Chapter 32: Exile's Throne
The Exile reclaims his rightful throne
Cast by the stars to darkness alone
Blazing fury united the world together
Covenant divine now broken forever
Sparktail's eyes blinked open as he found himself lying at the bottom of a great ravine, streaked with red and black. Quivering as he felt for the hilt of the sword on his back, the Raichu slowly rose to his feet as a flash of violet lightning split the heavens.
Overhead, he saw clashing streaks of azure order and crimson chaos, two skies of two worlds. The souls of the dead swirled around the ravine, past and present, hailing from frosty Sinnoh to the tropics of Hoenn. Among them, he saw the Skarmories of the Iron Fleet, the proud Rhyperiors of Giratina's ranks, the fallen servants of Rayquaza.
The ground was etched with the eight-piece diamond, marking the Exile's arena. There were four crystals embedded in the ravine's walls, each marked with the three rings and chains of Giratina's crest.
Sparktail's eyes widened as he recognized the figure trapped in one crystal. Jirachi! And in the other crystals lay Mew, Celebi, and Shaymin, captive and powerless. Eyes cracking open, Jirachi stared at the Raichu, weakly pressing his face against the thin crystal wall, yearning for escape.
But he could not help them. The ominous shadow was waiting for on the other side of the arena, his body cloaked in a blood-red aura.And yet, if that was Giratina, wondered the warrior as he stared, why did the Exile look so human now?
"Fate is merciless, Raichu," said the Exile, his voice shifting from ice to fire, the bone-chilling whisper becoming a growl of writhing, pure hatred. "To think that one like you would dare to raise Aluxiver's sword against me! Do you think yourself a champion, Sparktail?"
The Raichu stared at the Exile. Cloaked in pitch-black, the figure wore a golden helm with a crescent-moon crest, the back of its balded head gray as rotting flesh. Sparktail's heart skipped a beat as he saw the shriveled charm hanging from Giratina's neck. The Griseous Orb. "How do you know my name...?"
Claws curled into a fist. "Do you still not recognize me?" snarled the Exile, whirling around, sending Sparktail leaping back in alarm. "You think this is an ancient feud still? No. This body burns with fresh hatred. Fresh as an infant's blood."
Giratina, feral and monstrous. And yet, the terrible creature standing before Sparktail had the shape of a human. Beneath layers of churning shadow, the beast wore gray rags over gray flesh, striped with crimson, and the golden claw-like fingers on his hands were jagged, filthy wit hage.
Stripes of dirt-black scales snaked up and around his otherwise barren arms and legs, and golden horns jutted out from the shoulders of his cloak. Within the golden war helm upon its features, a pair of hateful red eyes glinted out from beneath the crescent-moon crest, and a faint rasping breath came from the creature's mouth like a wild beast.
His feet were like a dragon's, gray hide ringed with gold. Six black tentacles extended from the Exile's cloak with crimson tips like pulsating stingers. Beneath the cloak-cape were the tattered rags of a thick motheaten jacket, ragged jeans, and a badly decayed shirt which lay slashed down the middle.
The Exile's cloak was a mass of writhing indiscernable chaos. A shriveled, glowing charm like dull ivory hung from his neck on a black cord that was knotted like flesh. The Griseous Orb began to warp and elongate, forming a twisted, jagged sword in the Exile's gold-clawed hand.
The creature's face was horrifyingly familiar to Sparktail. It was a face that had haunted his darkest nightmares, a face that filled Sparktail with untold regret and sorrow. It was a face that had given orders in battle, that had spoken to Sparktail of eternal friendship. It was a face which told him to run and survive as its life ebbed away, who tried to tell of the bond between him and Sparktail in its dying moments. But most of all, it was the face of the enemy who had brought the world to the verge of destruction.
"Well? Is this how you greet your master after this long?" whispered Aurton Silversky, flourishing the shadowed sword in his claws, his eyes a violent, bloody red, his voice sending chills down the Raichu's spine. "Truly.. can you, the weakest of mine, should wield such a sword against me?"
