Next chapter! This one's about as long as the last one.
The Path of Destiny
Chapter 38-Plans for Battle
Snowcrystal wasn’t feeling tired. Worried about Nightshade and Stormblade, she had stayed up by the cave’s entrance, waiting for the heracross’s return.
The growlithe was still pacing back and forth anxiously when the sound of rapidly beating wings reached her ears. Excited, she ran out of the cave and skidded to a halt on the grass outside at the same time Nightshade landed. Snowcrystal could barely see through the darkness, but the silhouette of Nightshade carrying what had to be Stormblade could clearly be seen as the heracross staggered forward, seeming very exhausted.
“Nightshade!” Snowcrystal called, making the heracross look up at her with his gleaming yellow eyes, which were wide with alarm. “You…you found Stormblade,” the growlithe began hesitantly, suddenly wondering why the scyther was still and unmoving while being carried. “Is he all r-”
“Get…help!” Nightshade gasped as he staggered forward, his whole body shaking. He looked as if he was about to collapse. Snowcrystal realized that he had to have flown very far and very fast to be in this sort of state. “Go!” Nightshade cried, pausing to catch his breath.
Snowcrystal turned and ran, confusion preventing her from knowing whether to be worried or relieved that Stormblade was now here. She knew she should be going to find Streamrose, but she found her paws taking her to her friend’s resting cavern first instead.
“Everyone!” she yelled once reaching it, waking the sleeping pokémon up, “Nightshade found Stormblade!”
Spark yawned and stretched his front paws. “See?” he muttered. “I told you Stormblade couldn’t get here all by himself.”
“Well,” Rosie told him, flicking the jolteon with one of her tails, “Stormblade is tired, and it’s better for him not to aggravate his wounds further. I want to ask him how he
got out of that cave-I’ll bet it was a lot easier than what we had to do…”
“Well…I couldn’t see through the dark but…Nightshade told me to get help so I’m going to find Streamrose,” Snowcrystal replied. She turned around and sleepily the group followed her, curious and excited, out of the cavern.
“I’ll get Streamrose, Snowcrystal,” Redclaw volunteered. “The rest of you go see what Nightshade needs help with. Stormblade might have worsened his wounds with all that traveling.”
The group left the cavern together, and even Blazefang followed out of sheer curiosity. Redclaw headed off toward the healer’s cavern as soon as they reached the main chamber of the cave. Snowcrystal paused to look around and noticed Thunder standing uncertainly at the entrance to the cavern they’d been resting in. The scyther looked very unsteady on her feet.
Wildflame noticed her as well. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to,” the houndoom told her. Thunder just looked at her with a blank expression. “Get some rest,” Wildflame told her in a calm tone. “We might not be back in a while since we all want to talk to Nightshade and Stormblade, so you’ll be alone in the quiet.”
Thunder didn’t bother to reply, but she silently agreed and walked back into the cavern. Wildflame caught up with the others quickly as they headed briskly through the large cavern. “I think Thunder is getting worse,” Wildflame sighed as she walked. “I kept trying to help her earlier but she just wouldn’t respond to me-not even to growl or anything. She’s been getting thinner too…”
“Is that even possible?” Spark asked, rolling his eyes.
“Good question,” Blazefang muttered. Spark shot him a seething glare and the houndour withered under his gaze.
Snowcrystal barely heard the others’ conversations as they made their way to the cave entrance. Snowcrystal darted ahead of everyone else as she saw that Nightshade had made it into the big cavern from the tunnel leading outside.
The others quieted and followed, gathering around the tunnel entrance as Wildflame used her ember attack to light up the area around her. Luckily most of the cave pokémon were asleep in other caverns, so they were not bothered by the sudden bright light. Nightshade looked up at her gratefully as he staggered into view, carrying the limp form of Stormblade with him.
