Clara, Annie and Nicholas headed down the forest path to a small clearing where the wildflowers grew plentiful. There was a small meadow of sorts in the center of the clearing that made the perfect spot for picnics or setting up games. Clara plopped down on the ground, put the jelly jar carefully down, and started digging through her tool bag for the garden clippers she borrowed from the potting bench.
A fallen hollow log edged the meadow. It had been beautifully decomposing for years and years and years. Mossy patches grew on the shady side, while a small vine with violet flowers sought out the sun. Many small animals have called it home throughout the years. Nick leaned against the log, gently pushing on the shiner around his eye and wincing at the touch.
“My mom is going to be so mad when she sees this,” Nick sighed.
Clara and Annie headed over towards the flowers and started carefully selecting the prettiest blooms to clip, and place into their makeshift vase.
A cloud temporarily covered the sun casting deep pockets of shade in the forest clearing. The frogs and toads started to croak enjoying the break from the suns heat. Nick watched them hop along the fallen log and the ground just in front of him. Soon there were half a dozen frogs hopping around.
CROAK … crooooooooaaaaaaakkkkkkk … niiiiiiicccckkkkkkk .. CROAK!
Nick almost thought he heard the frongs talking directly to him .. but that was crazy!
“Hey … did you guys hear that?” he asked. Clara replied, “Sure, the frogs and toads love the shade. They’re just saying hello.”
“No,” Nick insisted. ” I could have sworn one of them just .. well … said my name.”
“Maybe they hit your head a little too hard this time,” Annie laughed.
A rather large toad hopped up on top of the dead log and approached Nick. The kids watched carefully as he stopped, looked Nick dead in the eyes and said “CROOOOOAAAAAAAAAK” Nick jumped about a foot in the air, while Clara and Annie laughed. “See .. he’s just saying hello,” giggled Clara.
“Niiiiiiicccccckkkkkk,” said the Toad.
“Wait … what?!” exclaimed Annie. “He just said your name!”
“Niiiiiiicccccckkkkk … you must not fret. You will one day defeat those who bully you,” stated the Toad. The kids looked on shocked.
Oliver the cat had been watching from the trees, and finally ambled over to the fallen log. He hissed at the toad annoyed and said, “well now you’ve gone and done it! Now they know.” And just like that .. the cat was out of the bag.
Clara and Annie sat down beside Nick amazed at what they had just witnessed. They listened as Topper – the toad King – told a story of talking animals and a magical world found in Just Beyond. Oliver curled up in Clara’s lap and silently listened to the toad, staying wary of the tale told. It seemed a prophecy had foretold of THE THREE that would bring peace to the lands.