Warnings: Slight AU
Characters: Edgar Frog, Alan Frog, Sam Emerson
Spoilers: If you haven't seen the movie you're unlikely to be reading this. But still very few if any.
Synopsis: Edgar and Alan are less than pleased when a magic store opens up on the Boardwalk, but who are the newcomers to Santa Carla running the place, and what exactly are they hiding?
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18
Edgar listened to the tread of his boots on the carpeted stairs. He could feel his own heartbeat, as though it were thumping against his ribcage, attempting to break free of his chest. Tiny beads of sweat were beginning to form on the skin of his brow. He was acting like a scared little kid, he knew it, he hated it, and there was nothing that he could do to stop it.
His clammy palms stuck to the handrail at the side of the staircase. He lifted his hand and rubbed it quickly against the fabric of his combat pants.
Walking ahead of him, Alan slipped back through the curtain and into the front of the shop. Edgar forced himself to keep moving. He could deny it to himself all he wanted, he could continue to deny knowledge to Alan and Sam forever, but beyond the curtain was proof of what his brother had been doing. He didn't want to see Alan doing magic. If he was forced to see proof that Alan was something other than normal, then he was forced to believe the same thing of himself. And of his parents, in their drug-addled haze that might be his future.
But he had shown enough weakness today. If he continued like this, people were going to stop respecting him, and without respect, how could he call himself Head Frog?
He emptied his lungs, took a deep breath, held it and then exhaled slowly. It calmed him slightly, but barely enough to make a difference. That done, he abandoned his slow and hesitant, forced steps and marched decisively down the stairs. Without pausing at the bottom or turning to look at Sam behind him, he swept aside the curtain that separated the two halves of the first floor.
The first thing he saw on the other side of the curtain was the desk covered with unidentifiable... stuff. The old cash register still sat on one side, and on top of it was a roll of paper of the same kind that was stuck around the shop telling customers the price of their purchases, but other than that, the desk looked more like it belonged in a fantasy movie than a boardwalk store.
In addition to the carefully weighed piles of herbs, either whole or ground or chopped, Anthony had set up candles on the desk, most of them still unlit. He sat on a wooden chair with his back to the curtain, exactly as he had when Edgar had come downstairs earlier. He had set up some kind of wire frame on the desk. It held a small drinking glass suspended over the one lit candle on the desk. The flame heated the liquid inside as the soot rising from it blackened the bottom of the glass. The liquid inside was a watery green color. The old man stirred it slowly, muttering something under his breath as he did.
Alan had already walked past the old man, and was standing on the other side of the desk, watching him as he worked. As Edgar looked at him, Alan twitched as though startled and immediately focused his attention elsewhere, acting as though the spell being performed in front of him was of no interest.
Anthony noticed Alan's reaction and paused briefly in his stirring and muttering to turn around and watch Edgar and Sam as they walked through into the shop.
His mouth set in a grim line, Edgar nodded in greeting to the old practitioner, and then walked past him to join his brother on the other side of the desk. He attempted to maintain his facade of confidence.
As he had said, Alan's spell appeared to be finished. The water gun had been filled, and was laying on the table in front of him. The rest of what he assumed was the potion he had created sat in a glass beaker next to it; a sickly brown colored liquid. A little of the same substance was leaking out of the end of the water gun. He eyed the wetness on the desk nervously, then remembered confidence and glared at Anthony.
Whatever the old man had been doing appeared to be finished. He blew out the candle and placed the small metal stick that he had been using to stir onto the desk in front of him.
“Welcome,” he said.
Sam smiled at him in his usual friendly manner, and Edgar fought the urge to roll his eyes at him.
“Have you done with the magic?” he asked.
Anthony nodded. “The preparation, yes. If I have to use the spell, obviously more will be involved.” He smiled kindly.
This time, Edgar did roll his eyes.
Anthony frowned at his display, and Alan nudged Edgar with his elbow. Edgar demonstrated how little he cared with a shrug.
