POKEMON - LEGEND OF THE EXILE
Chapter 13: Dispersing Light
Divided by the essences roaming free
The tanuki tribes soon ceased to be
With the being's power now fully spent
Unto the Void it made a final descent
Far away in the Fuego Ironworks, Candice swore under her breath from behind a row of red oil drums, realizing that the Magmortar had seen her. She picked up her Glaceon, Haley, from the floor and ran off. The Magmortar raised its flamethrower-hand and released a long jet of burning napalm. Instantly, oil drums fell over, cracked, and burst.
Their thick, black, gooey contents spilled out across the floor and instantly caught fire. The Magmortar looked at Candice with its smug, fat head, as if it had just done something ingeniously brilliant rather than utterly stupid. Candice swore again. The intense heat from the burning petroleum caused the other oil reserves nearby to catch fire as well- while they were still in their containers.
Oil drums from all around the room began to explode, succumbing to uneven air pressure and more than fifty years' worth of rusted iron. More burning sludge was covering the floor. Magmars, the Magmortars' minions, saw the fires and- like the complete idiots that Candice knew they were- joined in on the torching-fest. The flames spreading faster than if in a dense forest of dead trees and fallen debris.
More magnificent explosions accompanied the oil drums' combustions as the fire reached Giratina's secret reserves of gunpowder. Candice smiled humorlessly, but Haley shrank away from the flames and curled up into a ball in Candice's arms as best as she could. The wooden crates of gunpowder had all lined up along the walls.
If Candice recalled correctly, Alanez Fuego had died in the bombings of Jublife City before he could replace the thirty-year-old iron supports. This building had been weakened by thirty years of rust from the nearby sea. Even a small tremor could bring these walls down, and the entire steelworks--this final remnant of Fuego's dream for a stronger Sinnoh--would be lost.
Gunpowder blazed to life as sizziling oil cascaded over the crates. The roof caved in, collapsing towards Candice and the Magmortar and all of his Magmar minions. Still clutching Haley in her arms, Candice ducked behind a stack of iron beams. "Cover your ears, Haley!" whispered the former gym leader as glass, metal, and wood came crashing down on their heads in a shower of dust and fire.
"Altaria! We need to talk to you!" called Rush as the Pokemon approached the cliff where they'd left Ferricia and the Herald. There was no answer; Shanala and Thalia exchanged glances. "Altaria? Ferricia? Hey! Where are you people? Come on--"
The Swampert stepped around the last boulder to find the precipice deserted and empty. "Great," muttered Rush as the others joined him. "They've flown off. What're we supposed to do now?"
"Don't worry. They didn't run away." Eyes widening, Rush and the others whirled around to see Elias, Lute, Klesr, and Kyria striding down the rocky slope, padding towards them with sharpened blades. "Friends from Lyther's camp. Hello, again."
Not noticing Thalia's frown, Sparktail's eyes lit up as he caught sight of the Sceptile. "Lute, Elias, Klesr!" greeted Rush with a grin, striding over to the three Swordwrit warriors. "Glad to see that you all got out of Sinnoh in one piece. How was your mission?"
"Good to see you guys didn't croak it, either," replied Lute darkly. "Our mission was a failure. Hope we never again face the flak that we did in these past few days." All three warriors looked weary and battered. "Anyway, don't worry about Ferricia. All the Skarmories are gathering on that ridge. And Altaria, she'll be back soon."
An uneasy silence settled over the shore, a cool breeze rolling in from the sea. Rush looked at Lute thoughtfully. "What's the word on Kanto and Johto?" asked the Swampert. "Not the humans. I mean the Pokemon. Where do they all stand on Giratina?"
Lute laughed harshly. "As muddled as ever. Giratina's 'liberation' isn't a new idea. But it's always been popular. Get captured by humans, or get eaten by other Pokemon? Second one sounds better if you're doing the eating, I guess."
Thalia shuddered. "Still, most aren't sure Giratina would improve things, especially once they hear about the labor camps," pointed out Klesr. "The packs are getting uneasy. No humans means less scraps. And less scraps means less prey."
