The Golden Frog

The Golden Frog

Postby Niabh » Mon Dec 23, 2019 2:06 pm

In a secret cubbyhole amid the strings and scraps of fabric with which he filled his house, the Raven stored his treasure.

Most of it was not very valuable treasure. A twisty copper wire. Glass scraps of all kinds, mostly brown and green, but he had Genny’s red glass earring now, and a lovely milky chunk from a discarded pitcher with grassheads painted onto its curved side. A button he particularly liked because it resembled a ripe blackberry, and because the edges were ripply and made a nice sound when he scraped his beak along them. A silver spangle fallen from the queen’s favorite scarf. An iridescent bronze beetle husk. No rank or status among them.

Sometimes he liked to bring them all out, piece by piece, and sort them into patterns that amused him. Biggest to smallest, all the green bits with all the other green bits. If she wasn’t too busy with something, sometimes she sat tailor-style in the dirt and helped him, asking where he’d picked up this or that, marveling over the latest acquisition.

When the spirit moved her, she gave him little trinkets. Raven, here is some treasure for you to hide, she said, and between her fingers would be a widowed earring, or a pretty spinel that had worked loose from its setting and fallen to the bottom of the ransom casket.

But sometimes she gave him things just for the joy of it, because she felt he ought to have them. An enamel brooch blue as heart’s blood, with three gyring silver ravens—that had to be his, of course. And she’d given him one of the Niall garnets, too. For a hearth-warming gift, she said. That one was stashed separate from the rest, so he could find it easy if she wanted it back. Not that she ever would, but if she did.

Neither of them thought too much of it, and neither of them worried. Tuatha treasure never wandered far.

One day the summer before last, when she had been sorting what to take to Rasazan (a time he now thought of as Back Before Shit Got Weird without quite realizing he thought of it that way), she sat up sudden and did that little surprised laugh she always did, like she didn’t know she was laughing until she heard it. Raven, have a look at this.

In typical fashion, he slithered over sideways, purposefully looking everywhere except right into her hand, and then pretending to notice all of a sudden. In her palm squatted a gold frog no bigger than her thumb. Whoever made it molded the face too much like a person’s face: the bulging eyes were too close to centered and the gaping mouth had a ring around it that looked like fat lips. Its back stripes were alternating bumps of green and yellow chrysoprase.

Don’t look like any frog I ever et.

It’s a cloak clasp, look. She turned it over for him to see the fixture on its belly, an extension of its tongue. I wonder where it came from.

I reckon it’s s’posed to be a joke. Cloak-frog and frog-frog.

It’s absolutely hideous, she said with satisfaction. Do you want it? For your treasures?

He’d wanted it from the second he saw the way the sun melted on its polished head. If he squinted close, he could see his own face distorted down to one enormous eye peering back at him. Sure and I’ll take it off your hands if you ain’t doin’ anything with it.

It was heavy as hell for the size of it—very little tin to toughen the gold—and the hinged clasp made a fun creak when you raised and lowered it. He named it Hammond, for no particular reason. Hammond the Frog.

Even by moonlight, the golden frog was perfectly hideous. The forked tongue protruded from its gaping mouth and its eyes bulged like it was being strangled. He still liked it. It was just the right kind of ugly to be cute, like a wrinkly hot-pink hatchling, all eyespots and earholes. The idea of losing it gave him a funny ache in his guts, a crawly, gravely feeling. That meant it was the right thing to give up.

The frog was tucked away safe. Then he took off. He knew exactly where he was heading. If you found them once, you could always find them again.
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
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