Pumpkin King

Chapter 70

The room was still after Rosemary's declaration. Taboo gazed at her with his sightless eyes, distrustful of her words. Jekyll stood poised to run, the zombie animals around him as stiff as statues without Tamashi giving them commands. The girl herself stood not far from where Rosemary was sitting. Corwin and Bertrand had eyes only for each other. They acknowledged what was happening around them, but they took no notice of it. Each knew the moment their focus wavered, the other would be at their throat.

With the fog cleared, Saraphina was revealed. Every feature screamed fear, but she didn't move from her spot crouched over Julio and Lucinda's unconscious forms. She would protect them even if she had to use her own body as a shield. She had intended to provide support like Reese had asked her, but with all the fog she had a hard time discerning who was friend and who was foe.

The room was so still that it looked like Rosemary had already cast her spell. But there was one flaw. Reese quivered, the heart on his chest burning with red rage. He had stopped charging Taboo, yes, but his body was shaking with the urge to resume the attack. Her words hadn't calmed him, just the opposite in fact. They fed the flames of his anger. With his magic affecting his emotions, he could hear it whispering to him in his mind. The witch seeks to imprison you. She wants to lock you away. After dealing with Taboo, she comes next.

He shook his head. No. He had to resist that urge. It was his magic that was saying that, trying to rile him up. The only person getting hurt is Taboo. He said to himself. Even though he was blind, he gazed at where he knew Taboo was in front of him while the streaks of blood running down his cheeks started to dry. He was the one trying to kill him, not Rosemary. He was the one he was angry at.

And with that decided, he lunged for his opponent, emphatically breaking the stillness of the room. He yelled savagely as he gripped Taboo by his knife hand and tackled him to the ground. The heart on Taboo's chest beat read for an instant before changing back to black.

"Stupid worm!" He shouted. Reese managed to stay on top of him and pin him to the floor. "You can never defeat me! My curses are too powerful for the likes of you!" He tried to stab down with his knife, but Reese kept a firm grip on his wrist.

Trying to distract him from throwing out another curse, Reese clenched his free hand into a fist and slammed it into Taboo's jaw.

Taboo's features filled with delight as the pain washed over him. This gave him an opportunity for a counterattack. "Curse: Pa-." He didn't get to finish his spell as Reese slammed his jaw shut with the palm of his hand."

"I hope you just bit your tongue off." He seethed with a grin. The dried blood on his cheeks and around his eyes gave him a demonic look that would have frightened anyone who could see it. He smiled down at him. "Not so tough when you can't finish your curses are you?"

Across the room, Bertrand and Corwin were also back in action. The moment Reese had broken the stillness, they had launched back into battle.

"Foggy Cannon!"

"Heaven's Thorn!"

The two spells clashed in an explosion of power. The two wills behind them were strong and neither were willing to bow to the other. The room was filled with a flash of light and a puff of fog before both dissipated and the two wizards once again readied their next spells.

"Give it up, old man." Corwin taunted. Bertrand was starting to lose his breath from the effort of the fight. And Corwin noticed. This was his chance to push him. "This fight is lost. You can barely hold your own cane let alone stop me!" He fired another lance of light at Bertrand, but the older wizard managed to sidestep the blow.

"That's whippersnapper talk." Bertrand replied between breaths. "This body is old, but I've stored up years of magic." He raised his cane and furiously stabbed it at Corwin. Bolt shaped fog lances shot out and impaled themselves in the ground where he had been standing. "You're a hundred years too early to be thinking of killing me!" Several fog clones sprouted in the air next to him and charged the younger man, resuming their heated battle.

The only ones who hadn't resumed fighting were Tamashi and Jekyll. They alone headed Rosemary's threat. The platoon of zombies still lingered, ready to strike, but Jekyll wasn't paying them any mind. Instead, he eyed Rosemary.

Tamashi didn't see much need to badger him if he didn't want to fight. She didn't particularly enjoy fighting anyway. Too much effort and all it did was dirty up her corpses. So if he just wanted to sit around and stare, that was fine with her.

