Freebie Mondays: The Tale of Forg the Werefrog Part 2

Freebie Mondays: The Tale of Forg the Werefrog Part 2

Part 1 of this silly little story can be found here!

The idea for this short story came from two friends of mine (Jchillyy and Karly5123) and arose out of a random conversation during Jchillyy’s stream. The final prompt was thus: “Werefrog man (who fights crime in the city) hunts vampires until he gets to know one via an epic fight and then they realize they are on the same side and agree to work together (at which point they also kiss).”

The frog thing has become a running joke in our community after a drunken night of golf, so I was happy to add to the lore, as it were.

As soon as I wrote the first story, I came up with the idea for the second installment. Part 1 is written from the perspective of Forg. This one is written from the perspective of his new vampire friend.

I wrote this prompt live on stream, so if you’d like to watch it come together, you can catch the VoD here!
. . .

I watch the moon peek slowly above the city skyline, measuring the time it takes to rise inch by agonizing inch. I try not to convince myself he isn’t coming during the first five minutes but, and this may shock you, patience has never been a vampire’s strong suit.

You’d think because we live for hundreds or thousands of years, we’d be used to playing the long game, waiting for exactly the right circumstances under which to fulfill our plans. But actually, we do a lot of living in the moment. That endless desire for instant satisfaction is the only thing that keeps us going.

Think about how easy it is to lose a week or a month or even a few years to the endless march of regular day to day activities. Now remove the imminent threat of aging from the equation. Vampires never pass our prime. Without that constant tingling drive for satisfaction, our minds would dull while our bodies just kept right on going.

I’ve seen it happen. That kind of stagnation is hard to shake.

The soft glow of moonlight washes my face as my internal clock ticks away another pair of minutes, and I close my eyes. I hate to admit it, but I’m seriously considering flitting off into the shadows. Thinking back, I should have been a little more specific than moonrise when I suggested a meeting time. He may have interpreted that as after the moon is fully risen rather than the moment at which the moon appears above the horizon. If that’s the case, I could be waiting all night, and that just isn’t going to happen.

A soft sigh slips past my lips as I open my eyes and glance down.

That’s when I catch it; the shifting of shadows in the near distance. I focus on the dark blob darting from the opening of one ally to another and smile.

My new companion is easy to identify. Let’s be honest; frogs aren’t exactly graceful. The way he lopes from the shelter of dumpster shadow to dumpster shadow is pretty adorable though. Forg is putting a lot of effort into his stealth approach. If he was smaller and slightly less ungainly, he’d be really good at it.

But who am I to judge? It isn’t exactly as if bats are the world’s most graceful creatures. They get away with being a tiny bit dopey because they come out when most people are asleep.

Forg hesitates when he reaches the base of the building on which I’m standing. He seems to realize that he has to scale the wall and there’s no way to do that without being noticed.

I decide to spare him the agony. I lean over the edge of the building’s lip. My angle is precarious. If I was a human, there’s a very real possibility I could lose my balance and fall. But vampires can hover, so I have no difficulty keeping my body in the angle I choose.

When I’m certain Forg has noticed me, I wave. I smile too, but I don’t know if he’s close enough to see that. Vampires can see clearly at quite a distance, especially when they have a high vantage. But I don’t think frog eyes are really made for distance viewing. They’re typically prey creatures. Most of their biology centers around spotting dangers or making said dangers regret messing with them.

I can tell Forg is flustered when he sees me. He clearly hoped his approach wasn’t so noticeable. But while he’s shaking it off, I motion to the side of the building. There’s a door there. I propped it open when I came in.

There’s no point in dashing across building roofs or scaling high walls when it’s sometimes easier to do things the boring mundane way.

Forg heaves a sigh that lifts his froggy shoulders, but he hops around to the side of the building and I hear the scrape of the heavy door closing in his wake.

It’s easier to wait now that I know Forg is on his way up the fifteen flights of stairs that lead to the roof. I grin when I hear the push bar on the roof’s exit slam downward, but I’m somewhat surprised when I turn around and find a naked man standing in the doorway instead of a frog.

He told me the last time we met that he hadn’t figured out how to make human clothing stretch to fit a frog body, but I didn’t think he’d willingly transform back so soon.

No matter; I came prepared. Reaching into the small pack at my feet, I pull out a long, black silk cloak and toss it in his direction.

