As Dante's earth basilisk rampaged on the upper level, the lower levels were suffering as debris fell from the ceiling. The basilisk would strike at Milo but crash into the floor as the boy jumped away. The impact tore large holes in the floor, causing chunks of the stone floor to rain into the rooms below. One such place was the circular room Erk, Dante, and Tamashi first woke up in. Their cocoons, splayed open, lie forgotten and silent in the depths of the chamber.
But as the blocks of stone and support beams began raining down, a startled cry rang through the room. A small, dark shape shot out of Dante's cocoon. It darted from side to side, avoiding the falling projectiles. After a stone nearly clipped its wing, it let out another cry before flying through a hole in the ceiling, leaving a single black feather to float softly to the ground.
Erk and Harlas locked eyes. The other Demon Horn members remained facing forward, watching Milo's actions as he ran from the basilisk. He wasn't sure if they knew he was behind them, but they weren't his problem. His problem was Harlas.
Just a few more cuts was all he needed, then Lorelai would be free. But the moment he tried…he didn't want to think about what would happen.
Then Harlas raised a hand, palm upwards, and a slab of floor lifted into the air, creating a platform in front of Erk. "Step away from my prisoner and I may decide to be lenient on your punishment." He explained in a menacing voice.
Erk tensed. The Demon Horn master wasn't happy. And it was probably in his best interests to comply with what he wanted. But part of him was rebelling against that. Besides, the platform had given him an idea. He just hoped Lorelai was loose enough.
He dropped the knife he was using to free her. Harlas smiled. "Good. After all, you don't owe these people anything. You have no memories. Just come to my side and you'll be forgiven." He gestured to the floating platform. "You are a clean slate, my young apprentice. With almost unreal amounts of untapped magical potential. As you are now, I can mold you into one of the strongest wizards this country has ever seen."
The thought of power made him hesitate. He put one foot on the platform. A wicked smile flashed across Harlas's face, but only for a second. For the moment after Erk stepped forward, he grabbed Lorelai and, pulling with all his might, yanked her out of the web prison. And holding her close, he used the platform as a springboard and jumped as far as he possibly could.
They cleared the stadium and managed to reach the floor below when they ran out of momentum and began to fall. Spinning himself around, he used his body as a shield as they hit the ground and skidded across the floor. When they finally stopped, Erk groaned. "That…really hurt." Looking down, he checked Lorelai for injuries.
But he barely took a glance before a shadow was cast over them and he looked up to see Milo leaping over them. "You have it you bastard!" He shouted as he ran towards the stage.
Erk didn't have time to be confused as he heard something rampaging behind him and turned to see the basilisk charging right for him. He screamed loudly and just barely rolled out of the way before it barreled passed them.
Deciding that it was a bit too dangerous for someone unconscious to be on a battlefield, he picked up Lorelai and ran for where Dante and Tamashi were waiting for them.
"Nice moves, man." Dante complimented as Erk laid Lorelai down behind them. He immediately started checking her over.
But his attention was soon brought toward the front of the room. The basilisk continued chasing after Milo towards the stadium. But at that point, Harlas had had enough of the debacle. Lifting a hand towards the basilisk, a section of the floor rose up and slammed into the earth creature, pining it down and grinding it into dust.
Rising back into the air, the slab fit itself back into place on the floor as Erk and the others watched Harlas grit his teeth together, magic power beginning to leak from his entire body.
"Enough." His voice commanded. "I won't have these shenanigans in my house." His good eye wandered to Milo, who had jumped on stage to stand with the rest of Demon Horn. "I am disappointed in you. I gave you a simple job of wiping out the vermin. But what do I find you doing? Scrambling like a rat being chased by a cat." He clenched his fist and the air around him hummed with pure magic. "You will be punished once this is over."
Milo didn't even try defending himself. Sweat was trickling down his neck as he bowed his head in shame. "Yes, Master." He said quietly.
