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Old September 3rd, 2012, 12:03 PM
Ray Maverick
The Crimson Dawn is upon us
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Age: 18
Gender: Male
Nature: Lonely
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Chapter 10: The Ionian Verdict




The rising sun painted the grasslands golden, the black clouds having disappeared now. This was the last warm day of the grasslands summer; the three travellers continued their way north from the ground. They were silent as they were recovering from the last night's events. Chantalai was walking next to Richard with his head down. He wanted to return to Erca, but the dragon refused to take him there. They both knew that, with the fuss they caused, the Baron would get extremely wary now, making Chantalai's job much more difficult. He suddenly remembered that the Bisharp had mentioned something about Alinthea not talking. The Zoroark looked at her and she looked at him back with a warm smile, although her eyes seemed a bit sad.

'What did they want from you?'

'They were asking for my father's whereabouts...'

Chantalai nodded and turned ahead again. His thought travelled to Conrad - was he alright? He decided that escorting Alinthea to her father was more important.

A gentle breeze passed through his hood. The Ninetails was now walking next to him.

'I'm sorry I didn't listen to you... I'm sorry I didn't leave town when you told me to.'

Her voice was soft and sincere, Chantalai staring at her intently. He finally shook his head and looked forward again.

'What's done is done. You're safe now, that's all that matters.'

'I must have brought ruins to your plans...'

'Don't worry about it. You know me.. I've no problem with taking some more lives.'

He was slightly smiling now, but it was barely visible under the hood. Alinthea remained silent, and so Chantalai continued.

'You fought really well back there.'

She giggled, Chantalai almost laughing with no reason.

'Weeell, I wouldn't have been able to get out myself!'

Figures were visible in the horizon of the endless grasslands, north of them. Chantalai noticed that, the other two noticing right after.

'Do you think we should approach them?'

Richard said with his loud voice.

'No, they're probably nomads.'

'But they could help us!' said Alinthea in a particular irresistible manner. Chantalai stopped walking, crossing his arms, having a firm expression. The other two stopped as well.

'We don't need their help.'

He said stubbornly. The Ninetails walked over to him and put her paw on his shoulder. His expression softened a bit. He suddenly had the urge to tell her she was beautiful, but he resisted as it was not the right time.

'Don't be so selfish, Chantalai!'

Her childish voice made her remark sound cute rather than serious. Chantalai dropped his strict expression, thinking that travelling with the nomads could be profitable. He uncrossed his arms and jestured his head to the others to start walking again.

'Move it then, if you want to reach them today.'


***


'Hello, strangers. We come in peace.'

Richard was walking forward in order to do all the talking. Chantalai was standing on the back, staying silent as always. The nomads seemed terrified of the massive dragon - every Stygian had the right to be afraid of dragons - and they barely even noticed Chantalai. Their leader, a Chimeco who was whistling calmly every time the wind blew, was now

'A dragon, coming in peace? You don't seem like you are from around here...'

The Salamence shook his head, preferring not to answer. Chantalai noticed that and his suspicion was raised. Truly, he did know nothing about that dragon except his name. He crossed his arms, deciding other matters were more important right now. Alinthea spoke next.

'Well, we won't hurt you! May we ask, where are you going?'

The nomads seemed relieved they weren't thieves - Chantalai imagined they've had their share of fear. A Roselia next to the Chimeco pointed at the north.

'We're headed north, to the depot. Then, we'll be headed east.'

Chantalai walked ahead, standing next to the dragon. He could smell the fear of the nomads; his hood did not help at all, but he was not going to remove it. They could recognize his face from the signs in Erca.

'Here's a deal for you, then: you lend us some supplies and we'll protect you from the inevitable attack of the thieves.'

The Castform, who appeared to be a weather scout, gathered the nomads around him, leaving the three travellers outside the circle. They were whispering fast as if they were afraid someone was lurking nearby. Chantalai was looking at the position of the sun and Karnos to determine the time. Evening. The depot is a day ahead of us... The nomads finally turned to them.

'You are free to stay with us. But no slacking around here, we want to reach real soon! Four hour break after Karnos goes down, 'kay?'

'Deal. Now get us some food, we're starving.'

