“The Telling of Tales” # 11
By Andre Norton
This is a very rough draft of “Frog Magic” published in 1997 within the DAW anthology “Wizard Fantastic” the original is in Andre’s hand and very hard to read, every attempt to type exactly what was on the page has been made. --- ?___? Denotes a word that was not decipherable.
The puff of green skin on the river washed stone opened his big eyes. To have one’s life so quickly change could not help but disorientate one for at least a short space of time. The trick was always to remember just WHO he was. A fly buzzed overhead and his mouth snapped open, a loop of sticky tongue caught the lush fly and the large frog shivered. There in, was an alien body could resist to its nature, which act conscious orders, until the alien was in total charge. He must be on guard.
“How did you do that?” The sharp croaks were hardly more than adolescent peeping. He stared down at the questioner. Undoubtedly one of his own species.
“As you do also.” He croaked and forgot his resolution of moments earlier to gather in a larger prey – a dragonfly.
“No – I mean how did you get there?” the small frog boosted himself up on a lower river greened stone and raised a fore foot to point. “You just appeared out of the air!”
The frog sensed more curiosity than awe of any kind as he questioned. Another bright youngster who had more curiosity than his own good. Anyway there was no reason to waste time with this insignificant junior but it seemed that the youngster was neither awed by the size of the larger elder, nor stricken abashed by his offending silence but he was continuing.
“How do you do it – puff right out of the air like that – one moment nothing – then you.”
“It’s a long tale and a difficult one to explain” the big frog was badgered into replying with a turtle’s snappishness. “It does not matter how I got here – the point is” he was thinking aloud now – “Just how am I going to get back.”
Get back – how long would it take the present frog personality to absorb Hymaron, Wizard Second Class, who had certainly taken several wrong steps today. Wizards removed lesser enemies in this fashion, they did not fall prey themselves to such juvenile tricks. In spite of attempt at control he caught another fly. Yes the body would certainly absorb the persona of the man unless he moved swiftly.
“Get back where?” the younger frog persisted.
Such a change included time, place, and victim, but the key was always returning – he need only find the lock in which to insert it. Surrounded once more by familiar walls he thought – he hoped he could successfully deal with the probable – and later, and more lingering with Witchita who was responsible for his present plight. His pop eyes focused with some force on the small frog.
“You know the river, youngling?” he demanded.
“Sure. I have gone far down as the null,” the creature was plainly boosting, “and as far up as the falls-”
“Falls!” Hymaron caught at that. It was the check point he believed then fortune favored him now.
“A long way indeed,” he tried to tailor his croaking into a faint mistaken of pleasantry.
“Dangerous, too!” boasted the small frog. “There’s that place where the hole is. Get in there and it’s good bye.”
But firmly holding the frog part under stiff control Hymaron readied his body for a leap into the water. Only those four slender legs refused to obey the order of the body’s owner.
Of course, how could he have felt it would be that easy? It required some contortion to be able to inspect the rock on which he had come into being. Frog sight obstructed those lines but not enough that Hymaron did not understand what those water carvings represented. He hunched around to make sure he was completely surrounded.
The arcs of Arbus. Hmmm. Well he might have known she would not settle for such a childish revenge as transformation alone. Back again in his first position he glanced down to discover that his audience of one had expanded and was continuing to expand as other frogs swam effortlessly to join his interrogator. The last comer was as large if not larger then he was himself -- and the crowd parted respectfully to let this one through -- popeyes looked into popeyes. The new comer gave a croak as loud as a shout and his companion was instantly silent.
Hymaron dared a probe. He encountered nothing but frog thoughts until he slid past the future into memory. No, this was not to be hailed as command in ?___? and spells but – his thought pounced and held up that scoop of memory.
The large frog half turned as if to take himself as far as possible from the site. But Hymaron’s powers had nearly always been thought born and he held. The object of his intense stare submerged but Hymaron knew he was still there.
