Re: The Path of Destiny (PG/PG-13)
Blazefang took the hint and slowly stood up, ready to run or fight as some of the other pokémon turned to look at him. However, there would be no time for a battle. Another loud screech sounded above them, and a pidgeot, followed by two noctowl, landed between Stormblade and Blazefang. Around the moonlit area, grass rustled and parted, revealing the forms of various other types of pokémon, all facing the travelers. “Stay where you are,” the pidgeot told them loudly. “I have a message from Cyclone.”
Blazefang took one look at them and bolted into the cave. The others stood up, and Redclaw, Nightshade, and Thunder walked forward, a dangerous gleam in their eyes.
“We’ve heard about Cyclone,” Redclaw growled. “And we want nothing to do with this. Leave!”
Snowcrystal noticed a few of the pokémon dart into the cave after Blazefang, while the rest of the strangers approached the group. Wildflame and Stormblade moved closer to the others as Redclaw and Nightshade stood in front, with Thunder coming to stand beside them. “Get in the cave!” Redclaw hissed at the others, and Snowcrystal, Spark, Rosie, and Wildflame, helping Stormblade, vanished into the cave, almost immediately becoming shrouded in darkness.
Snowcrystal could hear Redclaw’s voice echoing outside, and Wildflame led them down one of the many black tunnels, where she crouched against the cave wall, Stormblade at her side. The others crouched down too, hoping to remain hidden until Redclaw and the others returned.
Wildflame turned toward Snowcrystal, an annoyed look in her eyes. “Hide that stone!” she growled, eying the glowing red crystal around the growlithe’s neck. Snowcrystal quickly obeyed, covering it with her paws. Suddenly the sound of frantic pawsteps in their direction caused Snowcrystal to look up.
“Redclaw…?” she called, standing upright.
“Get down!” Wildflame hissed, pulling Snowcrystal back against the wall and covering the crystal again. The dark shapes of two four-legged pokémon who were too small to be Redclaw darted around a corner in the tunnel they had come from and began to head right towards them.
Snowcrystal’s eyes widened in fear, the faintest traces of her crystal’s light from beneath her paws the only thing making her able to distinguish the shapes of the pokémon from the darkness.
Suddenly the pokémon running in front gave a shriek of mortified terror, and Snowcrystal’s eyes widened as he vanished before her very eyes. The second pokémon froze, then quickly bolted back the way he had come, the quest to find Blazefang and any potential new recruits for Cyclone forgotten. Snowcrystal stood up and walked forward, wondering where the other pokémon had vanished to.
She soon found out.
Just ahead of her, filling nearly the whole cavern, was a massive black pit that reached deep into the depths of the cave, dark and forbidding. She heard a faint yet sickening crunch as the pokémon’s body landed far below. She shuddered, backing away, her eyes wide with fright.
Rosie peered forward, using the full light from Snowcrystal’s crystal to see the dark hole. “We would have fallen in there if we hadn’t kept so close to the cave wall,” she whispered, sounding horrified.
“That would not be fun,” Spark stated obviously as he stood up and headed back along the narrow ridge separating the wall from the pit. “Let’s move to a safer spot, all right?” he asked, his voice sounding shaky.
One by one the pokémon filed after him, Stormblade with the help of Wildflame. Once out of that cavern and into another and on safer ground, they stopped to rest again.
Snowcrystal was still catching her breath when the sound of footsteps came near. She whirled around, frightened, only to sigh in relief when she noticed Redclaw, Thunder, and Nightshade returning. Nightshade and Redclaw had no wounds, but Thunder was limping on one leg, and one of her eyes was tightly closed, blood seeping out of it.
“Thunder tried to fight them but we managed to escape…I think they’re only after Blazefang right now,” Redclaw explained for the others.
“Good!” Rosie replied. “They can have Blazefang. Let’s go deeper into the cave…I’m not quite sure they’ve stopped searching for us for good.”
