Thank you Zina! ^-^ And it's ok, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
And...new chapter! I was originally gonna wait to finish this tomorrow sometime, but I couldn't sleep so...
The Path of Destiny
Chapter 32- A Shadow in the Dark
(Ok, so this is a picture that goes with the last chapter, but I put it on this one instead since it would have been a spoiler for the last one. D:)
When Snowcrystal woke, she was aware that she had only managed to doze off for a short while. Lifting her head, she glanced at the others. Rosie was still asleep; Thunder might have been as well, but Stormblade was wide awake.
Snowcrystal slowly stood up, hearing the faint sound of water dripping somewhere within the cave. She turned and walked toward Rosie, using the light of her crystal to see by. As she walked past Thunder, the scyther stirred and got to her feet. Snowcrystal noticed that she was using both legs to stand again, but she still looked unsteady on her feet.
Rosie slowly opened her eyes and looked up as Snowcrystal approached. Surprisingly, she didn’t seem very tired. “I guess we’re going now?” she asked, giving the growlithe a questioning look.
Snowcrystal nodded. “We’ve got to find a way out of here and find the others as quickly as possible,” she replied. “We’ll be able to rest again later.”
Soon afterward Snowcrystal led the way through the cave, using the light from her small fire attacks to see the way. Rosie helped at times, though not quite as much, as it still wasn’t easy for her to walk over the rocks, and she had to rely on Snowcrystal’s light most of the time. For them, the fact that they had to walk slowly for Stormblade wasn’t a problem. However, for Thunder, it was.
Thunder was in a bad mood to begin with. The deep cut on her arm was made worse by the shackle rubbing against it, and it had begun to get infected. Most of her wounds were bleeding again and it was hard to see in such a dark place especially when she still could not open her injured eye. And to make matters worse, Stormblade
was setting the pace for the whole group.
Angrily, she slashed a small stalagmite in half as she followed Snowcrystal, wishing she didn’t have to rely on the growlithe’s light to travel through the place. “Can’t we go any faster?” she growled. “There’s no food in this cave so it’s not like we can just take as much time as we like!”
“I thought you didn’t mind going without food so much,” Rosie replied, turning to look at the thin scyther. “And it’s not like we’ll be here for weeks.”
“Why can’t we go on ahead and let Stormblade follow our scent?” Thunder muttered.
“It’s too hard to follow a scent in here,” Snowcrystal told her, letting the flame die out for a second. “We have to stick together.”
The others were silent for a moment, and then Rosie slowly nodded and Thunder sighed and looked away. “Fine…” the scyther muttered.
For a while longer the small group of four traveled together in darkness, through winding tunnels and past strange towering rock formations. Snowcrystal felt worried, and afraid, wondering if the tunnels she was choosing to enter were the ones that would lead them out of the cave, or if she was really just making her friends hopelessly lost.
Rosie had the task of helping Snowcrystal mark the cave walls with her claws. It was while she was doing this for what had to be at least the fifteenth time, Stormblade, who was still struggling to catch up, suddenly collapsed.
Snowcrystal rushed over to him, worried he might be hurt worse. It took her an instant to realize that he had simply passed out. Rosie turned away from the wall and approached Snowcrystal, using her ember attack to light up the area around them. After that she could clearly see Stormblade lying motionless on his side, his limbs sprawled out in random directions. There was blood trickling from the corner of his mouth.
Rosie kept her fire attack up as Snowcrystal glanced around frantically. “Is there any water here?” she asked, looking back and forth from Rosie to Thunder.
“I don’t think water will do him much good,” Rosie replied worriedly, shaking her head.
“Well we have to-” Snowcrystal began, facing Rosie, but a cough from Stormblade behind her made her turn around. Stormblade was stirring slowly, and lifted his head long enough to spit out a mouthful of blood. Then he lay back down again, closing his eyes. Snowcrystal didn’t know if he had the strength to get up.
Rosie stepped closer to him, while Thunder watched from afar, a look of what was almost horror on her face, as if the scene before her had suddenly awakened some terrible memory. Snowcrystal sat beside Stormblade next to Rosie, and told the ninetales, “he can’t go on like this. We need to rest now.”
While Snowcrystal lay beside the half-conscious Stormblade, using her ember attacks to keep him warm, Rosie and Thunder kept watch. Rosie jumped at the slightest sound from within the cave, and she glanced constantly all around her, as if she expected some pokémon to jump out of the darkness at her from behind one of the many stone columns. Thunder was calmer, and not having any fire attacks to help her see by, she had to rely on sound and scent. However, neither of them could detect any potential danger.
