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you look too much like me

Chapter Text

There was a rumble, a blast, a yell, some coughing, and then the slam of a door.

Marcy gasped for air, covered head to toe in ash. In a desperate attempt to disperse most of it they jumped and bounced about the corridor. Attempting to catch their breath, they immediately began to dust themselves off with their own hands, which were actually rather dusty anyway, and seemed to be rather burnt. They cleared most of it, at least enough to look recognisable. Their hair was dishevelled, swept off to one side from what seemed to be- or rather, sounded like an explosion, and their eyes had a look of disbelief that faded into disappointment rather quickly.

They pulled out a notebook (which was on fire at the binding, which they quickly patted away with their gloved palm) and took out a pen, a single marshmallow-resembling keyring dangling from the top of it. They flipped to a bookmarked page and began to scribble down some notes, mumbling to themselves like some sort of mad scientist having just escaped near-death. At their feet they caught sight of the smoke pooling from the gap under the door they stood just in front of - the one they had escaped from just moments ago. It seemed to just be remnants of the explosion, not like there was any actual fires in the room. As a precaution, they cautiously tapped their hand on the huge doorknob (which they had to lift their arms to reach) in case it was hot, but found it to be cold. Realising this, they twisted it, causing it to creak loudly. The door groaned as Marcy used all of their strength to push the door open, only to reveal that the room was completely ruined.

Sheets of parchment were singed, burnt at the corners and still partially spitting embers. A particular zone where ash littered the floor and walls was evident, a clear culprit sitting right in the middle. A pile of shattered glass sat upon what seemed to be a wooden desk, unrecognisable due to being covered in a layer of ash. A fluorescent green liquid could be seen in a small puddle, mixed in with the shards. Marcy kept their distance for now, observing, notebook in hand. They didn't know just yet if it was safe. The blast earlier was far too sudden and caused them to feel more cautious with the particular liquid they were working with. The more Marcy looked, the more they realised; a steam was constantly rising from the puddle, and below the desk there was a slight drip. The drips, too, were bright lime in colour. They attempted to peer on top of the desk without getting too close, to get a proper look at the liquid. It was when they did so that they realised that patches of the liquid had completely corroded the desk and gone all the way through, dripping down onto the floor below it.

In their usual pursuit of new findings and creations, they had naturally seen similar chemical reactions to this - atleast the explosion was something they'd dealt with before. Not corrosive liquid. That was very different. That was something rarer, but rarer doesn't necessarily mean good.

Marcy scrambled to stop the drip, placing two buckets inside of each other, then stuffing some paper they found inside to delay it further. It slid under the desk, catching the drip. Almost immediately, Marcy noticed the drip was working its way through the paper faster than anticipated, eating away a huge hole in the first sheet. It was REALLY corrosive. Despite making this observation, they proceeded to attempt to pick up the shards of glass while wearing their fingerless gloves. It wasn't as if they had a death wish or anything, they just sometimes didn't think complicated things through whatsoever despite their seemingly unlimited smarts.

Obviously, that was never destined to go well, especially combined with Marcy's infamous clumsiness. But accident-prone or not, ungloved fingers and broken glass are a recipe for disaster. It was like sliding your finger along the pages of a book and not expecting a paper cut.

Without warning, the door slammed wide open. "Marcy!"

Jumping at the sudden yell, Marcy looked to see that in the huge doorway stood a Newt, smaller than them in size, with her hair up in a bun and pinned in place by small shell hairclips. Even her hair only just surpassed Marcy's shoulders in height, and she wore a rather elegant dress and spoke in a refined manner, even when shouting. Like right now. Just from the sight of her you could tell that you needed to have consistent manners in her presence, but Marcy couldn't quite understand where that feeling came from when looking at her. Her face wore an expression of complete and utter shock, combined with disbelief and a hint of whatever emotion conveys 'Oh frog, what is it this time'.

"Hey, Mom!" Not paying attention and continuing with what they were doing (while looking at Olivia), Marcy moved their hands to pick up a shard of glass that they were reaching for, only for their finger to slip.

