Once Upon a Time – Chap. 34.1


Seth warily followed Gwendoloena down the spiral staircase, certain they were heading into the castle’s nethermost region. Flickering candlelight from the sconces above grew more dim and ominous as the sconces themselves became fewer and farther between. Just when Seth and Wymer could barely see well enough to keep their feet from slipping on the stone steps, their leader abruptly stopped. The staircase indeed ended at a stone wall like the ones on either side and, for a moment, it seemed they’d journeyed all this way only to face a dead end. As the wall belched out an echoing creak and flooded the narrow stairway with cheerful light, however, Seth realized a door had just opened. And as they stepped through the doorway he swore hadn’t existed a minute ago, he found it deposited them someplace quite familiar.

But this”—Seth wobbly spun around while taking their new surroundings—“this is the sun room where Sylvia and all of us first spoke with you.”

Gwendoloena made mock inspection of the room herself. “Why yes, Seth, I suppose it is.”

The zombie stopped twirling to stare at her in confusion. “But we traveled down to get here. Down. I thought this room was on the main level, it’s past the dining area and the main hall, over by the—”

As impressed with your memory as I am dear one, let me remind you this also my castle.” Gwendoloena gave a warm smile. “And my duty as queen largely includes protecting all subjects and guests within these walls,” she paused while gliding her eyes to Wymer, “despite the threat some guests may represent.” The vampire stared at him for a second before turning back to Seth and continuing in her calm motherly manner. “That being the case, not all paths from one room to the next can always be what they seem or even the most direct.”

Astounding waste of talent if you ask me!” said Wymer with a snort that did nothing to keep the fat man from further resembling a disgruntled hog. “You can make doors appear and pop up in whatever room you like, so what? That’s cheap parlor tricks compared to what the Keepers can do!”

I see you’re no longer trying to hide behind the guise of not knowing them, well done.” Rather than appearing affected by any of the henchman’s insults, Gwendoloena spoke with delighted approval. “And you’re perhaps quite ready to tell me the purpose of your visit but if you’ll wait just a moment.” She turned and stepped over to a large mahogany table by the center most window. “I have another parlor trick to perform.”


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