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January 22nd, 2016

Freedom City, New Jersey

Midday

 

It could have been a frog, if.

 

It had the right body shape, all bulging belly and eyes and weirdly spindly legs. It hopped with the same quick, spastic, energetic movements. Its skin had the same wet, shiny look to it. Its tongue was wet and pink and long, slapping out and grabbing at prey and dragging them toward its open, stinking max.

 

It could have been a frog, if it hadn’t been five feet tall. If it hadn’t been heavy enough to crack the pavement where it landed. If it hadn’t been redolent of decay and pestilence and rot and stink. If it hadn’t been black and green and ridged with what looked like rock but smoked like lava. If it hadn’t been slowly advancing on the woman with her trio of yappy dogs. Its tongue shot out like a whip and snared the smallest of them, wrapping around the puppy’s head and slowly, inexorably dragging the animal back to its mouth.

 

It could have been a frog, if it wasn’t ready to swallow the woman whole.

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Chains burst from the ground around it, and lashed onto its many legs and around its ugly not-quite-a-neck. "Hold, foul thing." came a voice from on high. "You'll not feast today!" Hellbinder said, putting another chain over the creature's mouth as she did so. With a quick jerk, she forced its mouth shut, giving the dog time to escape if it was capable. "You may wish to run! These beasts are hungry!"

She cut quite a figure in her cloak and close-fitting bodysuit. With the classic 'buxom heroine' figure, she came floating down from a rooftop, cape flapping in the breeze. Her outfit was black with red trim, and a great deal of hellish imagery. "Are you alright ma'am?"

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The woman, her face still twisted in terror and shock, retrieved her dog from the long, grasping tongue of the toad demon. Animals in tow she hurried away from the scene, leaving Hellbinder free to focus on the creature she had captured. As the young magus watched, her chains pulled down and the creature split along the chain, two more noxious frogs standing in its place. Both croaked foul gasses and advanced on her perch. Then, there was a flash of blue, heatless flame and the creature on the right screamed as it was consumed, leaving nothing but a stinking puddle behind. A large figure in voluminous green robes was suddenly standing on the ground, hands raised in a gesture of power. "Someone needs to call the EPA," the new mage said. "There's something nasty in the water."

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"Good morning," Hellbinder said with a dull look on her face. "I don't think the EPA can really handle this sort of thing though. I'm Hellbinder, new in town. Is this 'demon frog' thing a common occurrence?" she asked the magus that stood before her. "I appreciate the assistance by the way, I had no idea these things could multiply like that."

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"If they were, we'd be better prepared," Miras said. "As it stands, the road crew's gonna be pissed." She eyed the remaining hell-frog as it ribbitted quietly, then tried crawling away. It was leaking something mildly corrosive, burning away the pavement underneath its tread and leaving bubbled, scarred prints in its wake. The creature almost looked pathetic as it tried to retreat, taking small hops to put distance between itself and the two women. "What you think the chances are," Miras said conversationally, "that it's trying to lead us into a trap?" She conjured another ball of blue, heatless flame, rolling it between her fingers. The magus flicked it dismissively and it flew across the intervening distance, landing square on the back of the toad and reducing it to a greasy spot.

 

The magus in green dusted off her hands and turned to Hellbinder. "I'm Miras," she said. "I don't know if demonic amphibians are your usual thing, but I'd appreciate help in tracking these ones down."

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