fair sized pond. There are plenty of cattails and ferns growing along the edges.

Cory just stands there looking expectantly in our direction. So Minky and I drop our wraps and do the transformer thingy. We both hit the water with barely a ripple.

Ahhh... now this is a bitchen way to start your morning. The water is fairly shallow in places and so the sun has warmed the water to a comfortable temperature. Although, as a mink, I'm sure I could swim in water colder than I'd ever be able to stand as a human.

Minky dips below the water, surfacing in a few seconds time. He has a fat perch between his jaws. He swims towards Cory and drops his catch onto the hummock at the boy's feet.

I figure it's time I learned the art of fishing with my teeth and so I dive down. The water is clear, and I can see numerous fish in my vicinity. They don't seem to spook until I get right up on them and then they make a quick, short dash away from me. It takes me a bit to learn how to time things, but eventually I snap down and manage to get one.

When I deposit my offering next to Minky's, I notice he already has two fat fish lying on the hummock. So I double my efforts to try and catch up with him. We settle on six fish, enough to feed the three of us in our smaller animal forms. My contribution to the effort is only two fish. Oh well, Minky has had his whole life to learn his fishing art. I figure I have the rest of mine to learn how to catch up to him.

Minky offered to make me a nice fish dinner when we first arrived on this world. I had asked him if it would be okay if we cooked them, because the idea of raw fish didn't sound very appetizing. Well, I wasn't a mink then and had my fussier human qualms. The three of us chow down right there on that hummock without benefit of pan frying, baking or even knife and fork. And there are some satisfied belches going on afterwards.

My mink boy and I slip back into the pond after eating to clean ourselves. Cory's busy doing the old tongue bath on the shore. Minky shows me all the twisty, turny stuff that seems to come natural to an aquatic creature. I don't do half bad at following him, either.

Minky gets a devilish look in his eyes when he glances up to the shore and sees Cory doing his cleaning ministrations. He swims next to me and whispers into my ear.

I chuckle and nod my head at him and we proceed towards the shore. Climbing from the pond onto the hummock, we both walk on opposite sides of the cat. I spread my legs to give myself a good purchase and, at a nod from Minky, we both shake our fur for all we're worth, knowing that we are going to drench the cat! But when I glance over towards him I see a set of boy legs. A grinning Cory is staring down at us.

"Something told me you two were going to attempt that. Don't you know we have an instinct for remaining dry?"

He doesn't even have the opportunity to rub it in because suddenly the hummock vibrates. The pond is full of ripples and we are all looking at one another with a hint of panic in our eyes. There is another vibration and a distant 'thump' reverberates across my ears.

Oh Crap! There's no 'hint' towards panic now... it's full blown panic for me; and yours truly is wondering if it's possible for a mink to crawl up it's own butt-hole to hide!

Cory, of course, is a cat once again and has turned invisible. Minky gives me a "pssst" and nods towards the pond. Quietly and quickly we slip into the water and head for some cattails on the opposite shore. Reaching the hiding spot of these rushes, we allow just our snouts and eyes to show above the surface.

We don't have long to wait. Although it is casually sauntering towards the pond, the dragon is so huge that each step brings it ten feet closer. This thing is way bigger than Number 3's effort. I feel the water warming around me, then I realize I'm peeing. The water seems a little warmer around Minky as well.

Pretty soon a giant foot stomps down upon the hummock where we shared our lunch, and where we left Cory. I'm hoping that Cory wasn't still there at the time. Then it raises its foot, swings its head groundwards on that huge neck and sniffs under its foot. A huge tongue licks the surface of the hummock and then the bottom of its foot. Oh gawd... I hope those are fish and not Cory juices it's licking up!

Now it's sniffing the tall grass and reeds surrounding the hummock. Then the head rises so that it's staring directly into the cattails we've hidden ourselves in. It's a staring contest now: neither we or it moves a muscle for long, long seconds. Minky had told me that they have small brains and only recognize a thing as living if it's moving. Well, I've never held so still in my life. I don't think I'm even blinking. But now I can see small ripples in the water, emanating from Minky. Oh my gawd... he's shivering, and causing the water around us to ripple!