"Yeowch!" They yanked their hand back from the table, a single crimson drip flying away at the pull.

Olivia hurried over worriedly.

"What did you do? Give it here," Olivia reached out her webbed hand, taking Marcy's and inspecting the small cut that began to dribble warm blood. "Dearie me, Marcy, you have to be careful." She kept hold of Marcy's hand as they looked at her with a light-hearted expression.

"I'm fine, Mom!" They dragged out the 'fine', brushing it off. "After all, I made a mess, so I'm cleaning it up."

Olivia rolled her eyes, glancing around the room in an exaggerated manner as if she hadn't noticed the abhorrent state of the room the moment she entered. Even if you didn't hear the blast you could tell that an explosion had occurred from the disastrous state of, well, everything. Marcy could sense the retort incoming the moment they saw the eyeroll.

"Really? A mess?" She spoke sarcastically, signalling Marcy so they're aware. "I didn't even notice!"

Marcy looked around the room too, despite the tone of Olivia's voice, like they were counting on finding a second opinion that would cover for them. The walls around the area where the explosion happened were covered in ash, staining the wallpaper. By now, the acid had probably seeped through the bottom of the bucket, and it was no longer possible to recognise the original colours of the furniture around the blast area.

"Oh, Ha-ha." Marcy retorted, rolling their eyes in response.

Their hand stung, but not too much. It could have been much worse, after all. They could've touched that acid stuff. That definitely wouldn't have ended well. For a moment, they actually considered how dangerous it could be, and just from the looks of how fast it originally began to erode the paper in the bucket they had placed, they wagered a guess that a single drop could have cost them a finger. Plus, the initial burns from the explosive reaction were now just starting to sink in and irritate their skin.

The mess on the table remained, the shards of glass not fully separated from the liquid, which had now almost fully eroded the area where it was initially in a small pool by the shattered tube. Marcy let out a disappointed sigh.

"Third try today." Marcy told Olivia, "It'll take a lot more trial and error, I expected that, but I really wanna see if this is possible."

"The glow in the dark concrete?" The Newt glanced at the mess on the desk, "Marcy, I believe we told you this already but this really is not necessary."

"I know, but-!" They cut themselves off, their excited expression changing from one of excitement to disappointment, then to a sort of bittersweet smile, "I really like those cool neon lights that the coral made. I mean.. I think it would be beneficial if the newts of Newtopia are out at night."

"YOU want it because YOU want the neon lights in the city." Olivia emphasised, looking Marcy in the eyes.

Marcy tried to hold eye contact, but broke away when it got too overwhelming. "Maybe."

Lady Olivia sighed, muttering a small, half-laughing 'Come here,' beginning to dust more of the ash off of Marcy's cloak, armour, face, and even hair. Marcy tilted their head as Olivia began to fix their hair into their usual style due to the explosion dishevelling it. All without a word.

She took their hand again. "Now, let's get a bandage for this, shall we?"

"But what about the-"

"Oh, the butlers will clean that up, silly. Come now. You have an audience with King Andrias in fifteen minutes and you need to get cleaned up." Olivia began to lead Marcy out of the room, holding onto their palm as to not irritate their wound. Marcy chanced glances back at the ruined area of the room and the mess on the desk.

Truthfully, Marcy's attempt to make neon paving for the city was just to pass the time. They had nothing to do. Lately they had barely been able to do anything helpful because of the lack of missions coming through, though that could partially be because of how quickly Marcy completes each mission.

Deep down, Marcy knows that they should be glad - the lack of missions means that everyone in Amphibia is happy, no? There's no problems to solve and therefore no one is having too much trouble at the moment. Yet still, Marcy found themselves missing the excitement a coming mission usually brings.

-----

Olivia wiped the last few patches of ash from the fur of Marcy's cloak.

The doors in front of them were huge. Both tall and wide. You could stack about 10 Marcys on top of each other and still not reach the top. They were golden, with high-up doorknobs again. The patterns were intricate and resembled many symbols of amphibians, all meant to represent that this is the heart of Amphibia, essentially their capital city. The morning light shot through the stained glass windows to the sides of the corridors and hit the golden door, causing it to glisten.