“Snowcrystal…?” a weak voice mumbled, and the growlithe turned to see Stormblade, his eyes barely open, looking at her. Stormblade’s voice sounded weak and forced, and she could hardly hear what he was saying. “If the others are waiting…why don’t you keep going? You have to get out…you can leave me here…I’ll catch up. If the others are…”
“What?” Snowcrystal exclaimed, shocked. “We’re not leaving you here! You know you wouldn’t be able to catch up! We aren’t leaving anyone here. We came into this cave together and we’ll leave it…together. All you need is some rest…then we can keep going,” she added more gently. ‘All you need is some rest…’
she thought. ‘If only that were true…’
Stormblade didn’t answer and merely closed his eyes again. Rosie stood up and limped over to the scyther and sat beside Snowcrystal once more. Both of them looked down at Stormblade, and from where she stood, Thunder could hear them whispering quietly to each other.
Thunder sighed and turned away. False hope, that's all it was. Those two were just prolonging the inevitable. They simply couldn’t accept the fact that Stormblade was going to die from these injuries. She had accepted it long ago. In the long run, there was simply nothing these pokémon could do.
Yet at the same time, she could not help but feel distressed at the sight whenever she looked at Stormblade. Out of all the pokémon she traveled with, she felt she knew him best, not that that was saying much. As much as she knew that she should not care about his pain or the pain of any of the others, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him because of the pain he was in-she had been there. Annoyed, she closed her good eye and slowly sat down, trying to push the troubling thoughts to the back of her mind. This was what she got for allowing herself to get close to these pokémon.
Confused, and completely lost, Blazefang had no choice but to trail after the group as Nightshade led Redclaw, Wildflame, and Spark through the winding passages of smooth wet stone. The others seemed too distracted with their own matters to pay much attention to him, and as long as he stayed far enough behind the group, they didn’t bother him much. He was glad he was a fire type and able to use his own fire attacks to provide light to see by, otherwise he would be stumbling after the others in the dark. He was a nocturnal pokémon, but a moonlit field or forest was one thing; an underground cave was another.
Up ahead, Redclaw, the arcanine, was talking to Wildflame while the heracross paused momentarily to listen to them. Blazefang looked up hopefully, wondering if they were going to stop and rest, but they turned and kept going after a moment. Blazefang sighed wearily and trudged after them.
While Wildflame used her ember attack to light the way, Spark, who was still limping, ran up to Redclaw with a grin on his face. “Hey Redclaw!” the jolteon cried, a bit too loudly for the arcanine’s liking, “now that Stormblade’s gone…I’m
the injured pokémon around here. You guys all have to take care of me now! And I’m tired…so carry me…”
“You’ve got four legs. You can walk yourself!” Redclaw grumbled.
“Fine!” Spark muttered, acting offended. Redclaw rolled his eyes and was about to reply when Nightshade interrupted him.
“Looks like we’ve gone in circles…” the heracross sighed. “See these claw marks? One of us made them when we came by this way. We took the tunnel leading left…I guess we need to try the right path now.”
“Uggh…we’re never going to get out of here at this rate…” Wildflame muttered, peering around. “How long do you think we’ve been walking?”
“Eleventy hundred million days…give or take a few,” Spark replied with a grin.
Wildflame rounded on him. “Can you take this seriously even for just a little bit?” she growled.
“What? And end up all stressed and worried like you?” Spark replied.
“Look…if we don’t find a way out, we’ll be trapped here, got it?” Wildflame snapped. “If you’re not going to give me a serious answer when I ask a question, don’t say anything at all!”
“Calm down, Wildflame,” Redclaw told the houndoom softly. “Spark’s right about one thing-worrying won’t do us much good. We’ll just have to keep looking for a way out, and most importantly, we need to stay calm.”
Wildflame felt her fur lie flat again, realizing that he was right. “I know…” she muttered quietly, lowering her head with a sigh.
As the group started to follow Nightshade into the right tunnel, Spark made an observation. “Hey look,” he pointed out, “there’s claw marks on the side of this wall too.”
Nightshade looked up from where he was busy clawing the wall in another place to mark their path, and saw what Spark was looking at. There were
claw marks in the wall, very similar, yet slightly different in shape to the ones he had just made. Carefully, he ran his claws over them. “These ones weren’t made by me, and they weren’t made by Wildflame either…and they’re too small to be Redclaw’s…” he mused, and then darted back to the other claw marks on the left tunnel’s wall, Wildflame at his side. After a moment of examining them closely, he sighed. “These look the same. Obviously someone else made these…and recently by the look of it. I think they may have made them to try and confuse us. Perhaps somebody doesn’t want us here…”
Blazefang shifted uneasily on his paws, while Redclaw glanced around, worried. Wildflame decided to speak up. “Well, they’ll have to try harder than that,” she growled. “We now know we haven’t gone through either of these tunnels, and we’ll just have to have Redclaw mark the way. His claw marks are pretty recognizable.”
“Good idea!” Nightshade complimented her, and the group headed off down the left tunnel.
As they walked, they often saw other caverns and small spaces that led to bigger caverns, all with the same marks. Some places were even marked that led to spaces too small for Redclaw to fit through. However, just as a precaution, Nightshade checked every one closely to make sure that the marks really were the strange ones, and not their own.
“Whoever’s trying to confuse us isn’t thinking this through very well,” Spark remarked after a while.
