Updated: Jun 15, 2019
Enjoy this preview of Brian's coming children's fantasy novel, Frog Quest.
A young frog watched his fellows splashing about among the cattails. Frigawold Pondwise, for that was his name, felt a tinge of sorrow mar the exquisite joy that the summer day brought. The sky was blue so as to rival the wild foxglove blooming between the trees. The sun was high and the afternoon humid, just as the frogs loved it.
But poor Friggy could not manage to be completely happy, despite the perfect day which normally would have brought him pure bliss. His bulging, yellow eyes were sadly watching a lithe young froglet.
“Emerelda,” he sighed.
She was a beautiful young froglet with skin of brilliant, sparkling green like a gem, as her name implied. Laughing, she drew herself out of the shining water and laid upon a lilypad. The eyes of a dozen young bullfrogs eyed her appreciatively, and a flash of jealousy made Friggy’s throat puff out in spite of himself.
Friggy was aware that he was not as big as Burgle Longhop, nor as handsome as Spotty Jumpfoot, and he began to despair that one of them would become her mate instead of himself. At night he would sing, his little head swimming with visions of them happy together. But his song sounded more like a squeak than the booming mating call of the big bulls.
Even now he was lapsing into a daydream in which Emerelda was welcoming him home from hunting, surrounded by a hundred of their tadpoles. He may be forgiven for such whimsical thoughts, as the day was quite pleasant, and none yet knew that it would witness the foulest murders ever to take place in Deep Pond.
As Friggy was daydreaming and the young frogs were capering in the clear pool, a cry of horror was heard from the bank. Friggy was startled out of his revery. He and all the other young frogs swam as fast as their legs could carry them toward the sound of the scream. There they found a young froglet by the name of Echinacea weeping.
Before them lay six dead frogs. Their bodies had grown black and brittle, as dead frogs will when they dry out. The youngsters took in the ghastly scene with wide, yellow eyes. Spotty laid a hand on Echinacea’s foreleg, and she fell on his shoulder and sobbed bitterly. The songbirds became still.
“There there, dear,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do for them now. Pity it had to be you to find them.”
Friggy could not keep his voice from trembling. “W-what do you suppose happened to them?”
Burgle answered in a deep croak, “Why murdered, obviously.”
Murder! The air seemed to chill around them at the mention of the word. Frogs were killed often enough, but always in the natural way. They were eaten by large fish, snakes, and birds, but this was not murder. These animals must eat, and did not the frogs themselves kill the flies and other insects they ate? Death was part of the world, and the frogs of Deep Pond accepted their place in it. Why, Friggy even remembered old Mister Rockshell, the turtle, taking a snap at him a time or two when he was a pollywog, and they were on friendly enough terms now.
But these frogs had not been eaten. Someone, or something, had killed them and laid their bodies together neatly. It was unnatural and evil, and Frigawold shrank from the sight until he heard Emerelda speak his name.
“Oh, Friggy! I’m so sorry.”
He turned to see what she was sorry about. The young frogs were inspecting the bodies with curiosity. The dead frog nearest to Emerelda looked rather familiar, and Frigawold felt panic begin to struggle in his breast, as if he had just swallowed a dragonfly alive. The face was turned away from him, but there was something about the legs and back that he recognized, sunscorched and shriveled as they were. He hopped quickly to see the face and gave a shout of sorrow.
“Father,” he cried. “It can’t be!”
But it was true. Gildapold Pondwise, Frigawold’s father had been vilely murdered and left in the sun to rot. Friggy sobbed and sobbed while the other youngsters stood silently. Emerelda laid a hand on his spotted back, which at any other time would have made his head dizzy with joy, and was even on that black day still rather comforting.
“We must tell the counsel,” said Burgle.
The others murmured their agreement and made to go, but Frigawold told them to go on without him. He wanted to stay with his beloved father. The others nodded with understanding and hastened to inform the elder frogs of what had transpired. But Emerelda tarried to look again with pity upon her friend, Frigawold, who sat crying disconsolately upon the bank.
Among the frogs killed were four adults, and two adolescents. Their names were Gildapold, Flybreath, Dandelion, Splashbottom, Mayfly, and Bulgeye. Each one left friends and family in the pond, and everyone had reason to grieve that day. After the bodies were inspected, the Counsel of Frogs met upon the Ancient Stone of Judgement.
“It was murder, alright,” said Mister Rockshell.
The ancient turtle had been an honorary member of the frog counsel for many generations for the sake of his respectable age and wisdom. He was older than any frog living, though none could say for sure how old exactly, and he had often traveled far from Deep Pond through the Dark Wood and Treacherous Fens, and even beyond.
Burgle’s father, Gurgle Longhop, was also on the counsel, also for his age, though certainly not for his wisdom. He took great delight in disagreeing with Rockshell whenever he got the chance.
“How do we know it was murder?” he asked.
The old turtle answered, “If they were eaten, I’d like to know how their bodies got on the shore.”
The other frogs laughed at Gurgle’s expense, and he puffed his chest out indignantly.
“Well,” he said. “They might’ve taken sick.”
“Oh really?” said the turtle. “They all fell sick at the same time and decided to lie down next to each other and die on the bank. Is that it?”
Again the frogs laughed, but not very loudly out of respect for the counsel member, and for the sadness of the day. Gurgle’s yellow eyes looked around unhappily, his great, wide mouth frowning.
“I’m only trying to keep us from jumping to conclusions,” he insisted.
“Gurgle, you’re a nincompoop,” said Rockshell. “You’ve always been a fool, talking about things you know nothing about when you should be looking and listening. I’m sure it was murder, because I’ve seen this very thing before.”
A gasp of shock echoed through the crowd of frogs gathered.
“You have?” said Friggy, who was horrified. “Where?”
“In the Treacherous Fens,” he said. “I have seen the dessicated bodies of frogs, toads, and salamanders laid out exactly like this after they were poisoned.”
“Poison,” exclaimed Grenifere, a wise old amphibian who happened to be Emerelda’s mother. “Then it was a snake who killed them.”
“Indeed,” answered the turtle.
“But I don’t understand,” said poor Friggy in a voice high with anxiety. “The few snakes around here might eat a frog if they’re hungry, but they prefer to eat the furry folk. They would never kill without a reason. Why would anyone want to murder my dad?”
“It was no ordinary snake,” answered Rockshell gravely. “It was the evil, ancient serpent, enemy of all frogs.”
Not a creature dared breath until Mister Rockshell spoke the name.
Stay tuned for more information on when the rest of this story will be made available.
"May inspiration find you with a pen in your hand!"