The door itself is rather intimidating, especially to a human who stands at about 5'1".

Marcy quickly stuck their hands into their hair and ruffled it about, trying to neaten it but failing. Olivia, who had only just sorted out their messy hair, watched with fed up eyes. At that moment, she decided she'd just leave them to deal with that themselves rather than bother to try and fix it again, considering she was essentially fighting a losing battle.

"Don't be nervous, it's nothing bad." Olivia reassured, giving Marcy's hand a gentle squeeze.

They looked down at Olivia and smiled. It was true that they were nervous, especially with the lack of missions. They actually were wondering if something bad had happened and Andrias just wasn't telling them, which is not what Marcy would want at all.

To Marcy, Olivia and Yunan had always been her parents. They'd never known any different, and they'd known the two of them to be their mothers for as long as they could remember. Andrias was more like their cool uncle who bails them out of school (which he actually did when they were younger, multiple times). In a sense, they weren't nervous about facing Andrias - that part is easy - it's hearing what he has to say. Audiences are always nerve-inducing from the moment you're told you've been summoned, so it's not as if their anxiousness could be quelled just by saying 'you shouldn't be worried'. Though, Marcy would love it if it were that easy.

The constant presence of Olivia was rather reassuring, though. Marcy could admit that. Olivia had always been the more maternal mother of the two, with Yunan being the one that taught them how to use their crossbow and how to fight if handed a sword. Not to mention the great speech that must come prior to engaging in combat, purely to create a sense of fear within your enemy. All of that knowledge came from Yunan. Marcy still remembers the time they were sent on a mission with Yunan on a pirate ship, and Olivia was so terrified that something bad would happen to them because it was Yunan primarily taking charge. He had always been more of a 'Will you stop crying if I give you this candy? Don't tell your mom.' mother than one who was more firm when it came to things like disagreements. Yunan was there when Marcy needed to blow off some steam, and Olivia was there when Marcy needed to blow off some steam - they both just had different methods. Together they were amazing parents though, and always fun to be around. They loved their parents a lot and wouldn't change a thing about their upbringing.

Marcy turned to Olivia. "I'll be okay, don't worry."

"I'm sure you will." Olivia responded, "Let me know how it goes."

Marcy nodded, and turned to watch as Olivia began to make her way away from the throne room doors, back down the corridor. As they were turning back to face the door, they heard Olivia calling out to them once more.

"Marcy!" She began, "One last thing. Your mother gets back from his mission tonight. Do you care to join us for dinner?"

Yunan had actually been on a long-term mission for quite some time now. A couple months, as a matter of fact. The mission itself was the same as the one Marcy had gone on with Yunan on the pirate ship. It was actually a routine mission each year, but this one had taken longer than the usual few week voyage due to an increase in Amphibians using the ocean for transport.

"Mom's back tonight?" Marcy's eyes lit up, "Yeah! Yeah, of course!"

Olivia smiled, seeing Marcy beaming just after they had been so nervous was refreshing to see. She nodded to them. "I'll see you later tonight, then, dear."

She continued down the corridor. Marcy watched for a moment, before turning their attention back to the door.

Immediately, they reached their hands up to the doorknob, twisting it.

It was easy to enter the room, the harder part was talking to Andrias and finding out what exactly it is that he had summoned them for. Though they must admit, they can't actually remember a time where anything Andrias told them was necessarily negative. It was fear bred out of the fact that Andrias is someone who is revered throughout the land, and whenever Marcy would go on missions in areas of Amphibia other than Newtopia, they would always be met with a shocked and admiring 'The King sent you!?'

Marcy's feet hit the polished aqua floor. It was very much alike to the stained glass windows in the corridors, but it decorated the floor like a path leading you to the throne. They looked up at the throne at the end of the walkway, accompanied by a velvet burgundy carpet. He sat on the throne, a huge silhouette in an intimidatingly relaxed pose, the coral from the backrest sticking out, warped and twisted behind him. The light from the windows seemed to just miss his figure, shining down in rays and reflecting off of the shiny crystal surface that the throne itself was elevated by. Marcy squinted as some of the reflections hit their eyes. As their feet finally hit the cushioned velvet flooring, they bowed quickly on one knee to respect the royal etiquette.