For the record, I’d be just as happy if he conducted the entire meeting naked, but most humans aren’t into that kind of thing. I don’t think it’s lack of confidence so much as it is a deep sense of propriety that vampires learn to forget after two or three centuries.

A grateful look flashes across Forg’s face. At first, he tries to wrap the cloak around his waist like a towel, but he quickly realizes it won’t stay fastened. Once he fully unfurls the fabric, it wraps easily around his shoulders, and he breathes a soft sigh of relief.

“Thanks,” he mutters and prods a stray stone with one of his toes.

“Don’t mention it,” I say and flick my hand in dismissal. “You can keep it if you like,” I add. “It isn’t like I don’t have enough of them.” I shift to the side and tug lightly against the fabric that drapes from my own shoulders. It’s not exactly a twin to the one I threw at Forg. Mine has a series of delicately embroidered patterns sewn along the edges and the hem. I’m not a total charlatan. I don’t have duplicates in my wardrobe. I’ve simply learned the benefits of having a few spares I can loan out. That way, I’m not disappointed when they never return.

“I’m not sure how it would help me,” Forg replies, doubtful, and I can’t help laughing.

“It wraps around your shoulders,” I pointed out. “You might need to pin it while you’re hopping, but it isn’t like stretching will be an issue.”

The werefrog’s eyes grow thoughtful for a moment, and I feel a tiny tingle of pleasure. It’s that kind of momentary satisfaction that makes me feel like the night isn’t wasted – though a lot more of it stretches out ahead of me. Some people think living an inverted life, being out only when it’s dark, robs you of a lot of time. But vampires spend the same amount of time awake as people. Sure, we have to spend some of it indoors during the summer, the same way humans spend most of their time inside during the winter. And a lot can actually happen in a single night, especially if you’re on the prowl, poking and prodding very inch of your neighborhood to get the most out of the stillness.

Here in the city, there are places that never sleep. The lights and music stay on all night, so we never lack for company or a haven to run to. I can feel those possibilities spreading out ahead of me now that my meeting has started, and it fills me with a thrill of anticipation. This is untapped potential just waiting to be discovered, and I intend to taste its depths before I’m forced to retreat back to my lair for the dawning of the day.

I eye Forg from the edges of my vision, pretending I don’t notice him. I want to appraise him but it’s hard. As a human, he doesn’t possess any of the special abilities he gains in his transformed state. But when  he’s a frog, it’s dreadfully hard to read his emotions. The elongation of his face removes a lot of the muscles used to create expressions.

I wonder what he thinks of me and why he decided to come to this meeting. Not a lot of people will trust someone they’ve known for five minutes. Though it’s possible he doesn’t trust me at all. He’s probably just curious.

And really really cute.

“Thanks for agreeing to meet me,” I say when it’s clear Forg isn’t going to say anything else. “I know it had to take a lot of courage.”

Red splashes across Forg’s cheeks and I wonder if he’s thinking about our kiss.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I pressed my lips to his, but that doesn’t mean he felt the same way about it I do.

I wonder what it would have been like to kiss him in his frog form. And I wonder if I’m going to have a chance to find out.

“You said we were on the same side,” Forg announces when he regains his composure. “I assume you have some way of proving that?”

“Of course,” I reply and I can’t stop a grin from dancing across my lips. He’s just so adorable. I get the impression he’s new to the projection of authority. Maybe he was middle management before his initial transformation. He certainly doesn’t have the cultivated air of mystery most night creatures gain from years of long practice, so I can only assume he’s new to this gig.

“But trust isn’t always easy,” I caution before he can blurt the next thing that pops into his mind. “So I expect it will take some time before you can believe what I tell you.”

Forg considers my statement for only a moment before he nods. I suspect he was getting ready to lecture me on how untrustworthy he considers vampires, but I’ve heard it all before. And I get it. Most people have bad experiences. My kin aren’t exactly known for their kindness. Most love playing tricks on others, forcing them into bad situations rather than just outright killing them. It gives whole new meaning to the concept of playing with your food.

But they also like to keep most of the world in the dark about their existence. There would be pretty wide-spread panic if people realized just how many vampires and were-creatures existed in the world.

That’s actually why I’m here.

