The Middle Men Ch.3


—–

The first move of the boys’ expedition was parking the wagon-train and then splitting up; divide and conquer style. If they found mamono, then get some samples and get out before ‘lunch time’. They would regroup back at the wagon-train in a few hours.

Three hours later…

Luke and Mac let out a simultaneous shriek upon sneaking up on one other at the wagon-train.

“Oh, it’s you, Mac” breathed Luke.

“Yeah, it’s me. What’re you creeping up me like that for? You trying to scare me to death?” Mac stammered, still with the hair standing up on his neck.

“Sorry”

“Anyway, did you find anything?” Mac switched back to business.

“Sure, I did. Look at these” Luke reached into his pouch. He pulled out a pair of mushrooms and some leaves. “I plucked these from a Matango and a Mandragora. They were too busy chatting away to notice me”

“Not bad, not bad. Check this out-” Mac walked around to the other side of the carriage. Out he hauled a massive shining warhammer. Its weight was emphasized by Mac’s groaning and how it dredged into the dirt as he dragged it. “Found an Orc stuffing her face, so I snatched it from her. Heh-heh”

“Wow!” Luke exclaimed. “You couldn’t have got some of her fur or horns, could you?”

“Not alive”

“Hey fellas!” came Chevy’s voice.

“There’s the ‘flat-foot’, now” Mac dropped the warhammer.

Chevy was giddy with excitement, even tripping over a root as he approached. “Look at what I got!”

He had a pair of boots tucked under his arm. He also had something hanging out of his pocket, which seemed to be a garment.

Mac and Luke glanced at each other. “What are those?” Luke asked.

“Well, I found a pretty girl with a black tail, black wings, and some horns taking a bath in the lake” he blushed. “So, I nabbed her clothes”

“You ignoramus. You stole the attire from a Succubus. What are we supposed to do with those?” Mac scolded him.

Chevy thought for a second. “Let’s open a women’s section in the store! These monsters have plenty of odd-ball getups that the women would pop their eyes at” he smiled.

Luke rolled his eyes. “So would the Order. And not in a good way”

Mac tossed the clothes off to the side. “Listen, perv. We’re here to get stuff that’ll have magic users and collectors dumping their pockets at our feet, not new designs for Suzie’s Tailor shop”

“Some guys may want to have that kind of stuff, too” posed Chevy. From their time working in more male-centric taverns, he remembered that there was certainly an audience for those kinds of items.

“Nevermind that. Now go out there and don’t come back until you’ve found something with more bite to it than simple confetti like that. Me and Luke will pack up and be ready to head out when you get back”

With that, Chevy strolled off, complaining to himself.

Meanwhile, Mac and Luke gathered up their findings and took to compartmentalizing them in the makeshift cabin. It took both men to haul the giant warhammer up into the cabin, only tumbling a time or two. Still, while they packed up, Mac failed to realize that he’d inadvertently tossed the clothes into the back of the cabin when he took them from Chevy.

Two hours later, they were still waiting for Chevy to return.

“Where is that guy?” Luke grumbled, bored out of his mind.

“I don’t know. The ‘clam-face’ probably went to return the clothes to that Succubus first” Mac grumbled back; equally bored.

‘Or to get another look at her…’ Luke thought to himself.

Inevitably, as the two men sat in silence, they started to doze off while sitting in the front carriage. It was sheer negligence to not stay alert with so many mamono but they couldn’t help it. Leaning against one another, their slumber was broken by a yell.

“Hey Mac! Hey Luke!” came Chevy’s voice.

The two slumbering men awoke with a sudden jolt and tumbled over. Scrambling up to their feet, their eyes were wide at full attention.

“What’s the matter!?” they said in unison.

Chevy was red in the face and heaving up a storm. “You said to find something with ‘more bite’, right?”

“Yeah…”

“Well, here it comes now!” he pointed toward the tree line and then jumped on the side of the wagon-train.

Out of the bushes leaped a pack of Werewolves, scantily clad in oil rags and tethered fabrics. In total, there were six females, all wild-eyed as they poised their curvy forms on all fours.

“Look at that, girls-” the Alpha spoke. “-The prey has friends. Time to pair off”. All six Werewolves grinned with a hungry gleam as three pairs singled out an individual man of the group.

Mac and Luke shrieked like children and jumped back into the driver’s seat. As fast as they could, they sped away with the Werewolves trying to catch them.

—–

Later…

Mac held the reins tight while Chevy and Luke were out scavenging. He opted to stay at the wagon-train and to be ready to run from any trouble that the other two might end up dragging back with them.

