Once Upon a Time – Chap. 19.3

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So good of you to join us,” said Serena, striking one of her nails across the bubble’s surface to free Seth once he safely cleared the wall. She gave a mock look of concern to her new guest. “Now don’t be afraid, we only want to have a little chat.”

Seth crossed his arms. “You brought me up here in a bubble like I’d fallen out of a giant dish tub. Hardly a mode of transportation to inspire fear, milady. Besides, what have I to fear when I’m the one already dead?” He nodded toward the zombies below while taking a step forward that he hoped appeared menacing. “And your sort of twisted magic made me the same as them after I died. So I believe it is you and your companions who should be quite afraid, not I.” He lunged forward with a growl-groan combination that would surely send the enemies before him fleeing.

Seth, however, found his approaching attack was only half impressive as Serena’s soap bubble trick. Rather than stepping away in terror, she stood perfectly still. “Oh no, Seth, I don’t believe you are quite like other zombies. You see, besides being self aware and speaking to me, I really don’t believe you could hurt a fly.” She winked. “Not without the fly hurting you more.”

At first, Seth wondered how she could know his name and the fact he couldn’t so much as poke anything that walked on land without unbearable pain. As the guard who he’d tried twice to chomp into earlier chuckled, Seth had a pretty good idea who told her. “Ah ha, I knew you couldn’t turn into a zombie just by being bitten by one!” He pointed at the guard, who’s smug look dissipated completely at the comment. The guard jerked his head to Serena who only rolled her eyes and waved a dismissive hand at him.

He’s right, you can’t,” she assured him. “You’d be one by now.”

Maybe it just takes time,” suggested Seth.

The guard began inspecting his hands and arms closely as though he expected the transformation to begin taking place. His comrades on either side of him took three large sidesteps each to give a little distance just in case he did.

Stop acting foolish!” yelled the other Keeper. Seth had yet to figure out exactly which of the twins stood before him now and which was a fellow zombie. “You only become one of those things after you’re dead!” He turned to Seth, narrowing his eyes. “For example, when some lunatic bursts into the room and murders you, like my poor brother!”

Seth rose a brow and looked down at the mob of zombies to spot the less-than-living Keeper. “If you’re referring to Kirkaronus-”

I’m Kirkaronus!” The man in front of him stamped his foot. “That’s Marius!”

“Sorry, Marius.” Seth turned back to the angry living Keeper. “If you’re referring to my friend accidentally bumping into your brother with their flying boat during a rescue attempt, I wouldn’t exactly call that murder. And Marius was preparing to feed three people to a monster, two of them young children and the other being that lunatic’s niece.” He gave a partial bow. “I hope you’ll pardon if I don’t offer my condolences regarding your-” Seth looked over the wall again, “-poor murderous brother.”

“We should be offering our condolences to you, my dear Seth,” said Serena. The statement caught his attention but he found a smirk on her face that hardly matched the overdone tone of sympathy she spoke with. “So cruel what that little lunatic’s niece did to you, to make you aware of what you are without being able to make you alive.” Serena placed a hand on both his shoulders as she circled around him. “And what’s worse, she took away any ability to follow the simple desire of your zombie nature. Unless you go running off into a lake to catch some fish.”

Seth shrugged out of her grip. “So she managed to turn a zombie into a cat, what of it, milady?”

Serena returned to her original spot in front of him. “But even cats have provision of their claws and teeth. Why-” she gave a fake pout while nodding at him, “-not only can you not harm any of us but you can’t even defend your poor self.”

Seth suddenly realized two of the guards were standing on either side of him now. They grabbed hold of his arms while the third handed a pitcher made of melded silver and gold to Serena. A miniature sash matching the braided pattern that had embellished the Keepers’ robes in the artifact room also adorned the pitcher. Seth had a sneaking suspicion that was not a good sign. He looked over at Kirkaronus but found him simply leaning against the wall and biting into an apple; it appeared while everyone else prepared for something dreadful, he was on break.

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