“Fine, whatever. More magic, always a good idea.” He paused and took a breath. “Right. We've been lucky so far, you've had time to do all this before she got back, we still have the element of surprise. We shouldn't waste it. We ambush, we incapacitate...”
“No,” Anthony interrupted. “We do not.” Any friendliness that had been in his voice earlier, any kindness or understanding, evaporated in that instant and suddenly his words appeared to vibrate with threat.
Edgar shook his head. “No? Then what do you think we should do? Warn her we're here before she comes in, then ask if she wants to give us a confession? No. I know you still think she might be innocent, and I get that, she's family, but we can't take any chances. We take her by surprise, we get a confession – or don't, if you're right – and then take care of it.”
The air in the room suddenly felt thick and oppressive, and the beginnings of a headache started to throb at the front of Edgar's skull. Something about the old man's demeanor had changed, it wasn't just his anger or irritation, it was something more. Something coming off of him in waves that hit Edgar with almost physical force, seeping into his skin and deep into his flesh until it touched something inside of him that was indefinable, insubstantial and yet very real. Edgar felt himself shiver, and somehow he knew that he had sensed the old man's power, and that he was incredibly strong. Suddenly, Anthony didn't look quite so harmless any more.
He glanced at Alan and Sam. His brother's eyes had widened slightly as he looked at the practitioner with the same kind of terrified awe that Edgar was feeling. Sam frowned, apparently oblivious to what had just happened.
Unless it had been specifically targeted at the two of them, and Edgar doubted that, whatever he had done had spoken to the magic inside himself and his brother, asserting his strength over theirs. He was stronger, he was in charge.
Edgar shuddered again, and this time it had nothing to do with the power he had sensed.
He gulped despite how dry his mouth felt, and forced himself to make eye contact with the old man again. “Alright then,” he said. “How do you want to play it?”
The wave of power receded and Anthony got to his feet and walked around the desk. Edgar fought the urge to back away from him.
“When Sophie returns, I will ask her some questions. I will find out the truth, and if I believe that you are right, I will perform the spell. The spell will take away her ability to access her magic, which will make murdering to acquire power useless.”
“It'll take away...” Edgar paused and glanced at his brother, seeing the same question in his eyes. He stared at Anthony. “Permanently?”
Anthony turned and glanced at the arranged spell components on the desk. He nodded, and when he turned back to Edgar, he looked like an old man again. The power rolling off him into the room receded completely and he looked very old, tired and sad. “I don't want to do it,” he said, “but to save her life, I will. And before you ask, I won't do the same thing to either of you. It's a terrible thing to do, and illegal. If I were found out, the council would execute me. But to save her from them...”
To save a mass murderer from execution, he would risk the same fate himself. Edgar bit his tongue to prevent the words coming out, reluctant to make him angry again.
“Alright, so I guess we're hiding while you have your little heart to heart,” Edgar said.
Anthony nodded. “If Sophie becomes suspicious, she will attempt to use her influence spell on me. She will find it weakened now that you have destroyed the physical part of it, but if she truly is the murderer, she may have acquired a lot of power, so that may not matter to her. In that case, Alan, you will have to stop her, suppress her magic temporally so that I can... take it away.”
Edgar really, really wanted to give an opinion on Anthony's plan, but his demonstration of his power had been so unnerving that he wasn't sure he dared even risk experiencing that again, let alone the things that he could do with it. The ability to take away someone's magical ability. It sounded like a dream come true, yet when Anthony had said that he wouldn't use it on him or Alan, Edgar had been relieved. He didn't want Anthony's magic to touch him ever again.
“One thing,” he ventured, a little more hesitantly than he would have liked. “Wouldn't it be better if she couldn't use her spell on you in the first place?”
He looked sideways at Alan, moving only his eyes and keeping half his attention on the old man. He allowed his teeth to tease his bottom lip as he paused to think. He didn't want Alan to use the spell he had prepared, of course he didn't, but he had a feeling that it was going to happen anyway, no matter what he, or Alan, or anyone else thought about it. Better to get it out of the way early and save everyone a lot of trouble.
