Once Solonn and Zilag arrived at the snowgrounds, Solonn produced the zubat impression yet again. It proved to be quite the hit with the crowd of snorunt who were gathered there.
“That was so cool!” Reizirr squealed.
“Yeah,” Davron agreed. “Hey, let’s see if I can do it!” Davron’s attempt at a zubat impression didn’t sound like anyone or anything other than Davron, however. “Aw, crap…”
“Just keep trying,” Solonn said, and using the zubat voice in demonstration, added, “Like this, see?”
“Wow, that’s so
impressive,” said a sarcastic voice, one not belonging to a snorunt. Everyone in attendance turned toward its source. There, at the entrance to the snowgrounds, lingered a smirking glalie.
“Kashisha, go away!” Zilag urged. Kashisha was his older sister—though he wished that she weren’t.
Ignoring her brother entirely, Kashisha advanced into the room, shoving aside any snorunt unfortunate enough to be in her path. “Seriously, I thought there was an actual zubat in here,” she went on, “but it turns out to be just a bunch of snow-twerps. Shame, really… I was looking forward to biting its wings off…”
She stopped in front of Solonn. “You’re the one responsible for that little trick?” she asked.
Solonn remained utterly silent and still, wary of interacting with Kashisha in any way.
“Better answer her,” Zilag said. “She’s evil incarnate.”
“Why, thank you for the compliment, dear brother,” Kashisha said in a sugary tone, getting in Zilag’s face very suddenly; with a tiny squeak of fright, he dove right into hiding under the snow. Then she got in Solonn’s face. “Well
“Yes,” Solonn confirmed in a small voice.
“Oh, I’m sorry, what was that? I didn’t hear you…” Kashisha said melodiously.
“I said yes! It was me!” Solonn shouted hastily.
Kashisha backed off slightly—very
slightly. “Well, then. I guess that makes you pretty cool—for a stupid kid, anyway,” she said.
Solonn thought indignantly. You’re barely any older than I am!
Which was true; Kashisha was only twenty-one months his senior, and just a year older than her brother. However, she, like all of her friends, had chosen to evolve early (six years ago, in her case), and like them, she treated those who waited until reaching a respectable age to evolve like dirt.
“I have a request for you, zubat-boy,” Kashisha said then. “Let’s hear… a spheal. Can you do that? Or is that too hard
for the little baby?”
The distinct feeling that Solonn got from Kashisha was that he’d better deliver. He tried hard to remember the way that Sophine had sounded. All of a sudden, the memory of that voice flooded his mind, in just the same way that the memory of Zyrzir’s voice had done right before he’d replicated it for the first time.
“Is this what you mean?” Solonn asked then, using Sophine’s voice. This earned a surge of various impressed noises from the crowd and an approving nod of sorts from the glalie hovering before him.
“Bravo,” Kashisha said, grinning wickedly. “Say… why don’t you come with me and entertain some of my friends?”
“I don’t know…” Solonn wanted to back away from her, but he felt rooted to the spot.
“Oh, I think you’d better—unless you’d rather
I snap you in half…”
“Okay, fine, I’ll go!”
“Good! And while we’re at it…” Kashisha plunged her face into the snow, pulled Zilag out of hiding, and dropped her protesting brother at Solonn’s feet. “He’ll be coming along with us, too. He is
your best friend, after all, right? Surely
he wouldn’t want to miss your big debut in front of a real
“No, ma’am, I wouldn’t,” Zilag said weakly in defeat.
“Off we go, then!” Kashisha said merrily. She circled around Solonn and Zilag and began shoving them along before her. The two snorunt got moving in a hurry as Kashisha set about herding them out of the snowgrounds.
“What should we do?” Reizirr asked once Kashisha and her victims had left.
“Start composing their eulogies,” Davron answered grimly.
* * *
Solonn and Zilag scrambled to stay both on their feet and ahead of the periodically snapping jaws of Kashisha, who had driven them into a part of the warren that Solonn had never seen before.
With one last shove, she brought the journey of the two snorunt to an end, forcing them into a wide, low-ceilinged room. Solonn saw at once that he, Zilag, and the glalie who had brought them to this place were not the only ones present. The room was also presently occupied by nine other glalie who were sitting in a row and glaring at the two snorunt like some sort of sinister council.