"Slick...?" breathed Sparktail, his blood turning to ice. There was no mistaking this face. This was Slick, this was his Trainer. This was the man born Aurton Silversky. The Raichu felt his heart rising in his throat as he stared as he stared at the rotting features of his old friend. "No, no, no--this must be a trick--"
"Look at what humans have done to you," said Aurton bitterly, and he pointed his cursed sword directly at Sparktail's neck. "Human beings are despicable creatures. They're a plague upon this world. And they've poisoned your mind! You think thatyou only deceit can cause pain? That the truth can never burn?"
Baring his teeth, the Exile clawed open his tattered gray rags to reveal a thin diamond-shaped scar upon his dark-gray flesh, almost as if he had been impaled... in the very place where Slick had been stabbed to death at Mount Pyre. "Look at me, Sparktail," he spat. "Look at me, and tell me you don't know me!"
"Slick!" screamed the Raichu, his mind going into deadlock. Giratina... Slick was Giratina... and Giratina... was Slick. He stared uncomprehendingly upon the Exile, the hellbirthed enemy that was once his friend. "No! No! No! You were Giratina all along?! Why, Slick?! How could you do this? To us? To your friends? To the world?!"
"I've brought freedom in the guise of revolution," snarled Slick, his voice a crude shadow of his human self, his tentacles thrashing against the crystal stage floor. "I was once a renowned individual, a person who could be loved and trusted, a friend amongst friends." His voice dropped to a hateful snarl.
"But then I found fame, and the world turned upon me! At once, I became a target; despised, not loved, for my accomplishments! I found myself surrounded with more enemies than I ever believed. I tried to turn back, to mend the bonds I never wanted to break, for I foolishly believed friendship was greater than honor. But I quickly lost them all!"
"I turned to the only friends I had, the friends I knew from the very beginning," continued Slick. "You! You, Thalia, Rush, Insyte, Lyther, Shanala, Ferricia, and all the rest... but you abandoned me too! I believed that I would survive, so long as I could trust you." He raised a golden-clawed finger towards Sparktail accusingly. "But you broke my trust! You were my friends, and I protected you; but you did not protect me!"
Speechless, Sparktail stared at Aurton Silversky, tears running down his cheeks. Memories of the terrible day when Sootopolis City fell and Slick lay dying flashed before his mind as the Exile confronted him with the voice of his fears, the accusation that he had dreaded for so long. He'd tried to protect Slick, and he'd failed...
Slick clenched his hands into fists, his eyes narrowing to scarlet slits. "Take pride, Sparktail, for this is your doing!" spat the Exile. "For you, I became a champion. For you, I gave up human friends. For you, I fought to protect Hoenn. For you, I died in fallacy. For you, I lost all that defined me as human!"
"If not for you, I would still live. You killed me, all of you... and you left me with nothing. As I lay imprisoned in the world of death, stripped of humanity, reduced to a feral beast... I swore that one day, I would set things right. I would wipe out humanity forever, and bring an end to the evils of mankind once and for all."
Slick jabbed his sword towards the stunned Sparktail. "And now, you stand in my way again, Sparktail!" roared Aurton furiously, his crimson eyes burning with rage. "But you cannot stop the inevitable, for nature shall be purged of its disease. Yet still you stand in the defense of the very animals who scorn us, who hate us, who despise us. But that shall end here, in this forge of malice, this twisted passage of the dead."
"I don't understand," whispered Sparktail, clutching his sword tightly. Heart-pumping adrenaline filled his veins as he stared into the crimson eyes of the enemy who was once friend and master. "Look at what you're doing... it's not right!"
"That's not for you to decide!" snarled Slick as he sprang at the Raichu, slashing down with his cursed blade. Sparktail quickly leapt to one side and slashed at his enemy, tearing at Aurton's cloak. Slick whipped around and struck at Sparktail, who jumped back and fired a thunderbolt from his left palm.
As Slick's tentacles lashed out, Sparktail leapt at Slick, slashing and barely missing the Exile's neck. Slick hastily ducked and slashed at Sparktail's heel as his foe landed on the ground, a growl rising in his throat. Sparktail leapt over Slick's blade, bringing up his sword to deflect Slick's lashing tentacles.He leapt back and shot an small jolt at Slick, who leapt aside and shot a dragon pulse at him.
