Archive for November, 1998

Joffrey Marcus ProFile

Posted: November 1, 1998 in Writing
Tags: , ,

Joffrey’s mother died in bearing him into the humble house that his father had erected next to his place of work: his forge. Holding his only son in one rough arm as he brushed tears from his eyes with the other, Emmanuel Marcus bid his one true love, Miriel, goodbye and strode back to his smithy. Joffrey was raised by his father in the heat of the forge and to the sound of a hammer meeting steel.
He was a big child, one that was remarkably so. Emmanuel himself stood a little over six feet tall, but even he was unprepared for the growth of his son. Joffrey was six years old when he first lifted his father’s hammer, and nine when he forged his first weapon, a mace that fetched a pretty price at the marketplace. His father was tough on the young Joffrey, being bereft of a wife, and so many of the household chores fell upon his son’s broad shoulders. Joffrey was cheerful, and quickly set about completing most tasks that he was assigned. Against his father’s wishes, Joffrey attended the weekend school, led by Yorl the Wanderer at the Church at the far end of town. Emmanuel set about loading Joffrey down with more chores than he could manage to accomplish, but somehow Joffrey completed them all with time to spare, probably on account of his size and strength, and Emmanuel, though he built his forge as far away from the Church as he could, didn’t have the heart to forbid his son to go strictly because he said so. Joffrey learned his own version of spirituality from the gentle Monk Yorl, who couldn’t help but notice the huge youngster slipping into the rear of his makeshift classroom. Joffrey never spoke unless he was required to give an answer. Yorl stopped him at the end of one of his last classes that he was to teach, and Joffrey apologized for his size taking up so much of the class space. Yorl studied him for a moment, and then said: “But with such a huge healthy body, you must have an equally proportioned heart.”
Emmanuel was tough on his son, but loved him dearly. During the fall, when the leaves’ colors were changing and it was near Joffrey’s birthday, he could hear his father in his bed across the room talking to his wife in his sleep. He asked her forgiveness, but for what, Joffrey couldn’t fathom. One day a week, and it never was the same day twice, Emmanuel would be awake when Joffrey rose from his bed, and would tell him not to stoke the fire in the furnace, and they would go walking or fishing in the nearby forest. These excursions were happy times for Joffrey, but as he grew older, he realized that his father was most comfortable in his home, hard at work on one piece of metal or another.
Joffrey’s childhood was also hard at times; as soon as he was big enough to assist his father, he was apprenticed to him, learning the ins and outs of the blacksmithing trade. His father, good man that he was, rarely lifted his sight from the metal when he was working, and failed to notice that his son, though talented at the work, was starting to cast his own steely eyes past the palisade that was the wall of the village, to the forested mountains beyond.
An old man of the village brought an odd request to the Marcus smithy one afternoon in the heat of summer. The forge was a virtual inferno, heat waves shimmering and dancing in the sunshine, when the old man stepped into the workplace. He commissioned a mighty two-handed sword; a strange request in this time of peace. Emmanuel refused the offer, though the pay would have been more than he would have made the remainder of the year. After the stranger left, Joffrey asked his father the reason why he didn’t make the sword. Emmanuel’s reply was that he didn’t like the man; there was something not right about him.
That night, Joffrey crept out of the house to find the strange old man. He, too, knew there was something unique about him, especially the way that he had walked right into the blast furnace of the forge at midday and didn’t even break a sweat. He found the stranger at the edge of town, outside the gates, under a tree with his back against a huge boulder. “Young Marcus,” said the stranger, “You are much like your father.” He gestured to a place across the fire from him, and Joffrey sat down. “My name is Goibne, and I, too, was a blacksmith, like your father,” continued the old man, “And I see that you will also follow in your father’s footsteps and become a smith.”
“Why do you want such a big sword?” asked Joffrey cautiously, “I don’t even know if my father has made one before.” Goibne laughed and ended up coughing. Spitting into the fire, he grimaced and looked at the boy from under a bushy eyebrow. “Your father not only knows how to make big swords, young Marcus,” Goibne said, “He knows how to use one as well.” Joffrey was shocked. His father? A warrior? Goibne regaled Joffrey for the rest of the night with tales of adventure and sorcery, battles, romances and honor. Joffrey crept home as the sun was rising in the East.
The next day, Joffrey rose to stoke the forge’s fire in preparation for the day’s work. His father was already awake, his face grim. “Where were you last night?” he demanded of Joffrey. Joffrey, unable to lie to his father, told him the story of his meeting with the stranger outside the gates of the town. His father’s face grew stern, and he admonished his son for leaving the palisade. Joffrey took the lecture; he had noticed that his father was holding a crisp piece of parchment. “Joffrey,” Emmanuel said to his son, noticing his gaze, “You know I can’t read these damned things. Since your mother is gone, you’ll have to tell me what it says.”
Joffrey started to read the message; it was a summons by the Lord of the Land to military service in the North, where the Bugbear Legions were again active and threatening the homes of honest peoples. Emmanuel explained to his son that if the North fell, it would only be a matter of weeks before the Bugbears were knocking on the gate of the palisade of the village, and that he must go. “You must run the smithy now,” said Emmanuel with a sad look in his eye, “You are a Marcus, and the metal runs in your blood. Now go attend to your chores.”
His father did not appear for over three hours; Joffrey spent his time straightening the smithy and putting the finishing polish on a few completed items for the market tomorrow. When his father returned, he did not look like Emmanuel Marcus. Dressed in a gleaming coat of chainmail, with a mighty two handed sword strapped to his back, his father looked like the warrior that Goibne had told him about only last night. He was accompanied by several other men from the village, also dressed in suits of armor, but none looked as fine as his father. A rush of pride came to young Joffrey.
“Father!” said Joffrey, hesitating at the expression on his father’s face. “I must go now, Joffrey. Be your own man.” “You’re not coming back, are you?” Joffrey suddenly accused him. The men waiting for Emmanuel shifted their feet uneasily. Emmanuel drew his son aside.
“I shall be back, Joffrey,” he said quietly, “But I go to war. It is every man’s duty, and every father’s nightmare. But it is better that I go than you.” Emmanuel looked at the men who were waiting for him. “I must leave now,” he said, nodding towards the men, “I must take these recruits to the Lord of the Land.” He gripped his son’s forearm in his great leathery hand. “But when I return,” he caught Joffrey’s eye meaningfully, “I will teach you how to use this.” He touched the great sword on his back. Through a mist of tears that he did not want to come, Joffrey watched his father leave the village.
That night, the house was too empty for Joffrey to sleep, so he went in search of Goibne. The stranger was not there. “He must have left town with the men that my father is leading,” thought Joffrey. He was fifteen years old.
Two years later, Joffrey had accepted that his father was never coming back. He bagan to patronize the pub, and upon occasion, had ended up in the lone cell of the courthouse for several days. News had stopped coming from the North, and the news that had been arriving with the merchants and wagon trains was not good. Then they, too, stopped coming. Low clouds hung over the Northern mountains, and Joffrey began to receive more and more commissions for weapons. A rider from the Lord of the Land came and took more townsmen with him; Joffrey was spared being recruited because he was crafting arms and armor for the war effort. When wagons did come to the town, they bore the dead and dying. Joffrey expressionlessly examined each body, recognizing some and assisting all who needed the help he could give.
His father did come back after summer had passed, and fall was painting the leaves in autumn hues again. He was riding one of the wagons that were returning from the North; he had lost all of his pride and equipment, and had little to say to his son or anyone else. He was missing both his right hand, and his right leg. Joffrey had grown into a man in the time of his father’s absence, standing a full head higher than his father, and almost twice as broad. His eyes held the same steely color, though his father’s were now faded. His long shaggy hair and beard were wild and unlike his father’s or his mother’s, from what the townspeople said, but the strong muscles that he had gained through his assumption of his father’s position at the forge were pure Marcus blood. Joffrey carried Emmanuel through the town to their dwelling, and laid him in his bed.
Joffrey was getting drunk with his father one night, a recurring event since Emmanuel had returned, and the forge was slowly falling into disrepair. There was a knock on the door, and Joffrey rose to answer it. Yorl the Wanderer stood outside, and beckoned Joffrey out into the driving rain. “There is someone who wishes to see you,” he said. Leading him to the smithy, Joffrey discovered that Goibne had taken refuge there from the rain and was sleeping next to the barely warm forge. “I am just passing through,” said Yorl, appreciating the size of his former pupil, “But this man said that he wanted to see the Marcus family, and I conveniently knew the way.” Joffrey felt his heart heave in his chest, once again at a loss of words for his teacher, and settled for giving Yorl a mighty bear-hug. “My friend,” Yorl smiled and continued when he had caught his breath, “Remember the root of all of your strength always lies in your heart. Hearts speak a truer language than words do. Listen to your own.” Yorl left him standing in the smithy over the sleeping form of the stranger from long ago.
“Goibne?” Joffrey roused the stranger cautiously. The old man cracked an eye open and appraised Joffrey. “Well, well,” chuckled Goibne, sitting up and blinking, “If it isn’t young Marcus. How is your father?” Joffrey burst forth with the entire story of the war to the North and his father’s sorry return.
“Heh heh heh,” laughed Goibne after Joffrey had run out of words, “Sounds like you’ve lost faith in the only thing you believed in, that kept your family together!” “What?” said Joffrey, still reeling from his own admission to the stranger. “This, right here!” said Goibne, patting the anvil that his back was up against, “The anvil, the metal, the fire…” “How is the forge going to give my father back his leg, and his hand!” shouted Joffrey, his huge hands balling into fists the size of helmets. “Wait, wait,” said Goibne, putting up a hand gently and rising to his feet, “You did not hear what I, or Yorl, for that matter, said.” The figure of Goibne straightened up fully, and he seemed to shed a burden of many years. “I would like to commission a Great Sword, young Marcus,” stated the not-so-old man in a voice recalling years past, “And I believe that it is long overdue.”
In the middle of the night, with rain coming down as if the clouds were trying to extinguish the fire in the smithy, Joffrey forged an unparallelled Great Sword from a bar of steel that Goibne had drawn, almost magically, from his pack. The rain slackened near dawn, and as the first rays of the morning sun shone over the wooded mountains, Joffrey held up his creation to catch their jewelled light. Nearly six feet long, the blade was extraordinarily light, weighing perfectly some foot and a half beyond the mighty two-handed grip. The crosspiece itself was large enough to gut a man, curving into the blade wickedly. Joffrey hefted it as the sun grew stronger, and he felt his heart find a resolution to his woes. He turned to Goibne to present him his commissioned work, and he was gone, leaving no payment. Joffrey, still holding the great sword, ran out of the smithy into the last drops of the rain and the new day’s sunshine, searching for Goibne, but, as his heart told him, he had returned to wherever he had come from on the wings of angels. Holding the sword high enough to pierce the last ragged clouds, Joffrey shouted aloud, feeling the strength he had lost over the last few years flood his huge frame, and, once again, he believed in himself.
“Joffrey, where have you been all night?” questioned the stern voice of his father from the house behind him, “Not out with that stranger again”. Something in his manner suggested that he was laughing; Joffrey turned slowly, holding the sword he had forged, to see his father standing, smiling in the doorway, waving at him with his right hand.

