Category Archives: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time – Chap. 51.4

Serena_and_tophat

Serena’s pout furled its corners up into the impish grin that so often smeared itself across the lower half of her face. She turned to Kirkaronus and waited until he continued playing copycat enough to match her expression before chortling at Raynerus and the others. “What do I care if some useless henchman possessing more stomach than brains chooses to switch sides?” She raised her hand and made a swirling motion in the air that somehow caused a miniature cyclone to snatch the top hat from Raynerus and whisk it way to her wiggling and ready fingers. Placing the hat upon her head, Serena tilted the brim and let out another wicked laugh. “Especially since it would now appear that I have the precious antidote as you like to call it! So what do you have to say to me now?”

Raynerus cocked his head to the side, seeming to give her new look a quick study. “I’m not certain it quite suites you.”

“Hmmm, certainly not.” Gwendoloena agreed while giving the gloating nemesis a disapproving shake of her head. “Serena, dear sweet, you have an absolutely lovely face but I’m afraid it’s just not one for hats, at least not a top hat of all things.”

For a moment, Serena looked as though she’d swallowed an ice cube at their responses but recovered quickly. “I’m not asking how this stupid thing looks on me, I asking how it feels to know that you failed! To know that I possess the only hope any of you had of anything but defeat!”

“And just as easily as she claimed that top hat, I will take the rest.” added Kirkaronus as he eyed the stone puzzle in Gwendoloena’s hand along with the fragment still held by Seth. “And then we will be unstoppable and rule over you all!”

“Well, if that’s all you’re wanting,” Gwendoloena spoke as if this were the first time she’d heard of such high aspirations, “why make anyone wait one more minute?” Without another word, she plucked the lone piece from Seth who was too surprised and confused by her actions to do anything but watch. Then, after sliding the piece into its proper place, Gwendoloena grabbed the completed stone puzzle with both hands and hurled it in the air toward them. Not quite prepared to so easily have the object of his desire literally in arms reach, Kirkaronus clumsily lunged forward over the table and nearly caught the puzzle with his head rather than open hands.

Up to this point, Sylvia had watched the back and forth banter between good and evil along with everyone else in the room and maintained the same shocked silence one might reserve for a particularly enthralling play. Seeing both magical artifacts just handed over to the enemy however was simply too much for her to remain a wallflower. “What are you doing!” she yelled, flailing her arms in the air as though she might take flight. “You just gave them everything they wanted!”

“As any of our underlings should willingly do and such a thing you will learn to do yourself.” Serena straightened the top hat and lifted her chin proudly in the air. The chin plummeted back down as she noticed Kirkaronus staring at her. “What are you gawking at? Fine, the hat looks horrible on me, everyone’s made that clear. You can wear it if you really want to but then give me that puzzle!”

“It’s, it’s not that. It’s the hat and you.” Kirkaronus pointed at the tip of his own nose while cautiously leaning in closer to inspect hers. “You have something”—he tapped a finger at his nose’s tip—“there.”

“Something, what something?” Serena grabbed one of the serving spoons from the table to use as a mirror. Her jaw dropped at the reflection, which showed that not only had the hat’s band changed to a moldy green color but the tip of her nose matched the unpleasant hue perfectly. In the few seconds it took for her to blink, the color crept up further.

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 51.3

 

Wymer_and_cookies

Kirkaronus mirrored Serena’s actions of leaning over the table, narrowing his eyes at the group’s most rotund member. “Wymer, is that you?”

Wymer, who had been trying his best to remain hidden behind Raynerus and Seth, stepped forward with a loud gulp. The bag of iced oatmeal cookies remained clenched in the terrified henchman’s hands and he now held to it like some sort of sugary security blanket. “Oh yes, hi, hello.” His voice cracked halfway through the greeting’s forced cheerfulness. “Miss much while I was gone?”

“You’re supposed to be a zombie!” Though she yelled from across the table, Serena’s reprimand held more confusion than any real sense of scolding. “How are you normal again? Your should be chasing after every living thing close to you and trying to devour them!”

“Ah.” Raynerus sidestepped to Wymer and put an arm over his shoulder. “He isn’t much of a listener as far as henchmen for megalomaniacs go these days, is he? But I’m afraid I’m to blame for his current condition of reverting back to his former self.” Raynerus paused a moment while he seemed to bounce his own words around in his head and shrug them off as making enough sense to work. “You see, I devised this antidote,” he tilted the top hat in his other hand, “to that ugly stone plate looking thing your lot came up with ages ago,” he raised a disapproving brow at the fragment still in Seth’s hand. “And Wymer was the first person ever to prove that my magic could overcome yours. So quite simply,” Raynerus patted Wymer on the back, “this fellow proved that good is both stronger and more fashionable than evil.”

