Thomas took a deep breath. His hand, which was wrapped tight around an improvised spear and its launcher, shook against his will. He was in the same area where he and the rest of the group had fought the Bullfrogs. He could still remember the spot where he had almost drowned, and the destruction was littered throughout the area. Many shallow beds of water crisscrossed ahead of him. While it had only been a few Bullfrogs before, he was sure that, with his luck, there would be more.
Doevm and the rest of the group were hiding just out of sight. Like last time, they had lay down in the water, where bits of plants obscured their bodies. Three bamboo sticks jutted out of the water. All around Thomas's little patch of soil were all the improvised spears that Doevm and Frey had made. They were stabbed into the soil and ready to pull out at any second.
He shivered because the cold morning air went straight through his thin clothes in a sudden breeze. It caressed his skin and put his hair on end. 'Why the hell did I have to brag about my throwing skills?' he thought. 'This is all Jameson's fault. He made me practice throwing my weapon every time I ran away from our sparring sessions. I mean seriously, how am I supposed to spar against a person with silver life essence? He just made me keep throwing and I got pretty good at it.'
Thomas replayed Doevm's explanation of the plan over and over again in his head, hoping he could find some fault in his logic, some way that he wouldn't have to be the one to shoulder the burden. While the Bullfrogs were the first reason he shook, it was not the main reason. Rather, his own mind pushed, almost pulling him down like the soil was gradually doing to the spears. If he gave the spears a day, they might be completely sunk in the soil.
'If I miss or if I run, they won't make it out,' Thomas thought, looking at the bamboo sticks. 'I'm the only one fast enough to outrun the Bullfrogs. I can't miss my shots, but I can't stop shaking. Why can't I calm down?'
He surrounded his eyes with a layer life essence and peered into the fog ahead. He couldn't hear them yet, but Doevm said they would be here soon. He had said that these Bullfrogs never left their habitat for long. Thomas took deep breaths only to confirm once again, that they only fueled his desire to scream.
He could feel in in his stomach, everything bubbling up and ready to burst out. His hands sweat profusely. No matter how many times he kept rubbing them on his shirt and pants, they never got dry. His heart was about to burst out of his chest. 'Maybe they won't come,' he kept telling himself. 'We can just go do something else. I can't do this.'
But just as he kept telling himself that the Bullfrogs wouldn't come, his eyes met a sorry sight. A single ripple in the calm water headed his way, the first warning sign. Thomas's heart pounded against his head, which still ached from laying on his Amphiboard all night. He saw the first bulbous figure jumping up and down, slapping against the mud. A few more appeared behind that one. Then a few more behind those. Each time they lept up, the sound of a gyzer echoed and made his heart skip a beat.
Thomas heard many more creatures; however they were louder. From out of the fog ran a rich variety of creatures. Snakes slithered as fast as their slender bodies could carry them. Fish crowded through the stream and swam with green and red life essence. All sorts of bugs, who were too unfortunate not to evolve wings, crawled along. The crowd rushed straight past Thomas without giving him a second look. "Run," they seemed to say to Thomas as they passed.
All of the Bullfrogs were heading straight towards Thomas, who just stared back with droopy eyes. 'I should get ready,' he thought as he took a stance. His spear fell right out of his slippery hands. He cursed and picked it back up. 'How does this thing go in again?' he thought as his memories left him stranded on that little piece of land like his trusting teammates. He finally got the spear into the launcher. Now he could see the frogs' silhouettes, and their many, many glowing yellow eyes in the mist.
'Should I fire yet? How much should I wait? What if I miss and they go faster?' The swirling mass in his stomach kept bubbling up. It squeezed his mind, taking the breath out of his lungs and making his feet go cold. He took a step back and his foot cracked a twig. He flinched as it snapped and dropped his spear again. He rushed to pick it, tears forming in his eyes. He kept cursing under his breath. Low croaks reached his ears. All of the dozens of frogs stared right at him, for he was the greatest prize. He was the only one who had not fled before them in fear of their great army.
He bit onto his lip hoping the pain would help. However, he could hardly feel anything but the cold. It was driving into his flesh harder than nails. He tasted metal and put a finger to his mouth. When he retracted his hand, he found that he had bitten through part of his lip.
Thomas cast his head down, his gaze stopped on the three floating pieces of bamboo, his friends waiting below the water. Their eyes were closed, their bodies were relaxed, and they didn't move. Elero held the artifact in her hand, yet another grim reminder of what was at stake. 'There is no getting out of this is there?' He thought as he reeled his arm back, spear in hand. He took aim at the front runner. Life essence surged around his arm. His body shot out like a spring.
The spear whistled through the air right as the front-most Bullfrog jumped. The spear soared over his friends, over the water, and hit home. It ran right through the soft underbelly before exiting out the other side. It was a clean hit. Doevm had said to hit the Bullfrog at that very spot, right in its vitals. 'I got one,' he thought as the corpse slapped against the surface of the water. The other frogs kept jumping, unfazed by the death of one of their own. One however, stopped, turned to the corpse, and began eating it.
A wave of heat burst through Thomas's chest and ran up to his face. The chilly air was gone like his pain, gone like the bubbling pressure in his stomach, gone like his indecision.
His feet rooted himself in the soil. He found himself already coiled up with another spear at the ready. "Again!" Jameson's voice rang in his head, Thomas's one memento from their various training sessions together. He threw another, just barely missing one of the Bullfrogs. "Again!" Another spear whistled through the air and another corpse hit the ground. All thoughts were cast from his mind as he picked up another spear.
It was as if he fell underwater. He was watching himself firing off spear after spear. At first, he was sloppy, but after a few throws, he found his rhythm. He picked up a spear, aimed, coiled, launched. Jameson's voice, instilled in his mind from the hours, the days, the years of training kept him going out of habit.
Thomas's memory blurred. One second there were dozens of Bullfrogs and dozens of spears around him. The next, he reached for another spear, and his hand wrapped around nothing. Many Bullfrogs had fallen, but there were still a lot left. Thomas's rhythm stopped, and his focus disrupted like a drop in a calm lake. It sent ripples of unbridled panic. Those ripples turned into a tidal wave that washed away even Jameson's voice. Thomas froze. 'I have no spears to throw. What do I do? This isn't practice. We don't just take a break and gather the spears.'
There were a dozen Bullfrogs left, and he was out of spears. His focused mind had vanished and so had the adrenaline, which had kept the fiery pain of overused muscles from reaching his mind. He fell to his knees, gripping his throwing arm and crying out. He rolled around as if his arm was on fire. He felt the chill, only it was now amplified by the bits of sweat covering his body. It went down to his bones and froze his mind stiff.
'I tried,' he thought. 'I'm sorry. I tried. I really did.' The Bullfrogs were now one thin body of water away, and ready to jump. Their mouths opened to let out a guttural croak. He reached back to the one thing he had not touched, a single stick he had not thrown.
Tied to the tip of that stick, was a string. That string led over the soft dirt, around a tree, through the water, and finally ending at the three pieces of floating bamboo. Thomas ripped the stick out of the ground and yanked the string. 'I tried, but now it's your turn.' Three jets of water erupted upwards right as the Bullfrogs had jumped over them. 'I can forget a lot of things like throwing a spear, how to get into a stance, how to fight, but I'd never forget about them.'