Chapter Twenty-nine: All Shapes and Sizes
Stirring from a sleep he was due to wake from, a houndoom groaned, rising to his paws and inhaling. When he exhaled, his eyes squinted and he cringed, clearly uncomfortable on an unfamiliar bed of pebbles. Pushing himself up, he stared around, seeing mostly darkness, with a few discernible features here and there. When he looked over his left shoulder, he suddenly jolted, for a large powder blue figure obscured his vision. The quagsire looked on with a placid smile, his large paws out in front, resting against the front of his body. He did nothing but stand as the houndoom raised a curious brow.
“Well…this is a surprise.” He looked away, remembering there was nothing he could accurately see, before he blinked and suddenly paid heed a recurring thought. ‘Dusty…’
The fire and dark type shot up, racing back the way he came. He heard the quagsire pounding after him shortly behind. It didn’t take him more than a few steps to come to an overflowing spillage of rocks, dense dirt and similar assorted debris. He came to a quick halt and stared, completely unsure how to react. It didn’t take long for surprise to set in as he found that that they way they had come was blocked off. He and the quagsire were trapped on the other side of the rock slide. The realisation was not a pleasant one, as he was less than happy to have been separated from the flareon in her rather delicate state.
He remained defiant, eyes firmly set on the pile as he compressed his jaws, starting to scrape the earth with his claws. His mind was reluctant to admit defeat as he continued to stare. His thoughts whirred as he tried to imagine what kind of state the flareon in which the flareon, mentally, must have been. Surely she would have been mulling over reasons why she was abandoned – not just by him, but by anybody else who failed to come to her aid – and, as he was reluctant to admit, may not be able to carry on. Her condition was far from enabling her to properly travel, and he worried with a heavy heart what she would probably have to make it through the caves by herself.
he thought to himself with a bitter edge. His lip twitched in a snarl, his tail flicking in agitation. ‘She’s in serious danger if she’s on her own.’
He glared to the sides, barely able to see in the minimal light. ‘Who knows what kind of pokémon could be lurking in the dark?’
He growled at the thought of being ushered through the cave involuntarily; he remembered clearly that when he had made a dash to the nearest tunnel, his paws had stopped him and he turned on his paw-pads, trying his hardest to see over the crowd as he spotted the flareon on the opposite side of the room. He had tried to call, but the massive influx of stampeding rhyhorn had completely swept him from his sturdy stance and carried him through the tunnel with mingled shouts and surprising speed. He had struggled against the force of their shoves and runs, but when he slipped down, he was only battered and thrown between the pokémon either side of him until he was again picked up by a charging rhyhorn. One of them accidentally knocked the side of the passage before it opened up into another room and caused some of the earth to collapse from above, along with thick boulders and other locks lodged in the composition. He was sure that some had gotten trapped on the other side of the mass, but wasn’t able to deduce before he was tossed aside and lost consciousness.
He hadn’t seen the quagsire follow him into the cave, and assumed that he must have been caught with the charging pokémon amidst the confusion. Zaion was glad he woke to find him there, however, for he would not have wanted to find himself alone in a habitat for ground and rock types. If more rhyhorn, or any other rock or ground type, tried to attack them, he was confident that the pokémon beside him could deal serious damage and ultimately frighten away everybody who aimed them. The last thing Zaion needed was another brawl; he was positively exhausted after the exertion he had warranted and knew that the quagsire was likely feeling the same. Deciding that making conversation would be the best way to establish any kind of bond they would require for travelling with one another, the houndoom turned around and asked for his name.
The pokémon only looked back, his face unchanging. Zaion waited a moment, confused by the water and ground type’s silence, until he opened his wide mouth and responded with, “Quaaaagsiiiirre.”
Zaion’s brow rose, his eyes widening a little as he stared with great perplexity. “O…kay,” he uttered, clearing his throat. “You’re either with an inability to produce actual words, or…your sense of humour is terrible.” He chuckled at the start part of his sentence, holding his breath in his throat as he waited for a response. His expression was a request for the latter, no matter how horrible the humour was, but released his breath as a sigh of disappointment, closing his eyes to think. “What are you…a slow learner? Mentally challenged, maybe?”
