V glanced at the pages to find one of them bore grim illustration of fallen knights devoured by fanged monsters on a battlefield. “Ah yes, and some folktales have their origin in truth. When we fought against the old Keepers ages ago, they didn’t take rebellion kindly. Their curse on us came while myself and many others fought in union with the local villagers.” His eyes drifted back to her. “Being surrounded by scores of men covered in their own blood is the absolute worst time to find yourself suddenly transformed into a monster.”
Sylvia wrinkled her nose at the comment. “You were there? I know you’ve all been around for a long time but,” she tapped her finger on the illustration. “even when this happened?”
“How old do you think some of these books are, little miss?” asked V, panning his eyes over the shelves lining every inch of wall around them. “Some, I’d dare wager, saw their first drop of ink long before your grandparents cried in the midwife’s hands. Gwendoloena’s been collecting them for centuries.” He nodded at the book between them. “Yes, I was there. Most of the people you’ve met in this stupid castle as you like to call it have been around since that time. And none of us see our pale skin and fangs as something that should make us instant kings. But you see things differently?”
“The way I see things, Gwendoloena should have finished all the studying she needed to do on that puzzle medallion by now.” Sylvia shook her head. “You all talk about how you sought the fragments for centuries because of how powerful it might be. Now it’s only missing two pieces and no one’s trying to find them.”
“Gwendoloena is careful for good reason. The medallion is believed to be the only way to truly defeat the Keepers but they also made it. And there’s no way of simply tracking down the remaining pieces, who would know where to even begin looking?”
Sylvia sighed, looking back at her book. “Too bad Ian didn’t have one of them.”
“Well, he’s supposed to be from a different world and all that right? Maybe even the same one that my grandfather supposedly came from? Seems like the type of place some strange puzzle piece to a magical puzzle would come from.” She lifted her eyes again at V’s sudden silence and found him looking like he just stubbed his toe. Sylvia rose a brow. “You guys did check to see if he had one of the puzzle pieces didn’t you?”
“Actually,” his pained expression became more reminiscent of having a tooth pulled, “I’m quite certain we didn’t mention the medallion or it’s missing pieces to him at all.”
“Well, go talk to him now. Him and the others haven’t left for that village yet, have they?”
“Quite some time ago.” The vampire sighed. “I believe, little miss, that I should have come to speak with you much sooner.”
“And you’ve had this rock since you were kid?” Simone twirled a jagged stone fragment in her hand. “Where’d you get it?”
Ian slid closer to her in the back of the cart. “I found it in the attic of an old farmhouse my grandparents used to live in. At the time, I just thought it was neat and later held on to it as a good luck charm.” He shrugged, giving her a sheepish smile. “Guess it sounds kinda dumb I’d carry some paperweight around in my pocket for years, heh?”
“This isn’t a paperweight.” Simone shook her head, still staring at the stone. “I think it’s part of a puzzle and I’m pretty sure it’s from my world, not yours.”
“Well, yeah I guess it sort of looks like a puzzle piece on the one end there but what makes you think it came from here?”
She turned to him. “Remember how I told you that me, Seth, and Wymer ran into my brother Lucas on our way to that castle I met you at?”
“Except he was a zombie and you guys got attacked by him and two or three others, right?”
“And I was able to take care of them pretty easy with my pellet machine.” Simone reached into a side pocket on her dress that so perfectly matched the fabric around that it may as well have been hidden. “But while Seth was busy helping Wymer overcome his latest panic attack, I searched through my brother’s clothes.” She shrugged, now holding something he couldn’t see. “I know it sounds horrible but I mean it’s not like he was going to use whatever he had in his possession anymore, right? Anyway, I didn’t find anything except this.” She uncurled her hand to reveal a smaller version of his paperweight.
“It’s the exact same kind of rock, weird!” Ian took the pieces in his hand and tried putting the edges together but they didn’t match up at all. “Hmm, guess you’re wrong about them being a puzzle though.”
“Maybe there’s a larger part they both go to,” said Simone, circling a finger around her fragment. “Your’s could be an end piece but mine sort of looks like another one could go on either side of it.”
“Um, hey guys?” Trevor’s voice held a horrible combination of dread and surprise as he called to them from the front of the wagon. “Maybe we should go back.”
Ian and Simone both turned to look ahead of them; a black pillar of smoke rose up from the direction of the village.
“No, we should at least find out what’s going on and see if we can help them.” Ian waved an arm toward the piles of food and other provisions crammed into their cart. “If they were really attacked or something, they might need some of this stuff.”
Trevor emanated an audible gulp in response.
Simone nodded toward their nervous driver while speaking to Ian. “Maybe it’s time one of us switched off with him again. And let’s hope,” she darted her eyes back to the stone puzzle pieces still in his hand, “you were right about yours bringing good luck. Looks like we’re going to need it.”