The Path of Destiny
Chapter Five - Search for the Fire Stone
Snowcrystal was awed by the human’s buildings and their strange structures. For a while, Stormblade made sure they all kept to the shadows, to the alleyways, because although there were bound to be more traps, they would be less likely to encounter a human. Stormblade was obviously still unhappy about having to take the detour at all, and even Spark seemed to realize that something was amiss in the odd town.
A lot of the buildings seemed broken down and forgotten, not even scents remaining to tell Snowcrystal anything about their former inhabitants. The only humans Snowcrystal saw were walking along a sidewalk a little ways away, carrying some odd metal objects, but definitely no fire stone. Though she had never seen a human before, and therefore had nothing to compare it to, she felt that there was something off about these ones. It seemed that whatever reason they had for being here in this abandoned place wasn’t anything good.
As they walked through another alley, Snowcrystal saw Stormblade and Spark point out several traps along the way, although most of them, Spark had told her, were designed for small pokémon like rattata.
“Do you think it’s just the rattata the humans want out?” Snowcrystal asked.
“When Spark and I went by this town before, I saw bigger traps near some of the other buildings,” Stormblade replied. “I guess pokémon might have once come here a lot to steal food or something. Well, whatever had been left in this place.”
As Snowcrystal followed him carefully, she noticed a few small, sweet-smelling objects up ahead. Stormblade explained to her, “Those are called pokéblocks, but those ones smell poisoned to me. Don’t go near them.”
“Where are we supposed to find my fire stone in this place?” Rosie cried. “Shouldn’t we be looking for the human who took it?”
“I think it’s safe to wander around for a bit,” Spark told the others, with a nod to Rosie. “There don’t seem to be many humans around.”
Snowcrystal nodded in agreement and the four pokémon started to wander the streets, feeling somewhat confident that they’d be able to flee from a human easily if they were spotted. However, they tried not to stay out in the open too much, as even Spark was a bit wary about being seen.
The town was both frightening and confusing to Snowcrystal, and she was soon ready to give up. She was about to suggest to the others that they go back, when suddenly Rosie gave a small growl of anger and hissed, “Look…it’s him! That’s him…the human that put me in that cage…”
The four pokémon ducked into an alleyway as a tall man walked by, a quilava trotting calmly by his side. Snowcrystal looked to see if he was holding the fire stone, but she couldn’t tell.
As the man passed, his quilava stopped, taking a quick look around as he sniffed the air suspiciously. “Volco, come,” the man said calmly, and the quilava turned reluctantly away and followed the human.
Rosie peered after them, whispering, “We gotta follow. Come on!”
“Wait,” Snowcrystal whispered back. “He has pokémon with him, and we don’t want a fight. We should wait a while, then follow his scent to wherever he’s going. From there we’ll see if we can find where he put the fire stone, and take it back.”
Rosie sighed impatiently. “All right…” she mumbled reluctantly. “We’ll wait…”
Blazefang was still feeling strangely cheerful as he and the other houndour reached the forest. There, he managed to find tough plant fibers to make a medallion out of the strange purple stone. By managing to push both ends of the plant fiber into the narrow hole at the top of the gem, Blazefang had made it secure enough to ensure that the stone wouldn’t fall off. He now wore it around his neck, much like Snowcrystal’s.
Blazefang liked his new amulet. It made him feel more like authority, and there was something about it that put him in a good mood. The houndour pack had stopped at the stream Spark had found earlier for a rest and a drink. Though most of them were exhausted and just wanted to get some sleep, Blazefang felt energetic and wide awake. He wanted to continue following the growlithe, but he knew the others needed to rest, and for once he wasn’t angry about it.
Pacing happily around the area, Blazefang let his mind wander, daydreaming about what it would be like to really find Articuno and have him on his side.
It was nearing evening by the time Snowcrystal and the others left to follow the human with the quilava. Being a growlithe, it wasn’t hard for her to track the scent, and it led her to a particularly run-down section of the town. They followed the winding roads, coming to a very large building, which Spark mentioned was called a pokémon gym.
At least, it had once been one. The building was in such a state of disrepair that Spark guessed that it hadn’t been used for its intended purpose in decades. It smelled faintly of mold and rot, and strange vines clung to its brick walls.
Snowcrystal and the others wandered around it, trying to find a way in, but there seemed to be no way to enter the gym quietly. Just as they were about to give up, they heard the man’s voice from not far away.
