Nighttime had fallen upon the traveling group, and they had at last reached the foot of the mountain. It was surprisingly cold, and many of the pokémon found it difficult to sleep. Snowcrystal was one of them, but in her case, it was not because of the cold.
The small growlithe kept looking up at the mountain. It reminded her so much of her home, and she could only wonder what was happening to the other growlithe back in her own territory. Had the houndour driven them out by now? Or did she still have time? There probably wasn’t much use worrying, she thought. No matter what, she had to try and help them. She couldn’t loose hope…not now that she was so close…
Surprisingly, she managed to drift off into sleep. In her dreams, she was running around near the base of the mountain, which in the dream was the mountain where her clan lived, trying to stop Blazefang from firing a Shadowflare attack at the peak and melting the ice…
She woke with a start in the misty light of early dawn. The other pokémon were still asleep-from the looks of it, she was the only one awake. It suddenly struck her that it was foolish of them not to have taken turns keeping watch during the night, and it was a mistake she intended to fix later on. They had been lucky that night, but there was no telling what sort of dangers could be waiting for them on the steep mountain slopes.
After a moment, Spark began to stir. The jolteon opened his eyes and sat up groggily, looking around him. “Hi Snowcrystal,” he said tiredly, and she was relieved to see that he sounded much more like his normal self.
Nearby, Alex also stirred, and in a few moments she had opened her eyes and bounded to her feet, calling, “wake up everyone! Today’s the day we get to meet a legendary!”
“Don’t sound so sure,” Blazefang grumbled as he sat up slowly, scratching his ear with a hind paw.
Snowcrystal didn’t pay much attention to Blazefang; she was pretty much used to his negative attitude by now. The others were all getting up and whispering about the mountain journey to come…all except one. Thunder was still asleep.
“Thunder!” Snowcrystal called to the scyther, unwilling to get any closer to her in case she was in a bad mood. “Wake up! It’s time to go!”
Thunder lifted her head quicker than Snowcrystal expected-it actually startled her a bit-and stared at her with what looked like a mixture of surprise and loathing. Snowcrystal flinched, but tried to keep her voice steady as she addressed the scyther. “We need to get going,” she told the bug type as nicely as she could. “We’re going to start climbing the mountain.”
Thunder just stared at her a moment before standing up and turning away, her gazed fixed on the mountain. From where she stood, it seemed to Snowcrystal like Thunder was shivering violently, though she couldn’t be sure. She was half wondering if she should mention something to Nightshade when a voice from behind startled her.
“Er…Snowcrystal…can I talk to you?”
She turned around to see Blazefang
standing there, looking anxious and worried, his paws fidgeting in the dry grass. As if this wasn’t surprising enough, the look in his eyes certainly was-he looked frightened, wary, and from the way he was acting, it looked like whatever he wanted to talk about was important, and it wasn’t going to be easy for him to talk about it either.
“Why do you want to talk to me
?” she couldn’t help blurting out before thinking.
Blazefang didn’t seem to feel like answering directly. “It needs to be you,” he growled, though his growl sounded more worried than aggressive. “You’re the leader of this group-the others follow you. Now come on, we need to talk…”
Snowcrystal glanced at the rest of the group who were still talking to one another in quiet whispers (or in Alex’s case, loud yells). She turned and followed Blazefang reluctantly, feeling slightly confused that he had referred to her as a ‘leader.’ She had certainly never felt like one, least of all now when her goal was in sight and she didn’t need to lead anyone anywhere, and after which their group would likely split up. She was jolted away from her confused thoughts when Blazefang stopped and looked at her expectantly. She wondered what she was supposed to say, and merely asked in an impatient manner, “okay, what is it?”
“When we were in the cave,” Blazefang said quickly, still sounding nervous. “That weavile…Shadeclaw…said that the ice Forbidden Attack…Deathfreeze…was used by an ice type pokémon a season ago. Think about when Articuno left, Snowcrystal. I think…it could have been him.”
Snowcrystal had been expecting something along the lines of Blazefang coming to tell her that he was ready to leave the group and go off on his own, or even to try and get her to ask the others to leave him alone, but this completely threw her off-she had to take a moment and repeat what he had said in her mind before the words started to make sense.
“It…it could have been any other ice type, right?” she replied, her voice shaking much more than she would have liked it to, especially considering that although the others had mentioned Shadeclaw’s words about Deathfreeze to her, the thought had never occurred to her before.
“I don’t know,” Blazefang replied, flinching slightly. “Shadeclaw wouldn’t mention the pokémon’s species…but he said that it took many pokémon to stop him and control him…because he’d gone insane. If he…”
“Wouldn’t we have seen destruction from Deathfreeze around here if he had?” Snowcrystal asked, still trying to tell herself that Blazefang was only making a wild shot in the dark with this theory.