Kyria's eyes narrowed. "Did you pick up a new friend?" asked the Gardevoir, frowning at the Flareon, crouching down to examing him. "I don't recall seeing this one before in Lyther's camp. Where did you find him?"
The others all looked at Insyte. "No, he's a good friend of ours," said Rush. Thalia glanced at Sparktail uncomfortably, while Lyther smiled to himself. "But he'll fight with all the vigor of new blood. You can trust him. And what of your friends?"
Klesr chuckled. "The Manectric, Shock, rejoined his pack near Celadon," said the Scyther. "The Houndoom, Marrow, is preparing to return to Cinnabar to speak with his king." His features hardened. "But even he may not reach Heatran's heart..."
Shanala's eyes narrowed. "Marrow has not left yet?" she said. "Do you know where can I find him? It's important." Blinking, Insyte turned around as the Ninetales stepped toward the Scyther.
Stepping back, Sparktail watched the others' conversations. Rush and Shanala with Klesr, Insyte and Lyther with Lute, Thalia with Kyria. Blinking, he noticed Elias standing off to the side, watching him. "Oh... right!" Taking off Elias's pendant, Sparktail handed it back to him. "Here's your... uh... charm back."
Elias blinked. "You've held onto it all this time?" said the Sceptile with a small smile, making no move to take it. "Well, I suppose it's safer with you than with me, then." The Raichu opened his mouth, but before he could talk about the mission for the Orbs, the Sceptile patted him on the head. "Don't worry. I trust you. Take care, now..."
"Insyte, please come with me," said Shanala. The Flareon blinked as the Ninetales rose to her paws, calm and determined. "I have a feeling Marrow will want to see you."
Silence settled over the others as Shanala and Insyte padded off, listening to the crash of ocean waves on the rocks below. Next to Sparktail, Thalia wove vines into an elegant braid, her paws shiftng and moving across her craft. '"What're you doing?" asked the Raichu, blinking.
The Leafeon showed him what appeared to be a green rope of thin vines, intricate but subtle. "It's called a grass knot," said Thalia, grinning. "I'm making us some bags to help us carry stuff. See?"
She moved along the rope until she reached a bulge where the vine-weave formed a pouch, no smaller than her own tail. The Raichu picked up the Adamant and Lustrous Orbs, then his Light Ball, slipping them into the pouch to test the vine-bag's strength. "These are pretty well made. Thanks!"
The tips of Thalia's ears tinged with pink. "Just glad to be useful," said the Leafeon, her tail rippling happily. Sparktail smiled and lightly poked Thalia's side. Was that what she'd been worrying about?
They were silent for a while again; then Rush spoke up. "Altaria hasn't returned, has she?" said the Swampert, looking at Sparktail and Thalia. "Lute said the Skarmories are gathering on that ridge. Let's see if Ferricia can fly you two home."
The four Pokemon approached the low wooden fence on the edge of the Skarmories' camp, gazing up in wonder at the swooping formations of Skarmories, rising and diving with precision, their wide steel wings slicing through the air. "Ferricia!" called Rush. "We must speak with you!"
Thalia and Sparktail both jumped back as a Skarmory descended towards them--but it was not Ferricia. "Hello, visitor," said the great armored bird, towering over the other Pokemon, folding its wings against its back. "Falchion, at your service. What business have you with the Iron Fleet?"
Though Sparktail and Thalia recoiled from Falchion's gaze, Rush stood firm. "We're looking for a Skarmory named Ferricia," said the Swampert. "She's our friend, and had the same trainer as us."
"Ferricia?" Falchion squinted at Rush. "Ah, of course. Any island-dweller ought to recognize you. Slick Silversky's prized ace. Young Silversky had potential. Might've even followed in Brendan's footsteps one day..." The Skarmory cleared his throat. "In any event, Ferricia is my sister. I assure you, she is fine."
"Really? Can we see her, then?" asked Thalia eagerly. "See, we kinda need her to fly us to Hoenn. I-it's really important...!" Flustered, she trailed off on the last few words, and Sparktail patted her shoulder.