“Have a look at this!” Chevy came running up, carrying what looked like a long, thin piece of fabric.

“What’d you find this time?” Mac perked up.

“I think it’s a sheet or something”

“Why do you say that?”

“There was some guy’s shirt, pants, boots, and underwear nearby. Maybe he slept there” Chevy shrugged.

“‘Maybe he slept there’… Give me that” Mac sneered in a mocking voice and grabbed it to look over. It was much longer than any bed sheet, and much too narrow. Plus, it was joined in a cylindrical fashion all the way down, much like a long bag. “Just as I thought. This ain’t a bed sheet. It’s the shedded skin from a Lamia”

Chevy scratched his head. “I didn’t know Lamia shed clothes”

“Well they don’t, you idiot. Those probably belonged to some unlucky fella who she gobbled up”

“Really?”

“Of course. What, do you think she pulled off his clothes so they could do some sappy kissy stuff or something? Don’t tell me that you still believe that malarkey”

Chevy laughed. “Oh, heheh, I’m a big dope”

“Certainly, you are” Mac agreed.

Since childhood, Mac, Luke, and Chevy had heard the rumors of men who ended up marrying the pretty mamono who caught them. But that was just a lot of nonsense. Who would marry a mamono? Everyone knew that mamono were evil, plotting monsters whose good looks were just a ploy to lure men in. And every time that a man suddenly disappeared, their clothes were usually left behind; sometimes even ripped apart. Each time, the Order concluded that the victims had been eaten by the mamono. Made sense. So why would now be any different?

“Still, that’s not a bad find, kid. Fetch a good price on the market” Mac commented with a pat on Chevy’s head.

“Maybe Luke can actually turn it into a bed sheet”

“Oh stop. Speaking of which, where’s ‘four eyes’ at?”

“I don’t know” Chevy shrugged as he rolled up the Lamia skin and tucked it into the bag around his back.

Mac groaned to himself. If one of them wasn’t missing, then the other one was.

“Mac!” both men heard a faint crying in the distance.

They perked up.

“Did you hear that?”

“Sounds like trouble” Mac grumbled, recognizing the voice.

“Sounds like Luke, to me” Chevy turned to him, oblivious as usual.

“That’s what I meant, ‘grape-head’. Let’s go” Mac grabbed a club.

The two scampered through the thick brush, following the shouts whenever they came. About two-hundred feet away, they found Luke entwined in a massive web, stretching between two trees. His limbs were spread in the most embarrassing of ways.

“Uh, hey guys” Luke greeted them, trying to maintain his composure.

“Get a load of this…” Mac frowned as his hands came to rest on his hips. Much like a parent would do. “How’d you get into this mess?”

“Well, I thought I’d collect a little Arachne web. And… well, I guess I got carried away and before I knew it…” he smiled with a sheepish grin. If he could shrug, he would have.

Luke had tried to rip himself out of his bindings, but all he achieved was growing more tangled, as well as exhausting himself. The Arachne web was much stronger than he could have predicted; strong enough to snare a buffalo off the ground like it was a fly. The only bit of luck he had was that the Arachne was away from her web at the time or else things would have gotten… more tangled.

“Always one thing or another with you two” huffed Mac and slammed the club onto the ground. After he’d scolded Chevy about bringing back clothing, now here was Luke getting essentially a bunch of silk. It aggravated him to no end.

“Come on, help me out of this. I still got the samples, didn’t I?” pleaded Luke. Through it all, he maintained a good grasp on the spool that he’d been using to collect the webbing. And in the back of his mind, he was already cooking up various uses for the tactile webbing that imprisoned him.

At least, Luke was trapped at ground level, which made it easy to grab ahold of his feet.

“Grab a foot” Mac ordered Chevy.

“Which foot do you want?” Chevy asked.

“Don’t you start now. Just grab one and get to heaving”

Both men took a strong grasp of Luke’s calves and pulled as hard as they could. But try as they might over several minutes, it was to no good. They only succeeded in yanking Luke’s boots off and falling; almost falling into the web themselves.

“Get off of me!” Mac scrambled out from underneath the heavier Chevy. “We’re not gonna muscle him out of there”

“What do we do now?” pondered Chevy.

“You’ve just got to get me out of here! Before a creepy crawly turns me into a late-night snack” Luke struggled, beginning to worry.

“I wish your mouth was wrapped up like the rest of you. You, go get the torches” he told Chevy, who gave a silly salute and ran off.

“Hurry ba- Uh, wait a second…” Luke tried to raise a finger in protest. The thought of being barbequed had his mind scrambling for alternatives.

