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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 51.9

Hello all and happy Saturday! Granted for those of us living where Daylight Saving Time is observed, it’s technically already tomorrow but since that doesn’t officially start until 2am I can still say it’s Saturday for now. Two quick announcements before jumping into our story snippet: 1) I’ll be at a women’s retreat this coming up weekend so there will be no post next Saturday. 2) I was able to finally try my homebrewed beer tonight and it was actually pretty decent – hooray for not creating an undrinkable science experiment, go me! Will probably have a separate post about one of the above in the recent future but for now, on with the snippet!

Albert_brain_vitamins

As Serena positioned herself within arm’s reach of the ceiling, Kirkaronus shook the bird feather in his outstretched hand with even more zeal and hopped up and down under her. For the few seconds before he began speaking again, it looked as though he was making another doomed to fail attempt at joining her in the air. “Serena, what are you doing? Just touch the feather already. You can’t rule the world in that ghastly state you’re in now anyhow!”

“I’m not certain she can really understand you.” Gwendoloena walked around the table and put a hand on his shoulder. “She’s nearly completely transformed into a monster now and all that greed and lust for power is still too strong for any of us to talk sense into her. I suppose there’s only one thing we can really do at this point.”

Kirkaronus let his arm drop and whirled around to face her. “What’s that?”

“We need to give her a cozy place to perch those scaly feet.” Gwendoloena turned to Deigen and V. “Is the cage ready?”

Both of them nodded and spoke in unison. “Yes, your majesty.”

“Have it brought in here at once please.” Gwendoloena looked back at the winged lizard-bird creature hovering above them all. “And perhaps bring some of those raw steaks we kept hand, I’m sure this whole turning into monster business has made her a little hungry. Oh, and she might like that last plate of lemon cookies I left in the kitchen as well.”

Deigen and V again nodded together. “They shall be retrieved at once.”

As the guards set off on their appointed task, Kirkaronus’ face twisted itself back and forth between dismay and confusion. “Cage, what cage? And steaks? Cookies?”

“Well, when you and Serena started doing rude things like turning villagers into birds and trying rule over everyone, I knew my humble little castle would eventually have to put its foot down on the matter. So we began making preparations for that.” Gwendoloena reached over the table and grabbed a sugar cookie still left untouched on someone’s plate. Taking a second to nibble a few bites, she nodded at the Serena monster and continued. “I had a fair hunch that the end result would be some sort of reptile bird creature like that. I mean just consider how greedy and narcissistic most flying dragons are.”

“Eh, Gwendoloena,” Albert made a wary dance of his eyes between the queen and the frightening houseguest that had now flown to another corner of the room. “Please tell me you’re not intending to keep her as a, eh, pet.”

“Well of course not but we do need to give her a place to stay for now.” Gwendoloena nonchalantly nibbled another bite of her cookie. “I’m hoping that eventually she’ll choose to touch the feather and change back but until then I don’t want to risk the chance of her trying to eat anyone.”

“Eat anyone?” Sylvia flung her hands up. “If it’s already a monster that might try to eat people why not just kill it?”

The room itself seemed to let out a shocked gasp as everyone turned to stare at her with mouths agape at the notion.

“Sylvia, really!” Albert slowly shook his head at her. “As both your uncle and a zombie, I’m appalled you would even think to say something like that.”

“And potentially man-eating or not,” Gwendoloena spoke to Sylvia while pointing upward, “that creature up there is a ‘she’ and not an ‘it’ little miss.”

“Okay, so she’s going to be put in cage for everyone’s protection and you’re giving her steaks to eat to make up for not being able to eat people.” Kirkaronus raised a brow. “But why the cookies?”

Gwendoloena clapped her hands. “Because monster or not, everyone deserves to have a cookie every now and then. Everyone loves cookies!”

Seth and Albert exchanged glances, the latter zombie again being the one to speak. “Eh, not every monster necessarily loves cookies I’m afraid.”

“Oh dear, quite right.” Gwendoloena pouted. “Would you happen to still have any of those brain-flavored vitamins of yours just in case her taste buds have taken a turn for the worst as well?”

Albert reached into his pocket and held out the stiff, gray hand missing its pinky finger to reveal two vitamins in his palm. “Made another batch this morning before the battle began. How do you think I’m keeping from trying to eat anyone in here myself?”