“We fire types can use ember to light the way ahead of us,” Snowcrystal suggested.
“Good idea,” Nightshade told her. “But we’re still rather close to the entrance. Let’s wait until we’re deeper into the cave, where the light won’t be seen by our enemies so easily.”
“We’re supposed to wander around in the dark?” Spark cried in dismay.
“I’ll lead the way,” Wildflame offered, “and don’t worry-I’ll make sure to test if the ground is safe before I walk on it.”
Thunder peered through the darkness doubtfully, not noticing as Stormblade approached her. “Thunder?” he asked, causing her to jump slightly. She turned away from him as he questioned her. “What happened? Is your eye badly hurt? Do you want me to-”
Without bothering to answer, Thunder lashed out with the back of her scythe, knocking Stormblade’s head sharply against the rock wall. “Ok,” she said to the others, no longer acknowledging him, “let’s get a move on already.”
As soon as Wildflame vanished into a large tunnel ahead, Thunder quickly followed her, and was followed by Nightshade, Spark, Rosie, and then Redclaw. “Do you want me to help you, Stormblade?” Redclaw asked, but received no answer. Snowcrystal walked over to Stormblade, who had sat up, still leaning against the wall with his head lowered as he stared at the ground.
“Come on Stormblade!” the small pokémon cried, nudging his uninjured leg. “We have to leave! It isn’t safe!”
“Sure…fine…” Stormblade replied dully, not looking up.
“We need to leave as in NOW!” Redclaw called from up ahead, his ears pricked as the sound of pokémon approaching reached them.
Stormblade didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to move. He didn’t want to try. When Snowcrystal tried to talk to him, he barely heard her.
“Redclaw’s going to help you walk,” the growlithe whispered.
“I don’t need any help,” Stormblade told her, looking up. “Tell the others to go on ahead. I’ll follow you.”
Snowcrystal was about to argue, but she stopped herself, realizing that Stormblade wasn’t going to listen. Instead, she just nodded, and followed Redclaw into the cave.
Up ahead, it was completely dark, and even the light from Snowcrystal’s red crystal wasn’t enough to see much of anything by. “Can’t somebody use ember now?” Spark complained as he limped ahead of Rosie and Redclaw.
“Just a bit farther,” Wildflame replied from up ahead. “I can’t hear any of those pokémon following us, so they must have just gone after…Blazefang…but I just want to be sure-” Her words were interrupted as she suddenly walked head first into a large boulder. With a growl she backed away, muttering a very bad swear word.
Spark gasped. “Wildflame!” he cried angrily. “That’s a BAD WORD!”
“Oh shut up!” Wildflame muttered irritably. The houndoom turned to the boulder and sighed. “Guess I have no choice,” she told herself, and breathed out a small plume of flame.
The way in front of them was partially blocked by what Wildflame had thought was a boulder, but was in reality a tall pillar of stone, formed long ago when a massive stalactite and stalagmite joined together. The only way through the passage was through a narrow gap between the pillar and the opposite wall.
“We won’t all fit through there!” Rosie growled.
Snowcrystal was about to say something when Stormblade gave a gasp of pain from behind her and staggered against the wall, and another pokémon gave a surprised yelp and stumbled straight into her. Pushing herself away, Snowcrystal instantly recognized Blazefang’s pelt as Wildflame turned her head and the small ember flame toward them.
Wildflame let the flame go out in shock. “Where did you-” she began, but Blazefang was already scrambling past the others and toward the houndoom. Confused and angry, Stormblade stood shakily back up and watched as Redclaw used his fire attack to provide light again in the cavern.
“Are you just going to stand here?” the panicked houndour asked Wildflame, before moving toward the opening leading further into the tunnel.
“Wait a minute,” Redclaw told him, blocking the way. “You can go through here…but we go through first.”
