Pumpkin King

Chapter 55

The three men approached the Pumpkin King wizards slowly. Just as Bertrand and the others watched their every step warily, watching for any sign of attack.

Reese in particular kept careful watch. His magic made him more in tune with people's emotional states. He could get a feel of just about everyone. The one with glasses was filled with grim resolve. That was dangerous. That kind of determination could make a man do crazy things when pushed. The one covered in the cowl made Reese flinch. There was a kind of madness inside him. He wanted victory. He wanted to gloat over the corpses of his foes while at the same time he felt bored with the whole situation. The clashing feelings almost made his stomach turn.

It was the short one that caught his attention the most. He couldn't get a read on him. There was no anger, no determination, no resolve. There was darkness in him, that much he was certain. But other than that, there simply wasn't anything else to him. He would have to keep a close eye on that one.

Bertrand stamped his cane against the ground adamantly while Sara crouched in front of Lucinda and Julio protectively. Rosemary didn't even register their presence. Her eyes remained closed as she sat on her spot in the ring of ashes.

The first one to speak was the man with the glasses. "I am Jekyll of Nightmare's End. These are my associates," he gestured at the one in the cowl, "Corwin," then the short one, "and Taboo." He straightened his glasses. "All we wish for is the Valmagus. Surrender him quietly, and we will leave without causing any harm." The light flashed off his glasses, masking his eyes. "Fight us and rest assured that we will take him from your corpses."

Bertrand scoffed and waved his cane at them. "You've got no respect for your elders, punk. You think that we're just going to lie down and let you do what you want?" He huffed angrily. "You're a hundred years too early to go barking those kinds of orders!"

Jekyll frowned. "I had hoped to avoid violence. But you leave me no choice." He glared at them. "Let this ruined building be your grave."

But Bertrand was prepared. Twirling his cane, a funnel of fog enveloped the three intruders. Then he shouted, "Sara!"

Saraphina didn't wait. She took a deep breath and then let out a scream loud enough to rattle the floorboards. A stream of high pitched sound shot from her mouth and at their enemies, causing Jekyll and Corwin to cover their ears and scream from behind the fog.

Bertrand then turned to Rosemary. "Now!"

Rosemary's eyes shot open. The ashes around her were blown away by the sheer force of magic. A large, red magic circle appeared under her, the light shining just as strongly as a blazing fire. "Three Sealed Barrier! First Layer."

There was burning anger in Rosemary's glare as she stared at the shadows of the three men. She felt glad to see two of them writhing from the sound of Sara's scream, but the third one, the short one, didn't even seem effected. That worried her. "Give me time." She said sharply to the others. "I need more time to set up the next two layers."

Bertrand nodded. There was hesitation in his features, but he still agreed. Then Rosemary looked at Reese and Sara. "Whatever you do, don't go near Val. I have to weaken his seal in order to use this spell, so if you get too close, you'll get hit by Dream."

The other two looked at her worriedly. They had no idea what she was up to. All they could do was trust her and buy her time.

But before they could come up with a plan, a shadow loomed over Sara. She quickly looked up to see Taboo standing over her with his dark eyes staring at her. He had a knife in his hand. "You're too loud." He raised his knife to strike her. "I can't complete my mission without those two."

But before he could lower his knife, Reese was in front of him, his green ponytail waving in the air from the dash. "Perspective Shift: Joy." A heart with a circle around it appeared on Taboo's chest. It was pitch black. A heart filled with darkness and killing intent. The heart flashed yellow for a millisecond, but that was it.

But that was all that Reese needed. He grabbed Sara and jumped out of the way of the knife as it stabbed into the floor where they had been standing.

"What the hell is wrong with this guy?" Reese asked bewildered. "Has he never been happy before?" Then he saw the knife as Taboo pulled it from the ground. It had a serrated edge that was as black as Taboo's heart. Reese knew it was impossible, but the knife looked thirsty. It wanted blood and lots of it.

He gulped and then pushed Sara behind him. "You focus on using those screams of yours." He told her. "Nothing too fancy, just let 'em loose whenever you think it could give us an opening."

Sara could only nod as she stepped back. She had been so distracted by Taboo and Reese that she hadn't noticed Jekyll and Corwin lunging out of the fog behind her. Jekyll looked annoyed but Corwin looked murderous.

"Come here, you little bitch!" What looked like a shadow sprouted from the palm of his hand and extended outward. He brought it down towards Sara like a hammer, but Bertrand got in his way. He blocked the blow with his cane and glared at the younger man.

Corwin jumped backwards and tapped the length of shadow against the floor. The shadows fell away, revealing a staff of dark, twisted wood. His eyes narrowed. "Out of my way, or I'll teach you just how kindly I treat my elders."

But while Corwin had been stopped, Jekyll had not. But he wasn't lunging at Sara, his attention was directed elsewhere. His eyes were locked on Rosemary. He thrust his palm out towards her as a light appeared on it, first on his palm and then spreading across his fingers.

But just as he was about to reach her, the board beneath him exploded into splinters as a boar reared its tusks at him. He let out a scream of surprise and quickly dodged to the right of the beast. "What the hell?" The boar didn't look right. Entire tufts of fur were missing from it. The right tusk was actually broken at the end. And now that he looked at it, its ribs were exposed since it was missing chunks of flesh. There was no way this creature could be alive.

Then he heard the giggle. He hadn't noticed her before, but there was a girl riding on top of the boar. She had deep, red hair that fell passed her shoulders. Her eyes were watching him coyly, just waiting for him to react. "Sorry I'm late." She said in her husky voice.

The sudden appearance of a boar in the room attracted the attention of everyone else. And Sara and Reese smiled at what they saw. "Tamashi!"

Tamashi laughed. "I had to gather up a few friends before we could start this thing. Isn't that right, you little cuties?" As she said that, more creatures started crawling through the hole the boar had made. Wolves, dogs, cats, even a mountain lion and a bear all started clawing their way into the room. And all of them well passed their expiration date.

"Why don't we beat these guys and then have a nice cup of tea?"

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