That's all the movement that monster needs. I watch him open that huge maw of his and I just know we are about to receive a blast of flames in our direction! I don't even take the time to think, I just react. I use my chin and snout to push Minky's head underwater, and it's just in the nick of time. The surface of the water lights up as flames torch their way through the reeds.

With a slash of our tails we shoot out towards the deeper water, staying as close to the bottom as we can. Using every ounce of energy we have we arrow our way towards the furthest part of the pond away from the dragon. The pond isn't as huge as the one we share with my world, where I first met Minky, but it's long enough to get us a few hundred feet away from that mink-gobbling monster.

We swam the whole distance with a minimum of air, and are trying to bring in great gulps of it as quietly as we can. We've secreted ourselves in some more cattails and are now looking back towards the reeds we'd escaped from. They are nothing but blackened stubble, and the dragon is busily sniffing among their ruins. It lets out a roar of frustration and anger then starts blasting the surrounding reeds. It's shooting flames fifty or sixty feet long, looking for all the world like a soldier's flame-thrower. Most of the reeds are green and so simply wilt. The cattail heads, being dry and fluffy, burst into flame and explode!

I had been afraid that Cory had been stepped on and now I truly fear that he has been bar-b-cued in the flames that have torched that whole end of the pond. I don't see how he could possible have escaped all of that.

The dragon, having determined that it missed out on some lunch, dips its head towards the water and takes a long time drinking. Raising its head, it gives a contemptuous snuff of air and smoke, and then makes its ponderous way back towards the shoreline he entered from. And as his body swings around, I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. There, in the very center of its humped back, holding onto one of its ridges with a paw and cleaning it's face with another, is a damned tabby cat! The cat looks no larger than a flea on a pig's back. But the flea has stopped washing itself and is waving a paw in our direction. It's difficult to tell from this distance, but I swear it has that damned Cheshire Cat's grin on its face again.

We wait quietly until the monster has moved far enough away that we can no longer feel the vibrations of its steps. Then Minky raises his head and looks at me. His tongue is hanging from the side of his snout.

"Did you see Cory?" he asks, giggling. "He told us he knew how to keep his feet dry!"

Then he reaches over and starts licking my ear. "Thank you for being so quick, Nicky. You saved me from becoming a hot dog made of mink flesh."

Well, we splash and play and generally take our time swimming back the way we came. And as we approach the shore, there on the hummock, licking his paws, is the damned cat!

"Hi guys! Pretty intense huh? Hey... you want to catch some more fish?"

Minky snorts, and then giggles. "No Cory, I want to put distance between us and that giant lizard, if you do not mind."

We wade ashore and I walk over to our discarded wraps. There is nothing there but a little bit of blackened cloth. I look over towards my traveling companions to tell them we would have to remain animals for awhile, only to see that they've both changed to human form. Oh well, my nerves have been wasted this morning and so I don't think I'll be pointing at Cory or Minky for awhile. I morph to a human as well.

Minky walks over and clasps my hand, giving me a peck on my cheek. Then he turns towards Cory and says...

"Lead the way, Cory. Let us put a little distance between ourselves and dragon land."

I expected us to walk back the direction we came, but Cory simply continues around the pond and we walk until the bogs and hummocks change into a trail once again. We start heading uphill a bit and I can see that the trail heads towards a wooded and hilly section in the distance.

"Tell us about the Elfin King, Cory. What is he like? Does he seem like a friendly sort?"

Cory turns his head towards Minky and snorts. "Yeah, right! I guess he is as friendly as an elf gets. Do not expect a warm greeting, guys. I told you these elfies like their solitude. Say, what do you want with 'old grumpy', anyway?"