The Skarmory shook his head. "I am sorry, but we are training now," replied Falchion, closing his eyes. "The Iron Fleet has reunited. Some say Suicune will call the Wild Alliance. We must prepare for Giratina..."
Eyes widening, Rush stared as Falchion flew off. "The Wild Alliance?" he whispered, his fists tightening. "But that means summoning all the packs of Kanto and Johto. Surely... such a gathering hasn't happened in centuries..."
On the rocky shore, Insyte stared at the weathered Houndoom, sitting amidst a cluster of fist-sized rocks. "Marrow, sir, I've brought Insyte," said Shanala crisply, approaching the hell-hound. "I'm relieved to see you got past the storm-walls."
Marrow nodded. "And likwise to you," he said calmly. He turned his gaze to the Flareon behind Shanala and frowned. "Ah? But was Insyte not an Umbreon?"
Insyte closed his eyes. "It's true, I was an Umbreon," admitted the Flareon. "But my evolution was a mistake that I've lived with for many years. Solus and Lunus helped me."
The Houndoom's eyes narrowed. "Tread carefully around those two," warned Marrow. "Few who deal with them emerge unscathed." He glanced at Shanala. "By any chance, did Shanala explain who I am?"
Insyte shook his head. "I know nothing of you, in truth," admitted the Flareon. "Are you Shanala's commanding officer in the Vulcanite League?"
"Former officer. Shanala was dishonorably discharged by the higher-ups." A faint gleam flickered in Marrow's eyes. "But indeed. We are Vulcanite, and proudly so, if that name has any pride left."
For centuries, fire-type Pokemon gathered at Cinnabar Island to meet and compete in battle. And when the volcano came under attack, the Vulcanite warriors would join against their attackers. But that was merely history. That was just how the Vulcanites once were. Now...
"He appeared six years ago," said Shanala quietly. "Heatran of Stark Mountain, clad in molten armor. A hunrded opponents in just five days. His record was unmatched, and so he was crowned king."
"King! We have no king," growled Marrow, his eyes smouldering. "The last true king died the year of Red's victory at Indigo Plateau. And the next in line went missing--"
"But Heatran's law is absolute as any king," said Shanala, sighing and looking back at Insyte. "We are no longer free to come and go as we wish. Now, we march as one army. For Heatran, and for Giratina."
A chill ran down Insyte's spine. "Of course, he pretends to honor our legacy," muttered Marrow. "The battle challenge is no longer a test of competitive spirit, but a ruthless trial. He has lifted the ban on death matches--reserving death matches for dissenters, of course."
Insyte stared at them, dismayed. "Why do you accept his rule?" asked the Flareon. "Surely, such a tyrant cannot be tolerated as your leader, not when you were once so free, and now so confined."
"He took the throne with the favor of the old guard," replied Marrow heavily. "Caine... Mikhael... old Hephaestus... and myself. We thought he'd bring glory back to the Vulcanites. It took years before Hephaestus and I saw our mistake--and by then, it was too late."
Insyte frowned. "Even so. It's not as if they embrace Giratina's ideals, right?"
Shanala and Marrow exchanged glances. "Among Vulcanites, domestics are regarded as inferior," said the Houndoom. "When I spoke against Giratina, the Vulcanites punished most of my company. But Shanala was singled out as a domestic, and handed over to Darkrai."
Shanala looked at the ground uncomfortably. "Even so, the Vulcanites have no love for Giratina or Heatran themselves," said the Ninetales quietly. "There was a difference between the Vulcanites and Darkrai's guards. And they never attacked humans in all of Cinnabar's history."
Insyte closed his eyes. "What can I do, then?"
Marrow smiled. "You are a beast of fire now, yet not Vulcanite," said the Houndoom. "Though you were domestic, the Vulcanites shouldn't regard you the same as Shanala. What we ask of you is something only an outsider can do. If you inspire our people to rebel against Heatran, we will no longer fight alongside Giratina."
