Bleh...stupid, stupid writer's block. >.< Sorry this took so long, but I finished the next chapter! (And overcame the writer's block...hopefully for a while!)
The Path of Destiny
Chapter 31- A New Danger Arises
(The original picture I wanted to post would be too much of a spoiler for later on in this chapter so I posted this one instead. It's actually more of a picture for the part close to the end of the last chapter (when Thunder's about to attack) but whatever.)
Blazefang leaned back, ignoring the sharp rocks that pricked at his fur as Thunder’s scythe came closer, the sharp edge hovering dangerously close to his neck.
“Stop!” Blazefang cried. “You’re insane! Listen to the others, they said that-” The houndour gave a yelp and moved to the side as Thunder’s scythe came down, the moment slowed only by the deep cut in her arm.
Blazefang hurriedly backed away as Thunder dove at him again. However, something stopped her in her tracks. Redclaw now held tightly onto one of the scyther’s wings. Angrily, Thunder turned to face him. “What are you doing?” she shouted. “Let me go…or I’ll make you!”
Redclaw didn’t want to obey her, but seeing the look in her eyes, he realized that if he didn’t, someone was surely going to get hurt. He knew that even with a type disadvantage and all her injuries, Thunder could rip him to shreds if she wanted to; she hadn’t been one of Master’s most favored pokémon for nothing. Reluctantly, he let her go.
Thunder dashed toward Blazefang again, and Redclaw felt an eerie feeling creep through his body as Blazefang’s eyes suddenly seemed overcast with yellow. However, before Thunder could strike, Nightshade had quickly darted in her path, blocking the deadly blade with his long horn.
As the two struggled against each other, Blazefang faced the other pokémon. “All I want is for you to listen
to me!” he shouted, his eyes loosing their yellowish glow.
Nightshade had managed to grab both of Thunder’s arms in his claws. “Stop this!” he cried, staring into her fierce eyes. “Let’s listen to him! Then he’ll leave!”
“No!” Thunder growled, fighting against Nightshade’s grip. The heracross held her arms firmly, ignoring the blows as she tried to kick him to get him to release his grip.
Stormblade glanced over to the two struggling pokémon as he painfully propped himself up with his scythes. “Stop!” he cried, and Thunder turned to stare at him angrily. “He might have something important to say, and either way, he’s not causing us any harm. Don’t…don’t…kill
Somehow, this seemed to snap Thunder out of it, and she turned and pulled away from Nightshade and walked back toward the tree where she had been resting. “He’d better make it quick!” she growled, leaning against the tree and watching Blazefang as if she still wished to sink her blade into his throat.
Blazefang was still gasping for breath; Thunder’s attack had just made him more panicked and exhausted. “Learn to keep her under control!” he snarled under his breath. “I already have enough trouble with one
psycho wanting to kill me!”
“What do you mean?” Rosie asked, her teeth bared in a snarl. “Did one of your houndour slaves finally show he had some sense and rebel against you?”
“No,” Blazefang replied, shaking his head as he walked forward. Snowcrystal felt a small prickle of unease as she noticed that Blazefang hardly seemed to react to the insult. “There’s an army…of pokémon,” the houndour continued. “From what I could gather they force nearly every able bodied pokémon they come across to join them…they even tortured some of them…” He remembered the vast groups of common species he had seen amongst the others in the army, and Solus's words about torturing pokémon in order to get them to join. “And their leader…” he continued uneasily, “is a vaporeon called Cyclone. He wants to use me in some war he’s waged against humans somewhere or else kill me so one of his followers will gain the Forbidden Attack.”
Everyone else glanced at each other, confused and alarmed at this statement. “Forbidden Attack…” Spark mumbled quietly.
Blazefang nodded. “He wants to track down all the Forbidden Attacks and he’s got plenty of followers to help him. I don't know what he's promised or what he's threatened them with...but it’s clear that if he ran into you, he’d try to make all of you who aren’t badly injured join him…and he wouldn’t take no for an answer either.”
