The Flight of Pylmuck

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, waves, 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.

A wild wind chilled the air as the frantic frog rushed through the thick bush. The shaken soldier shed his shield and spear as he sprinted faster and faster from his pursuers. His heavy flippers hit hard against the fleshy undergrowth.

Chasing this bullfrog were the veteran riders of Red-Eyed Jaam. They had dismounted, for their large Silverfish steeds could not follow. This was no problem for these elite tree frogs. They made their home in the undergrowth, and from their youth they slipped through growth and tree with their small and slippery bodies. This was not even a hunt, this was mere play.

Pylmuck tried to remember how he had gotten into this mess. As his commander fell in battle, a tree frog shrieked out in pain. The squad turned to see a gallant noblefrog slay his foe. This caused a cavalcade of tree frog reinforcements to flood over him and the squad. Pylmuck closed his eyes, trying harder to remember what happened. A great clash of metal on metal. Cries and croaks of death and pleading. An opening. Yes, that’s how they got out. A silverfish had fallen on some soldiers and provided enough of a distraction to break rank. Then he ran, faster and faster. He just had to get out of there. But what of the others? “It didn’t matter now,” he told himself. “Bilcor’s dead. Most of the patrols are dead. Who cares if a scumfarmer’s son goes missing from roll call?” So he ran, and never looked back.

Pylmuck rushed clumsily through the forest. He nearly tripped over every log, stone, and stick that happened to cross his path. He only kept his balance by his sheer will to stay alive. The tree frogs, on the other hand, jumped gracefully over the logs. Using their sticky pad fingers, they grabbed the sides of trees and sling shot themselves forward. This mighty display of acrobatics and dexterity was a game, to see who could do the most flips.

“I must keep moving, I must!” Pylmuck huffed to himself. He was never the most athletic frog, for he was rather scrawny for his size, but today he ran faster than his legs had ever let him run before. Just up ahead, there was a thick patch of bristles and branches blocking the way. There was no time. He closed his eyes and covered his face. He crouched down, and with all his might he leapt towards the blockage and barreled through.

Rather than tumbling onto cushioning moss, however, Pylmuck fell twenty feet down a little cliff, bumping into every rock along the way. The Riders climbed down the hill at a relaxed pace. At last, the game was over.

Pylmuck came to to feel sharp points pressed lightly against his throat. Three tree frogs stood poised to slide their spears into his soft gullet. He winced and closed his eyes. A few seconds passed. He opened his eyes to see the soldiers, still standing over him; he was still alive. They were relaxed as they chatted amongst themselves in their native tongue. The two frog races’ tongues diverged more than a millennium ago, and now all that’s intelligible between them are a few base words. He watched with a worried anticipation as his captors discussed his fate. They talked, then turned to look at Pylmuck, then talked some more. He noted a hint of chuckle as they quietly chatted. One was tall and very thin, almost to the point of starvation. Another was shorter and slightly more rotund, and it was he who seemed to be in command. The third was much like his skinny comrade, only somehow more gaunt. For all of the merriment of the soldiers, laughing about their catch, this one never smiled nor took his eyes off Pylmuck.

Suddenly, the spears were relaxed from Pylmuck’s throat. He was motioned to stand, which he did with a struggle. He was covered from head to toe in cuts and bruises. He limped along at spear point, and made numerous grunts and groans as he strained to stay on his feet. The path up the hill was steep, and Pylmuck struggled to avoid falling over. The guards, offering no assistance, softly snickered as the battleworn Bullfrog fell down the small hill. “Why me?” muttered Pylmuck to himself. “Why must I live and Bilcor die? Perhaps it's because I’m young, and he’s old. Maybe he knew what’s going to happen to me, and thought death a better alternative. Oh, by the Great Sire, whose Croak began all things that are, may Bilcor rot in perdition for what he’s done!” He began shambling back over the hill. He moved slower, in order to keep his balance. “Maybe I should just kill myself here. Who knows what these monsters will do to me. Yes, that’s it. Just a little fight and these hot tempered tree huggers will let my soul slide out of their grasp.”

As he climbed over the crest of the hill and onto flat land, he turned around. Their round eyes stared down at him. They were not filled with hate, that much Pylmuck could sense. There was nothing Pylmuck had ever done to them. Up until his enlistment, he had never even known that such tribal warriors even existed. Their eyes were instead filled with contempt, a malevolent indifference to whether he lives or dies. This was puzzling to Pylmuck. Why not kill him here and be done with it? Why delay the inevitable?

A few sluggish hours later and Pylmuck found himself in a strange camp. Tents made of a dark green cloth in all sorts of hexagonal shapes littered the small clearing. More of these tree frogs patrolled about, their keen and silvery eyes alert to all around them. Just then, a couple more guards came up to Pylmuck and his captors. They talked for a bit, and afterwards lead Pylmuck into a small tent at the middle of the camp. Its base was shaped like a hexagon, and it reeked of rotten fish. In the front of it, there were two guards, perhaps the most savage-looking Pylmuck had seen so far. When they reached the front of the tent, the guards then bounded Pylmuck with rope, and lead him inside.

As he was pushed inside, he could see the tent was incredibly dark, for the thick fabric it was made of blocked the light from getting in. A guard shoved him to the ground and said, “Stay here. Stay quiet. Do what you’re told, and you may live another day.” The guards left the tent, and Pylmuck sat in silence with all the rest. He thought of Bilcor again. Again he wondered if it was him or his Sergeant that got off lucky.

Adam Hoeft