"Tell me this." Tamashi was surprised to hear him speak. Not only because he was her enemy, but because of the tone of his voice. He wasn't angry or demanding or even driven. She couldn't quite put her finger on it but…he sounded hesitant. "Does she mean it?"

Tamashi raised an eyebrow. "Mean what?" Yeah, definitely hesitant. She was beginning to wonder if, perhaps, his heart wasn't into this as much as the other two.

"Her threat. If we keep fighting, will she honestly seal us in here forever?" He had no idea why he was asking this. He knew full well she would. This was a woman who had sacrificed so much of her life to make sure the Valmagus never escaped his slumber. And it wasn't as if she would be killing them, so there could be no guilt on her part for going through with it.

She…never considered whether or not Rosemary would go that far. From what she knew, the Tartarus spell was as powerful as a seal could get. Once cast, it used the magic of the people inside to fuel itself. Time stopped inside it as well. So long as there was something inside, it would continue on for eternity.

Keeping herself facing Jekyll, she glanced to the side at Rosemary. She was watching Bertrand and Reese's fights with a look of pain and sorrow. But that wasn't what caught her attention the most.

She was crying.

Tamashi knew what the answer was. She looked back at Jekyll. "Yeah." She said. "She'll do it. Push her and she'll do it. Without a doubt."

Jekyll sighed. He wasn't as blood thirsty as Corwin and Taboo were. He couldn't risk getting sealed inside a barrier. He was a Breaker. He specialized in breaking seals and enchantments. But if he was trapped inside, he couldn't work his magic as effectively. And he doubted there would be many other wizards that could break a spell as complicated as the one they were in. Even on his best day he would have trouble with it. It was a lost fight. They could beat everyone here and they would still lose. The moment Rosemary thought someone was about to die, she would shut them down with her seal.

He turned to his allies, who were still in the midst of combat. He couldn't get them to stop. They were too headstrong. Corwin would never admit defeat and Taboo…Taboo would try to kill him for even mentioning retreat. It was either return with the Valmagus or not return at all.

Unbeknownst to the others, one person watched them with fear and tears in her eyes. Sara managed to stifle her sobs but she couldn't stop the flow of tears. Reese and Taboo were wrestling on the ground. Taboo would start to say something, but Reese would hit him to make him stop. He looked so angry. And his fist was bloody and swollen.

Corwin and Bertrand were still going at it too. They attacked with magic more than fists. But they couldn't hit each other. So the attacks hit the building. They were destroying the guild. Their home. Her home. The glyphs for Rose's spell were still there, but the wood was torn away with each hit.

She just wanted it all to stop. Tears fell from her face and onto Lucinda's. Rosemary had threatened to seal them all away and they were still fighting. Why couldn't the fighting just stop?

Maybe…maybe there was a way. Maybe there was someone who could help. She looked down at Lucinda and stifled another sob. "What would you do, milady?" She whispered. It could be bad. She could be making a horrible mistake…but she had to try. If it made the fighting stop.

Looking down at Lucinda one more time, she got up and ran to the rope they used to climb into the rafters. The ceiling had been ravaged by Bertrand and Corwin, but this section had managed to go by unscathed. She quickly climbed up the rope and crawled across the beam to her target.

Master had told them what he was. So had Rosemary and Bertrand. He had been a demon, a monster, the cause of so much pain and suffering. But there he was. Despite everything that was happening, he hadn't even stirred from his sleep.

She looked down to see how the fighting was going. Luckily it was still on the other side of the room. If Corwin had seen her come up here, she would have led him straight to Val. Jekyll wasn't paying her any mind either. He was too busy studying the fights.

She began searching. Before she did anything, she had to make sure. Then she found it. It was on the palm of his left hand. A black Pumpkin King symbol. She knew it couldn't mean anything. Master had probably put it on him to keep the appearance that he was just another Guild member. But at the same time, she couldn't believe that someone wearing that mark could be entirely bad. She could be making a horrible mistake. She could be jeopardizing her life, the lives of her friends. But even considering that…she felt; no she knew, even if he was a demon, even if he had been asleep, his time in Pumpkin King had changed him.