Froggacuda ProFile

Posted: November 1, 1998 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

May I humbly introduce the Froggacuda. He is a most dilligent and faithful worker. Since signing on to AOL, he has been frequenting a tavern of no ill repute known as the Red Dragon Inn, where I hear his impeccable bartending skills have come in handy. I have known this ambidextrous amphibian for many moons, and his skill with his hands and with his nimble tongue is nigh legendary. Hopefully, this biographical ProFile will shed some additional light on the legerdemain of the notorious Froggacuda.

The Froggacuda was magically created in the mystical and humorous realm of Orkland (no, not Oakland) by an insane and evil Elf Priest of Kali, the Black Earth Mother of Destruction. Mangous Ye, for that was the name of the cleric, was a notorious drunkard and dabbler in the arcane arts of certain Bookes which are better left in the Special Texts sections of the most exclusive libraries. Owing several hundred gold pieces in library fees anyways, and after an unusually intense drinking bout across the street in Rumble’s Tavern with Maldrik the Rabid (a Chaos Dwarf), Mangous Ye embarked upon an incantation that was part theory from the Necronomicon of the Mad Arab Alhazred, part daemonaical prayers to his evil Goddess, part insane lust to create the ultimate Navy S.E.A.L., and part drunken stupor. Only rumors can be referenced to what exactly went on in Mangous Ye’s cramped and cluttered rental room at the only inn in Gnatspit, the Home of the Whopper, and these range in believability from the probable to the ridiculous. The general gist of the matter went like this: Mangous Ye retired to his quarters a little after 7:00 in the evening to meditate on the difficulties he might encounter upon attempting to take over the world. He toyed with the idea of a Frogg as a base life form for his “ultimate warrior”, Froggs being rough, tough and amphibious. After hastily culling several recipes from communing with Kali and opening the Necronomicon to random pages, he lit a small fire in the middle of the floor and drew several thaumaturgic circles of various black magic disciplines around it, roasted a Frogg Egg to the point of hatching, and then proceeded to infuse it with spells and magicks of a horrible and blasphemous nature. In his glee and intoxication, Mangous Ye read every piece of literature he had in his room to his creation during the process. Some say that he had forgotten that he had mistaken the “Mr. Boston’s Bartender’s Guide” at the tavern for his spellbook and hadn’t gotten around to returning it (why would he — he’s evil), and it was on page 3 that the Egg started to glow a noxious green. Mangous, grinning insanely ear to ear, quickly read the rest of the manual to the Egg and, realizing that his incantation were actually working, he consulted the Pnakotic Manuscripts. Reading something that may or may not be within those horrifying pages, he teleported the Egg to several random planes in quick succession. At this point, the interstellar wind which naturally accompanies such magicks blew several items along with the Egg: the Boston Guide, a copy of Grimmtooth’s Faerie tales, the contents of Mangous Ye’s flagon (a very rich Illithid Dark-Side-of-the-Moon double bock lager), a small figurine representing his other idol of worship, Godzilla, and his pet barracuda “The Brain”. The magicks worked something like the telepods in the 1986 remake of “The Fly” (Geena Davis/Jeff Goldblum), fusing all of the elements into one creation: The Froggacuda. The crack of thunder that accompanied the return of the Egg to the Prime Material Plane and Orkland blew the roof off of the cluttered room and knocked Mangous Ye senseless.

Upon finding himself fully grown, the augmented Frogg found himself to be quite different from his Eggmates (Froggs lay 2000-5000 Eggs at one time). Standing 6’5” tall and around 200 lbs., he knew he wasn’t going to be recognizeable to Mom anymore. His skin was a yellowish green, his eyes Frogglike, set on the sides of his large head; his large mouth was elongated, 50% Frogg and 50% barracuda — including the latter’s wicked teeth. His back sported a nifty row of sharp plates like that of Godzilla. His hands were fully functional, the fingers were webbed and tipped with thick talons. Ditto with the feet, which were extraordinarily large. His torso was barrel-shaped but powerful; his skin was slightly moist but not, as some would imagine, slimy or oily. He had no tail, having gone through the Taddpole stage in the blink of an eye, but sported gills on the sides of his thick neck. His hide was tough and sleek, and he suddenly was struck with the irresistable urge to serve people alcohol in a relaxed and merry environment. Leaving the inn by way of the roof, and leaving an unconscious Mangous Ye slumped under the worktable, unnoticed, the Froggacuda crossed the street and served his first Ale — to none other than Maldrik the Rabid. Rumble, the half-Ogre owner of the tavern, welcomed the Froggacuda, knowing quite well how prejudice works against persons who stick out in society, and gave him an apron and a job barbacking. The rest is common history: after several years of tending bar in one of the most popular haunts in the Multiverse, the Frogg scraped up enough gold for a Magical MacIntosh and a dedicated phone line. And now, he is online, hoping to secure a position bartending at the Red Dragon Inn. My wishes are with him, for he is a most honest and faithful Frogg, dedicated to the entertainment and service of his patrons.

Episode I

(part 1)…We join the slightly buzzed Froggacuda in one of the Taverns in Mythril Manor, after a long and grueling Court Session. Something is amiss in the new Land…

::The Frogg Prince brought his chair down to the floor with a thump. “What was that?” he raised an eyebrow, his waterglass of fine whiskey stopped halfway to his toothy maw. Cries and screams were now definate outside the thick walls of the castle. “Aw, fiddlesticks!” muttered the mutant Frogg, “It must be those things that I can’t pronounce…” The Froggacuda finished his liquor and dropped a hasty handful of coin on the tabletop. He loped from the room to the sound of the change falling to the floor.

“Bokrug! It’s a mess out here!” the Frogg yelled to a bewildered guardsman as they surveyed the legions of the Tinar’ri, both ground and air. The invaders were horrible and vicious, destroying everything in their way. The smell of smoke singed his nostrils and gills.

Magical energies poured forth from the windows and arrow slits of the fortress, bringing down many of the hordes of attackers, but still more replaced their ranks, eager behind wicked teeth and gleaming talons. A huge Dragon hurled himself from a high parapet to lend his might to the fray, but the Tinar’ri, though shaken, were not dissuaded from their mindless assault.

The Froggacuda batted away a small specimen of the Tinar’ri with a large fist, sending it to hit the hardpacked earth in the courtyard. A window across the way exploded outwards as a struggling man at arms carried a writhing Tinar’ri flyer out and to their mutual death. “Mighty Cthulhu,” breathed the Frogg, “This is a little more serious than I thought!” Spinning lightly on a webbed foot, the Frogg grabbed a nearby bowman. “The castle has been breached over in sector…I mean quadrant…” he fumbled for words and then pointed out the newly destroyed window in frustration, “Over there! See?” Several Tinar’ri flyers were carrying a heavier ground unit to the balcony of the shattered window and unloading them into the shambles of the room. “Get some help!” The bowman ran back the way he had come, screaming for assistance.

