FanFrog Chapter 1: Many meetings
“The morning has come and the forest feels alive again. Birds sing their morning songs, while the other forest creatures try to find a way to shut them up. Here we find someone small. Quite small, to be honest. He couldn’t be bigger than my middle finger. But there he is. Walking through the green grass, over the even greener moss, while trying not to get too wet by the morning dew. And if you listen carefully, you might even hear him curse under his breath. What a marvelous sight to be seen.
His small feet crush the ground and leave a little trace through the forest. But what is this? He looks up. Before him is a great tower. The great tower of a powerful wizard. Time has taken its toll on this old relic from the past and nature has reclaimed most of the outer walls. The little man looks around. He notices the wooden door covered in moss. On the doorknob lays the remains of a birds nest. Ah, the memories.
Our small friend takes a step forward and knocks on the door. With a swift movement I open the door and look my little visitor in the eyes. “A good morning, little one. What can I do for you” I hear myself saying.”
The gnome sighed and adjusts his green pointy hat. “Are ya Sir Batin?”
The older man in the door opening smiled. “Please, call me Adam. What brings you here, my forest friend?
“First, ya know I heard ya describing me walking to your house? Yer were standing there in the window, talking like a bloody idiot. Do ya always narrate everything ya see?”
“Yes, my friend, but only when I am alone. It makes my life more exciting. But please, don’t tell me you came all the way here to berate me on my strange lifestyle. ”
Adam smiled and stroked his beard. It wasn’t a long beard by any stretch, but it did contain a few strings of grey hairs. The grizzled bush on his head got lucky and still had its dark brown colour. Maybe the most remarkable feature was his robe. It’s was long, dusty, and full of holes. An old relic, just like the rest of the tower. The gnome tried to ignore it and cleared his throat.
“I have a message for ya.”
“From whom, if I might ask?”
The older man closed his eyes for a moment and nodded.
“Might be best for you to come in.”
“Don’t mind the mess. I was in the middle of an experiment.”
The floor was covered in dust and flour. The tower smelled like burned bread and a hint of heated tomatoes.
Adam sat down in an old chair and folded his arms.
“Alright, my father has been dead for over a century. I know dwarfs are not the fastest creatures in this world, but a hundred years is a very long time to find my little tower.”
The small man stood in front of Adam. His face turned red with anger and his white moustache started to vibrate.
“Did ya just call me a dwarf? Don’t ya know the difference between a dwarf and a gnome? Gnomes are smaller, not constantly drunk, and couldn’t give a rats arse about twinkling stones in bloody mines. And who told ya that yer father is dead?”
Adam shifted awkwardly in his chair and pondered.
“Well, nobody really told me. After the first ten years without him I began to wonder if he would come back like he promised. After twenty years I started to doubt if that was even a promise he was able to keep. After fifty years I tried to remember what his face looked like when he made that promise. And then after another few decades of silence I decided he was dead for me.”
“And when did ya decide that?”
“Yesterday. It was a great relief. And I don’t think it is amusing that you come here to destroy that relief with your so-called message from my father. Why isn’t he the one who brings this message? Well, Dwarfman?”
Batin looked stern , while the small gnome stroked his white moustache and shook his head.
“I can’t tell ya. Those were his instructions. Do ya want this message or not? I can just leave, ya know. And stop calling me a dwarf! The only reason why I tolerate ya is because I promised ya father that I would keep an eye on ya.”
Batin stood up and walked to the small window next to his chair. He took a moment and stared into the forest. His eyes wandered and a small wry smile appeared on his face. In a sudden motion he twirled around and stopped to face the gnome.
“Yes, I think I am ready for that message now.”
“Good, ya old man told me to tell ya that it is time. The Anura lives. Page 54.”
Adam raised his eyebrows. “The Anura lives. Page 54? Interesting…”
He stood up and walked to the wall full of bookshelves. He started to search through the books and kept on whispering:”The Anura lives… the Anura lives..”
