The tower looked taller up close.
Bob the Prince gazed up at the tower with a thoughtful expression. He would hook his thumbs in his suspenders if he had any — but he didn’t — so he compensated by looking extra thoughtful.
“That’s a tall tower.” He commented to his horse, Darth the Destroyer.
Darth chewed on some grass and did not respond.
The tower in question leered over the landscape like a very skinny mountain. Its grey stone was barely discernible through the choking black vines that engulfed the tower. Crows circled overhead, cawing out omens of doom and destruction. All of this added up to a vaguely ominous feeling when one looked at the tower, which Bob took as a good sign. Ominous meant this was a witch’s tower, and vaguely meant she wasn’t very good.
“If I get to the top and don’t find a princess, I am going to hunt down that beggar woman who told us those rumors and… and…” Bob struggled to find a way to express his outrage. “Buy her a sandwich. I don’t know, I’ll think of something.”
Darth did not respond.
“All right then.” Bob grabbed a vine and hauled himself up.
The climb went faster than he expected. The vines were good footholds and soon he reached the top. Bob pulled himself over the windowsill and fell to the floor.
“Mwahaha!” Someone cackled to his left.
Bob scrambled to his feet and reached for his sword. It flew out of his grasp and into the hands of a laughing young woman. Her black hair curled wildly and her green eyes pierced like arrows in a dragon’s hide.
“Excuse me,” he said, “Are you the witch or the princess?”
“You fool!” The woman grew until her head brushed the roof of the tower. Her shadow cast over the room. Lightning flashed outside, despite the clear sky. “I eat baby bunnies for breakfast! I drink unicorn tears for tea! I am the most feared witch in all the land!”
“No.” Suddenly the witch was a normal size and didn’t look quite as crazy. “But I plan to be one day, and it’s never too early to start practicing, ya know?”
“Um.” Now Bob was the one changing size. He was pretty sure he was shrinking. “What’s going on?” His vision blurred and the next thing he knew he was on the ground, swallowed in fabric.
The witch peered at him from above. “You are a frog. And a very green one at that.” She grabbed his leg before he could hop away and lifted him into the air. “Yes, I think you will do nicely.”
“But your tower was only vaguely ominous!” Bob the Frog cried.
“Oh, you noticed! How sweet. I worked very hard to cultivate that feeling. Being underestimated is severely underrated.” The witch carried him across the room and dropped him in a deep black pot.
Bob launched himself up and bounced off the side of the pot. “Ow! Where is the princess?”
“There is no princess.” The witch let out a final cackle. “Not yet anyway.”
Then she was gone.
Actually, everything was gone. The pot underneath Bob disappeared. Everything went dark. There were no sensations, and Bob felt like he was floating in water. Then his lungs started burning, and he realized he was literally floating in water.
Bob the Frog kicked his legs and shot forward. There was a glimmer of light ahead — the surface!
He kicked again, harder, and flew out of the water. Bob landed on a lily pad and looked around. He was on a lake next to a forest. Fish swam beneath him, and birds flitted through the trees trilling cheerfully. There was a hill on the other side of the lake.
Someone clapped politely. Bob spun around, expecting to see the witch. He wouldn’t let her get the best of him! He would jump on her face! He would — it wasn’t the witch.
It was a young woman about his age, sporting golden curls and a pink dress with way more ribbons than was reasonable. A princess.
“That was a good jump.” the princess said. “Are you a frog prince?”
“Yes!” Bob shouted. “We should kiss so I can go get that witch!”
“A witch? That’s not good. After we kiss I will need to go tell my father. He will want to know there is a witch in the area.” She gestured him over.
Bob jumped to the shore. “Wow, this is a lucky break.”
“It is.” The princess agreed, lifting the frog in her hand. “It’s a good thing that random beggar woman let me know there was a frog prince over here.”
A beggar woman? “Wait what?”
Then her lips pressed into his skin.
“Ew.” The princess drew away and wiped her mouth. “You are slimy.”
“Sorry. Am I getting bigger?”
“No… wait yes! No, wait! It’s me! I’m getting smaller!” The princess dropped Bob the Frog, and the dress with way too many ribbons fell to the ground empty.
“Here.” The dress moved and a frog hopped out.
“Mwahaha!” Suddenly the witch was there. “I expected that to be way harder.”
“We were tricked!” Bob shouted.
He launched himself at the witch. This time he hit. He scrambled up the witch’s cloak, his webbed toes finding purchase in the thick fabric. He climbed on top of her head.
“Turn us back!” He jumped up and down.
The witch slapped him away, and Bob was thrown to the ground. “I don’t think so. I’ve got something special planned for the two of you. Now…” She spread out her arms and the shadow of her embrace became a swirling dark void. “Come here.”
Princess the Frog backed away. “Um… No thanks.”
“Come!” The witch rushed at her and the princess tried to jump backward.
Unfortunately, only African Clawed Frogs can jump backward, and the princess wasn’t an African Clawed Frog. (She was a European Common Frog, as a matter a fact.) She jumped straight up in the air. The witch cackled as she swooped in to capture the frog.
“No!” Bob shouted.
He jumped at the witch. She turned suddenly and Bob fell through the void. Everything went dark.
“Psst. Frog Prince! Man. Frog. Person. Wake up!” The princess’s voice stirred Bob out of his slumber.
He blinked. “Wha?”
He was in a wooden cage on the ground. Through the bars, he could make out the forest shrouded in moonlight. The birds were silent. Princess the Frog peered at him from the other side of the bars.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
“I think so… What happened?”
“After you distracted the witch, I jumped into the lake and swam away. When I came back, the witch was stuffing you in a cage, muttering about supply and demand or something like that. Then she left. Now she is pacing by the shore of the lake. I think she is looking for me.”