He was only met with a continual dopey smile. When Zaion tore away from him, deeming him rather useless to try and communicate with, he heard a, “Quaaag.”
Groaning with annoyance, the houndoom lowered his head, allowing it to hang from between his shoulders. “Great.”
Leaning against the side of the cave wall, a figure groaned, clutching at several wounds either bleeding or pulsing with the future effects of a bruise. The pain trickled into places he hadn’t realised were injured beforehand, and with an inward whine, he wondered why he had managed to escape down the passage which nobody else followed. On the other side of the small cavern sat a rhyhorn, breathing shallowly as its consciousness remained not with its body. With a soft bite of his lip, the krinar hoped that the rhyhorn was, in case, on his side and not Jaskore’s. “The nerve of that guy…” he grumbled, wondering what had to have been so bad about Thunderquake. As for as he could tell, the rhyhorn was a suitable leader who was more than capable of leading a herd. He wondered why the rebels had formed in opposition of her leadership.
Tunnels leading from the room veered off into several different directions, but the way he came certainly wasn’t an option. Stampeding rock types were not healthy for the caves, as he had witnessed constant falling stalactites as he had been admitted into the passage. It was only half-voluntary, too, as he had thought Rentana was following. For some reason she didn’t follow, which weighed heavily on him. With nobody to support him when he walked, he knew he was going to have a hard time making it anywhere. As well as that, he knew that she would be absolutely horrified to learn of their separation.
He sighed. ‘Sometimes I wish she could just…do more on her own,’
he told himself. He gazed up at the ceiling, understanding her actions, but misunderstanding why she couldn’t change every once in a while. She didn’t need him to survive. ‘...At least, I hope not. If something were to happen to me, then...’
His thoughts dissipated before he could finish them.
On the other side of the cavern floor, down a slope that curled around the circular room, the rhyhorn began to stir. Etire watched and braced himself, hoping that, if the rhyhorn was a rebel, that he or she would simply ignore him and move on. After all, there was no point in attacking the enemy if the commander wasn’t around. At least...Etire didn’t think so. His eyes went wide with the thought.
Lifting himself to his feet, the rhyhorn shook off and began to glance around, spotting Etire on the top of the rise, which panned out flat for a few metres before the drop to the floor threatened anybody who came too close. The krinar watched as the rhyhorn’s eyes were firmly fixed, and finally the pokémon lowered his head, beginning to stalk up the slope.
“No,” Etire groaned, more inconvenienced than frightened. “What...what are you doing? Come on; this is nonsense. I’m a cripple for Raikou’s sake!”
“Should that matter?” the rhyhorn grumbled, hardly a hint of maliciousness in his tone.
“Well...yes!” He raised his arm, wincing as he felt it pulse. “Your leader isn’t here, so there’s no need to attack me. Please? I can’t even fight back in this condition. That’s not a fair win.”
“It’s a fair extermination,” answered the rhyhorn, closing in on him.
“But...why would you want to exterminate me?”
“I don’t care for chitchat, krinar,” he hissed, stopping at the top of the slope.
“Neither do I, usually,” he responded, although the moment it came out of his mouth, he questioned it with a tilted head. He watched as the pokémon came closer and swallowed. “Hey, you better watch it. I am part fighting type, don’t forget.”
“Means nothing if you can’t fight
“Claws off,” a third voice grumbled, a growl echoing through the small room. Etire, who was rather startled, glanced down to find another rhyhorn situated in the entrance to one of the passages they had a choice of going through. The rhyhorn, clearly female, was not Thunderquake, but looked about as determined.
“A saviour?” questioned the psychic and fighting type, peering down at the pokémon.
“Come on. Try your horn on a real
target, you wuss,” the female baited, turning around to wag her tiny tail at the pokémon of the same species. In response, the rhyhorn flared with fury, his body rearing around as he lost all trace of interest in the cripple against the wall, and began to charge down the slant and directly at the opposing rhyhorn.
