“It’s not far now,” Rosie whispered from up ahead, peering at the top of the canyon. The ninetales had begun using her injured leg again, but was still limping. Nevertheless, she had been determined to prove herself and climbed ahead of the others to examine the path they would take. “It looks easy to climb up this way,” she added, pointing with one of her tails.
Blazefang scrabbled up beside her, his black fur prickling with unease. Even though he felt strong and awake in the moonlight, every flickering shadow unnerved him. What if there were still enemy pokémon from Cyclone’s army lurking about?
Rosie growled as Blazefang shoved her aside and moved further up the slope. Snowcrystal and Spark appeared beside her, both looking worried. “What is it?” she whispered to the two pokémon.
“Nightshade thinks we’re being watched,” Snowcrystal whispered.
“He thought that when the canyon pokémon found us,” Spark added.
“Then it’s probably one of them, making sure we leave,” Rosie replied. She turned to see Blazefang darting down the slope past her, coming to a halt in between Wildflame and Redclaw.
“I’m staying in the middle of the group!” he muttered determinedly, digging his claws in the pebbly soil.
“Fine,” Rosie muttered. “Be a coward. I-”
“Look…” Spark whispered, and Rosie could feel his fur beginning to sharpen into spines where his side was brushing against her. She darted a few steps away quickly.
Lifting her head, Rosie could now see dark shapes slinking through the trees and rocks on the slope opposite to them. Glancing down into the canyon, her heart sank when she realized that the river was calm there-these pokémon would have no trouble at all crossing. Looking closely at the nearest pokémon, Rosie could make out the sleek shape of the scyther she had seen before-the one from Cyclone’s army. Growling, she pawed at the ground, longing to give her a taste of her strongest ember attack.
“Keep going!” Redclaw whispered. “Don’t let them know we’ve spotted them.”
Rosie turned and plodded up the slope, worry filling her mind. She didn’t like turning her back on a dangerous enemy.
“What do we do about them?” she heard Wildflame whisper from behind.
“If we make it out of the canyon,” Redclaw replied quietly, “it’ll be easier to fight them off.”
“We can’t attack that many!” Wildflame gasped.
“We can launch our attacks and run for it once we’re on high ground,” Redclaw whispered back. “It’s better than trying to fight here, and it’s probably the best chance we’ve got.”
“Run for it with Stormblade
?” Snowcrystal sounded disbelieving.
Rosie felt a wave of anger rush over her. Why had that selfish leader driven them out? What harm were they causing the canyon pokémon?
She remembered with a twinge of guilt that they had been the ones to unknowingly lead Cyclone to the canyon pokémon’s home, yet at least no one had gotten hurt. But a lot of their prey would be gone after the army passed through…
Rosie heard a growl of annoyance from behind and turned to see that Nightshade had stopped. Spark was glaring at him-the heracross was staring right at their enemies.
“What are you doing?” the jolteon hissed. “Come on, keep going!”
“I’ll be back,” Nightshade replied simply before flying off into the night.
Rosie’s eyes widened in shock-he was heading toward the other side of the canyon-where that scyther and her followers were! “Come back here, you idiot!” she growled after him, but Nightshade had already vanished.
Nightshade took great care to make sure that he would not be noticed by the pokémon who were making their way down the slope, closing the gap between themselves and his friends. He carefully landed at the top of the cliff directly above the scyther. He could see that she only had about thirty pokémon with her, though he knew that was a number far too great for the others to fight. He had to hope that his plan would work.
There were several large boulders along the cliff side, and Nightshade scanned the area until his gaze rested on a single one. It was larger than most, and rested on a wide ledge a little ways down the cliff. Nightshade quietly flew down behind it, peering around to watch Cyclone’s pokémon slipping quietly toward the river.
Looking at the boulder, Nightshade was fairly certain he could move it. Knowing he didn’t have much time, the heracross ignored the pain lancing across his side and began pushing against the boulder.
Silverbreeze glared worriedly at the group of pokémon on the slope across from them. She had half-hoped they’d noticed her and the others and run off. She just wanted to get back to the army and leave the Forbidden Attack behind. Yet the group still climbed at the same pace. Irritated, she continued the march down to the river. It was much more likely they’d be spotted once they entered the water.
A deafening crash sounded from the cliffs above, making Silverbreeze whirl around in surprise. In the darkness, she could see the massive shape of a boulder hurtling down the side of the canyon, bringing several other rocks with it. She watched in awe as the cascading mass of boulders brought more and more rocks hurtling down toward them.
Without wasting any more time, Silverbreeze spread her wings and launched herself into the air. She wasn’t alone-the noctowl and the other flying type in the group-a swellow-did the same. Silverbreeze could only watch as her followers scattered in panic, filling the air with cries of fear and pain as the rocks and dirt struck them, launching them into the river or sending them rolling down the slope. A few lucky pokémon managed to scramble out of the way of the danger and flee into the night. Silverbreeze didn’t expect to see them again. They were probably taking this opportunity to free themselves from Cyclone’s army, as many had joined unwillingly.