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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 51.6

So, here we are a on the a.m. side of Sunday rather than the p.m. side of Saturday. Apologies once again for being a bit later on the snippet than planned. Quite simply, number of hours needed in the day did not quite equal number of actual hours available in the day. Fun random fact I learned tonight is that a day on Venus would equal about 243 Earth days, so if I just moved there then time definitely wouldn’t be a problem. Good news, however, my beer is brewed! Well, no not the actual beer..my wort is sitting happily in a fermenter with what I hope is some equally happy yeast (otherwise the end result in a few weeks will not be very happy at all). I so, so, so wanted to get the home brewing started last weekend but there was just too massive a cleanup needed to the kitchen and, yes, that uncooperative vixen called time refused to be a team player as well.

Gwen_blowing_featherEveryone in the room watched as Gwendoloena blew on the feather in her hand and caused it to take flight over the table. Some, such as Kirkaronus and Serena, watched in apprehensive curiosity of what new surprise might daunt to their world domination plans. Some, such as Sylvia, watched with held breath while hoping for something spectacular to occur when it landed. And some, such as Seth and most of the others, simply watched it in silence while knowing better than to make any assumption of what might happen next. Within a few seconds, Gwendoloena’s feather finished floating and made a gentle descent onto the table to provide the room with the answer as to just what it could do – which seemed to be absolutely nothing from the looks of it.

Kirkaronus looked back and forth between the feather that happened to also be directly in front of him and Gwendoloena before speaking. “It didn’t do anything.”

Gwendoloena nodded and smiled. “Yes it did.”

“Wait a minute!” Serena pushed Kirkaronus aside and bent over the unimpressive feather to inspect it closer. “That’s one of the feathers left over from when we turned those useless villagers into birds. You could have just picked it up off the ground earlier, it’s nothing extraordinary!”

“You’re correct about its origin,” agreed Gwendoloena, “but that’s actually what makes it extraordinary. Yes, this feather is left over from that curse which caused so many people to look different from their normal selves. And appearing to be a bird is certainly more agreeable than appearing to be a monster as others and myself in this room.” She raised a brow at Serena, whose face was now entirely moldy green. “But as my brother tried to explain to you a moment ago, some of us in this room who appeared not be monsters shall soon find themselves revealed for what they truly are.”

“So we’re supposedly monsters because of our greed, pride, and lust for power as you all like to call it then, is that your game? Well looks like the childish illusion you conjured up to prove that only works on her!” Kirkaronus, threw a chin toward Serena while pointing at himself. “Sure, you have her looking frightening enough but I haven’t changed one bi”—he sucked in a gasp of air upon catching glimpse of his pointing hand and realizing it too had begun to take on a greenish tone—“but, but, wait, how can this be happening to me?”

Gwendoloena walked toward him, stopping at her side of the table. “Because just as the villagers were foolish and unaware of themselves when you turned them into birds, your own pride blinds you to the point of being a fool.” She turned her head to nod at Seth and Albert, two of the more obvious monsters in the room. “Just as a zombie suffers insatiable hunger,” she turned back to Kirkaronus, “your greed rekindles itself with each new possession you steal. And just as a vampire must deal with a form of unquenchable thirst,” she gave a heavy sigh over her own current state, “your desire for power would never be satisfied even if you truly did manage to rule the whole world.”

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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. 51.1

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. 50.3

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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Once Upon a Time – Chap. 49.6

Seth_with_Cheetos“Eventually, Raynerus lost the family farm and found himself without even a roof to cover his head.” Gwendolena spoke matter-of-factly in between sips of tea. “It wasn’t just the issue of him turning into a giant rabbit every full moon but more due to those same Keepers who took me from the family. When he wasn’t able to keep up the farm, they decided to forgo the usual custom of turning him into crops. Instead those scoundrels seized him just before sunset, tied him to a chair, and set the whole house on fire. Fortunately for Raynerus, that particular night happened to behold a full moon and his transformation into a giant beast occurred before the flames could engulf him. He escaped with only two things before our childhood home became ashes: father’s sword and,” she paused while reaching across the table for her teapot and lifting it up, “this one small treasure from mother.”

Algar held his giant ogre palm out with an empty cup in the middle toward her. “But if you were an apprentice of the Keepers by that point and your brother was a homeless farm boy, how did the teapot come into your possession?”