Minky doesn't get the chance to answer because a great big ball of mud comes flying through the air and hits Cory smack in the kisser. He drops like a rock.

"You damned Cat! I thought I got rid of you," a voice proclaims from the waist high grass in front of us.

Pushing his way out of the grass is perhaps the smallest person I've ever seen. I thought the three foot high goblins were tiny but this guy wouldn't come up to my kneecap. And he has an expression on his face that says he would enjoy making kitty burritos.

Though diminutive, he seems to be perfectly proportionate. In fact, he is rather handsome. I'd judge him to be somewhere in his twenties with rather short, curly, brown hair. He's wearing an outfit that would look appropriate for Robin Hood, with the brown tights and leather jerkin. I guess it's the hat that makes me think of Robin Hood: it's a peaked sort of thing with a very long feather swooping towards the back.

"Uhh... sorry, your Elfy Majesty," Cory responds while leaning up on his elbows, face all begrimed with mud. "I met these guys in the forest and they asked me to take them to you."

That's when the little fella seems to notice us for the first time. He looks up towards Minky and me and says, "Humans eh? If it were not for this darned cat boy you would probably not have gotten past the dragon or the bog to find me."

Then he looks down at our supine friend and tells him, "I should make you invisible permanently, so you could not bother me any more."

Minky is quick to rise to Cory's defense, however.

"Please, your majesty, it is not Cory's fault. We struck a bargain with him to take us to you. He was just going to point the way and then leave. The blame is entirely ours."

"Humph! Well, all right. Then why not state your business so that you can depart along with the cat boy. Make it quick now, I have things to do."

Minky, thinking it might be more polite to be on an eye level with the Elfin King, transforms to his mink form. I'm quick to follow suit.

"Minks?" the man says, and a smile breaks out on his face for the first time.

"Well now, I thought it would be a whole collection of cats. And cat dander is the only damn thing I'm allergic to. But minks? I guess I will not be so quick to run you boys off."

Then he shakes a finger towards Cory and the boy is transformed into his cat form. Another shake of his finger and there is a small pile of shed dander sitting in front of Cory.

"Ahhh... thanks," Cory says, "that feels great."

"I did it for me, not for you," the King responds. "Now, the three of you can accompany me towards my home. If your business interests me, you can come inside for a bit. Otherwise, you can just continue your journey and I will go in alone."

With that said, the Elfin King turns around and begins sauntering along the trail we had been following. We take that as our cue to walk alongside of him. Minky looks at me and then nods his head towards the elf. I guess that's my cue to start explaining ourselves.

"Umm... my name is Nicholas, your majesty. And this is Minky. You've already met Cory, of course. And, oh yeah, I'm from the other world. That's where Minky and I met."

"The other world, you say? I thought your dialect sounded rather strange. You have a distinctive way of contracting your words. Are people on your world too lazy to say their words separately?"

'Sigh.' "I suppose so. Everything on that world seems to move at a fast pace. So I suppose our language isn't any different. We seem to like fast cars, fast food and fast everything."

"I hear they even like fast women!" Cory says, wiggling his eyebrows.

The elf 'humphs' again, but Cory did seem to get a smile out of him.

"Wait a minute," the King says, stopping in his tracks. He turns towards me. "How is it that you can transform into an animal when you are from the other world? That is a characteristic of people from this world only."

"The Warlocks gave him the ability, your majesty," Minky answers. "They brought Nicky to our world to help us defeat the Baron."

The king begins looking me up and down, silently, as though he is appraising me. "All right," he says, "I think I can see why they would choose you."

"You do? You do?" I practically holler in my excitement. "Do you think you could tell me? I mean, I have no idea. They seem to think I can bump this guy off but I really don't know if it's in me or not to do that."

"You are going to bump him off of what... a cliff or something? Or is this some strange idiom you brought with you from your world?"