The Froggacuda stood on the parapet, feeling helpless, until he noticed one of Lady Silvar’s decorative banners hanging limply between two of the minor towers of the gatehouse; it was quite a ways up and out, something that nobody in his right mind would actually think of with a raging battle going on beneath him, but then again, this was no ordinary Frogg…(TBC)

Episode II

(part 2) We return to Mythril, where a battle rages around a mighty fortress and a Frogg is perched upon a high stone battlement, pondering a problem…

“Holy Mackeral — that’s a long way down!” thought the Frogg Prince while clutching a torn end of a tapestry to keep his precarious balance. This was the nearest he could get to the banner he had spotted; what made matters worse was that an ugly Tinar’ri had accidentally lit one end of the banner on fire as it plummeted to the ground, shot full of fiery arrows from the castle guard. The banner was smoldering furiously now, and wasn’t moving any closer to the Frogg. The Tinar’ri had definitely established some sort of foothold at that window, and he had lost count of the numbers that had swarmed inside.

Tensing his powerful muscles, Froggacuda prayed. And leapt.

“Yup — I knew it,” he thought mid-flight, “I’m going to fall short.” The arc was graceful, and he was close, but the Frogg Prince was passing the banner three feet shy of the reach he needed. Tumbling awkwardly through the air, an idea hit him in the form of a surprised Tinar’ri. Bouncing off of the confused creature, the Frogg punched it twice, confusing it more, and shot his legendary tongue out to wrap around the smoking banner. He bungeed his way up his own tongue and clutched the banner tightly. “Glad they don’t skimp on good fabric here in Mythril,” thought the Frogg. Arrows flew by him, embedding themselves in the banner and in several obnoxious Tinar’ri that were circling the huge Frogg malevolently. “I think I had better move.”

Hand over hand, the Froggacuda made his way across the expanse of courtyard towards the ruined window. The balcony was a veritable sea of twisted Tinar’ri, cackling with glee and throwing the room’s furniture down on the pikemen in the courtyard.

Then the banner really caught fire. A bolt of energy had brought down an extraordinarily large Tinar’ri that had been harrying the efforts of the great Dragon Aurelius, who was protecting the upper battlements and raining the battlefield with dead and dying invaders. The spell also had the unfortunate effect of torching the south end of the banner into bright and merry flames. The Frogg’s big eyes reflected their cheery light as his heart sank.

“I’ll bet Errol Flynn had a stunt double!” yelled the Froggacuda as the banner separated from the iron moorings with a ghastly ripping sound on the end that was engulfed in flames. The banner with it’s cargo of Frogg swung towards the balcony. Fourteen horrifying faces of Tinar’ri warriors looked even more horrified as 350 Earth-pounds of mutated half-Frogg/half-Barracuda careened towards them on the end of an advertisement for the weekly Mythril wine-tasting event, leaving a wonderfully artistic trail of thick black smoke. The Froggacuda crashed through several of the Tinar’ri, plunged through the window, and sprawled across the tiled floor of the alternate alternate meeting room.

Luckily, most of the furniture had already been removed, used a missiles by the Tinar’ri for the phalanxes of guardsmen in the courtyard below. The Frogg Prince raised himself on his hands, hearing the sounds of bitter combat in the hallways outside. The Tinar’ri seemed to have recovered some semblance of composure, and were grinning and flexing long talons. Some were casually picking up their curved scimitars; others were hoisting terrifying pole arms with tortuously creative blades. “You’re all under arrest, by the power invested in me by the Lady Alliah!” said the Frogg calmly, surveying the situation with a little more than mild apprehension…(TBC)

Episode III

Part 3…We rejoin the Crown Prince Froggacuda in the midst of a most pressing situation, in the alternate alternate meeting room of the Mythril Manor…

The Tinar’ri glowered at the Frogg, outnumbering him vastly. “Okay,” stated the Froggacuda wearily, “We do this the hard way.” His tongue shot out its full 15 feet and caught a Tinar’ri full in the face. Dragging the surprised creature to him, the Frogg beat it senseless and hurled it at the three to his left. Ducking a swing of a nasty polearm blade, he punched the swinger twice about where he guessed its kidneys would be and then stepped over it as it crumpled to the floor. A scimitar crossed his back, clicking past the row of raised Godzilla-like plates and removing a hefty piece of Froggskin. “Owwww!” bellowed the Froggacuda, anger flashing from his green and yellow eyes. He absentmindedly juxtaposed a Tinar’ri with the wall as he turned to the smirking one with the bloodied scimitar. Dancing past a heavy-handed stroke, the Frogg ripped the throat out of the Tinar’ri and threw it at the next incoming enemy. The sounds of combat were getting louder in the hallway; several Tinar’ri turned their attention to the arch of the doorway, where steel was meeting steel and throwing sparks.

The Frogg slipped on a pool of Tinar’ri blood, and landed hard on his back. A wicked glaive embedded itself in the tile floor next to his right earhole, and he grabbed the haft and wrenched it away from the creature. The Frogg shoved the butt end of the polearm into the nasty thing’s stomach four or five times and then kicked it out on to the balcony, where the remaining Tinar’ri were beating a hasty retreat. One of the Tinar’ri was throwing red powder about and cursing in a tongue that the Frogg didn’t recognize. He punched him anyways, letting him fall from the balcony into the furniture fire below. Two cornered Tinar’ri swung their scimitars madly at the Frogg, cutting him once and making him upset again; he bodyslammed them from the railing of the balcony to the cheers of the guardsmen in the courtyard. Looking around the shambles of the alternate alternate meeting room, the Frogg Prince relaxed and gingerly reached back to probe his injury. “This needs more than a Band-Aid, methinks,” he said to himself as guardsmen poured into the room. “Hey!” said one fresh-faced cadet with an unbloodied weapon, “You’re the one who was on that banner! Didn’t you hurt yourself?”

“No, not really, son,” replied the tired Frogg Prince, “But it sure tasted like s#@t.” He pushed his way through the astonished guardsmen and went in search of a medic and a bottle of whiskey.

Episode I

(part 1) Our Hero, the Froggacuda, is searching for a bottle of whiskey…

He had given up on finding a medic in the Manor, what with all the Chaos going on with the attack of the Tinar’ri…or Tanar’ri, whatever. Mighty wizards and warriors were obviously gaining the upper hand in the battle outside; crashes of magical thunder and the light from explosions, the cries of the dead and dying Tinar’ri, the bellows of Dragons and battle cries could be experienced firsthand, even in the halls of the fortress. Mistress Alliah also offered this friendly and memorable advice to her troops: “Off with their heads and tails”.

But the Frogg hurt. He was no mighty Wizard or Warrior: at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to crawl under his lilypad. Since their was a dearth of ponds in the Manor (something he was aiming to fix in the near future), there were no lilypads. But there was whiskey!

The Froggacuda blinked his large eyes. His memory was failing him — he really wasn’t used to all of these hallways. “Crap,” thought the Frogg, “Left or right?” He shrugged and headed left, to a staircase leading downwards. “Aha!” he grinned to himself, “The wine cellar!” Descending the stairs, the Frogg found himself leaning against the left hand wall, and having a little difficulty breathing. “Gotta cut down on that Great Salt Marsh Fungus Tobaccus” he thought sourly.

Torchlight glimmered on the level floor ahead; the Froggacuda trudged out of the stairwell into a grey stone room. Two torches waved at him from either side of an archway; a corridor led away past this. The Froggacuda squinted again — the light seemed to be hurting his eyes — there was a pair of chairs and a table with a dealt deck of dog-eared cards on it. A shortbow stood in a corner, and a quiver of arrows was slung over a leather jacket on the back of one of the chairs. “Damn, I’m FREEZING down here,” the Froggacuda muttered to himself, laying the quiver by the bow and swiping the leather jacket. He tore the arms from the jacket and shrugged into it. It wouldn’t zip over his gut so he just let it hang. After a look around, he stuffed the arms of the jacket under the stairs and loped down the passageway.

On either side of him, down the length of the corridor, were huge wrought-iron cell bars. Dusty cobwebs festooned the bars like party streamers. “Yup,” grinned the Froggacuda, “Prime location for rare vintage.” His teeth bristling as he walked, the Froggacuda noticed that the corridor opened up ahead, into a sizable room.

A huge wrought iron candelabra hung from a gigantic wooden rafter some fifteen feet above the floor, illuminating stacks of barrels on their sides, some vats big enough for a horse. “Bingo!” The Froggacuda danced a little selfish jig in the middle of the floor. After quickly locating a forgotten mug, the Froggacuda set about selecting his first draught of wine. Walking sideways down the central aisle, he slowly examined the hand-painted labels on each barrel, pausing to squint at some of the words. Halfway down the row he gave up and turned the tap of the nearest keg into his container. Rich crimson wine flooded his mug; he stopped the tap and took a big swallow. “Ahhh,” he heaved a contented sigh, “I love being the Baron!”

Episode II

(part 2) We rejoin the Frogg in the Wine Cellar of Mythril Manor…

Several…okay thirteen…mugs of Petite Syrah later, the Froggacuda thought he heard something. He was sitting with his back to the barrels in the middle of the room, and was almost asleep. His Froggie sense had to poke him pretty hard to make him sit up more fully, and quietly put the mug to the ground.