Chantalai said with a cold, ordering tone. Alinthea looked at him as if she was upset, but Chantalai ignored her. The nomads were mainly carrying berries and fruits; that was their meal. Chantalai complained about meat, and Richard agreed with him, but Alinthea told them to be quiet.

They were walking under the bright sun, a rare phenomenon of the grasslands which were supposed to be rainy at this time of the year. Chantalai was walking next to the nomads, with one ear listening to Alinthea talking to him about rather trivial but entertaining things, and the other listening to the sound of the wastelands. The Chimecho came to them and spoke in an official manner.

'We told you where we're going, why won't you tell us where you're going as well?'

Richard decided to trust him, as the nomad leader was smiling and seemed friendly overall. Chantalai thought it was foolish of him, but he later discovered that Richard, personally, had nothing to be afraid of.

'We were sent in Erca in mission for the Frontier. No, they're not chasing us, do not worry...'

The leader seemed rather content to know them, Richard and Alinthea responding to that positively. Only Chantalai kept his doubts up, as always. He stared down at the Chimecho, examining the Pokemon carefully without saying a thing.

'My friends call me Azath... your names are?'

Chantalai jerked his head to look at the other two to warn them not to answer, but it was too late.

'My name is Richard Phylax, descendant of Vellas.'

'Call me Alinthea!'

The Chimecho opened his yellow eyes wide, looking at Richard. Chantalai was surprised too. Vellas? The legendary Hesperian King?

'Vellas! You must be from Hesperia!'

'Indeed I am.'

Chantalai wondered what a Hesperian dragon was doing in Stygia. The Chimecho quickly lost interest in the Salamence and turned to Alinthea.

'You said your name was Alinthea?! Are you the daughter of the Merchant King?'

'The former Merchant King, yes...'

'No! Lumos will always be the true Merchant King for us nomads. We were so peaceful when he was in charge, but now things've changed.'

Chantalai was still thinking about Vellas; from what he knew, he was the first King of Hesperia and second-in-command of the Ionian Verdict that was formed in Hesperia by his closest friend, Pyrodax. All this was roughly a millenium ago, but Chantalai did not fully realize that. The others continued their chat, until the nomad asked for Chantalai's name. Alinthea poked him to answer.

'Chantalai'

He said unwillingly, not even looking at the Chimecho. Azath simply nodded, thinking it'd be better not to mess with a hoodied Pokemon.



***


The nomads walked for hours under the brimming sun with the grass relaxing their feet with its cold aura. As the sun finally settled down, the three friends were talking about how Erca would be after they left it; Chantalai was waiting patiently till the midnight break so he could freely speak about the Frontier's business. He did not want any nomad hearing their conversation, but that was impossible as they were walking right next to them. Chantalai heard they were calling them mercenaries, and he was fine with this nickname for now.

The nomads, about thirty Pokemon, fixed their tents on the ground. The Castform told the three 'mercenaries' to light dig a hole in the ground and light a fire, then stay awake and guard them during the five hour break. Chantalai agreed to this with a firm nod and had a private chat with the Castform.

'So you're working for the Frontier... we are, too, secretly.'

Chantalai seemed interested; he looked at the Castform, wondering why he hadn't told them so far.

'And what is your job as a nomad? You're only selling fruits.'

'Ah, that's where you're wrong, my friend! We leak information out of Erca. We, the nomads, circle around the Wastelands, visiting Frontier Camps and delivering messages or information.'

'Impressive. You work under the cover of innocent nomads, yet you play an important role in the battle.' said Chantalai, but he still kept his doubts up; the nomad had no proof to back up what he was saying.

'You skimmed it real good, friend. And you? What are you doing?'

Chantalai pointed at Richard and Alinthea, who were resting by the camping fire they had lit.

'Right now, protecting those two.'

The Castform nodded and departed, wishing Chantalai good night. The Zoroark headed over to the bonfire the other two had set on the ground.

'What did you two talk about?' Alinthea asked plainly, Chantalai laying down and looking at the red night sky.

'They say they work for the Frontier, but no one can be sure.'

The other remained silent. They soon fell asleep, despite their promise of staying awake; nobody had really slept after the hospital event. Chantalai was sunk in a soft and peaceful dream he could never remember...