“Rubbish on both counts.” Serena snorted at him. “And you may have managed to change that fool from a zombie back into a person but if there’s one thing evil can count on, it’s loyalty.” She snapped her fingers at Wymer. “Wymer, come here!”

The henchman pouted with a heavy sigh. As he began trudging toward his masters, Seth stepped in his path. “Wymer, what are you doing?”

Wymer nodded toward Serena. “She told me I need to go over there with her and Kirkaronus.”

“But Wymer, they turned you into a zombie earlier. And they keep putting you in harms way while trying to achieve their plans. I think you can safely consider this moment as an opportune time to announce your resignation.”

“No one resigns from being a henchman except by death in the course of their duties!” Serena pointed a ruby tipped finger toward the floor and made a jabbing motion at the open space beside her. “Wymer get over here now!”

Wymer’s pout deepened as he looked back and forth between Serena’s reddened face and Seth’s rather grotesque and rotting one. “But I’m not a good guy like you people are. I wish I was.”

“You know, Wymer.” Raynerus tapped him on the shoulder. “That hat of mine wouldn’t have likely changed you back from being a monster if you weren’t really a good at heart.”

The henchman’s face brightened. “Really?”

“Oh goodness, Wymer, that’s what I tried to tell you when we first met and I did the goblet test on you and Seth.” Gwendoloena leaned in and gave him a side hug. “You wear the right color cloak to look the part of being an evil henchman darling but outward appearances mean nothing.”

“Wymer!” Serena’s voice shrieked this time. “Do you want to get over here as I commanded or stand there and perish with your new friends?”

“Wymer remember,” Gwendoloena’s calm and gentle tone came as a soothing balm in comparison, “our side has cookies and scones.”

Wymer’s eyes drifted down to the bag of iced oatmeal deliciousness still tucked away in his clammy hands. Without another moment’s hesitation, he stepped back and put his chin up in silent defiance of Serena and Kirkaronus.

Raynerus nodded approvingly and smiled. “I find it no surprise that apparently cookies can help defeat evil just as well.”

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 51.2

Gwen_and_Raynerus

While hushed whispers of conversation emanated from half the table and open-mouthed stares plastered themselves upon the other half who remained silent, Gwendoloena cheerfully slid out of her chair to welcome the guests back home. Though obviously happy to see everyone made a safe return, it came as no surprise that she ran straight for Raynerus and lifted him up in a twirling bear hug that even included tossing him into the air.

“Dear sister, it’s grand to see you again but I must say you’re making me a tad dizzy.” Raynerus laughed and took a few wobbly steps backward after she set him back down.

“I didn’t think I would ever see you again!” As if the statement made her suddenly take notice of his appearance, Gwendoloena’s eyes widened.“But look, you’ve changed! No fangs even, how did you managed that?”

“I became a dentist.” He replied with a shrug. “It’s an occupation that involves pulling out bad teeth, helping to straighten crooked ones, and keep the good teeth shiny and white.”

“Ah, I see.” She nodded knowingly. “So then you are still truly at heart a magician.”

Raynerus nodded back. “Essentially.”

Before Gwendoloena could say a word to anyone else in the group, a shrill woman’s voice bellowed out from one of the guests sitting at the table.“Do you really expect me to believe that stranger over there is your brother? The one who used to call himself king of this pathetic excuse of a castle?”

“No, of course I don’t.” Gwendoloena turned to face the voice’s owner, Serena, who stood bent halfway over the table with a menacing scowl. “Because finding him alive and well is nothing short of a miracle and I would never assume you the sort of person to believe in such things. Fortunately however, the truth is something that never waits on anyone believing it to be real.” She put a hand on Raynerus’ shoulder and nearly shouted the rest of her words out. “He is my brother, he did lead this castle before me, and he will help put an end to your plans of ruling our world once and for all!” Gwendoloena leaned in toward him and whispered. “You are still planning to help us with that small matter even after all this time aren’t you?”

“Yes, yes of course,” he whispered back.

“Did you managed to create a way to counteract the stone puzzle’s power?” asked Gwendoloena’s next whisper.

Her brother said nothing this time but lifted up the top hat in his hand.

Gwendoloena raised a brow before continuing their hushed conversation.“Still have a thing for hats I see.”

“Of course.” He lowered the hat. “I had to start a new collection obviously but this one is my favorite of the new one.”

“No worries, I still have all 187 of the hats you left here before disappearing.”

“Splendid!” Raynerus raised his own brow at the still scowling face in front of them. “I say, Gwendoloena, you chastised that woman for plans to rule the world and both she and the gentleman sitting next to her are dressed in robes adorned with the Keepers motif. Did you happen to invite our sworn enemies to this tea party of yours?”

“Of course. I decided we should put a pause on all this war rubbish so everyone could enjoy some scones and refreshments.” She pouted at him. “It would have been quite rude not to let them join us, don’t you think?”