“What was that?” thought the Froggacuda. It was quiet down in the wine cellar (or was that the alternate alternate wine cellar?), especially after the noise and rumpus of the battlefield. But it seemed almost too quiet. And then he definitely heard something. “Clothes? Footfalls? Water drops?” the Frogg’s mind raced as he was rooted to the ground, “Better figure it out, or you’ll have to get up.”

The Frogg climbed unsteadily to his feet, hanging on to the tap until the world stopped playing with his gyro controls. The room was darker than he remembered; several of the candelabra’s candles were flickering ominously, about to gutter out. He hunched the leather jacket a little tighter around his limbs, and he punched several of his back plates through the material by accident. “Hmm,” said the Froggacuda looking over his shoulder, “Glad it’s not mine.”

He was having trouble keeping his eyes open, even with the adrenaline flow he knew should have been kicking in. “What’s wrong with me?” Frogg thought through a haze; the answer came to him slowly: “It’s the wine.” His vision blurred and then refocused. Another candle went out.

The sound of stealthy feet echoed through the room. “Oh s*@t!” thought the Frogg, “This is NOT a test!” He lurched forwards as carefully as he could, and lurked down the aisle of barrels. Now that he was moving again, his mind cleared a bit. There was another archway; this one was darker, and at the far end of the room. Beyond the arch was another room; this one had a torch lying on the floor, lit, but almost out. The flickering light silhouetted two crumpled forms laying on the floor, unmoving. “I think I might have found the guards I expected,” surmised the Froggacuda as he peeked around the archway. Suddenly his head ached rather massively, and he fought the urge to vomit. “Aaauugh!” he groaned, holding his head together with his big webbed hands, “This is the worst AND quickest hangover I have EVER had!” The wound on his back throbbed.

The Froggacuda brought his hands down slowly; he stared intently into the room, all senses aware. “Something moved in there,” he affirmed quietly to himself. Flexing his arms in the jacket, he crouched and somersaulted into the room.

Episode III

(part 3) The Baron Prince Froggacuda in deep doo-doo…

Crouching next to the two bodies, he looked around quickly. “Lots of shadows, no immediate light source, big green Alienesque dogs…” the Froggacuda froze, “Nice doggie! Nice big doggies!” The two BGDs moved from the darker shadows into the lighter shadows, deep growls starting in their throats and thick muscles standing out in their shoulders. Silvered metal collars harnessed them to two loose steel chains which disappeared into the shadows.

“What of this one?” questioned a malevolent voice, which glided forwards into the dim light as a leather-clad dark-skinned Elven Priestess. The Froggacuda cautiously rose to his feet. A hugely muscled man emerged from the syrup of the shadows with the end of the dogs’ chains wrapped around one huge fist, “Bring him below.”

“Now wait a minute here!” said the Frogg Prince slowly. His legs felt weak and his face was dripping with sweat. The Tinar’ri wound was pulsing in time to the heartbeat pounding in his ears. “Who are you guys? What’d I do?”

Another pair of Dark Elves stepped from the shadows behind the Froggacuda, who turned his head to see them. They were dressed in a moonlight silver sheen of black chainmail shirts; they carried small crossbows at their belts and held metal studded clubs. Both Drow smiled at the same time, the white of their teeth matching their hair.
The Frogg Prince swayed on his webbed feet. The world was starting to spin and he knew it wasn’t the thirteen mugs of the Petite Syrah. The Priestess moved closer to the Frogg, apparently aware of his dizziness. “Oh, you poor Froggie,” she said looking up at him and passing a hand over his beaded forehead, “Did you get in a fight with some nassty Tinar’ri?”. The Priestess looked back at the sinister Big Green Dog owner and smiled wickedly, licking the sweat from her hand. “The poison has gotten to some of them, love!” she winked at him. Then she drew her hand back and drove the heel of it into his nose, hard.

He cried out and willed his arms to move, his legs to spring, but a heaviness like anvils had settled in his limbs. Even his eyelids felt the force of the unnatural gravity. His head exploded into stars and galaxies, and the Froggacuda knew no more…(TBC).

Episode I

(part 1)…The Frogg Prince has traipsed through the South West end of the Firnistan Forest after escaping the catacombs through a magical Tree…

The Froggacuda had left the cover of the Forest for the plains at evening. He was making a direct beeline for the Manor, assuming that Abu would have dispatched somebody — anybody — to pick him up. After walking for an hour and cursing the lack of ponds and lilypads on the plains, he found a high hill and sat down to wait. “Damned if I’m walking all the way back to the Manor tonight,” sighed the Baron. He soon fell asleep from exhaustion, the wind from the South bringing him dreams of torchlit pavilions and veiled belly dancers.

* * * * *

“Enough talk; let’s start riding,” said Acroyear from his saddle. Paulo nodded agreement and whistled through his teeth to his Scouts.

Galloping from the gates of the Manor, the Marquis and the Count of Mythril left the fair capital behind, crossing the gently rolling plains of Valacorn at a fast pace. Acroyear, Paulo and their ten handpicked Scouts soon disappeared from even the sentries on the tower battlements. Night fell in a hush of stars winking in the purpled sky.

After several hours of hard riding, the Company stopped to rest the mounts. A shriek of dismay from none other than the newly appointed Count alerted Acroyear to the arrival of the PseudoDragon. Paulo was firing crossbow bolts out into the twilight as fast as he could load them into the carriage, and the peals of laughter coming from the darkness only taunted him to greater and more obscene piratical curses. Acroyear frowned in his die-cast mithral helm and strode over to Paulo.

“Alright, that’s enough, sailor,” said Acroyear tersely. “I can’t believe ye asked to have that nincompoop Merikus send that flying wharf rat along wid us,” Paulo started, and was cut off by an impatient wave of Acroyear’s mailed fist. “Go get your bolts and stop acting like you were only 200 years old,” Acroyear reprimanded his fellow Elf. Paulo spat in the general direction of Magaña and stomped off into the evening. “Magaña, come here,” Acroyear lifted a gauntlet into the air, and the PseudoDragon landed with an ashamed expression. “Yes, milord,” she replied as she alighted. Acroyear brought her up to face his expressionless helm, “Stop provoking the Count. Need I say this again?” “No, milord,” she humbly replied, and curtseyed gracefully. “Good,” said the Marquis, glaring at Paulo, who ceased his grumbling about flying rodents and rabies. Magaña flashed a brilliant smile at him and blew him a kiss. “Yech!” retorted Paulo, wrinkling his nose and wiping his face with a handkerchief.

“Magaña, circle about the group as we ride at 100 metres,” Acroyear instructed her, “Look for the Baron Froggacuda, and report to me anything else unusual.” “Of course, milord,” replied Magaña deferentially, casting a sparkling wink at Paulo. She rose from his wrist and shot into the air. “Saddle up!” shouted Acroyear. The Company continued East, across the flowered prarieland.

They found the Frogg Prince fast asleep, curled up in a nest of grass like a big dog. Paulo was in favor of shooting him awake with his crossbow, a sentiment that Magaña echoed, since the Frogg Prince had a huge smile gracing his face, and his huge tongue would occasionally moisten his lips. “Ahh, my dear, a little lower…yes right there! That’s where it itches!” mumbled the Baron in his sleep, his right leg kicking slightly, “Oh yes, I would enjoy another peeled grape!” Acroyear looked a little uncomfortable. Several of the Scouts snickered. “Ahem,” the Marquis cleared his throat, “Baron Froggacuda…” “Mmmmm!” continued the Frogg Prince, “Oh please rub my feet — I know they’re wrinkled from the Jacuzzi…” “Baron Froggacuda,” tried Acroyear again, a little louder. This time, Magaña burst out laughing as the Frogg smacked his lips and held out his hand with an imaginary glass and gestured for a refill of, undoubtedly, whiskey. “FROGG!!” yelled the exasperated Marquis of Mythril, kicking the Baron in the stomach. The Froggacuda leapt to his feet and assumed some strange martial arts defensive posture, then relaxed as he saw the familiar form of Acroyear in his gold and scarlet armour. “It’s about time!” shouted the Froggacuda, rubbing his eyes with the back of one great hand, “I thought that I was going to have to hitchike.”

“Let’s get you back to the Manor,” said Acroyear with a little concern. Perhaps the Froggacuda’s sanity had been adversely affected. He had seen many warriors go insane under the pressures of combat and capture, “We brought you a mount.” “Oh good!” yawned the Frogg, “I’ve had enough hiking to earn me a merit badge.” He clambered wearily into the saddle, and seemed to notice the buccaneer for the first time. “Oh, Paulo! How are you?” “Just fine, Frogg Leggs,” said Paulo out of the corner of his mouth, glaring at the PseudoDragon, who was juggling some blue semi-precious stones. “Got anything to drink, you rascal?” asked the Baron with a raised eyebrow.

