Pumpkin King

Chapter 2

Erk woke up in his hammock in his small room at his grandfather's house. It was nestled in the only clear corner in the entire room. The rest was covered in random gadgets and papers. On the wall right across from his bed was the full schematic of the first steam-powered train he had ever helped his grandpa fix etched in chalk. Directly to his right, there was a small dresser where he kept his clothes.

It took a second for his groggy brain to realize there was something blocking his view of the ceiling. With a groan, he put a hand to his face to feel a piece of paper. Lifting it up, he saw that it was covered in scribbled formulas.

"Oh yeah." He muttered, rubbing and eye with his free hand. "I fell asleep before I could finish it." He sat up with a yawn and threw the paper to the side. "Oh well. I'll finish it later." He jumped out of the hammock and stretched.

Leaving the room, he found his grandpa waiting for him at the table that was pushed into the corner of their small kitchen. He had hard lines on his face and his body was well defined with muscle, despite his old age. The product of working on trains his entire life.

"Good mornin' Erk." He said with a grin. In one hand, he held a steaming cup of coffee. He pointed to the other side of the table, where another mug was waiting for him. He tilted his head towards the mug. "Best drink up. Gonna be a big day today."

Erk rolled his eyes. They went through this routine every day. He'd wake up to find a cup of coffee waiting for him and his grandpa would say it was going to be a big day. He didn't question it. He just picked up the mug and took a sip of the hot liquid.

"Made any progress on that formula of yers?" He asked.

Erk took another sip. "It's almost done. Hopefully it'll help you with that engine problem. Is it still inactive?"

His grandpa nodded. "We just can't seem ter figure it out. The fire lacrima are all workin' proper, but they just don't want ter get in sync with each other." He took another swig of his mug. "And it's not in the budget to get new ones. Without them that train won't ever move again." As he said it, there was hint of sadness in his eyes.

Erk downed the rest of his coffee. "Don't worry. I'll finish the formula tonight and we'll test it tomorrow. We'll get them running again." He smiled reassuringly at the old man. He felt the same way he did. He'd been working on trains since he was old enough to hold a tool. They felt a connection to the machines. They weren't just trains to them. That's why his grandpa took it upon himself to fix the old trains. They deserved a second chance, a chance to run again, a chance to do what they were made for. But that's where his boss differed. He wanted to junk the old trains for parts, it was cheaper than fixing them. He's been fighting to keep his job for years now.

The old man grinned back and then motioned at the door. "Don't you think you should be headin' off? We don't want them guild mates of yers getting antsy."

Erk shuddered. It had been a week since he joined Pumpkin King and his first day as a member, he'd slept in late. So a few of his guild mates took it upon themselves to show up at his house to wake him up. They were a bit…excited at seeing his home. It took three hours to clean the place back up.

"Yeah, yeah." Erk said with a sigh. He headed for the door. "I'll see you tonight, grandpa."

"See ya Erk." His grandpa called after him. "And don't let them run ya too ragged."

Erk walked up to the guild to be greeted by the usual noise. The front doors burst open as Julio and Dante ran out of them, laughing their heads off.

Julio had black, spiked up hair and he wore a simple green vest that he always kept open to expose his chest and matching green pants. Around his neck was a string that connected to a pure silver flute that was bouncing off his chest as he ran. The flute had intricate wings etched on its surface. He had an orange Pumpkin King guild symbol on his right hand. He was a bit of a perv, always looking at the ladies and making lewd comments.

Dante had a big grin on his face as he ran, which told Erk that he'd just got done playing a prank on someone. His messy black hair came to just below his eyebrows, almost blocking the view of his green eyes. He was in good shape, probably because of all the times he's had to run away from angry guild members. He wore a black jacket with a white shirt underneath and black cargo pants. Oddly enough, he never wore any shoes.

"Hey Erk!" The two yelled at him as they ran past.

"Who'd you piss off this time?" Erk asked as they ran. On a normal day, Erk would be running with them. Although he hadn't trusted anyone in the guild when he was first forced to enter it, he had gotten along well with those two. It didn't take long for them to become friends, despite Dante's constant joking and Julio's pervy comments.

