“You want this to happen to your friends when we find ‘em?” Solus asked him, fixing his insane-looking gaze on the scyther. “Because we can arrange that!”
The images in his mind vanished to give way to searing agony once again. It was at this point that Stormblade realized he had reached his limit. He found it nearly impossible to talk and endure the pain at the same time, but he finally managed to force the words out. “They…they whe-were at lake-”
The pain stopped, and Solus’s glowing eyes returned to their usual violet color. “Yes…?” he asked, in a mockingly sweet voice.
“An underground lake,” Stormblade gasped, “the c-cave poke…said…he said…water p-pokémon…can swim underneath…into a canyon…the exit…h…hidden underwater…”
Cyclone calmly approached Solus, taking care not to step on any of the patches of grass that were flecked with blood. “Of course…” he whispered. “The canyon. I’ll admit I never would have thought of looking for a cave entrance in that area. Well, if that’s where they’re headed or have escaped to, that is where we’ll go. Gather everyone who’s waiting by the cave entrances and bring them here!” Cyclone ordered some of the pokémon standing nearest to him, and they nodded and walked off.
Silverbreeze, who had been standing near Cyclone the whole time, now looked shocked at the state Stormblade was in. Solus walked over to the motionless scyther, using his psychic powers to send another wave of pain shooting through his body. Stormblade cried out and then lay still. “Now I want to know something…” the espeon hissed dangerously as he approached Stormblade, knowing that most of the army would be preparing to leave now and were no longer forced to stay here. “How were you able to keep that secret hidden…from…me
!” His last three words were a dangerous snarl, and the scyther at his feet screamed again.
Silverbreeze glanced sideways at Cyclone, who sat perfectly still, almost as if he were a vaporeon made of stone, facing Solus as the eevee evolution continued to torment the helpless scyther and seeming to pay no attention to the pokémon’s screams.
“Cyclone?” the female scyther asked slowly, but the vaporeon seemed lost deep in thought, his eyes fixed on the scene before him and the tortured scyther. Silverbreeze shuddered-as much as she didn’t like having Stormblade around, she did not like witnessing pure torture. “Cyclone…” Silverbreeze continued. “You’ve got the answer you want-there’s no need for this! Tell Solus to stop!”
Cyclone stood up in one fluid motion, staring at the scene once more before turning sharply around and heading in the opposite direction, Stormblade’s screams echoing in his ears. The vaporeon’s mouth twisted into a bitter snarl, as he replied to Silverbreeze in nothing more than a dark whisper.
“Why should I?”
By nightfall, Snowcrystal and her friends had stopped to rest. They had not traveled far, and had stopped early so as to get a lot of rest for the journey ahead. Snowcrystal curled up against Redclaw’s fluffy tail, looking at the arcanine with her blue eyes. “Do you think we’ll find Articuno soon?” she asked.
“Maybe so,” Redclaw told her calmly. “I’m sure that when we do find him, he will be more than willing to help you and your clan.”
Snowcrystal smiled and lay down, feeling exhausted. It was so nice to be able to relax after all that had happened. And when Stormblade caught up, it would be easier for him too.
As the others were getting ready to sleep, Wildflame snuck away from the group, following Blazefang’s scent. She found the houndour easily. Blazefang was curled up beneath a clump of ferns, not noticing her presence. He looked small and afraid-he was no longer the ruthless leader he had been becoming before. “Blazefang…” Wildflame whispered, and the houndour sat up suddenly, startled.
“Uh…what is it?” he said quickly, glancing to see if the others were around.
Wildflame sighed. “What are we going to do now?” she asked. “We have no idea where-”
“Boneclaw and the rest of the pack joined Cyclone,” Blazefang interrupted. “I think he must have promised them help either finding Articuno or driving the growlithe away…I’m not sure. I don’t know what to do.”
“Maybe Articuno will be strong enough to drive that army away,” Wildflame whispered back. “After all, he is a legendary. We can still help the clan, Blazefang. We just need to stay with this group and try to-”
“Articuno can’t help us!” Blazefang growled suddenly, and Wildflame was taken aback.
“Why…why not?” she asked.
“He just can’t!” Blazefang growled, and Wildflame could tell that he didn’t want to say more on the matter.
“We don’t know if he can stop them for sure,” Wildflame went on, still very confused by Blazefang’s reaction. “But for now we must stay with the others if we’re going to make it through all this. If you want…I can try to convince them to…to really let you into their group.”
“They’d never trust me,” Blazefang muttered bitterly.
“We won’t get anywhere if we don’t work together,” Wildflame replied. “Maybe we ought to help the growlithe-we can work something out between both the clans! Articuno doesn’t need to take sides.”
Blazefang sighed. “I suppose working something out would be best…but we can’t rely on Articuno…” he replied.
“I know we don’t know where he is,” Wildflame said quietly, thinking that she knew why he was doubting. “But we can at least try…Articuno can make it so that both clans have enough territory and prey.” She paused, but Blazefang did not respond. “Look, everyone in this group all have two things in common. One, they want peace in one way or another, and two, they don’t want the Forbidden Attacks to fall into Cyclone’s paws. Working together is our best option. I can try to convince them to give you another chance.”
