“Where’d they go!” Seth frantically searched what remained of the pond’s waist deep water for the buffet he’d just seen swimming about in abundance.
“They’re gone, Seth. Those fish weren’t real.” The queen offered her hand to assist the disappointed zombie out of the pond. She then raised both hands over her head and lowered them slowly to her side. The action made no sense to Sylvia until she took a step forward and realized the dreadful squishiness from becoming soaked head to toe now replaced with dry clothes. Seth too seemed to be completely dry despite frolicking in the water just a moment ago.
“You didn’t even say anything!” Sylvia held the bottom of her cloak in front of the queen. “How did you do this!”
The queen gave a wink and smiled. “Strong magic, simple spell.” She turned back to the zombie, touching his shoulder. “And Seth, I apologize for my trickery and promise it was not for anyone’s amusement. For the safety of your friends, I wanted to test your will.” She shook her head. “You really have none.”
“I don’t think he would ever try to harm me or Bastiick.” Sylvia gave Obmuj a scratch behind the ears as the monkey hopped up on her shoulder. “Or any other creature that calls land their home.” She nodded toward Seth. “But can you make him living again?”
“No.” The queen shook her head again, this more solemnly. “That takes stronger magic than what I or anyone here is capable of. However,-” she handed Sylvia’s pendant back to her, “-if your trinket here were to meet its sisters again, it may be possible to remove both his curse and ours.”
Sylvia placed the pendant’s chain over her neck, letting the strangely shaped stone dangle on her neck. “What do you mean?”
“Remember I told you it’s part of a puzzle?” asked the queen. “The magicians who used to rule these lands created the whole piece. It was made to intensify their power. We smashed the stone to pieces during the fight against that power but-” she nodded toward V and Deigen, “-not before its makers cursed everyone in my kingdom with unnatural life for our rebellion.” She turned her back to Seth. “It seems their other curse on some parts of the land still stands.”
“But if the larger piece was destroyed, why would either curse still stand?” asked the zombie.
“Because the stone only amplified power, it didn’t create any on its own. If the pieces are found and brought back together, my belief is that it could be used to remove the curses as well.” Her eyes rested back on Sylvia’s pendant. “You, my dear, have somehow come into possession of one of the pieces we have spent centuries searching for.”
“For centuries?” Sylvia turned to V, pointing at Bastiick. “I thought you said Deigen was only his great grandfather?”
“He left off a few greats,” replied Deigen with a shrug. “My wife was with child and outside the city walls when the curse was placed on us. Thanks to that fact, I’m one of the few now to have any remaining progeny.” He elbowed Bastiick in the side. “Although if my many times great grandson does not begin focusing more on raising a family, the line will die out with him.”
“So how many pieces are there?” Sylvia asked quickly to change the subject back to more important matters at hand. Vampires apparently couldn’t procreate and that was all the information she cared to have on that particular topic.
“Eight, or so it is believed,” said V. He gestured toward the pendant. “It appears we now only need to find six others.”
“Six?” Sylvia shook her head. “Where’s the seventh?”
The queen reached into a pocket on the side of her dress, revealing a hand-sized jagged fragment made of the same stone as Sylvia’s pendant. “I know you were only planning to go to your uncle’s for safety but I believe the disappearance of your family will be answered as we find the other pieces. Perhaps we can help find your missing loved ones and you assist in retrieving the missing stones.”
Sylvia resigned herself to a sigh, looking over the traveling companions she’d gained since setting out from her deserted village. “How did I know I wouldn’t be saying goodbye to you all just yet?”
“If there’s one thing your adventures so far have taught, it should be that company is not bad to have,” reminded V. “Besides, I for one would like to meet this uncle of yours. I imagine he must be a great magician if he’s able to survive living out in the desert.”
“Actually, my uncle hates magic. He’s an inventor who claims he and my mother’s father came from another world. He blames magic for my grandfather becoming stranded here.”
Deigen blinked several times before responding. “Oh wonderful. The uncle your mother gave instruction to run to for security from danger is a mad man.”
“He’s not a mad man,” argued Sylvia. “He’s just a little eccentric.”
Bastiick rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Most mad men are. So what sort of inventions does he make?”
“Um-” Sylvia paused for a moment, picturing the last flying contraption she seen in the works “-they’re a little hard to describe. He mostly tries to create things my grandfather supposedly told him about from his world.”
“Sylvia-” Seth tugged at her cloak.
“Does your eccentric inventor uncle happen to keep a fish pond of any sort?”
“No, he has a dog.” Sylvia jerked the cloak out of his grip. “And you better not try to eat it.”