Pumpkin King

Chapter 13

"That's more like it."

Alec stretched and popped his shoulders, his eyes scanning the room around him. He looked right over where Erk, Crest, Charlotte, and Iver were stuck to the wall as if they weren't there. Then he licked his lips and ran a finger over his new fangs. "Not a perfect match." He said to himself. "But it'll to for now."

Erk and the others were too stunned to speak, and if they were questioned, they'd even admit they were scared. Something had happened to Alec. Something wrong.

Alec eyes went to his hand and he gave it a curious look. After a few moments of examining it, he brought it up to his nose and sniffed. "Curious." He muttered. Then he gave his wrist a little flick and a small, green magic circle appeared above his hand and a ball of green slime formed. It floated just above his palm. "Very curious. Looks like this meat skin has a few tricks up his sleeve."

Suddenly, Alec's head jerked up and the ball of slime vanished. He took a deep breath through his nose and flicked his tongue out, as if he tasted the air. His eyes widened and he grinned. "Excellent. There's plenty of fresh meat around. A perfect place to start." He walked over to the wall and, with a raised fist, punched forward, knocking a man sized hole in it.

As he walked through the hole, he raised his head and laughed maniacally. "Let the insurrection commence!" Then he was gone.

The four stared at the hole he'd created for a few moments before, suddenly, the slime pinning them to the wall vanished. They each fell to the ground with a thud, Crest catching himself on his hands and knees but the others landed on their butts.

Crest immediately checked to see if Charlotte was alright while Erk shakily stood up, staring at the hole in the wall in disbelief. "What was that?" He asked, wide eyed. "What just happened?"

The only answer he got was a strangled whimpering noise from his right. Turning, he saw Iver crouched to the ground with his arms covering his head. "This can't be happening. This can't be happening." He was muttering to himself, over and over.

Erk moved to kneel next to him with a concerned look. "Why can't what be happening?" He asked.

At the sound of his voice, Iver looked at Erk and his eyes were filled with panic. He started shaking slightly as he said, "I thought it was just a myth. A family legend…" He dissolved back into hysteria, repeating, "This can't be happening."

Erk was about to question him again when a shadow loomed over them. He turned to find Crest standing over them with a serious look on his face. In his hand was the black key that Alec dropped. Behind him stood Charlotte, who was staring blankly at the wall with empty eyes.

Crouching down, he firmly grabbed Iver's shoulders and looked down at him. "What happened back there?"

Iver didn't answer him. He just kept on repeating, "This can't be happening."

Crest growled and shook Iver until he looked up at him. "You know something. That wasn't an ordinary spirit summoning. Whatever Alec summoned, it was no ordinary spirit." Iver started going hysterical again so Crest held up the key and practically yelled, "Answer me. I don't know your connection to this key, but if you had it you must know something about it. Now, what happened to Alec?"

At the sight of the key, Iver seemed to collect himself. He sniffed once before stuttering, "I-It has been in my family for generations." He sniffed again. "When I was a kid my father used to tell me that a long time ago, it belonged to one of my ancestors who was a little known Celestial wizard. Supposedly, it opens the Gate of the Wolf and summons the spirit Lupus. I don't know if it's true, but the legend says that Lupus was a powerful spirit with strength equal to that of the Golden Gate Keys even though it was only a silver key.

"According to the legend, Lupus was very picky on who it made a contract with. But for some reason, it decided to make one with my ancestor, no one knows why. But after he made the contract with Lupus, he went mad. He attacked highways and ravaged whole towns. And with every person he slew, his army grew larger."

"His army?" Crest asked questioningly.

Iver took his eyes off they key for a moment to glance at him. "Yes. That was Lupus' power. Every time he beat an opponent, he transformed them into loyal wolves that would obey his every command. Eventually, his army got large enough to lay siege on an entire country…but a country isn't what Lupus was after. Together, Lupus and my ancestor…attacked the world of the spirits."

Erk and Crest recoiled as if Iver had hit them, their eyes wide with disbelief. Even Charlotte seemed to stir from her stupor at those words.

"He attacked his home?" Erk said out loud.

Crest shook his head. "That's not possible."

Iver continued as if they hadn't spoken. "They found a way to open a way into the spirit world so that their army of wolves could enter without being noticed. And then they attacked. The spirits were caught off guard and many of them were in our world from being summoned by their contractors. And those that were defeated in the initial attack were changed into more wolves, adding to Lupus' army. It didn't take long for them to reach the Spirit King, who's only remaining line of defense were the twelve zodiac spirits and a single spirit that had managed to survive without being changed to a wolf.

"But no matter how strong they were, they couldn't overcome the sheer number of wolves. And even the Spirit King was being pushed back. Everything seemed lost, but in his arrogance, Lupus let his guard down. And then the single spirit, the one that managed to survive the first attack took that chance and charged with all his might. He managed to catch Lupus off guard and despite all odds he gave him a mortal blow. And with Lupus beat, the wolves began changing back to normal and the spirit who beat him was claimed a hero and was given the title of 'The Hunter'. However, since spirits can't really die in the Spirit World, they knew that Lupus would eventually heal. But because of the laws of their world, all spirits must have a key on Earth. So the king turned the key black and ripped the symbol from it so no one would ever know whose key it was."