Snowcrystal gasped when she saw him clearly. Stormblade’s entire body was coated in sticky mud, and many of his wounds-both new and old-were bleeding. Blood was also dripping from his half-open mouth. The scyther looked like a muddy, bloody mess, and one of his wings was bent at an awkward angle. Nightshade carefully set Stormblade down before half-collapsing himself in exhaustion, and Snowcrystal saw that there were several cuts on Stormblade’s back in addition to the burns, and all were leaking blood.
Everyone seemed alarmed-Wildflame looked as if she couldn’t tell if Stormblade was alive or dead-the look on her face made Snowcrystal believe that she thought he could die any second if something wasn’t done. Blazefang looked absolutely disgusted by Stormblade, Spark seemed frozen in complete shock, and Rosie had suddenly gone very pale, looking as if she was about to pass out.
Blazefang was the first to overcome the shock and break the silence. “So…is he dead, or…going to be?” he asked.
“Neither!” Wildflame told him, and Blazefang looked at her in surprise. Wildflame quickly looked away and turned back to Stormblade. Blazefang’s expression had read, ‘Do you actually care about this scyther?’
Suddenly Snowcrystal felt Redclaw’s pelt brush against hers as he and Streamrose arrived and approached Stormblade and Nightshade, who was still too exhausted to stand. The gardevoir stifled a gasp as she looked at the bloodied scyther lying on the cave floor.
“What happened?” she asked, looking around at the group.
“I don’t know,” Nightshade said weakly, getting shakily to his feet. “He was hurt very bad before…but not this bad. Something happened to him recently…I don’t know what.”
Streamrose bent down to examine the wounds quickly. Nightshade looked at them too, and though he couldn’t tell for sure, the newer injuries looked at least a day old. An alarmed thought entered his mind. How long had Stormblade dragged himself across those hills and fields in this condition?
“Help me get him in the healer’s cavern,” Streamrose said to Nightshade, and despite his exhaustion the heracross nodded. The two of them carefully lifted Stormblade and headed toward the rocky opening. By this time, a few curious pokémon had entered the large cavern to see what was going on, whispering quietly to each other as they got a glimpse of Stormblade. Streamrose and Nightshade paid them no heed. Snowcrystal saw Stormblade’s scythe dragging limply across the ground, leaving a thin trail of blood as Nightshade and Streamrose brought him inside the cavern.
Snowcrystal tried to follow but Wildflame stopped her. “Better let Streamrose handle this,” she told the growlithe. “We’d probably just get in the way.”
A few moments later, Nightshade emerged and rejoined the group. “I think we may have to wait a while…” he told them tiredly. “I don’t know when Stormblade will wake up. And there’s something I need to tell the leader here. For now though, those who want to can go back to our cavern and rest.”
The others didn’t say anything, though it was easy to tell that none of them felt like resting. Wildflame sighed. “Guess we’re all staying here then,” she whispered. “At least it’ll give Thunder a bit of peace.”
Blazefang, who had just previously been debating on whether or not to go back and sleep, despite how unnerved he was, immediately dismissed the idea at the thought of being alone in a room with the crazy scyther who had tried to kill him before. Unfortunately, he realized, he was stuck here for now.
Nightshade looked worriedly at the group. “I need to speak to Scytheclaw,” he told them. “If any of you want to come, follow me. It’s…it’s about Cyclone’s army. They’ve reached the canyon.”
The entire group of pokémon looked alarmed, Blazefang in particular, but no one said anything. It was as if the shock of seeing Stormblade in such horrible condition hadn’t yet worn off enough for them to be very shocked about anything else.
“I’ll go,” Snowcrystal told the heracross, and Wildflame, Rosie, and Redclaw agreed to go with Nightshade as well.
“Oh great, I have to stay here alone with him
?” Spark growled, looking at Blazefang.
“Believe me, I’m not happy about it either,” the houndour retorted.
