Pumpkin King guild. Two weeks after the Valleydale incident.
Erk was leaning against the bar in his seat, mildly sipping at the drink in his hand. He had to be careful with what he ate. He'd broken four of his ribs during the fight with Lupus, which made swallowing a bit painful, as well as anything that even resembled movement. He was healing up quickly but he still had to take it easy. He was lucky that he was even able to move.
The highlight of the whole healing process was when Orion showed back up. Charlotte had kept Lupus' key, so Orion wanted to take it back to the Spirit World. He said they wanted to make sure that Lupus could never return to the human world ever again.
When Charlotte asked about the rule saying every spirit needing a key on Earth, Orion responded, "The old man's been known to make exceptions for special cases lately."
Erk frowned. Unfortunately, no one could find Alec afterwards. He most likely ran for the hills before Crest could beat him to a bloody pulp. Erk would have taken a few swings himself.
Erk's thoughts were interrupted as a loud cheering erupted. He looked over at the table near the bonfire and smiled. After hearing what happened, the guild had been celebrating nonstop; someone even took Val from his roost in the rafters and put a mug in one of his hands while he slept. Partly because they were glad Alec had gotten the snot beat out of him, but mostly because of Charlotte. Ever since coming back from the mission, she was an entirely new person. She was much more cheerful now and she even openly talked with the others. Her lavender hair, which was normally put up in a bun, was now hanging down her shoulders and tied into a tail. She finally looked happy.
About the only one not celebrating Charlotte's turn around was Lucinda. She and Sara were sitting at a table by themselves as far away from the celebration as possible.
Feeling the need to get up and move around, Erk slowly sat up from his stool and limped over to them. "Hey." He said, sitting down. "Did someone shove a stick up your ass or what? Why the whole angry face routine?"
Lucinda made a "Tch" sound and glared at him. "Excuse me for not being happy for Miss I-can't-help-myself over there." She grabbed Erk's drink and drained it down. "It's not like she won that fight, it was her spirits that did all the heavy lifting. She's just taking all the credit." She said, pointing an accusing finger at Charlotte.
Erk scratched the back of his head awkwardly. He hated being in situations like these. Finally he asked, "I gotta ask. Why do you hate Charlotte so much?"
Lucinda "humphed" and glared in Charlotte's direction. "I don't just hate her, I hate ALL Celestial wizards. They're cowards. All they do is hide behind their spirits while they do all the fighting." Her fists clenched. "It's despicable."
Erk didn't have anything to say to that. He glanced at Sara, but she wouldn't meet his eye. And before he could think of anything both he and Lucinda were hit on the top of their heads, with a cane.
"Ow!" They yelled at the same time, rubbing their heads. Turning around, they found Bertrand sitting on the table cross-legged.
He had his cane resting in his lap and he was eyeing the two in a very crotchety way. "Hmph. Young brats. What kind of nonsense are you spouting this time?" Without waiting for an answer, he raised his cane and smacked Lucinda on the head again.
"Milady!" Sara shouted, reaching over to rub the spot Bertrand hit. "Mr. Bertrand, why did you hit, milady?"
"Yeah, what was that for!" Lucinda shouted at the old man. "Don't you have a game of bingo to play or something?" Bertrand glared at her and raised his can again threateningly. Lucinda immediately backed off. "Er…sorry?"
Bertrand nodded and 'hmphed' again before lowering his cane. "Bingo isn't until later." He eyed Lucinda again. "You're causing a bit of worry, young lady. Even after the end of years of suffering, you refuse to even acknowledge your guild mate. The master has noticed your extreme dislike of Charlotte and he wants to know if there is anything that can be done to bridge the gap."
Lucinda's anger flared and she opened her mouth to say something, but Bertrand raised a hand to stop her. "I know what you're about to say, child. But tell me, what difference does it make she uses Celestial magic?"
Lucinda bared her teeth angrily. "Because she hides behind them! How is that fair to the spirits that they put themselves in danger while she stays safe?"