“No drinking or carousing on duty!” barked Acroyear as he led the way back across the plains, “That’s an order!” The Froggacuda looked sideways at Paulo, who held up a bulging wineskin. “Glenfiddich, milord!” Paulo confided. Several Scouts eyed the two as they faded to the rear of the Company. Magaña gracefully swooped back to perch on the Froggacuda’s Clydesdale’s bridle. In a few minutes, Acroyear noticed that he was outdistancing the rest of the party.

Wheeling his horse around, he stopped and restrained himself. The Company was bunched together, and something, he couldn’t tell what, was being swapped back and forth between the Scouts, the Count, and the Baron. “Dammit!” he roared, “Give me that wineskin!” The scarelt color of his cloak and armour deepened to match his ire. “This is not some sort of holiday!”

The Froggacuda hiccupped and reined his horse to a stop in front of Acroyear. “It sshure iss, Marquee,” he slurred happily. A Scout fell off of her horse. Acroyear noted that there were actually three or four wineskins being lamely covered up as his sharp eyes roved over his troops. “I proclaim thisss day [hic],” said the Baron loudly, gesturing with a wineskin and slopping moonshine over several Scouts, “A Holiday in honor of the bravery of Acroyear in coming to get me!” A cheer went up from the intoxicated Scouts. The one who had fallen off of her horse was having difficulty getting back in the saddle. Magaña was pushing on her rump and flapping her wings furiously. Acroyear launched into a tirade about the security of the mission, attempting to talk some sense into his Company, but to no avail. Paulo winked unsteadily at several Scouts and launched into a loud and off-key rendition of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, in which he was joined by the rest of the Scouts as the Froggacuda sat in his saddle and beamed. Magaña was the only one who could carry a tune. Acroyear, seeing his logic being ignored, and overruled by the Baron himself, swore that he’d never come rescue the Frogg Prince again, and wheeled his mount once again towards the Manor. They made it to the walls of the city by daybreak.

Episode II

(part 2)…the Marquis, the Count and the Baron triumphantly return to Mythril Manor, to the joy of the Council and the people on the street…

Paulo Hasselhoff led the Company a little after dawn through the streets of of the city towards the Manor as the people of Mystra cheered the arrival of the one and only Froggacuda. Paulo himself was gaining some notoriety, especially now that he was a Count, and he took the opportunity to blow kisses at all of the pretty girls hanging out of the second-story windows. He even waved at some of the ugly ones.

The Marquis Acroyear was bringing up the rear in a sullen mood. He was failing his duty as the Marquis and as a Captain of the Mythril Knights. He hoped the Lady ALLYAZZA, the new incarnation of the Princess Alliah, would understand the intractability of the Froggacuda, and the reasons behind his failure to control him. That impudent Hasselhoff wasn’t any help either. He would have relished the opportunity to bind the two of them in chains and drag them through the city to the Manor.

Reining to a stop in the courtyard of the Manor, the Company was greeted by a crowd of people from the interior. The Froggacuda, in the midst of waving to the assemblage, passed out and fell to the ground senseless. Acroyear rolled his eyes in his helm and ordered several men-at-arms to bear him to his suite and dunk him in a cold bath. He gave his mount to a groom, and stormed off in search of of medic; he had noticed the Froggacuda’s extensive wounds, and wanted the story out of him immediately, in case he died, or worse, went on another celebratory drinking binge.

Paulo was busy being the center of attention, fabricating a wild story of rescue and adventure, centering around his supposed prowess at arms and his carrying the weight of the Frogg Prince on his back for “twenty miles while fighting rabid Hobgoblins and an horde of evil priests of Xyloplex the merciless Death God”. He was occasionally interrupted by the PseudoDragon Magaña, who would ask for clarification of a particularly unbelievable point.

The Princess ALLYAZZA, hearing of the return of the Company, set down her quill and parchment and walked to a window. Pushing it open, she looked down upon the crowd, unnoticed. She smiled at the loud and obvious embellishments of Count Hasselhoff, which were punctuated with his typical “Arrrs!” and “Avasts!”, and then she caught sight of Acroyear supervising the loading of the prostrate form of her favorite Amphibian onto a makeshift stretcher. Her brow wrinkling slightly with concern, but her keen eyes noticed that the Frogg Prince still clutched a leather wineskin, and his loveable face had a dreamy smile on it, his long tongue lolling out of his mouth and dragging on the ground. Grinning wryly to herself, she telepathically notified her friend Lady Silvar of the return of the Baron, and grasped a velvet bell-pull to send a message to the Marquis of a job well done, and a message to Paulo to go clean the Royal Stables before he set foot in her presence again.

* * * * *

“Owwwch!” yelled the Baron of Mythril as Abu Dabu Dabu Day yanked a quarrel out of his back with a pair of Vice-Grips. “By the Five Elements, I’ll cast ANOTHER sobriety charm on you if you don’t hold still!” raged the slight Oriental man, “You had me worried, my lord.” Abu abruptly sniffled and looked like he had been grossly mistreated. “Well, you didn’t have to wake me, sober me up with that vile concoction you forced down my throat AND perform surgery with tools that you borrowed from that Ogre of a Blacksmith, Joffrey Marcus,” rumbled the Froggacuda as he gingerly rubbed his back, “Where the Manor dug up that oaf, I’ll never know.” He laid his head back down on his arms as Abu clucked over his wounds. The Frogg had all but chased the Healers that had been trying to assist him with his injuries out of the room; only the arrival of Abu with a flagon of Otyugh Vomit had sobered the Frogg Prince up enough to calm down and receive some medical attention. There was a knock on the door. Abu gave the Baron a warning look, waggling his finger at him in a request for good behavior. The Frogg rolled his green eyes and yelled for the guest to enter.

“I see that you’re not quite done with my tools, Abu,” said Joffrey Marcus after he had stuck his shaggy head in the door, “Do you want me to hold him down?” “Hold ME down?” retorted the Froggacuda, “You’ve got enough trouble holding your bladder, you ape!” Marcus stepped all the way into the room, “Oho!” he roared with laughter, “I’m not the one with a bunch of bolts stuck in my arse, eh, Toad Prince?” The Froggacuda struggled to get out of the bed while Abu Dabu Dabu Day nigh sat on him. “Gentlemen!” shrieked the Wu Jen, “I am TRYING to perform a delicate operation here!” “Alright, alright,” said Marcus, trying to calm the little fellow down, “I’m leaving.” He looked over at the Froggacuda, “Hope that he wiggles them as he pulls them out, you crybaby.” He ducked the flagon that the Frogg hurled as it flew into the corridor, narrowly missing him, and quietly shut the door.

“How’s the Baron?” asked Sean Murdoch with a Gælic lilt in his voice, “The Marquis is a’chafin ta ask him a wee list o’ questions.” “He’s doing fine, just fine!” replied Marcus ruefully, running his hand through his wild hair, “I think by the time we find Acroyear and calm HIM down, Abu will have done the best he can with the Baron.” The two friends exchanged a knowling look and went in search of the Marquis of Mythril.

Episode III

(part 3)…Acroyear is in a tizzy, due to the import of the information that the Frogg transcripts contained: Drow, the Great Mother of Spiders, the Lord of Amorphousness, and the Black Earth Mother Herself. This was sizing up to be a rather delicate party for Mythril to entertain…

“Marquis Acroyear…” started Sean Murdoch as he cautiously entered the room. “It’s Prime Minister Acroyear!” yelled the Prime Minister, clenching a piece of parchment in a mailed fist, “That big green monstrosity downstairs is the Marquis. They’ve reshuffled the titles again.” Acroyear turned back to the wall map he was studying. “Aye,” shrugged Murdoch, “The Froggacuda is conscious, but inna mood…” “I don’t care what type of mood he’s in,” Acroyear belted on his die-cast mithril shortsword and strode from the room, Murdoch following him at a safe distance.

Episode I

(part 1) The Baron-Frogg-Prince of Mythril is doubting his sanity: he could be miles underground, he could be very lost, and he could have just witnessed the meeting of three Very Powerful Things that were concerned with ruining his Lady Alliah’s Land. He was hoping that the ultrasensitive high-tech microphone that was implanted in his tongue was still working and transmitting to his little Oriental buddy Abu Dabu Dabu Day…

“Webbed feet don’t fail me now!” thought the Baron as he hauled Frogg down the dusty corridor. Another shriek of rage came from the Temple he had just left behind, shaking dust and debris from the cobwebbed ceiling and obscuring his already limited vision. “I shouldn’t have winked at the Spider Queen,” the Frogg reprimanded himself, “She took it the wrong way.”

The Froggacuda skidded into a small room, coughing from the dust he was raising with his big feet. Several choices presented themselves: the iron rungs of a ladder were bolted to the east wall, passing through a hole in the ceiling, and two hallways continued east and north. “Oh, no contest!” thought the Frogg Prince, “I want out of here — I’m going up!” He mounted the ladder quickly and climbed through the roof.

The ladder kept going up, through a cramped tunnel-like passage liberally festooned with spiderwebs. These ones were sticky, and the Frogg paused to remove a particularly gauzy one from his left eye. Freezing, he heard a peculiar rattling noise from above him; purple drops of steaming venom dropped on his forearm. Without looking up, the Froggacuda let go of the ladder, dropping down the shaft as something started rushing down. He landed on his feet and kept on running as a humöngous black spider boiled out of the ceiling, baring massive fangs and continuing to make that irritating chittering.