“Listen, I’m just going to cut straight to the chase,” I say and hold a hand out in front of me. I’m not expecting Forg to take it, but I’m doing everything in my power to make it clear that my behavior is genuine. I’m hoping a little bit of supplication will go a long way. “You’re not wrong about the fact that a certain sect of vampires holds a great deal of this city, as well as others, in their thrall. They have a lot of power, money and influence, and they throw it around to get what they want.

“Not all of us agree with that though. Some of us think it’s dangerous for a small group to gain so much power that they could eventually take full control of any given situation. And on top of that, it isn’t right to manipulate people’s entire lives even if they aren’t aware it’s happening. That’s not the kind of world I want to spend eternity in. It simply isn’t remotely appealing.”

“You said you wanted to change things?” Forg interjects. His tone is skeptical, but I can tell by the glimmer in his eyes when he arches an eyebrow that he’s also curious.

Good. That will keep him from running away during this next part.

“We’ve wanted to change things for awhile. Since long before you were born, as a matter of fact.” If he’s new to his alternate form, his ageing won’t have had much chance to slow just yet. I’m guessing he’s in his mid-thirties. I’m guessing he also doesn’t realize that he’s going to gain an extra century or two out of the werefrog blood that now surges through his veins. It’s still the blink of an eye compared to how long we vampires stick around, but it will eventually grant him quite a long-viewed perception. “But in the last few months, our task has become somewhat more urgent.”

I pause for a moment, trying to determine the best way to go about this. But I find the direct approach always works best, especially when someone’s trust in me is still tentative at best.

“Have you met any other werefrogs?” I ask, and I’m actually somewhat nervous about his response.

Forg narrows his eyes, instantly defensive. “Have you?” he spits, and it’s almost answer enough.

“No, actually,” I admit easily and without hesitation. “You’re my first.” And I wink. I just can’t resist the flustered look that comes over his face when I respond this way.

“I’m assuming whatever frog creature lacerated me with its tongue was a zaonthrope,” he replies when he recovers. “I’m not sure how else I would have been able to transform.”

I mouth the word zaonthrope. I’ve heard it before, but it’s not one of the more popular terms. I suppose the rest don’t usually fit werefrogs, though, so it makes sense that Forg has latched onto this one.

I shake my head slightly to get my thoughts back on track. I can’t get too distracted by the cutie standing in front of me, or I won’t end up accomplishing anything.

“This frog from which you received this transformative tongue laceration… How big was it?”

“I don’t know.” Again, Forg’s words are curt and rushed, as if he doesn’t really want to answer.

“Was it frog-sized?” I press. “Or human-sized?”

Forg considers for a moment before admitting, “Frog-sized.”

I sigh. It’s the answer I feared but not the one I wanted to hear. I’m not sure how I would feel about a colony of werefrogs lurking out there in the shadows. It would certainly change my perspective of the disease that causes were-transformations. But learning that Forg received his abilities from what might have seemed like a normal frog is even more disturbing.

It confirms some suspicions I’ve been trying to dismiss for a long time.

“Listen carefully, Forg,” I say, my voice soft but stern and, for the first time, devoid of all hint of playfulness. “I’m about to throw a lot of information at you, and it might be hard to follow. But if you’re going to help me, I need to catch you up.

“That vampire faction I mentioned before, the one that wants to control everything? Well, they have a lot of enemies. Not just me and the people working with me, but enemies who want the same level of control and are willing to do anything to break free of what they perceive as undo oppression. Except those people, they don’t want freedom for all of us, like I do. They either want to be in charge or just prevent anyone else from taking over.”

“Some people just want to watch the world burn,” Forg mutters, but it’s clear from the words – cliché as they are – that he understands what I’m trying to say. “I assume the point you’re trying to make is that these other factions don’t care who they hurt or step on in order to get what they want.”

“Correct,” I agree with a curt nod. “There’s one in particular we’ve been watching for a long time. They’re a particular sect of vampires with some odd beliefs about how we should regard and interact with our food. They’re kind of like the vampire equivalent of vegans in that they’re extremely particular about the source of their food and how it’s procured. Though they don’t share any of the human beliefs about non-cruelty.

“Anyway, this vampire sect has been eyeing people on your side of the battlefield. Zaonthropes. I think their original plan was to breed an army that would be pliable enough to attack whoever they pointed to on demand. But they couldn’t find a way to properly condition their subjects so they wouldn’t eventually turn on their handlers.