“We were reunited eventually.” Gwendolena winked at Serena and Kirkaronus after giving the ogre a refill. “Again, thanks to the Keepers actually. Years passed and as I became a more powerful magician under their guidance, Raynerus began to lead quite a rebellion. He helped villages reclaim control of their lands and managed to even takeover one of the Keepers’ own castles from them.” She raised her hands and made an arc of the room with her eyes. “This castle that we sit in now. You see, I was not the only one who had a secret aptitude for magic but he did as well. And even though he lacked formal instruction, he still easily defeated the Keepers who used to live here and forced them out.” The vampire let the hands down slowly. “After that disgrace, my superiors felt it was high time to crush my brother’s rebellion once and for all. And since I was the only one among the Keepers who truly seemed capable of matching him, our reunion was inevitable.”

* * *
As Gwendolena continued sharing her story over scones and tea, V delivered a similar account over the stranger refreshment offerings that Aaron provided. “Our castle was the only real stronghold against the Keepers by the time Gwendolena approached the gates and demanded surrender.” It was difficult to tell if the frown V made were due to this particular part of the tale or the glass of bubbling and unnaturally green beverage he now held in his hand. “But instead, Raynerus invited her in for tea. Before even finishing the first cup, sister and brother became family again instead of enemies and Gwendolena switched sides.”

“Um, that’s great.” Aaron munched on one of the orange, cheese-flavored cylinders about the size of a person’s thumb that he’d offered his guests earlier. “But how did he end up here?”

V took the bag of orange cylinders and sniffed it before cautiously taking one of them out. “We didn’t actually realize he had until the Keepers starting attacking us in this new battle. The medallion that the Keepers used back in those days to rule over everyone was still whole and we all knew that Raynerus had been working on a counter effect of sorts.” The vampire bit into the cylinder and munched with a face that showed it wasn’t quite certain how it felt about this new cuisine. “After Gwendolena joined our side, the Keepers put a curse on everyone in the castle before we were able to break the medallion into the stone puzzle that it is now. And Raynerus was the one to shatter it, just before he disappeared.”

“We all assumed he’d died,” added Deigen, munching much more happily on the orange cylinders than his companion vampire. “I mean, you had to see the explosion that came from that medallion when he broke it, it really didn’t look like anyone could have survived. But rather than being blasted into nothing, Gwendolena now believes he somehow transported himself here. You see, she’d seen him working on his counter effect just before that battle started and it involved several colored spheres corresponding to certain words written in stone. This is the same thing we saw occurring with the medallion this time around when it became whole again. And since Ian had one of the stone fragments, not to mention that other one our friend Sylvia’s family came in possession of, then he must have ended up here.”

“I’m not sure that I follow your logic really but let’s just say this Raynerus guy really did end up here.” Aaron leaned forward in his chair. “Didn’t you say that first war or whatever took place centuries ago? So how would he still be alive, I mean, even if he did turn into a wererabbit every now and then?”

“Ah, you forget.” V raised a finger, the bottom of which now beheld a fine layer cheese powder. “The Keepers placed the vampire curse on our castle before Raynerus broke the medallion so he himself became under that curse before coming here.”

Aaron catapulted back into his chair. “So this person your looking for is a vampire who turns into a giant rabbit every full moon? We’re looking for a rabbit that, that,” he gulped, “drinks blood?”

“Probably just carrot juice,” said Seth. The zombie shrugged as everyone turned to him. “What? If he’s a rabbit, he wouldn’t be trying to eat or drink anything from a human or animal. When’s the last time you saw a rabbit chasing after a cow for its lunch?”

Aaron scooted his chair a few inches from the zombie. “You, um, haven’t drank any of the soda or snacks yet. What do you eat?”

“Well, I wasn’t a rabbit before I became a monster and I happen to be of the zombie variety so,” Seth shrugged, “not carrots.” He raised his brow at the two vampires. “How can the two of you enjoy that stuff? No liquid should have bubbles popping up like that unless it’s boiling and nothing should be that green.”

“We have our flasks so we’re fine.” Deigen held one of the cheese-flavored cylinders out to him. “And if you give some these things a try, I bet you’ll love them.”

Seth took the snack from him but held it out at arm’s length. “And nothing that is supposedly made of cheese should leave powder on your fingers or be this brightly orange.” He gingerly set the cylinder on the table next to his untouched glass of soda. “I’ll gladly stick to eating brains thanks very much.”

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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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