Blazefang bit back an angry reply and simply nodded reluctantly, seeing no other option. Redclaw moved aside and indicated that the smallest pokémon go first. Spark and then Rosie were the first two to push their way through, though with difficulty, and they waited on the other side as Snowcrystal easily passed through the opening. Redclaw turned to Wildflame, Nightshade, Thunder, and Stormblade, unsure if any of them would be able to fit through such a narrow space. “Wildflame,” he suggested, “you try.”
The houndoom walked forward, stepping into the opening and trying to force her shoulders through. Claws scraping against the ground, she tried to push forward, ignoring the pain as her fur scraped roughly against the cave’s uneven walls. She made it a tiny bit further before at last she had to give up and crawl painfully back out of the hole. “I can’t…” she muttered in frustration.
“Well…I don’t think the rest of us will be able to…” Redclaw began, but was quickly interrupted.
“I’ll try!” Thunder spoke up, and pushed past Wildflame until she stood in front of the narrow crevice. Turning so that she would be entering it sideways, she flattened her wings against her back and pressed her body against the wall, slowly edging her way into the slim opening. It was a struggle to make any progress. The rough rock scraped painfully against her open and bleeding wounds, and there wasn’t enough space for her to move backwards or forward, so there was no way of preventing that. As she edged sideways closer to the opposite side, the passage got narrower, to the point where she almost felt like she was being crushed when she tried to go further. Redclaw peered through the opening, noticing that her progress had gotten steadily slower until she stopped. He had heard of pokémon that had tried to enter narrow caves and gotten hopelessly trapped, and he couldn’t help growing a bit worried.
Yet for once Thunder was glad she was so thin. After a few more seconds of struggling to free herself from between the rocks, she made it to the other side where Rosie, Spark, and Snowcrystal waited.
Blazefang turned to look at Wildflame, Redclaw, Nightshade and Stormblade and rolled his eyes. “None of you guys are going to fit in there!” he muttered. “Let me go through…” He took a step toward the opening but Redclaw blocked it again.
“Not until we find a way,” the arcanine growled. He looked up, studying the rock. “Do you think we could try breaking this pillar…at least enough to widen the gap a little?” he mused.
“We could try,” Nightshade replied, “we just have to be careful not to break it too quickly…I don’t want to cause any sort of collapse.”
“A collapse?” Spark repeated from the other side, sounding nervous. “This sounds a little too dangerous…”
Rosie just sighed and glanced around, her eyes darting to Thunder’s wounds. “Yikes, Thunder, you’re bleeding!” the ninetales exclaimed. “Couldn’t you have waited back there with the others?”
Luckily, Thunder didn’t get a chance to reply as a shout from Stormblade on the other side of the crevice distracted those waiting on the other side. “What happened?” Snowcrystal called.
Redclaw turned around, seeing Stormblade lying on the ground and three pokémon standing behind him, a charmeleon, a rapidash, and another scyther, who stood with her foot on Stormblade’s neck. Blazefang gave a shriek and tried to run for the opening between the pillars, but Redclaw blocked him again. “It’s you they want,” the arcanine hissed from between clenched teeth. He turned to the three standing there. “Let Stormblade go,” he growled to the strange scyther. “I’m sure this Cyclone pokémon has no use for him.”
The scyther’s eyes widened a bit at the mention of the name Stormblade, and she glanced down at the pokémon she held to the ground, looking confused, but only for a moment, and she turned to Redclaw again. “It’s not him we want,” the scyther replied, and stepped in front of Stormblade, followed by the charmeleon who approached Redclaw.
“Just let them take Blazefang already!” Rosie shouted from the other side of the stone pillar, listening intently to the conversation.
Redclaw hesitated; he’d heard of the things Blazefang had done, but did he really deserve to be forced to fight, and potentially kill, for these pokémon who were forcing him to join an army? Boldly, he stepped forward. “He doesn’t want to join you,” he stated firmly. “Look elsewhere for recruits.”
