Pumpkin King

Chapter 47

Jack and Bertrand stood outside alone. The rest of the guild had filed back inside and were trying to clean the building up a little. There wasn't anything they could do about the holes in the walls, but at least they could try to fix some of the tables and chairs. They'd have to hire someone to do the rest. But until then, the guild sounded with hammers as they did their best to fix things up.

The two men stood in silence as this went on. Jack had frozen at Alec's words. 'Bring us the Valmagus.' That single sentence echoed through his mind over and over again.

Bertrand didn't try making Jack talk. There was an air of quiet anger about him. But he knew that Jack wouldn't speak till he was ready.

It wasn't until the hammering stopped and everyone started settling down that Jack finally spoke. "I'm sorry, old friend."

Bertrand nodded once, his face crinkled in anger. "You swore." He rasped. "You swore never again." Jack didn't shrink away nor lower his head in shame. What he did was wrong. But it had to be done. Bertrand knew this, but he was still angry. "He could have killed Lucinda. I know that." He went on. "If it wasn't for Julio we'd be having another funeral." He closed his eyes and shook his head, gripping his staff hard enough to make the wood creak. Then his eyes sprang open and he yelled, "But when the three of us created this guild, you swore you wouldn't kill again! You swore this would be a place of second chances. A place where even those with bloody hands could try to do some good. And here you are, sullying that vow."

Bertrand took a deep, shaky breath. "Why did you have to kill that young man?"

Jack took it all without batting an eye. When the older man was done, Jack simply turned to face the guild and said, "I protected my seedlings. He wouldn't have stopped at Lucinda. We both know that. True, I could have disabled him until the authorities arrived. For that I apologize." He looked at Bertrand. "But we don't have time for this now."

Bertrand bit back words he wanted to say. He wanted to shout and yell like he did when he was still young. But he was older now. Wiser. So he locked all those thoughts away. "Fine. But when this is all over, we will talk."

Jack nodded in thanks. "When that time comes, I will do anything you ask. Even if it means stepping down from being Master." Then all the sorrow and disquiet in his body shifted to something more serious. "But we have a new enemy. One who knows our secret…"

Bertrand looked at his Master intently. "If I hadn't heard that swine, Alec, say it himself, I wouldn't have believed it. Nobody but the Magic Council should know about the Valmagus's existence." He looked back to the guild. "What are you going to do?"

Jack was silent for a whole minute before responding. He started walking towards the guild slowly. "I'm going to tell them everything." Bertrand could only nod as he matched pace with his Master. "They deserve to know why they are going to war."

Everyone was gathered around the bonfire. Despite all that had happened it still burned brightly, giving it's warmth to all those around it. The air was tense. Julio and Lucinda still lie side by side, Sara keeping one of Lucinda's hands between both of hers. Until she was well again, she wasn't going to leave her side.

Erk was filling Dante in on what happened after he got knocked out and Dante wanted slam his head against the table. "I can't believe I missed some awesome magic like that!" He growled and ran a hand through his hair in irritation. "I'm always making fun of Julio cause of his lame Avian Call. Didn't know he had something as powerful as a phoenix hiding up his sleeve."

Erk could only agree. "Yeah. I was pretty shocked when Master told me."

Then Tamashi and Lorelai sat down with them. Lorelai wrapped her hand around Dante's and squeezed tightly. But Tamashi only tapped her finger against the table irritably. "I've been thinking." She started, getting the other's attention. "What the hell is this 'Valmagus' that guy was talking about?"

Erk could only shrug. "No idea. I've never heard of a Valmagus before. I thought it was a made up word or something. But have did you look at Crest, Bertrand, and Rosemary when he said it? I couldn't really tell anything about Master because of his mask, but they freaked out. I thought Rosemary and Bertrand were going to be sick they went so pale." He glanced wearily at Crest, who was standing with his arms crossed. He didn't make eye contact with anyone. All he did was stare at the door. "I could have knocked over Crest with a feather. It was like someone sucker punched him."

"Valmagus was supposed to be a secret." Someone interjected.

The group turned to see Rosemary standing behind them. Her eyes weren't on them, but when she spoke it was them she addressed. She was still pale, but there wasn't shock in her eyes anymore. There was something else. When Erk followed her gaze, he found she was looking at Crest. It was then that he could tell what was in her eyes. It was pity. "Master will explain everything." That was all she said before she headed towards the bar.

Before anyone could ask what she meant, Jack and Bertrand walked in and said, "Everyone, we have much to discuss."

Everyone was silent as he said that. Bertrand went to sit over by Rosemary at the bar. But everyone else stayed by the fire as Jack found a stool and sat in front of them. He was quiet as he gathered his thoughts.

"A long time ago," he started, "before I was a Guild Master I was part of a mercenary guild. I wasn't known as 'Pumpkin' Jack back then. I went by another name." He sighed. "Jack 'The Ripper'. That was what I was called. I took jobs that even my other guildmates wouldn't take." He lifted his hands and studied them. "These hands…are stained red with blood." There were a few gasps, but he paid them no heed. "I've killed. I've killed many times. I killed again today even though I swore to never take another life."

At that point, Bertrand and Rosemary were standing behind him. "The three of us were a team. Rosemary was highly gifted in sealing magic. Bertrand's fog could let us sneak into anyplace we needed. I handled the dirty work." He looked back up at them. "I was put on trial many times, but I was never convicted. We became infamous. We were criminals."

