Chapter 4: The Six Leaders
The cold wind whipped the arid wastelands of Stygia, blowing dust high. The eternal blackish clouds prevented the sun from turning these parts into deserts with shimmering sands - now the rocky ground was purely formed by the dust falling from the sky. For eons, Pokemon from all around were traveling through these vast wastelands in the middle of Stygia in order to exchange wares, using specific routes to ensure their safety. But now dark years, even darker than the clouds in the skies, were above the world - the bloodthirsty warriors and mercenaries of the Dark Cult, driven by their 'righteous fury' into a sacred war, had started conquering the wastelands, making their way to the north. Their only motivation being the bible their Prophet was holding, they would leave nothing but ruins of the Stygian Nation in their wake. But there was a secret reason behind this sacred war, a living mystery that was pursued by Chantalai Ancelotti, who was now crossing the wastelands.
The eerie figure of the Zoroark sizzled the wastelands. He raised his hands to protect his face, leaning forward, defying the fierce wind that blew dust that pinched him all over. His breath rose as mist in front of his face as he forced himself to continue his path. Each step he took, he felt the sorrow about his father's death and his village's destruction turn into an apathy, his weakness into stone-hard determination. Now that some time had passed and Chantalai was able to grasp what had happened, his vengeful emotions rose like a tidal wave in his heart, pushing him into the unknown, uncharted wastelands. Anyone who would see Chantalai moving like that through these lands would consider him a fool - but he had a plan. His eyes were fixed on the hill that was on the southeast, according to the compass that was tied onto his leather belt. He would climb the hill and peer into the horizon, hoping to see a sign of Raskalov.
Exhaustion, hunger and thirst struck Chantalai as he started climbing the hill. The Zoroark flinched, a strong wind blowing against him, he almost fell down. He kept one hand on his forehead, protecting his eyes from the dust, and the other he used to pull himself up the rocky hill by sticking his claws on the ground. Now behind the hill, the wind had calmed down - Chantalai found himself on the top after a few minutes that seemed like hours. His enormous black mane shook violently to the wind atop the hill; the view of the wastelands was nothing like he had imagined. The dark clouds blocked most of what there was to see in the horizon, and the dust clouds which were wandering lower, closer to the ground, did not help things. Desperation gripped his heart like an iron fist. He could not see any sign to direct him in this mass of dust. Chantalai sat on the cold ground, staring at the south with sore, empty eyes. His father's last words suddenly appeared in his mind.
Have faith in dark, but also in the light.
Light would help him here, if only those clouds moved a little... He raised his head high, staring at the distant red planet that appeared in a gap between the clouds, Karnos, which was visible during the day this time of the month. His grandfather would always say that Karnos was the place where the Gods of Light and Dark, Good and Bad, White and Black resided. Without thinking about his religious beliefs, his hands joined together in a prayer towards the God of light, naively requesting their assistance.
Chantalai Ancelotti opened his eyes wide, trying to grasp what suddenly happened in the sky; the dark clouds that were pinned down on the sky had moved suddenly, allowing the sunlight to hit the ground. The horizon on the south was clear, revealing a small camp with grey tents inside it. A smile ran across Chantalai's tired face as he saw it, the first smile after his father's death. He slid down the hill and dashed full speed towards the camp, forgetting his exhaustion and his prayers, deeming this event as a coincidence.
The Zoroark stopped running and looked at the two pincers the Drapions had raised to warn him. Although he felt he would fall apart, he gathered his energy and pushed himself a bit more. His voice sounded serious and collected, to his surprise.
'I am Chantalai Ancelotti from the village of Krept. Is Raskalov with you?'
One of the Drapions stepped forward, his enormous armour clinging onto his body. He seemed to be examining the Zoroark.
'Indeed, he is with us. You appear to be an Ancelotti, alright. Wonder how you got through the wastelands by yourself, boy.'
The Knight glanced back at his ally, slightly smiling, like being an Ancelotti was a joke. Chantalai just glared at them, smirking and resisting the urge to spit his mouthful response. So that's how far my family's fame has reached, he thought, I'll show them. My legacy may end with me, but I will restore my family's reputation, one way or another...
He walked through the Knights who remained to their spots like statues.
