Once Upon a Time – Chap. 47.3

Apologies again for being a tad bit on the late side of Saturday (or very early if we still had the posting day intended as Sunday). This one is also a bit longer of a snippet than I usually do – it was one of those scenes in which it seemed to work better to let the characters chat a bit before the cut off. Besides, when you’re a good guy with a big appetite who happens to also be a wannabe evil henchman turning into a zombie, it’s good to talk things over.

Seth_Wymer_and_Farmer_ColoredTurning back to Seth, Wymer’s frown only became longer as his eyes returned to the rose and his own discolored flesh. “Right, my hand. That’s eh, an illusion.”

“An illusion?” echoed the zombie flatly.

“Yes, the Keepers did that to, eh, give you and I a better sense of camaraderie.”

“I see. And the rose is their way of saying they love me?”

“No, they need you to place the rose on top of that stone puzzle over there near the castle. Once you do, the battle will be over.” Wymer grimaced upon taking another glance at the rose and seeing the illusion now also claimed his wrist. “But you have to do it quickly because, eh, they might change their minds you know.”

Seth’s brow rose, noticing Wymer’s increasing troubles as well. “And we wouldn’t want that, would we? Okay then, follow me.”

No sooner had the zombie started to turn around, Wymer grabbed his sleeve. “But the Keepers wanted you to take the rose, not me!”

“You said the rose just had to find its way to the puzzle.” Seth gave a nonchalant glance from the clenched fist and back to the terrified face of his owner. “I don’t see why it matters which one of us places it there.”

“But I can’t go near it now.” Wymer gulped at the pockets of villagers dotting everywhere from where they stood to directly in front of the table where the stone puzzle rested. While a few villagers stood by themselves or with just one or two others, most of them remained together in tight clusters of confused friends and family trying to sort things out. “There’s too many people in that direction, I, eh, I doubt they’ll let me get close enough to it.”

“Consider me your escort.”

Wymer tugged at his sleeve again. “But Gwendolena and the vampires certainly won’t let me get come near it!”

“I’m your escort,” repeated Seth. “Everything should be fine if you stay with me and we explain to them that the Keepers are surrendering.” He gave Wymer’s arm a side-glance, which now beheld decayed flesh up to the point where his cloak’s sleeve could hide the rest. “And as you said, we should probably move over there quickly. I’ll take you the most direct route.”

With no other choice than to remain standing with the rose and watch the zombie stroll away from him, Wymer followed. As the path Seth chose started to pass more and more villagers, his panicked whimpering shifted to groans of anger. “Seth, you said you would take me the most direct route!”

“I am,” said Seth innocently, heading straight for a mob of villagers.  

“You’re coming too close to too many people!”

“Can’t help that. There’s many still recovering and needing help. I doubt anyone will be dashing out of our way for a long while.”

“But I can’t go near them!” Wymer stopped following and stumbled back slightly, wildly jerking his head about as if he expected one of the villagers to run up and attack him. “I can’t get any closer.”

“Why?” Seth turned and walked over to stand directly in front of him. “Because they’re living?”

“What difference should that make?” Wymer started to rest his face in his free hand but shrieked at seeing it now matched the other one. “I told you, it’s just an illusion!”

“I doubt you’d be acting like this if you believed that.” Seth nodded his chin toward the hill. “Your charming masters are simply willing to risk you turning into a zombie if it means they might still manage whatever they’re scheming. From the looks of it, they’ve given you the additional courtesy and curse of retaining your sense of self as I do. One problem with that though.”

“And what’s that?” Wymer growled out, continuing to jerk his head around while his eyes took on a vacant, starved animal look.

“It’s the same simple truth that I told you about on our travels together,” Seth crouched down in unison with Wymer as he cowered to the ground, “Seth the living had a fairly strong will, which I carried with me into this deplorable state. It’s the only thing that’s kept this ceaseless hunger from overtaking my conscience whenever someone living has come close enough for me to grab, including you. The problem, however, is that Wymer the living is a man who lets his stomach guide his actions more than anything else.”

Wymer held the rose up to him. “Fine, fine, you were the stronger man than I both before and after you became a brain chaser if it makes you happy to hear me say that. Just put this blasted rose on that puzzle!”

Seth didn’t move. “What happens if I do?”

“I told you!” Wymer shook the rose, causing a few loose petals to fall off. “It will confirm the Keepers’ surrender and end the war.”

“Try again and keep in mind that your face now matches the rest of you. What happens if I place this rose on the puzzle, Wymer?”

Even though he no longer had need of breath, Wymer gave a heavy sigh as he lowered the rose to his knee. “It will make the stone puzzle end up in the Keepers’ possession. And Serena thinks that will shift the odds back in their favor enough to beat your side.”

Seth nodded. “So they’ll pull another one of their magic tricks, I see. This is nice, Wymer, two zombie brethren chatting honestly with each other.“

“I’m glad you’re enjoying the moment,” grumbled Wymer.

“Not really. I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone. How do we stop yours?”

Wymer held the rose back up. “You put this on that puzzle.”

“Wrong answer.” Seth shook his head. “Because you see, the idea of two evil egotists ruling the world doesn’t sit well with me. I want my side to win. And if you truly want to keep what’s left of your life, you will too. Gwendolena isn’t that far away and she’s probably the only one who can really help you right now.” The zombie leaned in toward him. “Wymer, you’re not like those two brats on the hill.”

After a dangerous extra minute of debating that only took Wymer further into the point of no return, he finally stood and gave a weak nod. “Okay.”

Seth stood and nodded back, giving the space around them a worried look over. “We need to move to her quickly, more villagers are starting to gather around here.”

Despite trying to keep Wymer the half-zombie as far from people as he could, Seth’s challenges only increased as they both hobbled along. For the moment, Gwendolena had stationed a makeshift nurses station of sorts at Trevor’s lemonade stand. While she was busy healing bumps and bruises on some of the injured villagers, a mass of people surrounded the table itself. And as luck would have it, someone had apparently finally baked cookies – which only made their destination a more popular spot. Whether it was the sight of actual food or the proximity of so many of the two-legged variety now before him, Wymer clearly wasn’t up to handling this much temptation. He dropped the rose and lurched toward the closest person near him, a farmer-looking sort that barely appeared to have enough meat on his bones to be worth the effort. Seth jumped between them and held Wymer back, neither gentlemen helping him particularly as Wymer only continued trying grab his meal and the would-be meal only continued standing like a bewildered tasty statue. The good news about this commotion was that gained Gwendolena’s attention. The bad news was that it also caused Deigen and all the much closer guards to draw swords and run toward them.

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