The Humongous and the Frogs

Posted: November 1, 1998 in Writing
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He crouched below the newly refurbished drawbridge and carefully stroked a frog’s head between the eyes. The frog couldn’t smile, but if he could, he would be. Every day, the Humongous visited the clan of frogs outside the Moathouse, a moderately famous inn, tavern and brewery rolled into one renovated keep a little bit north of the small town of Opar. The Humongous was not the brightest person in the land, but he was fiercely loyal, and had recently become much more responsible and good-hearted after he had helped thwart the nefarious plans of several terrible entities from other planes of existence. He had always been strong in body, and for many years would take care of problems by smashing them into flinders or by picking them up and throwing them far away. But lately, his friends, especially the great magician Borkum, had noticed that the Humongous was much more thoughtful than he used to be, and had odd habits, like shaping his fists into mace heads or turning into a bull and running around in the fields. The Humongous had discovered the power of positive thinking in his mind, and was becoming more in tune every day. It wasn’t like Borkum’s spells, or the priestess Lillith’s belief and faith. Instead it just required a lot of concentration and an idea of what your body can do. The Humongous was just that: humongous, and there was nothing he couldn’t do if he put his mind to it. Plus he drank a lot of milk.

Today, though, the Humongous was sitting under the drawbridge minding his own business when someone called him a troll as a rider stopped on the drawbridge. The frogs sat in the mud as he stood up and peeked over the edge of the oaken span that laid over the moat to see who had called him a troll. A man in fine livery sat upon a great white stallion. He had a sword and shield buckled to his saddle and had about him an air of great importance that could easily be mistaken for arrogance. A train of some fifteen men-at-arms and retainers followed him closely.

“You there. Go tell the leafeater that his oldest brother has arrived,” demanded the knight. The Humongous immediately realized that it was Renault, his elf friend Robin’s sibling. He hauled himself up and tracked mud into the courtyard.

“Robin!” announced the Humongous in a loud voice, “Your brother is here to see you!”

His bellowing rang through the keep; several people came out to help with the visitors and to see what the racket was about. The Humongous slipped back into the moat in the confusion that followed, ignoring the heated argument that ensued between Robin and Renault as soon as they exchanged pleasantries.

The frogs had waited for him. He couldn’t talk to them like he could talk to another person, but sometimes, if he concentrated really hard, he could share thoughts with the little green amphibians. He went back to stroking one behind its eyes.

After enduring a couple of minutes of noise and dust in the shade under the drawbridge, the Humongous picked up five or six of the smallest frogs and started to walk around the keep in the moat. The rest of the frogs followed him, hopping and croaking. The cacophony faded as they went around the base of Borkum’s tower, and they came upon a dead frog in the silence. Another frog leaped over to the corpse, which was laying upside down and had been savaged open by some terrible teeth. The frog looked at the Humongous.

Carefully putting the other frogs down, he carefully picked up the frog and looked at it sadly. For a moment, he looked as if he had lost his best friend; then, he closed his eyes under his velvet mask and concentrated on sending blood to his senses. He felt them immediately warm to the presence of more blood, and he gingerly smelled the frog’s body. Odors assailed his heightened sense of smell, but there was no mistaking the musky odor of a predator. Something had expanded its hunting grounds too close to the Moathouse, and had unfortunately killed one of the Humongous’ friends.

“Stay here little green buddies,” warned the Humongous. The frogs blinked their eyes at him. He climbed out of the moat, and with a look around, set off into the swampy woods on the trail of the Beast.

It was getting darker in the already dark mucky forest, but the Humongous was still searching for the Beast. He had followed it to the outskirts of Opar and then lost the trail when the forest petered out into the rolling hills of grazing land used by the farmers’ livestock. He couldn’t see very well anymore under the overhanging broad-leafed limbs, so he decided to go into Opar for a tall cold mug of milk before starting back along the road to the Moathouse.

Sitting in the small tavern, he thought about the Beast. Whatever it was, it wasn’t too big, about the size of a medium dog. The Humongous had at first thought it was a hunting dog that he would have to chastise, but the Beast didn’t act like a dog at all. The trail went straight through the forest with no stopping for exploration or marking trees at all, which was unlike a dog. Even the Humongous marked a tree on the way to Opar.

A yelp of pain and surprise came from across the room. The Humongous turned to see a dirty little kid with his hands over his eyes with a magical glowing copper piece on the table in front of him. The piece looked well worn and vaguely familiar; he felt his belt pouch and sure enough, the coin that Borkum had given him was gone and the pouch had a neat little slit in the bottom of it. The Humongous hunched off of the barstool and went and got his copper piece. He patted the kid on the head as he fetched his coin.

“You know you should ask before taking something that isn’t yours,” said the Humongous. The kid snarled at him and tried to bite his arm, but the Humongous gently pushed him away. “Now that isn’t very nice.”

“My father will get you!” he shouted. Punching the Humongous in the eye he slipped under the table and dashed out of the door.

“Damn gypsies came in last week from down south,” volunteered the bartender, a fat old man with a cleft chin, “They’re nothing but trouble. Always cavorting around big bonfires and then disappearing into the woods a little north of here.”

The Humongous gladly took the wet towel from the bartender and pressed it to his eye. It didn’t really hurt, but he didn’t want it to swell up any because then he would have to explain how he had gotten it, and then Robin would laugh at him.

