LEGEND OF THE EXILE - Volume II: Quest For Light
Chapter 11: A Fire Reborn
Long ago, the world was one in truth
A god born of chaos awoke to its youth
Long enshrined within a sacred wheel
Beasts of lore awoke to bear their seal
Sliding down from the Herald's back, Sparktail's eyes widened as he surveyed the breadth of the Silver Conclave. All around him, the rolling stone slopes were lined with Skarmories and their riders, Pokemon of every type and creed. Shivering, wet, and cold, Sparktail stared numbly towards the infinite backdrop of stormclouds that cloaked the sky in swirling silver mist, the luminous figure of Lugia its only light. But in comparison, that light was impossibly radiant and far-reaching, a stately silver-white-blue glow that lit the surroundings of every Pokemon upon the Conclave.
The majestic white beast spread out its beautiful wings to their fullest, its feathers sleek as dolphin flesh, and rose off into the sky with a cry. Yes- that was Lugia, wasn't it? Was there some sort of system that defined how the legendaries all fit together? Uneasy, Sparktail shook his head slowly as he stared up towards the Silver Summoner- why did he still feel afraid, now that Giratina couldn't touch him?
"Yes?" said Lyther suddenly, looking around his teammates expectantly, as if someone called him- except no one had. Blinking, the Raichu glanced up to the Lucario, raising one eyebrow before exchanging confused looks with Thalia. A glint formed in Lyther's eye. "All right, very funny- now who said my name?" asked the blue-furred warrior suspiciously, crossing his arms. None of them replied.
But Thalia had other thoughts. "This island- it's so dark and cold," said the Leafeon with wide eyes, prodding at the stone ground as she, Insyte, Rush, Shanala, Ferricia, Lyther, and the Herald stood together on the Conclave's black beach. "I... I don't see how this is much of an improvement."
"Perhaps, just as Ferricia's nursery tale claimed, this island was made of tarnished silver," said Shanala dimly, her head and voice low as they padded up the rocky slope towards the cries of refugees scattered across the island. She gestured around the craggy terrain and the washing sea with a paw. "Perhaps... with time, the silver eventually did tarnish beneath these crashing waves and brine, until the island became dark as stone."
A steel cry erupted from Ferricia overhead, a burst of joy that Sparktail had never heard from the Skarmory before and might never hear again. "Rush- Insyte- Sparktail- Shanala- Insyte- Lyther- forgive me," called the Skarmory as she and the Herald rose up into the air, her eyes shining down upon them. "But- I wish to rejoin my brethren... I'm sorry!"
With that, the Skarmory shot off like a silver streak into the distance before Sparktail's widened eyes, towards the masses of airborne armored birds gathering in the sky far above the great island. "I'll watch her- don't worry!" called Altaria as she too flew off after the Skarmory, leaving behind Sparktail and the others on the rising trail.
Sunlight and gray clouds swirled in the vast storm-eye far above the rocky isle as Insyte watched the duo soar off into the sky and out of sight. So, this was the Silver Conclave, this mass of sea and stone, where fates would twine and the soul of darkness would appear to him? Bitterly, the Umbreon felt spite and doubt fill his mind as he gazed up towards the shining hill's peak, his fur bristling. He walked a shadowed path, and he could not understand why his heart pulsed strong with hope as he approached that illuminated mount.
As the group rose up the hill, the Umbreon affixed his burning red eyes to Lyther, and he began to sneer-- then his ears drooped, and he relented. Furious at himself, he lowered his head and sank his teeth into his own leg, relishing the pain in the shadows. Why should he feel guilty over Lyther? Why should he feel anything for any of them? But the Umbreon felt sorrow for his allies, nonetheless, as they approached the hilltop, and he hated himself all the more for it.
