Welcome to Andre Norton's

 

Reading Corner

 

andre norton storyteller 1948

Andre the Librarian hosting "Story Time" at the Cleveland Public Library ~ 1948

 

"Come on In! . . .Take a Seat! . . . and Settle Down! . . ."

As we share with you a tale by one of the leading story tellers of the past century.

 

Twice a Month (on the 1st and the 16th) We are going to post an original story by Andre Norton

During the showcase period you will be able to read it here free of charge.

 

Many were only published once.

So it's a sure thing that there's going to be a few you have never heard of.

The order will be rather random in hopes you return often.

 

Happy Reading!




 

 

Frog Magic

by Andre Norton

 

all.cats.are.gray.1953 fantastic universe

(1997) Edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Published by DAW, PB, 0-886-77756-9, $5.99, 346pg ~ cover by John Howe

 

1st Published ~ Wizard Fantastic (1997) Edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Published by DAW, PB, 0-886-77756-9, No.1072, $5.99, 346pg ~ cover by John Howe

 

Available NowTales from High Hallack vol. 3 (2014) Published by Premier Digital Publishing, DM & TP, 1-624-67189-6, $22.95, 450pg ~ cover by Kib Prestridge

 

Bibliography Page - Frog Magic (andre-norton-books.com)




The puffy green-skinned body on the water-washed rock opened his large eyes. To have one's life so quickly changed could not help but disorient one for at least a short period of time. The trick was to remember who he was and what he had been, not the he of here and now.

A fly buzzed by, and his mouth snapped open; a loop of sticky tongue gathered in that brash intruder. The frog gulped, and then he shivered. What had happened was an act of this alien body, not by conscious thought of his own. He must be on guard.

“How did you do that?” The sharp croak sounded hardly more than adolescent peeping. He stared down at the speaker who clearly WAS a frog.

“As you do also,” he croaked, forgetting his resolution of moments earlier to gather in a tempting offer of larger prey, a dragonfly.

“No---I mean how did you get here?” The small frog hoisted himself up on a lower river stone and raised a forefoot to point. “You appeared, just out of the air.”

The large frog sensed more than passing curiosity---there was awe in that question. Another of those too bright youngsters who were more curious than was good for their own good. Anyway, there was no time to be wasted with this insignificant youngling, but it seemed now that the small frog had lost his proper awe. Not stricken abashed by his elder's offended silence, he continued. “How do you do that---poof out of the air? One minute nothing---then you?”

“It is a long tale and one difficult to explain,” the big frog was badgered into replying with almost a turtle's snappishness. “It does not matter,” now he was thinking aloud, “how I got here. The question is how do I return?”

Return---how long would it take the present frog's personality to absorb Hyarmon, Wizard, Second Class, who had certainly been fatally careless today? Wizards removed enemies in this manner; they did not fall victim themselves to such snide tricks. In spite of his attempt at control, he mouthed another fly. Yes, this body would certainly, sooner or later, abort the persona of a man---unless he moved swiftly.

“Get back where?” persisted the younger frog.

Such a change included an element of time, but there was always a key. He need only discover the lock into which his fitted to be at once surrounded by familiar walls. He hoped he could deal with the problem---and later, with more fineness, with Witchita who was responsible for his present plight. His pop eyes now focused with some force on the younger frog.

“You know the river well, youngling?” he demanded.

“Sure. I've gone as far as the mill,” the creature was plainly boasting, “and as far up as to where the stink water comes out by the falls.”

Falls! Hyarmon had his checkpoint. Fortune was beginning to favor him now.

“A long way indeed.” He tried to tame his croak with a touch of pleasantry.

“Dangerous, too!” The small frog was puffing himself up. “The stink water hole can make one sick.”

Holding the frog part of him firmly under control, Hyarmon readied his body for a leap into the water. Only those four strong legs refused to obey him.

Of course. How could he have been fool enough to believe it would be that easy? It required some concentration to be able to inspect carefully the rock on which he had come into being. Frog sight might distort those lines but not enough that Hyarmon did not recognize the carvings. He hunched around to learn that he was completely netted.