For a moment, silence fell upon the small group as they stared at the houndour in disbelief. “That doesn’t make sense!” Rosie snarled, breaking the silence. “How can one vaporeon do all this? He couldn’t have possibly forced so many pokémon to join him even if he did bribe some of his followers. I think-”
think we should find out for ourselves whether or not he’s telling the truth,” Nightshade interrupted. “Is the army nearby?” he asked Blazefang. “If so, I can fly overhead and see if this is really a threat or just a story.”
“Not far from here,” Blazefang replied, pointing with his snout in the direction that he had come from. “Go that way. The army lies beyond a large hill. You’ll see them there-”
Without waiting for him to finish Nightshade took off, leaving Blazefang standing alone in the midst of the others, feeling weak and vulnerable in the presence of his enemies. For a while they sat in silence, and Blazefang tried to avert his eyes from the awful wounds covering Stormblade’s body, left exposed by the many large rips and tears in the tattered and filthy bandages.
After what seemed like a long while, the heracross returned, a grim look on his face. “The houndour was right,” he told the others reluctantly. “I saw a very large group of pokémon in the area where Blazefang told me to look. Some of them, an espeon and a scyther, were leading back what looked to be some pokémon who had escaped from the burning forest. One of them was fighting the whole way.” He shook his head sadly. “It seems they really are looking for new recruits and will soon have flying pokémon looking around this way too. There were several flying types around, and I only narrowly avoided being seen.”
“See?” Blazefang told them, “I was telling the truth! They-”
“What are we supposed to do?” Snowcrystal asked, glancing around at the others in worry. “If all this is true they’ll force us to join that army and leave Stormblade and Rosie to fend for themselves.”
“I say we start moving again!” Spark answered. “Or at least find a safe place to hide until this…Cyclone, or whoever, passes by.”
“But if they’re after Blazefang they’re sure to search this area more thoroughly,” Rosie said quietly. “We should get out while we can.”
“That’s right!” Spark agreed.
“But how can we?” Snowcrystal asked. “Stormblade’s still sick…”
“And he’s not getting any better,” Thunder muttered. “We should just go. It’ll make no difference for him how many days we wait.”
“That’s not true,” Redclaw replied with a disapproving glance at Thunder. “However, it is
best that we leave this place. Is there anywhere we can hide for now, Nightshade?”
Blazefang listened intently, hardly noticing that the others seemed to have forgotten he was there. The heracross, the one called Nightshade, thought for a moment before replying.
“Based on what I’ve seen and the houndour’s word, Cyclone will be looking for any healthy pokémon to join him, regardless of species. Those who had homes in the forest no longer have any shelter, and that army will probably end up stumbling across some of them, if not many, I’m afraid. Apart from the forest, there isn’t much shelter around these areas, other than the human town where I met Redclaw…which of course, isn’t safe. And the forest, as you know, has burned to the ground.” Blazefang shifted uneasily at the last statement, and the heracross continued. “The only thing I can think of are the hills to the north of here…if we can get past that area, Cyclone’s pokémon might not venture that far.”
“Well, that seems easy enough,” Spark stated happily.
“Easy!” Blazefang exclaimed. “Cyclone’s probably going to track me down and what if he does chose to-”
“Who cares?” Rosie growled. “You’re certainly not coming with us!”
“Quiet!” Nightshade told them. “What matters is that we all get out of this army’s way. Though if Cyclone’s going to send out pokémon to search for Blazefang…they’ll probably be looking for other strong pokémon too. No one’s safe from them while we’re here.”
“I don’t know…” Wildflame whispered. “This…this just seems too strange. I still don’t see how all those pokémon are willing to join that vaporeon and force others to as well.”
“They must have no other choice,” Redclaw replied grimly.
“Well, I think it’s certain we will have to keep moving,” Snowcrystal told the others. “We need to leave now and get out of this army’s way. But…do you think you’ll be able to make it?” As she made the last statement, she turned to Stormblade, the only pokémon who hadn't taken part in the conversation so far.
The scyther didn’t answer, and merely stared silently at the ground.