This corridor was somewhat cleaner than the one he had used to escape the temple; instead of cobwebs, there were neat piles of bones, human and otherwise, that the Frogg Prince skedaddled over on his way through the catacombs. He didn’t dare look back — he didn’t have to; he could hear the Son of Shelob behind him and it sounded like he was gaining. It did have six more legs than him. There was torchlight up ahead, around a corner.

The Frogg was barrelling down the hallway, and he skidded as he went 90 degrees to his right. Bouncing off of the wall, he balked momentarily at what he saw. Two very surprised Drow warriors looked at the Frogg, then at each other, and reached for their weapons. Past the guards, a large room seemed to have been converted into a barracks of sorts: three rows of rude beds, about sixty in all, occupied the room, with medium-sized footlockers at their feet. Well-maintained torches graced the walls in iron sconces, and at the far end, a large table with matching benches was set up. It was much cheerier than the dusty hallways he had been sprinting through, and would have been a welcome place to rest, except for the Drow soldiers that stopped their menial labors and gawked in disbelief at the 350 pound amphibian cruising down the southern hallway right for them. Or maybe they were looking at what was right behind him. The Frogg was running so fast his eyes were watering, but he thought he felt the hairy limbs of the massive spider reaching for his back.

Episode II

(part 2)…The Froggacuda has a quick choice to make: Drow to the front; Super Big Spider to the rear…

Covered with streamers of spiderweb and howling like a demon, the Froggacuda burst into the barracks to the sound of swords being drawn and yells of surprise from the Drow. He didn’t look back — the chittering of the Widowmaker was nigh deafening — the Frogg just leaped with all of his might, clearing eight beds at once, feeling the snicker-snick of foot-long fangs in the space he had just recently occupied, and hearing two awful screams, probably from the unfortunate Drow whose turn it was on guard duty. “BANZAI!” he screamed as he hurtled towards a poor startled Dark Elf who wasn’t getting any traction on the floor to move out of the way. He was flattened as the Frogg tried to aim for a bed to bounce on. “NICE!” he yelled as he saw his trajectory was going to take him right on to the ninth bed in the row. Drow were running everywhere at once, and they seemed to be more concerned with the Great Spider than with him. A Dark Elf priestess was foaming at the mouth, she was screaming so loud in a vile Drowish language, gesturing with a spider medallion at the part of the room the Frogg came from.

The ninth bed splintered under the impact of the Almighty Amphibian, and the Froggacuda went sprawling. It was lucky that he did, for a pair of gleaming hand axes would have intercepted him if he had remained standing. They continued across the room to imbed themselves in the Priestess, who stopped foaming. A Drow rushed him with an upraised shortsword. The Frogg Prince grabbed him and kept him going on the same line of momentum, right over the broken bed and into the melee behind him. The Frogg struggled to his feet, shrugging the bedframe from his shoulders. Three Drow had seized short barbed spears, and were advancing on him. “Look!” he pointed over their shoulders, “It’s Lolth! What’s up, Spider Queen!” One Drow stopped and looked; the Frogg Prince grabbed his spear beyond the barbs and hauled him in, elbowing him in the face. He got his other hand on the spear and twisted it out of the Drow’s grasp, throwing the Dark Elf behind him by accident and hearing him roughly connect with someone — or something. The other two Drow weren’t amused by the Frogg’s taking their Deity’s name in vain; one stuck his spear into the Froggacuda’s shoulder, the other attempted to gut him but was foiled by a deft parry with the javelin the Frogg was holding. Roaring in pain, the Frogg spun sideways, dragging the first attacker with him on the end of the spear that was stuck in his shoulder. His tongue licked out and hit the second Drow warrior in the head. When he was retracted, the Frogg bit his head off and spat it to his left to roll around beneath a bed. The Dark Elf hanging on to the spear was snarling and twisting it into the Frogg’s shoulder as best as he could while being flailed around by the Baron’s movements. He left the spear stuck in Another throwing axe embedded itself into the Froggacuda’s back.

The Frogg Prince was getting upset; this was taking too long, plus he was starting to grow tired with all of this excitement. Snapping the spear in half, he left a foot and a half of the barbed end sticking out of his shoulder. The Drow was left holding two feet of haft with a dumb expression on his face, which the Frogg promptly wiped off with a well-placed handful of claw. The Dark Elf went down, holding his face and screaming. Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he saw that the Great Spider was doing almost as well as he was: ten or twelve Drow bodies were piled around it. But the Drow had stuck a bunch of spears in it, and a couple were pincushioning it with their crossbows. A quarrel thunked into the Frogg’s side, and he yelped. “I gotta get out of here!” he grimaced as he yanked the axe out of his hide and sank it into the chest of an incoming Dark Elf warrior. Picking him up by the haft of the axe, the Frogg headed for the far end of the room and what he hoped was the exit. He grinned at the expressions of pain that played across the face of the warrior as quarrels from his comrades started punching into him; the Frogg used him as a shield and then threw him aside. Bellowing loudly, he grabbed a bed and held it in front of him as a flurry of magical missiles flew from another Priestess. “Yog-Sothoth’s balls, you pests are persistant!” he grumbled and hurled the smoking wreck of the bed into the group of Drow that had gathered around her. Flexing his muscles, he sprang over their heads and trucked down the corridor, turning a corner and mustering his reserves of strength. Passing several doors, he saw a four-way intersection and put on the brakes. Standing at the crossroads, he caught his breath and winced at the pain of his wounds. The three choices he had in front of him all looked rather equal: roughly dressed stone, clean and lit by torches. Voices sounded from the left-hand one, as did the quick, sharp footfalls of several people. Looking back up the hallway that he had come down, he saw a door open and a group of Dark Elves in chainmail rush towards the barracks. “Right,” thought the Frogg, and that’s the way he went.

Episode III

(part 3)…Taking a right-hand turn, the Frogg Prince is fleeing a horde of nasty Dark Elves, bleeding and homesick for his Jacuzzi in his suite at the Manor…

The hallway twisted and turned through the earth, passing several empty rooms. One room looked like a guard room, but nobody occupied it. A leg of mutton rested on a wooden plate, half-eaten. The Baron confiscated it in the name of Mythril. Another room seemed to be outfitted as a stable, but it was devoid of mounts, containing only food bags, tackle, and a worn saddle. Munching on the leg bone, the Froggacuda quickly followed the corridor to where it ended at a huge oaken door, bound in strips of a silvery material that made the Frogg’s eyes bug out. He looked around and stooped to examine one of the thick bands of metal. “Holy Dwarf Dung!” he breathed in awe, “Mithril.” He peered through the keyhole and saw nothing. He listened at the door and heard nothing. Shrugging, he grasped the handle and pulled.

The door opened outwards, and the Frogg Prince peered around the six-inch thick door. A rush of fresh air filled his lungs, and he blinked his eyes in the hazy sunshine that filtered through the huge moss-laden trees that met his view. A grey ground mist still hugged the massive arching roots of the ancient trunks, softening their outlines and dampening the sounds of a healthy forest. The Froggacuda slipped outside, and the portal silently swung shut behind him, blending perfectly with the bark of the tree it was built into. Sighing with relief, he took the clean air deep into his lungs and trudged down the slight slope to the forest floor. Turning around, he studied the tree for a moment, trying to find any remarkable features, of which there were none, save a knot directly above where he imagined the door to be that was shaped like a crow. Then, feeling fatigue overcoming him, he flung the gnawed mutton-bone aside and looked for a tree to climb to get his bearings.

Part way up a massive oak, he paused. He heard the sound again: the snort of a horse, and he alighted in the fork of two mighty branches. Scanning the misty forest floor below, he saw a rider swathed in a dark cloak appear out of the fog, heading towards the Tree. The Frogg Prince squatted in the crotch of the tree and watched the figure dismount directly in front of where the door was and look around warily. Throwing back her hood, for it was a she, she spoke three common words aloud and the door opened. The Froggacuda gaped; this was no Dark Elf — this was a True Elf. “I thought they weren’t too fond of each other,” mused the Frogg to himself. The Elf lead her horse through the door. and it again slid silently shut.

The Baron of Mythril noted that he was high enough to view the position of the Suns, got his bearings, and slid down the trunk of the tree. He headed West — quickly!

Episode I

(part 1) We rejoin the Baron of Mythril somewhere underground and in deep trouble, as the security of Mythril Manor has been breached. Does anyone realize that he’s gone? Does anyone miss him? Does the High Council give a damn? We’ll never know unless…

The Froggacuda came to being dragged through corridors so thick with dust that he almost choked. His head throbbed from what he recognized now as poison. “Damn Tinar’ri!” vaguely thought the Frogg, “I knew they were tougher than they looked…” He drifted off into a haze of semiconsciousness as the wound inflicted by the scimitar so long ago throbbed as if it had a life of its own.

