POKEMON - LEGEND OF THE EXILE
Chapter 17: The Avenging Wind
Dragon of the majestic skies that swirl high above
In sacred heavens we find the shining light of love
With wings of hope, we soar on dreams and survive
From the breath of the winds we draw fresh new life
Sparktail clutched the Light Ball tightly in his paws as the Herald passed through thick, howling clouds, invisible to the meteor storms burning across the skies. "So... that's where Rayquaza lives," whispered Thalia as the rolling ocean flew by far beneath Altaria's wings.
In the distance, an ancient tower rose up from the sea, its weathered yet sturdy walls reaching far into the sky high above them. Its stones were worn by time and the battering of waves and wind, a proud, upright spire reaching into the heavens above the world, gazing across the isles of Hoenn.
Here stood a structure of such indomitable construction that the most violent of gales could not shake it from its foundation. This was the Sky Pillar, an eternal tower that was testament to the divine rule of the heavens, home of the Divine Wind, Rayquaza.
"It's so large and old," exclaimed Thalia, echoing Sparktail’s thoughts. "Surely it should have collapsed long ago...?"
"The divine wind are far stronger than you know, my friend," replied the Herald, her wings beating with perfect rhythm as they rose toward the Sky Pillar’s spire. "Here stands a tower to transcend even time and space itself. Thank the stars that you shall not have to climb every step."
Emerging from the highest clouds, Altaria the Herald landed on the tower’s roof, its tiles worn smooth by wind and time. At the foot of a great stairway, Altaria folded her cloudlike wings flat against her body and allowed her two riders to dismount.
Sparktail took a deep breath. He could make out traces of faded runes on the pavement, symbols that were ancient even in his time. He and Thalia exchanged nervous glances. Had this tower stood even before their era?
On the upper deck lay the serpent-dragon of the lost balance, resting amidst the fallen marble in feverish coils. His scales were blackened by miasma, the gold markings on his body a crimson red. The spire was an rectangular stage bordered by remnants of ancient statues and stone columns, strewn with rubble and the dust of untold eons.
A jet-black stone altar stood at the tower's edge, a crystal sphere of vibrant green gleaming against the sky. Sparktail stared at the Delta Orb in shock, memories of Mount Pyre flashing before him.
"Right! Let's do this," said Thalia with a tiny, awkward smile. The Raichu glanced up as the Leafeon started up the stone steps, leaves struggling against the wind's might. A sudden gust, and her paws slipped. "Ah!"
Sighing, Sparktail ran forward to steady Thalia with a paw. The Leafeon smiled gratefully. "Don't know what I'd do without you, hehe." Holding onto each other for balance, Sparktail and Thalia continued up the steps together.The wind buffeted them from all sides, the push of sweeping walls of air that howled past their ears and through their fur.
As the duo approached Rayquaza and the black altar, lightning suddenly slashed across the sky with an explosion of thunder. At once, the Herald dove to cover Sparktail and Thalia with her soft wings, trembling.
Glancing up, Sparktail exchanged glances with Thalia, relieved that they shared the same anxiety.
Rayquaza's eye cracked open. Alarmed, Sparktail glanced up to see the the Sky Serpent stirring, uncoiling, rising into the air. "Infidels of the world below," snarled the ancient dragon, his blackened scales like tar, blood-red eyes filled with rage . "This shrine shall not be defiled by the likes of you! THIS HALLOWED TOWER WAS NOT BUILT THAT EARTHLY MORTALS SHOULD DESCRATE IT!"
"Rayquaza," cried Altaria the Herald, rising up into the air towards the Sky Serpent with tearing eyes, her voice shrill and desperate. "Please! Come to your senses! Rayquaza, my lord... my mate's slayer..." She closed her eyes. "My father!"
"What? Altaria, you're Rayquaza's child?" gasped Thalia. Sparktail stared at Altaria, his mind whirling. He remembered the Herald's sorrow and vehemence, after they pacified Kyogre. Her insistence that Rayquaza must die. Altaria had known, all this time, that she miust fight her ownilling to kill her own father?
"Yes, Thalia, this fallen dragon is my sire," cried Altaria, darting around Rayquaza as he dove toward her. "The Sky Serpent, who should protect everything. Who couldn't protect his own people, nor his child, nor himself!"
"SILENCE! You have brought two servants of men to this sanctuary," snarled Rayquaza, hurtling back down, lunging at his daughter with open jaws. "To choose humanity over Pokemon is folly. You are but a TRAITOR IN HEAVEN'S EYES!"
Sparktail and Thalia stared helplessly as the two dragons clashed, exchanging clawstrikes and blasts of light and streams of cobalt flame. "We've gotta do something, " said Thalia desperately.