“He doesn’t have a choice,” Rosie told Snowcrystal firmly.
“We could always go and leave him here…then come back later after the army is gone,” Spark suggested.
Snowcrystal shot Spark a glare, obviously disapproving of the idea. “We can’t just-”
“Uh…I think you’re not realizing something,” Blazefang whispered timidly. “If pokémon are going to search, we’d be easily spotted trying to travel through a bunch of hills, no matter how fast we were going. Is…is there are another way?” he asked the heracross, giving him a fearful glance.
“You’re right…” the heracross replied reluctantly. “The hills would take at least a day to travel through, but for a powerful flying pokémon it would only take a short time. The only other place I can think of is Stonedust City…” he paused, seeing several members of the group flinch visibly at the mention of the city, and then whispered, “unless…”
“Unless…what?” Spark asked, while everyone gave Nightshade a look of mixed curiosity and dread, knowing that the suggestion he was about to make probably wasn’t a very pleasant option.
“There is…another way…through the hills,” Nightshade continued. “A cave that leads right under them and to various other areas...Cyclone’s pokémon won't follow us through there and flying pokémon can't see us, plus the cave is damp and rocky so it's near impossible to follow a scent in there.”
“That’s perfect!” Spark cried happily, sounding relieved that the news hadn’t been as bad as he’d thought it would be.
Nightshade gave him a worried glance and sighed. “It's not a straight tunnel or a small group of caverns, Spark, but a massive cave system. It has many exits...the only trouble is finding those exits. It leads very deep underground, and from what I’ve heard from pokémon who have gone through it, it’s nothing short of a gigantic maze.”
A silence followed this statement, until Spark spoke up loudly. “I vote no cave!” the jolteon cried, giving Nightshade an irritated glance as if he was annoyed that he had suggested it.
“I’d be willing to risk it,” Wildflame told Nightshade. “It would be better than to be forced into some army fighting for a cause that has nothing to do with me. Plus if these pokémon are willing to kill for Forbidden Attacks or torture pokémon into obeying them, I don’t want to be anywhere near
“It’s probably our best chance,” Redclaw agreed reluctantly. “If anything, we might be able to hide near the entrance until the army passes by…”
“You’d be waiting an awful long time,” Blazefang growled. “Tell me where the cave is. I’m going.”
Nightshade was about to reply when an earsplitting screech rent the air. The heads of all nine pokémon lifted toward the sky as a rather large and fierce looking noctowl swooped overhead, its talons coming nearly close enough to brush Redclaw’s thick mane. His eyes connected with Blazefang’s for a brief moment, and without saying a word, the noctowl flew off, heading in the direction that Blazefang had come.
“That was one of them!” Blazefang whispered, leaping to his feet with a look of surprised alarm etched across his face. “He’s gone to tell the army…there won’t be
a place to hide. Where is the cave?”
“Great!” Rosie growled. “Now the army’s going to come right to us thanks to you!” She gave Blazefang a glare and looked to Nightshade. “They won’t be able to follow us easily through that cave. If we cross through there I think we’ll be able to avoid them and then find somewhere else we can rest.”
Redclaw nodded. “I guess the only way to avoid this whole mess is
to risk going through the cave,” he agreed. “I don’t know how dangerous this army really is, but avoiding it is certainly the best option. We’ll follow you, Nightshade.”
“We should leave immediately,” Nightshade told him with a nod. “I didn’t like the look of those pokémon in that army. Some were quite fearful and others were acting downright cruel to the newer recruits they were bringing in. Follow me; I know a quick route to the caves. Wildflame and Spark, you help Rosie keep up. As for Stormblade…can you carry him on your back, Redclaw?”
Neither Redclaw nor Stormblade looked pleased at this suggestion. It was clear from Redclaw’s expression that he didn’t fancy getting any bad cuts on his back while Stormblade just looked as if the very thought of it was humiliating enough on its own. However, seeing that there was no other way to travel quickly, Stormblade allowed Nightshade to assist him onto the reluctant arcanine’s back.
