Once Upon a Time – Chap. 49.4


A moment later, the stranger who had yet to offer a name began making his flat, open box perform more mysterious wonders. Deigen, Seth, and V watched in awe as his fingers tapped little squares bearing letters on the box’s bottom half and which somehow transformed the words and pictures appearing on the box’s top half.

Deigen shook his head, not understanding half of what he witnessed before his own eyes. “Pardon, but what is it that you’re doing?”

“Going on the Internet.” The stranger stopped typing and waited for the top half of the box to finish changing again. “Sorry, looks like my connection’s a little slow. The best way to find this person you’re hunting for is most likely going to be with Google.”

“Ah I see.” V leaned in over the stranger’s shoulder. “So this Internet and this Google, they are your oracles here then?”

“Some people think so.” The stranger gave V an uneasy glance until the vampire leaned back to his standing position. “So, what’s this guy’s name?”

Deigen cleared his throat and took a deep breath before answering as though he were announcing the person’s arrival. “Raynerus, former ruler of the Kingdom of Fools and only son of Nalter from the Emerald Plains!”

The stranger started tapping his lettered squares again. “You know what, I’m going start with just the first name on that.” He waited while the top of the box changed again to show a list of words close to the name but not quite. “Um, are you sure it’s not Rayner or something?”

“Quite sure, he was our only leader in the Kingdom of Fools back before it went by that name.” V frowned. “Even your oracles can not find him here?”

“Well maybe my oracles just need a little more information.” The stranger posed his fingers over the squares again. “What’s his last name?”

Deigen matched V’s deepening frown, both of their fangs drooping down in disappointment. “What I just told you. He’s the only son of Nalter so he’s Raynerus, son of Nalter.”

“From the Emerald Plains,” quickly added V.

The stranger raised both hands up to bury his face in them. “But that’s not a last name,” sighed the muffled complaint. “Raynerus, son of Nalter from the Emerald Plains isn’t how we do things around here, at least not since the Middle Ages or whatever.” He dropped back down and turned his chair around the face the three monsters. “Take me for example, my name’s Aaron and my dad’s name is Jack Hogendieger, but I don’t go by Aaron, son of Jack.”

Deigen nodded at him. “Pleased to meet you, Aaron, son of Jack.”

“No, no, no.” Aaron pointed at himself. “I’m Aaron, Aaron Hogendieger.” As all three monsters mumbled their mouths in silent attempts to pronounce his last name, he sighed again. “Just call me Aaron.”

“That’s a great name, Aaron, and I’m Seth.” The zombie finally joined in the conversation again while using his only remaining hand to point toward himself and the two vampires. “And this is V and Deigen. Now that we’re all acquainted, let’s speed things along here because we really need to find this person and get back to where we came from.” He nodded at the thin, flat box. “Can your contraption there really help us?”

“I thought it could.” Aaron glanced back at his laptop. “But none of you seem to have a lot of helpful information to go on, your vampire pal just has a magic sword or something to find them, and wait,” he jerked his head back to Seth, “how did the three of you get here anyway? How are you going to get back?”

Seth reached into his pocket and held up the stone puzzle fragment. “With this.”

Aaron raised a brow. “With a rock?”

“It’s not just any rock,” said Deigen excitedly. “It’s merely a piece of, hey wait”—he looked from the fragment piece to Seth and back again—“I thought Gwendolena gave you the whole puzzle before we came here and just kept the fragment piece herself in chapter 47?”

“True,” Seth tossed the fragment up and down in his hand, “but remember when she and Ian spoke together in the beginning of chapter 49? She said she kept the larger portion of the puzzle and even showed it to him.”

V placed a hand on his comrade vampire’s shoulder. “Remember Deigen, this is a rough draft after all and the author’s bound to catch themselves making a small error or two from time to time.”

Deigen waved his hands at the stone fragment. “Small error! But we went from Seth having nearly the whole puzzle with us to”—he dropped the hands—“fine, moving on, Seth just has a fragment of the puzzle and that’s how we’re getting back.” He turned back to Aaron. “Anymore questions?”

“Well, just one.” Aaron shrugged. “Who’s this Raynerus, son of Nalter anyway? And what does he have to do with you three?”

“Ah.” V pulled out one of the other chairs at the kitchen table and sat down. “That explanation actually has a much earlier beginning.”


“This is my favorite teapot in the whole world,” said Gwendolena while pouring into dainty porcelain cups for her many guests gathered around the table. “Used to be my mother’s when I was just a little girl but, oh my, that was some time ago. Quite some time, give or take a few hundred years actually. I lived with my brother and parents on a little farm about a month’s travel from here. Badlands is what us locals called it. I suppose ‘stubborn collection of rocks and dirt that refuses to grow anything’ would have been a longer word for home than anyone needs to bother with. The Keepers who ruled that area called it Emerald Plains but,” she let out a chuckle, “anyone who’s ever ventured so far south knows that whole stretch of land is the complete opposite on both counts.”

The teapot she poured from, bearing two simple flowers on its front, looked far too tiny to have managed even the number of cups it already filled. The table everyone sat at was the castle’s main dining table and the guests gathered around it included two very uncomfortable looking Keepers who had finally come down the hill.


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