“I see you brought your pathetic little brother again,” the male in the center of the row said. “I’m getting bored of tormenting him, though… but who’s this other brat?”
“This is Solonn,” Kashisha told him. “He’s our new court jester,” she added with an enormous grin. She nudged Solonn toward the glalie in the center of the row. “That, Solonn, is Sanaika, the Master of Ceremonies. And I do
’. Bow before him!”
“Yes, bow!” Sanaika snapped.
Solonn lowered his head slightly. Sanaika responded by spitting a chunk of ice that struck him in the forehead, eliciting a shout of pain from the snorunt.
“The Master approves! You are now initiated into the Fellowship of Slaves!” Kashisha said gleefully. “Now
! Perform for your master!”
With a small sigh, Solonn ran through his impression of Zyrzir’s voice, followed by that of Sophine’s voice. Then, after rummaging briefly through his memories, he produced a third impression: the voice of Sophine’s mother.
“What an entertaining little weenie you are!” Sanaika remarked once Solonn had finished.
“I knew you’d like him!” Kashisha exclaimed proudly. “That sealeo voice trick at the end was a nice touch, by the way,” she told Solonn.
“Yeah, but I can think of one impression that I guarantee
you he doesn’t know,” Sanaika said. The glalie at either side of him gazed expectantly at him with looks of toadying curiosity. “Human
“Oh, that’s brilliant
!” Kashisha crowed, her eyes flashing diabolically. The other glalie echoed her enthusiastic approval.
“…Wait, did you say ‘human
’?” Solonn asked. He was sure that he couldn’t have heard that right…
“Yes, you little turd, human,” Sanaika spat disdainfully. “You know, those weird, stupid-looking things with the long limbs and tiny little heads who sound completely ridiculous when they talk…”
“And taste like crap,” the glalie to Sanaika’s left offered.
wouldn’t know,” Sanaika scoffed at him. “But yes, they do taste like crap.”
“Humans don’t exist,” Solonn dared to say. “They’re just a myth…”
All of the glalie stared incredulously at Solonn. Zilag quickly looked away from him, terrified that something hideous was about to befall his friend.
“Oh, they do
exist,” Sanaika said in a low, rather ominous voice. “In fact, you’re going to find out for yourself just how real they are, and you might find yourself very, very
grateful that they are, too.”
Sanaika brought himself to hover right before Solonn, just inches away from his face. “I am giving you a quest and an offer. You’ll go up to where the humans are. You’ll meet one, see it with your own eyes, and hopefully get to hear the idiotic sound of its voice. And if you can return to us with a perfectly realistic impression of that voice, then I promise you’ll never have to come here again if you don’t want to.”
“What do you say, little baby? You want to go human-hunting?” Kashisha asked playfully.
“Oh, it’s not his choice,” Sanaika told her. “Now, you and the others can stay here and babysit your little brother while I deliver this twerp to his date with a human.”
“Aw, we wanted to come and watch!” Kashisha complained. The other glalie griped, as well, and one of them even snapped at Sanaika in her outrage. Sanaika calmly turned toward the offender. His eyes suddenly turned a blazing white, and with a resounding crack
, he struck her with sheer cold. His would-be attacker’s eyes rolled back, and she dropped heavily to the floor, unconscious.
“You brain wrecks! We can’t all gather at the exit like that!” Sanaika then said. “Do you not realize how conspicuous we would be? What if we
were spotted by some ball-chucking human, huh? Or worse, by the authorities
? Now, all of you, stay put
, or else you’ll all find icicles where you’d rather not.”
With that, Sanaika seized Solonn very harshly in his jaws and set off into the warren with him. He carried the snorunt through a series of tunnels that led, much to Solonn’s surprise, up to the very same cavern where, all those years ago, Solonn had met Sophine and her mother. Then Sanaika left the cavern, and he sealed the exit behind him with a wall of ice.
Solonn knew that there was no way for him to get through that ice wall. Barriers like that one were commonplace in the warren, existing to control where snorunt could and could not go. The ice of which they were made was too thick for even his teeth, the teeth of a creature who frequently ate ice, to break through. It was reinforced with the raw power of the ice element, and could only be removed by the kind of control over ice that no snorunt possessed.
