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38

And so time seemed to melt away in that tropical getaway. Every day was laced with danger and excitement, befitting such a wild, untamed land. However, Mel did not expect it to be mostly from the fruit. He thought Australia had it bad with its self-pruning trees and... drop bears... but all Mel could wonder was what would happen if he took a few of these and planted it on the once-penal colony. Would the native life forms win, or would they be taken down by these succulent specimens... or... would they perfectly assimilate and give the Aussies yet another weapon to scare the rest of the world into allowing them to continue to believe they can see the world right-side up.

Mel didn’t spend every moment in the hammock. Why would he? He recently got out of a prison sentence where he was cooped up to three rooms; there was no way in Hell he was going to stay rooted. On vacation, no less! Besides... that gave him (and time) away from his lovely songbird. Just like a real bird, it was always the same entertaining, if slowly- quickly becoming annoying, songs. “We need to go back.” “Let me out.” “I am a humanoid being.” “I told you I wasn’t going to sleep on newspaper again!” By the third week, she was. Shame that, though; her tune had started to change and Mel was hearing new songs, new pieces he never thought a specimen like Saliim could sing.

He must have explored every corner of that dimension in that time. It wasn’t very wide, but it sure had plenty of foliage, with its own share of dangers to be had. He could see in the morning great golden webs woven between trees, able to be seen by the dew that had settled on their delicate strands. He never saw what made them, but given how thick and expansive they were, and what they seemed to hunt, it would only befit that a king or queen would be overlooking his castle and all its trappings. Truly large and in charge.

It wasn’t only spiders, of course. Though they tried to keep their presence to a minimum, Mel managed to catch peeks of the gnoll clans out along the plains to the east. He even stumbled upon one of their tunnels. Not on purpose, of course. He had stopped by that bush to answer the call of nature, and he went ass-over-tea kettle down in, right on top of the package he left them by accident. After a quick cleansing of fire, he fixed that bush back on top and hurried back into the forest. He had to have water to clean off the ash, and what better place than the six great falls that fed into the great tree. Even in the dusk of night, grand rainbows cascaded from fall to fall, creating their own kind of web, a prismatic dome of its own.

Mel had questioned the Matriarchs about these areas, about the land, and, though they gave long, colorful stories about it all, he remembered that these great falls were the Hyalins, the tree they resided on was the Llordigen, and the plains were Fuck the Gnolls... He needed help in translating the last one. Turned out, at one point in history, the harpies and gnolls lived in harmony. Then one insulted the others tits, which prompted them in saying their clits are too engorged and gross and- by this point, Mel had tuned out; just another day in Magic is Awesome!!!!

What he understood, though, was that the gnolls were as necessary to the dimension as the harpies, so they humbly declined his offer to exterminate them –though were hesitant to decline. Mel was never a big fan of gnolls, mostly because video game creators could never make up their minds with what they were. Were they rat people, mole people, wolf or fox or hyena people, demons, minions, whelps; at this rate, he would have accepted them being clumps of pixels, but, even though they didn’t want him to, he caught a glimpse of the ones on the plains. Only a glimpse, but he saw they had long, fluffy tails that practically hugged their backs. Maybe, someday on his vacation, he’ll actually go and terrorize them with his presence.

For now, though, he was having fun with the harpies.

He had them get him a wicker lounge chair so that he could sit down on the beach as well as a wicker stand to put his drink on and to let the speaker rest. Things been floating for over a month; it deserved a break, too. Saliim was left up on the cliff. She had food, water- which she didn’t even need to live so she was fine. Besides, she could work on her tan. Even after all this time in the tropical sun she looked as pale as a ghost. Meanwhile, he had reached a level of tan that surpassed Jack! Take that, you naturally-bronze-skinned sonofabitch! He was now almost dark enough to be what he always strived for. He almost had his candy coating off and was aiming to be his true chocolate self. Some of him will keep its pasty white coating, for he shall be like a stuffed cookie. Especially down there, where the cream filling really was.

For now, he shall accept his improved jumping capacity and his bike radar while enjoying proper alcohol in his “coconut” shell, watching as the harpies built him a submersible ship. Not a submarine, no. That would be far too easy. He specified that he wanted an old-fashioned galleon that could go under the water and come back up on a whim. They got the first part down; however, the second part has proven rather tricky.

Though there were plenty of volunteers at that start for this little endeavor, the harpies’ morale started to wane after the first dozen or so casualties. No matter how many times he had to explain that progress demands sacrifice, it did nothing to lift spirits, but that didn’t matter so long as there were five or six still willing. He will have his very own Dutchman, or else his name isn’t Captain Sprinkles the Mercilessly Unshaven, scourge of the seven seas! But, a caring and tender lover.

Alas, another six failed to raise the ship, another vessel added to the green depths. The Sarlyx were at least well-fed, but they seemed to have had their fill of chicken. Most people would be after 376 servings before. Four of the crew managed to make it back to shore, their feathers clumped and hanging like sacks off their arms. Hiilda was there to hand them towels, glowering at them. Mel thought she shouldn’t be too hard; they almost had the ship up, but going from the ass first was probably a bad idea. All the weight shifts to the front then it just flips right back over, as was the case with the M.S. Power Top. The M stands for Mel’s.