"There's only one thing you can do! Take the Orb!" called Altaria as she dove low to the spire to evade a dragonbreath flare from Rayquaza's maw. "Take the Orb that your master died for, that cast my father into madness!"
She swooped back up towards the corrupted Rayquaza, releasing a pulse of draconic energy at Rayquaza.
Sparktail flinched as Altaia barrel-rolled to dodge a burst of lightning. "She's right, Thalia," said the Raichu, staring at the Delta Orb's altar, breathing rapidly. All this happened because Slick couldn't protect Mt. Pyre... no, because they couldn't protect Slick! He "Let's get to the Orb... that's the only way we can fix all of this!" He darted off toward the altar, with Thalia hurrying after him.
Before the two had gotten halfway to the Orb, however, Rayquaza shot down like a bullet from the sky to smash vehemently into the floor, hurtling both Sparktail and Thalia off their paws with a violent tremor. "THE CORRUPTION OF THE WORLD SHALL NOT CLAIM MY SOUL," screamed Rayquaza as the Raichu hit the with the stone surface, his roars drowning out Sparktail's cries of pain as he rose up into the sky once more.
Dust and flecks of debris clung to Sparktail's body, every part of his flesh crying out in pain. Wiping rock dust from his eyes, he glanced across the rubble-strewn floor to Thalia as the unnerved Leafeon stumbled towards him.
"Hold still," gasped Thalia as she placed a paw upon Sparktail's cream chest fur. Vibrant green glow energy flowed from her leaves and into Sparktail's veins, soothing his injuries. Letting out relieved sighs, Sparktail and Thalia continued towards the Orb upon its pedestal, hearts pounding with fear as the Sky Serpent thrashed about in the heavens above them with Altaria.
"STAND DOWN, BELLY-CRAWLING MORTALS!" screamed Rayquaza, arcing straight back down towards the floor to lunge directly at the Raichu and the Leafeon like a speeding train. Gasping, Sparktail and Thalia skidded to a halt and dove out of the way in opposite directions as the ancient dragon bashed its tail against the spire to leave a deep depression in the stone platfomr that extended across the floor.
Arcing around, Rayquaza shot at Sparktail with outstretched claws, giving a cruel grin to reveal a set of serrated yellow-stained fangs. Gulping, Sparktail fled from Rayquaza's colossal sweeping streams of dragonflame, his paws pounding hot and heavy. "SERVANTS OF THE SKY, HEED MY AID!"
With Rayquqza's flames licking at his tail, the Raichu's eyes widened in fear as Vibravas and Dragonairs suddenly streaked down from the heavens with, all lunging at him and Thalia. He frantically ducked and rolled aside again and again to dodge vicious lightning bolts and destructive bursts of flame that blasted apart the spire floor underpaw, with the shrieking voice of Rayquaza hot on his heels all the while.
"YOU DARE PERSIST, WHEN YOU HAVE TRANSGRESSED AGAINST THE HEAVENS?" screamed the great dragon as he suddenly shot forward with blindingly extreme speed and grabbed Sparktail by the tail, wresting his paws from the ground and snatching him up into the air in the blink of an eye.
Streaking around with the lightning mouse in his clutches in an wide arc, Rayquaza swung the yelling Sparktail around by the tail several times before bringing the screaming Raichu crashing down against the floor with a jarring impact.
Letting an aghast cry as Sparktail collided with the floor again, Thalia sprang at Rayquaza with Leaf Blades in the outstretched vines extending from her back, bringing both blades slashing down at the ancient dragon's coils- only for both of her weapons to crumple against the beast's impenetratable green scales.
Brutally smacking the Leafeon to the ground with a vicious blow, Rayquaza glanced up and rocketed straight at Altaria in a blinding, slashing fury. Desperately crawling out from the other dragons' vicious attacks, Sparktail weakly stumbled away on all fours, his rasping breath growing hoarse and his body throbbing with pain, his senses rattled and unfocused in the chaotic haze of the dragon horde bearing down upon him and Thalia.
A golden energy blast exploded from Rayquaza's mouth and struck the floor with a tremor that rocked the entire spire once more, sending Sparktail tumbling back into the dust. "DO YOU YET EMBRACE PENANCE?" bellowed Rayquaza as he shot down to the spire floor in fury, his gaze staring deep into the Raichu's jade eyes as he grasped Sparktail by the neck and lifted him up into the air. "Or is there ONE LAST SPARK OF DEFIANCE LEFT TO SMOTHER?!"
The world dimmed and flickered around the weary Sparktail as the legendary being's claws tightened around his throat. He desperately flailed his hind legs htrough the air in a futile attempt to struggle free, his lightning-bolt tail thrashing furiously through the air. Was this the end for him, the final moment before he joined Slick?