Immediately, though, that was put to a stop.

Marcy got back onto their feet, and just as they were getting their balance, they were almost blown back off of it by the booming voice that began.

"Marcy!" Andrias yelled - his very voice created a rumble throughout the palace if he was loud enough, as well as a blast of air that actually blew Marcy's hair out of place once more. They didn't bother to neaten it this time.

"Hey, Andrias!" Marcy grinned happily, placing their hands on their waist and shuffling about on their feet, "Mom told me that you wanted to see me?"

"Oh, straight to the point I see!" Andrias let out a small chuckle, standing from his throne and into the light.

King Andrias Leviathan is a giant Newt, covered in armour with a coral crown atop his head. On his chin grew a great white beard, and his armour was covered in slashes from battles he'd won. His skin was a glossy, scaly blue, and Marcy themselves was actually shorter than Andrias' legs. His very presence was intimidating, and commanded you to please him or else - however his actual personality was very different. He was a joyous king, known to Marcy as someone they could joke around with because of his carefree nature.

"I am aware that there has not been very many missions lately," Andrias began, "I hope you've had plenty to do in your free time, Marcy."

Marcy's brows furrowed slightly. This very morning they blew up a test tube and eroded the surface of a desk because they wanted illuminious paving stones. It was more like they were desperate for things to do rather than having plenty to do.

"Eh, kinda." Marcy shrugged in order to not let on that they had barely had anything to do. Lying, essentially.

Andrias nodded, a great smile appearing on his face. "Well, soon enough you'll be back in business."

Marcy raised a brow. Back in business? It clicked suddenly in their head.

"Another mission came in?" They asked eagerly.

"Haha! Precisely!" Andrias boomed, guffawing. "A brand new mission just came in, and I thought to myself- 'Who better to give it to than Marcy?' and here you are!"

Andrias turned and pulled a scroll out that was resting at the side of his coral throne, snapping off the elastic band and unrolling the tall piece of parchment. From the armrest he picked up his small pink decorated glasses and placed them on his face as he began to read off the scroll.

"New mission intel, blah blah blah, I'll skip straight to the objective for you, Marcy. The Citizens of Frog Valley, particularly the Wartwood area, have reported sights of an unidentifiable monster. It is to be caught to put an end to the terror it is causing the villagers." Andrias read it dramatically, as if reading out a story. He peered around the scroll at Marcy, who didn't seem at all phased by the mission.

They'd done stuff like this plenty of times, after all. Clearing out monsters that are bothering villages and towns, tracking down creatures that had stolen things from said places or were ruining their harvest seasons, etc - all things Marcy had done before. Tracking down a monster and capturing it was a piece of cake for them, especially in Frog Valley. The forestation there is wonderful to see, and, after all, Marcy still has to finish off their plant encyclopaedia.

"I accept!" Marcy beamed, "Sounds like a piece of cake!"

Andrias let out another roar of laughter, "Brilliant! Well, the workshops and labs in the palace are always open to you, Marcy, so feel free to make use of them for this. We'll also have the guards prep Joe Sparrow for you before you set off. Do you have any time in mind for departure?"

Marcy remembered quickly; they had dinner plans with their mothers tonight. "Not today. Tomorrow morning sound okay?"

"That sounds fine!" Andrias nodded, handing Marcy the oversized scroll. "Be careful, though. Even the citizens of Wartwood could not identify what kind of creature this was... It may not even be in our records, or could even possible be a new species altogether." He wore an expression of concern for Marcy, "I advise that you exercise caution."

"Will do, sir!" Marcy playfully saluted, taking the scroll in their arms and running towards the door. "See you later, Andrias!"

