rock toad
xiangjun zeng

[ Source:  Field Observations from a Far-Future Mars ]

22nd Day of the 1st month of 975.

 Howlstone, Private Trip

 *Researcher's notes 2C: Observations here have been filed and sent for archival purposes. Much remains unknown about the subject under discussion and one day, perhaps what is written in this entry can be verified. It is true, however, that there have only ever been 3 documented and 2 verified accounts of the subject.

 *End Researcher's notes 2C.

 I find myself in Howlstone again, after all these years. Words cannot describe the conflict in my heart.

 Truly, this place is a city of memories for me. The ancient stones here record and whisper the memories of all who came before, as it does mine. It is difficult for me to be here, after my catastrophic failure.

 Why did I come? A hope of a hope. A wild goose chase, surely. Rumours of a sighting. A Rock Toad.

  A Rock Toad, perhaps the rarest creature to walk the face of the Red Desert.

 This is such madness. I am fevered, driven by desperation to be gallivanting around on such thin grounds. Only one Rock Toad has ever been recorded into history, the one still stood to this day in the eastern side of the Broken Basin*. What are the chances that the words of a drunk can be trusted?

 *Researcher's notes 2D: The Broken Basin lies several leagues to the north of Flint, satellite city to Howlstone.

 *End Researcher's notes 2D.

 A miner, taken to the wrong pass and the wrong route after a particularly delinquent night, had caught a glimpse. His words (or so I heard from my source*) "A mountain with a great big eye stared at me! And it moved! Ever so slight, I swear it!"

 *Researcher's notes 2E: Identity of informant, the 'source', yet to be verified. Multiple mentions of informant suggest it is an individual.

 *End Researcher's notes 2E.

 I gamble much, but if it is true...The Basin Toad had been sighted a hundred years ago by the legendary explorer Black Mane and his name has lived in history books ever since.

 With this, I could well have spotted two, an achievement that will eclipse even that of Black Mane himself!

 The first was of course in the Cauldron. We were very lucky during that expedition, but it will be some years before the Cauldron is open again and another group can go in to verify our account.

 In the meantime...imagine if there truly was another one of these leviathans here! In Howlstone, for all these centuries! How long has it been hibernating?

 …..But I am getting carried away. In the Name of the Old Gods, will I never learn not to let my passion get the better of me? Have I not learnt enough?

 Even if the poor miner saw true, it will be hard to verify. A Rock Toad is indistinguishable from a mountain, and they sleep for centuries. It was only the Old Ones' luck that the one we saw in the Cauldron woke itself to gorge on the Sandworms that migrated there….

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