Re: [Fan fic of the year 2008 Runner up] The Path of Destiny (PG/PG-13)
A sudden shriek sliced through the air, and another gigantic pidgeot-or the same one, she couldn’t tell-wheeled into the air above them, circling once before diving straight at Redclaw.
Spark whirled around, firing a blast of electricity at the pokémon; it cried out and swerved away at the last instant, squawking harshly, but Snowcrystal couldn’t make out the words.
Everyone stood poised and ready, their eyes locked onto the large winged shape. Or…shapes. Snowcrystal watched in terror as more and more bird pokémon appeared, some far off and heading toward them, others very, very close. Snowcrystal watched Spark’s eyes dart from one to another-there was no way he could bring them all down with electric attacks at once. There was only one thing for it.
“Run!” she shouted, darting back around the swerve in the path, kicking up loose snow and almost slipping. It occurred to her that her friends would not be able to move nearly as fast, but she didn’t stop-she couldn’t slow down, for that would slow them down too. She headed for the steep rock slope, feeling a whoosh of air as a pair of talons narrowly missed her-a bird had dived down at her from the top of the rock wall above her.
Panting, she reached the base of the rocks and leaped onto the first one-pain stabbed through her paw as she cut herself on its sharp edge-and without stopping, she jumped to the next, and the next, and the next…
With a cry that was more terror than pain, Snowcrystal felt talons meet in her scruff and her paws were torn away from the rocks as she was lifted clear in into the air. Flailing helplessly, she watched the rock ledge get smaller as she was lifted up, then watched as the ground down below moved out of her line of vision-to be replaced with a sickeningly long drop down to a ground she couldn’t even see through the whirling snow. It was going to drop her.
No! No! she cried frantically in her mind, twisting in the bird’s grip out of sheer panic, all rational thought lost on her.
Then, suddenly, a wave of heat washed over the growlithe, and the pokémon holding her gave a cry of pain before veering off to the side sharply and releasing its grip. Snowcrystal plummeted, but only for a few terrifying seconds. She landed roughly in deep snow, and it took her a moment to force herself to look up and realize that she had landed on top of the rock wall-above the ridge where the others were climbing. The slope was much gentler on this part of the mountain, and the mountain’s peak looked closer than ever before. They were so close…
The burned pidgeot had managed to right itself in the air, but now was focusing on a new target-Wildflame. Spark had reached the part of the ledge that led steeply upward, and with the agility his species were blessed with, hopped from rock to rock with lightning speed. Snowcrystal noticed with both relief and admiration that he did not stumble or slip once, although she expected him to at every jump.
Running up beside Snowcrystal, the jolteon stood at the edge of the rock wall, his eyes blazing as he watched Wildflame, Blazefang, Alex and Redclaw struggling to reach the steep rocks. With a cry of fury he threw back his head, and all at once several bolts of lightning erupted from his body. Forks of jagged electricity reached across the sky and lit it up with a brilliant white-yellow glow. Several of the bird pokémon shrieked and fell, only to right themselves after they were released from the attack. But Spark was still standing, sending even more beams of lightning at the attackers. At this moment, none of them could get near him, or the others.
Alex had reached the steep rocks. Followed by Wildflame and then Blazefang, the floatzel began making the climb, the wind tearing at her as she went. Redclaw waited below them, his massive frame quivering with fear. Near the middle, Wildflame slipped, but luckily against the solid wall next to her, and managed to climb back to her feet shakily. Alex paused and waited for the houndoom to catch up to her, then leaned against her as the two made their way to the top, Alex having better paws for gripping than Wildflame. Blazefang followed shakily behind, but being smaller, he found it easier to keep away from the cliff edge. Sheer desperation was overcoming fear, and the houndour was forcing himself to use all his strength climb up each jagged boulder.
Then, suddenly, Spark’s electric attack stopped. The jolteon wavered on the spot, as if he was about to faint. Small sparks flew from his body, but that seemed to be the only electricity he had left. The bird pokémon moved in toward them once again.
One of them raked Alex across the back, causing the floatzel to loose her grip just as she was about to reach the top of the slope. She rolled over the side of the ledge, her paws gripped the edge as she fell, stopping her but leaving her hanging helplessly. Wildflame, who had staggered to the top, looked down at Alex with a look of terror as Blazefang managed to struggle up to the top alongside her.
