Chapter 25: Destiny's Flame
Fire is destructive, Fire shall suceed
Slain by red traitor, two souls recede
Fire is feral-minded, Fire is free-willed
A volcano tamed and a destiny fulfilled
Trembling, Insyte slowly got up to his paws, his face still stained with the tears caused by Embyr's betrayal. How could she? How could Embyr turn to Giratina and believe the ancient devil's lies? What had happened to the kind, loving, and tolerant Quilava that he had known? It seemed impossible that in just two years, Embyr had transformed from a soulful lover into a cruel, twisted fiend.
"Embyr," murmured Insyte. "You've chosen your side... and I've chosen mine." He closed his eyes. "I still love you, Embyr, with all my heart. Come back... don't pit your life between us. Please... come back to me..." He sat still for a few minutes, breathing deeply, calming down, exhaling his anxieties. "What would Rush do?"
And then, Embyr's words echoed in his mind. "You're as bad as that vixen... that vixen... that vixen... that vixen..." A vixen... was it possible?
"Shanala," murmured Insyte, getting up. "Shanala... she's still alive!" He stared at the bars of his cell carefully. Flame-resistant, of course; they would be useless otherwise. Insyte sighed, now checking the lock. A simple padlock, without any wires or other mechanism that he could somehow activate to open it. He was trapped.
"Why must you give up so easily?" challenged Ho-Oh. The Flareon blinked. "Why would you, of all Pokemon, surrender immediately, when you yourself walked a shadowed path for years, and at last embraced light?"
The Flareon went rigid, then turned to stare at the Orb. "Then, you know what it is that I must do?" said Insyte. "Please, Lord Ho-Oh. Tell me. I came here on the dying words of my parents, believing I would find the secret of my birth here. But all I have found are enemies."
There was a low chuckle. "Listen well, Insyte. Your mother, Solus, carried the bloodline of the ancient Vulcanite king." The Flareon's eyes widened. "On the night of your birth, your mother determined that you would become a strong, healthy male. Your parents knew that the Vulcanites would take you and raise you as their king. Wanting to spare you from a cold, loveless life, they tried to flee with you. But during the escape, you were separated from them."
"With you lost, the Vulcanite League turned to Heatran as their lord, who swore to be every bit as strong as you were foretold to become. Though strong of will, he proved to be far more ruthless and cruel than any leader yet, and corruption was replaced by totalitarianism. Distraught, your parents began to hunt for you, hoping that they might undo their mistake."
Fire shot from the Phoenix Orb and flowed into the Flareon's body, rushing down into his veins, burning away his fatigue. "The blood of the ancient king is in you, Insyte. You are the heir. The one who purged himself of darkness. Who must purge darkness from this mountain."
Insyte' eyes erupted with vivid blue flame as his claws became long and sharp. A great surge of energy filled the Flareon's body as he rose up onto his hind legs with outstretched, flaming lion's claws, and ripped open the lock with a cry before he was fully aware of himself.
As the flare of power subsided, the Flareon shook, stunned by the power unleashed within him. Padding out from his cell, he stared at the Phoenix Orb, a tear rolling down his cheek and turning to steam. "After all those years of darkness, my mother and my father were always out there, always searching for me," he whispered. "After all these years... there was always someone for me."
"They wanted the best for you, because you were their child," said Ho-Oh as Insyte swiped open the other cell to retrieve the Orb. "And they came to know that they could not change your destiny, could not stop you from becoming the hero that the Vulcanites needed. For you are Insyte Faldsem; you are destiny's flame, come to recieve your long-awaited inheritance. Go forth, and show that your parents did not die in vain!"
High up on the ridgees overlooking Cinnabar Island, at the very mouth of the volcano, stood Heatran, master of the Vulcanite League. His massive, crab-like legs were firmly planted on the surface of the earth, his immense features staring maliciously into the eyes of a Houndoom whose paws were secured by a great chain, a steel collar locked about his neck.
A long queue of prisoners followed behind the Houndoom. At their forefront stood Shanala, her paws and tails chained, her eyes wide with terror. Every last one of the prisoners were in shackles and bonds, for they had spoken of malicious sedition. Down below on the mountain-slopes gathered the Vulcanite masses, all bound by kin of flame, all assembled for Marrow's execution.
