Time and space and darkened eye
At the ancient hero's mythic call
By light and life the shadows fall
The sky was shadowed with dusk in Hoenn as five Pokemon stood before the shrine of the ghostly mountain, alone on the hallowed peak of spirits stirred by the tides of war. Paw in paw, they worked together, pulling an muddy orange knapsack from the back of a young man's body, their hearts heavy and solemn.
Coated in mud and sweat, a Raichu and a Leafeon lowered their slain trainer down into the pit that was his grave, the others watching in bleak silence. Gripping his thunderbolt tail, Sparktail reflected silently that they were free of human control, the very promise which Giratina had sworn to bring to all Pokemon across the world. And yet, there was no joy, no rejuvenation, no happiness in their master's death; for Slick of Hoenn had been like a father, brother, and friend to them all.
Breathing hard, the Swampert and the Umbreon covered their trainer's body in earth, burying their dearest friend, taken from them by the god of death. "Once a champion, always a champion," whispered Rushing River as he gazed down at the cold, lifeless features of his master. "Rest in peace, old friend..."
Three long, bloody months had passed since the Exile's first attacks. Sealed away by the legendary warrior Aluxiver and his Pokemon companion long ago, the ancient, embittered serpent had sworn to exterminate every last man, woman, and child from the face of the earth. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Coronet, Hearthome was the first city to burn, quickly followed by Snowpoint, Sunyshore, and the rest of Sinnoh. One by one, streets and cities were destroyed in Giratina's terrible warpath. Staring
As for Slick? Slick was once one of Hoenn's Elites, and a delegate to the High Council. He had been like any other trainer- collecting badges, training, catching new Pokemon, always striving for success. But Giratina's quest of destruction had brought a swift end to those days, on the fateful night that Hearthome City burned. At once, Slick had returned to Hoenn to rise to his adopted homeland's defense- only for the Exile to slay him in the final battle.
Now together, the five Pokemon stood together atop Mount Pyre in the cold winds of coming death, staring at each other. Before the war, they had been the team of a rising legend, a trainer whose prowess had nearly rivaled the Champion himself; but now, Slick was nothing, and so were they.
Why had life become so dangerous? Once, before the time-tunnel had whisked him and Thalia across the millenia, the Raichu could remember a brighter, safer world, where Pokemon roamed the wilderness. He was only a child then, an untrained Pikachu taken into Thalia's family, but he had been young and carefree then. But now, there was always danger lurking behind every corner...
As he stared up to the sky, Sparktail thought for a moment that he could almost see Slick's spirit rising up into the air, soaring across the darkened heavens like a flaming star. But the moment passed quickly, and the Raichu felt lower than before.
"I don't know how you are feeling," cawed Ferricia the Skarmory softly, finally breaking the silence. "But I cannot stand idly by while Giratina brings this world to ruin. I will devote every steel feather of mine to stop him." Rush, Thalia, and Insyte all murmured in agreement, while Sparktail nodded silently.
The Skarmory turned around and towards the edge of Mount Pyre, her sharpened eyes staring off into the bloody oceans of the east. Far in the distance lay the smoking and destroyed ruin of a city within a caldera, the death of Sootopolis City. "Look at the desolated ruin that Sootopolis has become," she continued. "Slick wanted to protect that place, and Giratina has not only sullied it, but he has obliterated it. By water and wind, let us see what has become of our world."
And so, Sparktail and Thalia found themselves on the Skarmory's back as she flew towards the smoking ruin of Sootopolis, while Rush raced across the oceans with Insyte on his back. Slick was dead and gone, and with him thousands of Hoenn's men, women, and children... but some small hope might still linger in the ruins of Hoenn's last and final stronghold. And so long as there was still hope, they just might survive.
Thalia gaped in horror from where she sat perched beside Sparktail on Ferricia's back as they approached the mountain of Sootopolis, the once majestic white-stoned caldera which once enclosed a thriving metropolis. Now entire sections of the hollow mountainside had caved in and collapsed upon itself; and what remained of its once pristine walls was marred by scorch marks and numerous cracks in its surfaces, the ocean tinted with ripples of black and red of mingled oil and blood.