“I’m not so sure they’re trying to confuse us anymore, Spark,” Nightshade told the jolteon. “I’m beginning to think that these marks might be a warning.”
“As long as we stick together, we should be fine,” Redclaw stated. “Let’s just keep going and make sure we aren’t going in circles.”
Nightshade nodded and he and Redclaw walked further over the slippery stone, Spark and Wildflame following just behind them. Blazefang followed them at a distance, feeling an eerie feeling creep along his spine. He wished the pack were here…or even that the heracross and his friends would allow him to travel with them. But neither of those things were going to happen. Trying to forget his worried thoughts, Blazefang sighed and took another step forward.
He was immediately met with a loud screech as something jumped down on him from above.
We’ve found you!”
It was a while before Stormblade was ready to travel again. Even then, the going was painfully slow, and Stormblade would often stop, and each time he did so it took longer for Snowcrystal and Rosie to help him get up and keep going again. Thunder didn’t try to offer any help, though she did make a few remarks to the others that forcing him to travel like this was only making things worse. Rosie had quickly gotten tired, and ended up walking beside Stormblade, leaving Snowcrystal to light the way on her own.
The small growlithe wasn’t sure how much farther the group could go that day. They were all tired, hungry, and thirsty, yet there was no food to be seen, nor was there any source of water other than the scarce droplets falling from the ceiling and the occasional tiny puddles of water. She decided that they’d find a place to rest and try to sleep for a while.
As she walked ahead of the others through a narrow passage, she realized that up ahead, the tunnel opened up into a much larger cavern, with a high domed ceiling covered in long, pointed stalactites. Snowcrystal ran ahead, emerging from the tunnel and into the big cavern. The sight took her breath away.
She was standing on a stone ledge above an oddly smooth cave floor below her, looking out over a cavern bigger than any she’d ever seen, even in the vespiquen’s hive. Colorful and complex rock formations, ranging in hue from golden yellow and orange-brown to grayish purple, covered the cavern, forming strange and intricate patterns on the cave wall and the many pillars of stone. Parts of the cave were lit up by large clusters of crystals that glowed, much like the ones she had seen back in her home. A feeling of homesickness washed over her, and she wondered what her friends back at the mountain were doing now.
Snowcrystal turned her head as Thunder came to stand beside her. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked the scyther.
“For one big, giant enclosed space? Sure,” Thunder replied. She turned her head slightly as Rosie and Stormblade stood beside them.
“Wow…” Rosie gasped, “I’ve seen caves before…but none like this…it’s amazing! I never knew stone could be so…colorful.”
Snowcrystal wondered what Stormblade thought of it, but when he didn’t say anything, she realized that right now, pain must be a far more pressing issue for him than the beauty of a cave. She sighed. “At least I won’t have to use fire attacks for a while until we get through this part of the cave,” she said, indicating the crystals. “And the floor is smooth…it’ll be easy to walk over.” She directed this last statement at Stormblade, who didn’t respond. She wasn’t even sure he had heard her.
“Do you think we should walk through here before we rest?” Rosie asked Snowcrystal.
The growlithe nodded. “Yes, it’ll be easy. And if we need to, we can always rest somewhere in this cavern.” She stepped toward the edge of the rocky ledge, looking down at the smooth ground below. “Let’s go.”
She leaped down, but once she landed, she soon figured out why the stone floor was so smooth-it wasn’t stone at all. Her paws landed with a squelch in thick, gooey mud. Lifting one of her paws with a little difficulty, as the mud was sticky and reached halfway up her legs, she turned to the others, trying to shake the mud off her paw and flinching when a drop of water from above struck her nose. “It’s…uh…muddy…” she told them sheepishly.
Rosie peered down at the ground and then gingerly leapt to stand beside Snowcrystal on three legs, the mud only reaching a little bit above her paws. “It’s not so bad,” she told the two scyther, who were waiting. “And it shouldn’t be a problem for you two.”
“That mud is just an infection waiting to happen,” Thunder muttered grudgingly, but she too leaped down to stand beside Snowcrystal, ignoring the pain shooting up her injured leg. Being taller than the other two, the mud wasn’t much of a problem for Thunder to walk through, but Snowcrystal was worried that she would be right about the infection.
Stormblade, still on the ledge, leaned over to get a better view of the ground below. At any time before his injuries, he could have effortlessly made the jump. Now, it seemed impossible. He turned to peer at his wings, all four of them battered, burned and useless. He turned back to look at the other three pokémon on the ground. He knew the only way he’d ever get down without injuring himself further was to climb.
Snowcrystal watched as Stormblade turned away from the edge of the rock he was standing on, and limped over to the side, where the ledge sloped down a little to meet the ground below it. The scyther leaned forward, using the tips of his scythes to steady himself, and began to slowly, hesitantly climb down.
Stormblade hadn’t gone far when his scythe slipped on the wet stone, causing him to trip and tumble down into the mud. He slowly tried to stand upright, looking down at the mud covering the thin but deep burns around his legs.
(Continued in next post...)