The Skarmory gazed down from the rocky ledges, her eyes scanning the barren island below. All was rock and stone, cold and unyielding, a world of rock spires and homeless Pokemon wandering in elegant, lifeless beauty. In the pale moonlight, the stones of the Silver Conclave shone like diamonds before Ferricia's gaze, unmoving, gleaming, a world that she had never known, yet a world she knew all too well..
A pebble flew past Ferricia's head. "Hey. You there. Skarmory!" called a voice. Eyes like daggers, the steel avian whirled around around with flashing razor feathers-- and found herself face-to-face with a filthy but grinning Delcatty who wore a violet necherchief where in place of a velvet collar.
"Heh, sorry about that," said the cat, watching as the Skarmory sullenly retracted her feathers. "Just wanted a quick chat with someone, and I noticed you nearby. The name's Delia. What're you doing out here, anyway?"
Ferricia blinked, but held her composure. "This is my assigned post," said the Skarmory with stately calm, turning back to the rocky. "Look at the light of the moon and the stars, glistening off the seas, catching the shadows of the spires. Is it not beautiful?"
"Yeah, sure, but I mean the island, not the ledge," replied Delia, slinking up next to Ferricia, curling up next to the Skarmory lazily. "I mean... look at all these Skarmories flying around here. I've never seen so many of your kind in one place before! Were you all born here or something?"
Ferricia sighed heavily, but held her ground. "I am here, because I have sworn my blood, my beak, my talons, and my bones to the honorable Admiral Ector and his glorious Iron Fleet," said the Skarmory, her wings flat against her body, eyes staring off into the distance. "For centuries, we thought the Iron Fleet was mere myth. But together, we shall fly as one, and shall never be broken again."
Night fell on the Conclave, but they saw no sign of Altaria or Ferricia. Sparktail stared off into the distance as the six Pokemon huddled in a circle around a tiny, smoky campfire, listening to the distant caws of Murkrows in the night overhead, the waves pounding and bursting against the shore.
"All right, let's get down to buisness," said Rush, his stern orange eyes sweeping over the others. "Let's start with what we know: The Iron Fleet is very tight-knit, and Ferricia won't abandon them for the world. Charcoal, please."
Shanala held up a branch and incinerated the tip, reducing half of it to brittle ash-coated embers. "We'll have to split up into two teams," said the Swampert as the Ninetales tossed him the stick. He sketched a rough map of Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn. "Thalia and Sparktail will hunt for the Red and Blue Orbs. Hopefully, their owners aren't home, eh?"
Sparktail remembered staring at ancient artifacts in glass cases, pieces from Champion Steven's private museum. An ancient mural of a cataclysmic war between Groudon and Kyogre, Rayquaza gazing down from the heavens. Perhaps he shouldn't have forced his way into this mission--but there was no turning back now.
Thalia massaged her forehead. "Where should we even start looking?" asked the Leafeon, staring at the map. "After all... the Red and Blue Orbs weren't at Mount Pyre." That was Slick's error. The Orbs were never returned to Mount Pyre after the Sootopolis crisis twelve years ago.
A thoughtful look spread over Rush's features. "Places where their owners would be in close contact. They say Groudon made its den in Mount Chimney, and Kyogre slept in the underwater cavern on Route 128. But those would be too obvious..."
Sparktail stared at the map, his fur crackling. It's lucky the two of us grew up on the coast. Imagine if we couldn't swim.
Rush cleared his throat. "Next team is Insyte and Shanala. You're going to investigate the Vulcanites. If we can cut off Giratina's allies, good. If we get them to change sides, even better." Rush glanced at Shanala. "Marrow's on our side, of course? He helped us once before. If the worst should happen, and we can't save the Vulcanites, will he still fight alongside us?"
Shanala lowered her head. "Marrow looked worn out," said Insyte grimly. "I doubt that he has the power to oust Heatran on his own. And even if he could, he likely has no desire to sacrifice his own people for humanity." The Flareon smiled confidently. This was his chance to demonstrate the change in his heart. "Everything rests on me."