He didn’t know how long he had drifted into the serenity of unconsciousness, but he awoke to an alarming thought: “Lady Silvar! Her catacomb exploration mission! That is where we probably are passing through…must warn her…” The Baron lapsed into subconsciousness once again.

“Get up!” The Froggacuda was kicked in the ribs sharply. Obscenities were hurled at him from either side. “You miserable piece of garbage,” snarled what he guessed to be one of the Dark Elves with the metal-studded clubs, “You’re trash, a mutant, an abomination!” “At least I have a mind of my own, you loathesome Demon-worshipping sorry homeless pickleheaded spit-faced son-of-a-spider geek!” the Froggacuda automatically rattled off from his inexhaustible store of comebacks. Wrong thing to do. He was savagely beaten by the two Dark Elves with the clubs, who laughed and laughed. “Mythril is doomed, you rotten amphibian. Even the Council is too concerned with those stupid Tinar’ri we recruited to turn their attention to your disappearance. There were only only two who examined what we left behind, and Lillith deemed that they were not a threat to us.” glowered one of the Drow. The other chimed in, “She even named them, so that we could kill them first! Acroyear and Hasselhoff,” he continued to gloat over their minor victory, “And we shall kill them soon!” His voice trailed off into maniacal laughter, joined with his friend, who the Frogg surmised was his brother. Maybe even his twin brother.

The Frogg Prince took in his surroundings carefully, and he didn’t like what he saw. He was in a large room of some sort, bound with his big hands firmly behind his back. His ankles were tied together, too; both knots were professional, and the Drow, of course, used Spider Silk, their customary thread, which was near impossible to break, being a sort of flexible steel. You had to admire the Drow in a way: they were powerful and successful and you might almost like them if they weren’t always egotistical and chaotic in nature. He could sight along the line of the floor, and saw that there was a hell of a lot of dust and accumulated debris. Wherever he was, it hadn’t been used for a long time. Rotting and faded tapestries hung from the walls depicted forgotten times, certainly before Mythril was established. “Aha,” thought the Frogg, “An Olde Evil! What an adventure!”

“So get up, Frog!” said one of the Elves. The Froggacuda distinctly heard him say it with one “g”, and that upset him. “I’ll remember that,” he thought. He struggled to his feet and instinctively backed up against the wall. Absentmindedly, he ran an edge of one of his claws over the rope and felt a thread part. “Alright, guys,” he said sheepishly, “You got me. Where’re we going?” The Froggacuda raised his eyebrows and looked quizzically at the two Drow. “You’re going to see the Queen!” said one with a touch of fear in his voice, “She comes when Lillith calls because she is interested in capturing this part of the overworld.” “Yes, the Queen,” said the other Dark Elf, “She will enthrall you, fool. Now, let’s go.” He roughly hauled the Froggacuda forwards, away from the wall, and propelled him into the bulk of the room.

The ceiling arched until it couldn’t be seen; a short flight of stairs led down to a purple and green tiled floor where two pools of viscous black tarry liquid boiled and steamed. The Dark Elves steered the Froggacuda well clear of the pools, but half-hearted tendrils of pitch explored outside of the confines of the pool like dogs sniffing an unfamiliar scent. Between the 20 x 20 pools passed the Frogg Prince and his captors, until they mounted another set of stairs which led to an altar and twin pedestals, where replicate statues of the Big Green Dogs flanked a dais. Upon the dais stood a nauseous altar, stained rust-colored with previous sacrifices and built from a dark basalt stone that seemed to mirror the evil that swam in the pools in front of it. Lillith the Dark Elf Priestess emerged from the shadows behind the altar and smirked at the Froggacuda.

“Oh, if it isn’t the Baron of Mythril!” she simpered, “How nice of you to drop by! Doesn’t that bitch Alliah miss you and your ‘explorations’?” “Do you always dress like you were going to do a cheap newsprint magazine photo shoot for a bunch of frustrated horny one-handed Orks?” shot back the Froggacuda angrily. He was beaten for that one by the Drow brothers, too, to the sound of Lillith’s peals of laughter.

“You’re lucky that Brutikus isn’t here, Frogg,” said Lillith, amused by the punishment of the Frogg, “He would have ripped your teeth out for that little comment.” The Dark Elf brothers chuckled as if they had seen such an event happen before. “Anyways, somebody special wants to see you,” she intoned meaningfully, “And, of course, Lolth wants to take a look at the famous Froggacuda.” “Who on earth is excited to see this piece of gnagrascth?” spat one of the Drow holding the Frogg. “I am,” stated a deep ominous voice from behind the altar.

Episode II

(part 2) The Baron of Mythril has been captured and is far underground, below the Mythril Manor, surrounded by Drow and things far worse…

A form ensconced in black and red plate mail moved into the bluish white light that surrounded the altar. He moved slowly around the block of the altar, studying the Froggacuda. A chill ran up the Frogg’s spine — he recognized the plate mail from somewhere, but he couldn’t put his claw on where. The Drow involuntarily released their hold on the Froggacuda and moved back respectfully. The Froggacuda took the time to snap another two strands of Spider Silk rope around his wrists. The suit of plate mail handed an enormous flail to one of the Drow guards, who almost staggered under its weight. As the third strand snapped under his claw, the Froggacuda recognized the figure from his childhood.

“Mangous Ye!” he shouted happily, “I knew you’d come to save me!” The Froggacuda beamed at the plate mail and halfheartedly hopped with his ankles tied together. “Shut up you oaf!” screamed Mangous Ye angrily, striking the Froggacuda across the face with a mailed gauntlet. The Frogg fell to the floor. “You miserable creature!” railed Ye at the fallen Frogg, “You were supposed to be my servant, you misbegotten reptile!” The one thing that the Froggacuda liked less than being called a Frogg with one ‘g’ was being classified as something that he wasn’t. “I’m a full amphibian,” clarified the Froggacuda from the stone floor, “Not a lizard, Mangous you dweeb!” Their entertaining reunion was interrupted by Lillith’s ecstatic cries: “She comes! She is coming!”

The temple was lit with a disgustingly nauseous purple light, and spiders scuttled from every crevice imaginable towards the altar. The Frogg Prince, as he lay before the altar on the stone, could hear the pools behind him bubbling in excitement, and an unnatural wind stirred the dust in the room into whorls. A ground mist erupted from the altar that the spiders were converging upon; the arachnids mounted the altar, swarming over it and covering it with a blanket of silk. Lillith and Mangous Ye stepped back from the altar, which began to spout blood in a crimson fountain. The spiders seemed to dance in the liquid, spinning faster and then retreating to the space in front of the altar. Even the Frogg’s guards retreated somewhat. leaving the Froggacuda to be covered in spiders and splashed blood. The three Drow fell to their knees before the altar as the Froggacuda struggled to his feet, cutting another strand of the Spider Silk rope. Mangous Ye backed up near the Frogg, understanding the power that was sweeping through the old temple. Ye started muttering to himself, something that the Frogg Prince didn’t particularly like. He wished he could give Ye a breathalizer test to see how tanked he was at this particular moment.

It was then that Lolth started to materialize. A clap of thunder shook the complex, shaking debris from the ceiling and rocking the floor. The outline of a great spider began to appear on the top of the silk-wrapped altar. Lillith began moaning and shrieking prayers to the heavens; the Drow brothers went white and prostrated themselves. Lightning illuminated the extent of the rudely hewn temple from stem to stern, while the spiders grovelled in worship to their ultimate ideal. Lolth accepted the material form, and squatted heavily upon the bloodsoaked altar.

Episode III

(part 3)…The Froggacuda has been reunited with his maker, Mangous Ye, the Evil and Insane Elf Priest of Kali, and is the guest of a rather obnoxious Drow Elf Priestess Lillith in the catacombs below the Land of Mythril. Obviously, and in true Frogg form, he STILL is in deep feces…

“Who calls me here to observe these piteous creatures?” spoke Lolth in a voice made of spiders’ cobwebs and blasphemous noise, “Who dares awake me from the Abyss?” “I, milady Precious,” spoke Lillith in a tone of abject respect. The Froggacuda rolled his eyes, seeing her crawl across the floor and rub against the bloodied altar. He turned his head to follow Mangous Ye, who was backing down the stairs past the two Drow twins, who were still groveling around on the ground like they were having ecstatic seizures. Whistling a tuneless ditty softly to himself, he feverishly chopped away at the Spider Silk rope binding his hands together behind his back. It wasn’t giving anymore. The Frogg Prince stopped whistling and cursed.

“Oh my Goddess,” began Lillith, “I have brought you the infamous Baron of Mythril, the Prince Frogacuda, for you to feast upon his worthless soul to ease the agonies I know you endure being connected to this miserable plane of existence.” “That’s Frogg, with two g’s, you idiot,” grumbled the Froggacuda, rubbing the rope over his spinal plates. It separated and left him holding the strands of Spider Silk wrapped around his thick wrists. “Shut up you cretin!” shrieked Lillith, hurling a flurry of magical bolts from her fingertips at the Frogg, exploding into him and hurling him back down the stairs to crumple in front of the two tarry pools. Smoke rose from the eight wounds; the Froggacuda coughed, spat, and struggled to his feet, holding his hands behind him as if they were still bound. Lolth chuckled; the rumbling of her laughter dissolved into the sound of millions of spiders chirping.

