The Thief and the Swordsfrog Chapter 14
By Silent Elegy
You found nothing? His Highness roared. Nothing at all?
N-no, sir, Garret stammered, truly terrified.
What am I paying you for? the King exclaimed, conveniently forgetting that he didnt pay Garret at all. Garret chose not to answer. Why do I even let you live?
Your Majesty, Garret begged. Please give me one more chance. I wont fail you again.
You had better not. Now, get out of my sight! But dont go too far.
The thief scrambled out the door and fell into a chair in the tavern proper. He put his head into his hands and wondered how he was going to get himself out of this.
As the three travelers continued on their way across the village of George, four girls giggled at each other. What an ugly frog, said one.
Oh, I know, Judy. But Id rather deal with the frogman than that giant mouse, said a second.
But, Lisa, frogs are slimy and icky, Judy replied.
Well, I dont know about any of you, but Id rather deal with both of them than that person in the cloak.
What are you talking about, Margret? said the last girl, whose name was Andrea.
Well, think about it. As ugly as those two are, the cloaked one must be horrifying. Why else would he be wearing a cloak?
The women continued chattering in much the same vein until Judys older brother, and Margrets husband, Dave joined them. What are you ladies talkin about? he asked as Margret stood and threw her arms around him.
Just those strangers over yonder, Judy answered.
Dave frowned. And just what do they think theyre doin, walkin through our town like they own it? The women giggled.
Sickem, Dave, Lisa laughed.
Margret grinned. Yeah, Davy. Go tellem to get out of our home. Dave grinned back at her and headed off to intercept the travelers.
Hey, what do you think youre doing? he shouted as he stepped into their path. Several people stopped what they were doing to watch the spectacle about to place.
We do naught, sir, Frog answered.
You dont what?
We do nothing, Mariel translated with an amused look at Frog.
Yah, we aint doin nethin' to ya, so jus get outta our way, Rat snapped. She lashed her tail for emphasis.
Yeah, well, uh, you Mystic trash dont belong here, he said. Mariel stiffened.
Sir, please remove thyself. We only wish to remain the night and shall keep to ourselves.
You know, Im sick of you thinkin youre better than us just cause you talk weird, said another man, joining Dave.
Yeah, get out of our town! someone shouted.
Mystics go home!
This is not good, Frog muttered.
Too scared, huh? Rat said to Mariel.
Things change, she replied shortly.
The first rock hit Rat in the arm. She automatically reached for her daggers and cursed as she remembered shed lost them. Instead, she displayed her claws and looked around. Anticipating a battle, Frog drew the Masamune.
The second rock sailed toward Mariel then stopped, hanging in midair. I think not, she said and pulled back her hood. The villagers stepped back fearfully, remembering the day she had left.
Mariel, Dave muttered.
Mariel drew herself up, managing to tower over the villagers despite the fact that she was shorter than most of them. You will call me Magus, she said coldly. Frog looked at her strangely; it suddenly hit him that, although they were different, she was definitely her fathers daughter. Hed never seen her like this, not even in the dungeon of the castle. There, she had been quite casual, even lethargic, despite the life or death situation. Here, she was truly angry.
Her eyes glowed a fiery red; though they were always red, they now seemed even more so. Her hair and cloak rippled slightly, blown by some unfelt wind, much as her fathers had when he was gathering and casting magic. The rock she held suspended in front of her face suddenly rocketed toward the man who had thrown it, hitting him so hard it smashed his nose beyond repair and cracked his skull.
Mariel sneered. Dont mess with me. You remember the day I left? Well, Im a thousand times stronger now. I could kill you all with less than a thought.
Mariel, please, calm thyself, Frog begged quietly.
Time seemed frozen for several seconds as the villagers weighed their chances of defeating Mariel. The spell was broken when a crossbow bolt hit Mariels arm. She yelled and grabbed at it.
Death to the Mystics! yelled the man who had shot it.
Death to the Mystics enemies! yelled a booming voice. The travelers whirled around to face the new arrivals.
Archy! Mariel exclaimed.
General Archimhan nodded to her and displayed his mace. The rest of the tracking party did likewise, showing that they carried all manner of weapons. He yelled, We are trained warriors; you are nothing but villagers with pitchforks! Even without Milady Magus magic, you do not stand a chance against us. Surrender!
Yes, Mariel agreed. Surrender and we will let you live.
The villagers backed away, entering either their homes or the homes of their friends, whichever was closest. Within minutes, the street was devoid of life save for Mariel, Frog, Rat, and the tracking party.
Mariel allowed one of trackers, a naga-ette, to pull the bolt from her arm and wrap a tight bandage around the wound. What are you-OW!
Sorry, said the naga-ette.
Dont worry about it. What are you doing here, Archy?
Looking for you, Milady, he answered. And these are friends? he asked, looking suspiciously at Frog.
