“How did you-” Sylvia pointed at the hole and shovel, finding the rest of her question lost in shock over the absurdity of this near rescue.
“Turns out there are benefits to being a stinky, walking corpse.” Seth shook his shovel triumphantly in the air. “I scared away one of the guards outside just by walking up and making moaning noises. Not sure why the fellow had a shovel in hand but he dropped it rather quick when he saw me.” He tossed his digging implement next to the hole. “And there’s benefits to the combination of not having to sleep and being persistent as well. It took me all night but I knew I’d make it to you guys eventually!” Seth took another visual tour of the room. “So where are we and where’s everyone else?”
“As far as I know, this is the closest thing the Keepers have to a dungeon.” Sylvia finally took a few steps away from being a protective barrier against danger for the children. “Bastiick was put into a trance like Arthur and is off leading a gang of guards to Uncle Albert’s house. V and Deigen were still in birdcages last time I saw them.”
Seth raised a brow. “Birdcages?”
“Never mind.” Sylvia waved a hand, deciding it best not to try to explain things she didn’t fully understand herself. “They’re in another room.”
“Why would the Keepers want Bastiick to take them back to your uncle’s? Don’t they already have the stone fragment they wanted from him?”
Sylvia found herself matching the zombie’s confused expression. “They’re interested in the possibly of my family being from another world. Why would they have the fragment?”
“Well these Keeper people are looking for all the pieces of the so-called puzzle right? And the Caleb guy who murdered your uncle had a friend who ran off with the fragment.” Seth shrugged. “I kinda figured the mystery friend must be one of the Keepers.” He paused, considering. “But then that just means there’s more than one group of crazy people trying to put this puzzle together.”
“Great, that’s what we need.” Sylvia groaned, rolling her eyes. She lowered them with a frown. “I hope the guards don’t harm Uncle Albert.”
“Sylvia, he’s already dead and turned into a zombie.” Seth flung his arms up. “The worst that could happen has been done.” A strange grin crept up his face. “By the way, did Bastiick or any of you bother mentioning to the guards about your uncle’s present state?”
She received the zombie’s amusement with crossed arms, already knowing what he was thinking; she admittedly had the same thought roughly an hour ago. “No.”
“Won’t they be surprised! I think your uncle will be just fine.” Seth snickered. “A little full maybe.”
“Seth!” Sylvia’s arms moved down to place both hands on her hips. “He has appetite suppressants, he’s not going eat anyone.”
“Well, the only one way to find out is get ourselves out of this place first.” Seth motioned toward the hole. “That leads to the backside of the castle we’re in. I suppose us and the children could slide down there and escape but that won’t help our vampire friends any. And I don’t think my digging will be successful a second time, the guards might actually gain enough courage to stop us.” He shuffled his stiff body toward the metal door. “Is this the only way out?”
“Yes, and of course it was locked shut as soon as the Keepers tossed us in here.”
Seth shifted his eyes toward Sylvia while nodding at the door. “And I don’t suppose you’ve tried any of your little magic tricks yet?”
Sylvia groaned again, glad Seth had not witnessed the blunder of landing herself in the room’s closet. “Not successfully.”
Seth took a few more steps closer toward the door until he was standing directly in front of it. “Then we’ll have to figure out a way to open it.”
As if on cue, a load clank echoed throughout the room as the door’s lock became undone. On the other side stood three guards Sylvia did not recognize from before. The trio appeared quite bewildered at their discovery of the room’s unexpected guest.
“Ah well-” Seth gave a partial bow to the guards, “-that was easy. Many thanks my friends.”
Seth’s new friends did not stand around long enough to say anything back; all three let out girlish yelps just before fleeing away, one of them yelling “Zombie!” down the hall.
“Observant people these Keeper guards.” Seth motioned toward the open door. “I’m thinking we probably don’t have a lot of time on our hands so let’s get a move on.”
“No!” Megan stamped her foot, pouting at the zombie. “The Keepers came to get us and you made them run away! Now we have to wait for them to come back!”
Sylvia bent down eye level with the spellbound children. “I don’t think the Keepers are very nice people. We need to get out of here.”
Arthur crossed his arms. “We’re not going!”
“Let me guess.” Seth stumbled over to stand next to Sylvia. “They’re both in that little trance that makes them think the Keepers are great aren’t they?”
“Yeah, but we can’t leave them here.” Sylvia scooted closer to them, cooing her words out. “You guys, the Keepers put a spell on you to make you think you like them. They’re very dangerous. Seth and I want to help you but you have to come with us.”
“No!” the children yelled in unison, both looking like they were on the verge of having a tantrum. “We’re staying here!”
Seth gave Sylvia a pat on the shoulder. “Um, nice try, but you’re not going to be able to reason with them. Until we figure out a way to knock that spell out, we’ll have to stick with a more basic approach.”
Sylvia shrugged. “Like what?”
“Well, like this.” Seth raised both arms up to his shoulders and made running charge toward the children. “Graaagggghh!”
Megan and Arthur squealed, clutching each other for safety as they raced away from him. Sylvia remained in her squatting position while he chased them in a circle around her and in the direction of the door.
“Graaggh! Graaggh!” Seth flailed his arms every direction for added effect but this only managed to make him lose balance and fall over. The children stopped just a few steps away from the doorway, leaning in to peer at the zombie sprawled out on the floor. Within seconds however, Seth half-hopped and half stumbled back up, stretching his arms out and running toward them again. “Graaagggghhh!”
Megan let out another shriek, grabbing Arthur and pulling him along as they bolted through the door. Seth continued the chase even after the children started running down the hall.
“Graaggh! Graaggh!” Seth paused in the doorway, turning halfway around. “Sylvia, are you coming or not? Let’s go already!” He continued wobbling through the door. “Graaggh!”
Sylvia stood and let out a long sigh. Not only had she failed miserably at saving the day with her knowledge of magic but she hadn’t even been able to coax the children out of the room by herself. Obmuj climbed up her cloak and took up residency on her right shoulder while she slowly marched behind the growling zombie and screaming children. “Maybe V and Deigen were right, Obmuj,” she muttered more to herself than the monkey. “I really am boring and ordinary.”