Blazefang merely turned away from her, his eyes staring sightlessly ahead. “I don’t know…” he whispered slowly.
Wildflame could tell that he wanted to be left alone. Sighing, she turned and headed back to the others. “Ok…you can decide…but I’ll make sure that none of them try to bother you, especially that jolteon,” she added with a smile as she padded slowly away, leaving Blazefang to his own thoughts.
Morning sun shone brightly through the leafy canopy as Snowcrystal awoke and stood up, stretching her forepaws and then glancing around sleepily. The sunlight shone through semi-transparent leaves, bathing everything around her in warm green light. This was certainly a peaceful place.
Seeing that the others were not yet awake, Snowcrystal walked to the edge of the cliff, looking down at the river below which sparkled in the sunlight. The way down looked steep in this area-much steeper than it had been before, but the natural stone pathway wound through the canyon for quite some way ahead-she couldn’t see where it ended. Behind her, the cliffs reared up high into the sky, grasses and flowers swaying gently in the breeze from small ledges and niches in the rock.
After a few moments of gazing at the canyon’s beauty, some footsteps sounding closer to her made her turn around, noticing Nightshade.
“This place seems a lot more hospitable than most of the other areas we’ve journeyed through, doesn’t it?” the heracross asked her.
Snowcrystal nodded. “Do you think we should rest here for the rest of the day to wait for Stormblade?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” Nightshade replied. “I think we should at least get to a place where we could all adequately hide if we were spotted by one of Cyclone’s followers before we decide to stop in one place. But once we do, I could always go back to search for Stormblade and help him the rest of the way here-I can fly after all.”
“But that’s dangerous!” Snowcrystal told him. “What if they see you?”
“Regardless of any type disadvantages I’m sure I could handle a flying pokémon or two,” Nightshade said calmly. “It would be a good idea to travel until we find such a place today, then I can go back and help Stormblade.”
“All right,” Snowcrystal said smiling. She was glad to see that Nightshade was confident, yet at the same time knew what he was doing. And regardless of the danger Nightshade could face, Stormblade was probably struggling and needed help. And after all, a flying type from Cyclone’s army might not want to focus on attacking Nightshade when they were looking for Blazefang.
“We’ll leave as soon as the others wake up,” Nightshade told her. “You should rest now.”
“Okay,” Snowcrystal replied, nodding.
It was still morning by the time the group had begun traveling. For a while, their path had gotten steadily rockier, and there were places where they had to clamber over rough boulders or climb a little ways up or down the cliffs to stay on the wide ledge path. Spark and Rosie had difficulty climbing some of the rocks and had to receive help from the others. Snowcrystal and Nightshade were always ahead; Snowcrystal was used to climbing rocks and Nightshade possessed wings.
“Can you slow down?” Rosie called from down below as Snowcrystal reached the top of a particularly difficult to climb rock pile. “Not all of us have four good legs you know!”
While the others continued to struggle to climb, Thunder leaned against the rocks at the very bottom, taking deep gasping breaths as she closed her eyes and tried to fight the dizziness that was threatening to make her collapse. Her whole body was weak and she couldn’t stop shaking, but she refused to stop moving for long lest she draw attention to herself from the others. Taking another rasping breath, she stepped shakily away from the rocks for a moment and then began to climb.
Nightshade was completely aware of Thunder’s situation, but he said nothing and acted as if he didn’t notice-the last thing Thunder needed was more anger and stress, which she would certainly get if she knew that someone was worried about her. All the same, he allowed the group to take breaks often, claiming that everyone needed to rest, and Thunder never made any objections like she had on a previous occasion where Redclaw had suggested they stop to let her
It was during one of these resting times that Snowcrystal decided to go ahead. She walked a little further and soon noticed with dismay that they would all have to climb up the rocks making up the side of the cliff face that stretched far above them for a while in order to carry on. When she came back and reported the news, the only pokémon eager to keep going were Wildflame and Nightshade.
Spark and Rosie felt discouraged, and Blazefang, who was still exhausted, muttered something angrily under his breath from where he sat a good distance away from the others. Yet despite this, they soon agreed to keep going, for everyone was looking forward to better shelter and a chance to rest.
The climb was tougher than any of them had expected-thick foliage often blocked their path and made the going difficult, and it was hard to see how much further they had to go because the trees blocked their view of the grassy ledge they had been traveling on before and the river below. Wildflame, Nightshade, and Redclaw often had to help Spark or Rosie, and a few times Nightshade even risked asking Thunder if she needed help, but she rejected all of his offers.
“It can’t be far now,” Snowcrystal called to the others from up ahead. “I can see where the foliage thins out further on. We’ll be able to see where we can climb back down to the path!”
“Let’s hope so,” Spark muttered irritably as he limped after Snowcrystal who was walking further ahead, hoping to see how much further they had to go.