“I still don’t see a submersible ship,” Mel said, reaching for... his... He cocked down his glasses, looking at the wicker stand, and growled. “Where’s my coconut!”

“Though this isn’t necessarily immoral or unethical,” Hiilda began, her and the harpies ignoring his question, “after seeing this project of yours first-hand, I do not think we should continue it. We are flying creatures by nature, at home in wide, open, sprawling places, so why would we want to be in a tight, enclosed vessel under the water?”

“Sounds like quitter talk! Now, where’s my coconut and the next vess-”

The Matriarch bore down on him, claws on both arms as her eyes burned, glaring into his.

“Patriarch, unless you can give me a valid reason for this rather fruitless endeavor, I will have to step in and advise the harpies to ignore this command... Please heed the advice of one of your Matriarchs.”

“It’s always the same one, though, and that exact one said I could give any command so long as it wasn’t immoral or unethical... What part of building a boat that could potentially go above and below water then testing it is immoral or unethical?”

“When it is costing lives.”

“You’ll have a million, if not a billion, more in... how long does it take a harpy egg to hatch?”

“Time has no meaning for us. However, if it had to be given a length, three of Earth’s lunar cycles.”

“Three months... So... counting the month of trying to hunt me down and the month I was imprisoned, that means... in a few days?” He sighed, waving for her to move before he reclined the chair, stretching out. “A few hundred to the billions about to be born is rather paltry, isn’t it- heh, get it? Paltry, poultry-”

“If those lives weren’t wasted on something pointless and nonsensical!”

“There was a point, though. Multiple ones. It is a ship, after all.”

“A reason to do so, Patriarch!”

“Think about it: what if we come across an entire ocean dimension. The denizens live under the water... how do you suppose you get to them to conquer it? Submersible ship.”

“And how would the ships get there?”

“I’d just teleport them over-”

“Then what’s stopping you from separating the ocean!”

“Do I look like an Eco-terrorist? I’m not going to disrupt the planet, itself, so that we can destroy the people that live there and their way of life. Have some common courtesy for the planet; it did nothing wrong –unlike the harpies still not bringing me my coconut!”

Hiilda did not move, by the way. She still stood over him, still bore down on him, her eyes burning ever brighter. Her wings ruffled like crazy, the harpies around squawking nervously, talons digging into the sand as they shuffled in place. The wicker chair’s arms creaked and splintered under her claws, shaking so much... but she kept her breathing calm.

“If that is the case,” she finally said, her words slow, even, level-headed. Meaning: she was absolutely livid, “then why not conjure a few submarines?”

“Because I’m not hungry. Duh!”

“N... not the sandwiches. The long, Metal tubes on Earth. Sink and rise with ease, fully enclosed in METAL, NOT wood.”

“I mean, if you want to do things the easy way, and it’s not as cool. It just looks like a dildo or a turd floating up and down in a bowl; would you prefer that, or an awesome old-school galleon!”

“Whichever one costed less of our people’s lives.”

“You do realize you are going to war, right? War? That thing that costs lives by the thousands, easy?”

“But it shall be AGAINST an ACTUAL FOE. Not the Patriarch’s... eccentric demands.” She huffed and pushed off the chair, causing wicker to fly. She spun to the harpies, going still under her gaze. “You are not to aid in this project anymore. If the Patriarch continues to persist and ask for a submersible ship, bring him a sub.”

“I don’t want a metal turd, though.”

“That time I was talking about the sandwich.”

With that she spread her wings and scattered sand for yards. The ocean sloshed back with the sonic boom she left behind, already back in her nest, the four harpies still frozen in place, locked under a layer of sandy rime. The first to actually free herself from her prison, her red wings fluttering wildly, as if every grain burned and seared them, given more by her companions as they, too, tried to shake free.

“Still waiting for my coconut,” Mel exclaimed. He paused a moment, but only a moment, shaking his index at them. “What do I say if I want the sub, though? I’m actually hungry now... actually... you know what sounds really good?”

The harpies didn’t wait to hear, dispersing, going to obtain his already-requested items. However, now he had a hankering, a big one, a hankering the likes of which the world had never seen before. He wasn’t sure if he could hold out, either, knowing that the ingredients for what he wanted- no, desired- NO, NEEDED were so close at hand. But he had to relent, for those ingredients were probably passed their usability.

So Mel guessed he would settle for his sub. He guessed he would partake in its turkey, ham, cheese, and assorted, normal vegetables while washing it down with a freshly gutted and filled “coconut”... This was supposed to be his vacation, yet he was being denied so much. If he couldn’t have his submersible galleon, then what was the point of staying? He was also starting to feel incredibly antsy; another month of build-up would do that. It was becoming rather... scary, to say the least. What if he sent another cumehameha through dimensions and got another entire species preggo that also had a prophecy for exactly that?

