LotE Bonus #3Torch and Rose: Meanwhile, at Mount Hemos
A/N: Torch and Rose come from "Pokemon to the Rescue," a popular roleplay on Route 50 back in 2010. I wrote this story because the Exile series intersects briefly with the PttR series. Torch and Rose belong to SkyWarrior and Frosti respectively.
The Quilava's back was a smoky orange instead of blue, as it had been since he was born. "I can hear its heartbeat," said Torch in a hushed voice, his ear against the fire-colored egg. He couldn't help a goofy smile. "Can you believe it? We're finally going to be parents."
"Yes, very soon," agreed Rose. The Vulpix curled her warm tails around her egg, their egg. She would smile, but... "I just hope this one makes it."
Torch cringed; then, he shook his head, recovering. "Of course it will," the Quilava said fiercely, taking her paw. "I'll do everything I can. I'll make sure this egg hatches proper-- ow!"
The Vulpix's eyes widened as her husband stood up too quickly, accidentally banging his head on the rock wall. "Torch! You alright?"
The Quilava plopped back down, holding his nose. "Yeah. Jeez, that hurt." He tried to sound grumpy, but couldn't help chuckling. After a moment, Rose laughed as well.
Many Pokemon proudly called Mount Hemos home, but Torch especially loved the Blaze Caves. After all, these were the caves where he and his siblings were raised. This was where his fierce mother and his hopeful father started their family...
And now, Torch was raising a family of his own. "I wonder if they'll be a Vulpix or a Cyndaquil," said the Quilava, patting the egg gently.
Suddenly, he glanced up, his expression becoming serious. "Say, is there a festival tonight?"
Rose blinked. "Not that I know of, why?"
His ears prickled. "Because..." Low, heavy chanting echoed in the distance. The steady thumps of many pawsteps, moving in unison. The rustle of tall grass, parting to make way for a great crowd. "Hang on a bit."
It happened very recently, the mysterious change in the wind. A sudden chill, a loss of order. Even now, he felt unsettled, as if walking along a narrow branch without a net below to catch him.
Padding outside, Torch stared out over the moonlit plains beyond the canyon. In the distance, he could see dozens of Pokemon marching in the cool night, crossing south toward Kanto. "What on earth is going on...?"
"Roathaus might know something," said Rose the next morning. "Keep the egg warm until I get back, okay?"
Torch nodded. "Good luck, dear," he said, curling up around their egg, surrounding it in his warm fur. "Hope he has some answers!" Smiling, the Vulpix headed outside.
Early morning. The sky was still overcast above the canyon. "Morning, Rose," said a Heatmor, emerging from his cave with a stack of iron carapaces. "Heading to the hot springs?"
The Vulpix blinked. "Not at all," she said politely to her neighbor. "I'm going to see the old dragon."
"Oh? Well, say hello to him for me!" Chuckling, the Heatmor padded off to dispose of his scraps. Rose looked at him oddly, then set off up the mountain.
Mount Hemos was the king of the volcanic range which cut across the land, extending almost from coast to coast. Very few humans had ever set foot here.
Though the Madman had raided the Blaze Caves four years ago, even he never dared to cross Mount Hemos and enter the isolated valley beyond. And thus, the old volcano brought a warm, comforting glow.
She was close to the summit. Rose could sense the dragon's noble-blue soul, over by the crater's rim. In his lap, the Dragonite cradled a large, black blade. His golden scales were faded with age, his eyes peaceful.
The Vulpix bowed respectfully. "Good morning, Roathaus."
He looked back at her. "Good morning to you as well, Rose," he said calmly. "How is the family?"
She smiled. "Torch's doing fine. We're both doing wonderfully." Padding forward, Rose joined him at the crater. "Hopefully, nothing unexpected happens."
The Dragonite had lived on the mountain for a very long time, Rose knew. Longer than Torch's family. Perhaps longer than any living human had walked the earth. "Oh? What sort of thing might happen?" he chuckled.
She gazed down into the gently bubbling crwter, steam rising in misshapen spirals. "Something like that crowd of traveling Pokemon, last night," said Rose. "Did you see them?"
