(I am so glad I finally got this chapter done! I wanted to write the one after this so badly, and I had little inspiration for this one. ^^' I'm not really that satisfied with how it turned out, but I did my best-a lot of things happen in this chapter.)
The Path of Destiny
Chapter 40-To the Forest
Snowcrystal watched the entrance to the cave carefully, knowing that at any moment another pokémon from Cyclone’s army could be walking by. A mightyena brushed past her, carefully laying more strong herbs by the entrance. Snowcrystal wanted to tell him that too much might make the area seem suspicious, but at that very moment she heard the sound of more pokémon approaching, and quieted down, waiting and watching.
Silverbreeze and a luxray named Skyfang had both paused near the hidden entrance. The rest of the army was either moving quickly or scouring the rocks for signs of Blazefang, the houndour who possessed Shadowflare’s power. The scyther and the electric type had been chosen to search this area of the canyon, and neither were pleased, knowing that the houndour could be anywhere.
Skyfang wrinkled his nose in disgust, glaring at the scenery around him. “Somethin’ stinks over here,” he growled. “It smells like some of those nasty plants!”
“Shut up and keep searching!” Silverbreeze snapped. “I can smell it myself and I don’t need you complaining.”
Skyfang shot the scyther a glare when her back was turned, and lumbered off to search somewhere that smelled less pungent. He was getting tired of Silverbreeze ordering him around, but because she was one of Cyclone’s elite pokémon, there was nothing the luxray could do about it.
Now alone, Silverbreeze focused her attention on what she had noticed before Skyfang’s interruption. There had been scyther blood spilled here recently. The thick smell of the strongly scented plants made it hard to notice, but Silverbreeze could still detect it. And beneath that, very faintly, was Stormblade’s scent.
Silverbreeze had no idea how Stormblade would have gotten this far, unless he had died and some powerful scavenger had dragged him into the canyon. She wasn’t exactly sure how she felt about this realization. She did not like Stormblade, but after seeing him tortured, she was beginning to think that maybe Cyclone was the one she should be disliking-his intentions were good but he had made her witness something she would never forget, as much as she wanted to. Of course, she kept all these thoughts to herself. There was no point in trying to persuade Cyclone and risk losing her high rank in the army. And that was in the past now. At least the leader who overthrew her mate was dead now.
The scyther began to realize that the strong scents seemed to be coming from the same place. Curious, she walked toward it, noticing that the scent of the plants made it difficult for her to smell anything else the closer she got.
“Silverbreeze!” Skyfang shouted from somewhere further along the rocky ridge. “I see canine footprints here! They look a bit big to be a houndour’s…but I dunno, why don’t you come and see?”
The scyther sighed and walked over to him, leaving the area where the air was filled with strong-smelling herbs.
Knowing that the army was now swarming through the canyon, the pokémon inside the cave still kept very quiet. Most were speaking to one another in hushed whispers or hiding in their caverns. Snowcrystal had finally been allowed to go into the place where Stormblade was resting, and not wanting to bother him much, she lay down beside him.
She knew that Redclaw was helping some of the cave pokémon guard the entrance in case of intrusion, and some of the smaller, stealthier pokémon were venturing outside by a different way to hide in the grass and alert the others to any danger, or to see when the army left.
Blazefang had seemed more frightened than any of the other pokémon, and hid himself deep within the cave tunnels. Wildflame was waiting with him, and everyone else in the cave was also longing for the moment when the army would leave.
Snowcrystal wasn’t sure how long she waited in the dim cavern, listening to the worried sounds of the pokémon moving through the main cavern. She knew that a long time had passed, but she had no way of knowing just how long.
She was still in the healer’s cavern when she heard one of the pokémon scurry by outside. Curious, she stepped out into the main cave, where a poochyena was addressing the group loudly.
“Most of the army pokémon have moved on,” he explained. “I think it will be safe soon.”
“Are you sure?” someone asked. “They left so soon?”
Snowcrystal couldn’t help feeling a bit annoyed-the time she had spent waiting had seemed anything but short. The poochyena went on to tell them that it seemed as if the army had just been passing through.
Rosie turned to Redclaw, looking worried. “If they don’t find Blazefang,” she whispered to him, “will they come back?”
“I don’t know,” Redclaw replied. “For now let’s just stay here where it’s safe.”
Rosie sighed and turned away, and Snowcrystal couldn’t blame her for being worried. She too was wondering just how safe the cavern really was.
Cyclone was in a bad mood. The vaporeon did not show it, but the rest of his followers could feel it ebbing from him as the water type walked past them. The army leader couldn’t understand how a simple houndour could seemingly vanish. His pokémon had searched through the entire canyon, and the flying types had scanned the area around it. He wondered if Blazefang was still in the giant, maze-like caves after all. If so, it wouldn’t be worth losing a large number of pokémon in there to go searching for him. For now, although he hated to admit it, the fire type Forbidden Attack Shadowflare had slipped from his paws.