As Ferricia swooped down into the caldera towards the destroyed city within, chills ran down Sparktail's spine, his eyes transfixed to the ghastly spectacle of toppled buildings and countless human bodies strewn in the waters and the remnants of stone ledges which ringed the massive lake in the center of the mountain city, the waters which had been dyed scarlet with Giratina's terrible slaughter.
The Skarmory descended through the air towards a flat plateau on the north shores of the city where broken steel gates no longer sealed the Cave of Origin, its entrance a gaping hole for all to enter. There, Insyte and Rush lay panting on the rocky shore, soaked in seawater and human blood, the earth marred by scorch marks and heaped with fallen debris.
As Ferricia landed on the stone outcropping beside the Swampert and the Umbreon, Sparktail and Thalia stared in wordless shock at the horror that Sootopolis had become. "This... this can't be real," whispered Thalia, staring towards the wandering survivors on the city's ledges, a shattered fortress reduced from thousands strong to mere dozens in a single, awful night. "No... Sootopolis was safe! We knew it was a sanctuary. How could things go so wrong?"
There was a long silence as Rush and Insyte got to their paws. "This mountain will take weeks to heal," said the Swampert, staring down at the murky waters of Lake Helens, upturned shipwrecks bobbing in the waves. "The humans tried to seal the crater with their shutters, but there are many underwater tunnels deep under the city, leading out into the ocean. The Hoenn Elites wanted to blockade the entrance with submarines... but Wallace said that wouldn't stop a Sharpedo, let alone a Wailord."
Thalia shuddered as she remembered Slick's stories of the immense beasts lurking beneath the sea, larger than human tankers, said to be capable of swallowing entire cities with their giant maws; and even though the stories weren't true, she was still afraid. "What happened next?" asked Ferricia softly.
"After the meeting, Slick and Wallace stayed behind for some reason," said Rush, his ear-fins twitching. "I think they were making an alternate plan to block the city. They mentioned C4 packs, energy cells, Electrodes; perhaps they were booby-trapping a submarine. But if that was ever in the plan, Slick never followed through. You see... well... he went after the Orbs while Giratina attacked. I don't think he was in his right mind, you know?"
Yes, they all remembered what happened. On the morning of the attack, Slick had seen troops advancing towards the Shrine of Spheres at Mount Pyre, where lay the Orbs of earth, sea, and sky. Ten years ago, the world had seen the mayhem of the Titans' wrath during the Sootopolis weather crisis, and Slick had feared that history would repeat itself. But it was for naught, for the Orbs were taken, Slick was dead, and Sootopolis was in ruins.
Sparktail shook silently, bitterly as the memories replayed themselves again and again. Each of them- Rush, Ferricia, Insyte, Thalia, and himself- had all doubted their trainer, wondering if they ought to stop Slick from traveling to Mount Pyre. But the Raichu had kept quiet, not saying a word to his master, hoping that he would pull through. Too little, too late. If only he had stopped his trainer on that morning, Slick might still be alive.
No. He couldn't fall apart, not here. Not in front of Thalia, not in front of everyone, not where the whole world could see. The others were talking still, but he couldn't follow the thread of the conversation now. "This shouldn't be," said the Raichu quietly when they reached a pause, looking down at the ground. He fumbled for words, held back by years of silence. "I can't believe that he's... well... gone."
"I should have stopped him," whispered Insyte, his eyes the dull red of dried blood as he stared out across the tainted lake. "I knew, knew, knew I ought to have kept him back... that foolish boy, to leave this city open to the skies, to go in person on such a reckless mission... I should never have let him leave the building."
The Swampert cleared his throat, and the Umbreon fell silent. "None of us could've stopped Slick," said Rushing River. Sparktail glanced down at his paws, while Insyte turned to stare at Rush. "We all knew him. We know he wouldn't do something so foolish unless he thought it was the best thing to do."
A low, mourning cry came from Ferricia as they trudged up the path. "We moved too slowly," croaked the Skarmory, dipping her head, her eyes closing. "Whatever Slick had planned, we should have been able to return before Giratina's forces arrived... I should have flown faster."
"Do you control the sky, child of iron?" said a distant voice, unearthly but gentle. Alarmed, the five Pokemon glanced around the rocky slope as faint blue light flickered across the air, darting from boulder to boulder. "No; listen to your leader. Do not blame yourselves for your trainer's death... for he was marked by destiny."