The shower of rocks went on for several more terrifying seconds, and then all was still, save for a few last rocks rolling down toward the river. Silverbreeze watched as many terrified pokémon broke the surface of the water, paddling toward shore in a panic and rushing away. A few unlucky members of the army lay floating in the river-half crushed and obviously dead. Silverbreeze quickly flew to the highest point of the nearby cliff, hearing the startled cries of pokémon as they fled into the darkness.
“Silverbreeze, should we bring them back?” the noctowl asked her, getting no response. “Silverbreeze?”
“They’ll have scattered,” the scyther responded, her voice as cold as ice. “Bring back those you can, but leave them if they try to run. We don’t want a fight.” She knew that the pokémon, most of them at least, would want to get away and not have to be sent into danger again by Cyclone. She couldn’t blame them-even though Cyclone trusted her, seeing him let Solus torture a pokémon for amusement had drastically changed her opinions of the vaporeon. At least he’s fighting to teach humans a lesson
, she thought to herself, that’s something to fight for after they cut down our territory.
“What should we do about the houndour?” the swellow asked her.
“Nothing,” Silverbreeze snapped. “We go back to Cyclone and tell him there’s no sign of him.”
?” the bird pokémon responded. “But what if Solus-”
“Cyclone trusts me!” Silverbreeze growled. “As long as you keep quiet about it, he won’t question me. There are too many in the houndour’s group-they’d overpower us if we tried to capture him now…but we can’t exactly tell Cyclone we saw him but didn’t manage to bring him back, can we?”
The swellow looked uncertain. “But…but what about the others in our group who-”
“Accidents happen,” Silverbreeze replied, turning away from the cliff edge. “We can start following Cyclone now. We’ll be able to travel less and rest more, since he won’t be expecting us to catch up until a little later.”
As the swellow muttered his agreement, Silverbreeze paid him no attention. She was thinking about the army. Though she didn’t agree with Cyclone’s methods, the vaporeon was right-it was all for the greater good.
Snowcrystal watched as a panic-stricken mightyena pulled itself out of the river and dashed away through the foliage. They just separated…like they’re running away from something…something other than the rocks…
Snowcrystal remembered what Blazefang had said about Cyclone forcing pokémon to join him, and wondered what they were afraid of. Surely they were free now, and they didn’t have to worry?
Her thoughts were interrupted as Nightshade landed beside the group, looking dazed. Snowcrystal wondered if pushing the big rock down had made any of his wounds worse.
“You’d better thank him,” Rosie growled at Blazefang. “It was you
they were after!”
Nightshade wasn’t paying attention. His eyes were on the bodies of the two dead pokémon as they floated down the river. “I…I didn’t want to kill them…” he whispered sadly.
“But it was necessary!” Rosie cried. “And they deserved it for joining Cyclone!”
They didn’t have a choice!
Snowcrystal thought fiercely, digging her claws into the dirt.
“It was either them or Stormblade…” Wildflame told Nightshade, “and the rest of us forced to serve that lunatic.”
“I know,” Nightshade replied quietly, but Snowcrystal could sense the sadness in his voice. She knew he was trying to hide what he really felt. “Come on,” he told the others, “let’s keep going. The forest isn’t far.”
Snowcrystal followed after him, not saying a word as she climbed until they reached the top of the canyon. Seeing the leafy trees of the forest not far away, she tried to feel a bit more hopeful. There they could rest some more…but what would they do after that?
“I hope there’s someone in that forest who can help us,” she whispered, seeing Spark walk up beside her.
“With any luck, there will be,” he replied. “At least it’s free from Cyclone’s pokémon.”
Snowcrystal nodded in agreement, but she didn’t feel any better. What would they do about Stormblade? And Articuno? And would Cyclone cause even more damage elsewhere? The young growlithe sighed, knowing that none of these questions could be answered.
Blazefang found the trek over to the forest to be easier than he expected. He felt light and almost happy, knowing that one of his biggest problems had vanished-Cyclone really had left, and those whom he’d sent to track him down had all scattered. Of course, several problems still remained-his pack was still with Cyclone, his clan still waiting for him, and of course…Shadowflare. Yet even those problems seemed small now that he no longer had to fear for his life. He wasn’t quite sure what he would do now-he figured that the best thing to do would be to return to the mountain, back to Firedash and the clan.
he thought, maybe with Shadowflare I can overthrow her… NO!
He fiercely shook the thought from his mind. He didn’t need to be a leader, and he didn’t need Shadowflare!
Sighing, he walked after the others, knowing that he was still too exhausted to make such a long journey back to the mountain now. He would rest with this group of pokémon in the forest, then he and Wildflame would leave.
