Pumpkin King

Chapter 24

The guild was unusually quiet. It had been that way for days, ever since Latran's funeral. Dante and Julio weren't up to their normal mischief. Lucinda wasn't standing on table tops, singing at the top of her lungs. Sara was quieter than ever and Charlotte had reverted back to her old somber self. Crest listlessly attended his melon patch without humming his normal tune while Erk scribbled at a new formula without any energy in the shade next to him. Rosemary and Bertrand sat together without comment, silently sipping at their drinks. But none of them were as effected as Becky. She wandered around without ever looking at anyone. And the aura around her was so dark that even the crows stopped cawing in her presence. All attempts to talk to her were met with only silence.

The only ones who managed to keep themselves busy were Tamashi and Lorelai. Tamashi was the only one actively completing jobs. She occasionally asked if Lorelai wanted to come with her, but the other girl would always find a way to turn her down for some reason.

Perhaps they would have rallied themselves after a few days. Perhaps they would have jumped up like they always did and try to find a way to block the pain…But no one had seen the Master since the funeral. And he was always the first one to throw a party, the first one to find some reason, any reason, to be happy. But with him gone…they just couldn't see the point.

Erk sat at a table with Julio and Dante. Their heads were either resting in their arms or on the table. They sat there in silence, just like everyone else. He closed his eyes, thinking of taking a nap when a bright red rose was set in front of him.

Surprised, the three boys sat up as they were each handed a rose by Lorelai. "What's this?" Dante asked. It was the first time all day that someone had spoken. The three each held up their flower and looked at it. And were amazed at what they saw. The rose was a burning bright red and it looked as if it was on fire.

No. Erk thought. It isn't a rose that looks like fire. It's fire that's been shaped to look like a rose. "Where did you get this?" He asked the black haired girl in wonder.

Lorelai blushed. "I made them." She admitted timidly.

"Huh." Julio said, twirling the rose between his fingers. "So is that what you use? Fire magic?"

The girl shook her head and held up a bouquet of flowers they hadn't noticed before. She plucked a pure blue lily out of the bunch and showed it to them. It looked like flowing water with small droplets falling off its petals. After setting it down, she held up a green petunia that was made entirely of stone.

"It's called 'The Garden'." She explained, picking the flowers back up. There were others in her grasp, but Erk couldn't make out what they were. "Each flower is attuned to one of the elements." She closed her eyes and muttered something under her breathe. There was a bright flash of light and silver, glowing flower appeared in front of them. Light was radiating from it.

Lorelai plucked it from the air and added it to her bouquet. She held it close. "I was hoping they would help cheer everyone up. When I was little, they always made my brother-." She stopped as a horrifying image shot through her mind. And image of webs and spiders and blood and despair. Her face visibly paled. The flowers in her hands began to wither. The petunia's started crumbling, the lilies drooped, the roses didn't burn as brightly, and the light from the silver flower faded completely.

But just as Erk and the others were about to ask if she was alright, she shook her head and the moment passed. With a sudden smile she tossed the bouquet into the air and the flowers exploded. Fire, water, earth, and light bloomed in bursts and streaks in the air, catching the attention of every person in the guild. Earth and fire danced through the air while water and light illuminated the room in a beautiful light.

And then in an instant, it all imploded on itself. The fire and earth and water and light were all sucked into a single point before exploding into a shower of shimmering dust, causing every upturned head to cover their eyes.

"What pretty display." A light voice said.

Everyone whirled to see Master Jack standing at the door with Tamashi at his side. He raised a hand in greeting. "Hey everyone. Sorry I haven't been in touch. The Magic Council wanted a report."

There was silence through the guild before a stool screeched against the ground and Rosemary was running towards Jack, anger written across her face. She grabbed him by the front of his cloak looked like she wanted to strangle him.

"You fool!" She said angrily. "What kind of Master abandons his guild when they need him most?" She shook him. "You've been gone for days. You left them here alone after what just happened? What kind of idiot are you?"