Holding on to his large catch with determination, he dared now to turn part of his attention to the youngster who had first discovered him. The frog jerked – its fore leg twitching. Then it sprang for the same rock which had mad Hymaron captured. The wet green brown body landed with a plop on the horn of one of the arcs. So! It could be done – now was the time to call upon his prisoner.
Sullenly and manifestly fighting against the power which was drawing it the large frog came back into sight. For a long moment that silent battle of wills continued and the big frog climbed up, his body now stretched beside its younger companion.
Hymaron eyed the result carefully. His hind limb slipped. He leaped – landed for a moment only as those green backs before the water enfolded him.
Upstream that youngling had said, so up stream it would be paying no attention to the green skinned company Hymaron tested a new advance and then relaxed. Yes, he could depend upon the natural instincts and rhythms of this body to carry him along. But kept a wary eye on the nearest bank. Witchita had set one trap. He could well believe it was not the only one. She actually would not want to face time again.
The whole of which he had been told did exist. He was not sure how keen frog sense of smell could be but several unpleasant odors told him this was his doorway, filthy as it might become.
Hymaron fought his way through water that was soupy with refuse. The drain slanted upward but with great determination he could find holds for the toes of his four feet. What he feared most did not happen until he was well up the shoot – a cascade of dirty water suddenly showered and battled him but he held with mass determination.
Though he certainly had never explored this particular wing in the walls of the tower Hymaron was sure he was drawing near to his goal. Magic has its own particular scent and that was growing stronger. This dim light beat in to the darkness ahead and he renewed his efforts to the strongest perch. Fortune favored him in that the scullery maid was not at work at the sink into which he crawled. He lay exhausted and panting in the hard slate of the tub unaware of the voices he could hear until a name and some words made sense.
“Didn’t never ride out to the gate, I tells you. Young Master Bean set the lock his own self. Certain the Noble Lord could banish that but we all know what sounds when a spell explodes – louder than any drum!”
“Well, he ain’t here and that one queens it in the great hall as if she sits in the High Seat by rights – givin orders right and left this morning. I seed what she put in the drink cup of Master Bean and the sergeant of the guard. Now they both trails behind her like they was puppies and she was their dame. I tell you that this here is no place to be with that fine Madam ruling it.”
The voices were fading as the speakers moved further away. But Hymaron had heard enough. So she was playing with potions again – his determination to deal with Witchita knew the strength of anger. Those potions could be deadly if used too often or in too great quantities.
It took him several desperate leaps to clear the high wall of the sink. Then he could hear movement and talking in the kitchen beyond the scullery. So he kept to the shadows his sleek body gathering a fur of lint and dust.
Hymaron was near winded when he won to the top of the stairs and saw the great hall with the gleam of witch light making a slow and ?___? marking it was night. He made a rapid mental calculation though he did not know if his persona had lingered in him, but after Witchita had tricked he did not think that his journey between great hall and river stone had been too protruded.
The hall was oddly silent for this hour. No coming and going of confused serving goblins busy at the dias table. In fact that was even not set up. But the High Seat stood there and towards that he hopped laboriously.
There was no use in heading for his laboratory. The very devises he had set up for security would betray him now that he wore this guise. But determination won over fatigue and he made it not only to the dias but in one last leap to which he fed almost all his remaining strength he at last won the High Seat and squatted there puffing.
Witchita might have removed his proper body but once her unexpected numbing potion wore off his mind remained fiercely alert. Wizards had their tools, yes. But behind those was a mind which controlled such and that for Hymaron was not locked.
He had been forced duly from a short rest, which his mind worked furiously, he began using first one back foot and then the other alternate by scrapping from his moist skin of all the debris he had gathered during his travels and splatting it up to the surface of one of the dias. When he had a pile of mingled dust and lent, savory material… Hymaron stretched his head back as far as it could go and two of the light balls answered his call, dropping out of the flitting game they and the fellow ?___? ?___? to hover over that pile – shedding a suddenly brighter glow upon it.