“Maybe you’d like to wait here until winter dries this stuff up?” Mac sneered at Luke’s protests. “That is if you’re not a dried-up tumble weed by then”

Luke only bleated to himself, coming up blank on a better alternative. Though he pondered if it would be better to get eaten by the Arachne than trust them with torches.

But Mac was confident. If this didn’t work, then they’d just cut down the trees and take Luke along with the rest of it. Simple.

Once Chevy returned, they got to work on burning the web off around him.

“Hey, watch it! You wanna fricassee me?” Luke stammered after a few minutes when a flame from Chevy’s torch got too close to his arm.

“Sorry” he apologized as his mind wandered off. “I was thinking about dinner”

“Quiet. Alright, just a few more strands and it’ll all be over” Mac assured Luke. For as strong as the web was, the fire worked quite well against it. Mac and Chevy were burning a hole in the web practically in the shape of Luke’s body. Now, he was just about free.

However, removing the leftover web from Luke’s clothing and hair was going to be a whole other fiasco…

To Mac’s surprise, Luke was not smiling. His eyes were filled with alarm as he started struggling again.

“Hey! Step on it! Look who’s coming-!” Chevy tugged at Mac’s arm.

It was the Arachne, returning to her home. Her mundane attitude erupted into depraved excitement the instant she spotted her visitors.

“Somebody’s in my web, I see…” she teased and blinked her eight red eyes several times. In addition, her eight legs bent inwards and lowered her inhuman body into a predatory position.

“Nyaah!-”

The men shrieked and resumed torching the rest of the webbing. They were too terrified to notice the busty Arachne pressing her enticing breasts outward in her undercut, halter-like top.

By sheer luck, they had so little left to burn that Luke was freed right as the Arachne skuttled toward them.

“Let’s beat it, fast!” Mac was off and running, dragging Luke along before he properly found his footing. It wasn’t so easy to run while wrapped in web from head to hips. Though much of the burden was now put on Mac as Luke had become stuck to Mac like a three-legged race.

Meanwhile, Chevy was yelping like a scared kid behind them.

Scrambling onto the wagon-train, the Mac looked feverously for the reins to escape. They were in Mac’s hands when Luke spoke up.

“Now let’s go- ahh” he gasped as he was jerked out of the passenger seat.

It was the Arachne. She had grabbed a dangling strand of webbing that had been trailing behind Luke’s bindings.

“You’re not going anywhere until I’ve been satisfied, little man” she hissed with a menacing gleam as she pulled him off the wagon-train. In her lust-crazed mind swam many devious intentions to pleasure them both.

But Luke had not hit the ground. In fact, he was suspended in the air while being pulled from both directions.

So came the tug o’ war between both sides. The Arachne vs. Mac and Chevy.

“Don’t worry, kid! I got you!” Mac held on to dear Luke’s shoulders. The sticky nature of the web under his hands did help keep a firm grip. Maybe too firm as being stuck to Luke had made him as much of the Arachne’s prey as his companion.

“She’s gonna drink my blood!” Luke yelled, as he was quickly developing arachnophobia at the voluptuous creepy crawly looming nearby. His glasses began fogging up from all the sweat pouring down his face.

The struggle went back and forth for almost a minute. The only gaining was on the Arachne’s end as she had inched closer and closer during her wrangling.

Then Mac thought of a solution. “Get the torches!” he cried to Chevy who had been pulling Mac by his feet.

“We forgot the torches” Chevy reminded him of their blunder when all Hell broke loose.

“Figures!” he groaned. “Go into my pocket and get me a match”

“A match? Fine time for a smoke” taunted Chevy through tightened lips.

“I’ll smoke your goose if you don’t do what I told you!” he threatened.

Chevy retrieved the match pack and handed it to Mac.

“My hands are stuck. Burn the web!” Striking the match, Chevy held the match to Mac’s web covered hand, to which he quickly screamed in pain. It worked though. His hand was free.

“Ow ow ow! Not me, you numb-skull”

“You don’t like that? How about we blast?” Chevy thought back to the fireworks that they brought along.

“Grrngh, burn that thread down there!” he pointed toward Luke’s feet where the line of web stretched toward the Arachne who was working her way even closer to their position.

“Oh, leave it to me. Steady now” Chevy began climbing over Mac, kicking him in the head, and onto Luke. After he reached Luke’s feet, he held the match under the last of the thread.

Then the web snapped under the flame.

The Arachne flew back onto her spider abdomen, going legs up and knocking herself for a loop on a rock. The boys, meanwhile, flew back into the seat with Chevy landing on top of Luke and Mac. With his free hand, Mac snatched the reins and sent the horses into high speed.