This sets Cory to giggling and he bumps Minky with his hip. "Speaking of bumping, your elfy-ship, these guys do not seem to need any instructions. I watched them doing some bumping last night." There's that damn Cheshire cat grin again and he's really laughing now.

I look at Cory and sigh. I swear, he says he wandered away last night to give us some privacy. But I think he saw a whole lot more than he's letting on. Maybe if I got him drunk on catnip or something I could get him to come clean.

But then I remember the king's question and so I respond. "Uh, yeah, it's an idiom from my world, your majesty. To bump someone off means to kill them."

"The way you were groaning last night, I think it was Minky that was bumping you off!" The damn cat is on its back now, meowling and kicking and acting like he's trying to hack up a fur ball. He has tears in his eyes, he's laughing so hard.

"Cory, behave yourself." Minky cautions him. "His majesty is likely to turn you into something rather unamusing."

But one look at the elfin king and I can see that Cory's quips have found their mark. The king is grinning and chuckling.

"All right, cat. Maybe having you around isn't so bad after all." Then the king looks at Minky and says, "so, you had our 'hero to be' doing a bit of moaning, did you?" Then he grins and winks at me.

Minky chortles and nods his head in the affirmative. I, on the other hand, would like to murder all three of them. If it weren't for the fur, I'd be coloring up like a sunset from my embarrassment.

"Can we please get back to my question, your majesty? What did you mean when you said you could see why the warlocks would choose me?"

"All in good time my boy, all in good time. We'll go inside and I'll brew up some tea."

"Got milk?" Cory asks. "Tea sucks without milk. In fact we could skip the tea and just have milk."

"Sigh... yes, I have milk, you wretched creature. I don't know why I have taken a sudden liking to you."

The upward-leading trail that we've been following tops out at the edge of a hardwood forest. It looks like beech and maple trees. And there, at the edge of the forest, is the largest tree I think I've ever seen. And setting into the base of the tree, at root level, is a door! Painted red with green trim, the door couldn't be more than two feet high. The whole thing reminds me of the drawings I've seen of Winnie the Pooh's house.

"Come inside, the water should still be hot on the stove. Cat, you will need to jog over to that small stream and remove the jug of milk and bring it inside."

Minky and I follow him through the diminutive doorway into a rather spacious looking home in this hollow tree. Cory has bounded off in the direction of the stream.

"There, now," the elf says, "there is room for you to transform as long as you are sitting on the floor. I don't think you could hold a cup of tea in your present forms."

Sitting down on his hearth rug, Minky and I transform. We sit cross-legged, knees touching, and I'm feeling a bit self conscious because, once again, I'm sitting in the nude.

The door opens and a boy's hand reaches through the small passageway to set a jug of milk onto the floor. Looking inside, Cory can see Minky and me in our boy forms so he doesn't bother to change back into a cat again. He just wriggles through the doorway on his belly.

Minky picks up the small jug of milk and gives it a delicate sniff. "Is this bovine lactate, your majesty?"

"Well it sure isn't rodent lactate," Cory quips. "You'd have to milk a thousand mice to get this much... chuckle."

"Actually, it is a mixture of moose milk and honey," the king tells us. "I think you will like it."

Cory sidles over next to me to sit. Like Minky and me, he's sitting with his legs crossed and his knee pushed up against mine. I begin to feel somewhat panicky because something is stirring that I'd just as soon wasn't. And Cory is looking straight at that something and grinning.

"Why, Nicky," he says, "you are glad to see me, aren't you?"

His majesty 'harumphs' and then starts laughing. Even my Minky boy is chuckling as he watches my skin turn vermillion.

"It is all right, Nicky. There is nothing wrong with showing such a response on this world. It is a compliment to Cory, actually.

"Just think of it as a thermometer," Cory says, "and you are registering how hot you think I am."

This gets a round of belly laughs from the others but turns me two shades darker. I reach over to a tiny arm chair and grab its pillowed back rest. Without ceremony, I plop the pillow into my lap and stare at everyone, a silent dare to make any additional comments.