Snowcrystal ignored the two and followed Nightshade as the heracross rushed into the tunnel leading to Scytheclaw’s cavern. The growlithe leapt back in shock as Nightshade was suddenly pushed roughly aside by Scytheclaw as the scizor strode into the large cavern, obviously annoyed by the commotion.
“What’s going on?” the leader shouted, and Nightshade quickly moved in front of him.
“I’ve just brought our friend back here,” the heracross explained quickly, “but there is something else important I need to tell you…”
Scytheclaw stiffened, staring at Nightshade in shock. “Is that…blood
? What is going on?!”
Nightshade simply stared back at Scytheclaw in confusion, until he realized that his arms and chest were covered in blood. “It’s…it’s Stormblade’s blood,” he explained. “He was the friend I brought back. He’s hurt and-”
“I don’t care!” Scytheclaw hissed, walking past him toward the group of pokémon who had been watching.
Stubbornly, Nightshade ran in front of him. “I have to warn you,” he told him. “An army of pokémon has found this canyon and they’re getting ready to travel through it! You have to stay here and hide.” He didn’t mention that the reason the army would be traveling was because they were after Blazefang; he didn’t want the pokémon here to turn against them. And even though Blazefang was Cyclone’s main target, these native pokémon would likely be forced to join the vaporeon’s army if they got in its way.
Scytheclaw could hear the worried murmurs among the steadily growing crowd of pokémon in the cavern. “Well…” the scizor said slowly, “then I will send someone to see for themselves in the morning.” Nightshade’s eyes blazed as he realized that Scytheclaw didn’t trust him, but the leader went on without giving him so much as a glance, “but if there is such a threat, we will not hide. We are not cowards, and our clan is not small in numbers. We-”
“You can’t fight
!” Nightshade cried, knowing that a battle would be catastrophic even if the army did not have another one of the Forbidden Attacks. He stood right up to Scytheclaw, staring into the tall scizor’s eyes. “You have no idea what you’d be going up against. You don’t know anything about them. You can’t just-”
In a burst of furious hostility, Scytheclaw lashed out at Nightshade with one of his open pincers with such force that it not only cut a wide gash above his right eye, but it knocked him to the ground completely. “You don’t give the orders around here!” the scizor snarled, standing threateningly over the heracross.
Looking dazed, Nightshade got to his feet. “Believe me, it would be better to hide and let them pass. Cyclone’s army is far stronger-”
He stopped abruptly as the scizor knocked him down again. “What would you know about strength?” Scytheclaw sneered. “My clan is powerful and strong, and just because you consider us weak does not mean we should hide like cowards.” The leader strode past him again, moving toward the members of his clan grouped together.
“I’m telling you…” Nightshade said quietly, standing up again. “You’re making a mistake.”
Scytheclaw responded without even looking at him. “I would not
be making a mistake by protecting our home from something as destructive as an army of pokémon,” he said icily.
“Wait!” a pokémon in the growing crowd called out. “Are you sure this is a good idea. What if-” Scytheclaw rounded on him. The speaker, a leafeon, took a few steps back.
“Scytheclaw is right,” a silver-furred mightyena replied. “That army could destroy or greatly damage our home.”
“Not to mention steal our prey,” a pidgeot cried. “I’d be willing to fight to keep that scum off our land!”
A few other pokémon murmured in agreement, but the rest looked uncertain. Then, another speaker stepped forward. It was a sleek, black-furred, almost cat-like pokémon with yellow ring markings on its legs, tail, ears, and forehead. Nightshade recognized it as an umbreon. The umbreon looked around the cave at all the pokémon gathered there. “Are you mad?” he cried. “We don’t know anything about this army and already you’re willing to try and fight it? And even if our clan could
defeat them, a group of pokémon the size of an army would kill and injure many, then what would we do? There wouldn’t be enough of us to find food or defend ourselves from other intruders!”
“Moonlight is right,” a glameow called. “Even if we end up having to search outside the canyon for food, it’s better than risking injury and death.”
