Not far away, Kirkaronus and Serena remained glued to their horses on the same pathetic lump of a hill that they’d been watching from since the battle’s beginning; unlike the zombie still huddled under his blanket of lightening-fast arms, neither beheld a smile.
“This is absolutely ridiculous!” Kirkaronus gawked at the bizarre scene that continued to unfold before them. More and more birds began turning back into villagers as Gwendolena’s vampire army halted them mid-swoop using only their fists and a swift upper cut. “This isn’t what was supposed to happen at all! When our ancestors attacked with birds ages ago, there was enough gore and mayhem to make even just that one part of the battle legend alone! Everyone who opposed them fled for cover. Shrieks filled the air. Eyes were gouged out by merciless beaks. It was beautiful!” He sighed heavily while shaking his head. “This is a mockery.”
“This,” Serena spoke through gritted teeth, “is a failure.” She turned on her horse and slapped him against the back of the head. “I though this idea of yours with the birds was supposed to be our final claim to victory, the moment when our enemies would beg for surrender!” She pointed in front of her and the yell become louder. “Does it look like anyone is surrendering?”
Still standing on the other side of her horse, Wymer finally spoke up again. “It looks like they’re dancing.” He wiggled a pudgy finger to the right. “At least those four people are.” The finger darted to the left. “And that one’s grabbed a stick and is helping to hit more birds.” He licked his lips as the finger traveled to point directly in front of him. “And those dozen or so there are drinking lemonade at Trevor’s stand. It looks good.” He looked up at Serena with a pout. “If we surrender, I really bet they’ll share the lemonade with us.”
Serena took a deep breath and let it out slowly before speaking. Speaking in overstated calmness, she leaned toward him. “Wymer, for the absolute last time, we are here to crush Gwendolena’s side and take over the world. We are not here to surrender and we are not here to drink lemonade. And if I hear you mention either of the latter one more time,” her voice skyrocketed back to it’s shrieking yell as she slapped him against the back of his head as well, “I’ll turn you into a frog and step on you, is that clear!”
“All clear.” Wymer sighed and rubbed his head. “No lemonade.”
“Maybe he should go get some lemonade,” said Kirkaronus thoughtfully. “Gwendolena’s side still has that stone puzzle and it’s not even in fragments anymore, they made it whole. You and I have nearly exhausted our magic with those useless birds but I bet we’d be able to turn the tables again with the puzzle in our hands.” He turned and raised a brow at Wymer. “I saw you and that zombie chatting with each other earlier and you shook each other’s hand or something. You didn’t try to chop his head off and he didn’t try to eat you. Wouldn’t happen to be friends now would you?”
“Friends, eh, ah, no, no.” Wymer shook his head so fast that the skin on his fat jaw flapped in the air. “Of course, we’re not friends, that’d be absurd. I mean, I might have that Seth fellow fooled and he might even trust me but it’s just an act on my part.” He stuck his chin proudly in the air. “I’m a guard of the Keepers and my heart is full of evil, I swear it.”
“Good.” Serena waved her hand in the air until a single stem white rose appeared in her hand. “Since you have done so well in fooling the walking bag of maggots, take this and hand it to him. Tell Seth that it is our way of signifying surrender and he needs to place it on the puzzle to end this battle.” She shrugged as Wymer took the rose. “Or if you can manage to get close enough to the puzzle yourself, just toss it on there. Either way, this rose will make the puzzle disappear from their side and come into our possession.”
“Ow!” Wymer stuck a pricked finger in his mouth. “I didn’t think this thing had so many thorns on it.”
Serena smiled wickedly. “It didn’t, until you took it. But now that it’s pricked you, you better hurry unless you want to understand your zombie friend’s predicament first hand.” Her smirk grew wider as he stared up at her. “You remember the spell we placed on that Sylvia girl? This one is similar but quicker.” She raised a hand and an hourglass now rested in her palm. Though filled with sand in the top half, each grain seemed to be on a race to the bottom. “Much quicker. But the spell now placed on you will cease once that rose touches the puzzle so I suggest you make haste in tricking your friend into taking it.”
As he hurried down the tiny hill, Wymer let out a gulp. Very soon he would need to decide whether it would be better to break his pinky swear with the zombie or become a zombie himself. Neither choice held much appeal though the consequences of both were absolutely certain: If he betrayed Seth’s trust, he would forever be known as the backstabbing henchman who didn’t have a shred of integrity in his bones. If he became a zombie, he would never drink another glass of lemonade ever again. Or eat cakes. Or pies. Nor anything else delicious and mouthwatering since he doubted people tasted like any of those things.
This truly would be one of the most difficult decisions he ever had to make in his life.