Snowcrystal began running over to the water type, when a roar from Redclaw made her pause. The arcanine was trying to fend off two pidgeot who were attacking him from both sides. He fired a flamethrower at one that looked terrifyingly as if it had been about to use whirlwind, and it flew away, crying harshly in rage.
Redclaw swiped at the other with his paw, then made a dash for the rocks. He fired another blast of flame at a bird pokémon who had been trying to attack Alex, allowing the floatzel to scramble up onto the ledge and limp to safety. The arcanine reached the bottom of the steep slope and leaped, his paws outstretched in a mighty bound with far more grace than one would have thought a creature of his size would be capable of achieving. His mane streamed out in the wind and his eyes locked on the ground beneath him before his leap was brought to a jarring halt as he landed roughly on the narrow ledge of rocks. Hardly pausing, he leaped up again, a much shorter distance this time, and his paws had scarcely touched the ground beneath them before he bounded upward once more, heedless of the bird pokémon who circled around him, one of them launching a whirlwind that missed him as his paws propelled him upward and to the top of the ledge. The arcanine leaped up onto the more solid ground, lifting his head in a roar that echoed around them, sounding as loud as if several arcanine had been roaring at once. Then he whirled around to face the pokémon that had been following him, firing a stream of flame at them before turning and launching a similar attack at another group. Several more blasts of fire from the arcanine lit up the sky-several of the nearer enemy pokémon squawked in fear. Then Redclaw ran over to the rest of the group, standing in front of them before lifting his head and blowing out a stream of flames that encircled them all.
Snowcrystal watched as the brilliantly burning flames circled them at startling speed, melting the snow around them. Redclaw was keeping the flames flowing from his open mouth, creating a towering whirlwind of fire that began to reach high above them. Snowcrystal huddled in front of Spark to shield him from stray flames that were being blown toward him from the wind, and looked up at the round circle of dark gray sky above, watching a few of the birds veer away from the flames.
Then suddenly, the whirling fire stopped, flickering out, as it had nothing to burn. Redclaw stood, gasping for breath, his eyes locked on the enemy bird pokémon. There seemed to be even more of them now, and in their exhausted state, no one had much strength to fight.
“Hurry!” Redclaw called, racing out onto the snow, “toward the peak!”
He darted out over the snow, his mane and tail streaming. Forgetting all tiredness, the other five pokémon darted after him, following in the arcanine’s path so as to meet less resistance from deep snow. All around them, the angry bird pokémon were moving closer, seeming to realize that the fight had left the travelers.
Snowcrystal was now in the lead along with Redclaw, her paws racing over the snow with ease. She had her eyes fixed on the slope ahead of her when she felt talons rake her across her back, knocking her head over feet in the snow.
A sharp beak sliced downward at her, and she twisted away, feeling it scrape the skin beneath the fur on her neck. Around her, she could hear the cries of others, but as for who was still running and who had been caught…she had no way of knowing. She struggled to free herself, kicking frantically at the bird and wishing her face wasn’t pressed down in the snow so she could use a fire attack…even a weak one…
Through a haze of terror and pain, she heard Redclaw howl in distress. Loud cries of flying types told her that they had either brought the arcanine down, or he was surrounded. Cries of friends and foe alike rang in her ears; she struggled madly but the talons held her in place, pressing her deep into the snow as the pokémon’s beak stabbed down toward her…
Then she heard another cry, one that sounded distinctly birdlike, but yet different all the same. It was a strange, eerie melody that rang out around the mountaintop, and it sounded hauntingly familiar, even with her ears pressed in the snow. At the moment, the staraptor holding her looked up, freezing in surprise. Snowcrystal lifted her head as much as she could and looked up as well.
The sight that greeted her took her breath away. Soaring through the haze of snow, long tail feathers streaming out behind him, was Articuno. Even bigger and more majestic than any of the other birds, the great ice type flew overhead, and Snowcrystal felt strong, cold wind wash over her. With a startled squawk, the staraptor released her, leaving her alone to watch as the massive, blue feathered bird wheeled down close to her before circling up and around, flying over each of her friends, who had all been released and were still as stone, watching the legendary with awe. Struggling to her feet, Snowcrystal watched as Articuno flew near her again. He looked powerful…strong…so calm and in control…not insane at all!
