Once Upon a Time – Chap. 17.2

The guard leaned in closer, which did not help matters in Seth’s particular situation of being a walking corpse and pretending to be quite the opposite.

Did the vampires or zombie bite them?” asked the man in a hushed whisper.

Though the guard couldn’t see it, the question caused Seth’s face to contort with confusion. “What difference does that make?”

Well-” the guard shrugged, “-I thought if either of those things bit you, you turned into one.”

Really?” Seth asked with genuine curiosity. Despite being a zombie, he’d died from natural causes; it was the curse on the land to blame for finding himself stumbling around and starving. Surely just a nibble into a tasty living person wouldn’t make them become something less palatable? The possibility made Seth immediately think about the three guards now without their cloaks and locked in a closet a few floors above. More specifically he thought about the guard he’d bit twice and the fact that, if this theory were true, there would soon be a zombie locked in a closet with two living guards. Two living guards with no weapons, in an enclosed space and no way to escape. Taking on the whiny tone of a spoiled child, Seth flung his arms up. “That’s not fair!

I know,” agreed the guard, nodding. “But that’s what I’ve heard.”

That fool gets two meals practically handed to him and I can eat anything!” Seth kicked at the wall in aggravation.

Pardon?” The guard took a few steps back.

V stepped back over to intervene. “I believe our scuffle with those beastly things upstairs has left us a bit out of sorts. We’re likely to talk all kinds of nonsense!” He turned and lifted his hood just high enough to reprimand Seth with an annoyed glare. Doing so also made the vampire catch an issue their new friend luckily had not realized: the hand which Seth chose to prop himself against the wall by was far from looking like it belonged to someone still breathing. V dropped the hood back down and turned back to guard, pointing over the man’s shoulder. “Oh my, is that a zombie over by the stairway?”

As the guard quickly turned to scrutinize the person chosen at random to be a supposed zombie, V reached over to smack down the zombie hand next to him. Seth shoved back in confusion from the assault but gave a nod of understanding at the vampire’s wiggling hands. Both monsters dropped hands to their sides when the guard turned back around.

That’s not a zombie, that’s just Devon. He’s had a bit too much wine I think.” The guard paused, seeming to realize he’d just missed something but not quite sure what.

Over by the children, Sylvia nudged Deigen with her shoulder. “Ask that guard where my mother and everyone else from the village are at,” she whispered.

Sylvia-” he made a small circular arch about the room with his finger, “-I don’t think this is necessarily the place to do that.”

Deigen, that’s what I came all this way for!”

I know, I know. But I doubt any of us can make that a normal part of conversation right now.

“Like things sound so normal now.” Both she and the vampire directed their eyes back to everyone else in the room. While the rest of the guards had accepted the imposters as their own and lost interest, the one speaking with Seth and V now seemed very interested in why a guard would be chatting with their prisoners.

“You keep that mouth shut now, little miss, I won’t say it another time!” Deigen jabbed a finger at Sylvia while re-joining his companions again. He let out an exaggerated groan as he planted himself next to V. “You’re quite right about being out of sorts. Between battling those monsters and having to deal with that chatterbox, my wits are nearly at their end!” He gave a laugh that at least sounded genuine. “I, for one, am still so shaken I can’t even remember where my post here should be!”

From within the depths of the hooded cloak, the guard released a matching chuckle. “Well, that’s certainly understandable, friend! To be honest, I wasn’t sure you would survive fighting off those creatures. But, remember, all we had to do was fetch the children and bring them down. Your job is done. Now we just wait for the Keepers and stand ready.”

Ah, yes.” Deigen nodded his cloaked head as if the little chat was helping to jog his memory. “And what is it we’re standing ready for again?”

Well, the sea monster of course.” The guard slung an arm lazily in the direction of Sylvia and the children. “Those little morsels will be hardly more than a snack for it. It took two guards with it last time they fed it children.”

After a brief silence following this information, the three monsters let out an exasperated “Why?!” in unison.

The guard shrugged. “Guess the thing was still hungry.”

No, no, no-” V waved his hands in the air, “-Why are we feeding children to a giant sea monster?”

You know what?” The guard lifted his hood, letting it drape across the back of his shoulders. “I’m not sure.” The pudgy face now revealed to everyone seemed to actually be lost in contemplation for a moment as he scratched his bald head. “It’s just always been part of the ritual for finding the other pieces of the puzzle.”

Sylvia sighed, grumbling to herself. “Wonderful, just wonderful. My heroes are dancing back and forth with a fool and I’m going to be fed to a giant fish so these people can find more rocks!”


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