-----

Olivia placed the dinner plates on the table. Three, all laid out at the top of the long table so that they could all sit close together. Marcy brought in the cups and put them beside each plate, along with the cutlery. To lighten the load of their outfit, they unclipped their cloak and lay it over the back of their chair.

They sat down as the kitchens staff began to come in and serve their food onto the plates. Yunan hadn't arrived yet, but his food was there ready for her when she arrives

"He's late," Olivia grumbled, her hands under the table to preserve table etiquette. Marcy, on the other hand, held their fork upright on one corner and spun it around with their fingers.

"I'm sure he'll be here soon, don't worry." Truthfully, Marcy was barely listening. Yunan was always fashionably late.

Ever since they were young Yunan had always been a little late to things. Even when Marcy was attending a public newt school, Yunan turned up late to one of Marcy's fiddle recitals. They got apologies for about a week afterwards, but still, it was nice to see his face suddenly appear half-way through the performance. It's not necessarily even that he's careless with timing, it's just that he's always on missions. And though Yunan doesn't say it, Marcy knows Yunan rushes the mission to get back if he knows he has plans with them and Olivia.

Suddenly, the doors to the room opened, and in stepped Yunan, still in his full armour.

Marcy immediately got up, "Mom!" They ran straight over to Yunan, pulling him into a tight hug, causing his armour to jangle about. "You're here!" They couldn't stop themselves from smiling and giggling as Yunan ruffled Marcy's hair and squished their cheeks with her hands.

"Hey, little Mar-Mar!" He grinned, continuing to ruffle Marcy's hair, "How've you been, soldier?"

"Good, all good! How was the mission?"

"Spectacular!" The General boomed, walking over to where Olivia was, who had just stood up.

Marcy made their way back to their seat and sat down, watching as Olivia and Yunan gazed lovingly at each other before Yunan planted a kiss on the back of Olivia's hand, then on her cheek, and moved to sit down in his own seat at the head of the table.

Since Yunan had arrived, Marcy didn't hesitate to begin tucking into their food. A variety of bug dishes were laid out on their plate, their favourite, a beetle burger with a side of beetle jerky. Beetle burgers were quite a standard dish in Newtopia, but it was one of the things they were served a lot when they were a young kid because of the sheer plainness of the meal. It had become a favourite for them, though, something they always missed whenever they left home for missions.

"So," Yunan began, "Have I missed much?"

"B'oh, b'oh-" Marcy excitedly attempted to talk with their mouth full. They swallowed it down and continued with a gasp, "This morning I tried to make that neon paving I told you all about!"

"Oh?" The General leaned over the table, "And how'd that go?"

"Disastrously," Olivia chimed in, tucking into her food in a refined manner with her cutlery in a way that Yunan and Marcy didn't reflect, "Explosively," She added.

Yunan's laughter roared, "I'm sure you'll get it another time, kid."

"Mhmmf," Marcy took another big bite of the beetle burger, but wanting to talk again, they swallowed it down in a larger piece than expected. They patted their chest with their fist in an attempt to get rid of the pain it caused, before continuing: "Probably won't continue it, though. I got another mission assignment!"

"Ah, is that what the King summoned you for?" Lady Olivia looked up from her food inquisitively.

"Yep."

"Ahaha! That's great, kiddo!" Yunan stood from his seat for a moment, placing two hard yet affectionate slaps onto Marcy's back, "Well, well? Do tell! What's it all about?"

Marcy collected themselves from the hard pats they received and swallowed back another bite of beetle jerky.
"Some monster roaming about in Frog Valley."

"Sounds like a pretty low-grade mission. There's no others?" Yunan's eyes widened with slight concern.

"Nope. None. This is the first one in weeks."

Marcy watched as Yunan almost choked on his food.
"WEEKS!?" He belted out.

"Yunan! Table manners!" His wife bickered, prompting Yunan to quickly wipe his mouth.

"Well, I- Uh, well, at least that means the people of Amphibia are rather happy, right?" He chanced a glance at Lady Olivia, who nodded in agreement in response.

"Yeah," Marcy agreed with the two of them, "Still though, pretty boring to have nothing to do."