Several of the pokémon bristled and glared at the two, especially the umbreon. The majority, however, moved toward Moonlight and the glameow and looked back at Scytheclaw almost fearfully.
“We don’t want to fight,” a flareon told the leader timidly.
Scytheclaw’s pincers clenched together tightly as he gave the group facing him a seething glare. Snowcrystal wondered what would happen and if Scytheclaw would order them to fight anyway.
Scytheclaw looked ready to do just that, when the zangoose Snowcrystal had seen before whispered to him. “Scytheclaw…” he told the leader. “Outright ordering with them could cause problems. Problems we don’t want to deal with. We-”
Scytheclaw silenced him, understanding what he meant. If most of his clan was siding with Moonlight and the heracross, ordering them could lead to a refusal to fight. But there was another way, a part of the clan’s ancient laws and traditions the pokémon would have to respect and obey.
Snowcrystal watched as Scytheclaw approached Moonlight. She hadn’t heard what the zangoose had whispered to him, but she sensed that something in the leader’s attitude had changed.
The scizor reached the group of pokémon who all nervously turned their eyes on him. “It seems as if most of you here don’t want to try defending our territory,” Scytheclaw announced in a deceptively calm voice. “But there are several of us who do.” He paused to look at those who had moved to the other side of the cave, showing their support for him as leader. “It seems as if the best way to make this decision…would be the traditional way.”
Snowcrystal looked around nervously, spotting Rockclaw nearby and moving over toward her. “Rockclaw…what’s the…traditional way?”
Before the linoone could answer, Scytheclaw himself explained to the pokémon in the cave, glaring at Nightshade in particular. “The traditional way,” he began, “as you all know, except for you…newcomers…is that when a large number among the clan supports one decision, and another large number the other, a battle decides the outcome.”
“And a pokémon from the side opposing the leader’s choice…must fight the leader,” the zangoose added.
“And the winner makes the decision,” Moonlight finished. “We know. That method hasn’t been used in years. But if it’s what you want, then I accept. Let’s see what they
Moonlight turned to the group of pokémon who had supported him, who all looked uncertain for a moment. However, each of them knew that they had little choice. It was either accept Scytheclaw’s terms and send someone to fight for a chance at avoiding a large-scale battle, or be forced to fight by the scizor and his many followers. One by one they all reluctantly murmured their agreement.
“We should hold the battle now,” Moonlight growled, staring into Scytheclaw’s eyes without a hint of fear. “If no one else is willing, I will volunteer to be-”
“No!” Scytheclaw said quickly, leaving Moonlight looking confused. “One of them
must do it.” He waved his claw toward Snowcrystal and her companions. “It was one of them that started this. And the battle will be held tomorrow morning.”
“What?” Moonlight cried. “They’re not part of the clan-this has nothing to do with them!”
“If they don’t have anything to do with us then why don’t we throw them out?” Scytheclaw snapped. “Leave them to fend for themselves and perhaps slow down that army-”
“No!” Snowcrystal shouted, and everyone turned to look at her. She backed up a little, wishing she could disappear, but knowing she had to continue. “We’ll do it…” she said quietly. “If we can stay here, one of us will battle.” She immediately turned her gaze to the cave floor as the pokémon continued to stare. She could not tell if her decision had been a good one or not. Yet, even if one of her friends was injured in the fight, it would be better than all of them having to face Cyclone’s army without anywhere to hide, and Stormblade being without care. None of her friends said anything, but Snowcrystal was sure that they had realized the same thing-they didn’t have much of a choice.
“Very well…” Scytheclaw told her, and turned swiftly back to the tunnel leading to his cavern. “It’s settled then-the battle tomorrow will determine what we shall do. Any of you who can fly, find out what you can about the army when daylight comes. One of you can inform the newcomers of where it will take place, because I expect the one who will fight to be there by sunrise.”
(Continued in next post...)