“Alright.” Bob lowered his voice. “Here is the plan. When she gets back, you jump on her face until she turns us into humans again.” He nodded, pleased with such a solid plan. At least, he tried to nod, but frogs have no neck so it turned into a weird bob.
“That’s it?” The princess asked. “No observing her to find out her weakness? No attempting to discover her diabolical plan?”
Bob thought for a moment. “No, I’m pretty sure launching yourself unthinkingly into the fray is the way to go here.”
“You’re the expert.” The princess grumbled. “I’m Polly, by the way.”
“I’m Bob,” Bob said.
Polly the Frog hopped back into the lake and swam away. Bob settled in for the witch to return.
The edge of the sky was turning pink by the time the witch returned. She looked frazzled. Her frizzy hair was twice as poofy as it had been before and her forehead was creased. She frowned at Bob. He puffed up his chest and tried to look imitating.
“How am I supposed to make a frog farm with only one frog?” She snapped at him.
“That was your goal?” Bob asked, incredulous. “To make a frog farm? That’s why you spread the rumors and trapped me?”
“No!” The witch tossed her hair. “I spread rumors of princesses trapped in towers to attract princes. I turn the princes into frogs and use them to lure princesses, turning them into frogs, and repeating until all the heirs of the kingdoms are frogs and the world descends into chaos and anarchy!” She cackled, then stopped suddenly. “And also yes, I want a frog farm. Being a witch isn’t cheap, you know. I promised my investors profits. I need to demonstrate that my business model is successful before I can continue and I need at least two frogs to do that.”
“Why two?” Where was Polly? She should have attacked by now.
“If you stick two animals in the same room as each other, they start multiplying.” The witch declared. “Everyone knows that.”
“I don’t think that’s right…”
“Well, you are wrong. So there.” The witch flipped her hair and stalked off.
Bob turned around. “Polly!” he hissed. “Why didn’t you attack?”
There was no response.
“Here.” Polly hopped out from behind a rock.
“Why didn’t you do anything?”
“Well, I thought about your plan, and I decided that it sucked.”
“So I didn’t do it.” Polly continued. “But I did come up with another plan.”
“What?” Nothing could be better than Bob’s plan.
“My father.” She gestured her webbed foot to the top of the hill on the other side of the lake. “Our castle is on the other side of the hill. I’m sure people have noticed that I have gone missing by now and search parties have started. All I need to do is find one and convince them to bring me to my father. Then he brings a bunch of soldiers down here and captures the witch.”
“My plan was better than that,” Bob grumbled. “But I suppose it might work. Better than I expected from a princess with that many ribbons on her dress.”
“Hey! Which one of us is in a cage right now? Ribbons are cool!” Polly smacked the cage. “You need to keep the witch distracted. Be smart about this, okay? She can’t leave the lake or she won’t be here when the guards come, and then she will get away.”
“I can do that,” Bob promised.
“Good.” Polly hopped into the lake and swam towards the hill.
Bob turned to watch the witch on the other side of the lake. How could he distract her? He couldn’t do much while he was in this cage unless she wandered by again. Maybe he could squeeze through the bars. Mice had a collapsible skeleton, right? Maybe frogs did too.
Fun fact: frogs did not have a collapsible skeleton. Neither did mice.
A few hours and one headache later, Bob was still in the cage. The witch finally returned from the other side of the lake.
She glared at Bob the Frog. “I don’t suppose that you know where that princess is, do you?”
Bob was about to respond Ha! She is heading for her father’s castle. You will never catch her! But he remembered Polly’s instructions. Be smart about this, okay? He didn’t move.
“Gecko bite your tongue?” The witch nudged the cage with her foot. “Hey, are you awake?”
Bob didn’t move. His mind raced, trying to figure out what he should do. Unfortunately, Bob was not great at mind races.
“Prince?” The witch picked up the cage and rattled it. Bob was thrown against the side. “Say something!”
Ha! If that’s what she wanted him to do, then he wouldn’t do it. Bob held his tongue and laid still.
“Shoot, now this one’s dead.” The witch unlocked the cage and pulled Bob out. “Maybe this frog farm thing wasn’t a great idea.”
As soon as the witch’s hand drew him out of the cage, Bob pushed off. He went flying in the air and landed in the lake. He looked back at the witch.
“Get back here!” She yelled.
For a moment he almost took her up on her offer. He would jump on her face! He would defeat her! But he held back.
“Um… no thanks.” Bob said.
The witch paced the shore, trying to get Bob to come closer, but he stayed just out of her reach. Every time it looked like she was going to give up, Bob swam closer to shore, drawing her back. He couldn’t keep it up forever.
Calvary burst from the trees behind the witch. Polly sat on the head of a horse, leading the charge.
“Get her!” the princess shouted.
The witch spun around and cackled. “You will never stop me! I’m — ”
Polly leaped from the head of the horse and landed on the witch’s face, cutting her off. The witch was quickly surrounded and subdued. Bob hopped out of the lake.
“Hey, you escaped!” Polly said. “Good job!”
“So how do we turn back?” Polly asked.
Bob shrugged. He turned to the witch. “How do we turn back?”
“You can’t! You are stuck that way forever! Mwahaha — ” the witch was gagged and led away.
“I guess we are stuck,” Bob told Polly.
She frowned. “I don’t believe that. I am sure my father’s wizard will be able to do something.”
Bob shrugged again. He kinda liked being a frog. His eyes caught on one of the horses.
“Hey, that’s my horse!” Darth the Destroyer stood to the side chewing some grass.
“He showed up just when we were about to leave,” said Polly. “He wouldn’t let us leave him behind.”
“Ah, Darth.” Bob jumped up on his horse’s back. “I missed you.”
Darth the Destroyer did not respond. Classic Darth.