A gust of wind blew through the hole in the wall, causing the leaves in Iver's hair to rustle. "My ancestor was killed in that battle. And as a token of goodwill and a chance to redeem ourselves, my family was given care of the key. To make sure that no one would ever use it to try and bring Lupus back to this world. But as punishment for my ancestor's deeds, the key was cursed to always bring misfortune on those who held it."

Erk and Crest stood in stunned silence as Iver finished his story. "I just thought that if someone could remove the curse on the key, I'd be able to live happily. I never thought anything like this would happen."

Erk wanted to say something to Iver to help console him. But before he could, screams started erupting from outside…followed by the howls of wolves.

"Shit!" Erk yelled, running for the hole. He looked outside to see wolves chasing villagers around town. "Hey, if that story is true then we've got trouble." He looked back at Crest. "Looks like that Lupus guy has already got wolves in the town."

"But that can't be right." Crest argued. "When Alec tried summoning him, Lupus never." His eyes widened in realization. "The smoke. I don't know how, but I think that the smoke that went inside Alec was Lupus. He must be possessing Alec."

"Lupus is possessing him?" Erk said with a raised eyebrow. Then he put a hand to his chin. "That explains the shiny new fangs and the wolves I guess." Then he heard another scream, this one much closer than the others. He ran back to the hole and what he saw chilled him to the bone. Two kids, a boy and a girl, were cornered by one of Lupus' wolves.

The kids were cowering together as the wolf stalked closer, its fangs bared. It growled threateningly and got ready to pounce. But before it could, Erk sped forward and slammed into its side, sending it reeling.

The wolf quickly righted itself and growled angrily at him and took a few steps forward. It had bristling black fur and it was tall enough to reach Erk's torso. Its eyes were a dark red. Normally this would scare just about anybody. But Erk was too angry to be scared.

"What kind of bastard goes after kids?" He glared menacingly at the wolf. "Anger isn't usually my thing, but you've REALLY pissed me off." Before the wolf had time to lunge at him, Erk sprinted forward. "Steam Engine!" Instead of just slamming into the wolf like he normally would have, Erk punched forward just before he hit. And when he hit, the speed and force behind the impact sent the wolf flying into the building behind it.

The wolf unconscious, Erk turned back to the kids, who had their eyes wide at what they just saw. "You two okay?" Erk asked gently as he crouched down to them. One of them, the girl, nodded her head. Erk grinned. "That's good. Where are your mommy and daddy?" The kids looked at each other before shaking their heads. Erk nodded sadly. "Okay. Then see that house over there?" He pointed at the Iver's house where Crest and Charlotte were running from the hole in the wall. "Go hide in there. And don't worry, I'll find your parents."

The two nodded before running for Iver's. Erk stood up as Crest and Charlotte reached them. Charlotte must have snapped to her senses because she was looking around nervously. But she was pale and it looked like she was pushing herself to keep up with Crest.

"Hey." Erk said hesitantly. "Maybe you should stay with the kids. You don't look so good."

Charlotte looked around, not making eye contact with Erk. "N-No. A-Alec needs to be stopped. I-I'm not sure how much I can do, but I need to help."

Erk was surprised. He'd never heard her speak so much at once, even if she was stuttering. But while they'd been talking, he hadn't noticed a pack of five wolves creeping up on them. Then with a howl, they lunged forward with their fangs bared.

But while Erk and Charlotte were caught off guard, Crest was not. He put himself between his friends and the wolves and raised his arms. "Barricade!" A glowing yellow wall appeared between him and the wolves and as the wolves hit it, spikes jutted out.

The wolves yelped as they hit the spikes and once they hit the ground, they scampered away with their tails between their legs. Crest turned to Erk and Charlotte as his shield vanished. "Keep your guards up. We don't have any time for chit chat during a battle."

As he said it, a howl ripped through the air. It was picked up by other wolves until it sounded like ground was shaking from the sound. Crest turned and planted his feet in the ground. "They're coming." Erk pulled his goggles over his eyes and looked around nervously while Charlotte meekly moved to stand behind her two friends.

Then they saw them. More wolves than they'd ever seen were charging at them. More than they could count. All of them had black fur. And all of them looked angry. Crest glanced at Erk. "I can cage about half of them but that's it. You'll need to take care of the rest."

Erk looked at Charlotte. She was clearly frightened of the wolves. But she hadn't even grabbed the key ring on her belt. He looked forward and nodded. "Right." Then he grinned. "This'll be the perfect chance to try something out."

Before Crest could ask what he meant, Erk shot forward. "Steam Engine: Mad Train!" A yellow barrier appeared over him and grew until it was the size of a real train. And at the front of the train as a face with slanted eyes that stared ahead tauntingly and a wicked grin like the one on the Master's jack-o-lantern. He could barely hear Crest shouting something at him, but it was drowned out by the sound of a train whistle. Erk yelled defiantly as he crashed into the crowd of wolves.

He cut through the wolves like butter, but after only a few seconds the barrier vanished and Erk found himself stuck right in the middle of the pack of wolves.

"Oh hell!" His spell shattered, Erk tumbled to the ground and skidded to a halt. He winced as he pushed himself off the ground. But his eyes immediately snapped open as he heard howling coming from all around him.

The entire town of Valleydale resounded with him screaming, "Shit!"

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