Highpass was a mess.
The magical frogs were far more dangerous than I had realized. Soldiers, initially thinking the animals were cute, picked the frogs up for a closer look. The first few victims had transformed into frogs almost instantly, hopping around this way and that. The other soldiers were then left with a problem. They couldn’t just kill the frogs, after all, they could probably turn the folks back with a few skilled magic users. Likewise, when a soldier attempted to pick up one of the transformed allies, they too were transformed, though the process took longer for them.
At least a dozen workers were frogs now.
There were at least a dozen other frogs on top of that, and no way to tell them apart.
Still, the transformation was only made possible through direct contact, so most of the camp had resorted to hiding themselves in places where the frogs simply could not reach. By the time I landed, they had a system worked out for how to prevent any others from being turned, but little idea on how to solve the problem.
I pulled some sheets from one of the nearby worker barracks, and went to work using my magic to flip the frogs into the air, then gently catch them on the soft linen cloth. As I diminished the enemy frogs, others climbed down to assist me, and we had the issue resolved in short order.
On top of that, I couldn’t help but feel like I already had my magical frog solution.
I crafted a small sack out of a pillowcase and placed one of the frogs inside. I would have to figure out if he was a soldier or not later, but before I could get any farther, I heard the bellow of a battle horn in the distance.
I had heard that sound before.
We all had.
The enemy was coming.
“Commander,” a panicked soldier yelled. “We only have a few fighters left!”
I frowned. “Stay here. Don’t touch the frogs.”
Surfal rushed me toward the sound of the horn, and I emerged atop a hill, peering down at a large canyon. There was no doubt about it. It was a small group of local raiders. They were riding in and they looked ready for a fight.
The atmosphere between the locals had been one of uncomfortable acceptance, but increasing conflicts in the area were causing small uprisings to crop up all over the place. A tenuous peace treaty had brought them this far, but it seemed that old hatred was boiling up again… as it always did. Many of the local people viewed us as the reason the Yunai were here. They didn’t see us as liberators.
There were at least fifteen riders. It was a mix from the looks of it. That wasn’t totally surprising. Still, fifteen riders were far too many to hold off with the limited number of defenders left in Highpass. If I was going to help them, I needed to figure out how to turn the soldiers back into humans and organize a counter-strike. I wouldn’t have time to turn that many…
A candle was lit in my mind. The perfect plan.
The same plan Fiona had for the monster carrot.
I turned back for Highpass. I was going to save them all.
Back at camp, the few defenders we had were more than weary about my plan, but I was locked on target. I was certain we could pull it off. I sent each of the able-bodied soldiers to defensive positions behind shrubs and rocks where the raiders would not see them. Then, we waited for the riders to arrive.
I stood under the main tent as they approached with weapons drawn. The few non-militant occupants cowered behind me, but I didn’t budge. The riders slowed when they saw the total lack of defense. All eyes were locked on me.
I smiled at them and with a wave of my hand, ice surrounded the riders, cutting them off from escape and giving them only one direction to go… toward me.
“Now!” I shouted.
The Highpass soldiers leapt from hiding. They didn’t hurl spears or launch arrows. Instead, they tossed a bed sheet full of magic frogs into the group. The raiders were so confused, they weren’t sure how to react, but it took only moments for the magic to do its work.
As the raiding party began transforming into frogs, I saw one of them escape the assault using their heavy footwear to climb over my ice wall. Perfect. They went into full retreat, but with no where to go, our remaining defenders created a perimeter. It didn’t take long before the entire raiding party was able to fit inside a pillow case for easy transport.
“That’s a lot of magical frogs,” a worker said as he held the heavy sheet. “I hope we’re not hurting them much.”
I grabbed the bag and looked inside at the squirming reptiles.
“Alright,” I said, handing the bag back. “I can do one at a time. We take it out, I strip the magic, and if it’s a raider we arrest, if it’s a worker we all clap, and if it’s just an ordinary magical frog, I take it back home with me.”
“Aye, can’t argue with that,” the man replied.
I rolled up my sleeves and tried my best to remember the spell I would use here to strip the transformation. It had been a rather long time since I had used an ability like that. I set my staff to the side and then looked one more time at the large number of frogs.
It was going to be a long day.