Frogloks - The Long Journey Home
"We but retrace the steps of our ancestors, Murduup," said Nideep. They slathered on layer upon layer of rich river mud to protect their skin from the salty sea air. "As they travelled to the cities of men to seek help, so do we."
"Our ancestors travelled the paths on foot," grumbled Murduup. "Stowing away on a ship is beneath the dignity of our people, Nideep. Have we come to this at last?"
"You know what we have come to," said Nideep. A clump of mud slid from his arm, revealing a multitude of welts, crusted scars and burns. Nideep carefully gathered another glob of mud with his good hand and applied it to his disfigured arm.
"Our people have suffered many things. The loss of dignity is the least of our concerns."
The sentry's words sent the remaining frogloks scampering for cover. Murduup hesitated. Hiding, sneaking, stealing! Surely the years they had spent in thrall to those hideous creatures had not changed them this much; they should stand their ground and fight! And yet, even as anger burned within his veins, Murduup stooped low and positioned himself motionlessly in the thick brush. Soon, he promised himself, soon we will return and avenge ourselves. Avenge those who came before us and were unable to escape. Avenge those who had perished along the way.
A scream cut through the air, its pitch too high to be a warning – it was a nightmare sound of terror. Murduup had heard it often enough to know it meant the hunters had caught someone. He closed his eyes and silently prayed that Mithaniel Marr would give the remaining frogloks strength. Only five of them left now, of the twenty who had escaped. Five. And an ocean to cross, hidden in the hold of a ship.
"To what reception, I wonder," Murduup thought, his muscles burning with the need to move and yet knowing what would happen if the hunters had not yet moved on. "The cities of men did nothing before to aid us. Why would they help now, when not even the threat of the entire Rallosian Army was enough to stir them?"
Hours passed before Murduup heard the faint "froak" signal that all was clear. The mud slathered upon his skin was completely dry and it cracked as he stood. Shards of clay fell to the ground, shattering into dust.
"Who is left?" Murduup croaked softly. "Fro-aaak?"
"May the Hand of Marr protect us, it is just you and me," Nideep replied, emerging from the soft mud at the river's edge, trembling and gagging. "You did not see…you did not see…"
He staggered out of the water, retching. Murduup put out a hand to steady his comrade. Nideep drew a deep breath and said anxiously, "They brought the others with them this time. The others …and they made them…I cannot say!"
Murduup kept his tone low and steady, striving to contain his fear. "The others cannot harm us now. We will find help. For ourselves, our people and for the others. We will see our homes again, my friend. Come, if we are lucky, the ship will still be there and we will board unseen."
"We have not been lucky," said Nideep sorrowfully. He glanced over his shoulder, down the river toward their ancestral home. "But perhaps time has come for our luck to change."