“This one has spirit,” Lolth spoke as the echoes of her mirth died away, “Its soul must be exquisite.” She shifted forwards on the silk-wrapped crimson basalt to peer at the Froggacuda. “I seem to remember that Frogg legs are a delicacy in some parts of the Multiverse.” Suddenly, her attention was diverted, “WHAT is that?”

The Frogg Prince looked over his shoulder. Mangous Ye had, somewhat foolishly, stationed himself between the two black pools of active slime, and, to make matters worse, he was chanting. “Oh, by He-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named!” swore the Froggacuda, “Mangous, you always were an imbecile. Are you drunk!?” Mangous Ye lifted his voice, gutturally pouring blasphemies in a disgustingly liquid tone, gesturing with both arms spread wide. Lolth raised herself on her bloodied throne and looked archly at her Priestess; Lillith was gaping at Ye, who began to raise his voice, the words spilling forth from his tongue like a flood. “SSSLORRFFUSSS DEMONNNTUMMUSS JUBILEXX!” he screamed with some sort of finality. Nothing happened.

Lillith laughed hysterically, embarrassed by Mangous Ye’s demonstration of inability. “You fool!” she cackled like a witch, “Do you have any sense at all? So what if you could locate the Froggacuda — we have him now, and you’re so much useless baggage.” Mangous Ye looked stupid, dumbfounded even. Lillith turned to her Goddess, “I am sorry, my Worship, for this interruption. Would you like an appetizer?” Lolth pointedly ignored her, staring at Mangous Ye, who visibly cringed and started to stammer soundless apologies. Lillith gestured idly to the two Dark Elves, “Tomax, Xamot…throw him in the Ooze.” The twins rose from their knees and cracked their knuckles, grinning at each other. They started down the stairs.

Mangous Ye backed up a step and looked around wildly. The Ooze had gone disturbingly flat; the Froggacuda quietly got out of the way of the advancing Dark Elves, who had forgotten him for the moment. Lolth was shifting around on her altar uncomfortably, and Lillith’s eyes were gleaming; she was caressing her bare forearms with her long white nails hard enough to draw blood.

“Wait!” squealed Mangous Ye, holding up his hands, “I almost forgot!” He took in a deep breath and shouted at the top of his lungs: “SSKANDAR!!” The Dark Twins stopped for a moment, and the sound of Ye’s shout died out dully. Then the pools of Ooze started to bubble furiously. Lolth rose to her full height on the altar and glowered at Mangous Ye, who had no idea what to do, so he stood where he was.

Twin fountains of loathsome phosphorescent-laced solidified ooze erupted from the pools and slammed into the ceiling hard enough to embed themselves. Tendrils and tentacles of Ooze sprayed forth from the masses of the two columns, mouths full of razor like teeth opening on some, eyes blinking open from others. They waved in a extradimensional breeze, and began weaving themselves together in the space between the two pools. Liquid streamed over the surface of the more solid Ooze, defying gravity and spraying all over the place. Tomax and Xamot, true to their twin nature, did twin backflips back up the stairs and pulled out glowing shortswords. The Froggacuda’s jaw dropped, and he caught a mouthful of black goo right in the kisser. Lolth hissed evilly with spectacular stereo effects, and she raised one of her eight hairy limbs and swatted Lillith behind her head hard, sprawling her prone in front of her. “What is this?” she questioned in a sharp tone as Lillith rose painfully on her hands and cowered, sobbing. The tentacles of black Ooze wove faster, and the semblance of a giant mouth began to take form, gigantic misshapen teeth sliding nauseously into place, huge lips dripping slime appearing.

“I am JUBILEX, Lord of Amorphousness, and I come to Speak to the Spider Queen,” the huge mouth spoke, spraying gobbets of slime, “I represent the Black Earth Mother, KALI.” Lolth once again rose to her full height, this time snarling, showing a delicate and syringe-like pair of ivory fangs. The Froggacuda backed carefully behind a pillar, noting a worn tapestry that didn’t hang quite flush with the wall several yards to his right.

“KALI demands equal Rights to the Overland of Mythril; she desires Land for creation of her Undead Legions upon this World,” Jubilex continued, “She will not be Denied.”

“Perchance KALI can find another Land to Corrupt,” replied Lolth warily, shifting on the altar, “Mythril is Mine!”

“KALI will not take Kindly to your Insubordination,” rumbled the Mouth of Jubilex, “You are not in a Position to Bargain, Queen.”

“Who is KALI to send a mere Demon-Lord to do Her Work?” Lolth sneered. “Oh mighty Dagon, please please please remember your favorite Frogg,” prayed the Baron silently as he cut the bonds around his ankles. He was going insane.

“Excellent!” the corners of the Mouth twisted into a wicked smirk, “KALI said that You would wish to Speak to Her Personally.” The Orifice yawned wide with an earthshaking groan, and rolled a thick viscous tongue out to slap against the stairs of the dais. “Impressive,” thought the Froggacuda, who had to bite his own tongue to keep from braying maniacal laughter.

From the gaping Mouth of Jubilex stepped a slender four-armed girl with skin the color of polished obsidian. She was perfectly formed, naked but for jewelry of fantastic worth, dripping with huge gems and strands of beaten platinum. The Mouth closed gently upon the tongue behind her, and she turned to place a kiss on the huge rubbery lips, which, in turn, smiled, and (the Frogg could not believe his eyes) there was a hint of a blush in the Ooze. KALI then cast her glittering eyes over to where Lolth sat heavily upon her throne. Lillith rose slowly to her feet, moving quietly beside her Mistress.

Mangous Ye ran forwards to the tongue and fell prostrate before his Goddess. “Oh Mighty Black Earth Mother…” he began in a quavering voice.

“Mangous Ye, you have almost Impressed Me,” said Kali in an evilly honeyed tone, “Come Here.” She waited for Mangous Ye to crawl over to her noisily in his plate mail, and then struck him senseless with her hand. She then turned him over easily, tore off his helm, and placed a kiss upon his forehead. Her kiss left blood upon his face. She placed a bedazzlingly jewelled ring upon his finger, kicked him into the pool of slime where he was wrapped into the bulk of one of the columns of Jubilex, and continued her walk to the dais.

“Lolth, You Disappoint Me,” said KALI with the smoothness of oil, “I Come with an Offer and You thus Insult Me to the Face of My Lover. I am not Sure if I can Forgive You.” She sauntered casually down the tongue, caressing the tentacles that were reaching for her with all her four hands. “But perhaps, We may still reach Some sort of Agreement, no?” KALI questioned pointedly. She had reached the dais’s steps and was mounting them one at a time. She turned her gaze to the twin Drow. She stopped at the top of the stairs and cocked her head to one side prettily, looking first at Tomax, then at Xamot. They dropped their shortswords and fell to their knees, placing their foreheads on the cold stone of the floor. Lillith gripped the edge of the altar as KALI approached.

“Well, Lolth?” asked KALI in a syrupy voice, “Will I Have Your Co-operation?” Lillith could not take the violation of her Mistress’s temple any longer, and rushed forwards with a cry of rage. Lolth darted out two limbs to catch her, but it was KALI who caught her first. Almost aimlessly, she reached out an arm and seized Lillith by the throat. Picking her off of the ground, KALI looked straight at Lolth, then turned her awful eyes to Lillith’s.

The back of Lillith’s head exploded outwards; her lifeless form went limp in KALI’s hand, and she dropped her to the floor. KALI looked again to Lolth and smiled, revealing sharpened white teeth. “Hmmm?” KALI spoke to the Spider Queen, “What was that you said, girl?”

Lolth visibly composed herself, then answered with a strained voice: “I am Your Humble Servant, KALI.”

“Good,” said KALI, examining Lolth with her deadly vision, “You Know how Upset I can Become.” The Froggacuda now was standing with his back to the wall. Sure enough, the tapestry hid a corridor, but his gaze was riveted to the scene on the dais. KALI turned her back on Lolth and paced back down the stairs. She waved one hand languidly over her shoulder, and Lillith started gasping for breath, her life given back to her by the whim of the Goddess. KALI walked back up the tongue, and the Mouth of Jubilex received her again. In moments, the Ooze had returned to its former state, Jubilex taking Mangous Ye with him and leaving only the two softly roiling pools. The Froggacuda breathed a sigh of semi-relief. “Now at least I only have to deal with one extra-planar creature,” he breathed to himself, and started to lift the edge of the tapestry.

Lolth screamed, a sound not pretty to hear. Turbulent winds sprayed through the temple, and stone fell from the roof. The floor shook, and the Frogg Prince almost lost his footing. “Where is the FROGGACUDA!” shrieked Lolth, terribly put out at her humiliation, and obviously looking for someone to take it out on. Her eyes searched the shadows and rested on the fabulous physique of our Hero. Her gaze was followed by the three Drow Elves, who simultaneously reached for their weapons.

“That, folks, is my cue to exit!” the Froggacuda winked at the Spider Queen and ducked under the tapestry…

[to be continued]