Just being around him made her woozy though. She could feel the effects of magic radiating off of him. It wasn't strong, but it was a sign that his seal was weakening.

She gulped. She really hoped she was doing the right thing. "I…believe." She whispered. She put the hand with his mark on her forehead. "I believe." She whispered again. "I believe you'll help us." She choked back another sob. "Because you're a Pumpkin King wizard too."

Then she started to sing to Val.

Rest now…my warrior.

Rest now, hardship is over.

Bertrand, Corwin, Reese, and Taboo had no idea what was going on. They couldn't see or hear anything beyond the enemy in front of them. But Rosemary, Tamashi, and Jekyll all jumped at the sudden music. The building was built in a way that it made the music echo all around them. They searched around for its source until both Tamashi and Rosemary turned their heads to look up at Val's rafter. Their eyes widened.

"No…" Rosemary breathed, tears streaming from her eyes. "No! What are you doing!?"

L-i-i-i-ve. Wake up. W-a-ake up.

And let the clo-o-ak of life cling to your bones. Cling to your b-o-o-ones.

Wake up, wake u-u-u-p.

A soft glow began to emanate from everyone in the room. Rosemary, Corwin, Reese, Lucinda, everyone. The ones fighting took no notice of the glow, embroiled and enraged as they were. But Jekyll and Tamashi looked at themselves in confusion from the glow. Whatever this magic was, it wasn't harmful. It was just the opposite in face. It felt warm and kind, like it was trying to revitalize them.

L-i-i-ive. Wake up. W-a-a-ke up.

And let the cloak, of life – cling to your bones. Cling to your bo-o-nes.

Wa-a-a-ke up. Wake u-u-u-p!

Rosemary could feel it happening. The trace of Sara's magic that was making her glow didn't hide it from her. This song wasn't just energizing everyone. It was working its way into her own magic. It was breaking her seal.

"I won't let you." She said, more to herself than to Saraphina. She clapped her hands together to activate her spell, but as she did, her eyes wavered over to where Bertrand and Reese were fighting Nightmare's Begin. Bertrand was old now. He had already committed himself to an end like this but Reese...and Tamashi. Her eyes wandered over to Lucinda and Julio, still unconscious. They were so young. Their futures still filled with possibility.

Her magic was primed, she was ready to cast. All she had to do was say the words.

But she couldn't.

The tears running down her face weren't tears of pain from her friends being forced to fight. They were tears of sadness. Sadness that she knew that she could never activate the seal with them there. Their magics were powerful enough that Valmagus couldn't put them into under his spell right after waking up. He would have to assault them individually to make that happen. It would take him a while, days even, to muster up the strength to fight them all at once. They would be able to flee.

She was crying because she knew that she would sacrifice this kingdom, this world to Valmagus's wrath before she could steal the futures of these kids.

L-i-i-ive! Wake up! Wake u-u-u-up!

And let the cloak of life! Cling to your bones! Cling to your b-o-o-o-nes!

Wake up! Wake up!

Taboo finally managed to get his feet in between him and Reese. He kicked as hard as he could and managed to push Reese away from him and skidding on the floor. He jumped to his feet and laughed maniacally, waving his knife around in the air.

His face was bloody and bruised from the beating Reese had given him. But now he was free and ready for payback. Never before had he been beaten this badly. And he was absolutely livid about it. "Insolent cur!" He shouted as Reese rose to his own feet. Neither took any notice to the magic Sara was singing.

He raised his knife and leveled it with his heart. "Nobody lays their hands on me like that. Nobody!" He was giggling like a lunatic as he raised for his knife to strike. "Let us continue this fight in Hell!"

Wake up! Wake up!

"Curse: Death!" He swung his knife towards his heart just as the building shuddered as if it was put under an enormous pressure.

It happened like it was in slow motion to Reese. His magic faded and the heart on his and Taboo's chests faded. The rage he had been feeling ebbed out of him as quickly as it had come. He wasn't feeling angry anymore. Now he was scared. His right hand felt like it was broken, along with a few fingers. He watched the knife slice through the air slowly. He wanted to reach out and stop it, to stop the curse that would not only kill Taboo, but him as well. But he couldn't move fast enough.