Roathaus's smile vanished. The Dragonite's posture shifted ever so slightly, the steam veiling his eyes. "Yes," he said darkly. "I saw it, too."
Rose gazed toward the horizon. "We've never seen such a large-scale migration," she remarked. "I wonder if it's the largest in history."
"That was no mere migration," said the old dragon darkly. drawing his large, leathery wings close to his body, draping over his shoulders like a Charizard's. "It is as the legends say. The Exile returns, and the White Tyrant marches south, waving the banners of hell."
A normal Pokemon would have surely felt some chill. Yet, perhaps because of all she'd experienced at the hands of the Madman, Rose was only curious. "The Exile? You mean... that ancient dragon in the north?"
"Yes." The Dragonite turned his sword over and over. staring into the crater. Then, shaking his head, he sighed. "But do not worry, Rose. These lands belong to the Vulcanite League. They will not let the Exile harm us..."
Peeking out of his cave, Torch stared at the Rhyperior.
Sableyes and Timburrs filed into the canyon behind the Rhyperior, all carrying the same acrid scent. Across the canyon, two Croagunks were escorting a Magmar from his cave.
The Quilava's eyes widened. Next to the Rhyperior stood an Infernape, his sash bearing the Vulcanite crest: a heart shaped from crisscrossed wings of flame.
Glancing around, Torch spotted his neighbor a few feet away. "Hey, Fabian," he hissed. "What's going on?"
The Growlithe blinked. "Don't you know? Vulcanites are at war. Best keep your head down if you don't want to be drafted." Stunned, the Quilava stared as Fabian padded away.
"War," repeated Torch as he and Rose piled soft bedding into a nest around their egg. "War again."
It brought back memories. Some good, some bad. His noble parents, slain by the Croconaw's jaws. Traveling with Rose, Skyribbon, and Denki. The black ditto that seized control of him, making him turn on Rose--
"This can't be a mere coincidence," said Rose suddenly. "Ho-Oh had a key role in the Exile's legend. If the Vulcanites are calling a draft now, when the Exile's marching south..."
Anxious, Torch stared at the egg. "The Golden Conclave wouldn't stand a chance against an army that big," he muttered. The flames on his back quivered. "You think they can stop Giratina?"
A chill settled over the Blaze Caves that night. Summer's heat was slowly waning, fading.
Shivering, Rose stirred. Her shoulder was sore, her head hazy. Soft, helpless cries haunted her dreams, echoing in her ears, tugging at her heart.
Clenching her teeth, the Vulpix checked on the egg. Their precious egg. Yes, still warm, still pulsing, still gently rocking. Slowly, she released a long breath.
A paw on her shoulder. "Hey," murmured the Quilava. "You should get some rest."
Rose's entire body shook. "Torch--" She couldn't help it. Turning, she buried her face in the Quilava's chest, silently sobbing into his fur.
"Yeah." Torch was trembling too. But still, he gently wrapped his paws around her, comforting her. "They'll be okay... we'll be okay."
Glancing at the egg once more, they returned to their bedding. "Hey, Torch?" whispered Rose. "I... I don't want to get drafted. I d-don't want anything to happen to our child..."
Gazing at the ceiling, Torch nodded and squeezed her paw. "Me either."
The morning brought distant chirps of Pidgeys and Spearows. An Arcanine came bounding up to Torch's and Rose's cave. "Eyyo!" he called.
Blinking, Torch went to the entrance, Rose just behind him. "King!" exclaimed the Quilava, incredulous. "What brings you here--hey!"
The Quilava stumbled over as the grinning Arcanine licked his face. "Hey, how's my favorite brother and sister-in-law?" said King cheerfully.
"The geysers frothed early this spring, so the hot springs had their share of visitors," said Rose, smiling. "We're doing well, overall."
The Arcanine glanced at the egg in its bed of straw and smirked. "Doing very well, I see."
Rose blushed and looked away. "Why don't I get you something to drink?" said Torch a little too quickly.