Etire watched with interest as the pokémon clashed, their faces twisted with anger and determination; the female’s included teasing mockery, which clearly enraged her opponent. It wasn’t long before the rebel tossed the female aside, and she slid a small distance before aiming at him and propelling her way through the room. Instead of avoiding the attack he merely set his head down and sped forward, and the two collided again. Etire suddenly wished that he had more access to his mental ability to attack in order to help his defender and cursed as the two fought to finish on top.
A small quake shook the room with unexpected timing, the two fighting suddenly breaking off their attacks and surveying the ceiling. Etire was doing the same, panic beginning to install itself into his system. He attempted to keep it suppressed and tried mentally mapping his way out of the cave without gravely injuring himself. There had been foot holes in the side of the raised rock that he was atop, and knew he could simply descend that to the floor if he had the strength. Presently the idea was insane, however, and instead of successfully coming up with a new plan, his thoughts were absorbed by the thirst which had been nagging him for a considerable time. His tongue was drier than it should have been, his cheeks unable to emit the appropriate measure of saliva to keep his mouth moist. His throat was in a similar position, and each time he swallowed, he felt both sides of his oesophagus peel away from each other, rather than slide apart. The feeling was less than comfortable, but the ability to do anything in response was severely cut off.
“Krinar!” shouted the female rhyhorn from below, and he looked to her, surprised to find that she had broken away from the other one. He had fled down a tunnel, the same one the female had emerged from, and Etire guessed that she again wished to travel the same path, but with an extra this time. “Get down from there!”
“I can’t!” he called back, and to that the rhyhorn made a face of confusion. “I’m a cripple! Half my limbs were damaged earlier.” He glanced warily up to the ceiling, watching as bits of stone crumbled.
The armoured pokémon looked rather conflicted and made a move to head for the slope only a few paces from where she stood before she decided properly and rumbled up it, arriving by his side in no time. She nudged one of his arms over her head, ensuring she didn’t injure him with her horn, and encouraged him to stand. Although he whined with the effort, he was able to stand and lean against her. She checked that he was fastened and they began the descent.
At one point, the rhyhorn nearly slipped as one of her front feet rolled on a few small rocks, but, with a jerk that the krinar was force forward during, she righted herself and grudgingly apologised. She and the krinar made it out of the room with little injury; a few smallish rocks had landed on Etire’s pelt, and whatever struck the rock type simply bounced off with failure to cause any sort of harm. For a moment, Etire felt a pang of jealousy for a pokémon so unaffected by most attacks. He had never exactly thought the idea that his fighting moves could cause them severe damage was peculiar, when a normal hit or punch wouldn’t have done a thing, until that moment. Thinking on it for a while, he came to the conclusion that fighting types had a special ability to control the force of the attack to strike what’s vulnerable in a rock type, as opposed to mindlessly battering their impenetrable armour. He had no idea how accurate the assumption was, but desired not to trouble himself over such things.
His thoughts turned to other matters once they passed into another room that harboured a few different levels with edges that looked artificially crumbled – a result of the small group of rhyhorn’s clambering experiments after each pokémon piled through the tunnel, Etire figured – and they blundered down. The psychic type felt rather useless as he continued, unable to properly keep himself upright and slipping down. He was caught by his helper’s shoulder and he looked to her gratefully but said nothing.
They progressed, the krinar keeping himself quiet when he stood on sharp stones, until they reached a point in the elongated passage where the shaking was hardly present. Behind them, the last of the larger rocks dropped and collapsed into a stony heap, and they both sighed with relief. Etire was set down and leant up against the wall while seated, tilting his head back with his eyes closed. He panted repeatedly, feeling the dryness of his throat even more now. He sighed, discontent with the fact that there didn’t appear to be a speck of water about. He only hoped they would come across some sort of underground pool.
The rhyhorn was standing a few paces away, watching the minor destruction that the passage had caused itself. She turned to the sound of the male’s voice. “Where did you come from?”