Yes. This is Rat, she answered, gesturing. And this is Glenn.
Milady, this is the frog who slew you father.
He didnt kill him, and I know.
Mariels eyes flashed. Hes a friend. Would you like to argue the case?
The General shook his head. No, Milady.
Good. Frog, Rat, this General Archimhan. Hes the second highest ranking officer under Slash and Flea.
Izzat a fact? Rat said, narrowing her eyes.
Why art thou following Mariel then? asked Frog.
You will address her as Milady Magus, worm, Archimhan growled.
Enough, Archy. Answer the question.
Slash and Flea found you missing. They told us you were sick and threatened the imps with death if they revealed the truth. The imps asked us to find out if you were kidnapped.
Well, as you can see, I left of my own accord. You may now return and tell Slash and Flea that I will fight them tooth and nail if I have to.
Milady, truly. I am not here because of them. Seeing that none of the three believed him, he drew a small dagger from his belt and cut his palm. I would follow you to the ends of the earth, Milady, he said quietly. Although this gesture may have been meaningless to some, Mariel understood that, to a minotaur, a vow by blood was unbreakable.
Mariel smiled and threw her arms around him, wincing at the pain in her left shoulder. Thanks, Archy, she whispered. Frog, come here. Can you heal his hand?
Frog hesitated, but wordless prompting by Doreen finally caused him to sheath the Masamune and help Archimhan.
Several hours later, nightfall found them all sitting around a campfire behind the Magic Cave sharing stories like old friends. Mariel sighed happily as she looked around the tracking party. The imps had obviously spared nothing to get the best to find her. She leaned against Archimhans shoulder in contentment.
Hey! someone shouted. Who took my knife?
Frog called out, Rat, return it!
Dang you, Frogman! Mariel snickered as Rat grudgingly gave it back to the freelancer.
You keep odd company, Milady, Archimhan muttered.
Yeah, I guess so, she agreed. Listen, do you know anything? Has Flea said anything?
As a matter of fact, yes. He shifted position slightly. Slash and Flea are working for the King of Thieves.
That low-down, no-good, sorry excuse for a member of the human race? Rat, who had been close enough to hear, asked.
Youve met him, I see, Archimhan laughed.
Dang jerk, he is, Rat agreed. Hear hes gots a place somewhere in Truce.
Yes, he lives and works in a small tavern called the Kings Ear. His first in command is a big man named Garret.
Yah, I met him, too. Ugly son of a gun.
Flea once told me hed been burned by Antipode.
Tis a spell which is caused when one combines fire and ice, Frog replied, joining the conversation.
You know of it? Archimhan asked, tilting his head.
Aye, I once traveled with people who knew the spell.
Wish I could do that Mariel said wistfully. Wish I had someone whod teach me magic instead of just those parlor tricks Flea taught me.
Milady, the Mystics are behind you a hundred percent, Archimhan said. Say the word, and we will tear Slash and Flea limb from limb.
I know you will, Archy. Mariel stood and gestured for silence. You are all I have, right now, she announced to assembled party. You are my army. You may not be enough to take over the world, but youll be perfect for the overthrow of Slash and Flea. We return to the Mystics tomorrow, and we will be victorious. The Mystics cheered. Mariel yelled over them, And after that, we will destroy this King of Thieves who thinks he can use us for his own gain!
Here, here! Rat yelled. Death to the Thieves Guild! Frog sighed. He didnt like where this was going.
My, my. They seem eager, dont they?
He jumped. Doreen?
The one and only, Master.
I thought thou called me Glenn.
You are Master. You once told me to call you by your name, although you dont remember. Shall I call you Glenn, then?
I would prefer it.
Very well, Glenn.
I also thought thou were not talking to me.
Would you prefer my silence?
Nay, I do not mean that.
Doreen laughed. I know, Glenn. Listen, I know they seem bloodthirsty to you, but you have to make allowances. Their culture is different than yours. They have been oppressed for centuries, certainly as long as I can remember. Banished to the Mountain of Woe, hunted like animals, kept as slaves, then humans made war on them.
Magus did not start the war. I may have been asleep, but I was still aware. The man you revere as King started the war. Janus was nothing more than Ozzies pawn, a useful tool with powers beyond his comprehension.
Hey, Frogger, why so quiet? Rat interrupted their conversation.
Remember, Glenn. Never assume that what you see or feel is real.
Tis naught, Rat, he answered, troubled.
Talkin to Doreen?
Aye, I was. He sighed. We should sleep. We will doubtless have an early start.
Rat yawned her agreement and curled up into a ball right next to him. He croaked quietly in amusement and lay down as well, using her for a pillow. Mariel smiled at them and sighed mournfully before falling asleep herself. Lucky frog, Archimhan whispered with a loving glance at Mariel.
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