The Thief and the Swordsfrog Chapter 9
By Silent Elegy
Mariel entered her fathers castle to find Slash and Flea standing side by side at the bottom of the main stairway. And where have you been, girl? asked Slash.
Around, Mariel replied evasively. She pulled back her hood to see them better; although she kept her eyes half-closed and her head tilted to the left, appearing to be very tired, she was actually quite aware of everything going on around her.
Around where? Flea said. He walked toward her and grabbed her chin, forcing her to look him in the eyes. Dont be a fool, Mariel. I know where you went.
Youre bluffing, she replied, angry with Flea. You think you know me so well; well, let me tell you something. She grabbed his hand. Slash started forward, but Flea held up his other hand to stop him.
Tell me what, Mariel? he asked sarcastically. That youre nothing but a spoiled brat?
Mariel opened her mouth to retort, but she stopped. Flea was right; she was acting rather spoiled. She lowered her head. Im sorry. Youre right.
Good. Now why dont you tell us where you went?
Mariel sighed. I just went back home, she lied. She didnt want to tell them shed gone to meet Frog. I just got to feeling nostalgic. No one saw me.
Flea nodded, accepting the lie, although Slash looked at her strangely. Why would you want to go back there? he asked suspiciously.
Mariel shrugged. Just to see how things were. She scoffed. And things are dry as ever. Slash still looked at her as though he knew she was lying, but he chose not to press the issue. Flea took Mariels hand and led her up the steps, giving her a stern lecture on telling them where she would be before she left. She nodded demurely and pretended to accept the new rules, but inside she was a whirl of emotion. They were hiding something. She knew it.
Frog swallowed. He had fought his way through hordes of demons, defeated Magus, destroyed the Black Omen, and survived the fight with Lavos, but nothing could have prepared him for this. It was a shock, to say the least. He was grateful he was the only one who could see it. When Doreen had said she was going to give him back his memory, he hadnt expected it to be like this. Hed thought he would remember, not that he would see his human reflection every time he looked in the mirror. It was faint, it was overshadowed by his real reflection, but it was there.
Frog! a voice called. Frog sighed and turned away from the mirror. Hey, Frogman! It was Rat.
I come! he called back to her.
Rat was rubbing her knives together when Frog poked his head out of the hole that was the entrance to his home. She stopped and sheathed them when she saw him. We goin back to that island castle or what? she asked with a touch of impatience.
Wh-what? Why? Frog stuttered. Tis naught that remaineth save ruins.
I wanna see that fer myself, Frog, Rat answered. That castle had something to do with whats goin on now, and I wanna see that theres nothin there. Im goin with or without ya. Rat turned to go, her tail lashing behind her.
Wait! Frog called. I shall accompany thee.
Then whatre we waitin for? The boats all ready.
That castle said Mariel. She stood before the crumbled castle, her face expressionless, her mind numb. Slash and Flea had lied to her. She knew that now for sure. This castle was proof of that. She recognized the magical signature as Fleas.
She had heard about the castle while in Porre. Two men had been talking about how strange it was, how it had appeared overnight and fallen just as quickly. Mariel had had to get back home before Slash and Flea missed her (all the good that did me, she thought), but she fully intended to go see it for herself. And here she was.
The castle could have been ancient, at least four hundred years old. Moss and lichen covered the old stones and ivy grew rampant and unchecked. Very little was left standing. But shimmering around the ruins, visible only to Mariels magic-enhanced vision, was the red sheen that was the color of Fleas magic.
Well, well, well, said a high-pitched voice. Lookit what we gots here.
A second voice said, What art thou doing here, Mariel?
Mariel smiled. Without turning, she replied, Im here to help. I know who built this, and I know who tore it down.
She heard the sound of claws against rock and suddenly found herself pulled down to a kneeling position, her shirt held tightly in Rats paws. What do you know, then? Rat asked menacingly.
Rat, restrain thyself, Frog chided her as he joined them. Mariel, tell us what thou know of this anomaly.
Mariel stood as Rat released her and brushed the wrinkles out of her shirt. I believe its someone you know pretty well, Glenn. Rat shot a look at Frog, but he didnt pay any attention to her. A certain magician by the name of Flea.
Flea! Frog exclaimed. But Flea is dead!
Whos Flea? Rat asked.
No, hes not, Mariel said, ignoring Rats question. And neither is Slash. And Ozzie may be around somewhere, too, but I dont know.
Who are they? Rat asked again, a little louder this time.
I killed them myself, Frog said, also not paying any attention to Rat. If they have truly escaped, what are they doing now?
HEY! Rat squeaked loudly. Frog and Mariel looked at her. Whatre ya talking about? Whos Flea, Slash, and Ozzie?
Frog sighed. Forgive me. Ozzie, Slash, and Flea were Magus generals. Ozzie and Flea were magicians, and Slash was a swordsman.
Im not sure what theyre doing, but I know theyre not dead, Mariel said. Slash and Flea raised me. And now theyve betrayed me. She turned away from them to face the fallen castle again.
A familiar voice in Frogs head told him to trust Mariel. It sounded tired. Doreen? He thought. He heard a sleepy affirmative. Tell me whats going on. He didnt get a response.