Bertrand ran a hand over his cane thoughtfully. "If we were to take that line of logic, then why do we use magic at all?" He tapped his cane on the table and a line of fog came out of the end and rose above their heads. At his words, the fog began changing shape. "Crest." A shield. "Rebekka." A snake. "Julio." A flute. "Even Saraphina here." A music note. "We all hide behind magic. It keeps us safe. We may say otherwise, but that is the truth of the world. Without magic, we humans are terribly weak creatures. And the Celestial spirits are beings made purely of magic. When they make a contract with a human, they agree to devote themselves to protecting them. To keeping them safe. It is no different than any other magic. But unlike other magic, they have hearts, feelings, and minds." He looked at the girl wisely. "A spirit doesn't walk into a contract blindly. Only if they feel the person is worthy of their protection will they offer their aid. So do not feel that a Celestial wizard is weak or a coward. Instead, see them as people that deep down inside, they have something worth protecting."
Lucinda stared at the elderly man as his words sank in. Both Erk and Sara were waiting for her to make some sort of reaction. An argument, laughter, or some sort of obnoxious retort. They weren't used to her being quiet like this. Finally, she got up and walked away, heading for the door.
Sara got up to follow her, but Bertrand blocked her path with his cane. "Not this time, child." He said with his eyes softer than usual. "There are times when we reach a path we must walk alone. This is one of those times. I've given her what I can, but now she must reach her answer on her own."
The next day, Erk was sitting at a table while eating with Julio and Dante. His ribs were feeling a lot better so he was actually participating in the prank they were planning.
"So here's what I'm thinking." Julio started off. "Latran got pretty drunk yesterday during the party so why don't we take his playing cards and tape them all around the guild or something?"
Dante shook his head in disappointment. "Weak. Seriously? I thought you'd come up with something better than that." He grinned mischievously. "Here's a real prank. We need to catch Rosemary while she's taking a shower and take a few pictures. It would be great!" He leaned in with a sly smile. "We'd get a nice peak, plus I'm sure the Master would pay nicely for the pictures."
Both Erk and Julio were nodding vigorously, blushing as they imagined the picture. Dante leaned back in satisfaction at his idea just as the door to the guild burst open.
"Gather around, my seedlings!" Jack yelled as he walked inside. "I've got great news!" As everyone turned to look at him, he stepped aside and revealed two girls.
One had long, wavy, coal-black hair that ended in white tips and tan skin. She wore a plain black and white t-shirt with a black leather jacket over it and a black and purple skirt with black leggings. Her shoes were black and she wore fingerless gloves. In her hair was a pin shaped like a rose. She was looking around shyly, trying not to make eye contact with anyone.
Next to her was a girl with long dull scarlet hair who looked extremely bored. Her pale skin made her look frail and she had a burn mark on the upper part of her right arm. She wore an extremely short black mini skirt and an equally revealing gradient black sleeveless shirt. On her feet were dark red heels. Everything about her screamed of something familiar to Erk, but he just couldn't place his finger on it.
Jack smiled at them all happily as he gestured at the first girl. "This is Lorelai Blackwing. She used to belong to the guild 'Angel Wing'." Almost unnoticed by anyone, Lorelai flinched as the guild was named. But Bertrand saw it. He was going to ask Jack about it later.
Then the Master turned to the second girl. "And this one is Tamashi Pyke. She had a bit of a…disagreement with the law, so the Magic Council has asked me to watch her." He laughed maniacally. "Be nice to them."
It was the name that did it. Memories of zombies and laughter rang through Erk's head and he, Julio, and Dante all scrambled out of their seats, pointing at Tamashi. "You!" They all shouted. Erk and Dante ran over to Jack while Julio was frozen on the spot. "What is she doing here?!" The two said in unison.
Tamashi blankly stared at them and made a 'Tch' noise. "Well if it isn't the assholes that got me thrown in jail. This is just great."
Jack just laughed as Peeko flew down from the rafters to land on his head with a caw. "Well her court hearing was today and I went to appeal on her behalf to the Magic Council. Three years in service to Pumpkin King instead of three years in jail. It was a fair deal so they allowed it."
Tamashi rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, which didn't help in keeping Dante and Erk from eyeing her figure. "Oh yeah, real fair. If you count all the stupid restrictions on my magic fair."
Lorelai decided to walk in on the conversation at that point. "What do you mean restrictions?"