But just before the knife plunged into Taboo's chest, it suddenly stopped. Taboo's eyes widened as a shadow fell over him. He may have been blind, but he could sense magic. And there was an overwhelmingly large source of it right behind him. It was dark and fathomless, like staring into an ocean.

He couldn't see the hand that was extended towards his face. His white pants and black shirt were crisps and clean, in complete contrast to his messy black hair which made him look like he had just gotten out of bed…which he had actually.

"Sleep now, poor wizard."

At those words, Taboo's whole body shivered and shook. He collapsed in a heap, his eyes closed and his breathing even and steady.

His voice was soft, probably because he hadn't used it in so long. It sounded like the whispered words you hear in a dream, pleasant but misleading. Despite that, everyone in the room froze to look at him. Rosemary and Bertrand were horrified at what they saw. Their worst nightmares had come true. Tamashi and Reese were wary, but they weren't as worried as their older guildmates were. Jekyll was distrustful. His eyes were narrowed in suspicion. Corwin looked like he had won the lottery.

He laughed victoriously at what he saw. "We win, Pumpkin King!" He shouted. "The Valmagus has awoken!" Then he turned Rosemary, who was too busy staring at Val to notice him. "Time for you to die, witch!"

Bertrand had been put too far off balance by the appearance of the Valmagus to react when Corwin launched himself at Rosemary. He raised both arms so that two lances of light appeared, pointed at Rosemary. "Die!"

But before he could reach her, Val was suddenly in front of him, his arm outstretched. "Fool." Corwin was brought to a halt and lifted off the ground by a sudden force. "If she dies, we will all be trapped. Think before you act." Then Corwin too fell to the ground in a deep slumber.

The room was quiet as they watched Val walked towards Rosemary. Then Jekyll was suddenly kneeling in front of him. "Lord Valmagus, as your rescuer I humbly as you to come with me to meet my Master. Then we may destroy those who had imprisoned you for so many years."

Val didn't even stop to acknowledge him. "No." He replied simply.

Jekyll's body clenched. "May I ask why?"

"Under different circumstances, I would have entertained whatever plans you had for me." Val said softly. He walked passed Tamashi and Rosemary, giving neither as much as a glance. "But you were not the one to wake me from my slumber."

He reached the portion of the wall near the bar and the rope that lead to his rafter. He brought his arm back and punched he wall. He didn't break a hole in it, but there was a shudder from the ceiling as the rafters above him caved in. Saraphina screamed as she plummeted to the ground. But she didn't fall far. Val jumped into the air and caught her bridal style. He landed gracefully and gently put Sara back on her feet. "She was." Then he looked sadly at the rafter than had landed on the floor. "I liked that rafter. It was very comfortable."

"Lord Valmagus," Jekyll started, his voice rising.

But Val cut him off. "The only reason you are among the land of wakefulness is because I've decided you aren't worth putting to sleep. Do not make me reconsider my decision." He didn't raise his voice. He didn't make it sound like a threat. It was a simple statement. If Jekyll spoke again, Val would put him to sleep. It was a fact that couldn't be argued against.

Then he stalked over to Rosemary. The wizard's hands were trembling as Val came closer and closer. Her instinct was to reactivate the seal that had kept him asleep, but the Sara had shredded it. There was barely enough left to make a half-decent seal.

Val stopped just outside the magic circle around her. "I wish for nothing more than to kill you, woman." He said.

Rosemary managed to find her voice. "The feeling is mutual." She rasped.

He smiled slightly at that. "We shall never get along, you and I." He said. Then he looked at Saraphina. "But you…" He took one step towards her then stopped. His eyes looked confused, like he didn't know what to with her. He could kill every person in this room, but she alone stayed his hand.

He walked up to her and tilted his head. "You have shown me kindness. Something I haven't felt for a long time. Not since I was human." He reached out to touch her, but stopped short and reconsidered. He turned his hand to look at the mark on his palm. "Pumpkin…King."

He looked around him. At the people, the furniture, the bar, the building. Then he looked back at Sara. He blinked and rubbed his hand against his eyes with a yawn. "I need a nap."

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