Over three bowls of spring water, King and the couple exchanged gossip and filled each other in on recent news.
"Good old Blaze Caves," murmured King, looking around the room. "Sis would be glad to see you two turned out all right."
Torch and Rose looked at each other. "You and Flower could always come home," offered Torch. "If you two ever stop roaming the world, I mean."
King, Flower, and Torch. Three happy siblings, with two of the best parents any cub could ask for. That's how it was at the beginning, before the Madman's hunts.
No, no need to think about the Madman now. Aramos had been dead for four years. But just because one evil person was gone, didn't mean they were safe. Especially... especially if the Vulcanites were at war--
King drank from his bowl thoughtfully. "Say, Torch. Would you mind coming with me for a bit? I just want to check on something."
Torch nodded. "Sure thing," he said. He looked at Rose. "Wanna come along?"
The Vulpix shook her head, smiling. "That's all right. You hang out with your brother."
King rose to his paws, Torch following suit. "We'll be back by evening," said the Arcanine, dipping his head. "Rose, nice seeing you."
"No no, the pleasure is all mine," replied Rose, waving her tails as they padded outside. Then, getting up, she padded over to her egg and lay back down, sighing.
They padded over boulders and along narrow ledges, making their way to the far side of Mount Hemos. "Neither of you said anything about the soldiers," said King quietly, his cheer gone.
Torch sighed. "War has nothing to do with us, these days," said the Quilava. They were moving down a narrow ravine now, flanked by tall crags on either side. "Rose and I want to focus on raising a family."
King looked back at Torch sadly. "You've never been to the Golden Conclave, have you?" Golden Conclave. Or as humans called it, Cinnabar Island. Seat of the Vulcanite League. "You really think they'll let you escape the draft? You know what Heatran's policies are like."
Torch grimaced. "It can't have always been like this. The League never had this kind of power in Mom's day." But that was all he could say. Heatran had ruled the Vulcanite League rigidly since before his birth.
His eye caught a blur of movement. "Look out!" As King spun around, Torch somersaulted into the shadow descending on his brother, flaring with sudden, vicious flames.
"Aieeeee!" shrieked the burning Gligar as Torch tackled him to the ground, pincers clicking uselessly. "Whyyyy... augh." His body jerked one last time, and then crumbled into a charred mess.
Torch and King stared at the Gligar's remains, stunned. "Oops," was all that Torch could manage to say.
"Well, in any event... thanks," said King. He glanced down the path. "Looks like we're almost there, anyway. Keep quiet, okay?" Rolling his eyes, Torch followed his brother with careful pawsteps.
They heard a mass of voices, growing louder as they approached. At the end of the path, Torch and King stared down into the crowded basin below. A military camp!
A dozen, perhaps two dozen Rhyperiors milled along the perimeter, Mismagii and Porygon-Zs patrolling from overhead. Rampardoses, Haunters, Pinsirs, Bibarels, Aipoms, Timburrs, Sableyes; perhaps over a hundred Pokemon in all.
"Cease your rabble. Lord Horizon speaks." On a high, flat rock stood a Tyranitar with white scales, overlooking the soldiers. Immediately, the entire camp went silent.
"The cracks in mankind continue to fracture," growled Horizon, holding up a fist. "The north isles have fallen. The bays of the north have fallen. Now, the cities to the south, too, shall fall!"
Torch shifted uncomfortably. But why? "For the Exile, for the Exile!" chanted the soldiers. "Reclaim what is ours. In the name of Giratina, Giratina the Exile!"
Lord Horizon swept his arm over the camp. "Mikael. Bring forth the recruits."
Dumbfounded, Torch stared blankly as the camp parted to make way for an Infernape. But not just any Infernape. The Infernape with the Vulcanite sash. The one at the Blaze Caves yesterday...
As Mikael passed a pair of Haunters, his red sash changed. Gold trim became black, the Vulcanite crest replaced by another emblem: three scarlet rings linked by golden chains. The forbidden symbol. The symbol of the banished god, Giratina.
