The Gunslinger Swordsman: Cruelty and the Beast Chapter 3-6

For the preceding chapters under the “Arcana X” title, click here:  CH.1CH.2 Pt.1CH.2-3CH.3-1CH.3-2CH.3-3CH.3-4, CH.3-5

Jacoby Myers hurries down the main road through Tulpaar Village. Making turns down two small roads, he comes to his home. He steps up on the porch and stops his hand just short of touching the knob. ‘What if she isn’t here? What is she is but different in some way?’ The doubtful thoughts hold his hand back. What happened to him was confirmed to be a hallucination. But what if it wasn’t? What if there was some truth behind what happened? Jacoby slowly draws his hand back until he remembers what Edgar has said to him. Jemma could be in there right waiting for him. Jacoby gives his head a shake and reasserts himself.  He can’t focus on the doubt. Jemma is home, alive and well. And waiting.

Jacoby opens the door. He calls his wife’s name. He calls to her again as he searches. She’s not in the living room. There’s no answer from upstairs. Both the study and guest room are dark. Hope was ready to abandon him when Jacoby hears someone in the kitchen. He can smell food cooking. The air is sweet with pastries. His heart lightened again. Jemma baked pastries whenever she is worried. Entering the kitchen, Jacoby nearly leaped out of his boots. Flowing red curls swayed as she moved about the kitchen. When she turned her head slightly, Jacoby spies the beauty mark under her left eye. He needed no further confirmation. Jemma is safe.

“Jemma?” he says.

Jemma turns around with a start. She had been so wrapped in baking that she failed to notice her husband. “Jacoby?”

It is her voice. Jacoby knows her angelic tone anywhere. He hurries to her and hugs her tightly. This is her scent. Feeling her hands on his head, he immediately knows her touch. This is no dream. No hallucination. This is his wife, Jemma Myers. Jacoby is overcome with emotion and relief. “Jemma,” he wept. “Oh, by the Goddess, I thought I lost you.”

“Lost me?” Jemma said. She then leans back to look at Jacoby. “Why would you think you lost me? I merely went to Tulpex to get the berries for dessert. I was going to surprise you. And when you didn’t come home, I got worried, so I started asking around the village. No one knew where you had gone. Where were you?”

Jacoby knows he cannot tell her the truth. The story is too wild for her to handle. All that mattered to him now is that his wife is safe. “Let’s just say I had a frightful evening and it’s over. And you’re safe. And I love you.” He then kisses her deeply, washing away all his worries. Her kiss. This is her kiss.

Jemma is taken aback. She doesn’t know what kind of evening her husband had, but one thing is certain, she is glad to have him home. “Well, if that’s what it takes, I should get lost more often,” she says with a smile. Jacoby smiles back at her. “The important thing is we’re both home and we’re both safe.”

“You’re right,” replies Jacoby.

“Now, how about you get freshened up and let me finish this,” Jemma says. She kisses him and adds, “And we’ll meet in the middle.”

“Right-o,” Jacoby responds with a coy grin. After gently slapping his wife’s bottom, he hurries upstairs.

Jacoby takes a relaxing bath while Jemma finishes baking her pastries. Later, Jacoby is lying in bed while Jemma is washing up. He looks out the window at the moonlit sky. Those events involving the Dodgson Chateau and the Lady in White play through his mind. Then he recalls Tyler Mason finding the remains of the Meridian Flower that caused him to have those terrible hallucinations. He laughs to himself, feeling silly for dragging Edgar, Tyler, and Steadman out on a goose chase. But, Jacoby is glad that he did. Had it not been for Tyler Mason, he most certainly would have gone mad. The evening has passed. His focus now is on spending time with his wife.

“Jake,” Jemma called from the bathroom. Jacoby responds. “Can you put out the candles?”

“Put out the candles?” said Jacoby, finding the request odd. “Whatever for?”

“I have something special to show you,” answers Jemma.

Smiling, Jake blows out the candles in both lanterns on either side of their bed. He then tells Jemma once he is done. Jemma opens the door and enters their room wearing flowing white garbs. Jacoby is briefly taken aback by his hallucination about seeing Jemma in the same garb earlier in the evening at the Dodgson Chateau.

“So, what do you think?” Jemma asks him.

Jacoby collects himself. He has to keep in mind that the Jemma he saw was a hallucination caused by the Meridian Flower. This Jemma before him is real. “You look lovely, like an angel,” he says.

“Well, I thought we could have a little bit of fun,” Jemma said as she approached the bed. She swings one leg over and straddles her husband’s lap. “Do a little pretend play,” she added with a sultry tone and lustful glare.

“You don’t say,” Jacoby says. “So what kind of pretend play are we doing?”

Jemma looks at him with hungry eyes. “The Lady in White,” she answers with a giggle.

“What?” Jacoby replied. Suddenly, Jemma pins his arms down with unnatural strength. He looks around in confusion. Then he looks at Jemma who stares back with a wicked grin.

“And you can be my next victim,” Jemma hissed with delight as she leaned close to him. The moonlight shining through the window reveals Jacoby’s worst fear. What stared back at him is not Jemma but a living corpse that was once his beloved wife. The doors to their room and one set of shutters slam close. Jacoby followed the sounds with eyes open wide with horror, shock, and disbelief. The undead Jemma stares at him, cackling through gnarly teeth. The last shutter next to their bed closes, but not before Jacoby catches a glimpse of the Lady in White standing in the corner across the room.

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