Then with a suddenness that surprised her, the gigantic bird suddenly plummeted downward, startling the other birds and causing them to take wing and head away from Articuno. Just as the ice type was about to reach the ground, he lifted his wings, gliding over the snow until he reached out with his massive black talons and gripped a jagged spar of rock near Snowcrystal, coming to a halt and folding his wings as he eyed her with his penetrating red gaze.
Snowcrystal stared back, hardly daring to move. After all this time, Articuno, the very same pokémon she had seen so often back at the mountain, was standing right in front of her. She had never seen him this close before. Every gleaming blue feather shone brightly, reflecting some of the dim light as if made of ice themselves. Darker blue feathers made up the crest on his head, and he had a powerful, slightly curved beak, and wings that looked magnificent even when folded at his side. He was the most beautiful pokémon Snowcrystal had ever seen, and she felt tiny and insignificant in his presence. His form was outlined against the snow whirling in the air around him, but the majestic pokémon did not even seem to notice the biting winds. He regarded Snowcrystal with a look of genuine curiosity, and after a moment, the growlithe forced her stiff legs to move and walk closer to the legendary.
Around her, the others had slowly stood up and began to stare in awe at the massive bird. Snowcrystal heard their footsteps as they edged closer, and paused as the bird turned his head to look toward them, then focused his gaze on the growlithe again. Snowcrystal realized that she couldn’t hear the other birds anywhere near, and wondered if they were hiding from Articuno. When she was as close to the legendary as she dared to get, she stopped. “Articuno…” she began. The legendary looked at her and then took a pace forward so that he towered over her. She shrank back, and heard the others behind her stop. “Articuno, I need your help.”
“So that is why you have come here?” the ice bird replied, his voice loud and clear even over the sound of the wind. It carried a hint of the same graceful melody she had heard when he arrived-it sounded unlike the voice of any other bird pokémon. “What about them?” He inclined his head sharply toward the other five travelers, who were now moving closer together, Redclaw standing in front of the others protectively.
“They’re helping me,” Snowcrystal replied quickly. “We-”
“I called off the flying types to stop them from attacking a white growlithe,” Articuno replied. “But those others are a threat. Especially that jolteon.”
Snowcrystal chanced a glance at her friends, and saw Spark casting an astonished look at the others. She figured that being an electric type meant he was more dangerous to those birds…who for some reason seemed to be guarding Articuno, and realized that she needed to try and explain quickly. “He’s not dangerous,” she replied, looking into Articuno’s red eyes. “He came to help me…we only fought back against those bird pokémon because we didn’t have a choice. I came from the mountain where the growlithe clan lived…I came to find out why you left! The snow is melting and our territory is shrinking. I fear that the houndour clan will drive us out! You must come back!”
For a moment, Articuno simply stared at her, and she thought she heard the winds around her dying down, as if the whole area around them was becoming calmer as Articuno listened to her. “I am sorry,” he told her. “I can not come back.”
“What?” Snowcrystal gasped. After all this time, even when she thought Articuno might have been insane, she had not expected to get an answer this devastating. Here Articuno was, healthy and capable of defending her home, and yet here he refused. “But…why?”
From a little ways away, Alex tried to creep closer to Articuno, but a glare from the ice bird froze her in her tracks. Snowcrystal was still waiting for an answer, watching the legendary with wide eyes.
Articuno stepped closer to Snowcrystal, his talons crunching through the thick snow. He spoke loudly and clearly, as if he realized the exhausted pokémon watching from a distance would not be any threat with sheer power and numbers on his side. “I am here to watch over something,” he told her. “It is of great importance. I am sorry about what has happened to the old mountain. Had I known your land would fall into chaos, I would have tried to talk with the leaders before leaving, whatever the risk.”
“What…whatever the risk?” Snowcrystal repeated. “You left without warning! What risk could we possibly have posed to you?”
