Pumpkin King

Chapter 31

Unnoticed as everyone focused on the feast, Lorelai was hiding in the shadows by the platform. She was waiting for someone. AS she waited, she watched the dark guild members as they ate. Bligoro was at the fruit table again, but he wasn't eating like he usually did. He was barely nibbling while casting nervous glances at the Master. He still felt the sting from his punishment. Harlas himself was standing on his own with a glass of wine. There was an annoyed look on his face, the source probably coming from Sissy who was swooning next to him, making bedroom eyes and trying to get his attention.

Tamashi was taking small bites off a roasted ham while next to her, Erk and the blue haired boy were engaged in an eating contest, grabbing everything they could and shoving it in their mouths. He was trying, but Erk wasn't close to winning.

Ulrich was standing on his own. He took on drink of water and then stood aside with his arms crossed. Will, Picksy, and Spindel were chatting with one another. Will didn't touch the food, but slipped the candle candy he gave Erk up the cloth cover his mouth to chew on.

The only person Lorelai couldn't see was the one she was waiting for, Dante.

"What's a pretty girl like you doing standing her all alone?" Lorelai didn't feel any shock as she turned to find the shaggy haired boy next to her holding out an apple. "Hungry?"

Lorelai gently took it but didn't take a bite. "It's good your plan worked. It would have been bad if you were caught."

"Aw." Dante said, taking a bite from his own apple. "I didn't know you cared."

Lorelai gave him a flat look. "If you had been caught, the rest of us would have been exposed." She said emotionlessly.

Dante sagged slightly. 'Oh. You know, I know this mission is important to you, but I wish you didn't have to give you your -."

She suddenly cut him off by putting her hand over his mouth. "Quiet." She said sternly. "We aren't supposed to talk about the mission. I just needed to make sure you got in safely and I've done that." With that, she headed for the door, not even giving Dante a second glance.

The Earth wizard watched her dejectedly. Then he stuck his hands in his pockets and slumped his shoulders, heading back to the feast. "Stupid mission." He mumbled.

What they didn't know, was that Harlas was staring at their parting with dark eyes. He put a hand to the scar on his face and growled under his breath.

While that was happening, Erk and the blue haired boy had finished their competition. Erk was leaning against the table with a hand on his stomach. "No…More." He said, giving in.

The other boy raised his fist in the air, one of which held a drumstick. "Ha! Suck it loser!" He cackled wildly. Slamming one booted foot on the table, he pointed the drumstick around the room. "Who's next? Who wants to take on Milo the champ?" He looked at each person, although he made sure to keep his gaze away from Bligoro.

Everyone either rolled their eyes or ignored his outburst. Except for Sissy. After getting brushed off by Master Harlas, she sauntered over to the boy and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "A girl likes a challenge." She said to him in a silky voice. "But an eating contest is too boring. I can think of a much more entertaining competition." She giggled mischievously in his ear.

Milo grinned and eyed her up and down. Setting his food back on the table, he turned around and said cockily, "What do you have in mind?"

By her smile, that was exactly what she wanted to hear. She grabbed one of his hands and started leading him away. "You'll just have to follow me and find out." Milo's grin grew wider and he offered no resistance as she pulled him away. But as the blonde girl saw Erk, who felt like he was going to be sick after watching the scene, she sneered at him and said, "Sorry, losers aren't invited."

Milo laughed loudly. "You don't even want to know how much of a loser that guy is." He said as they left. But just before they left ear shot, Erk heard him say, "He's been training for almost a year and he STILL hasn't mastered his magic."

Erk bolted upright. Does he know who I am? He thought frantically. His head was swimming with the thought that he could finally learn something about himself. Sure, Dante told him he was part of a guild, but he wanted more than that. He ran after them, about to call out when he bumped into Dante on accident.

"Hey, watch it!" The older boy snapped. Erk recoiled from him and Dante winced. "Sorry." He said quietly. Then he cleared his throat and took the apple out of his pocket to take a bite. "What's the rush?" He said, trying to get a conversation going.

Erk looked behind him frantically, but Sissy and Milo were already gone. Dejected, he lowered his head.

"Hello? Erk? You in there?" Dante asked, thinking his friend hadn't heard him.

He was about to reach out and tap him on the head, when Erk answered, "I..I thought that…" He shook his head and looked up, faking cheer. "No reason. Just felt like running around."

Dante munched on his apple. "Uh huh…Well that's not weird or anything." He tossed the core of the apple into his mouth and crunched down on it. "This place is boring." He said. Looking around, people were starting to disperse. With Lorelai, Sissy, and Milo had already left and he hadn't even noticed it when Harlas disappeared. But without the head honcho around, everyone was going about their own business. Will was already heading for the door with Ulrich close behind.

Then he grinned and pulled out a stack of playing cards from his pocket. "Wanna play a game? I promise I don't cheat."

Erk eyed the cards doubtfully. He had a feeling he'd been beat plenty of times in card games. And for some reason, the thought made him really sad. The type of sad you feel when you've lost something important. The same type of sadness he feels when he tries to remember his past but different.

But before he could figure out what it was, the feeling was gone. And realizing that Dante was still waiting for an answer, he smiled. "Sure. I could go for a game."