Tamashi flung her arms into the air. "I'm not allowed to resurrect human corpses anymore! I can only resurrect animals. Honestly, how am I supposed to have a tea party with animals?" She pointed an accusing finger at Jack. "Besides, you pretty much blackmailed me into joining this stupid guild."
Jack just laughed and went to sit with Bertrand and Rosemary, who were drinking tea on the far side of the room. Erk sighed forlornly. "You too huh?" Then he looked around the room. "Honestly, how many of you were blackmailed into joining?" He immediately raised his hand.
With some hesitation, Julio raised his hand as well. He was quickly followed by Tamashi, who scoffed, and surprisingly she was followed by Latran and Becky.
Erk raised an eyebrow at them. "I can understand Julio being blackmailed, he's an idiot."
"But you two? What did Master do to make you join?" He asked curiously.
At the same time, they grimaced and answered, "We don't like to talk about it." Across the room, Jack took a sip of tea and laughed before walking over to them.
"Now there's no need to go pointing fingers at who blackmailed who. Why don't you all take Lorelai and show her around the guild why Tamashi and I go to get the guild stamp so we can make this official?"
Tamashi rolled her eyes as she followed Jack to the spare room and once they were inside, she waited patiently as Jack shut the door.
He turned to her with a serious look on his face. "I'm sure you already know that I didn't appeal for you just out of the goodness of my heart."
The red haired girl crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. "I figured that much. You're the master of the guild that put me away in the first place." She waited for him to say something but after a moment, she asked, "So what do you want from me?"
Jack loomed over her and said in a low voice. "It's to my understanding that you were approached by a group of people before I sent my guild after you. I want to tell me everything you can about them."
Tamashi had to think about it for a moment before she remembered. "Oh yeah. That group of weirdoes. They were looking for people with rare and powerful magic so they wanted me to join them." She smirked. "It's not every day you meet someone with Impure Resurrection magic."
Jack nodded. "You do have a rather rare magic." He acknowledged. "But do you know what they call themselves? What are they after?"
The girl shrugged. "I don't know any names, but I know they're gathering wizards for a siege. They said that a certain guild had something they wanted." She smiled knowingly. "And they'll do anything to get it."
Somewhere in a dark alley, a ragged man was laughing sinisterly in the light of the only working lantern. In his hand gathered pitch-black slime. His greasy hair was dirty from not being washed and his body was marked with cuts and bruises but other than that, he didn't appear homeless.
The man raised his hand in the air and the slime exploded outward, tendrils shooting out to latch on the walls around him and creating a web of dripping, sticky slime.
His laugh grew even louder as two figures approached him from behind, completely unnoticed. One was obviously male while the other was female. After a moment of watching the slime wizard laugh, the shadow enshrouded man coughed lightly to get his attention.
The battered man whirled around, black slime in both hands. "Who's there? Show yourself!"
At his words, the two figures walked into the light. The woman had her arms wrapped around the man's shoulders lovingly while the man looked up at the slime webbing above them. "You're stronger than we thought." He smiled viciously. "Good." He was firmly built with lean muscles under his tan skin. He had wild, beach blonde hair and a confident smirk on his face. He wore a dark blue shirt with black lines running all around it and dark brown pants. Around his neck he wore a silver necklace that read, 'WAVE'. There was a zigzag tattoo that went from one eye, over his nose, and to the other eye.
The woman had dark green hair pulled up into a high ponytail. Her hourglass figure was covered in a green tube top and skin tight white shorts. On her hip was a vine with thorns on it and a rose at the end. She had ghostly pale skin and her dirt brown eyes were looking directly at the ragged man. "He has been touched by dark magic." She said into her companion's ear. "It has left traces of itself inside him."
The man nodded as the slime wizard began to look ready to run for it. He scowled. "Don't go getting all rabbity on us. We aren't here to bring you in or anything." He eyed the man again. "You are Alec Broodwith aren't you?"
Alec took a breath in and stepped back. "Who wants to know?"
The man smiled. "We hear that you have a hatred for a guild called Pumpkin King." His smile grew sinister. "If that's true, we know someone who has a proposition for you."