If only he was allowed a moment with Saliim, but, aside her bitching him out every time he came close, she refused his advances... For somebody who wanted to prove themselves in bed, they were not exactly helping their case. He tried asking the harpies for assistance, but... he couldn’t believe their answers. Not a single bit... You would think an entire race of suppressed birdwomen would jump on the chance to get it from the one they called god, but that is exactly why they wouldn’t. Not even Hiilda would, which meant none of the Matriarchs would... Who did they think got them all pregnant in the first place!

That left him with no options to release –except maybe to help himself, but who did he think he was, a neanderthal? That’s when he had an idea... He could go find the gnolls! They were just as sexually starved and didn’t think he was a god among them –he hoped, at least. Considering how much pent up energy he had, he could easily run them down, too. He just needed to find the perfect moment to go set up camp in a tree overlooking the plains, wait for them to come out, and BAM! Introductions.

Mel chortled, finishing off his sandwich, and washed it down with the last of the first fill of his coconut. He burned it clean then put it on his head, ready to begin his mission. The wicker chair groaned as he stood, as if warning him, advising him that what he had in mind was not a good idea, but what did it know? It was a chair; it dealt with mostly asses for a living. Mel knew it was a good idea- no, a GREAT idea. He had been wanting to meet them regardless; how could he resist the call of fluffy tail. He was gonna touch it, and the thought of touching fluffy tail filled him with determination. Which was good; drunken courage could only go so far, and it only got him as far as the falls.

The path was... crunchier than he remembered, but he never walked straight to the falls before. He was too worried a stick from the nests or something may find its way through his chaps and his thong and stick where it really shouldn’t, but it was a lovely “night”. He could see the way well-enough, and seemed to be stepping in the right ones. The drink may have blurred his vision, but he knew which ones were the real ones before him and avoided those, stepping in the fake nests.

Alas, drunken power faded at the falls, and his body became almost like a bag of sand, dragging, flopping its way through the rest of the forest. He made it, though. Not elegantly, but he made it. All that was left was to climb a tr- or fall into a gnoll hole... Gnoll hole... his goal was the gnoll mole hole. He was on a roll with finding his goal of the gnoll mole hole. Maybe he would find coal while on his roll with finding his goal of the gnoll mole hole. There would probably be a toll with the coal, but he was on a roll with finding his goal of the gnoll mole hole whole. He had his ole bowl on his head so his brain didn’t take a toll while on the hunt for coal at his goal of the gnoll mole hole, which he found on a roll but was at least whole at the bottom of it –and Mel finally believed that he had way... way too much to drink... at the bottom of that gnoll mole hole.

He managed to find his feet in the gmh, looking around. It was as he last left it, just as crude yet polished, crumbling yet reinforced, except there was no sign of the present he left. Hopefully, they gave it the fruitcake treatment and weren’t part hedgehog. Considering there wasn’t even a single brown mark anywhere, it was really hard to deduce, so he simply crafted a blue orb, continuing to scan the smooth walls.

There didn’t seem to be another path down in there, but Mel focused harder, trying to see through the seven different layers. He gave himself a few hard smacks, knocking out two layers at a time, but the bright lights after were just as irksome and taking the orb away didn’t make them any less bright. He remade the orb, waited for the lights to fade... and finally turned around, finding the entry to the tunnel.

He stumbled down it, humming a stealthy tune as he went along, hoping only he and the walls could hear it. It was his stealth music, after all. If it worked for Kronk, it’ll work for him, which he, too, could make delectable spinach puffs. There was no way to make a bad spinach puff –unless you use the green snot in the can, but that just means you’re Satan. You’re already looking to torture people, so that means they’re still “good”, just not... good.

He came upon a fork, which meant he found a sixteen-way split. It all still boiled down to two directions, regardless, just... different shades of those directions. There was no gray area between left and right... except center, but that many splits? You weren’t going straight. He wondered if he should roll a twenty-sided die, but the sudden snuffling and grunts from one of the directions kind of hinted which way he needed to go, and it wasn’t any way right. So he went left, finding the path after hitting the wall four- five times, and followed after the grunts.

The grunts only got louder, more sporadic as he chased after. He couldn’t tell how many there were; there could have been fifty, a hundred, a million, but his maths wasn’t so good at the moment. At most, he hoped there were only six, for seven would have been too much for him to handle. He sent the blue orb ahead, seeing their shadows flit behind it, trying to outrun, but their fleeing only spurred him on, made some of the sand in his bag spill out and let him truly run.

The sounds changed. They weren’t only grunts but words sprinkled in, laced with fear and anger.

“They finally launched their attack,” he heard one whimper.

“Need... to make it... to alpha,” another repeated again and again, as if it gave her the strength to keep running, but each word only sped him up. He could hear their fur swishing, smell it... and he sort of regretted that part. It was like dog fur when wet, and lingered in the nose for what seemed an eternity.

As they came to another forty-seven split, he caught sight of one of their fluffy tails, and that let loose any baggage left. The wind seemed to carry him, the world slowing so that he could embrace the appendage, wrapping his arms around the soft, bushy, brown fur. It had a white tip, bristled out while the entire cavern was filled with screams.

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