The Path of Destiny
Chapter Fifteen - A Small Quest
Once again, the travelers had found themselves forced to stop because of Stormblade’s injuries. As they rested, Snowcrystal couldn’t help wondering why Thunder and Rosie were taking so long to get back. “Do you think they’re okay?” she asked Spark, for the fourth time.
“Of course,” the jolteon replied. “Rosie’s probably just excited she gets to go on a little adventure and act responsible for once.” He shrugged. “They’ll be fine, don’t worry about ‘em.”
Snowcrystal sighed and gazed off into the distance. She couldn’t help worrying. ‘They should have been back by now…’ she thought. She was about to suggest that they go look for them when heard rustling in the bushes, and Thunder staggered back into the clearing.
Snowcrystal stared in shock. The scyther’s side and shoulder were drenched in blood, though how it had happened, she didn’t have a clue. The growlithe leapt up, alarmed, and she could tell by the looks coming from everyone else that they were just as startled. Using his own blades for support, Stormblade limped over to her, seeming to know what had injured her.
“What happened?” he asked, sounding extremely worried. “Did you run into humans…you’ve been shot!”
Thunder whirled around suddenly and slammed the side of her scythe into his face, which was enough to knock him completely off his feet. “You think I haven’t noticed that already?” she snarled at him, before seeming to loose her strength completely, and collapsing to her knees. “Look…” she muttered, ignoring the others’ stares and struggling to her feet again, “in case you all haven’t noticed…Rosie is GONE!”
“Wh…what?” Snowcrystal managed to say, the anger she had been about to direct at Thunder for hitting Stormblade vanishing to be replaced with horror.
“Humans took her!” Thunder growled. “Along with lots of other pokémon too.” She paused for a moment to take a few shuddering breaths, then went on. “She went off alone…I heard her screaming a few minutes later and ran after the human’s truck…but they were long gone…I came back here…there was nothing I could do.” She lowered her head, as if in shame.
Snowcrystal, Spark, and Wildflame glanced at each other in alarm, and Wildflame murmured, barely above a whisper, “I heard the humans I fought earlier mention something about…poachers? Humans who steal pokémon, right?” Beside her, Spark nodded, confirming her beliefs to be true.
Stormblade sat up, closing one of his eyes as he looked at the others. “Well we have to go after them, don’t we?” he asked, wincing.
“Why don’t you go after them! I’m sure you’ll go far with that,” Thunder muttered sarcastically, although she was still breathing heavily.
“Don’t…treat…Stormblade that way,” Snowcrystal growled, but she could plainly see that Thunder was not intimidated by her, or even paying attention. She knew that Thunder had been badly hurt, and the scyther looked like she was about to pass out, but there was no excuse for her anger toward the pokémon who was only trying to help. Still, she knew that they needed to figure out what they could do to help Rosie. She stepped beside Stormblade, giving him a comforting nudge as she glanced around at the others. “Well…what should we do?” she whispered, unable to hide the fear that shone in her eyes.
“Listen…Snowcrystal,” Spark replied, turning to face her. “There isn’t much we can do. I’ve lived with a trainer and other humans for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard about poachers…seen trainers who’ve had their pokémon stolen. And really, there was nothing any of them could do but move on. When pokémon are stolen, very few ever get reunited with their friends or trainers. Even if the poachers are caught, the pokémon they had stolen before are almost always either already sold, or…” He lowered his head, not wanting to finish his statement.
“But…we can’t let that happen to Rosie…” Snowcrystal murmured quietly.
“I’m afraid we won’t be able to catch them,” Spark replied, barely above a whisper, “and even if by some miracle we managed to find them, they’d only take us too.”
“Take us?” Thunder growled. “I’d like to see them try!”
“But…but who knows what they’ll do to her!” Snowcrystal shouted, facing Spark with a shocked expression. “And you’re saying we should just give up?”
“Hate to break it to ya, but he’s right you know.”
Snowcrystal spun around, trying to locate the owner of the voice, when she noticed an aipom sitting on a low tree branch nearby. Before she could ask any questions, Wildflame let out a snarl and pounced, knocking the aipom clear off the tree and pinning him to the ground. “Why…are you following us?” the houndoom snarled, letting the aipom get a good view of her fangs. Aipom was caught completely by surprise, and could only stare back at the houndoom in terror. “Speak! Now!” Wildflame growled. “Or will I have to make you?”