Beside Heatran stood Caine the Arcanine and Mikhael the Infernape, who watched the disgraced Vulcanite with contempt, the one they had once called equals. Once, Marrow had been a favored competitor, respected by opponents and students alike. Now, stripped of rank, stripped of dignity, the hellhound stood before death. Hanging from the rock spires over Heatran gazed a Golbat with gleaming yellow eyes, its wings bearing the twisted symbol of the Exile, standing watch over Giratina's ally.
Once, the Vulcanite League had been strong and mighty, extending to the lands of Hoenn and Sinnoh, its power exceeding even the mighty Guild of Swordwrit, second only in strength to the indomitable Alliance of the Wilderness. From every flaming peak the trumpets of the Vulcanites had sounded, calling forth the fiery souls from the drudgery of the unskilled masses. And yet corruption had set in over the years, diluting the loyalties of the common soldier.
At the onset of war, the Vulcanite League began to split into factions, turning upon itself like an eight-headed snake. Uprisings and rebellions erupted across the League, and it began to collapse in upon itself. It was Heatran who seized command of the League, binding together the once-mighty army with iron will, reshaping it in the fashion of its glory days, silencing dissenters, smoothing out its ranks.
At last, Insyte came to the main chamber of the volcano. He stared down into a massive swirling lake of magma into which five waterfalls of molten rock poured. At the center of the massive lake was a massive island of stone. Insyte looked around the massive cavern, searching for sentries or guards of any kind, and then sprinted up the winding ledge that led towards the volcano's summit, where destiny awaited. Loyal was the blood that flowed through his veins, and chilvary would be his guiding virtue.
Insyte came to another lava tube's entrance as a Magmortar emerged from it. As soon as the Magmortar noticed Insyte, it cocked its flamethrower arm at the Flareon and fired a shadow wave at it. Insyte jumped back onto his hind legs to evade the attack, and then lunged forward at the Magmortar. The Magmortar stumbled back as Insyte sank his teeth into the Vulcan's neck.
Swatting the Flareon off, the Magmortar shot a thick stream of blue-white flames that engulfed Insyte. Insyte rolled his eyes as his fur flared brightly, absorbing the flames. He ducked three sucessive thunderpunches and body-slammed the Magmortar, knocking it onto its back. Insyte slashed at magmortar's ugly, clownish face several times, leapt off, and then pushed the massive beast off of the ledge.
Insyte sprinted across a bridge of stone slats and thick ropes. With every step, Insyte drew closer to Heatran and the other Vulcanites, and with them, Shanala. As he came to another thick ledge, a Monferno and a Slugma attacked Insyte. Quickly leaping aside before the Monferno threw a mach punch, Insyte caught the Monferno's wrist with his jaws and swung the monkey right into the Slugma's ancientpower attack. The Slugma's mustache shook furiously. It leapt at Insyte, attempting to engulf his tail in its molten goop. Insyte spun around, slashing out with a hind paw, and sending it flying off the ledge.
As he continued up towards the entrance in the cavern that led out into the shining sunlight, a Charmander leapt down from the ceiling. Insyte, not about to let anything stand in his way, barreled right into the charmander, knocking it aside and sending it flying down into the magma below. With outstretched claws, he boldly strode outside, padding up the sloping trail towards the chanting masses ahead.
Up and down the line behind Shanala, fearful voices broke out into uneasy whispers. As the mighty warlord's words reverbrated, the three lieutenants broke into applause and cheers; slowly but surely, the crowd down below followed suit.
Seizing Marrow, Monferno guards dragged the Houndoom up to Heatran's precipice. The Houndoom stared over the edge, down the treacherous rock face, covered with jagged rock spires like upright teeth.
"Marrow, you have been convicted of High Treason against the League of Vulcanite," bellowed Heatran, his eyes flashing like the molten rock splattering below. Marrow would not be the last traitor that would die; but tonight, this seditious Houndoom, who had become the strongest of the dissenters, would be disposed of. "Under Exile martial law, you are hereby sentenced to death!"
Next, two more Monfernos dragged Shanala up to the platform, where they secured her paw chains to the hooks, cackling. The charges echoed in her head. Lies, betrayal, deceit. Memories of peaceful murmurings replayed themselves, and briefly, she wondered if she might deserve this after all.
"Corporal Shanala," thundered Heatran. "You are convicted of seditious speech, fraternization with known enemies, leaking secrets to the enemy, conspiring against Lord Giratina, High Treason against the Vulcanite League. You are hereby sentenced to death!" One-by-one, the Vulcanites above and below began to chant their approval, paws stamping against the ground.