Calling two of his most trusted pokémon aside, the vaporeon led them away from the main army. He turned toward Silverbreeze, the first of the two. “Take thirty pokémon and watch this area for any sign of him,” he ordered. “You’ll be in charge of them. If there’s no sign of Blazefang in one week, follow our tracks and find us.” He turned to look at the other pokémon, a charmeleon. “And you,” he began in his same calm tone. “Tell the rest of the army that we will be moving on. There are more Forbidden Attacks in the world than just Shadowflare.”
The two pokémon nodded and went off to do his bidding, leaving Cyclone alone with his thoughts.
A young eevee hidden among the grass at the top of a cliff watched the army move off into the distance. He stayed still as the last of Cyclone’s pokémon climbed out of the canyon and headed toward the plains that bordered the edge of a forest that lay near the canyon. They kept well away from the forest, heading past it and further across the plains. It made sense that a large army would not want to travel through a forest, but the small eevee wondered where it was that they were
going. Quietly he slipped back to tell the others in the cave, Silverbreeze’s group escaping his notice.
As the news that the army had left the canyon spread through the caves, pokémon gradually dared to venture out and bring back food. They did not go too far, and the remainder of the day passed without any trouble from strange pokémon.
Even after several more days, most of the pokémon stayed close to the cave, worried that the massive group of pokémon would return. Every time Snowcrystal saw them at unease, she couldn’t help but think she and her friends were responsible for leading them here. After all, they had agreed to let Blazefang come with them to keep Cyclone away from the fire Forbidden Attack.
Though Nightshade’s wounds had begun healing, Stormblade didn’t seem much better off. Streamrose’s herbs had stopped his infection from spreading…for now…but the scyther looked just as weak as ever, and would barely eat. Snowcrystal wasn’t sure about Thunder’s condition-she never saw the scyther except for when she ventured out of her small cavern to nibble at the food the others had left for her and then leave again. Snowcrystal wondered if this was a good time to try and get her to trust them more, since she seemed more willing to accept help, though she had been told by the others that it was probably best to leave her alone-no one wanted to make her angry when she was so weak.
Her thoughts drifted back to her friends everywhere she went, it seemed, but as she walked by the healer’s cavern for the sixth time that morning, Snowcrystal wanted to try and distract herself. Spotting Wildflame and Redclaw nearby, she walked over to them nervously.
“Do you think we should go bring back some food for the others?” she asked. “I…I could use some practice hunting among grass and trees,” she added in embarrassment.
“All right,” Redclaw replied, seeming to sense why she wanted to be out of the cave. “Let’s just be careful and not go too far.”
Wildflame stood up as well, nodding to Snowcrystal to show her that she was willing to go. Snowcrystal smiled back at the two and led the way out of the cave.
That afternoon, when Snowcrystal was coming back with Redclaw and Wildflame, something unexpected occurred. The young growlithe had not caught any prey; her white fur was still too noticeable in a grassy landscape. Redclaw and Wildflame, however, had both caught something and were bringing it back to the others when the zangoose they had seen at Nightshade’s battle confronted them.
“What are you doing here?” Wildflame growled, dropping her prey. During their stay, the houndoom’s dislike for the zangoose had grown.
“I’m here on Scytheclaw’s orders,” he replied hastily, ignoring Wildflame’s hostility. “He has told me to tell you that you must be gone from this place…from this cave and from this canyon by tomorrow morning. You have brought nothing but trouble upon us.”
Snowcrystal wanted to yell, but she kept her mouth shut. She exchanged glances with Wildflame, wondering if Scytheclaw had found out about why Cyclone had entered the valley. Snowcrystal decided to speak. “Three of our friends aren’t ready to travel,” she told him, though she already knew that the zangoose was well aware of Stormblade, Nightshade, and Thunder’s condition.
“Doesn’t matter,” the zangoose snapped. “If you’re still here by morning, we have Scytheclaw’s orders to attack you.” His eyes gleamed threateningly as he turned around and stalked away. “And that includes your scyther friend! Not like it’s a bad thing for him to die,” he called over his shoulder. Several of the other cave pokémon glanced at Snowcrystal apologetically as the zangoose walked away, as if they weren’t pleased with the order either.
Wildflame growled, the fur on her neck and shoulders rising. “That lowlife scizor just wants to get rid of us because of that battle!” she spat.
“I know,” Redclaw replied, seeming strangely calm. “But we can’t stay here and pick a fight with them…I think we should talk to Streamrose and Moonlight. They might know somewhere safe we can go.”
“How are we supposed to get there?” Snowcrystal asked. “With Stormblade-” She stopped mid-sentence, for the other two had already gone off angrily in search of Moonlight. Sighing, Snowcrystal began dragging their prey back to the others.
Night had fallen, and all but Stormblade now knew of Scytheclaw’s hasty decision to force them to leave. Streamrose had given them some of her herbs to take with them, but no one was sure how long they would last. Moonlight had told them that the safest resting place had to be the forest, which Cyclone’s army had avoided. At least, Snowcrystal thought, there would probably be an abundance of prey there. She was still so shocked about leaving so suddenly that she had barely thought about where they were going.