Chuckling, the Infernape bowed before the white Tyranitar. "Kekekeke... We offer you fresh meat, Horizon," said Mikael proudly. Behind the Infernape followed six, seven, eight more Pokemon, all blindfolded.
Mikael tore off one recruit's blindfold and pushed him forward. "Heatmor?" whispered Torch, staring at the recruit. Yes, that was unmistakably was the Heatmor who lived next door. Bewildered and terrified, Heatmor stared up at at Horizon, unable to speak.
Just then, a Scizor glided over to the Tyranitar. "Horizon, sir?" said the Scizor. "Private Delm was standing guard earlier. He's now dead."
Both Torch and King froze. "We've got intruders," growled the Tyranitar, one fist tightening. "Thank you, Scar. You are dismissed. All units on alert!"
Eyes widening, King shook Torch. "Hey, come on," hissed the Arcanine. "Let's get out of here!" Nodding, Torch hurried after his brother, and out of sight.
"Well, we checked out their camp," puffed Torch as he returned to the cave. "Hey, Rose? I don't think we'll have to worry about the Vulcanites. They're not fighting against the Exile. They're fighting with him."
Rose blinked. "Then... that army we saw the other night-"
"Yeah. They've got plenty of soldiers. We won't be drafted if we don't want to fight..." The cities in the south. "Really... we didn't need to worry at all. They're fighting the human cities."
The Vulpix sighed in relief. She touched a tail to the key hanging from her neck. "Well... whatever happens to humans, humans are humans, right?"
"Yeah... who knows." The Quilava winced with each step, his pawpads sore. Today had been a long day, after all, and he hadn't been on his paws this much in a while.
Rose chuckled and sighed. "This is what happens when you don't train for a while," chided the Vulpix, nudging him. "What'll you do at the next Vulcanite tournament? They only give five-minute breaks between matches, you know."
He shook his head. "I'm not joining another tournament until old Heatran steps down! Can't stand him breathing down everyone's necks. Besides, we'll run into her
Rose grimaced. "Ooh... right."
An awkward silence. Torch's cousin, Embyr, was a Vulcanite captain at Cinnabar... and an utter nuisance since he was young.
"Well, the Vulcanites won't fall anytime soon," said King thoughtfully. Torch glanced up as his brother padded over to the entrance. "Not too fond of the Exile roaming around... but it can't be helped."
Rose glanced at Torch. "Yeah," said the Vulpix, smiling slightly, touching the Quilava's cheek. "I'm just glad they didn't recruit you, Torch."
"Haha, yeah. I can't go off fighting wars when we've got an egg to raise!" And yet, for some reason, Torch still felt uneasy....
King smiled and closed his eyes. "Anyway, looks like you're holding up fine, brother. And Rose, nice seeing you again. Let's meet up again sometime, a'ight?"
"Yeah. Take care on the road!" The couple waved as King padded outside, setting out into the unknown once more.
As King's pawsteps faded into the distance, Torch sank to the floor. "Eh? You okay?" asked Rose, poking his belly with a paw. "Come on, let's get to bed."
"Yeah, thanks," he mumbled back.
They collapsed into their nest. Tilting her neck slightly, Rose gently kissed her egg. "Good night, Damien," she murmured. Growing cozy, she winked at Torch. "Now for you..."
Slowly, the Vulpix ran her glossy, black paws over his back, then brushing down his soft belly fur. "Hey, that tickles," mumbled the Quilava, heat rising in his cheeks.
Rose kissed him on the nose. "I know," she said playfully.
The Quilava's eyes glowed like tiny flames, contained in chips of pulsing coals. "Why are you always so cute?" he whispered into her ear as she hugged him tightly.
Her ears twitched happily. "That's what I should be asking you." She trembled as Torch gently nipped at her warm neck, tiny rings of smoke rising from his nostrils.
Her throat tingled as he worked his way up to her jawline, his mouth and nose and warm breath tickling her fur. Excitement tingled down her spine, her tails wiggling in joy.
Softly licking at the air, like the tongues of a crackling fire. Tails uncurling, her pawpads rubbed against his, hot tingles running up his leg, through his body...