“Not really,” said Blazefang, almost reluctantly. “The pokémon had to take him far away, using sleep-inducing attacks every time he showed signs of unleashing the Forbidden Attack. For all we know, the place they took him could be here. And Alex said that several pokémon told her that he lives up there-”
“I still don’t think we should assume something like that,” Snowcrystal retorted, interrupting him. “Darkfang saw Articuno…I highly doubt he was captive at the time…”
“Snowcrystal,” Blazefang interrupted, his eyes serious, “about the whole ‘going up the mountain to find him’ thing. Rethink this. Darkfang may have seen Articuno before it happened…or before he was stopped. I know it sounds crazy but everything fits-why else would he leave us so suddenly, with no explanation?”
Snowcrystal didn’t reply. Lingering doubts about the success of her mission were building in the back of her mind. They couldn’t stop now, not when they had come so close. And even if Blazefang was right, Articuno was of no harm to them if he was being guarded, was he? They had to try-turning back now would waste everything they had all gone through. And what if Blazefang was only saying this to keep her away from Articuno? To help his own pack?
Still…she thought, the others deserved to know the risk, if there was any to begin with. As crazy as it sounded, she should probably tell everyone about Blazefang’s theory before they left; even with the slightest chance that Articuno might possess Deathfreeze, the others deserved to know. Snowcrystal became vaguely aware that Blazefang was still standing there, and told him firmly, “I won’t turn back, but I will tell the others. Don’t accept it as fact, though. I for one am certainly not going to.” She gave him a suspicious glance before heading back to the group, leaving Blazefang looking helpless.
“Articuno…with Deathfreeze?” Spark cried as Snowcrystal had finished speaking, his eyes looking wide. “Nuh-uh. No way. Legendaries are smarter than that! They’re, well…legendary!”
“Weren’t the legendaries the cause of the Forbidden Attacks, according to legend?” Rosie asked.
“In some versions, yes,” Spark replied with an air of importance, “but not in the one I was commonly told. They were just ordinary species of pokémon…ones with powers…”
“Regardless, would a legendary really not take a hint when some freaky stone starts giving him powers?” Rosie retorted.
“I think Blazefang could be right…” Redclaw spoke up hesitantly, but then added, “but he could be wrong…”
“Huh…a legendary with Deathfreeze?” Alex cried in a cheerful manner. “Well, that certainly puts an edge on things, right?”
“We don’t need you
around anymore,” Rosie growled at her. “This isn’t exactly any of your business.” To her annoyance, Alex didn’t seem to notice or care that she had even spoken.
“I think Blazefang just wants us to stay away so he can find Articuno for himself,” Thunder spoke up. Everyone stared at her in silence; Blazefang looked horrified. “Not that it’s any concern to me,” she added, “but you probably have no Forbidden Attack to worry about. Might as well throw the traitor,” she glanced at Blazefang, “out and just get on with your original plan.”
Rosie’s fur stood on end as she turned to glare at Blazefang. “That makes a surprising lot of sense,” she snarled. “You were pretty darn stupid to believe that we’d just give up after all that!”
“Well, worrying about it won’t do much good,” Nightshade told the others, standing up and placing himself between Blazefang and Rosie. “Like Snowcrystal said, we should still be prepared even if the chance is small. And the ice type with the attack is apparently guarded. There’s little risk of a Forbidden Attack being used, and whatever happens, at least we will know where Articuno is and hopefully why he had left…” He cast a glance at Blazefang, who seemed like he had already accepted Articuno being able to use Deathfreeze as fact.
“Who cares?” Thunder growled. “Let’s just find the damn bird and be done with it.”
“It’s not like you have to come,” Spark muttered, turning his head to glare at the scyther. “Stay behind if you like.”
Thunder opened her mouth to say something, but quickly closed it again, letting out a hiss of annoyance instead. Spark gave her a smug smirk-he knew as well as anyone else that Thunder couldn’t hunt well even without being injured-she depended entirely on the group for food.
However, Snowcrystal wasn’t sure that dragging her up a mountain in that condition was a good idea either, though neither was leaving her alone when she thought about it.
“Let’s get going then,” Redclaw sighed, standing up. If anything, he looked like he wanted to start walking now to stop a fight from breaking out-Rosie looked ready to rip Blazefang’s fur off and Thunder was giving Spark a glare that looked as though she wanted to kill him.
As the others all stood up and watched Redclaw expectantly, Snowcrystal wondered if there was really a chance that Blazefang’s speculation could be right. The others seemed skeptical enough to believe it was mere coincidence that the ice type had found the Forbidden Attack at around the same time Articuno left, but even though Snowcrystal felt she should feel the same…a small, lingering doubt at the back of her mind told her that the events were too
much of a coincidence. And Blazefang had been right in that everything did
seem to fit.
As she followed the others, she forced herself to try and think of other things instead and wait to find out for herself, but the thought still lingered-what if Articuno really had gone insane?
What would she do then?
To be continued...