They were gone before the Arachne pulled herself upright.

But there was still one more problem… The webbing still encasing Luke had stuck all three men together into a mishmash of limbs and groans.

“Thanks, guys. I’d hate to think where that spider was going to sink her fangs into first” Luke panted underneath Chevy. He was too relieved to be uncomfortable yet.

“Errff” Mac grumbled indistinctly, also underneath Chevy.

“I guess we really stuck with you, didn’t we?” Chevy joshed, neglecting to realize how much of a pain it was going to be to separate from each other now. When they all tried to get up, and failed, his smile vanished.

“Fine mess we’re in. Well, at least we got away with good some webbing. And also, that Lamia skin” breathed Mac poking his head out. He wasn’t even able to tell where their wagon-train was riding to.

“Oh yeah. I threw that skin away so I could run faster” Chevy said matter-of-factly.

“That’s alr-… You what!? Why you-!” Mac raged and bit Chevy’s ankle in vengeance.

“Ouch! What’d I do!?”

—–

Later…

Both Chevy and Luke arrived back at the wagon-train at the same time. Empty-handed.

They sat playing tic-tac-toe while waiting for Mac to return.

“I win again” Luke announced.

“Darn” griped Chevy.

It wasn’t too much of a challenge to defeat someone like Chevy, even in kid games. He had more trouble handing the pen to Chevy through his still sticky fingers. But Chevy enjoyed playing against Luke or Mac regardless. Even though the best he’d ever achieved was a tie.

Still, for Luke it had become stale. So, he went to retrieve the checkers board from the makeshift cabin. With sticky fingers, this was going to be even more annoying.

Before Luke took another step, a crash halted him in his tracks. A couple yards away was a large mud puddle that had erupted into a dark brown geyser and splashed everywhere. It was too quick for either man to make out what had happened.

“Did you see that!? Somebody set off a blockbuster!” Chevy burst.

But when the mud shower had ended, Luke spotted something making great bounds away from their position. The mud on her legs marked her as the culprit.

“‘Blockbuster’ nothing. That was a Mucus Toad. Look” he pointed.

The Mucus Toad was almost half a mile away by the time they realized what happened. She had effectively been spooked by something…

“Gee, I thought we were being ambushed by a monster brigade”

“Boy, she’s long gone. Wish I’d known she was coming. We could have set a trap for her” Luke regretted. The coating on a Mucus Toad was said to make a powerful lubricant, at least from what Luke had heard. He could use some.

“If only Mac were here. He’d know how to chase her down” Chevy snapped his fingers is disappointment.

Just then, the mud puddle began to stir nearby. But it wasn’t bubbles rising up. Something was pushing up from underneath the gooey spill.

“Women and children first…” a dazed voice garbled through the liquid Earth.

“Look! A mud monster. Let’s get it” motioned Chevy to which both men rushed over. Once on its feet, it appeared to be a man; covered from head to toe. “Eh, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say this mud monster looks like Mac”

He grabbed Chevy’s ear. “As usual, you never know any better!” Mac growled and jerked Chevy’s head toward his face. Even with mud in his eyes, he’d had enough experience to know where Chevy’s ear was without the benefit of sight.

“Ouch! It’s Mac, alright. Ow…” Chevy winced.

Luke pulled out a handkerchief and rubbed the mud out of Mac’s eyes. “What happened?”

“What’s the matter with you guys? Haven’t you ever gone frog catching before? Where is she now?”

Luke pointed.

“Can you beat that? The biggest catch of my life and it got away” Mac complained then wrenched his net out of the deep mud.

“If it makes you feel any better, we didn’t get anything either” Chevy interjected.

“Oh yeah, here’s my happy face” he frowned. “Now get me a bucket and rags”

Mac walked off, each footstep squishing in his soiled shoes.

“You get the bucket and rags. I’ll get some grub ready” Luke told Chevy.

“I hope he washes his hands before dinner” Chevy muttered.

—–

Later…

“Pick it up” Mac pointed at the ground.

“Come on, I told you what happened last time. That thing’s dangerous. Why me?” Chevy whined.

“Because you found it” Mac fired back.

“And I want to see for myself what it does” Luke added.

The men were gathered in a forest clearing. At their feet was a bird’s feather. Its color transitioned from yellow to green to blue along its length. Most striking was how it radiated as bright as a torch with a greenish glow.

“Now go on and pick it up, like I told you” Mac gave Chevy a shove.