“I don’t see what you’re all so worried about,” Rosie muttered, breaking the silence that hung over the small cavern where most of the group members were resting. “I’ll be glad to get away from all these strange pokémon and their awful leader. Resting in a forest sounds nice after waiting in these caves for so long!”
“It hasn’t been that long,” Wildflame replied. “And the only problem with the forest is getting
“Moonlight showed us an easy way to climb out of the canyon,” Rosie responded. “Maybe Redclaw can carry Stormblade. Carefully, of course.”
Spark, who had been licking the scars on his leg from the poacher trap, paused and looked up. “I agree with Rosie,” he stated. “It’s pretty obvious we aren’t welcome here.”
“But this place was safe!” Wildflame growled.
“What’s the point in fighting?” Nightshade said calmly, limping between them. “It’s not like we have a choice, and the forest will be safe from Cyclone’s pokémon. At least we would no longer have to hide.”
Snowcrystal nodded in silent agreement, though she could sense unease in all the pokémon around her, even from Blazefang. She wondered what the houndour would do now that Cyclone and his army had given up chasing him.
It was still dark when the group silently made their way out of the cave, shivering miserably in the early morning cold. Redclaw carried the herbs that Streamrose had given them in his mouth. For the second time, he had to carry Stormblade on his back, but this time the scyther was too weak to protest. Most of the pokémon looked much more well-rested than when they had arrived, but the same wasn’t true for the injured ones.
Rosie and Spark, however, now seemed much healthier despite their injuries, thanks to the healer’s help. Though Snowcrystal knew that Nightshade wasn’t ready to travel-most of his wounds weren’t serious enough to be much of a problem as long as they had the herbs, but the one in his side still worried her. And Stormblade…well, she knew that there was no way Stormblade should be traveling. The sooner they got to the forest and rested, the better.
Thunder stumbled and nearly fell as she walked out of the cave, and immediately stood up again and started licking one of her wounds, trying to act as if nothing had happened, though Snowcrystal could see her shaking. Over the past few days, it seemed that the infection in some of her wounds had gotten worse, the cuts in her back in particular. During her stay at the caves, Thunder had mostly kept away from the healer and Snowcrystal’s group, and Snowcrystal suspected that she simply didn’t trust Streamrose and had wanted to be left alone. At some point during that time, however, she had grown weak enough to finally accept medicine from Nightshade, but it hadn’t seemed to do much to help the oozing, bleeding wounds.
Snowcrystal glanced at her group of friends, feeling worried for what lay in store for them. In a way, she felt partially responsible for their hardships-after all, her search for Articuno had taken them to these far-off places.
“Snowcrystal?” a voice whispered.
The white growlithe looked up to see Rosie staring at her worriedly. “Er…what is it?” Snowcrystal asked, trying not to sound too distracted.
“You know,” Rosie began, “I’m sure things will be better in the forest. Those places are full of prey pokémon!”
“But what about the pokémon who are injured?” Snowcrystal asked the ninetales.
“We can only do our best,” Wildflame whispered to her as she passed by, walking on ahead into the bushes. “Moonlight told us the easy way to get out of the canyon was along here.”
Snowcrystal glanced up at Stormblade, wondering if the scyther was even conscious. One thing was for sure, she couldn’t let the power that had caused his wounds fall into Cyclone’s paws. With any luck, the vaporeon’s followers would eventually desert him. What did he have to threaten them all with anyway? He was just one pokémon!
Snowcrystal looked up sadly as Wildflame took the lead, letting the others follow slowly after her. Spark nudged her shoulder, and she followed Wildflame reluctantly, glancing worriedly at Stormblade.
“It’s not far,” Wildflame told the group quietly. “I know how to get there…follow me.”
Sadly, Snowcrystal trailed after her, wondering just how much longer Stormblade would be able to last.
Silverbreeze and the thirty pokémon under her command had waited in the canyon for days. It hadn’t been an entirely unpleasant experience-there was plenty of prey here-but Silverbreeze knew that an exhausting journey trying to catch up with Cyclone was waiting for her after two more days. The scyther had not expected to see any sign of Blazefang anywhere, but she was surprised when in the dark of night she was roused by one of the nocturnal army pokémon, who was telling her that he’d spotted an arcanine and some other pokémon from a distance.
Instantly alert, Silverbreeze leapt up and crept through the bushes in the darkness, following the noctowl who had spoken to her. Emerging from the foliage at the top of a rugged cliff, the scyther could see a large arcanine’s flame-colored pelt moving through the trees a little ways away. There were other pokémon with him, and they were slowly making their way up a shallow slope. Silverbreeze could not see all of them in the dark, but she could see the white fur of a snow colored growlithe, standing out in the black night.
“That’s them,” Silverbreeze told the noctowl. “I wonder if the houndour’s still with them.” She hoped that the bird pokémon wouldn’t notice the unease in her voice. Truthfully, she hoped they wouldn’t find him. As much as she supported Cyclone’s plans to keep the humans away from the pokémon habitats, the idea of using Forbidden Attacks to do so unnerved her greatly.
“I didn’t get close enough to see if he was,” the noctowl replied, turning his head to preen his feathers. “Go get the others.”
(Continued in next post...)