He knew that the tunnel that led up into this place from the snowgrounds had been blocked off in the same way not long after Kashisha had told on Zilag for encouraging others to travel through it, having learned as much from Zilag years ago. So it seemed that there was no option for Solonn other than to sit and wait for some glalie—and a decent one rather than someone like Sanaika, he hoped—to discover that he was here. He figured that he couldn’t rightly get into trouble as he had last time once he’d had a chance to tell of how, and because of whom, he had ended up here—or, at least, he hoped that he couldn’t get into trouble…
Solonn found himself strongly wishing that he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to be discovered, regardless of any punishment that might or might not be awaiting him. He was growing quite nervous about remaining in that place, and when he realized that it was because of those humans that Sanaika had said Solonn would encounter there, he couldn’t help but give a little laugh.
that’s not what you’re afraid of, is it?
Solonn thought incredulously. Don’t be stupid,
he scolded himself silently. You know there’s no such thing as humans!
“Well, well, well. I just knew that if we kept coming back here, we were sure to find one sooner or later.”
Startled, Solonn jumped at the unexpected, somewhat gruff-sounding voice. He turned toward its source. Standing only a couple of feet away was a manectric, but Solonn had no way of recognizing that. The electric-type had managed to sneak right up behind Solonn, completely unnoticed until he had spoken.
“Who… who are you?” Solonn asked nervously.
“Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for introductions once we’re back in Lilycove, buddy,” the manectric said. He then unleashed a chilling, wavering howl, the sound of which was magnified and echoed by the cavern.
As the howl faded, another sound became audible. Solonn recognized it as the sound of snow crunching underfoot, but these footfalls sounded much heavier than those made by his own feet or those of any other snorunt. The footsteps were approaching swiftly, and soon their owner came into view.
For a very long moment, Solonn’s mind went blank at the sight of the newcomer. They
Solonn thought, his eyes wide with wonder. As impossible as part of him still insisted that such a thing was, the creature that now stood a short distance before him fit Sanaika’s description of a human well enough in his eyes to make him believe that that might very well be exactly what he was seeing.
“Ah, Brett, you found one! Good job!” the human said brightly. The sound of her voice surprised Solonn; he didn’t think that it fit Sanaika’s descriptions of how humans sounded at all.
The human then detached a pokéball from its resting place at her hip. It expanded in her hand, more than tripling in size. “Come out, Aaron!” she said.
At the human’s words, the sphere burst open at its equator. Energy exploded from within the sphere in a surge of white light, and then, much to Solonn’s astonishment, it coagulated into a living creature. A sceptile now stood at the human’s side.
“Don’t be afraid, snorunt,” the human said gently. “We don’t really want to hurt you. We’re going to make this as easy on you as possible. You won’t even feel a thing.”
She looked toward Brett and then toward Aaron. “Thunder wave and false swipe, please,” she instructed them respectively. The two pokémon gave quick nods of acknowledgment, then began moving toward Solonn. Brett’s fur crackled with dancing sparks of electricity, while one of the bladelike structures at Aaron’s left wrist took on a white glow.
Where others might have screamed, fled, or perhaps attacked out of fright, Solonn only stood and stared, transfixed by fascination and lingering disbelief at the human and the two pokémon who accompanied her. He seemed not to even realize that he was being attacked until it was too late.
Brett released a small pulse of electric-type energy. Solonn cried out at the initial pain as the attack struck him, but a second later, that pain was gone—along with all other sensation throughout his body. His legs gave out from under him in the next instant, and he toppled over onto his side.
Aaron was now standing over him, peering down through eyes of a dull yellow shade as he raised his glowing wrist blade. Solonn could not see this, however. His view of Aaron was limited to the sceptile’s tail and clawed feet. He did not see the careful, precise strike that left him on the sheer edge of consciousness, and just as the human had said would be the case, he did not feel it either.
“All right, that ought to do it,” the human said. From a pouch strapped to her shoulder, she produced another capture ball, a great ball this time.
Barely able to remain conscious as he was, Solonn’s mind didn’t quite register the human’s next action: she threw the ball at him. It opened in midair before him and released a beam of red energy that struck him and filled his fading vision with crimson light.
One second, Solonn was lying paralyzed and nearly unconscious on the cavern’s floor. The next… he was nowhere.
A little history on the name “Kashisha”: the late Billie, one of my cats, would invariably hiss at me whenever I said that word to her. None of my other cats have ever responded that way to that word. Weird, but true. XD
Next time: The intentions of Solonn’s captor are made clear. See you then!
- Sike Saner