Sparktail spun around to face Slick, and slashed at his left leg while his iron tail struck at the right. Slick snarled and struck with golden claws at Sparktail, who darted back and struck the Exile with a shock wave. Hissing as the sparks crackled across his dead chest, he brutally smashed a golden-scaled fist into Sparktail's torso, causing the mouse to double over with a pained cry.
A roar emanated from the beast's throat as he thrust at the air, causing the earth to flare up from him towards Sparktail. Sparktail leapt aside and lunged at Slick, his sword whistling through the air. Slick parried Sparktail's strike, his own sword forcing Sparktail's blade down like an axe.
Sparktail leapt back and swung his sword around to deflect each of the shadow balls hurtling towards him from Slick's six tentacles with the flat of his blade. The shadow balls immediately shot backwards and struck each of the red spikes from which they came, and a shriek of agony erupted from Slick's throat. His body flashed with light as a wave of shadowed energy erupted from him in a wide arc.
Sparktail darted around Slick to avoid the sweeping dark pulse and slashed across the back of his cloak, only for the bright sword to rebound off the cape as if it were woven of steel mesh. Slick gave an enraged roar as he whipped around, a shadow claw slashing at Sparktail. Sparktail yelped in pain and struck out again as the phantom claws ripped at his white-furred chest fur, staining it red, his blade connecting with a gray-fleshed arm. Dark blood was drawn, and the Exile howled and clasped his filthy claws to the gash on his arm, blackened blood against pale-gray fingers.
With vicious bloodlust in his eyes and darkness seeping from his wound, Slick slashed down at Sparktail, who ducked to the ground and rolled aside, Slick's blade striking the stones only inches away from him. He leapt to one side as Slick shot a shadow blast at the Raichu, smashing into a pillar and shattering it. Sparktail slashed at Slick, a clang running up his blade as it collided with his enemy's sword. They slashed and hacked at each other, matching each other in perfect timing, their blades slicing through the air and parrying each other strikes.
Then Sparktail lunged at Slick again with his sword raised high, the Exile gave a malicious grin and vanished. Skidding to a halt as Aurton reappeared behind him, the alarmed Raichu hastily whirled around to face his foe, only for Slick to shadow-blast Sparktail in the torso, violently blasting him off his feet to land flat on his back, wresting the weapon of light from his fingers as the jarring impact knocked the wind from his lungs. Gasping for breath as Aurton Silversky approached the Raichu with a malicious smile upon his abhorrent features, pointing his cruel sword at Sparktail's neck.
"Now, let death fall like bloody rain," murmured the Exile, his cruel eyes gleaming red like rubies as he caught sight of the weapon of light. "That blade! You thought to kill me with that, poisoned by light as you are?" He stretched out his free hand, spreading his foul yellow claws to the sky, Sparktail's jugular vein throbbing inches from the tip of Slick's blade. "Foolish rat--what lies have Lugia told you? I have survived fire and brimstone."
Crimson lightning split the sky overhead. The face staring down at the Raichu had lost all traces of his former trainer. "The Griseous Orb was a fragment of chaos," whispered Aurton, his cape and tentacles rippling as he set the tip of the sword to the Raichu's copper-furred throat. The Virtues on the walls glowed with light, and the entire ravine shuddered, but the Exile paid it no attention. "What will happen when this blade severs your soul? May you know my agony, Sparktail."
The Virtues flashed white, and the ravine rocked again. The warrior's blood chilled as he watched the distorted, tainted figure of his former trainer whose eyes glowed with murder, the blood from his arm wound evaporating into foul violet mist as the flesh rapidly reknitted itself into scar tissue in seconds, the rip vanishing from the sleeve of the cloak. "Death has freed me from human stain. And now, I free you of yours."
Images flashed before Sparktail's mind as he stared speechlessly up towards Aurton Silversky's cruel eyes, memories of Thalia flashing. He'd wanted to be there to protect Thalia from Giratina so badly, but he couldn't even protect himself. In the ghosts roaming the torn skies, he thought he could pick out Ferricia from among the Iron Fleet's ranks, slowly descending toward him--
His eyes widened. No, he wasn't imagining it. A body of fading light, armored wings swooping down toward him, eyes calm and loyal. "Ska-reeeeeeeee!" screeched Ferricia as she crashed headfirst into Aurton Silversky, knocking the Exile off his feet and away from Sparktail.