Raynerus gave a lighthearted sigh in return. “Still the most hospitable hostess who ever lived I see.”

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 51.1

Hello and hope everyone had a wonderful New Year’s! Mine involved watching Doctor Who while drinking brandy and watching fireworks over the hill so all in all, I’d say not a bad way to welcome in 2016.  🙂

I’ve said before that blog snippets are not the fastest method of travel in the grand chapter to chapter scheme of things but it’s high time we finally saw our friends make their homecoming. So without further adieu…

Welcome_Back

Roughly half an hour later, the closet in Ian’s bedroom found itself cramped once again. In front of the huddled mob of a line stood Seth who held the stone puzzle in front of him with his rotting hand. Behind him, Raynerus tilted his magic top hat and stretched his other arm out as best he could to prepare for a welcoming wave to everyone back home. V seemed more inclined to believe danger would greet them back and stood ready with his sword drawn toward the ceiling. Between him and Raynerus, a very human and still very hungry Wymer munched on iced oatmeal cookies from a now half-empty bag. Bringing up the rear was Deigen with a shirt and vest still bearing the sticky scars of his soda bottle trouble. Within seconds of Aaron pushing the closet door behind them, the stone puzzle emitted what began as a candlelight glow but quickly swelled to a blinding blaze of light.

V hopelessly tried to look ahead of them with one eye squinted. “Seth, can you lower that thing or something? I might as well not even bother having my sword out if I can’t see!”

The zombie tried lowering the stone puzzle but it made absolutely no difference and continued making everyone wish for the closet’s pitch darkness to return.

“Seth,” Raynerus tapped him on the shoulder, “I believe you need to walk forward now. We all do in fact.”

“But there’s a wall right in front of me and the door behind Deigen, how can we move anywhere?” Even as he argued against the possibility to do so, Seth attempted stretching his right foot out in front of him – and succeeded. Confused, he did so with his left and found himself actually walking forward. Being a zombie proved beneficial in this impossible endeavor as each step came naturally slow and cautious. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. He ceased his blind march when the puzzle’s light finally fizzled back down to a glow and then extinguished itself entirely. As his eyes adjusted themselves, Seth stared down at the stone puzzle still resting in the palm of his hand. “I don’t understand, did this just make it so we could walk through that closet wall? I thought it was supposed to take us back home.”

“Eh, Seth?” Deigen grinned and joined Raynerus and V (who refused to put his sword down just yet) in waving at the faces in front of them. “You may want to look up.”

Seth slowly raised his head and found not a wall before him but Gwendoloena’s massive wooden dining table with everyone seated around it for what appeared to be the largest tea party he’d ever witnessed.

 

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 50.5

Best_Cookies

Seth bent forward and peered at Wymer as though the man stood a mile away rather than close enough to poke in the eye. “Wymer, are you alright? How do you feel?”

The pudgy henchman glanced at his stomach that growled loud enough for everyone to hear. “Hungry mostly.”

“Of course you’re hungry.” Raynerus waved a hand and reclaimed his top hat, placing it on the table. “That’s just a side effect of having been a zombie and thinking only with your stomach, it’ll pass.”

“No, that’s pretty much his normal state of things actually,” said Deigen.“So the hat worked? You’ve really removed the curse from him then?”

“Well, I suppose we should probably test that to be fully certain.” Raynerus panned his eyes across the kitchen counters and eyed a bag of iced oatmeal cookies lying near the toaster. After grabbing the bag in his right hand, he walked back over to stand next to Aaron on his left.

“Wymer, which would you rather eat? These delicious cookies,” he raised the bag up shoulder level while resting his other arm over Aaron’s shoulders, “or this scrawny and smelly lad here?”

Aaron shoved the shoulder away. “Scrawny and smelly?”

Raynerus shrugged. “In case there’s any remnant of the curse present, it wouldn’t do any good for you to sound appetizing now would it? And I do believe,” he grimaced while leaning in to take a whiff of Aaron, “your continual fright these past few hours and lack of opportunity to apply deodorant have been an unfortunate combination.” He returned his attention to Wymer. “My friend, which would you rather devour?”

Wymer pointed excitedly at the bag of oatmeal cookies. “Those, I’d like to eat those!”

“There, you see?” Raynerus turned to Deigen, V, and Seth. “If the curse weren’t removed, he wouldn’t have chosen the cookies.”
Wymer pouted at the object of his desire being used for example only.

“But I really do want the cookies. Can I have them?”

Raynerus looked at Aaron who gave consent with a nonchalant shrug. After tossing the bag to Wymer, the magician picked up his top hat again with a huge grin. “Dear boy, do you know what this means?”
Aaron raised a brow. “I hope something more substantial than I need to take a shower and buy more cookies.”