Hymaron could not make the proper passes effectively while in this body but he could visualize and that is what he needed now. The mound arose sluggishly, thinning into a dark mist. Two more of the energy gasses swooped nearer, while the rest forced out as if driven by some force of the light.
It settled and swirled around Hymaron. He could feel no change in his body – no – this was only a summoning of an envelope.
A man sat in the High Chair – once well known to him as a dream visitor for Witchita ?___? body all she considered to be worthy of her adoration. And it solidified into seeming complete life as Hymaron sent one of the globes to summon. He must concentrate on holding this shadow self to together long enough to achieve his plan. If Witchita were alert she would already sense the presence of a spell in formation. She had triumphed before on her own – perhaps she was first vain enough to believe she was now immune to another magic.
The globe suddenly formed two rings – one by the hall door, the other about the High Seat. There was the sound of a protesting hinge and the door opened. She was there right enough and he had by chance chosen his time slightly for her lithesome body was more revealed than concealed by a spider silk night rail, though she had bundled as shawl ?___? about her shoulders.
Hymaron might have smacked his lips at the capture of a very large and succulent fly. Dream caught she was! She had ensnared herself and needed only a touch from him to seek out the source of her hope for pleasure.
The young man pale of countenance but handsome of feature did not rise from the High Seat but held forth both hands in welcome, his eyes alive with dangerous promise. And she came unflatteringly to him.
“Cevin”, she breathed and his own arms came expanded but welcomed the offered embrace. Hymaron posed beneath the shadow he had summoned. She was bent forward, apparently not finding it strange her imaged lover did not rise to hold her.
Still bemused as one caught in the web of sleep she leaned forward and her lips slightly parted to urge his kiss. Lips indeed met lips but not as Witchita had expected. Her eyes widened and she looked in terrified horror at what she had so spontaneously kissed. But even as her dream was swept away so did he she had come to meet was changing again. The frog vanished as quickly as the man and Hymaron sat firmly in the martyr’s place in the hall.
“You --” she cowered as well she might. Not only cowered but her body was wavery and as the silken shift and shawl puddled on the floor a frog stared up at Hymaron with bitter and frightened eyes.
He surveyed her deictically. Then, to make sure the transformation was complete, he made a quick pounce and lifted the frog to the level of his own eyes.
“You undoubtedly make a beautiful frog, Witchita” he observed. “But I fear you shall never know the freedom of the river in which to plan a revenge.
He snapped his fingers and out of the air appeared his wand. Apparently she had not seen fit to break that. Still holding the now squirming and kicking frog in one hand, with the other hand Hymaron marked out an oblong space on the floor. Three more waves and he firmly repeated words, and he had at his feet a proper crystal aquarium. Into this he dropped the frog which was ?___? trying to bite him with toothless jaw.
“Water-” another pass of the wand produced that. “A rock for a High Seat”, he continued “And of course dear Witchita I shall see that each day you will have a feast of the best flies.”
The frog had climbed up on the summoned rock and was making futile attempts to leap out but there seemed to have also come into existence an invisible lid to her prison which she could not pass.
Hymaron chuckled. “Remember your history my dear. There was a princess who kissed a frog and gained her heart’s desire. You met lip to lip with your love but the ending differed. I am afraid sometimes legends are not true.”
He clapped his hands and a goblin flanked into being.
“Smirch,” Hymaron bade him, “take this aquarium to the tower of the Lady Witchita. See there is light and of course plenty of flies for her delectation. I trust you will in time, my dear, come to find that you have won a certain form of safety and be content.”
If a frog could glare the captive achieved that now. Hymaron laughed and waved the goblin on to his duty. Now, he arose from the High Seat and stretched luxuriously, up to the laboratory to see what mischief Witchita has been engaged in during his involuntary absence.
Digitized and edited by Jay Watts ~ aka: Lotsawatts ~ May, 2015
Rough draft of short story by Andre Norton
Copyright ~ Estate of Andre Norton
Online Rights - Andre-Norton-Books.com
Donated by – Estate of Andre Norton
Duplication of this story for profit of any kind NOT permitted.