He then realized how 'right' the trail felt, the path ahead smooth to Insyte while Thalia, Shanala, Sparktail, Lyther, and even Rush stumbled. It was as if this place had been made for him to walk, as if the others were but his companions on this journey. But no, such thoughts were absurd. The light had never shone upon him, not since his cruel birth, and it would not be kind to him now.
Insyte and the others arrived at the top of the Conclave's highest hill, the ancient rocky isle sprawled out beneath them and a circle of light shining down from the sky overhead. "Welcome to the Silver Conclave, Insyte," called out a pair of mystical voices, stopping the Umbreon dead in his tracks, the others freezing behind him. A chill ran down Insyte's spine as he saw a pair of eyes gleaming and watching from the shadows, eyes that shone and gazed upon him, eyes that had waited for him to come. "Do not fear- we have waited for you for a long time, child. Come forth, Insyte, and step into the circle."
A powerful sense of destiny then swept upon Insyte on that rocky hill, and it made him fearful, for this was not the way that destiny should be, to place him upon a pedastal while others were on the sidelines. A graceful Espeon and an Umbreon stepped out from the shadows, their eyes shining bright. "Who are you, to know my name?" whispered Insyte. A cold numbness, a dry drenching, a silent storm filled the Umbreon as he stared at the two Pokemon.
The shadows of fear filled Insyte even as he stood in the glaring eye of the storm, trapped in a lone column of light that descended from the heavens. Now, in that hideous-yet-radiant light, a gasp escaped from the Umbreon's lips, his eyes wide; for the darkened slopes of the desolate isle and the black waves that crashed upon its shores now shone like silver all around him. And yet in that beauty he saw on the edges of his vision the watching figures of Rush, Shanala, Thalia, Sparktail, and Lyther- and even if their gazes were intended in friendship, the Umbreon only sensed the piercing stare of Jirachi illuminating the sinister darkness in his soul.
The light was wonderful, the light was terrible; the light was comforting, the light was ominous; the light was just, the light was cruel. The sky still churned with clashing light and shadow high overhead as Insyte stood in the very center of Lugia's stone perch, surrounded by his allies as the eyes of destiny confronted him in blue and red. "Come, Insyte," called the Espeon as she and Lunus stood before the uncomprehending Umbreon's vision. "Come forth, for the light awaits you."
The sky was dark and foreboding above the stone hill on which Insyte rose to his paws, every hair flicking in dissension. The Espeon and the Umbreon who had confronted him stood before him now, the Conclave turned to barren stone all around him, devoid of shining life. Insyte bared his teeth at the duo with anger in his snarl, for this did not feel as the earth did, but as midnight dreams felt. "Who are you?" asked Ibsyte to the mysterious duo whose tails waved in conjunction. "What have you done to me? Where am I?!" Beyond the edge of the hill, where he knew his teammates should stand, Insyte saw only the shadows of bitterness.
"I am Solus, priestess of the sunlight," whispered the Espeon. "I am she whose eyes shine with the light of truth."
"And I am Lunus, dweller of moonlight," replied the Umbreon. "I am he whose paws tread the shadows of deception."
Insyte gave them a hateful stare, resenting them for coming to him, for calling him, for all the words they spoke. "I see no reason to speak to me... Rush is a worthy warrior," rasped the Umbreon, turning away from them. "Let me die in peace... it is all I have."
"You walk a shadowed path, dear Insyte," murmured Solus, shaking her head sadly at the furious Umbreon. she and Lunus as calm as ever. "Can you not see the potential buried within your soul? Waiting to be unlocked? Listen, Insyte, close your eyes and listen beyond the shadows of your heart, to the burning flame within you!"
"I don't understand," said Insyte bitterly. "I knew who I was. I needed no consolation of my inner self, not like the weaklings that I have been forced to call teammates. But you have cast doubt where once there was none. You have ruined me."
"Listen to yourself!" countered Lunus with gleaming red eyes, the eyes of a predator that shone as Insyte's could not. "Listen to the words you speak. You know chivalry just as well as you know cruelty. Your heart is filled with a twisted storm of light and shadow, Insyte, and it is slowly destroying you from inside. You cannot walk two trails!"