“It means that myself and all your unexpected guests can,” Raynerus twirled his top hat in the air, “can go home and finally defeat those megalomaniacs trying to rule over everyone!”
At this, Wymer nearly choked behind him. “Go home? All of us?”

“Well, that was the eventual plan from what I’m told.” Raynerus turned to face him. “Is that a problem?”

“But, but,” Wymer made a loud gulping noise though one couldn’t be sure whether due to swallowing down another bite or simply fear, “I was hoping some of us could stay here. Mainly, me.”

“Wymer,” Raynerus took on the tone of a displeased father, “no one’s saying you couldn’t perhaps visit again but I think it’s imperative for you to return with your friends and me. Otherwise, everyone back home might presume you to be a coward trying to avoid confrontation.”

“I would be okay with that. And besides,” Wymer motioned toward Aaron,“I bet he wouldn’t mind me staying here.”

Aaron became nearly as pasty white at the suggestion as it had upon finding four monsters in his kitchen. “Stay here? I barely know you at all and you wanted to eat me for the majority of the short time I have known you!”

“But that’s wasn’t my fault,” argued Wymer. “I’m not a zombie anymore and I can pull my own weight.” His face skewed with doubt at the second part of his promise. “Eh actually though, the only real job I’ve ever had was being a henchman for evil magicians. I don’t suppose anyone around here has need for that?”

“No.” Aaron crossed his arms. “And you can’t stay here.”

“It’s settled then!” Raynerus raised his top hat triumphantly in the air.

“The five of us shall leave for home immediately and, what the”—he lowered the top hat upon hearing a plop, plop noise as drops of liquid fell on it from the ceiling—“I say, either it’s raining indoors or I do believe there’s a leak somewhere.”

“How could there be a leak?” Aaron looked up at the ceiling in confusion.“Ian’s room is the only above this one and he obviously hasn’t been up there.”

“Oh, that would be our fault,” said V, stepping forward. “Actually my fault. I’m afraid I punctured a giant bag of water with my sword up there upon our arrival.” He sighed deeply before continuing his apology. “It wasn’t my intention to do so, but the thinnest music box I’ve ever seen rested atop that giant bag and it began making horrendous sounds. I sought only to end the unnatural noise in case it was part of some spell and attempt to enchant us.”

“Eh,” Raynerus turned to Aaron to translate, “I presume your friend Ian must own a waterbed and apparently he left his cell phone on top of it. But no worries,” he clapped his hands, “I can take care of that problem and have everything dry as it was before we leave!”

Aaron raised a brow. “You know some sort of magical mojo to clean up a water bed flooding the room?”

“Well, it’s meant more for correcting broken dams and the like but,” Raynerus shrugged his shoulders while leading the way upstairs, “same principle really. Helps when fighting off trickster river nymphs and swamp rats too.”

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 50.4

Hello dear readers, though it was warm enough today for me to work on a few Christmas cards outside while wearing a tee shirt (it is December here in Georgia, am I right? Just checking), Christmas is just around the corner. And with next weekend already crazy busy even without that in mind, I am going to be in nooooo shape to even attempt a snippy snippet. So we’ll take a little break and plan to be back in two weeks – but before that, let’s take a peek at what’s going on with this hat…

Wymer_and_hat

“Eh, that’s a smashing top hat my friend but,” Deigen’s eyes darted from the hat to Raynerus and back again, “it doesn’t look like a magical object capable of counteracting any sort of evil notions for world domination.”

Raynerus tossed his hat in the air and caught by the brim. “Looks can be deceiving. See this band?” He circled a finger around the red satin. “The hat itself is quite ordinary but I placed all the magic here and it affects the whole thing, or rather, the person who wears it to be more accurate.”

“But affects them how?” V leaned over the table, peering at the hat. “What does it do to them?”

Raynerus placed the hat on Aaron’s table and turned to his former comrades. “Tell me, does Gwendolena still do that fancy parlor trick of sorts with the goblets that change contents depending on the true nature of the person who holds them?”

While both V and Deigen simply nodded, Seth’s rigid face took on more excitement then anyone had ever seen on the zombie. “Oh, I saw that firsthand! My goblet started off with brains in it and then changed to pea soup!”

“Which should come as no surprise being that your current predicament is merely a result of dying in a cursed land.” Raynerus raised a hand toward him. “Though I’m sure some additional magic was needed to make you able to remember the man you were enough to chat with, you’d no doubt still be a mindless monster if your true nature had been questionable while living.”

Aaron glanced at his laundry closet. “Um, is that why the other zombie has to stay in there? Cause his true nature or whatever was questionable?”

Raynerus shook his head in confusion. “What other zombie?”

As if on cue, the laundry closet doors rattled upon something bumping into them, followed by a muffled growl on the other side.

