Once Upon a Time – Chap. 49.5

Happy Halloween Everyone! I myself am beyond the age that I think anyone should be for dressing up all cute or creepy and gallivanting the local neighborhood to beg for candy but for anyone who is planning do so, please be safe out there and have fun! The weather just outside my window here in Georgia shows an overcast sky threatening of rain but I hope it will just continue to set the mood rather than make any poor trick or treater wish they’d worn a costume incorporating galoshes. While our story snippet this time isn’t one that will likely bring any fright, it does involve something dark orange and includes mention of monsters. There, you see, it’s perfectly suited for Halloween. Anyhoo, I’m going back to watching scary movies with my hubby and eating popcorn on the couch. (We do have a bowl of candy ready for any trick or treaters but if we have repeat of last year, this will simply mean we have a big bowl of candy to eat on November 1st.).

CarrotAfter Gwendolena finished pouring the last cup of tea, she continued being a good hostess by passing around a silver platter with little shortbread cookies and scones. “I was only about knee high to a grasshopper when one day two guards from the Keepers castle came to collect their share of the crops. In times of good harvest, this wasn’t a problem for my parents but that year had been a wretched one barely yielding enough for our little family of four. The Keepers never let anyone off the hook, however, and with all of them being evil magicians, there was only one alternative payment.”

Ian gulped down his first sip of tea. “You mean they would take your soul?

The vampire matched his horrid expression. “Goodness no, that sounds awful. What a dreadful idea. No, no. They would turn you into whatever crops equaled the deficit. If you were a corn farmer, you became corn of course. Pumpkins, well then, you’d eventually become part of a pie. If you grew potatoes, you’d soon enough find yourself being dug up out of the ground to go as a side with roasted chicken.”

“You make it sound as if turning people into vegetables is somehow a barbaric act!” Serena snorted with a scowl. “It was a practical way for our ancestors to relieve those families of debts they couldn’t hope to pay and it was efficient. Do you have any idea how many heads of cabbage one portly farmer can equal?” She nibbled at her raspberry scone. “Quite more than that same useless farmer could force out of the ground themselves, I assure you that!”

“Well my useless farmer family mainly grew carrots and rutabagas.” Gwendolena spoke with a nonchalant air while stirring a lump of sugar into her own tea. “And it simply would have done the farm no good if we all ended up in some soup or casserole. And since my brother was the eldest between us, already helping out on the farm a great deal more than I could actually, my parents gave me to the Keepers.”

Algar slowly lowered his teacup back down to it’s saucer, both looking like part of a fancy child’s play set in his giant ogre hands. “They gave you to the Keepers? I don’t mean to be uncouth but how could any parent do such a thing?”

“They knew I wouldn’t be harmed,” assured Gwendolena. “Young children were handed over as debt payment all the time back in those days. They usually spent a few years doing boring household tasks the Keepers cared little to do themselves and then their families reclaimed them later. Certainly they were never eaten.”

“Although there is that one ghastly incident of legend involving two children and a house made entirely out of gingerbread and candy.” Kirkaronus shook his head. “Poor woman. Those rotten kids ate up the whole thing, chimney and all!” He gave an apologetic nod to Gwendolena. “Sorry for the interruption.”

“Not at all.” Gwendolena refilled his cup before continuing. “Anyhow, it was while carrying out monotonous chores in that castle when I learned of my own magical abilities. Happened quite by accident, really. One day I fancied the idea of my mop and bucket just cleaning those stone floors on their own and, to my surprise, they did just that. Was a shock to the Keepers in there as well, for I apparently had much more skill at that young age than even did any of them. And so, at the age of nine, I’d already changed professions from servant girl to apprentice. By the time my family came by to reclaim me, I simply didn’t want to leave. Who would choose growing carrots and rutabagas over helping to rule the world?”

“An idiot, that’s who.” Serena snorted again. “Which is all anyone who isn’t a Keeper really is. And what does this childhood story have to do with Kirkaronus and me?” She leaned back in the chair and crossed her arms with a nose tilted so high that everyone on the other side of the table could see up her nostrils. “We only granted you the illusion of this momentary truce to have tea and cookies because of the lie you told about having important news.”

“But it isn’t a lie at all. Remember the older brother I mentioned? Well, Raynerus was his name. And oh, he tried to keep up the farm best he could after our parents passed away but it was an uphill battle trying to do it all himself.” She took a sip of tea. “Actually, since our farm rested on the peak of a small mountain it was quite literally an uphill battle. Full moons never helped of course, the change always came upon him and he’d wake up the next morning to find his clothes torn and the land ravaged.”

“Wow, really?” Ian stood up halfway out of his seat and leaned over the table excitedly like a child listening to campfire ghost stories. “I mean, sure you have zombies, vampires, trolls—

“Ah hem,” Algar cleared his throat and narrowed his eyes, “I happen to be an ogre thank you very much.”

“Sorry, zombies, vampires, and ogres.” Ian turned back to Gwendolena, still giddy. “But werewolves are my favorite monster of all time! I dressed up as one at least three times when I went trick or treating!”

The vampire raised a brow. “Trick or treating? I’m not familiar with this custom. And apologies, but what in the world is a werewolf?”

“Well,” Ian gave a sheepish look at all the eyes upon him before answering, “trick or treating is when you dress up like a monster or something and go knocking on doors from house to house, collecting candy. And werewolf, that’s just a person that turns into a giant wolf whenever there’s a full moon.” He shrugged at Gwendolena’s increasingly perplexed face. “Thought you said your brother ravaged the land whenever there was a full moon?”

“Not because he turned into a wolf, dear boy!” Gwendolena let out a hearty laugh. “Goodness, what a bizarre thing that would be. And I must say, you have some peculiar customs in your land. People give you candy just because you dress up like something you’re not and knock on their door?”

“We only do it once a year.” Ian shrugged again. “So what did your brother Raynerus turn into every full moon that caused him to ravage the land then?”

“What else? A wererabbit.”

Ian plopped back down into his chair, his excitement completely deflated. “A wererabbit?”

Gwendolena nodded. “Yes, yes a giant rabbit. And the rutabagas were usually fine afterward but all the other crops were eaten up.” She sighed and shook her head sadly while reaching down for her teacup again. “Especially the carrots, not a single one would be left.”

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