He suddenly opened his eyelids, the thousands of stars of the Stygian night sky being reflected onto his eyes. He perked up his ears, hearing a slight shuffling sound from somewhere nearby. Somebody was approaching, an extremely light and small Pokemon. Chantalai launched himself up and looked at the Pokemon; it was one of the nomads, the Roselia. She looked at him horrified - the hoodied, feline Pokemon was truly menacing in the dusk. Before she knew it, the Roselia was down on the ground, Chantalai kneeling above her with his claws locked around her neck.

'What were you trying to pull off?'

'N-nothing, friend.. I was just gonna-'

Alinthea had gotten up and ran next to Chantalai, trying to get him off the tiny Pokemon.

'Don't kill her!'

'She was creeping up on us!'

'I-I wasn't.. I was simply bringing you berries!'

She looked to the right. Chantalai looked through the darkness, and he realized there was a basket over there. He slowly got up and cleaned the sleeves of his bloodied cloak.

'Next time,' he said harshly, and without apologisizing, 'bring us the berries while we're awake.'

He went back to sleep, with his nerves stretched out.


***


With the first light of Karnos, the nomads were up and running. Chantalai got up as well and walked silently alone. He wasn't in the mood of dealing with what happened last night. He simply ate his berries and left the others talk with each other. He saw the leader Roselia talking with Alinthea and Richard on the back.

Chantalai went in the front and asked for some water; last night he had remembered the blood that stained his cloak, and he realized why he was getting all those weird and curious looks from the nomads. He tried cleaning his cloak with the water, but he only managed to make the cloak cold. He was forced to order some kind of special liquid to clean the stain up; he also requested some bullets for his handgun. The nomads were starting to get annoyed by his attitude, but they all avoided his deadly stare when they were about to deny him something.

'Do you even know what those bullets are for?'

Chantalai looked at the merchant, a Bronzong, while loading his guns with six new bullets. He said nothing in return, only put the pack with the rest of the bullets next to the poison capsules on his belt... he realized he had a poison capsule on his mouth this entire time. Or did he? There was nothing under his tongue. The capsule had disappeared.

'I use those bullets as magnets!'

The Zoroark had no time to answer to the merchant. His ears caught a distant sound. He looked at the foot of the mountains and saw multiple waves of swift Pokemon (around twenty or so) of the grasslands charging towards the nomads.

'Thieves!'

As the merchants panicked, Chantalai dashed towards the thieves. He was itching to try something new he had thought with his illusions, and those petty thieves were just right for practising. He heard Alinthea shouting, but he ignored her as he ran fearlessly againist the thieves who were startled. A Linoone was first in line; a huge Dusknoir appeared from inside Chantalai's hood and landed on the ground in front of him, hiding him entirely. Towering twenty feet above the ground, it was covered in a strange, vibrant dark light and its characteristics were far more scarrier than a normal ghost; a feeling of death was emitted from the illusion, making the thieves cower in fear.

The Dusknoir attacked simultaneously with Chantalai, visually killing the Linoone with a fist covered in darkness. In truth, Chantalai had jumped on the Linoone, killing it easily by running his claws inside the poor Pokemon's back. He moved like lightning towards the closest thief, a Sandslash who was all curled up on the ground. The Dusknoir opened his arms wide and the 'mouth' on its belly shot out a wave of darkness that blew the Sandslash away, him landing on his back. Chantalai pounced forwards and stuck his deadly claws inside his opponent's belly.

The other thieves started screaming in fear. The illusion suddenly faded, Chantalai rushing towards them; he stepped on a Breloom's foot, slashed his face and impaled his fragile chest. Chantalai unstuck his claws, dodged a swift attack from a Vigoroth and sliced his neck with incredible speed. The next thief, a Zigzagoon, was able to see his snout grinning slightly under the hood. Chantalai fell onto the small Pokemon with no mercy, outmatching its speed. He threw it in front of the other thieves, who were appaled. He stopped, staying put. His cloak had not been stained by any blood whatsoever; he stared at the thieves, who were unsure of how to proceed.

'Leave those nomads alone. They never harmed you.'

The thieves backed off, seeing what Chantalai had done to their friends. Only another Linoone stood in the front, who was apparently second in command. Chantalai instanly thought he had just killed his brother, who was their leader.

'But how will we live? That's our job...'

'I don't care about your lives, I will take them as willingly as I took those of your allies.'