“Well, Volco,” the voice was saying quietly from up ahead, an amused tone to the words, “we found the fire stone that pesky pidgeotto took, and I caught another vulpix. There’s always the chance this one could have potential. We’ll see how it fares after a while in the trap.”
Snowcrystal and the others crept forward, seeing the man and his quilava walking toward a section of the gym that was outside. Without even looking at it, the man flung a small object in the air and caught it easily. Snowcrystal noticed Rosie’s eyes grow wide; it was the fire stone. The man continued talking.
“This should help Redclaw pose a bit more of a challenge to our battlers, shouldn’t it?” he said calmly, talking to his pokémon as if this were an everyday type of conversation. “And just in time. A few more fights as a growlithe and he’d be torn apart for good…which would be a bit too soon for my liking.”
The man spoke as if there was nothing wrong with what he was saying, and Snowcrystal shivered as she watched him. She heard the quilava reply, but couldn’t hear what he was saying. From what she remembered of the tales she’d been told about humans, the trainer wouldn’t even be able to understand the pokémon, but neither of the strangers seemed to mind.
The human and pokémon headed toward a group of fences, and the man opened a door to one of them and walked inside. Beside Snowcrystal, Rosie shifted nervously. “Is he going to use my fire stone on another pokémon?” the vulpix asked, alarmed.
“I don’t know,” Spark whispered back. “Let’s just see what’s behind those fences. It looks like there’s a few practice battlefields outside.” He walked up to one of the fences and peered through it.
Snowcrystal peered through it as well, seeing that the ground beyond was made up of a wide, flat surface, with thick white marks running across it in different areas. “Looks like a practice battlefield to me,” Stormblade whispered from beside her. “But the human went that way. Let’s go… quietly.”
Snowcrystal was glad that it was somewhat darker now, and that there still seemed to be no other humans wandering the streets in this part of the town. As the group walked by the practice battling areas, they came across several, much taller fences, as well as thick concrete walls in some places.
It was just when Rosie had started fussing about the fire stone again that they heard the same human’s voice from not far away. This time, he was shouting angrily, and Snowcrystal kept hearing a loud noise. Padding carefully alongside one of the fences toward the sound, the growlithe crawled through some thick weeds, her belly fur brushing against the ground. Then she suddenly found the source of the noise.
Just past the fence she was crouching beside was a closed-off area, a small section of fence with a concrete wall on one side. The man and his quilava were standing inside the fenced area, their backs to her. And to her shock, there was a second pokémon standing beside the concrete wall.
Snowcrystal couldn’t see the other scyther clearly, but from what she could tell, it was obviously being beaten in some way by the human, yet it was just standing there, not making a move against him. Spark crawled through the grass to her side, while Stormblade and Rosie peered carefully through the fence at a safer distance.
“That human…that human has a whip!” Stormblade whispered angrily.
“He has my fire stone too,” Rosie whispered back. “Don’t forget what we came here for.”
“But that scyther’s chained!” Stormblade hissed. “We have to do something-”
“We can’t do anything while that human and his quilava are around,” Snowcrystal whispered back. “We should watch where he goes, try and see where he takes the fire stone, then we’ll decide what to do.”
The quilava, Volco, was watching his master calmly as the man brought the whip down on the scyther again, who wasn’t even turning to face him. After lashing at the pokémon several more times, he set aside the whip and backed away a bit. Snowcrystal noticed that the scyther had a chain attached to its arm, which was in turn attached to the concrete wall. The human was carefully making sure that he was further away from the scyther than the chain could reach. The pokémon, however, didn’t make any move to threaten him. In fact, she was ignoring him completely. This struck Snowcrystal as very strange, because although she wasn’t familiar with whips, she figured that had to hurt, and the scyther wasn’t cowering from the man either, just standing by the wall and ignoring him.
“That’s strange…” Snowcrystal whispered to Spark. “Why doesn’t that scyther fight back? I’m sure she can take down a human-”
“I dunno,” Spark replied quietly so only she could hear. “But this is strange…I don’t like this place. I’m starting to think that maybe Stormblade was right for once. Let’s leave…I want to get out of here. Rosie can find herself another fire stone…”
“What?” the vulpix hissed, and Snowcrystal realized that she must have heard the last bit of what Spark had said. “I’m not leaving without my fire stone!”
“I’m not leaving until we can find a way to help that other scyther!” Stormblade stated firmly.
“Do you not see that that human has a fire type?” Spark hissed to Stormblade. “You said it yourself; this is dangerous!”