“It…it…was just…” Aipom stammered, “I thought you needed help and I…”
“Help?” Wildflame scoffed. “If you wanted to help, can you explain why you tried to lead those humans to us?”
“Wildflame…” Snowcrystal whispered, not liking the way she was treating the aipom, enemy or not.
“Stay out of this!” Wildflame snapped back at her.
“Okay…” Aipom continued, seeming to have overcome some of his shock. “I went to get my trainer, Katie, and her friend because I found your friend…the scyther, injured, and I knew they could help…”
“They attacked me!” Wildflame growled.
“Well you jumped out at them…what were they supposed to do?” Aipom replied with the faintest hint of a grin. “I had only seen the scyther and I had no clue until just now that you were friends so…”
“Try and come up with a more believable story next time,” Wildflame snarled. “That is…if there is a next time. I’m not going to just let you go so you can run straight back to the humans!”
“Wait!” Snowcrystal cried, before turning to the aipom. “Maybe you can help us…that is…you can tell us what you know about these…poachers.”
“Nothing you don’t know,” Aipom replied, and Wildflame pricked his shoulders with her claws, silencing him.
“Oh…so you were spying on us, huh?” Wildflame growled. “Here’s some advice for you; if you’re going to spy on someone, don’t give yourself away! I assume that would have been obvious.”
“But when I heard…about…Rosie,” Aipom continued hesitantly, “I didn’t want you all to go running off only to get caught by the poachers…believe me, I won’t lead Katie back here…just let go of me!”
Wildflame moved to the side, but still kept a paw down on the aipom’s chest. “I don’t trust you…” she sneered, and glanced down as an object fell from the stranger’s paws. “What’s this…?” she mused, prodding the object with her other paw.
Spark glanced over, and realized it was a small book that the aipom had been carrying. Wildflame’s paw turned some of the pages, revealing a picture of a poochyena on one page, and a houndour on the other. Spark quickly realized it was some sort of book on canine pokémon. “It’s a book…” Spark mumbled to himself in a bored tone.
Snowcrystal followed his gaze down to the small object, and suddenly remembered what Spark had said before. “Wait a minute!” she gasped. “Spark, you said humans know about many different things from books…even about other humans. What if one of the human’s books tells us where the poachers could have gone?”
“Well…” Spark began, “I don’t think…”
“Nonsense!” Aipom shouted. “Humans know everything!”
“No they don’t,” Stormblade muttered. “Some of them don’t even bother to find out the genders of their own pokémon. They always call each one an “it”…”
“Nah, they’re just lazy,” Aipom replied, trying to sit up, though Wildflame pushed him back down.
“But maybe one of the humans’ books will tell us how to stop them!” Snowcrystal cried.
Spark shrugged. “I dunno…but it’s not like it matters anyway, none of us can read human!”
“I can!” Aipom shouted. “I can read human! My trainer taught me. Just spare my life and I’ll-”
“Oh really?” Wildflame growled, pushing the book toward Aipom with her paw. “Read this then, Aipom. Tell me what these markings mean!”
“Okay, okay!” he replied. “But don’t call me Aipom. Katie calls me Aipom. No one else calls me Aipom! My name is Sid!”
“Shut up and just tell us what it means…Aipom!” Wildflame growled.
“There’s no need to be mean…” Snowcrystal whispered, but the houndoom ignored her.
Thunder watched the others from where she lay, not wanting any of this arguing to go on any longer. She just wanted to rest, and to be alone for a while, though she had to admit that leaving the group would not be a wise decision when she was in such an awful condition. Laying her head down on the grass wearily, she continued to watch them.
Sid picked up the book, opening it at a random page. “Uh…okay…once upon a time there was a poochyena. See? Poochyena!” He held up the book, pointing to the picture. “And uh…he was standing there…waiting for…”
Wildflame swatted the book away. “You can’t read it!” she growled.
“I can! Sort of…just not very well!” he protested. “But my trainer can read! I can find a book about whatever you want, and she can read it to me, and I can tell you what it says!”
“There won’t be a book that tells us where the poachers are!” Spark shouted.
“Well maybe not, but you can learn more about them,” Sid replied. “All the better if you ever want to find them. And there are books about everything! Even about healing herbs that you can find in the forests and plains…” He aimed this last statement particularly at Stormblade.