“Wait a minute. If I have to, then let me get ready”. Chevy ran back to the makeshift cabin and returned with some pillows. After he piled them in a line behind him, he stood in front and bent over. “But this is the last time…”

The moment his finger neared the feather, an electric bolt arced to his fingertip. The powerful zap was enough to propel Chevy off his feet and backwards. The pillows would have cushioned his fall. That is if he hadn’t flown past them and hit the ground with a thud.

“Well, I guess you’re right kid. That thing is dangerous” Mac leaned over to Chevy who was still on his back.

“Ow. See what I mean now?”

Chevy who shook his finger, trying to relieve the pain. If he had more hair, it would have been sticking up like a peacock. No serious damage, just a good jolt to wise him up. Every little bit helped.

Luke was lit up almost as much as the feather itself. “That packs more juice than anything I’ve ever seen. And it fits in a jar, too” Luke laid down but kept his face at a safe distance as he fawned over it. He wished Chevy would touch it a few more times so he could document it more.

“Maybe I should have asked that lady how she could hold so many of them at once” Chevy said to himself.

“What lady?”

“The lady that the feather fell off of”

“What did she look like?” Luke turned all his focus to Chevy.

After Chevy described the culprit, Luke ran off to retrieve the mamono encounters book. After scrolling for a bit, he came across the being in question.

“Is this her?”

“Yeah, that’s the lady. Some fancy getup” Chevy nodded.

Mac scowled. “That’s not a lady. That’s a Thunderbird, ‘knuckle-head’. Didn’t you notice the wings?”

“Wings?”

“Certainly”

“I thought it was a costume from a traveling theater show” Chevy admitted as he squinted at the picture.

“‘Theater show…'” Mac mocked the idea and shook his head.

Luke was busy in thought as Mac berated Chevy. They didn’t even notice when he left to rummage through the makeshift cabin. Before long, he came back carrying a wooden cup and stick.

Now with the proper tools, he scooped the feather into the cup without so much as a spark going off.

“I got it!” Luke announced.

“Well, not bad” Mac took the cup and looked it over. All they needed was a wooden cap to make it safe for transportation. Then he handed it back to Luke. “By the way, did you notice the other feathers?”

Going up the rocky cliff nearby was a glowing trail of other feathers scattered about.

“You want them, so have fun…” Mac washed his hands of the responsibility and trotted back to the wagon-train.

Luke sighed. The lengths he went to for experimentation.

—–

Later…

The three men were positioned in a tree. Each balancing on the same branch and peeking through the leaves.

Nearby was a pond filled fresh water good enough to drink. The hot sun had famished the three quite a bit. They had gone to refill their canteens but had almost missed the three Slimes playing in the water. Chevy was about to wave at them before Mac and Luke yanked him out of sight where they retreated into the tree. They were fortunate that the absent-minded nature of Slimes had kept their attention off the men.

“I’ll take the blue one” Mac stated.

“I’ll take the red one” Luke added.

“I’ll take the clear one” the apprehensive Chevy chimed in.

“What?” Luke asked. As far as they knew, there was no such thing as a clear Slime, let alone one at the pond.

“If you fellas are thirsty enough to take a swig of those gals, then be my guest. I’ll drink the water” he held up his canteen.

“Not to drink, you mook. To add to our inventory” Mac elbowed him.

“Oh… well in that case, I’ll take the purple” Chevy smirked.

“Alright then. Let’s go”

“Just a second. You can’t just go up there and scoop a slice of them off. Those Slimes will tie us up before we can even cork the bottles”, Luke knowingly advised his impetuous cohorts. He knew firsthand how troubling it was to be bound by a mamono. He was still finding webbing stuck on his coat.

“Heh-heh, good point. Let’s think…” said Mac.

“I can’t think good when I’m thirsty” Chevy complained, reverting to his stomach.

“You can’t think good when you’re not thirsty” Mac slammed him. The flustered Chevy pouted, but Mac paid him no mind and turned to Luke. “What tools have you got?”

Luke began digging through his pouch. Given that they had only gone to fill the canteens, he hadn’t considered bringing too many ‘tricks’ with him.

However, one thing caught Mac’s eye.

“What’re those?”

Luke pulled out a beaker with freezing fog seeping from its frosty edges. “These? They’re shards from a Glacies. I forgot that I had them in here. Good thing they don’t defrost as fast as regular ice” he sighed in relief. Then he perked up and peered at Mac who was peering back.

“Are you thinking-?” Mac gleamed.

“Yeah…” Luke affirmed.

“You want to let me in this plan?” Chevy tried to join them in their scheme.

“Not really, but I’m thinking about bringing an early winter to those Slimes. You got your slingshot on you?” Mac asked Chevy.