Her mind didn’t quite comprehend his meaning. “What?”
“You’re the only one here. What happened to all the others?” he inquired, a little dumbfounded at the absence of other rhyhorn and geodude.
“The confusion drove most away, I’m guessing,” she responded calmly. “I know that every pokémon went for the passage they were closest to, or followed everyone else through what they probably presumed was the safest route. I saw your kirlia friend escape through a tunnel after being ushered by a number of my kind, while you were left behind.” She eyed him cautiously. “Did she abandon you?”
“No,” he chuckled lightly, “she could never do that. She told me she would quickly assess the passages to deduce which was the safest before she was going to choose one for us, but once she stepped out before the entry, the others pushed her through. I tried to follow her, but the same thing happened to me, although through a different tunnel. I wouldn’t have been able to walk all this way, anyway...” He glanced to his right, in the direction of the room he had previously been. “I dragged myself up the slope to avoid thugs like that guy.” He nodded his head toward the passage to the next room, assuming the other rhyhorn slipped through there.
“A futile effort, clearly,” she responded, bobbing her head in understanding. The krinar waited a moment before nodding.
“Do you have a clue of where we’re headed?”
“Nope,” the rhyhorn answered factually, glancing toward the exit. “But I have travelled these paths before. Not these exact ones, but once we get to a certain point, I might be able to lead us to the surface.”
“Good to have you.” Etire figured that, if he wasn’t torn to pieces by that first rhyhorn, without her, he wouldn’t have been able to make his way through to the next room while he ceiling collapsed around him.
She gave a neutral smile.
The hairs on the pokémon’s back remained erect as she and her fluffy friend travelled through the caves, extremely alert and eyes flicking about in preparation for any sudden attacks that could be directed their way. Rhyhorn and geodude lined the walls, some up and ready to fight, others exhausted and wishing to rest. The ones that were on their bellies watched grudgingly as the two Ussters passed, and a few up ahead showed no interest, while a duo rearing to go broke from the wall and began charging. The large bird pokémon shouted warnings as the quadruped braced herself and felt a momentary rush before she built the required ice and fired it, watching as it dowsed the two rhyhorn and ended with shrieks. One of them blinked repeatedly and lost complete focus as he realised that his horn had been frozen solid, and charged blindly right past them as he eyed the ice. The other came to a halt and backed away, sticking to the wall of the narrow passage while the two passed, their backs awkwardly trying to face one another.
Walking sideways was a new concept to Azure, and as she tried to do so, her many paws continuously forgot their place and made her stumble. Eventually she resorted to walking normally while the altaria by her side waked backwards. Their combined efforts got them through to the next room, which looked to have few inhabitants, to their relief. There hadn’t been a large amount in the previous room, but, were it not for their split allegiances, their combined numbers could have formed a small force—one that two pokémon, one with a number of disadvantages, were not equipped to handle.
Up ahead, as Tarla turned around to face the same direction her legs took her, Azure caught sight of a rhyhorn she recognised: Thunderquake. As she began to approach, the leader looked their way and seemed to be in the middle of indecision. The two glanced to each other, trying to decide if they should speak with her or not. “...She might know a way out,” Tarla reasoned, and Azure, although hesitant, agreed. “Excuse me, can you tell us the way out?”
The rock and ground pokémon steadied her gaze warily. She broke away from the company she had been conversing with and trudged towards them. She straightened her shoulders and looked to relax a little, her plates of armour fitting nicely together. Her small judgemental eyes studied those before her. “Is your purpose true?”
Azure wanted to roll her eyes, but Tarla kept herself composed. “Yes. We have come this way because our colony was attacked by three pokémon believed to be members of the Rokont Organisation. A small party including myself left to find where these felons resided after one of the captives told us that their hideout was in these upcoming mountains.” She looked up, almost as if she was about to gesture to them, only to realise they were not within her view. “We only wish to pass through and find our way through those mountains, to that hideout.”
Continued in next post...