Rush looked troubled. "I suppose we have no other choice," said the Swampert, cracking his knuckles. "Then Lyther, you'll handle reconaissance on the Wild Alliance. We need to see where the wild Pokemon stand on all this."
"Actually, I believe I ought to stay here." Blinking, the others all turned to stare at Lyther. "When Lugia questioned Sparktail and Thalia's abilities, I realized I must question my own abilities as well," said the Lucario solemnly. "So I shall remain here, and defend the Conclave."
"But you're one of us, Lyther," protested Thalia, paws stopping in mid-weave. "You're part of the team, right? Teams should stick together. We can't just drift apart, right?"
Lyther faltered, but only for a moment. "Yes, I was one of Slick's, just as you all were," said the Lucario, crossing his arms. "But I do not think I was ever truly one of you. Just as Ferricia found her true calling in the Iron Fleet, I suspect my true calling is on this island."
"But Lyther, think of how invaluable your skills are," said Insyte, his eyes narrowing. "You have a powerful gift for the Aura. You can see as we cannot. How can you question your potential, with your abilities?"
Lyther gestured around him to the rows of refugees gathered on the hill slopes. "They need me more," said the Lucario. "Yes, I have great potential. But until now, that potential's gone untapped. After all, I was not there at Slick's passing..." He closed his eyes. "Thus, I must put my power to its proper purpose."
Sparktail and Thalia looked at each other uneasily. There was a long, dead silence. "Very well, Lyther," said Rush, sighing. "I shall investigate the Wild Alliance myself."
His eyes passed over them all. "Humanity, Vulcanite, Conclave; the pattern is clear now. Giratina claims to bring liberty, but he brings only terror. Survival of the fittest, rule by fear. We must stop the Exile at any cost. May the Divine Wind watch over us all!"
Without warning, a flash of blood-red lightning slashed across the sky, and a terrible dragon appeared in the heavens. Sparktail's jaw dropped as he saw fierce stormclouds brewed brewing above the cities. Black raindrops fell from the sky as howling gray winds swept through the streets.
He watched as the skyscrapers of the first city shattered and fell, as the pious farmers of the second city were consumed in dark flame, as streets and woodland of the third city were torn apart, as the cathedral of the fourth city was blasted into diamond dust before the world's eyes.
As it left the destroyed ruins of the first four cities in its wake, the storm struck seven more towns who stood between the four great cities, each corrupt in its own unique way, and all were washed away into the night of chaos. Gone was tyranny, gone was bloodshed, gone was terror, but only the foul stench of death in the howling wind.
Cold, gray fog clung to Thalia's fur, sparks crackling and sputtering on Sparktail's cheeks. "Lyther and Ferricia have gone their separate ways," said Rush, staring out to the foggy sea. "It's time that we did likewise."
"I am sorry that I was not there for Slick, in his time of need," said Shanala quietly. "Hopefully, by the end of this war, we'll see each other again." As Rush dove into the sea, Shanala and Insyte padded off, leaving Sparktail and Thalia alone on the misty bluff.
The Raichu stared after the others, not knowing what to say. "Well, I finished your bag," said Thalia cheerfully. "Here!" Sparktail blinked as the Leafeon handed him the vine-satchel from yesterday, still holding the Orbs and his light ball.
At that moment, a distant melodic voice filled the air, quiet but clear, and the duo glanced up to see the Herald descending toward them. "Thalia, Sparktail! I'm back!" called Altaria, little swirls of mist around her wings and feet as she landed. "Ah, but where are the others? Rush, Shanala, Lyther, Insyte..."
It took a few minutes for Sparktail and Thalia to explain the recent events at the Conclave. "So, they're gathering an army," murmured Altaria softly. "How brave. Brave, but foolish." She looked at Sparktail. "But the same could be said of you. Keep Thalia safe, no matter what."
Thalia giggled behind a paw as Sparktail shifted uncomfortably. "It's good to see you back," said the Leafeon, stepping forward and happily nuzzling the Herald. "We thought you flew off or something..."