Four months of life had been granted to him that his trainer waa denied, four months of regret and despair. He stared at Rayquaza's terrifying features, flickering with the gleam of Death's cold gates. Was this the end of suffering, or the beginning of new terror?
"Sparktail!" shrieked Thalia, jolting the Raichu back to his senses.
Without thinking, the Raichu's tail wrapped around Rayquaza's arm and released a burst of compressed electricity. The fierce grip released him, letting him tumble back down to the floor. Massaging his throat, Sparktail opened his eyes to see Thalia rolling aside to shoot a burst of razor leaves at Rayquaza's eyes before a whirlwind knocked her aside.
A memory came to Sparktail. "Light shines from the tiniest cracks," Jirachi had said "Go to Hoenn, if you two so desire.Perhaps then, we shall see your true potential." Gasping, the Raichu got to his paws, cringing in pain. Rush, Insyte, and Lyther had been trusted to carry on Slick's fight. What did the legendaries see in them?
Then, he remembered another voice, a voice from deep within the sea. "Groudon and I shall aid you in this endeavor, but if and only if we can truly turn back the tide," Kyogre had said. But neither the azure Leviathan nor the crimson Behemoth had joined the fight. Where was the promised help?
If and only they could turn back the tide...
A shrill cry pierced the air as Rayquaza raked vicious dragon claws across Thalia's flank, sending chills down Sparktail's spine. The wounded Leafeon stumbled back, dust sticking to her bloody fur. A swell of fury crackled in Sparktail's veins, blotting out his own pain. "THALIA!" Blood pounding, Sparktail raced forward as Dragonairs swarmed Thalia.
Sliding in front of the Leafeon, Sparktail lunged at the Dragonairs with paws and tail, releasing a burst of lightning from his cheeks. Their sleek scales repelled most of his electricity, but the Raichu kept up his attacks, striking them across the neck and between the eyes,
Overhead, Altaria shrieked as Rayquaza's tail collided with her. Flailing in midair, the Herald spiraled down unsteadily through the air as Vibravas surrounded her.
Several more Vibravas landed as Dragonairs collapsed around Sparktail. Light flowed from Thalia's leaves again, the gashes on her flank closing on the surface "Thanks," hissed Thalia, her breath ragged. Her paws pressed against Sparktail's back, soothing his injuries as well. "I'll... take it from here."
Nodding, Sparktail raised his tail like a sword, and broke into a sprint toward Rayquaza. The Raichu barely noticed the rubble digging into his pads, his hind paws beating rapidly against the floor.
"Monsters! Tainted by human hands!" hissed the dragon furiously as he rounded upon Sparktail, his tail flapping wildly in the tumoltuous gale that engulfed the spire. "Even now, you cling to t!" Sparktail dropped low to the floor as Rayquaza lunged with open jaws for his him.
Rolling aside as a fireball of dragonflame smashed down into the ground where he had landed moments ago, the Raichu quickly shot a thunderbolt at the beast's midsection before dodging another claw-swipe. With a savage roar, Rayquaza whipped around and flew at Sparktail with all the power of a raging cyclone.
Twirling his long whiplike tail lenght like a lasso, the Raichu sprang aside and flung his lightning-bolt tail at the dragon to rapidly coil it around the dragon's body several times.
Wincing in pain as Rayquaza rocketed up into the sky, Sparktail struggled to climb up his tail and fought his way onto the beast's back, not daring to unravel his tail when his paws at last met the serpent-like scales, crouching on Rayquaza's body between two red-rimmed ridges. Grabbing hold of Rayquaza's horns, he released a flash of electricity into Rayquaza's body.
He clung to the dragon's back for dear life as the Sky Serpent furiously rose and dove through the air, rapidly swerving around at sharp angles and whirling around in dizzying circles in an attempt to shake the lightning mouse's grip. Without thinking, the Raichu released another shock into the dragon's body as Rayquaza swooped low to the spire floor.
Unraveling his aching tail, Sparktail sprang down from Rayquaza and tumbled across the floor, every part of his body groaning with fatigue, staring as the great dragon shook off the effects of the lightning to continue its rampage. Thalia was still injured, and Altaria was down. Slick would be disappointed in him if he didn't get up again...
A mighty roar shook the tower like Slowly sitting up, Sparktail held up a paw to shield his eyes from a steadily intensifying sun, the tower beginning to rock beneath his feet steadily as Groudon climbed up onto the rooftop. At the same time, sheets of icy rain began to pour down from the sky, the raindrops evaporating into steam in the fierce sunlight as Kyogre lunged up from the sea below, soaring above the spire.