That seemed to appease him to a degree. But then Harlas set his eye on Erk. "You've made a grave mistake siding against me, whelp." He moved as if to sit down, and Erk half wondered if he would fall to the ground. But as he watched, an elaborate chair made of some black metal with blood red cushioning rose out of the floor for him to sit on. He settled himself in before pointing a finger at the group. "Pumpkin King wizards! As guests of my house I give you this one chance to surrender yourselves. You are but a mere four children, one of whom is unconscious while another wields no magic. We are double your number and much more powerful. You cannot hope to win."
Dante blanched at him. "I'm twenty you saggy old man, that's plenty adult." He went back to checking Lorelai, completely disinterested about the Demon Horn master. "Shows how good your info gathering skills are if you can't get a simple age right."
"He is not saggy you uncultured brute!" Sissy screamed at him.
She looked ready to jump at Dante and slap him a few times, but the waves of magic rolling off Harlas stopped her. Even from where they were standing they could feel anger radiating off him. "I admit that without emotions, the girl proved more resistant to Bligoro's memory scan than normal." He said. "But we learned enough of you to know your limits." He closed his eyes as he remembered. "Lorelai Blackwing. Dante Creed. Erk Travel. Tamashi Pyke. Each of you is relatively new to your guild. Your skill with magic is mediocre at best and Erk was only accepted into the guild because of his innate talent." He opened his eyes and leaned forward in his chair. "As of yet he holds no spells at his disposal. So tell me, are you mocking my information now?"
But he hadn't been watching Dante. As he spoke, the earth make wizard smiled. And with each word that smile grew larger and larger. And when he was finally able to speak, he just laughed. Erk and Tamashi looked at him like he was crazy, but he just kept laughing till tears welled up in his eyes. When he finally stopped, whipped the tears away. "Man," he chuckled a few more times, "have you got your intel ass backwards."
He stepped towards the stadium with an air of complete confidence and a grin on his face. "You should never underestimate Pumpkin King. And since I'm such a nice guy, I'll let you in on a little secret." He smirked, his eyes hidden behind his bangs. "You've been had."
Harlas's good eye widened. "What?"
Dante puffed himself up. Erk and Tamashi weren't sure what he was talking about, but the stepped up to stand by his side. "Even when you tortured her, Lorelai fooled you. All you got right were our names. The rest was completely fake." Magic welled around him and, clenching his hands, his earth gauntlets wrapped around his fists, looking sturdier and stronger than they had before. "And we aren't a four man squad." He announced. "We're a five man team!" Inhaling as much air as he could, he shouted for all he was worth.
There was a raucous caw from the ceiling and all eyes turned up to see a small, black bird circling the room from above, its eyes watching the scene as it unfolded.
Will was the first to speak. "A crow?"
Then Milo broke out in a laugh. "That's it? That's your fifth member. Hahaha! You guys are lamer that I though! What's a bird gonna do, crap on my head?"
Dante smirked viscously. "Heh. Peeko isn't just a crow. Even if it's an animal, every member of Pumpkin King is a wizard." He shouted again, "Peeko!"
With another caw, Peeko dived towards the Pumpkin King wizards, it's wings tucked closed. But when he reached face level, he opened his wings and glided around them in a circle. He beat his wings only when he needed and his black eyes studied Erk and the others with keen intelligence.
"Peeko has a very special magic." Dante explained as the crow continued to circle them. "A magic that no human in the world has."
Harlas eyed the bird with mistrust as the rest of Demon horn watched it with either disgust or curiosity. "And what magic would that be?"
"So glad you asked. Because you'll be eating your words soon." Dante taunted. "He acts like a bank. But you don't deposit money or valuables in him. He takes something else. Something much more precious."
Erk's eyes widened as stuck him like a bolt of lightning. "Memories."
A collective look of shock and understanding passed through the Demon Horn members while Tamashi just smiled as she realized what was going on. "Couldn't have thought of a better plan myself." She admitted.
"Peeko, the memory bank." Dante said excitedly. "We needed a way of getting passed your barrier, and what better illness than amnesia?" He pointed one gauntlet clad fist at the platform. "Now why don't we show them what we're really made of, Peeko?" As if understanding what he wanted, the crow began circling more quickly, staying face forward to keep one eye on Demon Horn and one eye on Pumpkin King.