“Of course”

“Well, we won’t need it. I’ll do it myself” Mac shot him down immediately and put on a glove. Chevy grew flustered again.

As he uncorked the jar and rolled a single shard into his gloved hand. But as he reached his arm back into a throwing position, Luke stopped him.

“Hold up. Should we just throw those away? I mean, that merchant must have got those shards from a place really far from here”

As far as they were concerned, the further away the item came from, the more it must be worth.

“It’s an investment. And we’ll only need to use one of them. Three for one” Mac countered with the prospect of getting materials from three different kinds of Slimes.

Luke smiled at the persuasion. “Fire away, Mac” he let go of his arm.

“You mean ‘ice away'” Chevy joked, to which Mac rolled his eyes and threw a shard into the pond with a ‘plop’.

Within only a few seconds, the chilly shard almost made Mac’s hand go numb, even while wearing the glove. Meanwhile, it didn’t take much longer before the pond was frozen into an ice rink, solidifying the Slimes with it. The vapid Slimes didn’t even notice what was happening.

At that point, the three men went to gather specimens from the Slimes, as planned. After they broke the hands off the frozen Slimes, they skedaddled. Of course, they could have taken more, but all three found themselves too bashful to move on to… the more intimate areas of the seemingly naked Slimes.

“Don’t you think they’ll miss having hands?” Chevy loaded the purple Slime’s hands into another jar.

“Mmmm, unlikely. You see, a Slime can just regenerate itself” Luke assured him while inspecting the Slime specimens inside the jars. “They turn into puddles all the time and come back good as new. All they have to do is thaw out first”

“Sure, those Slimes are too dumb to notice they were ever missing” smirked Mac as he walked into the makeshift cabin. The other two followed him. None of them noticing how the door was already opened…

“Put these Slimes in the cabinet where they belong” Mac handed the jars over to Chevy. It was easy, even for him, to figure out since all the jarred items went into a secure cabinet.

“Uhh, hey Mac…” came Chevy’s confused voice.

“What?” he answered without turning around.

“Where does the Slime go?”

Mac huffed. He was growing annoyed that Chevy even failed at this task, too. “In the cabinet, ‘onion-top'”

“Well… shouldn’t it go with the rest of our Slimes?”

Mac stopped and thought for a second. He hadn’t brought back any Slimes in his previous excursions. He turned to Luke who returned a likewise sentiment.

“We don’t have any” Mac stated.

“Then I think you’d better have a look at this-” Chevy tapped Mac’s shoulder. Both Mac and Luke turned their attention to Chevy.

Rising out of a large, bottle-necked jug was a Bubble Slime. Her tentacle-like form was snaking its way out of the narrow top, while her affable eyes sat atop the tip of her thin mass, peering at them. If she had enough mass available to smile, she would have.

Unbeknownst to them, the Bubble Slime had wandered into the makeshift cabin to feed on the molasses inside the jug. But it wasn’t the molasses that piqued her interest now.

The seconds of wide-eyed staring felt like minutes for the men. Until Mac grabbed a frying pan and lunged forward. Planting it on the tip of the Bubble Slime, he pushed her back down into the jug, with some residual bits of her left trailing down the sides.

While he held the pan on top of the jug, the Bubble Slime began pushing up. Mac applied more pressure to counter the Bubble Slime, who was stronger than she looked. Chevy and Luke backed up Mac’s efforts.

“Urrr! Get a cork!” Mac groaned.

“We, errrk, lost the cork to this, remember?” Luke struggled.

“Then get something else, ‘brainiac’!” Mac growled.

As Luke searched, Mac grabbed Chevy who was pushing from behind. “Sit on this!” he planted the heavy-set Chevy on top of the pan. “Okay. Now you just need to sit there all the way home”

“Sure, no prob- Wait a minute!” Chevy protested, knowing it was a couple days back to Truseve. “If you think that I’m going to-”

Just then, the Bubble Slime pushed up harder than before, almost knocking Chevy off the jug. Mac helped stabilize him.

“Just ride it out, kid. Hey, what’s keeping you!?” Mac called to Luke for help.

Luke came running over carrying several feet of thick chain and a big pad lock.

“Ready…” Luke prepared.

“Alright, go-!” Mac threw Chevy to the side.

Immediately, Luke began lashing the chains all around the jug, securing the frying pan in place on the top. By the time he was done, almost half of the jug was wrapped in chain with the pad lock holding it in place.

The jug jiggled and shook from the Bubble Slime but refused to open.