“Quiet!” Snowcrystal growled lowly, and turned back to the man and his quilava. The human was still facing the scyther, who for the first time, was actually looking at him, but with an almost bored and uninterested expression.
Snowcrystal heard the man speak with his calm, confident voice. If she hadn’t heard him shouting angrily just before, she would have assumed he was a different human entirely. “You must be thirsty…” he was saying. “Standing out here in the hot sun all day.” At this point the scyther had started to ignore him again, even when he held out a small bowl of water. “Well, you won’t get any today,” he said coldly, dropping the bowl to the ground, where the water seeped into the dirt at the scyther’s feet. He turned away from the chained pokémon before stooping down and allowing Volco the quilava to climb on his shoulder, muttering under his breath as he left the fenced area and locked it. He then walked in the opposite direction of Snowcrystal and the others, toward the gym building.
For a moment, no one moved or spoke, and Spark looked horrified that a trainer would treat his pokémon that way. Snowcrystal realized that the jolteon must have had a very good trainer and hadn’t seen these sorts of things. She herself had heard stories of abusive trainers like this back at the mountain, but it still came as a sort of shock.
After moments of silence, Rosie spoke up, “He went in that building…and he took the fire stone with him. I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about that scyther. He sounds like he could get really mad at us if we interfered.”
“Or stole a fire stone,” Snowcrystal pointed out. “But this is more important. Let’s see if we can find out why that human’s keeping the scyther there, and if we can help.”
“He’s keeping her there because she’s his pokémon,” Spark replied, standing up and shaking off bits of grass that had gotten tangled in his spiny fur, “That’s all there is to it. He’s a trainer. Though why he’s keeping the pokémon chained up and not in a poké ball, I don’t know.” The jolteon shook himself, starting to look very unnerved. “And the place is long abandoned. He can’t possibly live here. He and those other humans must come here to do…who knows what.”
“Come on, let’s go…” Snowcrystal whispered. “Before he comes back…” Slowly she approached the fenced area where the strange scyther was. Now able to see up close, she could tell that as well as the chain around the scyther’s arm – the one attached to the concrete wall – there was a heavy-looking iron collar around her neck. It looked as if a chain could be attached to it as well. The scyther hadn’t noticed them, and was busy trying to lick drops of moisture from the rocky ground, making the previously tough-looking pokémon look almost feeble. Finally abandoning the attempt, the scyther headed back toward the wall, before lying down against it.
She then got the shock of her life as Stormblade suddenly flew over the fence to land right in front of her. Leaping up in surprise, the scyther stared at Stormblade in confusion, then lunged toward him, both scythes raised. The chain stopped her in mid-leap, but she still swiped at Stormblade with her other scythe, making a small slice in the tip of his left wing. Taken completely by surprise, Stormblade backed away, shaking drops of blood from his injured wing. The other scyther glared at him, but didn’t attempt another attack; he was too far out of range.
“Stormblade!” Snowcrystal cried, managing to wriggle through a small gap in one side of the fence. Rosie slipped through after her, and Spark tried to follow their example, but ended up getting stuck halfway. Although he struggled franticly, the others were too preoccupied with the trapped scyther’s sudden violent attack to notice his plight.
The chained scyther’s reaction to Rosie and Snowcrystal was no different than it had been for Stormblade; she charged toward them, but was stopped by the chain before she got close enough to do any damage. She then backed off, poising for attack as if expecting them to bring the fight to her. For a moment, no one moved at all, and the strange scyther seemed to be daring any of them to come closer as she watched them through narrowed eyes.
Once again, Rosie managed to break the silence. “What’s your problem?” she shouted at the scyther. “We’re only trying to help you! So at least act grateful!”
“Hypocrite…” Spark muttered to himself, still lying half in and half out of the fence.
To everyone’s immense surprise, the scyther relaxed, and her expression turned from angry to surprised. “You’ve come to…help me?” She looked completely baffled and shocked, and somehow, Snowcrystal was sure she wasn’t going to try and attack them anymore. As the scyther slowly started to pace back and forth near the wall, still seeming unsure of what to think, Snowcrystal gave her a closer look.
The scyther stood a bit shorter than Stormblade, but with blades and wings that were slightly longer than his. Her top two fangs that showed when her mouth was closed were longer too, almost twice as long as Stormblade’s. Whether that was unusual for a scyther or not, Snowcrystal didn’t know. Various scars and wounds covered the strange scyther’s body, but she hardly seemed to notice them at all. In fact, by the way she walked so easily, without limping or showing any sign of pain, it was almost as if the wounds weren’t there. The heavy iron collar around her neck and the chain attached to her arm didn’t seem to bother her much either. Snowcrystal remembered how the bug type had acted like the beating she had received was a mere annoyance rather than a horrible experience. She didn’t understand it, but she wasn’t about to question the scyther.