His majesty begins handing out cups of tea. While doing so he tells me...

"I have not visited your world, Nicky. But I have been told that the people there are very sexually repressed. And I think Cory is aware of this and is taking advantage of it to tease you somewhat."

"Yeah, I am sorry, Nicky," Cory responds. "I guess I am just jealous of what you and Minky seem to have together. I've had lots of friends who are boys, but I wish I had a real boyfriend."

"Sigh... that's okay, Cory. His majesty is right. We do have a lot of hang-ups about sex on my world. Gay sex is considered very sinful by many of my people and they can make a gay person's life miserable. My stepfather threw me out of his house after catching me kissing another boy."

"No way!" Cory's voice is rising. "What a shit-head!"

Now I find that I'm the one laughing. When I quieten down a bit I tell them...

"That's almost exactly what Minky said when I told him about it. He said he'd like to feed the guy to a bog lizard," I chortle.

"What an awful thing to do to a bog lizard," his majesty quips, "it would have a sour stomach for a week. So, tell me, Nicky, why have you agreed to 'bump off' the Baron? You can go back to your world and keep yourself out of harm's way. What is it that obligates you to make this commitment?"

Minky's eyes shine with love for me as he reaches for my hand. "He's doing it for me, your majesty. Nicky knows the Baron will not rest until he has captured me."

"Hah," the elfin king responds, "that is exactly as I assumed. And that, young man, is why I said I could see why the warlocks chose you. They know the strength of love and the superhuman abilities love can give a person. It is possible to rise to great heights to protect the people who are precious to you. And the bond between you two is so strong I noticed it right away."

I find myself sighing even as the man is talking. "Yes, your majesty. We've been all over that concept. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to protect my Minky. Only thing is... well, I'm not sure I have the capacity to take someone's life. What if I hesitate at a critical moment? What if I freeze and am unable to follow through with it? I don't know... I'm just so confused."

The king's response is a gentle smile. "I happen to know a bit about this Baron, lads. And I think it would be possible to defeat him, render him harmless, without actually killing him."

Oh my gosh, what is he saying? Is there possibly a way out for me here? My heart seems to expand and fill my throat as he's talking.

"The Baron isn't the brightest candle in the chandelier, you know. He's strong, ferocious, cruel and powerful... but he is also dumber than a goblin. Your weapon is your wits, boys, and it is time you started laying your battle plans."

The small king sets down his teacup and begins strolling about the room. He's stroking his chin and contemplating. He turns towards us and asks, "what is the Baron's strongest weapon?"

"You mean besides being a grizzly bear and being able to rip you apart with claws and teeth?" I ask him.

"It is his Midas stare," Minky volunteers.

"Exactly, Minky, a power he developed that enables him to catch the swiftest creatures in the forest. And I know a secret about his ability that I am going to share with you. There are only a very few people immune to this power and the Baron is NOT one of them. If you can trick him into releasing this power through a mirror, at his own reflection, he would immobilize himself."

The king is grinning at us like he's just shared the secret of transmuting lead into gold. And if you could see the ecstatic look on my face, you'd have thought he'd just transformed the whole room into that beautiful yellow metal.

"So you see," he continues, "your job will be to make the Baron turn himself into a wooden statue! Simple, huh?"

Oh man... I don't know about simple, but it's the closest thing to a plan we've had to date. I spring up to my feet as I feel my spirits soaring like a balloon. "Ouch," that damned short ceiling! But you'd have to beat me in the face with the stinky end of a skunk to get this smile off my face.

I turn towards Minky to see how he has absorbed this information. But it seems that my boy toy is one step ahead of me as I suddenly find a set of arms and legs wrapped around my torso, nearly pulling me off balance. I'd yell 'yippee', only there is another mouth wrapped around my own so I couldn't utter a sound if I wanted to. Hot damn, I think we're gonna have to find ourselves another hidey spot and celebrate.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[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