Suddenly, there was a scream in the distance. Torch froze. "W-what was that?" whispered Rose.
They ran and ran. Up the trail, up the slope, toward the summit of Mount Hemos. "Torch, go back, you're tired," hissed Rose.
"No way," Torch hissed back. "I'm not gonna let you go on your own..."
"You're so stubborn," pouted the Vulpix. Out of the corner of her mouth, she added, "But that's what I like about you." Heat rushing to his cheeks, Torch grinned sheepishly and pretended not to hear.
The duo gasped as they reached the summit. Roathaus was surrounded by six Dusknoirs, his black blade lying out of reach. A mesh of black energy covered the Dragonite's body, pinning his wings against his back.
On each Dusknoir's cloak was a six-petaled flower, three of black and three of white. "What's going on here?" demanded Rose.
The Dusknoirs turned toward them. An eerie red eye oscillated inside each cold, gray visor. "Local residents," said one after a moment. "Ignore them."
They began to march Roathaus away. "Hey!" called Torch angrily, moving in front of the Dusknoirs. "You can't take Roathaus--"
"Stand aside," ordered the lead Dusknoir. "Three. Two. One." When Torch refused to move, the Dusknoir shoved him to the ground.
Snarling, Rose stepped in front of the Quilava, her fur bristling. "I don't know who any of you are, but don't you dare," she spat, tails bristling. "Roathaus! Just hang in there, okay?"
Each Dusknoir's antenna flashed. "Residents are obtstructing duties. Seize them." Turning, the Dusknoirs circled the duo, fists raised, cloaked in shadowy flame.
Torch exchanged a glance with Rose as the Dusknoirs faced them. An old fire was roaring in his belly, the heat of battle...!
Blinking, Torch and Rose turned around as Horizon came trotting up the slope, flanked by Rhyperiors. Immediately, the Dusknoirs relented, lowering their fists.
"What is the meaning of this, dark spawn?" demanded the white Tyranitar, tightening one paw into a fist. "Don't you recognize these two? Torch and Rose. They know the cruelty of man better than any of us. "
The Dusknoirs turned to each other, confused, before returning to formation around Roathaus.
Turning, Lord Horizon looked at Torch and Rose. "I apologize for my fellow soldiers' behavior," said the Tyranitar. "These... Hexwraiths
... are an experimental unit. A twisted joke by one of my colleagues, if you will."
"Soldiers," repeated Torch. He stared at the Tyranitar, still trying to process. "Soldiers for your war on the south?"
Horizon held up a tight fist. "Soldiers for our war on humanity," he said harshly. "The cities of the south are only the beginning. We shall crush all the cities of the world. This is the will of Giratina, the Exiled One."
The Rhyperiors proudly held up their banners. "Giratina has returned to the world and shown us the way," declared the Tyranitar. "Humanity is a sin of the world. And to erase that sin, we need every Pokemon who can fight. Just as you fought in your prime."
Rose's eyes widened. "Think of it," growled Horizon, eyes gleaming. "No one will ever go through what you went through. No one will ever suffer because of humans again."
Torch's eyes widened. Indeed, he knew how terrible humans could be. And yet... something didn't feel right. "If it's about humans, then why are you taking Roathaus?" he demanded.
Horizon's eyes narrowed. "Because Roathaus is Swordwrit, and Swordwrit has always allied with mankind," said the Tyranitar, closing a fist. "We will not allow anyone to save humanity. Not when our work has finally begun."
"That's ridiculous!" protested Rose. "Roathaus hasn't seen a human in years. Humans never come to these parts."
He looked at them adamantly, unyieldingly. "What you think of us is of no concern," said Lord Horizon. "All that matters is that you not interfere. Our crusade must come to fruition. For your own safety, do not obstruct us. Even heroes such as you cannot turn us back now!"
At a loss for words, Rose clung to Torch's arm as Horizon and the Hexwraiths descended the mountain with the immobilized Roathaus. One by one, captors and captive disappeared into the night.