There was a pregnant silence as his guild sank in those words. But he went on. He couldn't stop. They didn't have the time. "But one day, ten years ago, the Magic Council appeared before us. We were expecting a fight, but we were surprised when they said they wanted to hire us."

"Our job…was to destroy the Valmagus."

Will interjected here. "What was the Valmagus?" He asked. "Some beast? Or a cursed magical item?"

Jack chuckled. "In a way, both. Tell me, you all know who Zeref is, right?"

Many in the room shifted uneasily at the mention of that name. "Yeah." Reese chimed in. "My tribe kept distant from the world of magic, but even we knew who Zeref was."

Jack nodded. "Zeref created many demons and dark magic spells in his time. And he recorded those spells in his books." His voice took on a serious tone. "The Valmagus is a Living Magic of one of those spells."

Erk raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Living Magic?"

Will looked over at him. "A magic that can breathe life into objects. Zeref brought many of his spells to life by fusing them with objects and using Living Magic to bring them to life." He explained.

Jack nodded. "Exactly. Out of the many Books of Zeref, the Magic Council has managed to find one that mentions a dark magic called 'Dream'." While he explained this, no one noticed Crest tense. He gripped his hands so tightly that blood started seeping from them as his fingernails punctured his skin.

"Dream is a horrible magic. All those that are affected by it are put into an eternal slumber. Their loved ones are forced to watch as they sleep for the rest of their days." Jack sighed. "Unfortunately, Dream is one of the spells brought to life by Living Magic." Jack, Rosemary, and Bertrand looked down solemnly. "A human was imbued with Dream and turned into a demon. A demon who's very presence put everyone around him to sleep forever. It was that demon that took the name Valmagus."

"So you had to kill this demon. Is that it?" Becky asked.

Jack nodded. "Yes. Far to the west, there used to be a flourishing kingdom called Alistoria. They were a small kingdom. They didn't deal in magic so much as trading goods. They were surrounded on all sides by larger kingdoms. However, they never felt threatened by them. While they didn't have strong wizards, they had something better. They had knights. Very powerful knights. The Council's Rune Knights weren't even on par with the knights of Alistoria…but that was their downfall."

"Because they relied on knights and not on mages," Bertrand picked up, "they were powerless to stop Valmagus from invading them." He looked around the guild at them all. "You see, those with powerful magic can resist Dream to an extent. "

"But because they had no powerful wizards, they fell one by one to the Valmagus." Rosemary finished. "An entire kingdom put to sleep in the span of one week. We arrived too late to save them. Even now the Magic Council is still trying to find a way to cure them."

Charlotte felt sick. "An entire kingdom…they were all put to sleep?

Surprisingly, it was Crest who answered her. "Not all." He said emotionlessly. "Supposedly, there was one survivor."

But Erk missed that part of the conversation. He was looking at the three in awe. "You…you guys killed such a powerful monster?"

Jack laughed humorlessly. "No. At first, that's what we intended. We used Bertrand's fog to get close without him noticing us. Then Rosemary was going to seal away most of his power while I fought him. But…"

Rosemary looked down sadly. "It didn't go as planned."

"The demon…was just too strong." Bertrand admitted. "We underestimated its power."

"We fought for all we were worth, but in the end we couldn't kill." Jack went on. "So we had to resort to something else."

"What happened?" Dante asked.

They were quiet. Each trying to think of a way to explain it to them. But in the end, Rosemary spoke first. "Instead of sealing away only part of its power, I had to seal all of it."

Will studied Rosemary appraisingly. "A demon like that…it should have been near impossible to seal it away and live."

Rosemary shook her head. "It wasn't easy. I couldn't have locked all that power away permanently. It would break eventually. So I created a seal that didn't lock away its power, but redirected it. Instead of leaking out of the body to affect everyone around him, my seal takes his magic and makes it flow inwards. So now, the only one 'Dream' puts to sleep is Valmagus himself."

Rosemary grew silent as she said that. A look of pain flashed through her face. Jack put a hand on her shoulder comfortingly. "With Valmagus subdued, we tried transporting him back to the Magic Council's prison, but it was just too dangerous. We got all the way here, but all the activity was weakening the seal that kept him asleep. We had no choice but to find a way to imprison him here." He laughed a little. "Thus Pumpkin King was born. We abandoned our old ways and created this guild. Our purpose, officially, was to create a prison to hold the Valmagus. And what better way than to recruit powerful wizards to join our guild?"

He spread his arms out to them all. "As each of you joined our guild, our fortifications got stronger and stronger. So that if ever the day came that he escaped, we would all be ready to fight him and protect the people of Earthland from Dream. And to this day, Valmagus has remained here undisturbed."

It was then that it struck Erk. He was an idiot for not noticing it earlier. They sounded so much alike. "Valmagus. Val…magus. Val…Val!?"

At his outburst, not only his eyes, but the eyes of every single guild members shot up to the rafters where a lone figure slept peacefully, not once disturbed by the commotion. A single man who not once since Erk had joined ever woke up.

"You…you gotta be kidding." Dante stuttered.

Jack smiled. "That's right."

"The Valmagus is Val."

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