“Whew…” Mac rubbed his forehead. “Clean that up” Mac ordered Luke to scoop up the leftover Slime on the outside of the jug.

“Hey fellas…” Chevy said while getting up. “I found the missing cork to that jug. It was under the counter. Do we still need it?”

Mac threw up his hands and huffed in disgust. Of course, it showed up now.

“At least we got a fourth Slime to add to our collection. And a whole Slime, at that” Luke perked up and rubbed his hands together.

“You said it. That’s going to fetch us at least six months’ rent” Mac nodded.

Not that any of the men knew who exactly to sell a whole Slime to, but there were stories of exotic mamono collectors always looking to acquire more. Though, such practices were deemed illegal by the Order, who insisted that a monster be destroyed at all costs. So, they would need to find a buyer outside the control of the Order if they wanted to cash in. While they were excited by the coming payout, the three always wondered why someone would collect mamono. They figured it was just to look at them like animals at a farm, but some collectors were said to let the mamono run free around their home, without the use of cages. And the collectors liked it, too. As the story goes, their smiles grew larger with each monster they collected. But that had to be a lie. No man would be crazy enough to let a dangerous mamono get close to them. They would do all kinds of things to him. Right?

“Uhh, fellas…” Chevy spoke up, disturbing Mac and Luke’s daydreaming.

“What?”

“We forgot to get more water before freezing the pond…”

All three men let out a collective groan. To top it off, they all needed a drink now more than ever.

—–

“I told ya she was too dangerous for us!” Luke bellowed up front while trying to peer at the end of their high-speed wagon-train. Mac was thrusting hard at the reins with the whip swinging mad in his hand. Luke was riding shotgun, clueless as to what to do. But even more clueless was Chevy who was perched on top of the covered pilot carriage.

On their heels was an Ocelomeh. Her inhuman speed gave her an edge in the chase.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” Mac yelled back, filled with adrenaline.

“You can say the same thing about injuries. And that’s what we’re in for if she catches us” Luke fired back.

Mac scowled at Luke but was too focused on the task at hand to continue arguing. And he definitely did not want to admit regretting their choice of mamono to steal from.

“What’s going on up there!?” Mac called to Chevy, changing the subject.

“She’s gaining on us. Whip the horses more!” Chevy yelled down, hanging on to the carriage cover for dear life.

“They’ve already been whipped til’ they’re red in the ass”

“Do something, do something! We need more speed!” Chevy fussed above them.

“You want to saddle up with the rest of them and pull this thing!?” Mac snapped at Chevy’s back seat driving.

“I can’t. Horseshoes don’t come in my size”

Mac grumbled. The usual sarcasm flew well over Chevy’s hard head, so why bother?

“How close is she!?” called Luke.

Chevy took another look. “Well, it’s a good thing we didn’t make this train five sections long”

“I’ve got an idea” Mac erupted and then banked hard to the right.

After zipping around a series of curves in the road, Mac directed the wagon-train off onto a trail nearby. He hoped to lose her, like he somehow pulled off with the Werewolves, but he had to maintain control of the wagon-train through the narrow trail of trees and foliage. Miraculously, he managed to not topple the whole thing over, though there were some close calls. Some that almost lost Chevy from the top, instead.

“I think we lost her!” Chevy called out, noticing the empty trail behind them. No hungry mamono in sight, so he turned toward the two men up front. “Gee, that was sure hot driving there, Mac. Real ball of-”

Chevy was cut off when he was yanked from behind. It was the Ocelomeh. She had leaped onto the side of the wagon-train and stayed out of view until her feline instincts told her of the precise moment to strike. Like when Chevy turned his back.

Now that he was on the ground, she sat herself on his stomach to pin him down. As heavy as Chevy was, she could have jumped off and dragged him into the brush without much trouble. And she would have, had she not been in heat. Thus, she did not want to put the other two men to waste.

She gleamed at him through her sharp teeth. “You’re mine now, husb-”

“Yaaah! Hey Mac! Hey Luke! She’s gonna eat me!” Chevy’s terror cut off her words. He tried rolling onto his stomach and drag himself away, but she hooked her claws into his shirt and readjusted him.

“Now you’ve made me bring out the claws” she admonished him with her claws dancing on his chin. She wasn’t perturbed, but rather aroused by the way Chevy appealed to her inner predator.

“Yeah, that’s great. Claws, claws! She’s got claws!” Chevy wailed to the others, too horrified to notice the how amorous the Ocelomeh’s beautiful face was.

“What’re you standing around for? Get up there and help him!” Mac berated Luke up front.

“Me? What am I supposed to do?”