"Oh, I can imagine." Yunan nodded, taking a bite out of his own food. "Now that I'm back though I suppose it'll give me time to spend time with the two of you- when you're back from your mission, of course."

"Ooh, yeah, I'd love that!" They smiled brightly at Yunan.

"That would be wonderful, dear. It's been ages since we've all spent time together." Olivia smiled as well, looking between her wife and child. "I've missed our little moments together like this."

"Same here... Oh! Before I forget," Yunan stood up to properly reach into the pocket of his armour, pulling something out of it in his palm.

He reached over to Marcy, opening his palm and handing it to them. It was a screw shell, purple fading into pink in colour. They took it in their palms excitedly, flapping their hands about as they held it up to the light to properly admire the gradient colours.

In their free time, Marcy often walked about the shallow beach surrounding Newtopia searching for shells to add to their collection. They had collected hundreds over the years, and the hobby of it actually only first started when Yunan took Marcy to play there. Since then, they've been fascinated by sea shells, creating their own encyclopaedia for them. This one, however, was bright in colour compared to the usual ones they'd come across.

"Woah! No way- where'd you find this?" They rubbed their thumb over the glossy shell.

"A small lake beach by the north-east mountains," He seemed rather proud to have found such a thing, "It must have washed down the river to the shore of the lake."

"This is amazing!" Marcy observed every side of it, rubbing their thumbs over the spiral indents, "Would it be okay if I put this on my cloak?"

"Of course! I'd be honoured, Master Marcy." Yunan smiled, half teasing, but Marcy could tell from his expression that he couldn't help but smile at the question.

"Oh, also, Marcy," Olivia interjected, "When do you plan to leave for your mission, dear?"

Marcy clipped the shell onto the front of their cloak so that it served as a button to fasten the fabric, turning back to Olivia while picking up their final strip of beetle jerky with their hand.

"Tomorrow morning. That sound okay?"

"Of course, it's up to you, after all." Olivia patted her napkin against her mouth, having finished her food, "I'm sure it'll only be a short mission anyway.

General Yunan sat down in his seat, stretching his arms back. "Yeah, we'll be here waiting for you when you get back, kiddo. And I'll always be ready if you ever need to send for any backup."

They smiled at the both of their mothers and nodded. Though, deep down, they couldn't help but notice the nagging feeling of anxiousness in their stomach. It was odd for an Amphibian creature, or in this case 'monster', to be unidentifiable. As well, Wartwood is a farming community - they're surrounded by all sorts of creatures and monsters at all times. It's rather odd for them to just not have any idea what this thing could be. As a matter of fact, Marcy would consider them second only to Newtopian scientists when it comes to identifying these creatures, especially swamp creatures.

It was just odd that they didn't have a clue. Even odder that they were so afraid of it.

-----

The wind whipped Marcy's hair about. The sky was a bright shade of blue, cloudless - Marcy could see as far as the shore of the island due to the lack of distance fog. This kind of weather felt so rare during this season, especially since it had been so rainy in Amphibia over the past few days. Thinking positively, though, it did mean that the dampness created a bright rainbow in the sky above. Marcy moved, laying down on Joe Sparrow's back and unravelling the map in their hands.

"Okay, so.." They began, scanning the map of Frog Valley, "We should land at Wartwood first and make our presence known. That way we can put the villagers' nerves at ease," Marcy nodded at their own decisions, "Yeah, best course of action! If we turned up without a word it might cause alarm."

Joe Sparrow chirped, almost as if he agreed. Marcy got up onto their knees to take a look at where they were, rubbing a hand gently through his feathers.

"We're not far off, buddy." They reached their hand up, patting his helmet twice, "I'm sure the Wartwood residents will spoil you rotten when we get there! They loved you last time we were here."

In response, Joe Sparrow let out a high-pitched, long chirp.

"There'll be tons of birdseed, I'm sure of it! They're a farming community, I'm sure they've got plenty for you." They smiled, laying back down on their back to relax for the rest of the journey, "Plus, I'm sure they'll share their bug food with you! You could always keep the villagers distracted for me while I'm out trying to find... whatever it is."