“He knows Shadowflare,” the scyther growled in reply. “We won’t find it anywhere else.”
Redclaw silently hoped that Blazefang would do something; threaten her with the Forbidden Attack and try to get them to leave-or anything, but the houndour remained silent.
“Enough of this…” the rapidash cried angrily, stamping his hoof down hard, not noticing that Stormblade’s injured wing was right below it. “Either you three and the houndour come with us or we’ll report back to Cyclone and have him send more pokémon to hunt you down.”
“Let them try it,” Nightshade replied calmly with a small smile. He knew better than anyone that tracking was nearly impossible in this cave.
The three pokémon looked as if they were going to back away and retreat. “Fine,” snorted the charmeleon as he and the scyther began to turn away.
“I’ve got a better idea!” the rapidash snarled.
If Nightshade hadn’t happened to jerk backwards in surprise at that moment, he would have been gored by the rapidash’s horn as the fire pokémon lunged forward. Missing his target, the fire type slid into the big stone pillar, causing the cavern to shudder. Redclaw turned and sank his teeth into the pokémon’s hind leg, noticing that the scyther and charmeleon weren’t attacking and seemed rather shocked themselves.
The rapidash kicked Redclaw in the muzzle with his free leg, while Nightshade ran to Stormblade, who seemed unable to get up. In the confusion, Blazefang bolted into the narrow space leading to the next cavern, pushing his way painfully through the small space until he made it through and lay panting near Snowcrystal and her three friends.
Not noticing that Blazefang had fled, Redclaw tackled the rapidash that had threatened them, sending him crashing into the opposite wall. Turning toward the pillar of stone, he slammed against it with a take down attack, hoping to cause it some damage so he and the remainder of the group could rejoin the others.
A resounding crack rent the air as the massive stone column shuddered. Several large cracks appeared in the rocky surface, but it didn’t move. Furious, the rapidash stood up, ready to charge at Redclaw again.
Making sure Stormblade was standing on his own, Nightshade left his side and ran toward the large pillar, slamming his horn into one of the cracks. There was a loud breaking, grinding sound, and a large chunk of rock fell to the ground, widening the hole. “Get in!” he called to Stormblade and Wildflame, while Redclaw dodged a thrust from the rapidash’s horn. The scyther and charmeleon watching the battle stood warily, not wanting to get involved with the fight, especially now that Blazefang was gone.
After Wildflame had darted through the widened opening and Stormblade had managed to make it through, Nightshade rammed the pillar with his horn again, knowing that he needed to make the opening wider for Redclaw.
After a few tries, another section of the column broke off, and Nightshade jumped into the opening, calling to Redclaw, “hurry! This way!” Redclaw turned to look, and stopped a second too long.
He gave a cry of pain as the rapidash slammed into him, knocking him into the weakening pillar behind them. A loud rumble was heard.
“Uh…I think we should be getting out of here…” the charmeleon muttered anxiously, seeming to snap the rapidash out of his frenzied rage.
Abandoning Redclaw, the fire type leaped up and ran after his two companions as they headed back the way they had come, while Redclaw bolted into the widened hole. He still had to struggle to get through it, but he made it to the other side quickly. And not a moment too soon. Redclaw ducked his head as the entire pillar collapsed, and chunks of rock fell from the ceiling.
With a jolt of panic the nine pokémon who had gone into the tunnel beyond the pillar realized that a large part of the ceiling above was collapsing. In their terror, some of the pokémon scattered; others tried to take shelter, or in Stormblade’s case, crouched down by the cave wall, unable to do anything else.
Snowcrystal had been running forward away from the collapsed stone column, when she forced herself to stop and turn to look for her friends. She gave a shriek of terror as the sound of many rocks hitting the cave floor and piling on top of each other reached her ears, and the ground shuddered, knocking her off balance.
(Continued in next post...)
Thanks to Lunar Latias for the banner and Kirimori for the picture!