“They’ve recently abandoned that idea, which is a relief, except that they’ve turned to something far more sinister. If they can’t breed an army of willing were-creatures, it seems they want to use the disease to their advantage. The frog that caused your transformation… I’m pretty sure it was one of their prototypes that escaped from one of their labs.”

Forg’s eyes grow wide and his jaw falls open. I get the impression he’s been wondering about this exact thing for some time. He probably thought he was crazy. Maybe he even tried to talk himself out of believing the truth. That only reinforces my suspicions that I’ve hit the nail dead center.

“But why create new types of zaonthropes that lots of people would consider to be lame? How could I possibly end up getting in your way?”

“You’re selling yourself short, Forg,” I insist and grin again. “After all, you snuck up on me the last time, didn’t you? And you put up a good fight. You’re no pushover. But the truth is,” and I sigh again, once more growing serious – my least favorite state of expression, “what happened to you was an accident. I don’t think the frog that tongued you was supposed to bear the disease that causes zaonthropic transformation.”

“Please don’t say it that way,” Forg interrupts, his face twisted with disgust. “It lacerated me.”

“Sure,” I reply, grinning again. “Either way, I think you got lucky. That frog wasn’t supposed to be carrying a zaonthropic disease. It was supposed to be generating a powerful neurotoxin.”

“How can frogs develop neurotoxins?” Forg interjected. “I didn’t get the impression it was any smarter than a normal frog.”

I laugh. How much did this gent know about frogs before one ripped open his skin and exploded his life? “Never heard of poison dart frogs?” I reply and shrug. “It’s actually one of the major defenses of certain frog species that they develop poisons or venoms that cause all kinds of problems for the predators that eat them. So it shouldn’t really be a vast leap in logic to arrive at the conclusion that someone would consider using some of their secretions as bio weapons.”

Again, Forg’s mouth falls open in shock but, this time, he quickly snaps it closed. “That can’t be,” he insists, instantly shaking his head. “If that frog was supposed to be poison, shouldn’t it have killed me?”

“That’s why I said you were lucky,” I reply. I try to make my tone teasing but, for once, my heart just isn’t in it. I shuffle forward and, when Forg doesn’t try to flee, I lightly set a hand on his shoulder and squeeze gently.

This next part is going to be the hardest to swallow, and I can only imagine what’s already going through this man’s mind.

“There are a couple of possibilities,” I soothe, though I don’t think my reassurance is going to survive the rest of this conversation. “The first is simply that your assailant was a failed experiment. It didn’t react the way its creators hoped, and that’s why you transform instead of dying.”

“Your tone suggests you don’t think that’s very likely,” Forg replies skeptically.

Damn. I really need to work on the level of sympathy I tend to convey. It doesn’t fit with the whole dark and broody image I’m trying to cultivate.

“I hope it’s the case,” I insist. “I really do. Because the alternative is a lot more terrifying.”

“And that is?” Forg presses, a sense of urgency in his voice now.

I sigh. But I knew from the second I started down this path there’d be no shying away when this moment came. “Myself and some of the others observing this faction are of the opinion they’ve hit a roadblock. There’s a distinct possibility they haven’t been able to force normal frogs to generate the kind of toxin they’re after. So it’s possible the frog that ton… lacerated you did exactly what it was designed to do. It passed on the genetic qualities required to create a more complex frog body.”

I let the words hang in the air. If Forg is as clever as I hope he is, it’s not going to be difficult for him to put the pieces together.

He succeeds with lightning speed. His legs wobble, and it’s clear he needs to sit down. There are no chairs on the roof, though, so when his arms flail to recover his balance, I grab one and set my other hand against his abdomen. He flinches at first but then leans into me until he regains his footing.

His breathing is harsh and quick, and his heart is beating a mile a minute. I can hear it pulsing in his chest, pumping blood throughout his body at a rapid pace, and I strongly resist the urge to consider drinking his blood.

Not only would it be a violation of the privacy of my new friend, it could very well kill me.

“I don’t know for sure,” I insist, but I know it will be cold comfort.

“How would I even test it?” Forg demands. “Would I feel different? But I already feel different than I used to.”