Fury bubbled up within Insyte like burning geysers of scalding water, breaking the dam of Insyte's mind and came rushing out. "I never wanted any of this!" he shouted. "You have stalked my dreams and turned my pleasure to sorrow." He gazed disdainfully at Solus and Lunus, the golden rings on his body growing dim. "You have led me to question myself as never before... You have destroyed what little strength I have!" Upon the final syllable, the Umbreon was screaming at the duo, and he found himself sobbing uncontrollably before these strangers who had plagued his soul. "WHY?!"
Lunus smiled darkly at the younger Umbreon, a cold smile that hinted of dark crimes far beyond Insyte's knowledge. "You do not fear the darkness- but you should," intoned Lunus. "Darkness is not your way, Insyte- you would not speak at all if it were." Insyte's mind filled with burning fury once more. "No... yours is a much lighter way."
And thus did the Umbreon lift his mouth to the sky, letting out a gasp of mingled anguish and fury and rage, a burning mass of emotions long pressed deep within his soul. Through his haze of tears and rage, Insyte saw the faintest flickers of his teammates all on the edges of his vision, just barely wisping out of sight. All the while, the faintest of melodies began to reverbrate across the grassy plains, deep and moving with sorrowful cadences, keeping in rhythm with the flash of Insyte's rings.
The hill-top in all its grassy and green vibrance did ripple like flam and light and shadow meshed themselves all the more hideously. For the faintest time of a split second, that dark-hearted warrior saw the shadows of his teammates behind and all around him when he turned his head, as if condemning him for all his misdeeds. "Auh! Rush, Thalia, Ferricia, Sparktail, Lyther, Shanala... forgive me!"
Never could he tear his eyes from the stars that gleamed over head, never could he shield his ears from the cold sweet song that wisped o'er the frothing moor- and now Solus was at his side with comforting licks. "Do not fear the powers of truth, young warrior," murmured the Espeon gently as Insyte sobbed uncontrollablby into her fur like a pup. "No! You are only sick at heart, but I hold your medicine. Yes, let your emotions run free, all the emotions you have locked up within you; let the disease flow out, so that I may make you whole again..."
"Listen to the melodies of fate, Insyte," intoned Lunus gently as the other Umbreon shuddered, hiccuped, and lifted his head from Solus' pelt. Never had such a swell of sorrow consumed him before, not eveon on that blackest of nights when his blood turned cold and his heart turned to stone. The older Umbreon's eyes eyes were shininng like eclipsed moons down upon Insyte now, a calmer red to Insyte's burning scarlet gaze. "Listen to he music of the night, Insyte... the stars have watched you from your birth. They know all, see all; can you not hear the words they hold for you?"
Ah, but the darkened soul was weeping now, and his entire body emanated with a pulse of anxiety. "When I was young I hungered for light and flame," whispreed Insyte. "I yearned for power, for chivalry, for justice." But by fire and brimstone, he could not stand to bear the sight of them any longer, to gaze upon these perfect creatures whose gleaming features only rang for him the bells of misery.
Thus he clenched his red-rimmed eyes shut, letting the bitter salty tears squeeze out and sting at his cheeks. "I yearned to be a protector, a warrior... I wanted to be just!" howled the Umbreon to the sky, for at last the hammer of destiny had struck his heart, and he knew the seeds of all his misery now. "But I am none of these things... I am nothing but a twisted, wayward soul, a shadow, a foul thing to be cast aside! Why? Why? Why did I..."
Power glowed on the stones and on the trees, outlining every last feature and every silvery star in the dawning sky, exposing every last corner of the shining world in blinding light and pitch-black shadow. Solus' eyes glowed with pristine light as Insyte stared at her; and from her lips came the plea- "Kurai kokoro o akete kudasai."