Rat walked slowly to Mariel and put a paw on her arm. I feel like I know ya, lady. Im sorry fer ya. She continued walking up to the castle. Frog followed behind her.
Glenn? Frog turned to face Mariel. You have no reason to like me and several reasons not to. I was rallying the Mystics to finish my fathers work. Dont. She held up a hand as Frog opened his mouth. Dont say a word. Let me finish. Im not going to do that. I saw something a few minutes ago, as I stood here. Father never wanted to take over the world; he was a victim of circumstance, just like you.
Frog, you comin? Rat yelled. He turned.
I want to help you, Mariel continued. Please let me.
Frog sighed. Come along, then. He walked toward the castle, Mariel walking behind him.
Rat saw a flash and picked her way over to it. There was something half-buried beneath the rock, just barely visible. Rat moved away a few rocks and pulled a small pin from its hiding place. Nice, she muttered. Hey, check this out.
That looks rather familiar, said Mariel.
Tis her majestys coral pin! Frog exclaimed, grabbing it.
That would be why.
Looks expensive, Rat said, attempting to take it back.
Frog glared at her. We must return this to Leene. But how did it get here ? And why did the knight captain not find it?
A flash of lightning cut across the sky, followed closely by the crack of thunder, causing Rat to jump. She whimpered slightly.
Looks like theres a storm coming, Mariel observed.
Mayhap we should return then? Frog suggested, looking at Rat who sighed and nodded.
Aside from a sudden downpour, the return to Porre was uneventful. The waves were high, but the little boat skimmed through them as though protected by magic. Rat looked thoughtfully at Mariel, wondering if she was responsible for this.
Back on the mainland, Mariel disappeared with hardly a second glance. Frog left Rat at the entrance to the Broken Knife and walked a whole half-mile before he realized the coral pin was missing and had to go back for it. Surprisingly enough, Rat gave it up without much of a fuss.
It was close to dark by the time Frog, drenched to the bone, arrived back at Guardia. The gate guard was different, but he recognized Frog and let him pass. Since it was dark, he decided to go to his rooms and return the coral pin to Leene in the morning.
He was lost in thought as he walked down the halls, wondering how Leenes coral pin had found its way to the ruined castle. Because he wasnt paying much attention to where he was going, he nearly crashed into the Queen.
Oh, forgive me, highness, he apologized. I fear I did not see thee.
Leene smiled. Dont worry about it, Frog. What are you doing here?
He was about to tell her he was returning her pin when he noticed something strange. She already had it. Erm tis nothing. No reason.
Oh, just come for a visit?
A-aye. A visit.
Is something wrong? She seemed genuinely concerned. Frog shook his head mutely, his mind racing. Alright. Goodnight, Frog.
And to thee, Leene. As he watched her walk down the hall, his suspicion became resolution. Leene!
She stopped and turned. Yes?
Wert thou not missing thy coral pin?
Leene tensed. Whatever gave you that She trailed off as she saw the real coral pin. Her eyes narrowed, and her voice took a chill tone. Where did you get that? she asked in a low and menacing voice.
Thou art not Leene, said Frog. Who art thou?
You stupid frog. I knew they should have killed you right off, but they wanted it to seem like an accident. As Leene spoke, her right arm had been changing shape. Now, it wasnt an arm, but a long curving blade. She jabbed at Frog, who blocked with his Masamune.
What is thy purpose? he asked.
Wouldnt you like to know? she sneered. She swung her arm around and dealt a glancing blow off Frogs breastplate. He staggered backward against the wall and ducked as the sword came around to take his head off.
Swords clashed and metal rang through the air as the two fought. Frog didnt want to kill this pseudo-Leene unless he had to, but she didnt have any such inhibitions. Her face was a twisted mask of rage. She lunged forward, intending to impale Frog below his breastplate, but he jumped over her head and swung Masamune around. The broadside of the blade hit her legs hard, knocking her to the ground with a cry. Frog stepped on her sword-arm as she tried to stand, pinning it to the ground. He put the tip of the Masamune to her throat and she froze.
Answer me, fiend, he said angrily. Why art thou doing this?
Thats for me to know, she said. She smiled as they heard the pounding of feet; the guards had been attracted by the sounds of battle. Always remember Adreagon the doppelganger. I will haunt your dreams. The doppelganger took hold of Masamunes blade with her free hand and drove it through her throat.
Frog gasped and staggered backward, surprised by Adreagons suicide. He didnt understand her purpose until the guards came hurrying around the corner. They stopped in shock.
The knight captain was the first recover. Sir Frog, he said, striding forward. You are under arrest for the murder of the Queen. Frog shook his head and took a step backwards.
It isnt the Queen, he told them earnestly. Tis a doppelganger, an imposter.
The knight captain wasnt listening. The sentence for regicide is death by beheading.
The other guards reluctantly took Frog into custody. He pleaded with them to listen and believe him, but to no avail. When they had gone out of sight, the knight captain took the Masamune. He heard an angry buzzing in the back of his head, but he dismissed it as his imagination. He picked up the body of the doppelganger and carried her to the King, still thinking she was the real Queen.
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