Slowly, Sparktail got to his paws, breathing heavily. The Raichu's heart skipped a beat as his eyes fell on Thalia's wounded form, his own fatigue forgotten again. "Hey, you all right?" called Sparktail frantically, scrambling over rubble and dust as his friend limped toward him.
Her breath shaky, the Leafeon pressed a nut-brown paw to her fresh wounds, which slowly closed in the vibrant green glow of synthesis. "I'll live," breathed Thalia. She smiled weakly, eyeing the bloodstains on her fur. "But... I could use a break..."
"Monsters of Aether, who wage endless war!" roared Rayquaza as his golden eyes fell upon Kyogre and Groudon, who exchanged grim stares and rose up into the air towards the ancient dragon. "You laid utter waste to the world below, and you dare to think you may unleash your chaos upon the heavens as well?!"
"Rayquaza, Serpent of the Sky, even we are forced to make a truce in these times," growled Groudon as he and Kyogre ascended towards to Rayquaza. "Once, we were insane and blind, but you calmed us; now let us bring your your sanity in turn!"
"You shall not tear me down from my throne," bellowed Rayquaza, lunging at the Behemoth and the Leviathan with a fierce rage burning in his eyes, the last traces of jade gone from his scales. "May the divine wrath consume you forever!"
Exhausted, Altaria landed next to Sparktail and Thalia. "They actually came," gasped the Herald. She coughed on the swirling dust, wincing as she folded her wing."Somehow... we're alive." In the distance, the remaining Dragonairs and Vibravas were scattering.
Sparktail stared anxiously as Kyogre and Groudon battled Rayquaza in the heavens, earthen flame and oceanic chill against heavenly lightning, nature set against itself in violent shockwaves.
"Ready, Sparktail?" He felt the strange tingle again as he looked at the Leafeon, that surge of hot light. Nodding, he smiled nervously. Together, they dashed toward the glowing Delta Orb, locked in red chains, resting on the altar at the end of the ruined spire. A thousand thoughts flsshed though him--Slick's duty, the balance of nature, the Herald's true nature--but now wasn't the time to dwell on those things.
Electricity ran down Sparktail's tail as Thalia drew a fresh pair of leaf-blades, their hearts pounding frantically. With their strongest cries, they brought tail and leaf-blade slashing down upon the red chains.
Time and space seemed to halt as they ripped through the chains, links flashing white before shattering, leaving only the Delta Orb's magnificent glow. High above, Rayquaza shrieked his loudest beneath the brunt of Kyogre's and Groudon's blows, releasing a mighty gale that swept Sparktail off his paws and up into the air.
"No!" cried Thalia above the howling wind. Vines shot from the the bud at the back of her neck and coiled around Sparktail's tail. Gritting her teeth, she struggled to reel the panicking mouse back down to the spire. "Come on- come on--"
Rain boiled into mist as Raichu and Leafeon tumbled to the floor, gasping in relief, numbly holding each other close. As the Delta Orb hit the floor, the wind abruptly died, the sun relenting, the storm ceasing. Overhead, Rayquaza froze in shock, his body rigid, the fury ebbing. Still wary, Groudon and Kyogre drew back from the great dragon, ready to strike if need be.
Rayquaza's scales flashed with emerald light. Black flecks fell away, revealing the hue of royal jade. The cruel red light faded from his markings, replaced by a proud golden glow. His body creaking and groaning like stone, Rayquaza closed his eyes, his head drooping in shame, staring down at the cracked floor. His frightening jaws slumped, becoming a mouth agape with dismay, his tail collapsing in the dust.
When at last Rayquaza spoke, his voice did not shake the platform with rage; it was the voice of an ancient lord, wise but tired, a voice that could have commanded legions once, but now weakened with scars accumulated over a lifetime. "Herald," whispered the dragon, his eyes flickering open, scanning the rubble. "Where...? Where is my daughter...?"
All eyes turned to Altaria, wings gently rippling as she glided towards her father, her eyes filled with tears, trembling with too much sorrow for words. "Altaria... my little herald," breathed Rayquaza softly, his eyes widening as the Altaria floated towards him and embraced the dragon with her cloudlike wings. "You're alive--"
Breathing heavily, Sparktail watched as the Sky Serpent scooped up his daughter into his arms and hugged her close, tears of joy and tears of pain mingled together. "Forgive me, Altaria," whispered Rayquaza as he stared up towards the skies that were his, his daughter sobbing into his coils. "So much pain I caused... So much ruin..."
Altaria murmured softly, and they bowed their heads. Daughter and father, the two began to weep together for the lives slain in Rayquaza's blind rage.