Wildflame was about to reply when Snowcrystal stepped up to the aipom. “I have an idea,” she told the others. “If he can lead us to a place with books, maybe we’d be able to find one that can help us figure out where the poachers would want to take Rosie! At least the humans have pictures in those books.”
“But…Snowcrystal…” Spark began.
“Look, he’s right…” Snowcrystal whispered. “We’ll never catch up to them in our state. In the meantime, we should find out as much as we can about the poachers, and about what we can do to try and help those of us who are injured…and maybe…maybe even about Articuno.”
Wildflame sighed. “I don’t see what this will-”
“Look, maybe she’s right,” Stormblade stated. “Even if we can’t find out about the poachers, Rosie would have wanted us to help Snowcrystal find Articuno. If somehow…this can help, I say we try and find out what these humans know. If Sid really wants to help us, like I believe he does, he can tell us what the books say after his trainer reads them.”
Spark and Snowcrystal nodded, and Wildflame sighed again. “All right…but only a few of us should go to find these books. I’ll go…to make sure you don’t pull any tricks…” she muttered with a snarl at Sid, “and if this works, we’ll let you go…but we’ll make sure we’re far from the humans first!”
“All right then,” the aipom said cheerfully, jumping up as Wildflame released him. “I’ll show you the place!”
“I’ll go too,” Snowcrystal added, “but we should go at night, when most of the humans are in their buildings. Maybe Spark should go as well; you know a lot about humans.”
“No!” Spark stated firmly. “Bring me back a book, and I’ll do my best to figure out what it means if Sid can’t get his trainer to understand, but that’s all I’m doing! I’m not going to get myself in trouble with the humans! At least not until my injuries heal, that is,” he added with a shrug.
Snowcrystal wondered if being in the city would bring back painful memories for Spark. Perhaps that was why he was reacting in such a way; maybe the nearby city had been a place that Spark and his trainer had once been to together. She decided not to mention her theory to him.
“Fine,” Wildflame growled, “we’ll leave you here. Once night falls, the three of us will go to this…place…” As Sid started to climb a tree, Wildflame stamped her paw down on his tail. “And remember…I’ll be right by you the whole time…any tricks, and you’ll regret it!”
“Don’t worry,” the aipom reassured her, “no tricks…”
Rosie lay shivering on the cage floor in the back of the human’s truck; too exhausted to call for help anymore. Many of the other pokémon were still silently crying and occasionally calling out to someone far away. Rosie blew a small ember near the bars of the cage, trying to warm herself up. It was now getting close to evening, and a few other pokémon had been found caught in cages and thrown into the truck.
Rosie sighed, watching the small ember fade away. 'If only my ember was hot enough to melt the bars…maybe if I knew flamethrower…' Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of something tapping against the side of her cage. She turned and looked to see the teddiursa she had seen caught in the net, looking through the bars at her.
“Huh…what?” she mumbled, confused.
“You tried to save me,” he whispered in a childlike voice. “Thank you!”
Rosie stared for a moment. She realized that this pokémon was very young, quite younger than her. She thought back to what had happened, but only remembered following the sound of his cries for help, and seeing him in the clearing. “Uh…you’re welcome…” she stammered, turning her back toward him as she stared off into the distance.
“Were you friends with that scyther?” he asked, and Rosie merely shrugged in response. “Why did she-”
“Look,” Rosie replied, “just…just stop talking to me, okay?”
The teddiursa was silent for a moment, then replied, “If we work together, maybe we can escape!”
Rosie sighed. “How?” she muttered darkly.
“When the humans open the cage we can run away really fast!” the teddiursa replied, enthusiasm alight in his innocent eyes.
“That won’t work!” Rosie snapped. “The humans would know we’d try to do that and have a way to stop us! It’s…oh never mind…” She slumped down against the side of the cage, trying to push the awful thoughts from her mind…of the poachers…all the captured pokémon…Thunder being shot…
…Was Thunder even alive?
“What are they going to do to us?” the teddiursa’s voice interrupted her thoughts, now sounding scared again. She glanced back at him, and realized that he looked so naive and confused, with no real idea of the true horrors these humans could possibly put him through.
“I…don’t know,” Rosie admitted, shaking her head and curling up against the side of her cage as the truck drove on. “I really don’t know…”
To be continued…