All around Insyte, the world trembled, melted as if before invisible flame, blurring and seething into a howling void of light and shadow, until all that he could see was Solus and Lunus. Terrified, the warrior began to tremble as power swept upon him. He screamed as the glowing winds consumed him, lashing at his fur as if to draw from him every last lick of strength, tearing down the walls of shadow he had built up with the divine light that engulfed him, drowning out the rest of the world with its intense purity.
"Insyte!" cried Thalia- but her voice was lost in the howling winds, and Rush held her back as they, Sparktail, and Lyther all stared numbly at the vortex that had consumed the Umbreon whole. Now, alone in the void save for the Espeon and the Umbreon, the battered shadow that called itself Insyte sank to his paws, its body shaking and helpless, eyes filled with regret and fear and rage. His fur began to melt back into his flesh, the color bleeding from his pelt, paws flailing and eyes wide, the darkness bursting out from him in a scream and leaving him weak as a newborn.
His chest shuddering, Insyte stared numbly upon his innocent glowing pelt as the last of the darkness left him, his body covered in soft white fur as clean as a newborn's. For all thoughts and every last word had fled from his very mind, every last strand of black and gold stripped away, leaving him exposed and barren.
With a breathy gasp, the Eevee felt unblemished and pure, filling his lungs with fresh air as never before, aloft in a blinding gale of light that enveloped him, swirling all around him. The divine luminescence filled his youthful vision, his eyes purest silver-blue as light swirled around in a mighty vortex far beneath him where once his paws had met stone.
Now as the rejuvenated Insyte lifted his gaze up from the infinite depths beneath the invisible floor to stare up at Solus and Lunus, he gasped, for their gleaming eyes were fixated upon his, magenta and teal together, their glowing fur set on end with the aura of energy that emanated from their bodies like burning flame, the shadow of Insyte's soul cast aside in the shining wellspring of light. "Come forth, O flame of destiny," chanted Solus and Lunus in unison, sending a hot thrill down Insyte's back. "Let guide the sacred wish of children's dreams, and follow now the trail of hero's pride; cast down your sins and be reborn anew!"
Insyte gasped and stared up into the sky as streaks of golden flame rained down from the heavens upon him, consuming him in a divine inferno. Beyond the void of light, his teammates were retreating nervously, slipping behind rocks as they stared towards their friend. Insyte's body went rigid as holy strength rushed into his flesh, his fur glowing brilliantly with the searing aura on his fur, new muscle tissue knitting into place, his haunches rippling with new might. Thus he tilted his head back and howled to the sky as a burning fervor filled him, sweeping him higher and higher and higher.
With a flash of golden light, the swirling fireball burst into a sweltering wave of heat that made Thalia and Lyther cry out in pain and scorched the ground underpaw, revealing the newly evolved Flareon in all his magnificent glory. "Insyte?!" gasped Shanala, her eyes widening as they stared at the proud warrior that Insyte was now- the noble silver-blue eyes like unearthly flame, the fiery-orange pelt rippling with powerful muscles like cascading magma, the golden-tan fur that adorned Insyte's forehead and throat, his tail licking and flickering and glowing in the dark air like a roaring fire. "Is that you? What's going on?"
Staring numbly down upon his new flesh and new self, now at an utter and complete loss for words, Insyte's heart burned like fire in the hearth, his eyes ablaze with fear and pride at once. Proud and strong, the Flareon unknowingly held his head high even in his confusion, unable to conceive of the sheer power in his muscles. Taking a deep, powerful breath, he lifted his star-blue gaze up from his paws to meet Solus and Lunus, his eyes radiant in gratitude and joy where once there had only been scarlet envy and shadowed bitterness.