"I'm not too fond of humans, of course," said Rose the next morning. "But I guess we haven' really much experience with them. Other than... you know..."
"Yeah." Torch stared toward the horizon. "I... I'm not too sure I like what the Exile is doing either. How is what he's doing to humans all that different from what the Madman did to us?"
Rose shifted uncomfortably, a tail touching her key. "A-at least the Exile is killing them. Aramos... wouldn't even give Scorch that kind of peace."
There was a long silence.
"Would you have preferred the Madman kill Scorch?" pressed Torch. "It's easy to say things like that after all these years... but back then..."
The Vulpix sighed. "No. You're right. They're... they're both doing awful things. And it's not right for them to take away Roathaus like that." Rose gently rested a paw on their egg. "He's just an old, harmless Dragonite. But... there's nothing we can do about it."
Torch nodded grimly. "Maybe we've been relaxing too long..."
Getting up, the Vulpix fetched a roll of leaf-paper. Incinerating a lump of wood, she rubbed the charcoal on her paw. "What're you doing?" asked Torch, frowning.
"Writing my cousin a letter," said Rose, quickly scrawling out a message in clawstroke script. "I bet Shanala knows something about what's going on."
He opened one eye, amused. "Shanala? What sort of name is that?"
Rose sighed, laughing. "That's what her trainer named her, mind you. She doesn't bother with her birth name anymore. See? Humans are weird..."
Months passed without word.
And then, one morning. there was a knock from the entrance. Frowning, Torch got up to find a Houndoom waiting outside their cave. "Is this the home of Torch and Rose?" he asked.
"I'm Torch, and this is Rose," said the Quilava. The Houndoom's pendant carried the Vulcanite crest. "What's this about?"
"Lieutenant Marrow of the Vulcanites," said the Houndoom, dipping his head. "Torch, I'm afraid I must inform you that your cousin, Embyr, was killed in action."
"O-oh." The Quilava shifted uncomfortably. Maybe the struggle against the Madman had desensitized him. Or, perhaps it was because he and Embyr had never been all that close. But the news... just didn't seem to impact him as it should. "What happened?"
The Houndoom hesitated. "She... ah... tried to kill the new king. Attacked him during the coup. We'd all waited years for his arrival, but not her, it seems. Even then, he didn't want to kill her. But we had to step in."
Torch looked down at his paws uncomfortably. Rose frowned. "Wait! The way you said it made it sound like she died an honorable death. Or something."
Marrow sighed. "That's because the new king wanted me to say it that way. The 'purity of love', or something. Nonsense. Love isn't pure anymore when you use it to excuse hatred."
Rose's eyes widened. The Houndoom's words pierced her heart. After all, hadn't she herself been willing to accept Giratina's slaughter of humans?
Four years ago, the Madman destroyed Torch's family. Four years ago, the Madman captured her brother. Even now, she still carried the key that had unlocked her brother's cage.
But in the end, those were the actions of one human. A human who had been rejected by other humans, at that.
There might well be more humans like that. There might be many humans who would do cruel, selfish things. But even so... she shouldn't assume things about every human from the start.
"Um," said the Vulpix tentatively. "We heard that an army of Pokemon was marching south to kill humans. Did... did any humans survive...?"
Marrow smiled weakly. "Some. Not many. But some. And we're finding more each day..."
As if remembering something, the Houndoom reached into his mailbag. "One more thing. Here's a letter from the king." Marrow deposited a letter at their paws. "Now, good day."
They stared as he trotted off. "Hey, wait," said Torch, pointing at the letter. "That's the official Vulcanite crest. Must be important."
"Yeah," said Rose as she opened the letter. "Seems to be about the coronation of the new king. And..." Her eyes widened. "And he's taken Shanala as his queen!"
Torch blinked as she handed the letter to him. "Congrats to her! And as for the new king..." He squinted at the name, written in Unown script. "The heck? I can't read this name. I...n...s..."
There was a brief silence. "Okay then!" laughed Rose nervously. Taking their cups, they raised a toast. "Ahem...! Long live King Instant Noodles!