“Where are they staying? It’s dark and there is a Beast about,” he asked the bartender, “I should make sure that nice little boy gets home safely.”

“Why, they’re up beyond the big boulder at the north west edge of town.”

As the Humongous left town, night fell, and it was quite dark by the time he had passed the big boulder. It actually was put there on the outskirts of Opar by the Humongous himself. It was a grave marker for a dead friend of his whose name he never learned, but who was really good with cattle. He paused to pick up a big rock which was next to the boulder, and picked out a blue candle stub. Putting the rock back, he lit the candle and placed it on top of the rock. After a moment of silence and reflection, he started up the hill towards a flickering fire he saw illuminating the trees a few hundred yards away.

Coming to the top of the rise, the Humongous stopped and dropped to all fours. Crawling to the edge of the little bowl, he peered down into a semicircle of three wagons. Around fifteen men, women and children were playing tambourines and flutes and dancing around a fire. They were having a lot of fun, as gypsies do, and the Humongous almost wanted to join them. He was good at dancing and singing himself, but then he thought better of it. He was not so charismatic as Robin, who would know what to do, and sometimes he scared people. He remembered that he had scared Renault earlier today, because he had mistaken him for a troll. The Humongous watched for a moment longer, then he crawled away back down the hill.

Walking down the road back to the Moathouse, he promised himself he would get up early and follow the trail again. The Humongous looked around to make sure he wouldn’t frighten anyone, and changed into a bull. He had always like cows, and one day, after studying hard, he found he could become a lot more like a bull than he had thought: his hands and feet became hooves and short brown and white hair grew out of his skin. His neck thickened just a little bit, and two horns sprung out of the sides of his head. All in all, you could still tell it was the Humongous, because it was an extremely ugly bull, but it served his purpose, and he ran off down the rutted road into the forest.

A while later, he thought he heard some rustling in the bushes, so he stopped to see what it was.

“Maybe the Beast is around again tonight,” he thought. Slowly, several animals slunk out of the underbrush all around him. There were five or six foxes with nice red fur and white stripes on their tails, a pair of big grey wolves, and three spotted skunks. They surrounded the bull that was the Humongous and began nipping at his flanks when he wasn’t looking. After a couple of solid bites, he began to get upset. And what was worse, his natural talent for being empathetic with animals wasn’t working right now.
Blood ran down his back leg where a wolf had bitten him. The Humongous had had enough, and when one of the skunks cockily came too close, he lunged forwards and pinned it to the ground on his horns.

The rest of the animals stopped and looked horrified. The skunk squealed and twisted on the horns, gnawing at the Humongous when he could reach him. The Humongous shook his head violently and flung the body down the road. As it flew through the air, it unbelievably transformed into the body of a naked person. The bull was so surprised, he changed back into the Humongous. He looked around at the animals, who stared back at him.

All at once, the foxes started darting in and out of his legs, making it hard for him to keep his footing and the wolves leapt at his chest. He took a deep breath and concentrated on the space right where he was; he had found that he could stay in the same place if he wanted to by thinking really hard about being immobile. The wolves were expecting to knock him down, but they slammed into the Humongous as if he were a wall.

The Humongous grabbed a fox by its tail and received a vicious bite for his troubles. The next fox just got punched. Ribs broke in its small body and it crawled away to the side of the road by the skunks. Another fox was kicked into the treetops. One of the wolves was sneaking up on him on his left; he could hear him growling softly with his heightened senses. The muscles on the Humongous’ chest bulged with adrenaline. The wolf in front of him leaped at him and took a bite out of his chest. The Humongous shot his arm out three times its normal length, by concentrating on his flesh and bones, and stuffed the wolf head first into a hollow tree trunk. The remaining foxes were gnawing on his legs, and he leaned down and punched each one twice on the top of their heads, knocking them unconscious. The skunks looked at him warily with their beady eyes, and the last wolf snarled at him.
“You scoundrel! Picking on my child,” said the wolf, “I will chew you into hamburger!”

The Humongous stopped at looked at the wolf. He’d never seen a talking wolf. It circled him once and jumped at his throat. The Humongous gathered all of the strength he could find and caught the wolf in midair. Then he squeezed and squeezed until he heard bones cracking. The wolf meanwhile had kept his word and had chewed on the Humongous’ arm before passing out and changing into the form of a bearded man; one of the gypsies he had seen dancing around the fire earlier in the night. He set the body on the ground. The man still breathed, though raggedly, and had blood leaking out of his mouth.

“I didn’t pick on anyone. I’m the one who gets picked on,” said the Humongous to the animals. Then he laid his hands on the gypsy and straightened his chest out. The wounds closed up and looked a little better, while the same wounds appeared on the Humongous, only much milder. The man groaned and writhed a little. The Humongous stood up from beside the gypsy and walked past the animals down the road. He stopped to look at the form of the kid who had pickpocketed him earlier and tried to borrow his magic coin. Come to think about it, he did look a little like a skunk. Even his dark hair was sort of spotted. The animals melted into the woods, dragging the ones who couldn’t move, and the Humongous walked back to the Moathouse.

When he got there, he climbed under the drawbridge and made a croaking sound that the frogs had taught him. Within a few minutes, a hundred or so frogs had gathered, heard his story, and made the Humongous a little medal of swamp grass and rocks, which he still wears to this day.

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