"But right now, this island is the safest place in these parts," replied the Herald calmly. "You see this silver mist? It conceals this island like a blanket, hiding it from view." She frowned. "Not like the stormwall that surrounds Sinnoh. It is only Lugia's illusion. But at night, it shines like the Orbs at Mount Pyre."
Thalia stoppd in her tracks, and Sparktail glanced at Altaria. Mount Pyre, the shrine that Slick died defending, and for nothing. "A-actually, we need to find the Orbs," said Sparktail awkwardly. "I mean, that's our mission. But we're, uh... not sure where to start looking..."
Altaria smiled. "Funny you should bring that up. I thought Lugia would want to locate the Orbs, if he's opened the Conclave." Sparktail blinked. "While I was away, I contacted several friends in hiding. Based on their information, I have Okaya good idea of where the Orbs are."
Thalia's eyes lit up. "Really? Where?"
"They're still in Hoenn, of course. Giratina cannot take the Orbs too far from the primal energy of Hoenn, or he will have no power over them." Altaria showed them a map tucked under her wing. "The locations of the Red and Blue Orbs are marked on here."
Sparktail's eyes widened. "Then you knew our mission before... well... before we did," said the Raichu, glancing awkwardly at Thalia. "Say, uh... we were just thinking if you could, uh... fly us to Hoenn?"
The Herald chuckled softly. "Of course, my friends," replied Altaria, fluffing out her wings. "The coast of Fallarbor is less than a day's flight from here. We'll leave as soon as you're ready."
Giratina and Darkrai watched as their army flowed into a weakened Celadon City like a powerful and rapid river. Excellent! The humans had gathered for the coming rapture. The stronger the resistance, the greater its crushing. Darkrai was born of incarnate; did they truly believe they would find salvation?
As they stormed into the city, alarms exploded to life and armed soldiers came streaming out of every building. The soldiers assembled in lines along every barricade and vantage point in the city. Giratina watched as its army marched on, and the humans' bullets ricocheted off of the front-line Rhyperiors' armor. This was his army, his warriors, his darkness, his vengeance; and forever it would rage!
Down below in the sewer tunnels which ran beneath Celadon City, the Manectric called Shock scanned the eleven Pokemon gathered around him in formation. Peering into the darkness, his nostrils filled with the revulsion of putrid filth, the electric hound squinted up towards the low steel grate in front of him, ears perked for the impending clash.
"They're coming, sir," said a nearby Wartortle, staring up through the sewer grille, breathing hard as the Manectric stared at him. They could all feel it, the pulse of Giratina's overwhelming hatred, threatening to sweep the hidden patrol into the darkness, ever rising, ever falling...
"Now!" barked the Manectric, striking the ground with a paw. At once, the Wartortle cannonballed up into the air, smashing straight up through the sewer trapdoor, allowing the hinged grate to swing down straight through the broken doorframe, forming a makeshift ramp. The Manectric howled an attack order to the dogs behind him, and the patrol raced up the ramp and out into the sunlight.
They were not alone. Across the city, other patrols too rose up out of the sewers, charging forth into the Exile's troops with chorused war howls. As the patrols of the Wild Alliance rushed into their foes, sinking their fangs into unsuspecting Exile troops' flesh, clawing and burning their way through the soldiers. But it wasn't enough, as the Manectric knew all too well. There were too many soldiers here, too many to fulfill his wish. He would never get to Giratina!
Six shadow blasts shot forth from each of Giratina's golden claws while his red-tipped tentacles lashed out to destroy his enemies. Mewtwo appeared in front of a human barricade. He swung his arm upwards in a gesture of power, and a psychic attack ripped apart the barricade and the soldiers madly firing at him from behind it.
"Destroy this city," screamed Giratina from high above, his tentacles spurring his soldiers onwards against the humans together, launching attacks of fire and lightning upon them. Shadow storms whirled forth from Mismagii and Drifblims as the tanklike figures of Rhyperiors crushed the defenders like blades of grass. Gabite swarming as bullets ricocheted off their scales. One by one, the humans fell back, retreating in horror as Giratina lay waste to Celadon.