“Well, that’s me done. I will leave ya with your books now.”
The gnome took a few steps towards the door, until he felt a force. It was as if his legs refused to move.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t allow that my guest leaves without some food in his stomach. Please, find some food in my kitchen, mister…”
“The name is Syco Trivaldos the Fourth.”
“That is an… interesting name, Dwarfman.”
Syco ignored the old man and felt that he could use his legs again. He stumbled into the kitchen and climbed on the wooden table. There he found a big plate. On it he saw a round bread, covered in a sauce of tomatoes, melted cheese, and some sliced onions. It smelled really good.
The gnome sat down and took a bite out of the crust. It was the first decent meal he had in many weeks. Adam sat down at the table with a book in his hand and smiled.
“Ah yes, that is my newest invention. I haven’t found a name for it yet, because it is too delicious. The trick is to blaze the dough and the ingredients with intense heat. Luckily I have a few fire spells under the belt. Alright, this should be the book.”
In his hands was a leather bound journal. The pages were yellow and jagged at the edges.
“What does that old journal tell ya?“
The old mage smiled and opened the book.
“Not much, my dwarf friend. It just tells us that the Anura will awaken the black dragon, whom will bring the end of the world as we know it.”
Syco felt a piece of the melted cheese shoot into his lungs and started to cough.
“Are..are ya serious? Isn’t there anything ya can do?”
Adam grin grew with every second. “Oh yes, quite serious. Is there something I can do? Yes, I think there is. I will find this Anura creature.”
“And ya going to kill it?”
“Oh no, that wouldn’t do. I think I will find the Anura and help him.”
The full moon illuminates the great harbour city of Lozeras. The street merchants have cleared their wares and return back to their ships, while the rest of the city sleeps. Guard patrolled the darker parts of Lozeras. Some of them weren’t really patrolling. They just drank beer and pretended to do their jobs.
In a dark alley we find two hooded figures who try stay out of view.
“Darren, this is the worst idea you ever had. We could have stayed in the forest. There is food there. Really, let’s go back!”
“Vroch, stop being such a baby. I just want to get some real food. I am sick and tired of eating berries. I crave real food. Look, I am just going to get that meat skewer over there. The guy won’t even notice until we are back in the forest.”
Vroch grabbed Darren’s cloak.
“Grampa would be very angry if he would see us now.”
“Well, I don’t care. He is dead and I am hungry. So stay here and make sure nobody sees you. End of story.”
With these words Darren adjusted his cloak and sneaked his way into the shadows. Before him was a big man, swinging his cleaver around. Chopping up the hunks of meat that lay there before him. The light of his fireplace danced upon his face and showed his beautiful dark mono brow. Darren grinned. It really was like a big caterpillar resting on his face. He shoved a bit closer and already felt the heat of the fireplace. Then it hit him. The smell. The incredible smell of singed meat. The fat slowly dripping into the open fire. Sizzling on contact with the glowing embers. It smelled fantastic. He could almost taste the meat. Just a few more steps. Almost there. He raised his hand. So close.
But then his hand stopped. Something intervened with his glorious meat adventure. He looked up and saw the red face of the butcher. With a grin on his face Darren slowly rose and stared the big man in the eyes.
“Oi, what do we have here? Little rascal trying to steal meat from Barry, ey?”
The butcher started to tighten his grip on Darren’s hand. Darren’s cowl slipped off, revealing his long dark hair. The young thief sighed and returned to that special wry smile he reserved for situations like this. The situation where he could not care less about what would happen next.
“And what of it? You were just going to eat it all yourself anyway.”
Barry looked confused at the young thief.
“Eat it? I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat.”
The smile on the young thief’s face disappeared and was replaced by a frown.
“A vegetarian butcher? Really? Are you crazy?:
The big man looked puzzled and scratched his head for a moment.
“No, I am Barry. And Barry is going to make sure you get plenty of punishment for stealing from little old me.”
