Pumpkin King

Chapter 5

Erk was walking to the guild like he normally was in the morning. Pumpkin King was located at some crossroads that led to several small towns and villages, so there was always a bit of a walk to get there. There wasn't really anything else around the guild other than the farmland that they used for the pumpkin patches.

Other than a few travelers, he was pretty much alone. As he turned onto the main road that would lead to the guild, he noticed a flock of birds swarming underneath a tree. And not just any birds, crows. As he watched, the crows went from swarming to flying around the tree in a routine formation.

Erk smirked. There was only one person that could make birds act like that. As he got closer, he began to hear the sounds of a flute playing from where the crows were gathered which only made him more certain.

At the sound of a low note, the crows landed on the ground and, sure enough, Julio sat in the middle of them on a large rock with a confident smirk on his face. Without even glancing at Erk, Julio looked into the branches of the tree behind him.

Erk followed his gaze and noticed that Julio was staring at a single crow that was perched in the branches. He immediately recognized it as Peeko. "Don't do it." He muttered to himself. "You know what'll happen." But as he said it, Julio slowly raised the flute to his mouth without taking his eyes off of Peeko. Erk winced. "He's going for it."

Julio started playing a slow melody on his flute. Erk had heard it before. It was the one he used when he called to the crows that lived in the pumpkin patch. And as he played it, the wings etched onto the surface of the flute began to glow. Julio was a holder type wizard and the flute was his source of magic. Julio had said that its name was Avian Call. It let him control birds….well, most birds.

Peeko stared back at Julio as he played his song, but he didn't move an inch from his spot on the branch. The pitch and flow of the tune quickened as Julio put more magic into it. This seemed to get a reaction out of Peeko. But instead of flying into the air like he was supposed to, the crow cawed and flew down to start pecking Julio on the head.

Julio immediately stopped playing so he could cover his head with his arms. "Ow! Hey stop that you stupid crow!" He waved his arms around in an attempt to scare him off.

Peeko let out a mocking caw before flying off towards the guild.

At this point, Erk couldn't hold it in any longer. He burst up laughing, causing the crows gathered around to scatter in different directions.

Julio whipped his head around to look at his guild mate and glare at him. "How long were you watching?" He asked accusingly.

Erk chocked back his laughter and said, "Long enough to see you bomb at commanding Peeko again."

Julio gritted his teeth and stared at his flute in frustration. "I don't know why I can't control him like I do the other crows. Being the Master's best friend aside, he's just a normal bird isn't he?"

Erk shrugged as Julio hopped off the rock he was sitting on and brushed himself off. "I don't know." He admitted. "He seems smarter than the others. Maybe that's it."

Julio grumbled a bit before he took a deep breath and slapped his cheeks. "Screw it! I can't get all angry over one bird." He ran a hand through his black, spikey hair with a smirk. "I gotta look cool and collected for the ladies."

Erk suppressed another laugh. "Yeah, whatever. Don't you mean for Lucinda?"

Julio staggered backwards in shock, a slight blush touching his cheeks. "What are you talking about?"

Erk rolled his eyes. "Come on, man. You've been drooling over her for weeks. It's kind of obvious."

Julio coughed awkwardly to clear his throat. "Yeah, well if she didn't want guys looking at her, she wouldn't be wearing such revealing clothes." Then he blinked as he remembered something. "Oh yeah, the Master sent me down here to meet you for something."

Erk raised an eyebrow. "What for?" He asked. "It's not like he couldn't wait for me at the guild.

"I don't know." Julio admitted with a shrug. "He just told me he wanted to see you and to meet you here. And we need to find Dante before we go see him."

The two boys suddenly froze as a thought struck them. Julio gulped. "You don't think he figured out it was us that glued his head to the counter, do you?"

Erk began sweating a little. A few days before, the Master got into a drinking contest with Rosemary and Latran, which ended with him passed out at the bar. And the three of them just couldn't bring themselves to pass up such a fine opportunity. So they took it upon themselves to glue their Master's head to the counter top…he wasn't exactly happy when he woke up.

"Should we run?" Erk asked quietly.

Julio shook his head quickly. "No way! We should accept our punishment before he decides to make it worse."

Erk shuddered and looked in the direction of the guild before begrudgingly walking towards it. "If we get killed, I'm coming back as a ghost and killing you again."

"That doesn't even make sense." Julio pointed out. Erk would have said something snarky, but instead he shuddered at the thought of their punishment. Then the two slowly started off towards the guild.

When they got inside, they didn't bother looking at anyone. They scanned the room until they found Dante sitting at the bar, laughing with Lucinda and Saraphina. With dark looks on their faces, they marched up to the group and each grabbed one of the prankster's shoulders.

"Sorry, but we've got to borrow him." Erk said darkly.

They didn't give the two girls a chance to respond before dragging Dante away. "Hey, what's the big deal?" He asked after the two had dragged him away from the others. Then he noticed the dark air around the two. "Did something happen."

"Master wants to see us." Erk said gloomily.

"We think he found out about the glue." Julio added, just as darkly.

Dante stood there smiling at them for a few moments. Then his head dropped and the same dark aura went around him just like with Erk and Julio. "We're dead."

"Ah good. I was wondering when you three would show up." The three froze. They slowly turned around to find Jack sitting at a table behind them, sipping on a cup of tea. "I've got something very important to talk to you about."

The three immediately went to their knees. "We're sorry, Master! We'll never do it again!" They said at the same time.

Jack looked at them curiously. "What are you idiots apologizing for?"

Dante looked up hesitantly, his black hair obscuring his eyes. "Aren't you mad at us?"

Jack leaned closer to them. "And why would I be mad at you?" He asked.

This time, Julio looked up. "Because we-." Before he could say anything else, Erk and Dante slapped their hands over his mouth and yelled, "Nothing!"

Jack studied them for a moment before sitting back up and taking another sip of tea. "Anyway, I'd like to talk to you about your training, Erk." He said. "You see, I've been talking to Crest and he said that you've made quite a bit of progress in your training. In fact, he's even gone so far as to recommend you for your first mission."

Erk's eyes widened before he sprang up. "Seriously?" He asked.

Jack chuckled and took another sip of tea. "Yup. That is, if you think you're ready for it."

"Are you kidding? I've been waiting to go on missions for weeks!"

Jack laughed again and stood up and raised his voice dramatically. "I like that enthusiasm!" He cheered. "I've looked through all the jobs we've received and picked one that seemed the most likely to give you some good experience." Then he looked at Julio and Dante. "And I want you two to go with him."

Dante stood up and raised an eyebrow. "You mean like a team?"

"Exactly!" Jack said. "We can't have our newbie going solo for his first mission. So," he looked at each of them in turn. "Erk Travel. Dante Creed. Julio Hale. Are you ready for your first mission as a team?"

The three looked at each other and grinned. "Yes, sir!"

"Excellent!" He took out a job notice from inside his cloak and slammed it onto the table dramatically. "Then start to it! There's work to be done."

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