Haunted, the Ninetales stared into Heatran's cruel eyes. "You don't know what you're doing," she whispered, silently pleading for mercy that would not come. "Please! Don't do this! I never wanted any of this, any of this to happen..."
"Such is the law of the Wild, the law of the True Master, the Exile!" thundered Heatran. "You swore upon your mother's womb that you would dedicate your flesh and your blood to the Vulcanite League, O hell-hound, O wicked fox; you spit upon your oaths with your betrayals. I have spoken!"
Bombarded by screams for her death, Shanala closed her eyes, allowing the Monferno to chain her to the boulders. All the kind memories were drowned out, all ashes in her mouth, all lost. As she took her place on the precipice, Marrow looked at her sadly. "Forgive me," he whispered. "You shouldn't have to die up here with me."
A few bold voices in the crowd began to cheer. Others looked to each other uneasily, but did not dare speak out. "Long live Lord Giratina, master of the new world!" roared Heatran, stomping a steel foot. "Fire shall scour! Fire shall cleanse! Fire shall scour! Fire shall cleanse!"
"Long live Lord Giratina, master of the new world!" chorused the Vulcanites above and below as the Monferno guards approached the trembling Shanala. "Fire shall scour! Fire shall cleanse! Fire shall scour! Fire shall cleanse!"
The Quilava at the forefront of the crowd gave a cheer, eyes more passionate than the rest, her paws on the rock in front of her as if to climb up and join Heatran. "Yes," shouted Embyr feverishly, her eyes blazing as the crowd below joined in. "Scour! Cleanse! Scour! Cleanse!"
"STOP!" shouted Insyte as he climbed onto the crater rim. At once, gasps rose from the mountain-slopes as heads turned to stare up towards the warrior with flaring silver-blue eyes; Shanala's guards stopping in their tracks. Fiendish joy turned to anger as Embyr stared up at the Flareon, the flames on her back rippling in a high wind. "Don't lay a paw on her!"
Silence descended over the mountain as the sun's rays caught the Flareon's pelt, illuminating the hero against the vast sky like a pillar of fire. "Fire shall claim, fire shall rise; a holy torch at evening rise," recited Marrow, his eyes wide. "Surely this cannot be...!"
Shanala's mouth fell open as Insyte lunged across the crater, clearing the molten chasm, his lion's claws slicing open the Monferno's necks as he landed with a tumble. More gasps rose from the crowd. "What insolence is this?!" snarled Heatran, stomping the ground with a steel foot as Insyte moved in front of the Ninetales. "You dare think to command me, boy? I, the king of the Vulcanites? Of every Pokemon who serves under our banner?!"
Insyte's azure eyes blazed as he spoke, raising his head to meet the Vulcanite tyrant's gaze. "I am the son of Solus and Lunus, and I am the rightful heir to the Vulcanites' throne," declared the Flareon, severing Shanala's and Marrow's chains with his hind claws, his tail rippling in the hot wind. "Heatran! Your reign of oppression is at an end!"
Heatran backed away as Insyte rushed at him, orange paws streaking down towards the supreme general and crashing into the armored quadruped, knocking him back a foot. A steel foot swung over the Flareon's head as they exchanged blows. Snarling, the beast bared his teeth and ran at Insyte, who leapt up onto Heatran's back, clawing at the joints of his foe's legs.
"G-guards!" roared Heatran as he finally bucked the Flareon off, glancing around frantically. "Attack him!" Insyte glanced back as three Charmeleons dropped down from behind, and he whirled around to meet them with bared teeth. Turning, Marrow sprang at Mikhael as Caine nervously backed away, tackling the Infernape to the ground with a snarl.
Down on the slopes, many Vulcanites stared as conflict broke out all around Insyte, the brave Flareon who dared confront the fearsome armored tyrant, the prophecized messiah who had arrived after seven long years. Fear had bound together Heatran's regime, and now all that Heatran had worked towards was unwraveling.
As Heatran supporters rushed up the slopes to join in the battle against Insyte, other Vulcanites overtook them, and the crowd dissolved into a mass of fiery riots. The prisoners on death row found their chains severed by rebelling Vulcanites, and they quickly scattered.