Darren didn’t reply. He was ready to punch the big butcher. The muscles in his hand tightened and he felt the force building up in his arm. He was ready to make sure good old Barry wouldn’t be able to reproduce. But then it happened.
A dark shadow appeared out of nowhere behind the butcher, faster than anything Darren had seen. He knew what was going to happen and did not like it. Not one bit. He heard the familiar voice calling out to the butcher.
“By my will, let him go.”
Barry looked surprised and turned around. He saw the dark figure, half his size.
“Whats this? Another one of your friends?”
“I will be obeyed. Let the thief go. Or else…”
Barry laughed. It sounded like he tried to laugh, but it got somehow stuck midway his throat.
“What you going to do to a Barry, ey? Puny man wants to fight big Barry?”
Vroch removed his cowl and showed his face. His green amphibian skin. His deep blue eyes. The face that was more frog than human.
“Or else you will face the wrath of the Anura.”
The butcher’s eyes opened wide in shock. It was quiet for a moment, but then sounds could be heard from Barry’s mouth. Sounds of pure fear. Sobbing sounds.
“Barry didn’t do anything, Mister Anura. Please. Spare my life. My momma always said this would happen in the end. Poor old Barry. Eaten by an Anura.”
Vroch and Darren exchanged glances. This is the moment. With a swift movement Darren was able to free his hand.”Run, Greenie!”
Vroch nodded and started to run, leaving Darren behind. They would regroup at the old house, like always. First he had to run. Around him he saw guards popping up to see why the butcher was screaming. Mustn’t get caught. In his head he heard the voice of his grandfather. “Never show your face to the humans. They are afraid of anything that is out of the ordinary. Well, messed that one up big time. But what else could I have done? If only Darren listened to me. Then this wouldn’t have happened…”
Vroch lost track of his thought and found himself on the ground. A sharp pain in his hand brought him back to reality. Under him were a few broken boxes. He must have tripped over them while he was stuck in his monologue. He jumped back on his feet as fast as possible and started to run again. The sharp pain in his hand was still there, but now was not the time to look. He had to get away. Out of this city. Everywhere he looked he saw guards, flocking towards the harbour. He ran. He had to escape. Before him was the entrance of the forest. Through the trees he could see a dim light. Without thinking he followed it. Maybe it was a sign. Maybe it was a sign from gramps. So he ran. Towards the light.
It was dark in the forest and only the noises that you could hear were the creatures of the night doing their things. Well, that and a wizard that was having a drink with his gnome friend in the middle of the forest. Adam Batin took a big sip from his cup of wine and smiled.
“My grandfather always believed that everything is connected, held together by an unknown force. And when the time is right all those connections will come together, just to set events in motion that could change the world as we know it.”
“Sounds to me that ya grandfather was a heavy drinker.”
“Maybe, never met him to be honest. But my father also believed the stories. That is why he gave you that strange message. In his journal he talked about the return of the Anura and the Fenrir.”
“Oh bugger, not the Fenrir..”
“My friend. What is wrong with the Fenrir? I always felt a great curiosity to meet one. Could it be that you have encountered one? Please, Dwarfman. Tell me more.”
“Met one? I met them all. The Fenrir were very much like wolves. They lived in the forest, they shat in the forest, they formed stupid packs in the forest, if ya catch my drift. And they were always so angry. Sigh, so bloody angry all the fricking time.” The small gnome took a sip of his wine. His face clenched while the alcohol did some work on his throat. “You know, the usual wolf things. But the Fenrir did something normal wolves don’t. They talked. A lot. Fricking far too much if ya ask me. Those rowdy angry bastards. Roaming around. Pretending to own this fricking forest. Oh, and they walked on two legs. It looked ridiculous. If ya ask me, it was a great thing when they all buggered off.”
Adam smiled and took another sip of his wine. They were both sitting on a rock, surrounding by what was once an old ruin. Now it was nothing more than some walls that were covered in moss and vines.