In answer to Erk's question, an old man with a cane ran past him, shouting at the two as they fled. "Get back here, you nitwits!" He started waving his can back and forth. "You should learn to respect your elders!" That was Bertrand. He was a fog mage that had to be pushing eighty years old. He was usually cranky and he liked to scold the younger mages whenever they did something wrong. From what Erk heard, he had been there when Pumpkin King was formed.

As the old man ran, his back made a popping noise and he fell to the ground. He put one hand on his back and raised his cane threateningly at the two retreating mages. "Now help your elders!"

Erk just shook his head and walked into the guild. Dante and Julio would help bring Bertrand inside. The inside of the guild was completely circular. In the center of the room was a large bonfire that illuminated the entire building at night, like a giant candle inside a jack-o-lantern. Around the fire were tables, lined up on after another, making a ring. In the back were doors that led to small apartment rooms for the guild members that didn't have any other place to stay. And to the right of those doors was a staircase that led to a bar. Someone was usually stationed there to take people's orders, but from what Erk could see, nobody was there right now.

He had barely taken two steps inside when he was greeted by Latran. You always had to keep an eye out on Latran. He was sneaky, you could see it in his blue eyes. He had slicked back brown hair. He wore a black tailored suit with white gloves covering his hands. He always carried a deck of playing cards with him. He was a ladies man, something he always rubbed in Julio's face. It seemed like he had a different girlfriend every week. But despite his womanizing, he liked to stay proper and presentable.

"Hello, Erk." He said with a sly smile. He was shuffling a deck of cards in his hands. "Up for a game?"

"Nah." Erk answered dryly. "I never win and I'd like to keep my belongings this time. Plus I think I'm going to train early today. Have you seen Crest?"

Latran stopped shuffling the deck. "Well you aren't any fun. Besides, you won your clothes back eventually." Then he put a gloved hand to his chin in thought. "I don't believe so. Try asking the master."

The two looked across the room to see Master Jack sipping tea with a woman with snow white hair. She was glaring at him menacingly, but it was more like she was glaring at Peeko, who was perched on top Jack's head again. Her name was Rosemary and she was the scariest woman Erk had ever laid eyes on. She looked like she was in her early thirties and wore dark blue dress that went down to her knees. She was constantly in a bad mood and she snapped at just about anyone over anything…particularly Peeko. She hated the crow, and the hate seemed to be mutual. Peeko went out of his way to annoy Rosemary whenever he could. Other than that, Erk didn't know much about her, except for the fact that had been friends with the master for a long time. He didn't even know what kind of magic she used.

Rosemary ground her teeth in frustration as Jack lifted his cup of tea so Peeko could dip his head down to take a drink. "That's one of the nastiest things I've ever seen!" She finally snapped. "That's completely unsanitary! Get that stupid bird out of here or I will!"

She reached up to grab Peeko but Jack quickly reached up and hid him in the crook his arms. "No! Don't yell at Peeko!" He ran over to a window on the side of the building and flung it open, holding Peeko outside. "Run Peeko! Be free!"

With a caw, Peeko spread his wings and flew out into the pumpkin patch that surrounded the guild.

"You idiot!" Rosemary yelled. She grabbed the front of Jack's cloak and started shaking him back and forth. It was a surprise that the pumpkin didn't fall off. "When are you going to let me get rid of that stupid bird?"

Erk and Latran sweat dropped at the scene. "Perhaps you should ask someone else." Not even Latran got in Rosemary's way when she was angry.

Erk nodded. Looking around, he saw Lucinda and Saraphina sitting at a table near the bonfire. The two of them were almost attached at the hip. He never saw one without the other being somewhere close by. They were usually the ones stationed at the bar to make food and serve drinks. They also seemed younger than the others in the guild, maybe being around thirteen or fourteen.

Lucinda wore a black corset for a shirt, a red skirt, and black knee-high combat boots. Her black, wavy hair was tied up into a high pony tail and she had very pale skin. She was a very loud person, always fangirling over the Weekly Sorcerer magazine or standing up on tables and giving speeches.

Saraphina, or Sara as the others called her, was Lucinda's polar opposite. She wore a long sleeve white shirt and a long orange skirt. Her sandy hair was done into a French braid. She was extremely shy, always hiding behind Lucinda when she met someone new, and very lady like and proper. For some reason, she never said no to anyone. Erk had asked her to get him a drink once, as a joke, but she actually did it. Lucinda about tore his head off afterwards.

