Chapter 12:

The Giant Giant Frog

Badass (8-4D-455)

Location: lake shore
Health: 100%
Energy reserves: -3%

Three days later, Badass was on his way to the now familiar lake. His right hand was a bit stiff, as he had spent the last few days almost constantly hunting for spider-rats and turning the crank of the generator. Now at last the population of spider-rats was sufficiently culled and he could dedicate a little time to himself. Officially he had come to look for building material for his hut, but really he was heading to the Badgerhill to warn the colony of the attack. As a reward for some good slaughtering and a giant heap of spider-rat eggs, he had the chance to trade for a grass shirt and a roomy backpack, and charge his smart tattoo up to 3% with Tooler’s generator. Tooler would have been fine with more, but cranking the generator was a monotonous, hard and completely mindless job with very little efficiency. 1% of battery charge in one hour was the most that contraption could manage. Still, it was better than nothing.

The weather was cloudy, sun peeking out only rarely. Rain seemed close: the clouds were a grimy gray, as if threatening to pour down dry earth. Badass traversed the woods covered in trash and the remains of spider-rat webs, and soon reached the lake. Here he stopped under the last trees and studied the sky. The nasty birds circled far above the lake, around a large island in the morning fog. Badass breathed a sigh of relief. Bird eggs would have been a welcome substitute for those of spider-rats, but he had decided that if the flock is guarding the nests, he won’t risk ransacking them again. At least not before he had proper protective gear.

Luckily it seemed that if he acted fast, he could escape the predatory beaks before the birds even understood what was happening. Badass took a couple of deep breaths, unconsciously touching the spot on his head where the birds’ beaks had struck him last time, and took off running across the open ground between the forest and the shore, crashing into the reeds. He immediately scared a nesting bird who took flight.

With a swift movement practiced during his recent days of spider-rat hunting, Badass struck the bird in the air. His skill surprised both himself and his prey, who didn’t even have time to screech before it dropped dead. Badass quickly gathered half a dozen eggs into his basket and grabbed the bird as well. He didn’t know if it was edible for humans, but hoped at least the badgers wouldn’t turn it away. A quick glance up confirmed that the flock hadn’t noticed his pillaging. Content with his catch, he decided not to take any chances, rustled out of the reeds and jogged briskly toward the badger warren.

Badass was already thinking about the badgers, still keeping one eye on the flock of birds, when he suddenly stopped in the middle of the clearing. The sight before him was so bizarre that he tilted his head in surprise. Badass saw something pink and impossibly long shoot up from the island. It grabbed a bird from the sky, dragging it down to the isle. The flock dispersed, screeching, but the pink ribbon flashed again and this time Badass noticed where it came from. A stony crag at the northern end of the forested island opened to let it out, like a hatch. It soon happened again and Badass understood what he witnessed.

“A giant giant frog,” he mumbled. As surprising as that seemed, the island in the middle of the lake was really an enormous amphibian. Badass couldn’t believe his eyes. He stared at the “island” thoroughly and, knowing what to look for, he could clearly see giant front- and hind legs, a huge bulging eye and a brown-speckled back covered in trees. Badass realized whose tadpoles were swimming in the lake and that the frog with the poisonous tongue whom he happened upon after landing was merely a tiny spawn of this gargantuan creature, barely more than a tadpole.

If this creature decided to climb out of the lake, it could crush the whole of Sprucetop pretty casually, thought Badass. It wouldn’t even have to jump on the village, just brushing the spruce grove with one giant leg would be enough to splinter these centuries-old trunks like dry reeds. He walked off into the forest thoughtfully and sat down under a large oak, setting the egg catch down beside him. He cracked an egg and sucked out its contents. The taste hadn’t improved since last time. Naiscy claimed that heating the eggs would make them more palatable. Badass thought it was worth a try, but he lacked the means to do so now.

Suddenly, Badass heard light cracking from above. Fearing an attack from the birds, he immediately jumped up and grabbed his axe. Behind him, a familiar creature, though quite small, descended from between the glowing spiny acorns. Eight legs and a segmented body, strong jaws, and weirdly a single tail. Disgusted, Badass swiped with the club, in an already familiar motion. But this creature was not only smaller than Sprucetop’s spider-rats, it was also faster and dodged his blow, landing on the basket. Badass was certain this little eight-legged freak had come to steal his prey.

“Get, you devil!” he shouted, kicking at the thief. This time he connected and his blow sent the critter flying, crashing against an oak.

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