A short eternity later, Bastiick managed to wrangle both children free from the tree. Naturally, the little ones opted to still keep their distance from the two vampires and zombie once reaching the ground and nearly tackled Sylvia as they rushed to her side.
Bastiick stretched his arms out, shaking his head at being so quickly abandoned after finishing the rescue. “What am I, chopped liver?”
“No offense is intended, I’m sure, Bastiick,” said V with a chuckle. “But I somehow doubt they have faith in your maternal instincts to protect them.”
“Maternal instincts?” Sylvia shot him a look, placing an arm around both children as more of an effort to regain her footing rather than provide comfort. “I am not their mother.”
“No, of course not but-” V waved his hands around to include everyone “-consider yourself and what the rest of us look like, Sylvia. You’re a young woman who’s dress and cloak account for half your weight, sporting a pet monkey and your hair in pigtails. I would run to you first myself if I were a small child surrounded by monsters.”
Bastiick pretended to inspect his arms and legs. “I’m a monster? I look as alive and normal as she does.”
Deigen gave him a mock pat of reassurance on the shoulder. “Yes, but your hair is not in pigtails.”
V crouched down, making himself eye level with the children. “Some of us look pretty scary, eh?”
The girl, who appeared to be the older of the two, clung tighter to Sylvia’s side and nodded. The little boy seemed content to stand on the other side and absentmindedly stare back at the vampire.
“We’re strange looking travelers, but we don’t mean any trouble.” V pointed at himself and then motioned to Sylvia. “I look the way I do because of a curse and our friend there is looking for her family. We’re searching for very special stones that we hope will help us.”
“Special stones?” The boy excitedly bounded a few steps forward, making a complete departure from the cringing mass he was a moment ago. “You must know the Keepers of the puzzle then!”
V rose a brow. “No, but it sounds like we may want to meet them. Do you know where they are?”
The boy frowned as if he’d been knowingly asked a trick question. “The Keepers are our rulers. They’ll rule everyone and everything. The Keepers are everywhere.”
“Everyone, everything, everywhere?” Deigen eyed him curiously. “Good, the Keepers should be rather easy to find then.”