Redclaw stood up slowly, trying not to jostle Stormblade who now lay across his back, looking thoroughly embarrassed about it. “Just don’t cut off any of my fur,” Redclaw muttered under his breath.
“Just try not to run too fast,” Stormblade replied, gritting his teeth against the pain as Redclaw started to move forward after the others who had begun to follow Nightshade.
Blazefang began to trot after them, but stopped in his tracks as Rosie glared at him. “Don’t think you’re following us!” she spat. “They’re mostly after you
. We’re not going to let you put us in any more danger!”
“I’m going to that cave!” Blazefang snarled back and continued to follow, and no one bothered to try and stop him again.
As quickly as they could manage while still keeping pace with the injured pokémon, the group followed Nightshade through the moonlit plain, heading for the tall grassy hills that could now be seen faintly against the darkened sky. The journey was very uncomfortable for both Redclaw and Stormblade; Stormblade’s scythes kept nicking Redclaw by accident, and nearly every movement Redclaw made caused Stormblade even more pain. Rosie was faring better, as she had become somewhat accustomed to using only three legs, and after eating some of the berries Nightshade had found, the pain wasn’t unbearable.
Blazefang trailed after the group, glad that his dark pelt would make it difficult for most flying types to see him from above. A few bird pokémon passed over them through the air, though Blazefang had heard Redclaw point out to Snowcrystal that they could be just solitary pokémon out hunting.
Never pausing to rest, the group of pokémon followed Nightshade silently through the night, their paws hardly making a sound as they trotted quickly together, keeping their eyes on the shapes of the hills that loomed ever closer, and the heracross that guided them.
Just when Blazefang began to feel as if he would pass out if he had to run any longer, they had reached the foot of the hills, and Nightshade told them to rest. Under the cover of darkness and the shelter of the large stones at the base of the hills, the pokémon all huddled together, trying to catch their breath.
Redclaw lay down, while Stormblade slowly crawled off his back and onto the ground. “Never…again…” he whispered to the arcanine, thinking back on how painful and uncomfortable the swift ride had been. Had Redclaw been moving slower, however, he might not have minded as much. Rosie was curled up beside Redclaw, looking more exhausted than anyone, and Spark wasn’t much better off.
Blazefang looked warily to the group but kept his distance, though he was too weary to look for the cave himself. Instead, he lay down against the cool stone, closing his eyes and trying not to think of the danger he was in.
After a few minutes, Nightshade told them to get up again. Now that they were close to the cave’s entrance and in the shelter of some tall rocks, Redclaw did not have to carry Stormblade, though the scyther still had to rely heavily on Wildflame to help him walk. As the houndoom followed the others to where Nightshade was leading them, she was forced to walk at a slow pace so that Stormblade could keep up with her. She knew he was struggling just to walk even with her help, and every so often he would make small cries or whimpers of pain. Turning her head slightly, she could see Blazefang trailing after them timidly, trying not to be noticed. Sighing, she turned and focused instead on following the others ahead of her.
She stopped and let Stormblade lean against her for support when Nightshade and the others halted in front of a gaping hole in the stony side of one of the hills, leading deep underground. Wildflame felt a warm breeze emitting from the cave, ruffling her fur.
“So this is it?” Spark asked from up ahead, his voice being carried away by the breeze, making it harder for Wildflame and Stormblade, who stood further away, to hear. “It looks rather…obvious, don’t you think?”
Rosie turned her head toward Blazefang, baring her teeth in a snarl. “It’s going to be pretty obvious if they run across it while tracking him
!” she growled.
“I don’t think we have to worry,” Nightshade replied calmly. “I believe that if some of the pokémon in Cyclone’s army are from the forest, they will know of this cave, and most likely avoid it. And I doubt that even those who don’t know will bother searching through it for one pokémon. And even if they did, it’s unlikely that they would succeed in finding what they were searching for.”
“I say we drive Blazefang off before we do anything else,” Rosie growled, and Wildflame stiffened, shooting a warning glance at Blazefang, who hadn’t seemed to have heard.
(Continued in next post...)