A voice was heard from behind him; Raskalov himself, a muscular Weavile was standing on the entrance of the nearest tents. He was wearing a golden chestguard and spaulders and had a red sash with a blue X and three stars on it tied to his waist. A blue, shield-shaped emblem was stuck on his thin chestguard, let everyone know he was one of the Commanders of the Frontier. Like always, his bright red eyes gave off the feeling he had a kind heart, even though he seemed vicious on the outside. Chantalai eyed him, half happy for at last having found him, half angry for him abandoning the village.
'Raskalov!,' the Zoroark rushed to him with a worried face on, 'where have you been? All they left of Krept...' he paused, unable to find the courage to complete his sentence, but the Weavile motioned him to stop and sighed in disappointment. Chantalai wondered if the leader of his old hometown was even sorry for what happened. Raskalov proceeded to explain.
'Look, son, I am not responsible for what happened in Krept. I had no choise but to leave with our forces - otherwise, we'd be crushed. All was lost before we could do a thing. The leaders of the Frontier have called me here, and I could not refuse.' The Zoroark remained silent, the Weavile motioned him to come inside the tent, 'Come in, they are inside right now. We are having a conference.'
Chantalai slowly followed Raskalov into the tent, deciding that fussing over what happened in Krept would do them no good. He was determined to help the Stygian forces win the war of the Frontier. A burning passion mixed with his strong desire for revenge. His eyes flashed when he first looked at the five Pokemon that were standing inside the tent, who seemed startled by his appearance; he liked their reaction, although they were his allies. Raskalov presented him with a pompous voice.
'Gentlemen, this is Chantalai Ancelotti. I am sure you are all quite aware how his father, Adalbert, was helping us?'
The five leaders nodded, and Chantalai's chest was inflated in pride. Each of the leaders had been dressed differently, but were all heavily armed nonetheless. A Zangoose, a Braviary, a Tauros, an Altaria and a Shiftry were standing on their feet with a large map of the Wastelands unfolded on the table in front of them. Chantalai recognized some of them - he had seen them in various paintings and portraits. The Zangoose, who was wearing a cowboy hat and had two revolvers strapped onto his belt, was named Lumos; he once had complete control of the city-state of Erca, but he was recently forced to leave under the Dark Cult's pressure. His eyes showed that he was good-willed and determined. The next leader Chantalai noticed, was the female Altaria: the necklace she was wearing was made purely out of flowers. She was Queen Serena of Alamagna, the biggest citadel of Stygia; she was probably meeting them in secret, as the citadel was under the Cult's control.
'Glad to finally meet you, boy!' chortled the Zangoose, grabbing a cup of water from the table and pacing over to him, 'you must be real thirsty, yeah?'
Chantalai slightly bowed to Lumos but at the same time snatched the steel cup and poured the water down his sore throat. Water dripping out of his mouth onto his fur, he silently thanked the Zangoose who gifted him a hearty smile. He glanced at his pistols on his belt; he always wanted to use one of these. But the thoughts of his father's secret circled in his mind; he faced Raskalov who had now joined the rest of the leaders.
'What was my father doing for all of you, exactly?'
The leaders nervously looked at each other. Raskalov sighed again and stared intently into him, starting to speak.
'... Losing Adalbert Ancelotti cost us greatly. Your father wasn't only providing us with valuable armours, but he was performing spy services for the Frontier as well. Your kind have outstanding deceiving abilities.' He paused, and then added, 'No offense.'
Chantalai knew all that, his father himself had told him. But, how did he end up to be Alamagna's hero? What was that power he held? Chantalai spoke while staring at the ground.
'That's only part of it, isn't it?'
It took them a moment to reply. Finally, Serena spoke with her melodic voice tickling their ears.
'Indeed. He was not only infiltrating the lines of our enemies, he was taking out certain targets we needed out of the way as well. We are...'
'... hoping you would continue your father's legacy and provide your services for the greater Stygian good,' continued Lumos, with a sharp expression on his face. 'The Dark Cult has been extremely aggressive, they managed to turn the entire Erca against me. Now we are trying to get it back, but it's no use; we have to cross the wastelands, and when we get there, we will be massively outnumbered by their forces. Not to mention we don't have any time. They are launching multiple attacks to the camp far in the east, and if we don't help them..'
The Zangoose twitched the tips of his cowboy hat nervously. It was clear that his own words had upset him. Chantalai ran his hand through the mane that was hanging from his back. He had no reason to refuse to fight in the Frontier; he had nowhere else to go, anyway. Besides, he was starting to like the job his father was doing... He stared at Raskalov, who looked desperate, even though he seemed like a mighty warrior.