“Interesting. But tonight, my friend, we will meet both the Anura and the Fenrir again.”
“How are ya so sure?”
“Because according to my father’s message tonight is the night. We will finaly see some events moving into motion. For the untrained eye a coincidence, but for us Magi… pure magic.”
The gnome snorted.
“Ya talk as much bullocks as yer old man, Batin. And how are you going to move those motions, or whatever ya calling them.”
The Magi stood up and placed his hand on one of the walls. His hand started to shine and a small orb of light started to float in the air.
“I just do what my father instructs me to do. And we, my friend. We play the waiting game.”
Twigs snapped under his boots. Splashes of wet mosh marked his path. The lights of the city were long and gone, but the adrenaline rush had not stopped. Before him Vroch saw the light he was following. He was almost there. He relaxed his pace and took a look at his hand. The wound was covered in dried up blood. Good, it didn’t look that bad. Just have to clean it up a bit and it should heal perfectly.
He smiled and looked around him. The light was slowly fading, but it had served its purpose. He got away. Before him he saw a the ruins of… something. Could have been an old temple or even a small tower, but nature made sure it was reclaimed as part of the forest. Vroch sat down. Somehow this place felt strange. A hint of nostalgia entered his conscious. He found it weird. He was sure this was the first time he was here. He stood up and looked around. He laid his hand in a pedestal that stood in the middle of the open space.
It felt warm to the touch. Vroch looked surprised and saw his hand glowing. He tried to remove his hand, but some unknown force held it down. A bright light filled the open place and blinded the Anura. Time stood still for a moment and before Vroch realised it, the light was gone. His hand was free again. Shaken he looked at his hand. The wound was gone. What was going on?
Next to the pedestal lay a wolf. Vroch took a step backwards and didn’t know what to do.This is not his day. Should he stay or should he go now? Before he could do anything he noticed the heap of wolf moving around.
The dark wolf looked around, confused and angry.
“What’s this? Where the bloody hell am I?”
His green eyes focused on Vroch and a low growl formed at the back of his throat.
“You! Green guy! It is all your bloody fault! You betrayed us!”
Vroch took a few steps back and searched for something that would help him to fend off this creature. The wolf started to growl more loudly.
“Oh no you don’t! You bloody stay here! I want to make you feel everything I felt.”
The wolf stood up and there he was. Standing on two legs, being angry. Vroch sighed. This day couldn’t get any worse. Well, it could, but he would rather not think about that. He looked around and found a thick stick. That would do. He just need to delay the attack a bit. A sudden shroud of confidence fell over the Anura. He felt a smile returning to his face..
“Are you sure you want to kill me? I didn’t even catch your name. The name is Vroch Anura. I have lived in this forest my whole live, but I have never seen anything as ugly as you.”
“Getting talky, are we? I really hate that. You don’t need to know that my name is Noire.”
Almost there. Vroch shoved his boot gently under the stick and remained the eye contact with the wolf.
“And still you just told me.”
The black beast slapped his face with his paw and tried to find a cunning comeback. Frustrated by the lack of a good reply, he let out a loud growl, and leaped forward. Vroch smiled. With his boot he kicked up the stick, caught it in his hand, and dodged the wolf attack. Before Noire realised it he fell down on the ground with a great weight on his back. He tried to get up, but a great force in his neck held him down. Vroch laughed and put a bit more force on the stick in Noire’s neck.
“Well, what do we have here?”
Adam Batin stepped out of the bushes and clapped his hands. His face was glowing with glee.
“Quite a party of mythical creatures if you ask me. A Fenrir, who shouldn’t even be here. You were suppose to have disappeared during a lunar eclipse centuries ago. And an Anura, amphibian creature that will bring death to us all. Well at least if you believe the stories. And that leaves me, one of the last Magi. A race of magic users whom were sentenced to death by their fellow humans, so long ago. Beautiful.
And you know what, my forest friends. I think this is the start of something special.”