Amidst the scorched earth and the strewn carnage, Sparktail saw four creatures floating in midair. On the edge of his vision, the Raichu saw Insyte and Ferricia prepared to strike, teeth and talons bared. "Who are you?" demanded Rush as they approached the four. "And where did you come from?"
"I am Mew, Mystic of Hope," spoke the first, a pink feline creature with a long whiplike tail, blinking her watery-blue eyes as she descended upon the group, with Sparktail's eyes on her every motion. "I soothe the storms of the lost, illuminating the lanturns of confidence in the souls of they who have succumbed to despair."
"I am Celebi, the Spirit of Compassion," said the one beside Mew, a glowing forest sprite with immense eyes and delicate dragonfly wings, flitting in a circle around Thalia. "I listen to the music of my fellow beings' hearts, instilling understanding in they who have not yet extended the paw of sympathy."
"I am Jirachi, the Star of Wisdom," said the third, a dimunitive white-bodied creature with rippling gold capelike wings and a triangular golden headpiece. Its belly was marked with the outline of a closed eye that would gaze upon the world, cold but impartial. "I see beyond the veils that many don, and guide blinded souls to open their eyes."
"I am Shaymin, the Seed of Prosperity," said the fourth, a canine with snow-white fur and winglike ears like a buck's fierce antlers. "I identify the talents that reside dormant within, unlocking the potential in the hearts of the people, nourishing their souls unto the tiers of legend."
"Together, we are the Four Virtues of Akimadora, guardians of harmony and light," said the four in unison, their fur glowing. "Under our guidance, the light of civility is strong, and the vicious shadows are held back. Earth, sea, sky, time, space, day, night, and death; even these forces cannot claim us."
There was a hiss, and the others turned to stare as Insyte spat on the ground. "So, you're guardians of some sort," said the Umbreon, glancing back around to the broken city around them. "Doesn't seem like you've done a whole lot for the world as of late... especially considering its present state." Rush gave Insyte a warning glare, causing the Umbreon to recoil.
"The world has indeed become a dangerous place, in the wake of the Exile's return," said Celebi grimly, his eyes sweeping over the five, unperturbed by Insyte's rudeness. "But do not be afraid. You will find no terror here, not yet. For we have come for you." Sparktail glanced to Thalia, feeling uneasy, but did not voice his fears.
"Listen well, and remember always the one you called Slick," said Shaymin, his pale white fur rippling. "Many years ago, your master bound his soul with a sacred oath to protect the world from a terrible peril. Seeing a profound level of potential in him, we gave him our blessings, so that he might fulfill his oath, and become the hero that the world needed."
Struggling to understand, Sparktail stared down at the ground, his ears low. Next to him, Thalia looked back to the war-torn city around them, shaking her head slowly. "It doesn't matter what he wanted," said Rush, clenching a fist, lifting his head to meet each of the Virtues in the eye. "Slick's dead... dead! He's dead and gone... and nothing will bring him back."
Jirachi's eyes flashed. "Slick died while trying to make this world a safer place," said Jirachi, the golden wings rippling like silk, eyes darting to each of them. "Slick understood what it meant to be an Elite, to be a marked individual. This was your master, who took you from the wilderness, who devoted his life to you. And so I ask: Will you let his memory fade? Or will you do what he could not?"
Slick's Pokemon stared at the Virtues, stunned. "If the world rests on our shoulders, then this world is doomed," said Insyte bitterly between Rush and Ferricia, drawing glances from Sparktail and Thalia. The Umbreon's ruby eyes dull and hazed with misery, his fur haggard and gnarled. "How do we know that we won't end up like Slick? How are we supposed to change a thing?"
"Make no mistake; the path that lies before each of you will not be easy," said Mew, her eyes narrowing. "If you seek to follow your trainer's footsteps, you will face terrible trials in the days to come. But if your will is strong, and your resolve unshaken... you will find peace, waiting at the end of chaos, created by your own paws."
"Wait," whispered Sparktail, moving forward as the Virtues turned away, not caring that the rest of the team was staring at him. Everything was happening too fast for him-- Giratina's war, Slick's death, the fall of Sootopolis. "Don't go!" Helpless, the Raichu stared up at the four Virtues, watching as they rose up into the air and faded into the shadows.
Continue Reading with Legend of the Exile: Chapter 2: Wave of Chaos