Chapter 35

The frog missed. Either that, or it wasn’t jumping toward them in the first place. It jumped so much higher than Riley could have imagined. Higher than Riley remembered the ceiling being. When she looked, she couldn’t even see the rock above them anymore. There was only darkness overhead.

It landed quietly behind them. They both spun and watched as it turned back around. It flicked its tongue at them, then hopped away, deeper into the cavern. As soon as it got some distance away, Riley heard scurrying. She was about to turn and look when a wave of much smaller frogs hopped past them, all following the big one.

“What’s going on?” Saber yelled, struggling to be heard above the noise as the creatures hopped past.

“Let’s follow them.”

Her eyes widened. “Are you kidding me?”

Riley ran, taking only a brief second to think that she shouldn’t be running, not with how she had hurt her foot. That thought quickly escaped her, though, as she was fascinated with looking at all the frogs around them.

As she ran, she saw the frogs weren’t all the same. There were different types, and even some toads mixed in. It was hard to distinguish them as there were so many hopping over one another in their rush to catch the leader.

“Riley!”

Look! Riley couldn’t believe it. A cricket frog. You never see those in the wild. They are endangered. This is amazing, she thought as she continued to run.

“Riley!”

Saber caught up to her. Out of the corner of her eye, Riley saw she had her blade extended, which meant she still expected danger, but what danger would they find? The goblins were gone, and these were just frogs. It wasn’t like they would attack anyone.

“What are you doing?” Saber yelled.

“Following the frogs,” she yelled back, scanning the group for any other rare frogs she might recognize, seeing mostly just the standard ones she saw all over Wisconsin, but there were others she didn’t recognize.

“Why?”

“Because they’re leading us in the right direction.”

Riley wasn’t sure how she knew that, but she just knew it was true. Instinctively, the frogs went in the direction they thought would lead them out.

“Riley!” Saber yelled again.

This time, Riley skidded to a stop and looked at her. Saber was scared. Was it the frogs, or did something else have her spooked?

Riley quickly looked around them. That was when she noticed some outcroppings from the rocks. She narrowed her eyes, looking closer. The outcroppings moved. Each of the shapes stretching out of the rock walls was covered in frogs, with more frogs slamming into them.

Rock monsters

That was the best way Riley could think to describe them. They looked like rocks stacked upon rocks and were moving. Not that Riley had to worry as it seemed the frogs were handling them. The frogs swarmed, so the rock monsters were never able to move toward the two as they ran to keep up with the masses.

Riley turned to Saber to see if she noticed, but Saber wasn’t looking at the walls. She had her gaze straight ahead. Riley glanced to where Saber was looking and saw it.

It was the door they had first come through, though it now looked different. It was still a large, wooden door that looked like it belonged in a medieval castle, but now there was one noticeable, almost laughable new feature. A doggy door.

In the bottom portion of the door was a square cutout, a flap covering it. The frogs quickly jumped through it.

“You don’t see that every day,” Riley chuckled, but Saber didn’t find it funny.

“I don’t like it.”

“Why?”

“Because it wasn’t there before.”

“So?”

“So that means the wraith put it there. If that’s the case, then these frogs belong to him,” Saber said, slowly approaching the door.

“I don’t think they do.”

“Oh?”

“No. I think Raz is doing it. I think it is his way of helping us. After all, it is his dream.”

Saber shook her head. “If you knew Raz, you’d know he hates nature. Anything in nature. I tried to take him to the lake once and he hated it. Said there were too many snakes.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, so there’s no way he’d be using frogs.”

That was strange, but Riley just couldn’t believe these were the creature’s frogs. Though he did have scales and looked like a large lizard. Maybe he was using the frogs, but why? They led them where they needed to go, and they had attacked those rock things.

“So why would they be helping us then?”

“I don’t think they are,” Saber said, eyeing the large one sitting next to the door. It sat there, watching, as its smaller counterparts continued to jump through the door. It was too large to go through the hole, but just sat there like a paternal giant, making sure its followers did what they were supposed to.

Riley noticed the flow of frogs dwindling as the last trickled by.

“But they are.”

As they approached, Saber kept a wary eye on the large frog. The last of the smaller frogs finally leapt through the door.

After the last frog disappeared and they took their final steps to the door, the large frog took four steps back.

“What are they leading us to? And why?” Saber asked quietly.

“I don’t think they’re leading us anywhere we weren’t already going,” Riley said, tentatively reaching out to the door. Saber, her eyes still on the large frog, quickly grabbed Riley’s arm, stopping her.

“That’s what I’m saying. Why? We were already coming this way. We didn’t need any guides. We knew where the door was-”

“Kinda.”

“Okay… We kinda knew where the door was. What I’m saying is we didn’t need a guide, so why did these frogs come. What is their purpose?”

“Well, let’s open the door and find out. It’s the only way we are going to know.” With Saber’s hand still on her arm, Riley grabbed the handle and pulled.

“Just be ready,” Saber murmured.

Once the door opened, a blast of heat hit them, nearly knocking them back. As it faded and the blinding light from inside dimmed, they looked at their surroundings. They could never have been ready for what they saw.

Encompassing the entire space and looking directly at them was the large head of the dragon, its dark brown eyes viciously staring at them. Then it opened its large snout, rows of teeth glistening. They both saw fire forming in the beast’s throat.

Published by JasonRDavis

Author of the #zombie apocalypse trilogy Invisible Spiders and the Edge of Darkness series.

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