"Watch out!" yelled Shanala from the other side of the platform. Whirling around, Insyte rolled under the charging Heatran, clawing up at his unprotected belly. Never before had he felt such clarity of purpose, so roused to fight. His pelt glowed white-hot as hot streams of fire flowed into his veins, bursting back out and engulfing his enemies with twice the blistering heat.
Suddenly, Embyr lunged at the Flareon, knocking him aside. "You!" shouted the Quilava furiously as they tumbled over each other, tears rolling from her eyes as she clawed at the Flareon whom she once had loved. "Why did you come back?! Why?!"
Insyte gasped as the furious "Because... I loved you," cried Insyte, kicking her away, unable to bring himself to slice her flesh open. "And I still do."
"You never loved me," accused Embyr, slamming a fist into Insyte's gut. "And I never loved you! You were wallowing in self-pity, nothing but a poor, pitiful wreck of a creature-"
"I loved you then and I loved you now," cried Insyte, slamming an Iron tail across the Quilava's head. "And I will do all that I can to bring you back to your senses."
"I did come to my senses!" screamed Embyr, clutching the place where Insyte had struck her. A massive inferno of flames shot out from her back, engulfing her in a fiery vortex. As the flames disappated, revealing her as a Typhlosion, Embyr screamed, "I hate you, Insyte! I hate you! Before you came back, the world was finally on its way to peace! But you, you had to screw everything up! You! I trusted you!"
"No," said Insyte as he scrambled up onto a boulder. "*I* trusted you... and *you* betrayed me." Embyr roared and spat a massive fireball at Insyte, whose fur glowed as it absorbed the flames. The Flareon ducked a swipe from Embyr's claws, rolling around and behind the Typhlosion as she stamped the ground, causing it to tremble and shake.
Insyte barreled into Embyr, knocking her over as rocks tumbled down from the summit and fell all around him. The Flareon quickly pinned her down, his forepaws on her neck. "I trusted you to be honest and decent," said Insyte, his voice wavering. "Someone who wouldn't fall for Giratina's lies..."
Embyr gazed back up at him, her eyes hard. "You won't do it," sneered the Typhlosion. "You're every bit the cowardly weakling that you always were, a pitiful wreck hiding in the shadows. You can't live without me! You were, and always will be, nothing without me!"
Breathing hard, Insyte stared down at the furious Typhlosion, once his warm lover, but now his bitter enemy. If he let Embyr go, she would kill him in her fury, and prove his weakness to the Vulcanites. But if he killed her, he was killing the one who once whispered comfort and love into his ear. He couldn't spare her, and he couldn't execute her; the Flareon could only stare into Embyr's hateful eyes as the battle raged around them.
"I've had enough of you," whispered a voice. The Flareon looked back to see Shanala hobbling towards them, tails dragging in the dirt, eyes still hard. "How can you say these things?" breathed the Ninetales, taking Insyte's place on top of Embyr. "You don't know what Insyte's been through... you don't know how he regretted leaving you. You don't know what it means to have a trainer... all you care about is your war with the world!"
The Flareon stared as the Ninetales bit down on Embyr's neck. Snarling, the Typhlosion kicked and flailed against Shanala, but to no avail. "I'm sorry," whispered Insyte, bowing his head, struggling to contain the brewing storm of emotions inside him. "Goodbye, Embyr."
The Typhlosion gave a weak cry, her features twisting into one last snarl before her head fell back against the stone.as Shanala sank against the Typhlosion's body, silent tears forming in her eyes. "You--you knew more about us than I realized," said Insyte slowly, nud at the Ninetales's flank. "Shanala... just how long have you been watching me?" Breathing hard, Shanala stared at the Flareon fearfully, then quickly turned away.
There was a mighty bellow, and they both whipped around as fire flew from Heatran's mouth and eyes, hurling a Combusken aside. Heatran swiveled its eyes towards the two, opened his mouth, and shot another magma storm at them. Both Shanala's and Insyte's fur flashed brightly as their fur absorbed the thick stream of lava. They opened their mouths and fired two immense fire blasts at Heatran, the two fiery rings hurtling at Heatran. Heatran cackled as its scales too flashed white, absorbing the fire blasts. "Fools," spat Heatran. "Do you think that I could have become the master of Vulcans that I am without Flash Fire?"
He lunged at them, a flash cannon bursting from his mouth. Shanala and Insyte both ducked and rolled under Heatran, Shanala firing a dark pulse at the Vulcanite Master. Insyte leapt onto his foe's back, sinking his fangs into Heatran's spine. Heatran let out a mighty roar, rolling over. Insyte clung to Heatran tightly, the rocky ground digging into his back.
