Chapter 2.

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Before

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In its cavern, deep enough under the desert that it was always dark and dripping, the frog that makes the rain had a throne, a vast slab of granite coated with moss. This was the place, utterly dark except for the occasional flicker of a glowing moth and, except for the sound of the heavy droplets dripping from the roof on to the floor totally quiet, to which the Yowie took Ludwig.

When it pitched him head long into the slush at the base of the frog's throne Ludwig was quickly revived by the sensation of breathing mud. Although Yowies do possess semi opposable thumbs, they are completely lacking in any sort of soft touch.

"What? Where? Help!" Ludwig retched up some murky water and was confused by the echo he made floundering helplessly around in the icy blackness. The clatter of falling stones he could hear was the Yowie clambering out the tunnel through it came.

Frogs, not even giant talking frogs, do not feel loneliness in the same way as you or I.

The frog that makes the rain didn't even have to close its eyes to think itself up above the clouds where it was content with the endless white, darkening blue and unlikely paleness of the red earth far below. For it, alone in what we would think of as a void, that was enough- but by the standards of any living thing three hundred and fifty years (which is how long it had been since anyone last visited) is still a long time. That is why, after Ludwig had rubbed the mud out of his eyes and managed to get himself upright, the first thing he saw was two enormous eyes, the size of dinner plates and red like the hell he'd spent a long childhood of Sundays hearing about, staring at him as though they could see right through to his soul. The frog that makes the rain had wriggled to the edge of its throne to get a good look at him.

"Halo Herr Commandant" said the frog, which spoke very good Dutch with a touch of Antwerp. It didn't move its lips as it spoke. The words, clear and not the slightest bit froggy, seemed to come from somewhere deep inside its belly. Ludwig thought its eyes shone brighter as it spoke. They threw off enough light for him to be able to dimly see the creature’s serious snout and moist amphibian body.

"The devil" Ludwig choked, "I've died and gone to hell".

"Excuse me" said the frog politely, "I don't understand".

"Satan" said Ludwig in Dutch, quickly catching onto the idea that this was the devil's preferred language, "you're the prince of darkness aren't you? The evil one."

Although, by our standards, giant frogs have exceptionally good vocal cords they can't laugh in the same way as humans do. To express humor, or in this case a kind of surprised, superior scorn, they blow a powerful puff of air out their nostrils then snort it back in with a rapid series of sniffs. "The Devil!" said the frog, obviously quite tickled by the idea, "you white ones are all the same".

Ludwig was a long way from being coherent enough to ask for clarification.

"I've met another one other like you" the creature went on. “He washed up on the coast not far from here. Apparently there had been a lot more of them but, except for this one, they all drowned or got eaten by the sharks. He was just the same as you. I had him brought down here to find out what was going on, and this devil stuff was all I could get out of him”.

"So" asked Ludwig, his need to reassure himself overcoming his otherwise paralyzing fear ,"you're not the devil?"

"No, I'm not the devil".

"Then … what are you?”

"I'm the frog".

"The frog"? Ludwig asked hesitantly.

"Yes” the frog answered with the beginnings of what sounded like impatience. “You know. The frog"

Ludwig didn't know.

"The frog that makes the rain. Perhaps you know of another talking frog that lives down here? More to the point what are you?"

"I'm a person".

"That's what I suspected", said the frog, "although I'm still not certain. For one thing your skin is too pale, and you sure don't smell like one. The last one claimed to be a Dutch, whatever that is. Where did you come from?"

"Sydney".

Now it was the frog’s turn to be confused which it expressed by emitting a low growling sound that sounded a lot more threatening to Ludwig than it was intended to.

"The south” he explained franticly, “I’m from the south"

"The south, then eh,” said the frog. “And I suppose there are more like you in this south you talk of, and that they’ll want to come up here too”.

Ludwig wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. The expedition he led was openly looking for forests that could be chopped down and grasslands that would support thousands of sheep. It was supposed to be a civilizing mission.

"I think so", Ludwig said after a long moment of hesitation, his decision to tone down the truth slowed by a strong but inexplicable feeling that the creature could read his mind. “I'm fairly sure more will come".

“Well” said the frog, its words thick with skepticism, it hadn’t entirely made up its mind exactly what Ludwig was or whether or not he could be trusted, “I’m can’t say I blame them. It is very cold down there isn’t it, little white one?”

“Very cold” Ludwig squeaked compliantly.

“Really?”

“Freezing” he answered, though he would have said anything.

"I really don't know if I can believe anything you say” said the frog after a short pause in which it seemed to be weighing the situation up. “That other one, the Dutch, everything he told me ended up being lies. He said that they'd all turn around and go home". The frog, no longer sounded polite, he sounded like an amphibian wronged. "They didn't stop though, they kept coming. On the islands north of here, not so far over the sea, thousands and thousands of little Dutches, cutting down trees, plowing up the soil and pushing the little brown ones about”.

“You mean Indonesia?” asked Ludwig, now really confused.

“Indo what?” the frog replied sharply.

"It sounds terrible” Ludwig sympathized, changing tack completely and deciding that now wasn’t the time for questions.

“That’s right” agreed the frog, “just terrible, and don’t think I’m going to let your people come up here and do the same thing”.

The frog seemed to be waiting for him to say something. Though he had no previous experience with giant frogs Ludwig felt almost certain it was glaring at him angrily.

“I didn’t think that” he said finally.

"And I’m very glad to hear it because this land,” the frog explained, “is mine”.

This was obviously a topic close to the frog’s heart. Hopping forward to the very edge of its throne it blew a puff of air into Ludwig’s face. “It doesn't belong to you lot.”

“I completely agree” said Ludwig, picking himself out of the freezing mud where he had been blown.

“But still you say there are more little people like you that are going to come here and start plowing the place up.

"Well…”

“Don’t change your mind now, you just admitted it”

"Its just”... Ludwig struggled for a moment, thoroughly unsure as to whether honesty was the best policy in this unfamiliar situation, then decided to go on, "most people in the south don’t know about you, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t be willing to believe that the weather is controlled by a giant frog".

The frog made a sound that sounded like a sigh. Ludwig almost felt sorry for it. He also felt an unpleasant wet sensation on the back of his neck which was one of the glowing moths settling down for a rest. He swatted it off disgustedly.

With the initial shock of the situation wearing away it became apparent to him just how awful it would to be to get stuck here.

"But you know", said Ludwig Van Stug, "if you let me out, I could try to convince them”.

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more

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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