Joe's head bobbed up and down a bit, as if nodding. Marcy rolled, peering off of the side of the saddle. Not too far but still in the distance, they saw the swamp.

-----

Marcy left the barn, leaving the frogs to see to Joe Sparrow. Just as they had suggested, the villagers didn't hesitate to bring birdseed and food for him. As Marcy exited and walked down the dirt path, they were met by Mayor Toadstool, who stood at the crossroads.

"Why, I cannot thank you enough for coming, Master Wu." He held out his large hands, taking Marcy's in his own, shaking them up and down, "Really, I am run off of my feet making sure everyone is okay. This truly has been an ordeal."

"Mhm!" Toadie, the Mayor's assistant, chimed in. "It's a big weight off of our shoulders now you're here!"

"It's my pleasure, don't worry- Oh, oh! I gotta ask, do you guys have any clue what this monster looks like?"

Toadstool and Toadie explained that neither of them had actually seen it; only one villager had gotten a full body sighting. They all walked together across the village as Toadstool explained that the presence alone of the monster was enough to strike fear, especially considering it had discreetly stolen crops a few times from the residents' farms. Eventually, they reached where they were heading - a small busking area by a shop. A small blue frog stood with his accordion, playing it and bouncing from one foot to the other in an unusual dance. His clothes were rather old and tattered, and he wore a torn up hat with a single feather sticking out. One of his eyes appeared to be injured - long-term though, it didn't seem to be something Marcy could help with, but Marcy already knew this because they'd met this particular frog before.

"Wally, Chief Ranger Marcy is here to help us out with our odd little creature problem," Toadstool introduced them, "Care to share what you saw with our good friend here?

"Oh, Aye aye Marcy!" Wally let his accordion slump to the side as he let go of it with one hand to shake Marcy's hand. Marcy shook it happily - they knew Wally from a previous time they were in Wartwood. He's quite an honest frog, and rather kind too. "Aye, I saw a massive creature. Bit bigger than you."

"Bigger? How much? And in what way do you mean 'bigger'? Wider? Taller?"

"Mmm.. Definitely taller." Wally put his webbed hand to his face, thinking back to when he initially saw it, "Just by a couple inches though, I'd wager."

"I see, I see." Marcy was now jotting down the appearance Wally was telling them in their notebook. "What about features?"

"It had arms and legs, but it was standing on two legs when I saw it, so no clue if it walks on all fours or not."

"Yeah, yeah. Go on."

"A head of hair. Curly, and it had stuff sticking out of it. Antlers, maybe?"

"Antlers? Interesting!" Marcy had begun to sketch a rough idea for what it may look like.

"And one foot that was bigger than the other."

"Alright. That everything?"

"Yep!"

Marcy took a glance at the drawing they had created in their notebook, turning it to Wally.

"Does this look similar?"

Wally seemed to look puzzled, as if it was half right, but half not. "Can I have a go?" He asked, and Marcy handed him the pen with a nod. He began to jot down some details and other features he hadn't mentioned; the creature now bore a rather cheeky grin with sharp teeth, and rather pointy antlers that stuck out of its curly hair.

"Perfect, thanks, Wally!"

"Nee bother, lemme know if you need any more help! Just don't make me capture it."

Marcy chuckled, nodding, and turned back to Toadstool and Toadie. The sketch didn't look like anything they'd ever seen before, or even read about before. It looked completely out of the ordinary, some sort of odd combination of many creatures they'd previously seen - or could it be something completely new, which Wally had just linked the features of numerous creatures to? Toadstool had mentioned that it was actually around night time when Wally came across it, does that not mean that it would have been hard to clearly see? Although Marcy deeply wanted to look directly for something identical to the sketch, they couldn't help but think that maybe they weren't looking for something exactly like this - that maybe something was wrong about it. Maybe it was something else as a whole, and he was blinded by the fear of seeing it.

-----

Marcy's cloaked figure stepped cautiously through the woods.

