Apologies that the rest of this didn't get up before the end of October. I keep taking too long with pictures and tweaking. :) I plan on getting the final installment up tomorrow. Enjoy THe Frog King part III!
The Head Frog hopped rather eagerly through the last part of the swamp until they came to a clearing where the ground was dry. In the center stood a thatched-roof cottage, rather cozy-looking except for the green smoke billowing out of the chimney. Eva wished she had a plan or at least knew something about what kind of witch she was dealing with. But, knowing nothing, she had to just knock on the door and see what happened.
“Robert! I told you that if you came back to try to convince me to come home again this week that I was going to turn you into a—“ The door flung open rather abruptly and made Eva jump. Greeting her was a girl about her own age, perhaps a few years older, with long disheveled blonde hair and brown eyes. She was beautiful. Eva had assumed that witches that turned frogs into men would be of a more old-looking warty breed. This one was a beauty model, or at least she would be if she straightened up a little
“Oh,” the woman stopped her tirade. “Can I help you?”
“Um, I-I’m so sorry to bother you, but—are you a witch?” Eva asked as politely as she could.
Her hostess curtsied tersely. “Well spotted. So I am. It’s pretty late. You lost?”
“Oh, no. I just—I’m on a sort of mission, and I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Really? Well favors don’t come for free. But since you’re here, come in, and I’ll see if I’m in the mood.”
Eva followed the witch into her cottage. Half of the cottage looked like any other. There was a pleasant sitting room with a worn rug in the middle and several chairs, but the other end with the fireplace was a bubbling mess of a witch’s worktable, just as Eva would expect a witch to have. A large bubbling cauldron simmered with a deep green, foul-smelling concoction while a table was covered with the body parts of various animals, all very well organized, but frightening-looking all the same. The witch offered Eva a chair in the sitting room.
“Who’s Robert?” Eva asked.
Her hostess snorted. “My brother. Sorry for mistaking you for him. He’s been coming around lately and I don’t often get visitors. So! You’re a young damsel at the far end of the swamp late at night. You’re obviously in some kind of trouble. What’s your name?”
“Eva. What shall I call you?”
“I am Princess Imogene, the witch. You can just call me Imogene or Princess.”
Eva looked surprised. “You’re a princess?”
“Your story first, and then I might tell you mine.”
Eva started with just her own story, telling the witch about her life, her father, and her upcoming marriage.
Once she had finished telling about herself, the princess laughed. “Ah, it’s always something to do with love. I was afraid you were going to ask me to change your true love back into human form, something I have not yet been able to do for myself. My own prince was changed into a frog by a rival who got into some dark arts. I forsook my kingdom to find him. Unfortunately this swamp is so full of frogs that I haven’t been able to find him. Maybe his mind is a frog’s mind by now or maybe he doesn’t want to come back or doesn’t know that I’m looking for him. I just don’t know.” The Princess sighed. “I’m afraid it’s made me a bit cynical.”
“Tell me, Princess, can you turn a frog into a person even if it’s not really a person?”
“Yes,” Imogene responded instantly. “That was the first thing I learned. I use a potion to ensure that they turn into people even if they’re not, just to make sure. If they’re really frogs they don’t transform completely, but I change those back right away.”
“Except for the one that got away,” Eva pointed out.
The Princess, who’d been slouching in her chair, sat up straighter. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s what I came to talk to you about. You changed the Frog King into a frog-man. He saved me from bandits and is currently scaring away my father and fiancée if I do a favor for him.”
“What? I searched for him forever. I eventually convinced myself he never was. No other frog has gotten away. So, what does he want? To be a frog again? That’s easy.”
“No! That’s why he avoids you. He likes being a frog-man. But he’s lonely.” Eva reached into her pocket and pulled out her passenger. “He asked me to ask you to turn her into a frog-person like him. In return …” Eva hesitated, “he said he’d find someone for me.”
A bubble of processing silence ensued for just a moment before Princess Imogene threw back her head and laughed. “Well, if you’re going to trust a frog to find someone for you, then I wish you well. I only want to be there to see who he comes up with.” Imogene leaned forward and held out her hand for Mooneyes. Eva set the amphibian gently into the witch’s hand. Imogene held the frog up to inspect her. “You know, I’ve never been able to tell the difference between the males and the females. Are you sure this is a girl?”