Dante whooped and punched the air. Then he saw Tamashi walking passed and turned to her. "Hey Tamashi, want to play?"

"No." The red haired girl responded without even looking at them.

"Aw! Why not?" Dante persisted. "It'll be fun."

She huffed and turned to them, her hands on her hips. "Three reasons. First, I'm tired. Second, me staying up with two guys…Do I look like Sissy? And third, just because you don't cheat doesn't mean I won't."

The two boys stepped away from her, slightly nervous at her snippy mood. "Okay, okay." Dante said with his hands up. "Not going to force you or anything."

She huffed again and stalked out of the room.

Erk sweat dropped. "Real smooth. You know, I almost thought she was going to come with us."

"Shut up." Dante tried to swat him on the head, but the smaller boy ducked out of the way with a smile on his face. Then Dante looked around. "I wonder if Milo will play. Any idea where he went?"

Erk practically choked. "Yeah. But he won't play. He's with Sissy." He shuddered at the thought.

But Dante just stared at him blankly. "That. Lucky. Bastard."

"You do realize she might kill him, right?"

"Don't care." He replied. "She is one hot babe. Even if she's a little nuts."

They started for the door. "Nuts? Don't you mean psycho?" Erk asked. "She paralyzed me and tried to suck the magic out of my body. I think we're passed nuts."

"Whatever." Dante cut the cards in an arch over his head. "Let's just find a room that isn't covered in spider webs and play."

Lorelai was walking through the halls, the apple Dante gave her still in her hand. She knew she shouldn't have been so snippy with him. But he was letting his emotions get in the way of the mission. And even one minor mistake could the death of them all.

She held the apple to her mouth and took a bite. That was why she got rid of her emotions. If it wasn't for that, she would have…

She shook her head to clear it of thoughts. She couldn't dwell on that. All that mattered was the mission.

But she wasn't looking where she was walking, so she didn't see it when a man appeared before her. She bumped right into him, dropping the apple in the process which rolled across the hall till it hit the wall.

Looking up, Lorelai found Master Harlas staring down at her with a furious look in his eye.

"So you thought you could get away with it did you?" You practically roared. The scar on his face was a puckered red color and he looked half crazed. "You thought you could sneak into my house and expect it to go unnoticed?" He took an angry step forward and Lorelai took a step back. But even though she should be terrified, her face remained emotionless. "I took you in when we found you wandering the streets. And how do you repay me? You plot behind my back! Are you here to kill me? Or simply to spy?" He cut her off from saying anything with a swipe of his hands. "I even kept you from Bligoro's examination. Yet here you stand, betraying my trust. But nothing happens in my house without me knowing about it!" The vein at his neck bulged and the hallway seemed to shake and stir with his anger, causing Lorelai to lose her footing. "This time, I'll have that fat oaf sniff out every single one of your dark secrets. Every. Last. One!"

Lorelai didn't have much choice. Despite the danger, she looked the frenzied man in the eye and said calmly, "You killed my brother. There's nothing in this world that will save you from me."

Harlas practically shook with rage. He screamed in primal fury, throwing his hands in the air and bringing them down in a swiping motion. Just as he did, the floor seemed to melt underneath Lorelai. And with a scream, she fell into darkness.

Erk was wandering through the hallways. They had found an empty room that was mostly spider free and decided to play there. And he was right in thinking that Dante was going to beat him. Erk didn't win once. He blamed bad luck, but Dante just laughed and said he always said that.

So now he was searching for a place to sleep. But all the rooms he checked were dining halls or bathrooms or anti chambers. It had dawned on him that no one had bothered telling him where he was supposed to sleep. Dante said he was fine sleeping on the floor in the room they found, but Erk wanted something softer to lay on.

"Why is it so hard to find a freaking bed in this place." He grumbled. He was tired and quickly wishing he asked someone where his room was during the feast.

But as he turned a corner, he found himself face to face with Milo. But there was something strange about him. He face was flushed and his clothes were messy. His eyes weren't focusing on anything and every couple of breaths, he would hiccup and send a booze smelling gust right at Erk's face.

Erk fanned the air in an attempt to get rid of the smell and curled his nose at the other boy. "Someone's wasted." He muttered.

Apparently, Milo was able to hear him. "I am NOT wasted." He grumbled. Running a hand over his face, he leaned against the wall. "You're just jealous cause Sissy picked me over you." He teetered a bit but managed to keep himself up against the wall.

Erk vaguely wondered how he had survived his encounter with Sissy, but decided he really didn't want to know. Then he remembered what he had said before they left. "So…earlier you said something about me training for a year."

Milo hiccupped once and sneered. "Yeah, what about it loser? You're just a waste of space who can't even master his own magic."

Erk ignored the insult. "So…does that mean you know who I was?"

Milo went completely still and silent and the lighting in the hall cast a shadow over his eyes. Then he suddenly grinned wickedly and looked up, all traces of drunkenness gone from his face. "No. I don't know who you were." He hissed maliciously. "I know who you are."

It was only for a moment. Just in the blink of an eye, Milo's features melted in front of Erk. His long blue hair became short and white. His skin went ghostly pale to the point that you could almost see the veins running through them. And a disturbing, maniacal smile spread across his face.

Then everything went black.

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