The Arcs of Arbuycus. Hmmm, he might have known she would not settle for such a single step as transformation. 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 in to join his interrogator. The latest comer was as large if not larger than himself----and the crowd parted respectfully to let this one through.

Pop eyes centered on pop eyes. The newcomer gave a croak as loud as a shout, and the rest were instantly silent.

Hyarmon dared a probe. He encountered nothing but frog thoughts. No, this one was not to be touched by spells---but there was always the power of thought. He possessed and used that out of memory.

The large frog turned as if to take himself as far as possible from this potential rival. But Hyarmon's thought power held. The object of his intense gaze hastily submerged, but he was not going to escape so easily.

Holding onto his catch with determination, Hyarmon now tried to turn part of his attention to the frog who had first discovered him. The frog jerked, its four legs twitching, then sprang for the same rock as Hyarmon occupied. The wet green body landed with a plop on the horn of one of the inscribed Arcs. So! It could be done---now was the time to reel in his prisoner.

Sullenly fighting against the power which was drawing him, the large frog rose into sight. For a long moment the silent battle of wills continued, and then the frog came out of the water to stretch its own body over that already laid there.

Hyarmon observed the result with care. His hind limbs stiffened then he leaped, to stand for an instant on the quivering green bodies before the water enfolded him.

Upstream the younger frog had said, so upstream it would be. Paying no attention to the rest of the company Hyarmon exerted himself and then relaxed. Yes, he could depend upon the natural instinct and the rythym of this body to serve him. He kept an eye on the nearest bank. Witchita had sprung one trap; he could well believe it was not the only one---she would not want to confront him after this trial.

The hole spoken of did stink. He was not sure of the strength of frog sense of smell, but this was bad enough. It was undoubtedly a drain and surely the door he sought.

He continued to fight his way through water which was soupy with slime. The drain slanted upward, but he could find holds for his four feet. What he feared most did not happen until he was well up the shoot when a wave of dirty water suddenly showered and battered him, but he held on with desperate determination.

Though he had never explored such inner ways within the walls of his tower Hyarmon was sure he was drawing near to his goal. A dim light flittered into the way ahead, and he resumed his efforts so that fortune favored him as the scullery maid was not at work at the sink Into which he crawled. He lay exhausted and panting on the hard slate of the tub unaware of voices until a name and some words made sense.

“He didn't never ride outside th' gate, I tells you. Young Master Brame said that it was all fast locked. Certain th' Noble Lord could've gone that way, but don't we all know what we hear when the gate spell is loosed?”

“Well, he ain't here, an' that one queens it in th' Great Hall as if she sits on the High Seat by rights. Gives orders right an' left this mornin'. I seed her put somethin' in th' drink she gave to Master Brame an' the guard sergeant. Now they trails behind her like they was pups and she their dam. 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 away. But Hyarmon had heard enough. So Witchita was playing with potions now? His determination to deal with her was more than part anger. Such herbs could be used too often or in too great quantities.

It took him several desperate leaps to clear the high wall of the sink. Hyarmon could now hear movement and talking in the kitchen beyond the scullery. So he sought passage from shadow to shadow, his sleek, damp hide gathering a fur of lint and dust.

Hyarmon was near winded when he finally won to the top of the stairs and dragged himself into the Great Hall. The gleam of witch lights was plain, marking this a night hour. He searched by thought for guards---luckily in this his human persona was still serving him.

The hall was oddly quiet; no coming and going of spell-constructed serving goblins. In fact there was no table in evidence, but the High Seat stood there and toward that he made his way in weak hope.

There was no use in trying to reach his laboratory. The very devices he himself had set up for security would betray him now that he wore this alien guise. But determination won over fatigue, and he made it not only up the step of the dais but, in one last exhausting leap, to the High Seat, where he subsided, puffing.