“Slimbark seemed pretty certain.”
“The Frog King. That’s his name.”
“Ah. Well, I’ve only turned a few frogs into humans—well—sort of humans. I don’t expect too much problem changing her. But there will be a price, of course.”
Eva shifted uncomfortably in her chair. This whole night was going to be impossible.
Imogene sat back in her chair and ran her fingers up and down the spine of the frog in her hands. “Find me my frog. Find me the frog who is really my prince and I’ll change her for you.”
Eva’s brow furrowed. “How long have you been looking for him?”
“About a year.”
“And you expect me to find him now? Tonight?”
Imogene shrugged. “Take as much time as you want, I suppose. I’m not on any time schedule. I’ve lost most of my hope of finding him. I spend my time mixing new potions and turning people who cross me into frogs themselves. But maybe all I need is someone with a fresh motivation to find him. His name was Prince Alexander. I’ll keep this girl frog with me until you return. Good luck.”
Before Eva could respond to the Princess’s ridiculous task, there was a croak at the window. The Head Frog sat watching.
“Who’s that? Your boyfriend?” Imogene asked with a smirk.
“My escort,” Eva corrected. “Shall we start with him?” She opened the window and brought the Head Frog inside on her palm, handing him to Imogene. Imogene cradled him in her hand for a moment, studying him.
“Well?” Eva asked. “Aren’t you supposed to kiss him or something?”
Imogene hesitated, then gave the frog a quick and careless peck on the head.
“Is that all?”
“I have a potion that turns them into people for sure, even if they’re really frogs, like the one that changed the Frog King. I just wanted to check.”
“They say that the most powerful cure is a mere kiss from your true love. But I’ve started using a potion because—”
“Because you’ve stopped believing that,” Eva finished for her.
Imogene shrugged. “It’s been a long time.”
“We’re more alike than I thought,” Eva mused. “Both of us feel pretty hopeless that we’ll find our true love, but we’re still looking.”
Imogene considered that.
“Look, I don’t know what will happen if I don’t get back to Slimbark tonight. don’t have much time. I’m afraid of who he might dig up, but letting him try to help me is better than letting my father sell me to another man. And part of me still thinks I might come out of this all right. I mean, all I want is someone who sees me as a person instead of a transaction. So since I’m short on time, how about you kiss the Head Frog one more time, as if he really might be your Prince?”
Imogene sighed and grimaced at the frog in her hand. “I really don’t want to be kissing frogs all night,” she said. And she lifted the Head Frog to her face and kissed him again.
Both girls waited anxiously. The Head Frog blinked.
“This is going to be a long night,” Imogene whined.
Suddenly the frog in her hands vibrated, and Imogene dropped him with a shriek. As soon as the Head Frog hit the wooden floor he exploded in a flash of green smoke and sparks. Coughing and waving the smoke away, a full-sized man in green royal-looking robes with a small golden crown tipped from his head. He opened his mouth and croaked loudly.
“Alex!” Imogene screamed. She ran over to him, fell to her knees, grabbed his head, and kissed him hard.
Once she was finished, Alex seemed better able to speak. “I’m so glad I was transformed with my clothes,” he coughed. “Or else this would have been really embarrassing.”
Imogene helped him to his feet. “Where have you been all this time? I’ve been looking everywhere!”
“Well, I’m afraid that as an amphibian, we are under a greater obligation to respect the monarchy, especially when his power is increased by a sort of human transformation. At least he recognized my potential and made me Head Frog.” Alex smiled sheepishly and looked at Eva. “But I couldn’t get away, and there were certainly times when I doubted I had ever been a prince. You have no idea how excited I was to escort you here, Eva. Most frogs are too scared to come this way what with all the spells you’ve been spewing out right and left.” Alex nudged Imogene, who seemed to be fighting to not to show how happy she was. The Prince extended a hand to Eva. “Thanks for convincing her. I might have been scouting for the Frog King for the rest of my days.”
Eva smiled shyly back at Alexander. “You’re welcome, but—“
“But if you don’t get back to Slimbark tonight, things could get hairy,” Alex finished for her.