“Oh that’s just Wymer.” Seth nodded his head sideways toward the growling doors. “He was one of the Keepers henchmen but they turned him into a zombie when he showed signs of wanting to switch to our side. I tried helping him best I could but the change completely took him over. He’s nothing like me now, just your typical zombie that can’t think past its ravenous stomach.”

Raynerus eyed the laundry doors. “You say he didn’t die before becoming a zombie, the Keepers just placed a curse on him? And he no longer wanted to help them before becoming one?”

“I don’t think he ever truly wanted to help them at all.” Seth shrugged. “But he was also not someone I’d say had a whole lot of integrity or dependability. Your sister gave him a goblet at the same time she tested me. While mine changed from brains to soup, his goblet contents changed from mead to water. She didn’t seem to think that end result was promising of him keeping to either side.”

“No, it’s the type of thing you’d see for someone who’s likely to go with whichever party is winning at the time,” agreed Raynerus. “But the fact that he even showed inclination to go against them, hmmm.” He slowly turned from the doors to face them again. “Did he ever show any sign of being more than a wishy-washy man after his own interests? Anything at all that might be considered an act of selflessness?”

“Well,” Deigen shared a look with V and Seth, “he did run to the rescue of a young girl near the beginning of our battle. She was surrounded by a bunch of zombies and he pulled her away from them, carried her over to us.”

Raynerous snapped his fingers. “Absolutely splendid, then there’s hope for this Wymer fellow yet.” He picked up his hat again and twirled it around. “And he’s the perfect person to finally try this out on.”

“Try it out? You”—V blinked several times before finishing his sentence—“you mean you’ve never tested that magical hat of yours on anyone before?”

“Who ever would I have tested it on in good conscience?” asked Raynerous indignantly. “If I was even the least bit off when putting the whole spell together then, well, the results could be ghastly. It might turn a normally fine person into a monster rather than the other way around. And I certainly couldn’t have risked testing it on myself with that possible dire consequence.” He turned back to the closet doors. “But the person on the other side there is already in the most horrible state he could be in, the worst my hat could do is nothing. But if it works then the man who called himself Wymer may not be so out of reach as you think.” Raynerous stood, holding the top hat out in front of him like a fashionable shield. “Let him out if you please.” As a nearly a full minute passed with no one at the table moving an inch, he turned while still keeping his top hat stretched before him. “Eh, I did say please did I not?”

“I don’t think letting Wymer out is a good idea.” Seth pointed at Aaron. “The first thing he’ll do is try to eat him.”

“Well of course he will, but there’s four of us to one hungry zombie and I think the odds are in Aaron’s favor that we can protect him if need be.” Raynerus shook his head. “Besides, you lot are going to have to let him out of there eventually aren’t you? Or were you planning on just leaving him in Aaron’s closet when we go back home, which by the way, I’m assuming might be the plan?”

V, Deigen, and Seth exchanged glances again before Seth finally wobbled his way over to the closet doors. “Okay, you have a point but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

When one of the sliding doors became open, the growling and thrashing ceased. Wymer cautiously poked his head from over the still closed half, seeming to question his sudden freedom. Then, as his eyes fell upon the newly terrified Aaron, Wymer bounded for him (at least as fast as such a word could be attributed to a clumsy and slow-moving monster). While Aaron yelped and tried to hide under the table, Raynerus rushed up and planted his hat firmly on Wymer’s head.

The hat itself did nothing remarkable but the red satin band certainly put on a show. First glowing so brightly that everyone in the room needed to shield their eyes, the band then appeared to change both color and form. Shifting from the solid red to an iridescent blob, it looked as though a ring of water or perhaps a bubble now encircled the hat’s lower half. The zombie underneath had stopped moving entirely by this point, whether due to magic or just pure bewilderment one couldn’t be sure. But one thing was certain – the zombie was changing as well. Grayish and ghastly skin gave way to the ruddy and very alive skin tone Wymer’s associates had seen on him before. His vacant and colorless eyes found their way back as well and, within seconds, the pudgy henchman seemed his former self. The hat’s band made its own transition to normalcy, though not exactly back to its original state for the satin material now beheld a canary yellow color.

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 50.3

Raynerus_top_hat

For the next ten minutes or so, Raynerus continued to share highlights of his life after finding himself stranded in Aaron’s world from losing the two stone puzzle pieces. This included tales of valor, such as using his vampire speed and strength to help fight crime in different cities that he moved to. (He held suspicion of inspiring at least one comic book hero due to his preference of wearing a cape and mask when performing this odd community service). It also included less supernatural yet benevolent actions such as forming a rabbit rescue charity (an interest which made perfect sense for someone who turned into a giant rabbit every full moon). Yet all while telling these tales, he still had yet to utter a word about the most pressing thing on V, Deigen, and Seth’s minds.