"Hey!" He yelled, waving at them. "Either of you seen Crest?"

Sara tensed as he approached, but she didn't hide. She just kept on reading her book. She was slowly getting used to him. Lucinda looked up from her issue of Weekly Sorcerer and shook her head. "Nope. My guess is that he's either on Val duty or he's in the patch training with Becky and Charlotte." She practically growled Charlotte's name, like it was poison. Then she immediately went back to reading her magazine.

Erk knew better than to distract her anymore. Lucinda loved reading and it was a bad idea to interrupt her when she was in the middle of it.

So instead, he looked up into the rafters near the ceiling. There was a rope that led up to them near the bar, but it was too much of a hassle to climb up. The only person he could see up there was Val, still sleeping with one of his legs hanging over the edge of the rafter he was sleeping on. He wore a black shirt and white pants and his black hair was messy from all the sleeping he did.

That was literally all Val did. Sleep. Erk had never seen him do anything else. During the day, during the night, just sleep, sleep, and sleep. Val duty referred to the person who was taking care of Val that day. Pretty much, it was making sure he ate and drank something.

Erk didn't see anyone else up there, so he decided to check out the pumpkin patch. He left the building and ran to the clearing in the patch to the right of the guild, which was used when someone wanted to train. As he neared it, he saw three figures standing in it.

One was obviously Crest. Crest had olive skin and white hair that was pulled into a nub on the back of his head. He wore a silver long sleeved shirt and tan pants. His golden eyes seemed to penetrate everything he looked at. He was also built like a tank. If Erk had to choose between punching a brick wall or Crest, he'd choose the wall every time. Crest was also the guilds self-appointed trainer. He helped people work on their magic since nothing short of bomb could hurt him.

In front of him stood Rebekka, or Becky for short. Her wine red hair hung down to her shoulder blades, her bangs covering her left eye. She was a bit taller than the other girls in the guild and her she had olive skin just like Crest. She was usually covered in scrapes and bruises from all the training she did. She wore a green tube top and black cargo pants. Erk had lost a bet with Julio once, and as a result he had to try and ask her out on a date…the result was a black eye and a bruised ego. She tended to be a bit blunt with her criticisms.

Standing on the side line was Charlotte. She had lavender hair that was done up into two buns and had small earrings in her ears. She was a bit on the shorter side and her white skin looked pale compared to Crest and Becky's olive skin. She wore a navy blue skirt that went down to her ankles and a grey sweater.

Charlotte was a bit of an odd one. She never talked to anyone other than Crest and the Master and she could usually be found sewing up a stuffed animal in the guild. She was also the guild's resident Celestial mage. In her arms was Nico, a spirit of Canis Minor. It was yellow with a long, red spiral nose. It was also the only spirit Erk had ever seen her summon.

As Erk stopped next to Charlotte, Nico waved at him. Charlotte looked over and nodded her head at him before going back to watching Crest and Becky. Erk grinned and waved back to Nico before turning to the two in the clearing and noticing that Becky was covered in sweat and breathing hard. She must have been training for a few hours now. Looking over, he saw that Crest hadn't even broken a sweat…as usual.

"Hey!" He called, waving his hand. "Mind if I join in."

Crest looked over at Erk and gave a small smile. "Ah, Erk. Nice to see you eager to train. I'd be happy to spar with you." He looked back at Becky, who was still catching her breath. "That is if Rebekka is willing to take a reprieve."

Becky took another breath before turning back towards the guild. "Go ahead. I needed a break anyway."

"Good." Crest nodded with approval. "If you overwork your body, you'll only end up hurting yourself. We made good progress today. Tomorrow we'll pick up where we left off." Becky just lifted her hand in a wave as she walked off.

"Alright." He said, not moving from his spot. "Take your place and we'll get started."

Erk grinned excitedly before running to a spot a little ways away from Crest. He enjoyed the training sessions. He wanted to master his magic as fast as possible, so he trained with Crest whenever he could…even if he's never beaten him.

"Good." Crest said. "Now, begin!"

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