'When do I start?'
He saw their faces bright up; maybe the Ancelottis weren't the cowards everyone thought they were.
'Son, I didn't expect you'd so readily accept our offer. Isn't it too much to take in?'
Chantalai looked at Raskalov as they walked through the camp, passing the bonfires with the rogues and soldiers staring at him with curiosity. He could sense concern in his voice - it's only natural, he thought, Adalbert and Raskalov were close childhood friends. He thought of his question thoroughly, it was difficult to answer for some strange reason. It's like he was destined to do this.
'No, I was ready for it. My father had told me he kept... things hidden from the public.'
'Ah, I see. Speaking of your father, Chantalai, he had gifted me one of his most finest armours he'd made, but I have no need for it,' he said with a faint smile. It was true; his gold armor reflected the moonlight that passed through a gap of the eternal clouds. It seemed very durable, Chantalai thought. The Weavile continued, 'If you are going to fight with us in the east, you're gonna need an armour. How about I give it to you? It was your father's, anyway.'
The Zoroark nodded quietly, too tired to show his appreciation; Raskalov understood, and he just pointed at a tent, telling him that it had food and water there, and that he pass the night in it.
The Weavile was apparently shouting at a small part of the soldiers to move out towards the forest - Chantalai stopped paying attention. He smirked and looked around, trying to find the leaders of the other villages, but with no luck. Then a sudden realization hit him. Only a hundred soldiers for protecting the six most important people of the Stygian side? This meeting was secret, it was kept secret from every other camp of natives which would be bigger and possibly being watched. He admired the leader's wits, to meet up at this small place. That, or there weren't more than fifty soldiers in any other camp.
Chantalai shook off his morning thoughts, thinking he had jumped onto conclusions. He remembered how his father always reminded him not to be hasty, then the thought of the armour he had gifted Raskalov popped into his mind. He was way too tired last night to realize how big his desire to wear that armour was.
A warm hand patted his shoulder; the Zoroark looked at the Pokemon behind him. He was an old Magmar with wise, blue eyes and a friendly aura. He was wearing a belt which was running across his chest, from his shoulder to his waist, equipped with iron work tools. A hammer hanged from the side of his belt. Chantalai raised his eyebrow to welcome him.
'Hullo, Chantalai. I'm Francis, the blacksmith of the camp,' informed him the Magmar, 'Commander Raskalov ordered me to give yeh the armour he gifted yeh. Follow me, if yeh'd please.'
Chantalai, with his excitement obvious in his face, followed the Magmar to the far end of camp. A heavy, iron table was placed on the ground and a rocky well was built next to it, smoke coming from its depth. Curious as he always was, he peered inside the well, blowing the hot smoke away from his face, but the bottom could not be seen. He turned back to Francis who had leaned into a wooden chest behind the table.
'How did you dig this deep into the ground? It's impossible to get through all that rock.'
The Magmar replied without looking at him, busy as he was with the chest.
'I'm a specialist, not only with blacksmithin', but with diggin' holes, too. I heated up the stone with my breath, an' then I pierced through it with one of these,' he grabbed an object from near the table, turning his attention away from the chest, and showed Chantalai. It seemed to be some sort of drill - he admired the blacksmith's invention.
'Oy, 'ere it is!'
Francis raised a chestguard and two spaulders from the chest and walked over to the Zoroark. He immediately recognized tristanite; he was a hundred per cent sure his father had made this piece. He grabbed the chestguard, which was surprisingly his size, tapping on its shiny surface. A strange thought crossed his mind: this armour did not support the body structure of a Weavile. Why had his father gifted Raskalov something he was unable to use? Had he maybe predicted the outcome of the recent events?
The blacksmith brought him back to reality by coughing fire all around. Chantalai subtly backed off, waiting for the Magmar to get over his coughing crisis.
'If yeh want teh buy anything, yeh know where t' find me. I wish yeh good luck!'
He patted the Zoroark's shoulder again, who was still holding the chestguard on his arms. As Francis was off to his business, Chantalai slipped into the tristanite armour. He felt it extremely light onto his body - he was sure it would not degrade his agility. But he doubted its sturdiness, although he had heard stories about the legendary ore his father was extracting from the depths of Amaro Mountains.
'Moving out!' Chantalai jerked his head to see Raskalov commanding the Pokemon in front of him to exit the camp. He motioned at him to follow and Chantalai nodded, knowing he was in for some adventure.