“Frogs! Frogs, Perran! In my kitchen, my bakery! Slimy, croaking, miserable, warty, old frogs!” Shay shouted at Perran, her faithful cohort in the little prank war she, Kane, and Lorcan were waging against each other. “They were in my dough bowls, on my kneading counter, on every shelf of my bakers rack! All of them with their great big froggy eyes, and their ‘croa-akk-ing.’ Llw, Perran, it was so… so horrible! ” Shay trailed off and closed her eyes trying to shut out the memory. She leaned back on the chair-like topiary in Perran’s hedge walled, autumn canopied, ‘sitting room’ among the trees of woodland.
Perran was clearly trying not to laugh, but the singular twiggy clicking sound gave him away. Shay had been perfectly cross when this conversation had begun, but it is exceptionally hard to maintain a sour attitude when a spriggan is laughing.
“Well Miss Shay no real harm was done after all,” Perran managed to eek out with tolerable solemnity, “and it really was a job well done. How do you suppose the priest managed to do it so quickly? That is an awful lot of frogs to gather up in such a short time.”
“Oh, he must have help now. No one could gather that many frogs by themselves. Good grief! I had to borrow the blacksmith’s great big stoking shovel to move them out. My broom, my good broom, the one from Canton, couldn’t budge them. Even my murderous cats turned tail and ran from the Plague of frogs in my kitchen. I was an hour digging them out Perran. And then, do you know what happened when I came back to start the afternoon batch of bread?” Perran was laughing so hard that he was rolling side to side and kicking his feet in the air. “Frogs! Frogs again, Perran! Only twice as many! I didn’t know there were so many frogs in all of England!”
Under the influence of Perran’s delight, Shay was enjoying the telling of the tale, and Perran had given up trying to hide his laughter. He paused only long enough to hear the next line before bursting out again. He shook one branchy hand with its twig-like fingers at her, almost pleading for her to stop, while he clutched at his trunk like stomach with the other to prevent a stitch in his side.
“Oh! Oh! Miss Shay! What ever did you do with them?” Perran managed to ask between gales of laughter.
“Well Kane stopped by and suggested a very good recipe for frog leg soup. He said it would pair beautifully with my chicken pie. I suspect he has discovered how I distracted his little minions, Dobble and Puckelflup. Anyway, he found my situation quite humorous. But really, Master Perran, there is simply no pot large enough to hold that many legs. So, I thanked him and told him I’d be happy to send over a fresh bag of frogs, so he could make his own, if he so desired.”
Perran caught his breath and leaned forward, “And what did Kane say to that?” he asked delightedly.
“Oh not much, he never speaks two words when one will do. And none altogether if he can help it. He smiled, shook his head a couple times, then walked away with a little smirk in the corner of his mouth. Now that I think of it, he was trying to think how to outdo Lorcan. I think he came to admire a rivals good work.” Shay concluded.
“Well it was well done. I wish I could have seen it myself Miss Shay, but the winters make me so sleepy. I can go for days without moving a limb, and sleep for even longer.” Here he gave a great yawn that sounded like trees groaning in the wind.
“Before I let you sleep off the rest of the year Master Perran,” Shay said, “I need a little help for my response to Lorcan.”
“Do you have something in mind already?” Perran yawned again.
Shay waited till the creaking subsided and replied, “Oh, yes. It isn’t as big as our other pranks have been. It’s a side step, a venture in a new direction, in this little game. A simple, elegant prank, that will have a singular impact. Even if it isn’t particularly grandiose.”
Perran leaned in a little further, total excitement on his childlike face. “What is it? What do you need?” He asked enthusiastically.
“Squirrels, my dear friend, three squirrels. The biggest and fastest ones you know. I’m going to place them in net bags, tie the bags under the pews in Lorcan’s church on Sunday morning before services, and wait for the chaos to erupt when they chew loose. Surrounded by all those startled people, and locked in behind the closed church doors, they will go completely berserk!”
“Shayen Locke!” Perran half shouted in mock abhorrence, “you’ve turned heathen!”
“Only a little Master Perran, only a little. I’m sure the Powers that Be above like a good laugh. After all I have yet to be struck by lightning for growing a field of wheat in the chapel. Besides that is only half the prank.” Shay shrugged.
“I suppose that is true.” Perran conceded, “But what do you mean that is only half the prank?”
Shay leaned forward, with her face mere inches from Perran’s she whispered the remainder. “I’m going put little, sweet collars on each fuzzy, little rodent, tie a little tidy label to each collar, and I’m going to number each little label. I’m going to number them One, Two, and Four.”