“It was not you and the houndour who were the risk,” Articuno replied. “It was time. When I was called upon, I had to leave at that moment. I flew for many days before arriving here, and I was nearly too late. I would have thought that the two clans would be able to work something out amongst themselves, but if they cannot do that, then I cannot help them any longer.”
“But the ice is melting!” Snowcrystal screamed. “What could be so important that…” She paused, thinking about what Articuno had just said. He was here to watch over something, and it had been urgent enough for him to have to leave immediately, and he had obviously been warned by something powerful and important, another legendary perhaps-for him to take action so suddenly. As these thoughts whirled around her mind, one thing seemed to make sense, and even if it was just a guess, she had to at least find out. Fixing Articuno with a determined look, she asked, “does all this have to do with the Forbidden Attacks?”
If Articuno was surprised, he did not show it. Instead, he merely nodded. “I wouldn’t have expected isolated pokémon like you to know,” he began slowly. “How much do the clans know?”
“Nothing,” Snowcrystal replied. “I found out on my way here. A pokémon told us that the ice attack had been used….”
“And a few others as well,” Articuno replied, and his gaze drifted slowly to Blazefang, who cringed and ducked behind Wildflame.
“Yes…” Snowcrystal replied. “That’s what you’re guarding, isn’t it? What all these pokémon here are guarding? Another Forbidden Attack? If that’s what the problem is then why don’t you throw it off a cliff, or bury it somewhere? It can’t be that hard to get rid of!”
“It cannot be destroyed,” Articuno replied, an edge of anger to his voice this time. “Hiding it means that there is still a chance that it could be found. Pokémon are already seeking the attacks, and being guarded by a legendary is the only way to deter them. There are other pokémon willing to fight for me, but only a legendary strikes enough fear into pokémons’ hearts that they avoid trying to obtain the stones.”
“Then why can’t one legendary guard them all?” Snowcrystal replied. Her emotions were whirling inside her like the snow in the wind around them-she didn’t know how to feel or react. She was having a hard enough time accepting all this.
“Because each one needs a certain place where it can be guarded. An area where a pokémon of the type needed to use the attack would have a difficult time reaching,” he explained, a calmer tone to his voice, as if he could sense the young growlithe’s distress and thought the pokémon he had once looked after deserved to know why he had left her to fend for herself.
Snowcrystal didn’t reply at first-she was too busy thinking. Maybe, she realized, the reason all those pokémon had attacked them was because Spark was an electric type? Was it the electric Forbidden Attack that Articuno was guarding? Was that why he had singled Spark out as a threat? “But…but I don’t understand…why did you have to go?”
“Because this is a place I can survive in,” the legendary began, “that others can’t. It was ideal for hiding one of the stones, but only one. The rest are scattered. If one is taken, that means another in the same area could be taken to. That is why many legendaries were called upon.”
“I can’t tell you,” the ice bird replied.
“So you’re just going to let my clan be driven out of our home?” Snowcrystal replied. Even though logic was telling her that Articuno was bound by some sort of promise he had made to someone, she wasn’t in any emotional state to listen.
“There will be nothing left of your home if the Forbidden Attacks become out of control,” he replied, his tone gaining a fierceness that made Snowcrystal shrink back. “With three or more found and some unaccounted for, I must do my part in protecting the remaining ones. We legendaries must do all we can.”
“But can’t you stop them? Take them away from pokémon? Destroy them?” she shouted.
Articuno remained silent for a few moments. “I believe only the ones who brought them about can do that,” he said.
“I don’t know, nor is it my place to know,” Articuno replied.
Snowcrystal lowered her head slightly in defeat-she couldn’t bring herself to ask any more questions. The main answer was clear; Articuno wasn’t coming back with her.
“I will let you and the other pokémon leave in peace,” Articuno replied carefully. “But earlier, some of the pokémon on this mountain flew back to me, telling me that one of the pokémon with you used the fire Forbidden Attack.”
“Yes,” Snowcrystal replied. “That was Blazefang…he…he’s trying to control it, but he was under attack and…well, he used it on a fearow.” She winced as she said the last word. "I'm sorry..." She did not know whether or not Articuno knew the fearow personally, but she felt terrible for it all the same.
(Continued in next post...)
Thanks to Lunar Latias for the banner and Kirimori for the picture!