Steel-plated talons struck Slick's hand as they tumbled back, knocking the blade from his hand, the sword shrinking back into its original form. Leaping up, Sparktail snatched the Griseous Orb and his own sword, then glanced back up to his savior. "Ferricia?!" gasped the Raichu as Ferricia's ghost sank her steel beak and razor wings into Slick's dark-gray flesh, staring in disbelief.
"Sparktail! Get on!" shouted Ferricia as she barrel-rolled out of Aurton's reach before his tentacles could strike her, veering back around towards Sparktail. Clutching the charm tight, the Raichu sheathed his sword and frantically climbed onto Ferricia's back. Light flooded from the Virtues, shredding through the walls of the ravine.
With Sparktail clinging tight to her neck, the Skarmory swooped up and away from the ravine, toward the mouth of the Void. "Traitor!" screamed Aurton Silversky as the ravine collapsed into a howling vortex, the passage of the dead regaining its original shape. "You wretched, two-faced friend! Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!"
Thalia's eyes widened as Sparktail rose up from the Void on Ferricia's back, his eyes gaunt and dull as the phantom Skarmory landed before them and the Raichu slid down from his old friend's back. Behind Thalia, Lute stared at Ferricia in disbelief.
"Sparktail! And is that--Ferricia-?!" gasped Thalia, her eyes wide with surprise as she hurried over to Sparktail, who panted heavily with exhaustion as he leaned against Ferricia. "Sparktail, are you okay? What happened?"
"Thalia," crooned Ferricia gently, a wing reaching out to brush Thalia gently, her steel feathers glowing like dust in a sunlit window, strong yet fragile like glass. "I... I never thought I'd see you again..."
"I don't understand," breathed Thalia, her heart pounding. "Didn't you die... back at the Conclave..." She stared around the Distortion World, and her eyes filled with alarm. "That's right... the passage of the dead--"
"Yes, Thalia, my body was slain," replied the Skarmory, extending her wings. "But my soul has not passed on yet. For the Exile constricted the passage of the dead to create the Void." She lowered her head to Sparktail and Thalia, trembling. "I soar with Yveltal and the Final Flock now, my friends."
After a few more deep breaths, Sparktail's eyes refocused on Thalia's fearful gaze. "Hey, I made it out," murmured the Raichu weakly, hugging the Leafeon, who held him close with a tearful smile. Then, Sparktail's features darkened again. "I... I've got some explaining to do. But it'll have to wait."
He faltered as he looked at Lute. "Lute... Ferricia... th-thanks for saving us," said the Raichu heavily as Thalia padded to his side. Staring at the Griseous Orb in his paw, he looked at Ferricia. "I... I wish I could've done the same for you. If... if only--"
The ring-arena lurched, and Giratina's roar erupted from the World Abyss, gradually gaining volume. The passage of the dead was overflowing with the light of the Virtues, pink and green and gold and white. "Ferricia," cried Thalia, her voice trembling as she, Sparktail, and Lute climbed onto the glowing Skarmory's back. "Please, come back with us. Don't leave us again--"
All around them, the rifts between worlds began to close as the Void collapsed, its fearsome aura dissipating. "I cannot return," said the ghost Skarmory as she shot up into the air, carrying them away from Giratina. "I truly wish I could follow you back, my friends, and fight alongside you. But the passage of the dead lies open once more. Soon, I must fly into the next life."
As Thalia buried her face in Sparktail's fur, Sparktail glanced down toward the ring arena, toward Aurton Silversky, toward the dragon whose eyes seethed with hatred. Up ahead, Ferricia was approaching a sky-blue rift to the outside world, the Exile rushing toward them. "Farewell, my friends," called the Skarmory, her eyes filled with glowing tears as she flew into the time-space wound. "Tell my brother Falchion I love him..."
The Skarmory's ghost vanished as Sparktail, Thalia, and Lute tumbled out from the closing rift, back onto the bloody battlefield of Route 23. As Sparktail and his allies lay in a jumbled heap, he lifted his head to see the Exile's furious eyes, burning deep into his memory. "You will die, Sparktail!" screamed Giratina as the time-space rift was sealed. "You WILL DIE!"
END OF VOLUME III