Imogene tore her gaze away from Alexander. “Of course. You’ll be needing plenty more luck to get you through the night. I don’t begrudge you this stroke of luck at all.” She turned to where she had just been sitting and stared at her chair. She spun quickly, looking at the ground. “I seem to have misplaced the girl frog.”
“We have to find her!” Eva insisted as she began scouring the floor.
Prince Alexander chirruped and croaked in a low, deep voice. Imogene and Eva stared at him in surprise. A return croak sounded and Mooneyes appeared near the bottom crack in the front door, just on her way out.
Prince Alexander looked apologetic. “I think that was hopefully the last of them in me.”
Eva and Imogene didn’t care. Princess Imogene quickly took Mooneyes to the table littered with her various supplies and vials and began mixing. Eva and Alex tried to look over her shoulder. Imogene quickly threw everything into a small bottle and began shaking it. After a few seconds she unstopped the top and tilted it up to drink it herself.
“What are you doing?” Eva finally asked.
Imogene stopped. “Well actually,” she hesitated. “Alex, a small bit of this applied through a kiss will turn a frog into a human even if it’s not a human. But since this frog is a girl, would you do it?”
“Me?” Alex’s cheeks flushed brightly.
Eva laughed out loud and clapped a hand over her mouth. She couldn’t help it.
“What’s wrong with you?” Imogene asked. “Don’t you think it’s a good idea?”
Eva nodded and tried to compose herself. It just hit her as ridiculously funny for some reason. “Yes,” she guffawed. “Yes, it’s a good idea. It’s just that,” she snorted and wiped a tear from her eye, “Alex thinks she’s cute!” Eva’s composure exploded with more laughter.
Imogene’s jaw dropped as she looked at Alexander perfectly scandalized.
“I’ve been a frog for over a year!” He explained desperately. “Sometimes I was more a frog than at other times, and I’ve only just turned back! Please tell me my frogness will go away eventually.”
“It had sure better.” Imogene glared at him. “Just hurry up and get it over with.” She tossed him the vial of frog-man juice.
Alex hesitated, looking uncomfortable. Doubtless it had occurred to him that there was no right way to deal with this situation with his girlfriend looking on. Well, better do what she said and get it over with then. He tilted his head back and downed the small vial quickly and swallowed it in one gulp. He shuddered. “Actually,” he commented, “that’s not half bad.”
“Oh just kiss the frog, Alex.” Imogene held her hand out with Mooneyes sitting on it, still looking bored and frog-like. Eva bit her lips at Alex’s expression, trying hard not to laugh. Alex pursed his lips and gave Mooneyes a quick peck on the head.
“Is that enough?” he asked Imogene hopefully.
“We’ll see,” Imogene said as she set Mooneyes on the floor and took a few steps back. The others followed suit. “I just hope that— ”
But Alex and Eva never got to hear what she hoped. Mooneyes had started sparking. Little green flailing streaks began to swirl around her and with a sudden sound of rushing air Mooneyes shot upward, exploding into a very female frog-person in half a second. She looked like a girl who had slipped into a skin-tight frogsuit. Her eyes were much larger than the Frog King’s, but not unbecoming. Her hair was a lighter green variation of the faceless slug, seaweed tendrils that the Frog King wore. Her lips were quite wide, and her nose more spread. Still, if she had been entirely human, she would not have been ugly. Mooneyes looked surprised and a little dazed. She cowered as she studied the room and people around her and then noticed her webbed hands and frog feet. She made a series of surprised-sounding croaks.
Eva looked at Alexander. “Did you understand that?”
“Um, not all of it,” Alexander lied. He really hoped his frogness would wear off soon.
“Well! That worked quite well,” Imogene smiled as she circled Mooneyes. “Do you understand me?” She asked the recently created frog creature.
Mooneyes just stared with her large dark eyes, looked confused, and croaked.
“Yes, but she can’t seem to speak yet,” Alex said before he caught himself. He put his head in one hand. “This is so embarrassing.”
Imogene smiled. “Well that’s fine.” Imogene beckoned Eva to stand next to her. “This is Eva, she’s going to take you to—uhm, someone like you, okay?”
Mooneyes tilted her head, and Alex didn’t need to explain that she was still confused.