The Axe in the Stump #4: “Frogs. Just why..?”

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Nathan found a map, and we met an acquaintance named Willow after she saved us from a rat monster about ten or so hours ago, and now we’re traveling like nothing happened.

“Well, the map says this place is a stop,” said Nathan.
“How?” I asked.
“It has a mark, so I’m guessing this is where we are. Plus it has the same landscape. Look at this spot on the map,” He pointed out, ”Same as that cluster of trees there,” and pointed towards a thick bundle of trees.
“Oh,” I agreed.

We just found our path blocked by a swampy marsh that we couldn’t find a way around or through unless we wanted to sink up to our knees in mud.

“Yeah, no thanks, that’s nasty,” I said.
“I’m with Bryce, to be honest,” Willow agreed.
“C’mon, guys, don’t be babies about this. We have to get across!” Nate sighed looking at the mud.

Willow and I exchanged disgusted glances, as Nate took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his shorts. I sighed and began to do the same. Willow was wearing a skirt and no socks, so she simply took off her sandals and put her hair in a bun.

“Why do you need your hair up?” I asked.
“So it doesn’t get in my face while we wade through the muck,” she replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

Willow is an immortal girl. She’s a good addition to our team, seeing as she gave us a map and brought extra food for us. She was tall and thin with light brown hair and sea-green eyes around her pupils and crystal blue around the rest of the iris. She had beautiful clear tan skin, like she was made of gold and copper. Imagine her as the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen, and multiply it by ten. She was amazing, truly.

“We ready to go, you two?” Nate asked in an unenthusiastic tone.
“I suppose,” I moped.
“Yeah,” Willow replied simply.

It was disgusting. I’ve decided to never touch mud again after this experience.

The mud was hot, but not super hot, like really warm but not in a comfy, pleasant way, like dog puke or a sick person’s forehead type of warm. Weeds are everywhere, and it smells like the beach, but not the lovely sea breeze, ocean water beach smell. It was a rotting seaweed, and hot trash stink with animal droppings, plus vines were everywhere, so I nearly tripped every five seconds because they were hidden underneath the mud. It all looked like cow manure, with tiny plants occasionally popping up from the slime and swamp trees covering it, so we didn’t have a lot of room to walk.

“If we don’t get out of here soon, I’m gonna start crying, Nathan” I whined.
“Oh my god, wait, gods? Whatever, oh my gosh Bryce it’s MUD, stop whining,” Nate said, shooting me a look.
“This quest is annoying,” I grumbled.
Silence
“Bryce?”
“Yeah?”
“YOU BROUGHT US ON THE QUEST,” Nate said, grabbing my shoulders looking exasperated.
“Yeah well…”
“Nope, no shush, it’s your fault,” Nate cut me off.

Nathan and I continue arguing while Willow ignores us for a good ten minutes when suddenly, Willow points out “What are those bubbles?”

She pointed at a spot in the muck that looked like it was starting to boil.
“Uhm, run?” Nathan questioned.

Just as he said ‘run’ a massive frog-like creature burst through the swamp floor and started thrashing and jumping around like a wild bull in an arena. It was a dull greyish teal type color, the size of a bulldozer. If you’ve never seen a bulldozer, they’re massive trucks used for construction. MASSIVE trucks. Big, dull yellow eyes that looked like giant pearls in the sides of its head seemed to have this odd, dead look to them. It had gross scars and mud everywhere, and when it emerged, it brought skeletons with it.

“WHOA!” Willow yelled in surprise.

In its crazy rampage, it almost crushed us all. TWICE. The first time it slammed into a rock, barely brushing Nate’s nose with both of us close to him, making us all split up. The second time it thrashed over to me and almost stomped my skull in with its front feet.

“Wait guys, look!” Nate shouted.
“What?” I yelled back.
“Look at the jump pattern, it’s going around aimlessly, and its eyes are glazed over! I don’t think it can see us!” he shouted.

When I looked closer, far away from its giant feet I realized he was right. It was blind. I looked around, scanning the surrounding area for SOMETHING, ANYTHING that could help us. That’s when I realized the obvious solution, “NATHAN, THE AXE,” I shouted to him.

“WHAT?” he yelled back.
“THROW THE AXE OVER HERE!” I screamed.

He tossed the axe over at my feet, I picked it up and it started glowing again, but this time, it wasn’t purple. No, this time it was green, and glowing bright as fire on a cold night. I gripped it in my hands, ran, and without a second thought, I jumped and brought the blade down into the frog’s soft, ugly back. It let out a roar that shook the whole swamp, and started running more frantically until it ran into a tree headfirst, knocking itself unconscious, and going belly up.

I ripped the axe out of the frog’s side, heaving and out of breath, then dropped down back into the mud and walked over to Nate and Willow with the fixed expression of ‘petrified’.

“Dude,” Nathan said.
“Bro,” I replied.
“Is this what guy-speak is?” Willow asked and we chuckled, all feeling dazed from whatever that was.
“We should leave,” Nathan spoke, looking over at the frog, which was now almost completely submerged in mud.
“Yeah..” I agreed.

We walked out, finding the path once more, into a clear area of dry dirt, in a swamp-type forest, but without sludge and more frequent plant life.

“How’s it feel to be a hero, Bryce?” Nate asked with a semi-smug but sincere expression.
I examined my hands and spoke “Tired,” and we all laughed.

We all sat down by a large boulder covered in soft, green moss and sighed with relief. “So, what now?” Willow asked.
“What do you mean?” Nate replied.
“What do we do now? Camp out or continue walking? If we camp out, where do we stay?” She said, as if trying to plan out a road trip or something. I guess that’s what this is, the quest. Just a massive, dangerous, magical roadtrip without a car.
“Let’s find something to make a shelter from, or an empty cave, it’s getting late. We should camp out,” Nathan decided.

When he said that I realized that he was right. The sun was setting. The sky had turned bright orange fading softly into pink with barely a cloud in sight.

“Welp, guess we should start searching for a place to sleep,” I said, standing up to start looking around.

We eventually found an empty, shallow cave, (which was really just a boulder formation) just as the moon was starting to rise and the sky was turning dark blue into black. We set up some blankets that Willow had in a backpack, and slept until the next morning.

When we woke up, we followed the map into a place that looked like a flower field. It was covered with things like tulips, roses, daffodils, lavender, and more that I don’t know the name of. Something about the flowers seemed odd, though, I couldn’t quite place what.

“I don’t think we should be here,” Nate said, sounding uneasy.

Unfortunately, he was correct.