As the group reached the outer fringes of the forest, Blazefang paused to give the air a quick sniff. It smelled damp and full of the scents of many pokémon, some he didn’t recognize. It seemed like there would be plenty of prey, though Blazefang wasn’t used to hunting in a forest.
He followed the pokémon a little ways further until they came to a wide clearing. Redclaw helped Stormblade get on the ground and set about making nests out of moss and ferns.
“I’ll go hunt!” Spark volunteered, his eyes bright with anticipation. Blazefang casually remembered overhearing someone say that the scyther, Stormblade, had first taught Spark to hunt in a forest.
“I’ll go with you,” Snowcrystal said quickly, following Spark out into the trees.
“Idiot…” Blazefang mumbled under his breath. “You won’t catch anything with white fur like that!”
The houndour jumped up as Thunder stumbled into the clearing. Growling, he backed away, well out of range of the scyther in case she attacked. She had been the last one to arrive, as the others had wisely let her trail behind them at her own pace. He was disappointed she hadn’t collapsed.
Thunder didn’t seem to have noticed him at all, and simply lay down near a clump of berry bushes without bothering to make a nest or even clear away any sticks or dry leaves. He could scent a very strong, sickly smell coming from her, and wrinkled his nose in disgust.
Walking away from Thunder, Blazefang cleared a place on the forest floor next to a tall oak tree. He was glad that none of the other pokémon had tried to chase him off yet-they knew as well as he did that he could be on his own now, but he wanted rest and protection first.
“Any sign of dangerous pokémon around here?” Redclaw was whispering to Rosie, who had been exploring through a bit of the forest nearby. “I know there’s not any near this clearing, but I want to find more of these herbs that Streamrose gave me. Did you smell anything that could be dangerous?”
“No,” Rosie replied, shaking her head. “Just prey and forest.”
Blazefang sighed, letting their conversation fade into the background. He had more important things to think of; he didn’t need to listen to a pair of silly pokémon who’d dragged themselves into the growlithe’s quest for Articuno for no reason at all. He failed to see why they would be interested in helping a clan they would never see, let alone know.
It wasn’t long, however, before another one of the pokémon distracted him. Nightshade, still looking shocked, headed into the forest alone without attracting the attention of the others. Blazefang knew he’d be back, but he couldn’t help wondering if he was still thinking about the dead pokémon in the river. They had to die because we had no other choice
, he thought to himself in annoyance, why can’t the stupid heracross accept that?
Blazefang rolled his eyes at the worried whispers still being exchanged between Rosie and Redclaw. With all these pokémon around, he wondered how he’d get any rest at all. At least they’d been quieter in the cave!
The houndour looked up as Snowcrystal appeared from the bushes with Spark, who had a taillow in his mouth. The jolteon passed the dead bird pokémon to Snowcrystal, who walked with it over to Stormblade.
Blazefang let out a low growl. "Why don't you eat that yourself?" he asked the white fire type.
Snowcrystal looked at him with wide eyes and set the taillow down. "I want to give it to Stormblade," she explained. Her tone sounded firm, but he could tell that she was uneasy with the way he was staring at her.
"He doesn't need it!" Blazefang snarled. "Give it to those who can use the energy!"
"Relax, Blazefang," Redclaw told him from where he was sitting beside Rosie. "We're only trying to help Stormblade."
Blazefang flattened his ears against his head. "I just don't find killing a perfectly healthy pokémon to feed a dying scyther morally right!" he growled, stalking away from the main group.
pokémon!" Spark called after him. "They'd kill us
if they could! Survival of the fittest!"
"Then why is Stormblade still alive?" Blazefang yelled over his shoulder. Grumbling to himself, he turned his back on the others another time and loped away into the trees.
Once out of sight, he slowed down and let the scents of the forest wash over him. Even though he was alone in a strange place, he didn’t feel like he wanted to go back to the group that night.
Alone, he couldn’t help but remember that his problems really were far from over. He would never see Boneclaw again, and he had journeyed so far for nothing. Or was it for nothing?
Blazefang still felt half tempted to use Shadowflare to overthrow Firedash, but he quickly drove the thought from his mind. He would never
use Shadowflare again. Not after what he’d seen it do.
Shaking, Blazefang lay down and closed his eyes, hoping for sleep to overcome him. Would the urge to use Shadowflare ever leave him? No…
he thought, not unless the Forbidden Attack is passed on to someone else.
With a jolt of horror it dawned on him fully what a horrible mistake his journey had been. He should never have taken the stone…never found it in the first place, but now that he had, he would never be rid of the Forbidden Attack’s dark power.
He was cursed until the day he died.
(To be continued...)
(Sorry for how rushed and bleh this chapter sounds, I'm just glad I got it done. Next chapter has cool plot-related stuff in it, and I'm excited to write it! It'll be much more interesting than this one! ^^')