“Eh, Raynerus,” Deigen held a hand up to make his friend pause in the middle of chatting more about the rabbit nonprofit, “it sounds like you’ve helped quite a lot of those little furry critters—

“We’ve rescued and rehabilitated over 1,000.” Raynerus gave a prideful nod. “And we found loving homes for all of our adorable rabbits.”

“I’m so very happy for them,” Deigen spoke quicker this time in attempt to avoid any more mention of adorable rabbits, “but what about the puzzle you were working on? The one you were making to offset the Keepers’ stone puzzle?”

“Ah yes, yes.” Raynerus turned in his chair and reached into a large yellow bag that he’d brought with him. While it looked like any typical cloth shopping bag environmentally sound folks might use for groceries, its contents were more of the fashionable nature as he pulled out a gray top hat with a large red satin band.

 

Since this was a bit of a micro snippet, and also since it’s been a while since the first animation I posted, this seems like a fine time to include another one!

I’ve had a little monster guy as the banner for this blog for long time but I think it’s time…he moved. Now mind you, this is just another test and the original image was just the same one that has always graced the top of this page so not quite Pixar quality certainly – but I still think he’s adorable!

Little_Monster_TEST

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 50.2

Unless my computer’s clock is lying to me, it is just a wee bit past midnight as I post this and that of course means I’m posting a tad bit late (though with the wonderful existence of time zones, I’m still on time or even early somewhere…just not where I live). 1,000 apologies and one huge hug for my lateness – or one apology and 1,000 hugs, take your pick. Either way, please enjoy this late Saturday/early, early Sunday snippet!

Raynerus_teeth

Aaron’s kitchen table now beheld both the oddest assortment of guests seated around it and likely the greatest range of emotions it had ever seen as well. From Aaron’s own fear still nearly powerful enough to bolt him out of his chair to the combination of relief and confusion felt by V, Deigen, and Seth. In between these somewhat extremes rested Raynerus’ own easy-going cheerfulness that one would not expect someone to have given the rather unusual circumstances.

“So Aaron,” Raynerus paused just long enough to take another sip of his carrot juice, “how’s the filling doing?”

“Just fine, thank you very much for asking.” Aaron spoke so quickly that the few words he’d uttered out nearly sounded like one of those single musical multiple syllable ones in a foreign language that only a native tongue can properly dance with.

Deigen leaned slightly over the table toward his former king and friend. “Eh, Raynerus, everyone thought you’d perished with that great explosion or whatever it was back when you shattered the stone puzzle. Your sister was the one who figured out that you must have made your way to this place but,” he waved a hand toward Aaron, “how did you find yourself employed as a dentist?”

“I’ve had many occupations since my arrival here.” Raynerus refilled his own glass with more carrot juice from a flask he carried with him. “When I first arrived, and after figuring out that I was quite far away from home, a traveling circus became my first employer. First group of friends here really and perhaps the perfect lot for me to have found for they were largely all considered freaks like me.” Raynerus stood from his chair and gave a slight bow. “I was the albino walrus man of course and then there—

“Albino walrus man?” V huffed. “But that’s not what you were at all, you were a vampire who—

“Who didn’t exactly fit the image of what a vampire is supposed to look like for everyone here apparently so I went with the title the circus gave me and happily made it my own.” Raynerus stood up out of his bow and crossed his arms at V. “If you can rudely interrupt me then it’s only fair play for me to the do the same. Now if you don’t mind though, I’d like to finish where I was before you did so?” He waited for an apologetic nod from V before continuing. “And then there was the bearded woman, her husband the strongman, and a whole gang of other wonderful people that became my second family. But being a vampire rather than a walrus man, I unfortunately outlived every one of them and the traveling circus itself. Work was a little harder to come by after that, what with having canines the length of steak knives and the complexion of a glass of milk. And being a wererabbit to top it all off, I simply couldn’t trust myself around any farmer’s field of delectable vegetables near a full moon. But,” he plopped back down in his chair and took a gulp of carrot juice, “I still had two pieces of that stone puzzle with me at the time and I knew that as long as they were with me then the Keepers wouldn’t be able to put it back together.”

“But those must be the two pieces that came from this world back home then,” said Seth. The zombie tilted his head toward Aaron. “One of them sent his friend Ian there and the other was in the possession of a young woman named Sylvia.”

Deigen snapped his fingers. “Ah yes, and her grandfather was the one who stumbled into our land with it.”

Raynerus raised a brow. “You don’t say? Hmm, and I’d just as well assumed those two pieces were both never to found again. Well, at least I know what finally became of them after I lost them in the shipwreck.”

“Shipwreck?” All three monsters asked in unison, causing Aaron to look around as if he’d missed some unspoken cue.