Witchita might have changed his proper outward body, but once he was here the numbing caused by his strange form wore off and he grew fiercely alert. Wizards had tools, yes. But behind those there was always a mind which controlled such and Hyarmon now drew upon the powers of his.

After a short rest, his mind began to work furiously. He lifted one foot and then another alternately to scrape from his moist skin all he could of the debris he had gathered during his journey, wadding it down on one of the wide chair arms.

Hyarmon could not make the proper passes cleanly and accurately while he was in this body, but he could visualize and that was useful now. The soggy mound arose sluggishly, thinning out into a dank mist. Two of the energy globes swooped, answering his unspoken orders, while the rest fanned out as if driven to some task.

The doubled lights swirled around Hyarmon. He could feel no change in his body---no---what he wove now was an envelope.

To all purposes a man sat in the High Chair---materialized out of that dream visitor Witchita doted on. The figure solidified into seemingly complete life and Hyarmon dispatched one globe to summon. He must concentrate on holding this shadow self together long enough to serve his plan. If Witchita were entirely alert, she might have sensed the spell in formation. She had triumphed before on her own. Perhaps she was just vain enough to believe as she was now so bedazzled by dreaming that she did not sense danger---for her.

There was the sound of a protesting hinge, and the door opened. One of the globes appeared to light the one who entered. So---it was night. He had chosen the proper time for, as she swept forward, he could see her lithesome body more revealed than concealed by a spider silk night shift, though she had bundled a shawl about her shoulders.

Hyarmon might have smacked his lips at the appearance of a very large and succulent fly. Dream drawn she was! She had in a way ensorcelled herself and needed only a slight touch from him to seek certain pleasures.

The young man, pale of countenance but handsome of feature, did not rise from the High Seat but held out both hands in welcome, his eyes alive with passionate promise.

“Cevin!” she breathed, and her own arms came up to welcome his promised embrace. Hyarmon poised beneath the shadow he had built.

She was bending forward, having already taken the dais step, apparently not finding it strange that her phantom lover did not rise to greet her.

Still bemused as one caught in the web of sleep she leaned forward, her lips slightly parted to welcome his kiss. Lips indeed met lips but not as Witchita had expected. Her eyes widened, and she stared in terrified horror at what she had so spontaneously kissed. Yet even as her dream snapped into nothingness so did the one she had come to meet change again. The frog had vanished as had the lover. Hyarmon sat firmly on the High Seat of the Great Hall.

“You---!” She cowered, as well she might. Not only cowered, but her body was twitching wildly. The silken shift puddled as a frog, half hidden within its folds, stared at Hyarmon.

He surveyed her critically. Then, to make sure the transformation was complete, he made a quick pounce and lifted the wildly kicking frog to the level of his 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 his wand materialized. Apparently she had foolishly neglected to break it. Still holding the frantically squirming frog in one hand, Hyarmon sketched out an oblong line on the floor. With the proper words he created a crystal aquarium. Into this he dropped the frog, who was struggling to bite with toothless jaws.

“Water---“ Another pass of the wand and the aquarium was filled. “A rock for a High Seat, dear Witchita,” he ordered, “and, of course, I shall see that each day you shall have the best flies to be found.”

The frog had climbed to the top of the rock and now was making an attempt to leap out. However, there seemed to have also come into existence an invisible cover which kept her prisoner.

Hyarmon chuckled. “Remember your history, my dear. Frogs, kisses, and beautiful young women have met before. You thought to match lips with your desired one, but there is a different ending to this tale.”

He clapped his hands and a goblin flashed into their presence.

“Smurch,” Hyarman bade him, “take this aquarium to the bower of the lady Witchita. See her carefully settled and catch some flies, come morning, for her delectation. My dear, I trust you will meditate on past foolish acts. You shall be, I assure you, kept safe and secure.”

If a frog could glare, the captive achieved that now. Hyarmon laughed and waved the goblin and his burden away. Now, he arose from the High Seat and stretched luxuriously, then decided to go up to the laboratory and see what mischief there had entertained Witchita during his involuntary absence.



 

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