The Knight and the Tadpole

There’s a far away land both alike and unlike our own. A land where creatures we call our lessers rise to great sizes. A place the beasts of the land, waters, and air— liberated from the shackles of human hegemony— are free to grow to new heights, both in stature and in brain. Chief among them are the Frogs, the masters of the main and warlords of the waves. They live in a land they call Amphibiara. This is a tale from that land.

The slight autumn breeze provided relief to the Toad Knight’s hilly skin as he passed underneath the verdant trees. He had a long day’s ride ahead of him, and he was grateful for the wind. In the tranquil woods, one could almost hear the leaves shuffle as the birds and bugs landed and launched to and fro within the treetops. The silence let the Knight listen along to the slow rising and falling of his own chest. He noticed his throat begin to inflate as his body started to croak out in a song. He quickly grabbed his throat and pushed it down. “Not yet,” he scolded himself, “we’ll be there soon enough.”

Just then, the sacred tranquility was defiled by a faint wailing from up ahead. “Help! Help!” the voice cried. The knight shot his eyes up, clenched the reins, and whipped them, causing his beetle mount to scuttle quickly forward. Five yards ahead stood a small wooden half-bridge, dilapidated by the dual powers of time and usage; its other half rotted away into the depths below. An ancient piece of wood had partly fallen into the rapid waters, remaining attached only by a few splinters.

As the knight rode closer, he saw the board flail wildly as a little pollywog clung tenaciously to it. “Help me,” wailed the youngling, “else I shall be swept into the river!” Just as the pollywog uttered this plea the board finally gave way, causing the little frogling to float quickly down the river.

Not wasting any time, the knight cried out, “Onwards, Dynastes! After him!” The mighty beast then reared its first four legs into the air as it gave great chase after the Tadpole. The knight swiftly pulled out his lance. “Quick, kid! Grab on with your tail!” The Tadpole, bobbing back and forth like a buoy, reached his tail out of the water, grasping for salvation, but everytime he got close, the current pulled him back under.

This process of trying and failing to fish him out went on for half a minute. It was then Dynastes found its leg wedged between a rock and the ground, causing it to fumble and trip. Both the bug and its rider went descending directly into the dirt. Losing their speed and the frogling in the stream. “Noooo!” shrieked the Tadpole as he went sailing away.

The knight, slightly dazed, sat up and rubbed his head. “Ah, Foo!” the Toad sulked. “I don’t know what his issue is, he can breathe underwater, can’t he? It makes me think. Oh! I don’t know why I wasted time on them, it all amounted to nothing-”

A prod from Dynastes brought an abrupt end to his sulk. He looked up, and saw the river winding about with the youth in tow. Just a little ahead of him was a drop, a great waterfall. Shaking himself awake from his stupor, the Knight jumped on top of his steed yet again. “You’re right, boy! All’s not lost! No time to waste!” Suddenly, the shell on Dynastes’ back folded open, revealing large translucent wings. They began to vibrate quickly, then faster, then faster. The hulking form then lifted up off the ground and jerked forward like a mighty swan.

They sped off, flying a few feet above the water, they followed the trail, scanning the stream for any sign of life. It wasn’t long until they saw a distraught pollywog, bracing himself for the hundred-foot-drop he was about to endure. Just as he was about to go over, the tadpole felt a strain and a tug on his tail. A metal clad hand was holding on for dear life. The pollywog wrapped his tail around the gauntlet, securing their grip further. The rider then pulled tight on the reins, making a hard right onto land and safety.

The Knight took a large sigh of relief. The Tadpole merely looked at him funny. The Knight then realized that Tadpoles don’t have lungs. He frantically looked about, taking a notice of his surroundings for the first time.

They were in a little pasture of sorts. It was really a bit of grass on the edge of the forest, overlooking the steep cliff. A hundred feet away laid the ruins of a small cottage, the stone wall and door frame being all that remained. Sitting next to the dirty door remains was a metal bucket. Spotting his chance, the Knight ran up to the bucket, stuck it in the river, and scooped the Tadpole inside. It was a snug fit, but it would do for the time being.

Both the Knight and the youngster stayed quiet for a long time, resting from their escapades. At last, the pollywog spoke: “Oh, gra- gramercy, sir! A gallant and stalwart knight you must be! As long as I live I shall be in your debt!” The Knight hid his small chuckle from the verbose child. “What is your name, boy?” The boy stiffened up in a noble fashion, “I am Flibberpog, son of Pagwam, King of the Bullfrogs.” The previously stoic knight let a little chuckle loose this time. “And I suppose I’m the Duke’s uncle!” The Tadpole seemed rather annoyed than amused. “But ‘tis true! My mother is Queen Ranna and I am her ninety-ninth son!” “If that’s true,” the Knight replied, “then what are you doing out here in the wilderness? Someone as important as you would be at the King’s best spawning grounds, receiving his education and what not. They wouldn’t be going for a few strokes out in Pobblebonk Forest!” “But sir,” Flibberpog protested, “I was there! I was living peacefully with my brothers and sisters at the spawning grounds on Lake Ogog. It was just a few hours ago when the grounds were razed by some great brutes!”

The Knight rubbed his chin in curiosity. “If that’s true, how’d you escape?” The frogling sighed, “I was rescued by a noble frog, but I fear that he may have fallen in combat.” The Tadpole looked down, staring into nothing. “I tried to swim as far as I could, so they could not catch me, but the current swept me up and-”

“And here you are.” The Toad clasped his hands together. “Truly an amazing tale. If it’s true, then I think we both have a lot to gain from each other. Like all Toad Knights, I am not bound by feudal code, but that does not mean I am without honor. I think it would serve us both well if you came along with me. I am on the way to the Capital, and there I can hand you off to the royal authorities, for a reward.” Flibberpog looked up with a worried expression. “Are you sure you can take me home?” The Knight straightened up, put one hand over his heart and the other in the air, “By the Great Sire, creator of all things above and below, I, Sir Bumpwin, shall escort your Highness into safety!”

The Knight then grabbed the bucket, and threw it on Dynastes’ back. He then hopped onto the beetle himself. And with a quick flick of the reins, the duo were off on their journey.

CreativeAdam Hoeft