Jack's green eyes stared at her through the pumpkin as he detached himself from her grip. "When the higher ups give an order" he said seriously, "we must follow. We don't only listen when we want."

He walked over to the ever present bonfire in the middle of the room and sat down in front of it. "I know it was hard for you all." He announced to the room. "We…lost a guildmate…a partner…a friend." He took a deep breath. "It won't be easy." Other members of the guild started gathering around him. "Getting over the death of a loved one is never easy." His eyes flickered over a passed Lorelai, Erk, and Tamashi…and landed on Crest. "We must do as the Lonely Knight did. We must strengthen our hearts and strive to live for those that no longer can."

Julio raised an eyebrow. "The Lonely Knight?" He asked questioningly.

Jack chuckled lightly. "I suppose none of you have heard that tale. Very few have." He turned his head to look into the fire as everyone took a seat, except for Rosemary and Bertrand who went to sit at the bar counter.

"Far to the west there was once a kingdom that was at the peak of prosperity." He started out. "The citizens were happy and prosperous. Their king was a man of such kindness that he never turned away a single person who needed help. And protecting this king and his people were the world's finest order of knights." At those words, Crest froze. But the others were too wrapped up in the story to notice.

"These knights were the most loyal, the most skilled in both magic and blade, and the bravest in the entire world. There was nothing in the world that could harm their kingdom so long as they were there to protect it…or so they thought." He paused and his voice became dark. "One day, a dark power, and evil power swept across the kingdom. It left thousands of bodies in its wake. The knights tried time and again to thwart the evil time and again…but there was nothing they could do. Finally, they were forced to make their final stand."

As Jack spoke, the flames in the fire behind him seemed to shift and shape themselves to go along with the story. A king with a flaming crown, knights in blazing armor. It only added to the magic of the story.

"Young and old, the knights fought with all their hearts. But when the dust settled…only a single knight remained standing. A boy still fresh in his knighthood. All around him the kingdom he was sworn to protect was crumbling. He had no king to serve. His order of knights all but gone. He was the last, a lonely knight. He fell into despair. And with no more purpose, he wandered the world. Years passed and he fought battle after battle in search of a reason to continue. And just as he was giving up hope on ever finding a reason to keep living, he came across a wizard's guild. And he saw that these people, these wizards, were doing the best they could to serve the people of the world. In their own way, they were striving to keep the world safe."

Jack's voice began to grow higher. "It relit the fire in the lonely knight's heart. On that spot, he joined the guild and promised to once again use his skills for the betterment of mankind. On that day, he swore to no longer wander in despair." Jack was suddenly at his feet, his arms in the air. "All those he lost, every life he couldn't save, he'd take into his heart and he would live for them. He would live to his upmost to make them proud, to make sure they were never forgotten!"

He sucked in air and yelled, "Pumpkin King! We have lost someone dear to us, but we won't let that stop us! Take Latran into your hearts and let him live through you. Now on your feet!" He shouted at his guild. "And let's make sure that when Latran looks down on us from the heavens, his chest will puff out with pride! For he will always be with Pumpkin King!"

As one, the guild members got to their feet and let out a cry so loud that even the flames seemed to grow with their energy. Rosemary and Bertrand were suddenly there, each with a barrel of alcohol. "Let's send him off one last time!"

Everyone cheered loudly and they all started throw one more party. Erk, Julio, and Dante jumped onto a table and started singing the loudest songs they knew, soon to be joined by teary eyed Lucinda. Charlotte grabbed mugs for everyone while Lorelai and Sara grabbed trays of food for everyone.

But while they were all distracted, they didn't notice Crest silently making his way to the door, his head bowed with a pained look on his face. When he got outside, he found Becky leaning against the wall, she'd heard the whole story. They looked at each other for a moment, she studying his face while he tried to avert his eyes. And then it happened. A look of comprehension dawned on her face.

She stared at him with eyes wide, but Crest just shook his head silently before walking away.

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