“Yes,” Snowcrystal replied softly. “We’re here to help. We helped this vulpix, and we can get you out of here too.” As she spoke, her gaze drifted to Stormblade, noticing his wound for the first time. She ran over to him, crying, “Oh, your wing! Are you all right?”
From his unfortunate position at the edge of the fence, Spark muttered darkly, “Oh sure, you notice when he gets hurt. But yet, no one seems to realize that…I AM STUCK IN A FENCE!” To Spark’s dismay, his shout went ignored.
“It’s not important now…” Stormblade told Snowcrystal in answer to her question. Gritting his teeth, he turned to the chained scyther. “But we need to find a way to break that chain…I’m guessing a scythe won’t work?”
The other scyther stared at him as if he were crazy. “Do you think I wouldn’t have freed myself already if I could cut through it?” To prove her point, she slashed across the chain a couple of times, and it did no apparent damage.
“Maybe we could…” Stormblade began, but Snowcrystal interrupted him.
“I have an idea,” the growlithe whispered, “but I’ll need Rosie and Spark’s help. Wait a minute…where is Spark?” She turned and looked around, finally noticing him. “Oh…you’re stuck…” she stated, running over in his direction.
“About time someone noticed,” Spark murmured, rolling his eyes.
For a moment Snowcrystal struggled with the wire, but soon Spark was finally able to wriggle loose, leaving behind a few tufts of yellow fur. “Thanks for the help, Snowcrystal,” Spark cried, making a point of saying it loudly.
Snowcrystal beckoned Rosie over to her as she approached the scyther, stopping right beside where the chain attached to the wall. “Uh…stand back,” she whispered to the chained pokémon. “I don’t want to hurt you by accident.”
“I’m not afraid,” the scyther muttered, not moving at all. Knowing that their time could be running out, Snowcrystal quickly instructed Rosie on what to do. Together, they used their embers to heat a small section of the chain. Once Snowcrystal decided it was hot enough, she called Spark over to her side, and whispered to him as well.
Spark nodded and concentrated on the section of the chain as his short, spiky tail started to glow a bright silver. A few moments later, he leaped over the chain, slamming his tail down on the heated metal. The iron tail, combined with the ember attacks, did the trick. The link broke in two, and the scyther stepped away from the wall, the severed chain still attached to her arm.
“There, you’re free now,” Snowcrystal whispered. “Go, and hurry!”
The scyther needed no second bidding. Spreading her wings for probably the first time in a long while, she flew over the fence and away from the buildings, soon disappearing into the growing darkness.
Snowcrystal realized that they’d lingered for far too long. Turning toward the fence again, the growlithe carefully slipped under it and waited for the others. Once they were all on the other side, she quietly crept forward, walking around the corner of another section of fence leading to the gym building.
And it was then that she found herself face to face with the trainer’s quilava.
As evening slowly turned to night, Blazefang and the houndour pack moved stealthily through the forest, always on the lookout for danger. Blazefang wasn’t particularly worried, but the others were, namely Wildflame. Snowcrystal’s trail was becoming harder to follow, and the group was repeatedly getting turned around. However, to everyone’s surprise, Blazefang was patient with them.
Oddly enough, the houndour had found both tracks and scent of other travelers, and had reached the conclusion that there were new pokémon helping the growlithe. Blazefang wasn’t worried, however, since if the growlithe’s group saw him and tried to attack, his pack could easily overpower them. For now, though, it was best to not let the white growlithe know she was being followed. After all, she could have an idea of where Articuno had gone.
As they traveled on, members of the pack began to notice that Blazefang’s stone amulet seemed to glow brighter as the forest became darker. This made Blazefang more pleased, as he liked the thought of owning something rare and unique.
When the pack stopped for another rest, Blazefang sat to himself away from the main group, still hardly tired. Sitting up, he pawed at the strange violet-colored stone, careful to only touch its edges out of fear of damaging it with his claws. Then, to his amazement, the stone’s glow intensified, until the whole area around him was flooded with a bright white light.
Startled, he lifted his paw again and touched the stone’s edge lightly, and the glow faded to its normal brightness. Blazefang sat completely still, confused and pondering what had just happened. Was there more to this stone than he had realized?
To be continued…