“Yes, yes the blasted shipwreck,” groaned Raynerus. “My initial plan was to remain in these fair lands until I’d had chance to complete my own stone puzzle and then use those two fragments I had to get back home. But since I feared destroying anyone’s farm if remaining on land, I sought the sea for my next job and served as a crew member on quite a few ships for a while. In time, I came to find myself on board the Trade Wind. Fine ship, wonderful crew all around.” He let out a heavy sigh and shook his head. “But neither of that stood a chance against that snow storm we found ourselves in and colliding with another ship while on our way to Chicago back in 1853. The Trade Wind’s only lifeboat was actually destroyed in the collision before the ship itself began to sink. Our cargo of cast iron stoves and iron all went down to the bottom of the sea, along with those two puzzle pieces which I guess I hadn’t tucked into my shirt pocket as well as I thought.” [Author’s note – some things you just can’t make up. Click on the highlighted link to learn a little more about the real Trade Wind shipwreck].

“But,” Aaron leaned in this time, seeming to have overcome his fear for a brief moment, “you survived that obviously. How?”

“Ah,” Raynerus raised his glass in a toast fashion. “Our cargo also happened to include two brand new lifeboats that we were taking to Chicago. Myself and all the other members of the crew were able to hop in those beauties and keep from joining the stoves and iron.”

“It seems you managed to lose your teeth over time as well.” Deigen cocked his head at Raynerus. “I’m sure you managed that brawny skin with a bit of simple magic but even your sister has never been able to hide the teeth. How did you manage having those normal looking ones?”

“The same way this lad Aaron knows me.” Raynerus shrugged, “I happened to become good friends with a dentist and he was kind enough to replace my less desirable teeth with two very nice implants. I became intrigued with his work after that, ending a toothache or pulling two fangs out seemed like magic even to me. And so eventually, I decided became a dentist myself.” He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out two frighteningly long canines. “But I kept the old teeth for good luck though, see?”

Aaron made a sour face at the teeth now adorning the center of his kitchen table. “You keep your old vampire teeth in your pocket for good luck? Isn’t that a little silly?” His frown became longer at inspecting them further. “And they both still have crusted up blood and junk from where you pulled them, gross!”

Raynerus snorted a chuckle while returning the canines back to his pocket. “Well, apologies for just tossing them on your table but I would say carrying them around is no more silly or gross than how some of you people carry a poor rabbit’s foot around with you.”

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 50.1

Raynerus_in_chair

To our three friends, the logical and quickest course of action after finding the whereabouts of their fellow monster would have been to go directly to him. Aaron, however, pointed out that the dentist office listed in the ad would not be open for business until 9am and it was only nearing 5am at the moment.

After a painfully long four hours that involved their still slightly terrified host introducing the group to more strange cuisine (this time, powdered donuts and coffee for breakfast – both of which Seth refused to sample), time for reunion came. Or so they thought until Aaron once again became the bearer of bad news. Getting to the office would involve traveling in something called a car since horses were apparently an archaic mode of transportation here. V refused to ride in any sort of mechanical carriage and Aaron hated any idea of leaving even one of the monsters alone at his home nearly as much as the thought of them exploring his world. He seemed convinced that the latter option would likely either cause extreme panic upon anyone seeing them or begin the zombie apocalypse if Seth and Wymer tagged along. Despite Seth’s assurances that he was fairly certain this wouldn’t occur, Aaron wasn’t willing to risk civilization as he knew it on fairly certain and instead tried to reach Dr. Nerus on a tiny box he called a cell phone. After trying to speak to the dentist directly and getting hung up on by his receptionist twice, they finally did reach Raynerus, former ruler of the Kingdom of Fools – who promptly cancelled all remaining appointments for the day and now sat with them at Aaron’s table, drinking a bottle of carrot juice.

Rather than the dentist garb Aaron typically saw him in, he wore a somewhat outlandish outfit that included maroon pants and a purple jacket with gold shoulder pads and lined with silver in the front. Deigen and V naturally recognized the ensemble as what their friend wore many, many, many years ago – but rather than bearing the same albino pale skin and fangs they remembered, he had a rather nice tan and normal yet very white teeth.

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 49.7

Doctor_Nerus_AD

“So, I guess we’re back to my original question.” Aaron’s voice started off in soprano before cracking itself back into its normal octave. He scooted his chair to the end of the table this time, increasing the distance from his guests to the extent of nearly becoming impolite. “How are you going to find this Raynerus, son of Nalter?”

“Well,” V raised his sword and sighed at the blade, “we originally thought this would be all we needed but you may be right that he could be hundreds of miles from here.” The vampire let the sword fall to the kitchen floor with a loud clang while nodding at Aaron’s laptop. “And it appeared that your oracle in a box there could help us but I fear we simply don’t have enough information for it.”

While the vampires and Aaron sat in silence for a moment, Seth cocked his head and studied the other items lying on the table. Then, letting out a moan that ended as a growl, he suddenly lurched forward toward the end of the table where Aaron sat at.