"No pampered prince shall take my title from me," screeched Heatran furiously, finally throwing Insyte off. Insyte landed a few feet away upright on all fours, his sapphire-flame eyes staring intently into Heatran's. Heatran roared and ran at Insyte, who readied his claws with a deep breath, once again diving under the lord, feeling the magma's rhythmic pulse as if it were a heartbeat.
Haunches bristling Insyte backed away as Heatran began to climb the boulders, towering high above him. Then, as the great gargantuan beast sprang down towards the Flareon with his deadly steel jaws, Insyte sprang up high into the air like the rising sun, his mane rippling as golden lion claws slashed up into the monster's belly, his skull slamming into Heatran's abdomen.
Heatran's eyes widened in horror as his seemingly impenetrable ribcage buckled and folded before the force of Insyte's strike, his massive limbs flailing helplessly in the air until the duo crashed to the ground. Heatran fell back onto his hind legs, struggling to right himself, and then fell onto his back, crashing into the ground with a great cloud of dust. There was a terrible gurgle from Heatran, and then his eyes went dark, his treacherous and greedy soul gone from this world forever.
As Insyte pushed Heatran's massive body towards the deadly precipece behind the crater, the Golbat--which had not stirred once during the battle--gave a shrill screech, spread its wings, and flew off to deliver its report to the Exile.
As Insyte slowly rose to his paws, he padded over to the edge of the precipice to stare down at at the masses below. The Flareon could feel the warmth of the sun's rays dancing upon his face, stronger than ever. "Insyte," whispered Shanala softly, stepping towards Insyte. "Insyte... you did it. You--you freed us...!"
Taking a deep breath, the Flareon lifted his voice to the air. There was an odd sensation as he stared down at the Vulcanites that was oddly satisfying, as if he belonged here, though he had never stood here or addressed so many Pokemon before.
"Warriors of the Vulcanite League," declared the Flareon, his eyes like azure flame. "From this day forth, any alliances we have with Giratina the Exile and his minions are at an end. Too long have we experienced the Exile's double-edged cruelty, his pretentious claims of seeking a pure world. All who have been charged unjustly with treason shall, of course, be exonerated."
The Flareon made a mental note to give them all a chance to prove their loyalties, one way or another, but to hold them at a distance until he grew to trust them. "But at the same time, I will not condemn those of you who supported Heatran in the past. To many of you, he was your leader, whether you agreed with him or not."
Down below, he stared at the former Heatran supporters, scattered along the slopes amongst the ones who supported him. Some of them drew away from the others with scowls, as if every last one of their fellow Vulcanites would slice their throats if given a moment's opportunity. But others, even ones who had heartily joined in on Heatran's festivities, only looked uncomfortable, or even turned around and chanted his name.
At first, he opened his mouth to demand their roundup. But then, Insyte looked at Shanala, his eyes tracing her emaciated ribs; and he knew he could not order that. "Though it pains me to do so, I shall give twenty-four hours for all current supporters of Giratina to vacate," said the Flareon, his eyes narrowing. "I shall presume that anyone who stays, has pledged their loyalty to me, and--" He looked at Shanala. "--and agrees to let their minds be cross-examined."
As he spoke, a shrill cry erupted from deep beneath the volcano, and the entire congregation of Vulcanites gasped. Confused, Insyte glanced around as Ho-Oh's ancient song rang out from the petrified body beneath the mountain. As the final notes played, a shower of blazing feathers rained around the Flareon. The sign was unmistakable: Insyte was the Golden Protector's chosen.
As Giratina supporters fled from the mountain, Insyte took a deep breath and gazed up towards the brilliant sun. He could hear the cheers of the Vulcanites below him applauding the end of Heatran's tyranny. Raising his muzzle, Marrow howled to the sky in joy, the tyrant cast down. "Insyte! Insyte! Insyte!" chanted the Vulcanites.
Insyte looked at the Ninetales, his thoughts turning towards the great responsibility that now lay before him. He held in his paws the control of all the Vulcanites, from the smallest Slugma to the mightiest Magmortar. Up in the sky, Insyte could see the faintly visible spirits of an Espeon and an Umbreon, smiling upon him. He closed his eyes, for at long last, his destiny was fullfilled.