But then in the shadows behind Solus and Lunus, amidst the rocks of the high stone hill atop the Silver Conclave, 'twixt churning gray sky and tumultuous dark ocean, the Flareon's eyes caught a sinister movement like black smoke, a pair of blood-red eyes that glowed like coals. "Who are you?" whispered the Flareon as he returned his gaze to Solus and Lunus for the briefest second, the unknown shadow sending a dark chill down his spine.
But the rippling shadow could not, would not reply as it approached Insyte now, its eyes only speaking of murder. "That is he who has experienced great misery," whispered Solus gently. "Gaze into his eyes, little hero. Feel his hatred, his doubt, his longing, his regret. This is he who was tormented and driven to sin. This is he who treaded a shadowed path."
"Do you not recognize him still?" rasped Lunus, shaking his head. "That was you, Insyte. That was the shadow you could have become. Look well upon him, and know the face of your inner demons." A chill ran down the Flareon's spine, for at last, he recognized the cruel gaze before him, the glowing yellow rings upon its fur, the sunken features of misery and angst.
"Flame of Destiny, we have bestowed upon you a body worthy of a hero," spoke Solus, her feline body glowing violet as Lunus glowed indigo, their eyes seeming to penetrate even Insyte's fiery heart. "Now, you must prove that you are worthy to claim that body!"
At once, Rush roared and prepared to spring to Insyte's side, gesturing to the others to do likewise- but Lunus cut him off. "Stop!" ordered the Umbreon as Insyte and his dark self stared at each other in the moonlit battle ring. "This is Insyte's trial- and Insyte must succeed alone, or perish!"
With murder and death burning in its crimson gaze, the dark Insyte bared its teeth at the Flareon, its dark pelt ragged and torn, such that Insyte became painfully aware of his unblemished, rejuvenated pelt. The hero stared back into the spiteful ruby eyes, and saw the echoes of the burdens which had once plagued his soul, all the hatred, envy, malice, vanity, and sin that he had committed.
Behind the pitiful beast gleamed the first rays of dawn, filtering through the cold gray haze on the horizon, and Insyte's shadow was all the more hideous for it. A cold salty breeze swept past the Flareon's fur from the ocean, and it made him tremble. For Insyte now knew that the darkness of his past stood between him and the light of the sun.
Without further ado, the snarling Umbreon lunged at Insyte with outstretched jaws. Stepping aside, the Flareon caught his foe's tail with his teeth hard, his fur rippling and his eyes shining with noble silver flame. Snarling, Dark Insyte twisted around to strike at Insyte's flank, but the warrior swung the Umbreon away at the last moment. The dark beast flew back and hit the ground hard with a howl.
The rings on the Umbreon's haggard fur flashed as he rose to his paws, a wretched and unkempt beast standing against the newfound courage in Insyte's soul. Darkness burst from Dark Insyte's shaking paw, the scarlet eyes filled with the fear of a cornered beast. The Flareon gasped as wicked violet energy smashed into him, sending him stumbling back several feet.
Time came to a standstill for Insyte in that very moment. As the snarling Umbreon sprang at him once more, the Flareon crouched low to the ground, his blue-gray eyes narrowed towards his foe's unprotected belly. Pride, warm burning pride, began to burn within Insyte now, and with the pride came courage to rival a diving hawk's. For as his inner Darkness came crashing down upon him with seething rage, the Flareon leapt up into the air, rising to meet the shadows with his fiery heart, opening his mouth to wash away the night in blinding flame.
Moments later, Insyte hit the ground, landing neatly on all fours. Consumed in fire, a howling, agonized beacon in impossible torment, the darkness was scorched away, a screaming fiend behind him, the angst struck down by bravery, the bitterness swept away by honor.
When the charred Dark Insyte breathed his last and collapsed to the ground, the Flareon stood triumphant, the last one standing in the circle. And as the wind began to blow, sweeping across his magnificent red fur and filling his golden mane, his crown plume and tail rippling like a torch in the night, Insyte gazed up into the darkened skies to the window in the clouds, to the place from which the sun's light shone down upon him.