The growlithe walked further ahead, quickly reaching the area where there were no trees around her to block her view and where she could see the canyon below.
She was met by a very strange and somehow mysterious sight. Directly below her, there was a place where the smoothly flowing river formed a large round pool right beside the tall cliffs. There the water was still, yet startlingly crystal clear. What intrigued Snowcrystal most was that in the center of the pool a large misshapen chunk of gray rock reached from the depths of the water to a little bit above the surface, and placed on the rock were several small statues of pokémon.
Most of the statues couldn’t have been taller than Snowcrystal’s foreleg, but there were about thirty all together, spread out over the surface of the rock, looking peaceful and undisturbed. They were of various pokémon; Snowcrystal spotted a remoraid, a vaporeon, a clefable, a rapidash, a mightyena, and several others. For a moment her gaze wandered away from the rock and the small statues to the crystal clear water. Her eyes widened when she noticed a much bigger statue of a regal looking arcanine lying completely submerged at the water’s depths, its mouth open in a silent snarl of defiance. The pool was not very deep, but all the same it surprised Snowcrystal how clearly she could see the statue through the water. She couldn’t tell exactly, but it looked at least four times as big as she was-not quite as big as a real arcanine, but still very detailed and beautiful. The submerged statue did not look very old, but it didn’t look as if it had been put there recently either.
Snowcrystal was so mystified by the strange sight that looked so calm and peaceful that she did not notice Redclaw standing beside her on the overhanging rock that towered above the still pool. “I guess we found what we were looking for,” the arcanine spoke up, startling her. “Look over there, there’s an easy way back onto that path on the cliffs we were following.” He angled his head toward the easy climb as the others started to catch up.
“Redclaw…” Snowcrystal began. “How do you think those statues got there?”
“Maybe humans put them there,” Redclaw began. “Who knows…maybe this was meant to be a special place to honor pokémon. It doesn’t seem like any of the local pokémon here have even tried to disturb them.”
Rosie, who along with the others had made it to where Snowcrystal and Redclaw were, had forgotten her exhaustion as she stared down at the pool in awe. It wasn’t just the statues that intrigued her-the whole area was startlingly beautiful, and there didn’t seem to be any pokémon in or around the pool at the moment.
“This must be a very special place to the pokémon here,” Nightshade told the others while looking down from the cliff. “We should probably leave it alone.”
Snapping out of her trance, Snowcrystal nodded. The others seemed to have regained both a bit of strength and hope from seeing a place so peaceful after all the danger they had been through, and they needed to keep going. “Redclaw found an easy way down,” the growlithe told them. “Follow me!”
Snowcrystal led the others single file over the rough stone as they slowly descended, passing around the statue rock and the clear pool. It wasn’t long before they were back on another wide ledge covered in foliage where the going was much easier. Snowcrystal paused to look back at the silent statues one more time, seeing the sunlight hit the water and illuminating the beautiful arcanine statue. The fangs in its open mouth seemed to sparkle in the sunlight, and she could see the entire statue clearly now. She lifted her gaze to the small statues standing so peacefully and undisturbed, sheltered from storms by the cliffs that surrounded them, and then she turned and carried on, leaving the tranquil sight behind.
They hadn’t been walking for a long time when Nightshade realized that something was wrong. He had a strong feeling that he and the others were being watched, and not by particularly friendly pokémon either. The heracross kept his suspicions quiet, for he did not want the unseen strangers to realize that he noticed anything before he could find out more about them.
His eyes darted from side to side as he walked, noticing almost every faint rustle of leaves or bushes. Blazefang noticed his odd behavior and watched him, confused.
“What are you doing?” the houndour sneered at Nightshade, giving the bug pokémon a glare.
“Worry about yourself and leave the rest of us alone unless you have something of importance to say,” Nightshade replied calmly, turning away from him.
“Blazefang has a right to be curious,” Wildflame spoke up. “I’ve been noticing you acting strange too. What is it?”
Nightshade sighed. “We’re being watched,” he told her, barely above a whisper.
Snowcrystal and Redclaw heard it too, and paused to look at Nightshade in confusion. Thunder had heard as well, but unlike the others she didn’t seem shocked or surprised. Snowcrystal opened her mouth to question either her or Nightshade but several fierce cries that seemed to come from everywhere around them at once stopped her from saying anything.
Out of the bushes and trees and up from the river area toward them several pokémon suddenly appeared, circling the group and hemming them in against the cliffs. There were about twelve of the strangers, and they were all of various species, types, strengths, and sizes, but they were all predators and seemed to belong to a clan of some sort.
Thunder’s eyes blazed and she took a step forward as if about to attack, but Redclaw stood in her way, looking at her pleadingly. For a moment she looked ready to attack him, but then paused and lowered her scythes. She simply did not have the energy.
Knowing that he was making a bold move, Nightshade stepped forward to face the closest two pokémon-a zangoose and a salamence, both of whom eyed him warily.
“Look,” Nightshade began. “I know we’re in your territory, but we don’t mean to be a threat. We’re looking for a place we can rest before carrying on.”
(Continued in next post)