To Erk and Tamashi, everything seemed to slow and quiet down until only Peeko mattered. Even when the they couldn't see him, they could still see the bird's eye in their minds. There was something about it, like it could read their every thought. Then they saw it. Hidden behind the black pupil was a purple magic circle. And as they noticed it, it grew until it took up his entire eye. And at the center of the circle was the symbol of a pumpkin wearing a crown.
Then Dante's voice cut through the silence. "Memory Magic: Reclaim!"
With a caw, Peeko turned his head so both its eyes locked with Erk and Tamashi's. The purple magic circles began to glow brightly and everyone had to shield their eyes as the two wizards shined with a blinding light.
Everything inside their heads clicked into place. Pictures, feelings, sounds. Moments in time flashed through their mind's eye. Memories flooded through them like tsunamis.
They remembered everything.
It had been a normal day at the guild. Erk and Dante were laughing hysterically as Julio tried to get a freshly carved Jack-o-Lantern off his head. All the other guild members were either watching in amusement or trying to eat their lunch with irritated looks.
"Come on guys!" He shouted. "It smells in here! And I'm probably going to break out in hives!"
But that only made the boys laugh harder.
"Erk…Erk." Dante tried saying between laugh. "Go get a camera." He glanced at Julio again and, seeing the smiley face they'd carved into it, began laughing again till he clutched his sides.
But Erk was too busy rolling on the ground from laughter to pay attention. He rolled until his head smacked against the leg of the chair Rosemary was sitting on, only his goggles protecting his forehead from getting hurt.
But that was the last straw for Rosemary. She slammed her fork down and pushed her plate away before standing up and kicking Erk in the side hard enough to send him rolling in the other direction.
"Quiet you little ingrates!" She yelled, kicking over her chair. "I'm trying to eat in peace!"
The three friends jumped up and yelled in unison, "Shit she's pissed! Run!"
They ran for the door just as Master Jack walked through it. Julio, with his pumpkin head, managed to duck underneath his arms in time to run out of the guild. But Erk and Dante weren't as lucky. Before they had a chance to leave, the Master grabbed them by the back of their shirts and nonchalantly tossed them at Rosemary's feet. "You two can't leave. I'm going to need you soon so go play with Rosie for a bit."
"Master how could you?" Erk whine piteously. Behind him, Rosemary grabbed each of them by their heads and lifted them to eye level. She was angry. "Learn to shut up when people are eating!" She yelled. Then she bashed their heads together hard enough to make them collapse.
As they groaned on the ground, Lucinda and Saraphina waved at Jack. "Hi Master!" Lucinda called. "How was the Magic Council meeting?"
"Heya." Jack answered back with a wave. "Well it was different than usual."
That peaked Lucinda's interest. "Really? What happened?"
Sara tugged at her sleeve. "You shouldn't bother the Master." She said quietly.
Lucinda pouted but Jack patted them both on the head. "Don't worry, my seedlings. They just gave me a mission is all."
That caught everyone's interest. "What kind of mission?" Erk asked, standing up while rubbing the sore spot on his head.
The guild gathered around Jack, even Julio who had peaked his head back in after realizing Rosemary wasn't chasing him. Once he saw they were all there, he started. "Well we were given a special mission. We're taking on a dark guild."
A shocked mutter ran through the group. Jack waited for it to die down before continuing. "The dark guild in question recently waged war on several other guilds across the country, although they only attack smaller guilds that lack S rank wizards. Bright Unicorn, Brimming Hero, Woodland Owl, Sunny Leprechaun…and Angel Wings have been completely destroyed by them."
Lorelai gasped and her hand went to cover her mouth. Her eyes were wide as she stared at the Master in disbelief. Lucinda reached towards her to ask if she was alright, but before she could, the black haired girl ran for the door.
Lucinda was about to run after her, but Jack stopped her. "Leave her be." His green eyes appeared behind his mask. "She has a personal stake in this."