“I say Alan hides near the door, as soon as she comes in, he gives her a soaking, does his thing, and then you can have your chat without risking getting Jedi mindfucked. If she's innocent she's free to go, no harm done. If not, you do what you've got to do, and the streets are safe from a murderer.”
He felt ripples of power coming from Anthony again. He didn't know whether it was something he was doing deliberately, or something that just happened. He almost hoped it was deliberate, because he hadn't felt it before, and he didn't want to have to think he was developing powers of his own.
The effect wasn't so strong this time, but he could still feel it, like insects just under his skin, power seeping in, and something inside of him responding. He held up his hands, palms outwards in surrender.
“Actually, forget it. Do it your way. Whatever.”
“You should hide now,” Anthony said.
In the back room, Edgar heard the sound of a key turning in a lock.
He slipped effortlessly into stealth mode, his earlier irritation and nervousness draining away into a place at the back of his mind where they wouldn't bother him while he had more important things to concentrate on. He glanced from Alan to Sam, pressing a finger against his lips just in case either one of them were too stupid or distracted to realize that silence was implied. He beckoned for them to follow him as he crept soundlessly into the part of the shop filled with bookcases.
Alan's hand hovered briefly over the water gun before he snatched it from the desk and followed his brother and friend into hiding. From the position he had taken, crouched low to the ground behind one of the more densely stacked shelves near the front of the shop, Edgar peered through the small gap between books and prayed Alan would make it into hiding in time.
“Have I missed something?” Sam asked in a whisper. “How come you're taking orders from that guy suddenly? I thought you were in charge.”
Alan arrived just in time to hear the end of the question. He dodged quickly behind the shelf and looked at Edgar expectantly, as though he didn't know the answer either.
Edgar sighed. “Turns out that guy's the magical equivalent of a pro wrestler or something. If Sophie really can control him, she's a hell of a lot scarier than I gave her credit for.”
Alan nodded in agreement while Sam watched them through eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“I'm thinking I really did miss something,” he said. “Something magical that he did, right?”
Edgar grimaced at the memory of the power washing over him and exchanged a warning glance with Alan. “Shut up, Sam,” he whispered. He turned around, closed his eyes and allowed his head to lean back against the wooden shelf. “Just shut up.”
He didn't know whether he wanted silence to avoid detection, or whether he just didn't want Sam to know. Both, he supposed, but one slightly more than the other.
From the back room, he heard the tap of open toed sandals on the hard floor, and then the rustle of the curtain being pushed aside. Instantly, he froze completely still, not daring to move for fear of making a sound. Even his breathing slowed to a point where it was almost undetectable as he tried to remain as quiet as humanly possible.
He had trained for this kind of eventuality, but he had never faced it before. He was in the monster's lair, with two comrades relying on his leadership skills, and no idea what he should do. If Sophie became aware that they were there, if she really was as powerful as he suspected, he didn't doubt that she could kill them easily. They couldn't escape without being seen. Attack was the only option, and he had no choice but to send his brother in alone.
It would have been so much easier to ambush her. His ideas were better than Anthony's. The old man's judgment was clouded by his instinctive trust for his family. Edgar could understand that. If someone accused Alan of something so terrible, he would fight to the death to defend him.
He just hoped Anthony wasn't that stubborn, because the last thing he needed was to be going up against two warlocks. Of course, he was disregarding the possibility that Anthony was right and Sophie was innocent. He knew that could be the case. The things Sophie had said to him had made him frightened and angry and willing to believe anything about her. But what if she really was innocent of the murders? He almost hoped she was, they were more likely to survive the day.
But it wasn't just what she had said to him, it was everything. Her constant insistence that he unlock his unwanted abilities, the things that she had known that she shouldn't; the disguised malice in her words. It had to be her.
He just hoped that Anthony would come to believe it too, and before it was too late.
Footsteps moved further into the room.