“We could run some tests,” I suggest, but I suspect it will be awhile before Forg is willing to submit to anything that could render him even temporarily helpless. “But for the most part, my friends and I have been spying on the lab that created that frog. Sooner or later, we’ll gain access to their research notes or one of their specimens, then we can hopefully get you some answers.

“I just thought you had a right to know. Especially if there’s a possibility we might one day fight by each other’s sides.”

I remove my hands from his body and step back. I’m hesitant for a moment, but it’s clear he’s regained enough control to stand and walk under his own power. I retreat to the edge of the building and pick up my pack.

“I’ve thrown enough at you for one day,” I declare, though not without a hint of sadness. I was really hoping this would go a little better. “If you’d like to reconnect once you’ve had a chance to process, leave a message for me here. I’ll find it.”

“You still haven’t presented proof I can trust you,” Forg responds and crosses his arms in front of his chest. He almost sounds sullen, though I’d like to think it’s because he’s just a little disappointed he didn’t get another smooch.

Laughing, I snap my fingers. The sound is thin and frail compared to my voice, but it carries.

Instantly, two figures detach from the shadows and melt into the moonlight. The two other vampires move silently until they stand by my side. Their faces are inscrutable, but they don’t need to look intimidating to serve their purpose. Forg knows how powerful my people are. He barely managed to hold his own against me. Three of us could easily demolish him even if he encountered us in his transformed state.

“So you see,” I say softly, “if I really wanted to cause you harm, I could have overwhelmed you at any time. But I didn’t, and I don’t intend to. We’re off to deal with other, more pressing matters, so long as you’re satisfied.”

“I’m not so vulnerable as you might think,” Forg retorts and claps his hands.

Instantly, my sensitive ears pick up a soft, familiar growl. I glance over the edge of the building and see two more figures detach from shadow. These are large and bulky, though they do possess a certain level of grace. Furry muzzles turn upward, and yellow eyes narrow as sharp teeth are bared. The two werewolves flatten their ears against their heads and flex their fingers as they close them into fists.

I utter a low whistle and grin as I step back. “So you are as clever as I hoped you’d be.” I don’t even bother to resist the urge to grin this time. “That’s good. I’d be disappointed if your curiosity got you killed.”

Forg doesn’t answer. He simply steps up next to me. The two other vampires let him come; they won’t move unless I signal for them to do so, and I’m perfectly content to let Forg sidle up next to me so long as he stays in his human form. I almost wish he’d come closer, but I doubt he trusts me that much yet.

He leans slightly over the lip of the building and waves at the two werewolves, who instantly stop growling. “It’s okay, boys,” he calls. “We’re good. For the moment.” Forg casts me a side-eyed glare.

“Since you’ve proven you’re more than capable, why don’t you come with me?” I suggest. It’s impulsive, but I don’t think I’ll regret it. Not after this little display. “We are, in fact, headed over to spy on the lab from which your frog friend escaped. You might just pick up on something we’ve missed.”

Forg grunts. But after a moment, he also nods. “We’ll come.” He jerks his head toward the two werewolves.

I wasn’t planning on including them in our little jaunt. But if it’s the price I have to pay to bring Forg with me, I’ll accept. I nod and motion for the other two vampires to descend to ground level and explain the plan.

When Forg and I are alone again, I set one hand against my chest. “You’re going to need something to call me. Otherwise our next few interactions are going to get confusing. Why don’t you just call me Vesspie for now?”

“Vesspie?” Forg arches an eyebrow and I can tell he’s barely resisting the urge to laugh. “That can’t possibly be your real name.”

“No, of course not,” I admit and bark a laugh. “But then Forg isn’t yours either, is it? It’s just your alternate identity.”

That clearly brings him up short. He probably adopted that moniker out of some desire to have a superhero-ish name, something catchy that people would remember when they spoke of his deeds.

I’m not sure if he’s figured it out yet, but real names have power. Especially among vampires. Vesspie probably sounds lame to him and to you, but it’s as far away from my real name as its possible to get, so it’s the only one anyone’s going to hear for the time being.

Forg spends several long seconds frowning to express his skepticism. But at last he extends a hand to shake. When I take it he says, “All right, Vesspie, show me what you can do. And please don’t make me regret this.”

“Oh,” I reassure him, “you won’t.” And I steal another little kiss from his lips before I leap over the side of the building, trusting he will soon follow.

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