“Don’t worry, there’s two of you and one of her”

“I still don’t care for those odds” Luke grimaced at the thought of tangling with the mamono.

Chevy’s wails interrupted them. “Hey, those are my pants!” he hysterically protested to the Ocelomeh.

Mac grabbed Luke. “You’ve got some brains, now use them!” he pushed Luke toward the action.

Less than enthused, Luke climbed up toward Chevy and the Ocelomeh. Not having a clue as to what to do.

“Come on, take it like a man” bagged the Ocelomeh with a claw pointing at Chevy.

“Okay then” the gutless Chevy agreed and hid his face in his hands, expecting the worst.

“Now listen you… cat. Let him go” Luke objected, keeping his distance. He hoped that it sounded more fearsome than it actually was. And his flimsy finger pointing at her didn’t fare much better.

“Yeah, you stick it to her, Luke” Chevy cheered.

Mac grunted up front.

“Wait your turn. I’m coming after you next” she shot him a lusty leer and a twerk of her eyebrows. His mousy demeanor was appealing to her feline nature. Already, she was imagining the fun she would have with him after finishing with Chevy.

Luke’s heart sank, along with his expression cracking. A standoff was not his strong suit.

The Ocelomeh returned to clipping Chevy’s pants, accompanied by Chevy’s yelps.

Luke moved closer to repeat the protest, but he found himself stuck. The Arachne web, still clinging to his tunic, had snagged the edge of the wagon’s roof. It wasn’t until he un-hooked it that a lightbulb went off in his head. Chevy said, ‘stick it to her’.

He took off his tunic, raced over to the Ocelomeh, and blanketed her body with its sticky outside. She was dumbstruck. But before saying anything, Luke took a line of web hanging off the tunic and threw it up into the quick passing branches overhead.

It hooked onto a batch of branches and the Ocelomeh was whipped off Chevy and off the wagon-train. The last image they saw of her was swinging back and forth while trying to free herself from her cumbersome bindings. Fortunately, they would be long gone by the time she did.

Luke caught his breath. “Like a cat getting tangled in a ball of yarn…” he joked before Chevy’s big arms snatched him in a crushing hug.

“Thanks Luke! I was almost cat food!” he lifted the smaller Luke and swung him around, squeezing hard.

Luke tapped his arm. “Air!” he gasped out.

“Whoops… heheh” Chevy scratched his head. Only then he noticed that his pants had fallen, revealing his trousers. The belt and the button at the pelvis had been severed by the Ocelomeh. “Aah! My pants! So that’s where that chill’s coming from” he scrambled to pick them up.

“And there goes my favorite tunic” Luke panted.

“Hey, how’s it going up there?” called Mac.

“We’re clear. Now can we go home? I don’t want to flirt with death anymore”

“Sure thing. Let’s go make some cash” Mac mutually agreed as they rode off.

During the ride, Chevy began thinking back on all the mamono that they’d seen that day. “You know, I never thought danger could look so pretty”

“You’re right about that” Luke nodded, despite his fear of mamono.

Mac thought to himself for a moment but snapped out of it. “Sure. Say that when they’re eyeing you on the dinner table”

“Well, that Succubus I saw had a good singing voice, too. She seemed nice”

“Those dames got all kinds of ‘nice’ tricks to lure dumb guys in” Mac retorted.

“Yeah… like luscious lips. Or perfect hair…” Luke began to daydream.

“How about those round butts? And those long legs… sometimes” Chevy followed suit.

“…Or… those awesome chests” Mac found himself just as lost in imagination as the other two.

For close to a minute, they blanked out and thought back to the girls they’d encountered. It was only when their wheel hit a large stone off the path that bounced the wagon-train and snapped Mac out of it.

“Hey, what’re we talking about? Remember the Anti-Women Union! Women and business don’t mix” Mac declared.

Luke responded with a ‘right’ but had to whack Chevy in the arm to snap him out of it.

“Oh- right!” he agreed.

Back in the moment, and with a wagon filled with mamono materials, their next stop was back at Truseve.

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2 thoughts on “The Middle Men Ch.3

  1. Ooo,its so interesting reading this story.The anticipation of if they’ll get caught or escape is so good.Its also funny,which is a plus.Theyseem to think the monsters want to kill em,from what i’ve seen.I wonder what their reaction would be if they found out what the mamono actually want the easy way…OR THE HARD WAY:)(haha get it cuz something gonna be hard haha jonathan you are banging my daughter)

    1. Yeah, being raised under the Order, they’ve been taught that mamono kill and eat humans. But they never seem to figure it out. But it would come as a BIG surprise if they find out.

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