“Get away from me!” yelped Aaron, swinging his arms and legs at the zombie as if they were fighting each other under water.

Seth, however, simply stood perplexed in front of the frightened host and watched him fall backwards and out of his chair.

“Seth, what are you doing?” demanded Deigen, hastily grabbing V’s sword from the floor and pointing the blade at him. “Gwendolena didn’t send us here to eat people.”

“And I’m not trying to.” The zombie picked up a thick newspaper from the table and shook it at him. “But this appears to be some sort of informational literature and I thought taking a look at it couldn’t hurt. Clearly I was wrong.” He turned to Aaron as the poor, panic-stricken man shakily stood back up. “Sorry, I really didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“But,” Aaron let out a loud gulp, “but you talked about eating brains just a moment ago and then you lurched toward me.”

“I’m a zombie and you were all talking about food so…,” Seth let the rest of his statement trail off into an unspoken apology this time with a shrug. “And I wasn’t lurching for you, I was reaching for this.” He held the newspaper up again. “Am I right that it’s another information source?”

“Technically but nobody really reads those anymore, at least I don’t.” Aaron nodded at the newspaper while reclaiming his seat. “Ian subscribed to getting the Sunday issue delivered here a while back though for some reason. If you ask me, that’s an ancient way of getting any kind of news.”

Seth’s legs and back made several frightening popping sounds as he sat back down but the zombie barely seemed to notice. “Well, I’m far more familiar with my information being delivered on paper rather than anything like your magic box over there so I’ll give this a try if you don’t mind.”

During the entirety of Seth and Aaron’s conversation, Deigen had taken it upon himself to finish off the bag of cheese-flavored cylinders. Now the vampire leaned back in his chair with crossed arms and a face that would have possessed a somber seriousness if not for the amusing ring of cheese powder covering him from nose to chin. “So then gentlemen, what shall we do?”

“I think first,” V elbowed Deigen and made a wiping motion with a hand over his own mouth until his comrade understood the gesture and began to wipe away the powder. “We should devise a search plan, one that can cover as much ground as possible.”

A thud and muffled growl emitted from the closed laundry room door behind Aaron. A louder thud caused the thin wooden door itself to shake before the commotion ceased entirely. “Um,” Aaron gave an uneasy glance toward the laundry room, “your other friend’s been in there for a while now. Are you sure we shouldn’t let him out?”

“Not unless you really do want a zombie trying to seize your brain.” Seth turned a page and continued reading. “I may have enough willpower to prevent being so rude but Wymer barely had enough willpower when he was living to keep from eating a cupcake if it was off limits.” He turned another page. “And you, my friend, have a very delicious cupcake lodged inside that head of yours. Not to mention before you even get to the cupcake, there’s layers of candy coated organs like—

“So suffice to say,” Deigen kicked him from under the table, “Wymer is staying put where he is for now.”

“Yes, most definitely.” Seth gave another apologetic shrug to Aaron. “Sorry. I appear to have found myself in the food and entertainment section, was making me hungry.” The zombie turned another page. “Ah, this section is apparently sports, nothing appetizing about that.” He frowned at one of the photos bearing a team of football players in action. “Particularly with these bizarre hats. How would anyone be able to get to the brain with those things on?”

“That’s sort of not the point,” interjected Aaron with another gulp.

“So as I was saying,” V sighed, “we need to devise a plan of how to search for Raynerus.”

“We also need to find him quickly,” said Deigen. “Gwendolena and the others are waiting for our return. It’s not like we have a lot of time on our hands.”

“But this guy could be anywhere in the world.” Aaron flung his hands up. “How are you even going to know where to start?”

Seth turned another page and raised his brow. “I think we should start by going to the dentist. A certain dentist who apparently used to go by a slightly different name and happens to be accepting new patients.” He lifted the page he was reading from and tossed it on the table for everyone to see. In the bottom portion was a small ad bearing a cartoon rabbit carrying a giant toothbrush and the following announcement: ‘Doctor Ray Nerus invites you to HOP on over for his new patient special! Initial Exam and Doctor’s Consultation Free of Charge!’ Underneath the main ad was a second block of text that read ‘Schedule your checkup TODAY!’ and provided the address and phone number for the vampire wererabbit dentist’s office.

“Wonderful, great job Seth!” Deigen gave a cheerful slap upon the table. “That absolutely has to be him!” He shook his head at the ad. “Though I do wish he’d included a drawing of himself rather than that frightful rabbit. Aaron, are you familiar with the location listed here?” After hearing nothing, the vampire looked up at him. “Aaron?”

“Yeah. I went there just last week to get a cavity filled.” Once again, their host looked like he might either faint or bolt out of the room. “Dr. Nerus is my dentist.”

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