Frog Valley's woods were always rather difficult to traverse, but a joy to wander through simultaneously - seeing all of the plants, yet to be logged in their plant encyclopaedia, Marcy made a mental note to return later and take samples. Wildlife flourished here, especially swamp life and water plants, and it was wonderful to see in comparison to the drier areas like Newtopia, where there wasn't much forestation.

The trees were spindly, roots sticking into the ground like a withered witch's fingers. The trunks spun upwards, branches sticking out like sharp blades, covered up by a facade of bushy green leaves. The trees themselves were warped, and creepy to look at, and with the combination of the glowing plants that usually surrounded the roots, Marcy could only imagine how much creepier it must appear to be at night. As they looked at the plants, they quickly snapped back to reality, realising their mission. It was already getting somewhat dark now, and it would be dangerous to stay out so late with so many creatures lurking about past nightfall.

But they failed on that. For ages, they walked about, weaving in-between the trees and straying away from the usual paths - but they found nothing. Came across nothing. The sun was just now finally setting beyond the horizon, and Marcy felt crunched for time.

Usually, creatures with hostile tendencies will be aggressive towards whatever other creature they come across - the problem now was that it was night, and although they were half glad at that because they may have a higher chance of actually finding it due to Wally's explanation of the events, it also meant that more hostile creatures were now out to hunt. In preparation, Marcy loaded up their arm crossbow and prepared themselves to have to pull out their sheathed sword which they kept on their back, or reach for the dagger which they kept in a smaller sheath on their belt. At this point, they were creeping through the woods, having noticed the critters awake and scuttering around the branches above them - however, eventually, they spotted something on the ground.

A rope, in a small circle. It was obvious to Marcy that it was some sort of trap that had been set, maybe by the villagers, but they were too smart to fall for it. They observed the area surrounding it, noticing some footprints imprinted in the damp mud, leading off to the side and through some vegetation. Marcy crept over, pushing the leaves aside, but seeing nothing. Just more open forest area, somewhere they'd probably walked before.

Marcy groaned, moving to stand up fully. At this point, they couldn't care less if some creature saw them. Maybe at the very least, it'd draw whatever it is out. However, as they rose from the ground, they felt the presence of something reaching for their shoulder. For a moment, they stood still, afraid to turn around too hastily and confront it just in case it turns out to be carnivorous.

But the moment they felt it touch their shoulder, they whipped around, pulling their dagger out of the sheath for close combat and swiping it at them - they felt it hit flesh, however, unlike what they thought would happen, the creature stumbled back with a startled yell, falling straight into the rope trap.

As soon as its foot landed in the circle, the rope tightened and snagged their leg, pulling them up into the air. Marcy's eyes widened at their own luck for once, watching as the shadowed creature writhed and wriggled about like a fly trapped in a spider's web, trying to set itself free. Then, suddenly, Marcy realised what they were looking at.

A shadowy silhouette, with two arms and two legs. A head of hair with antlers sticking out, and one foot larger than the other.

"Haha! Gotcha!" Marcy yelled, beginning to celebrate by punching the air, but as they finished their last word, their expression turned to one of curiosity, concern and fear.

The creature's antlers seemed to fall out of its hair in the shadow as it continued to wiggle about, and it's larger foot seemed to get smaller as something fell off of it. And it continued to make struggling noises while trying to reach the knot around it's leg, but failed.

Marcy's eyes widened and they raised their brows, furrowing them as they reached into their pocket, procuring a small torch. They hit it with their palm a few times as the bulb blinked, pointing it towards what they thought was the antlers on the ground - but instead found two sticks and what appeared to be a shoe.

Discovering this, Marcy hesitantly raised the torch up to the struggling creature suspended in the air.

As soon as the ray of light hit the creature, it shielded its eyes.

But this wasn't a creature at all.

Marcy looked at it - or rather, her - and felt a sense of familiarity.

Their bodies were almost completely alike. Two arms, five fingers, two legs, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, a head of hair, but not in the way amphibians are. Not at all. Taller than a frog but not as broad as a toad.

A human.

Marcy gulped. "Your fingers.. aren't webbed?"