"What do you mean, Master?" Lucinda asked. She had become friends with Lorelai. So she was worried about her.
"She is one of the few survivor of the Angel Wings guild." Every face in the room became serious. "Her guild was one of the first to be destroyed by the dark guild. The attack was so vicious that those that managed to survive the attack won't even speak of it. Some lost their minds to the horror. But the Magic Council had no way of stopping the attacks. One moment they would target a guild in Fiore Kingdom while the next they would set their eyes on a newly rising guild in Bosco. They simply had no way of tracking them."
Then a determined look appeared in his eyes. "But they've finally made a mistake. Recently, they launched an attack on the guild Tempest Gale. That guild has always had a penchant for battle, so they were well prepared for the attack. They managed to meet the dark guild head on and captured most of the dark guild's members. But somehow, the Master along with his lieutenants managed to escape. Yet we managed to track them to their hideout."
A cheer went up around the guild. And Jack chuckled before waving the cheers down. "They are weak and they know it. The Master has already started searching for new guild members by kidnapping people. Unfortunately, we're not sure what has happened to the victims he's already taken. We can't get close to the castle that they're laying low in."
"A castle?" Crest commented. "Seems too grand a place for a dark guild to hide in."
Jack shook his head. "It's a decrepit old building fit to collapse in the middle of a forest. But there's a strange magic, probably the Master's making, that prevents anyone healthy from approaching it."
"Then how are we supposed to attack if we can't get close?" Erk asked.
Mischief filled Jack's eyes. "Because we're going to let them recruit some of you."
"Eh?" Several people shouted in confusion. "But won't they know we're guild wizards?" Lucinda asked. "I doubt they'll just take anyone without doing a little background research."
Jack chuckled. "That's just it, one of the lieutenants has a unique magic that allows him to smell out a person's memories. So we'll kill two birds with one stone." He pointed at Erk, Dante, and Tamashi in turn. "You three, along with Lorelai will be going undercover. You're the newest members of the guild, so there'll be fewer memories to erase."
Erk gulped. "Erased? That sounds…bad."
"Don't worry, don't worry." Jack said, waving a dismissive hand. At that point, Peeko flew in through a window and landed on the stem on Jack's head. "We've got it all under control." The crow cawed in agreement.
"O…kay." Dante said hesitantly. "But what about Lorelai? She doesn't exactly seem like she wants to go."
"Aww. Isn't that cute?" Lucinda cooed. "He's worried about her."
Dante blushed and turned on the girl. "Shut it half pint!"
Erk and Julio, never missing a chance to taunt Dante, popped up behind him suppressing laughs. "You liiiike her."
"You keep out of it!"
Peeko and cawed in displeasure as Jack's head shook as he laughed. "Don't worry about Lorelai." He said, not really sure if they were listening anymore. "I'll talk to her. She won't miss the chance for revenge."
But at that point, almost everybody was focused on teasing Dante to notice. But then Crest looked at the Master curiously. "What dark guild are you sending them too?"
Underneath his mask, Jack smiled wickedly. "The dark guild Demon Horn."
The blinding light around Erk and Tamashi vanished and the Demon Horn members stared at them with wide eyes as two completely different people stood with Dante. There was confidence on their faces as they stared back.
Erk lifted his shirt to look at the black Demon Horn simple on his stomach. "You know, I think this mark makes me look fat." He turned so his friends could see him from the side. "What do you think?"
Dante laughed loudly. "Oh yeah. It definitely adds a few pounds. You should get rid of it."
They three friends smirked, even Tamashi. "Good idea." Yellow light radiated from the mark on Erk's stomach, along with the marks on Dante's right bicep and Tamashi's left thigh. And the veins in Harlas's neck bulged with anger as with a flourish he saw his mark disappear and the mark of Pumpkin King appeared in its stead.
Tamashi flipped off the dark guild members as particles of light floated around her new guild mark. "We're Pumpkin King, bitches."
Both Dante and Erk charged forward, Dante with his gauntlets and Erk with the sound of a train whistle blowing. "And we're taking you down!"