The thieves were obviously shaken by his cruel words. Meanwhile, Alinthea and Richard had reached Chantalai and were standing behind them. The Zoroark had now crossed his arms, staring at the Linoone who was not leaving.

'Was that Baron Necro you had with you?'

Chantalai thought of it for a moment as he examined the thieves; they were relatively well equipped and seemed to carry money with them. Only Necro would pay them for their services; time to ruin this for Necro, he thought evily.

'Baron Necro killed your allies. He does not require your services anymore.'

Alinthea and Richard glanced at him, then they decided he knew what he was saying.

'Now mind your own business and let us mind ours.'

He turned to leave, the Salamence and the Ninetails following him. The thieves slowly approached their dead allies that were laying on the ground to offer them a burial. The blood stains on the grass went unseen under the crimson light of Karnos, only to be revealed when the first rays of the sun hit the area.


***


The group of Pokemon finally arrived at South Camp. Chantalai remembered when he met the six leaders inside Raskalov's tent; it seemed like a very long time ago. Now Raskalov and Hermes greeted the nomads, btu they did not notice the travellers in the back. Alinthea thanked the nomads and they gave her a fiery orb, an artifact of some sort. Richard claimed that it was an object made by dragons; Chantalai had already left the bunch. The nomads were scared of him for what he had done to their Roselia leader.

Raskalov seemed content to see him, he quickly ran to him and hugged him like a father would do, with his golden armour pressing againist the Zoroark. Chantalai felt awkward - he was too old to be hugged.

'Chantalai! I'm so glad you're back!'

'How did you recognize me under this cloak?'

'Lumos told me his brother Conrad gifted you his cloak,' chortled the Weavile with a cheerful tone that made Chantalai smile. He did not seem like a Stygian leader at all. 'Hey! Hermes, get over here!'

The Pidgeot was talking with the nomad leaders. Chantalai noticed they were trading items when Raskalov shouted; Hermes flapped his wings and flew over.

'Chantey, what're you doin' here, you bad boy'

Chantalai smirked when he heard that terrible version of his name, but he was smiling. He did not admit it, but he had missed the Stygian spirit these war leaders were representing. He eyed the Pidgeot, who looked like a winged vanguard with his armour.

'I brought you Alinthea,' he said simply and pointed at the Ninetails who was talking and laughing with the nomads. Richard saw Chantalai and poked Alinthea. She turned to look at Chantalai, then started walking towards them; he detected signs of sadness in her look.

The leaders were clearly satisfied at some degree. 'Well done, Chantey, you got good company, on your way here, eh?' said Hermes, but Chantalai had no time to answer. 'Bet she gave you trouble! She's difficult to handle, I swear!' Raskalov shouted and they both bursted into laughter. After they were done laughing, the Weavile motioned at a soldier nearby.

'Call Lumos, he needs to see this.'

'Is Lumos here?' inquired Chantalai, surprised. But then again, where would he go? he thought right after. Alinthea reached them and muttered something; Chantalai examined her. She wasn't looking at him.

Lumos exited a tent and ran to them. His cowboy hat was missing and the revolvers on his belt seemed old and rusty. The Zangoose greeted Chantalai and Alinthea with a slight smile and only that. Chantalai figured they had argued about if she would stay in Erca or not and now things were kind of touchy between them. The former Merchant King grabbed Alinthea and jestured towards his tent. They left the two leaders with Chantalai; suddenly their moods changed to serious as they eyed him.

'What happened with the Baron?'

'He is alive. However, I've collected some invaluable information.'

Raskalov motioned Chantalai and Hermes to come to his tent. Once they were inside, the Weavile was lighting some candles up and Hermes was behind the strategy table. Chantalai begun talking.

'The Dark Cult's church is connected to some temple, the Divine Temple,' he said, the other two looking at him intrigued, 'I followed the Baron and the Pope, who was visiting the town in secret, in that temple. It turns out that the Dark Cult has lended the Baron a great amount of gold to help him maintain his dominance over Erca. If we take that gold away, the Baron will be extremely weak. And that will be our time to strike.'

'Why did you not kill them there?' inquired Raskalov, Hermes was looking down silent and skeptical.

'More would take their place - the Prophet doesn't depend on important figures. If we manage to kick them out of Erca completly, then we will have truly won.'

'You spoke about a temple... tell us more,' ordered Hermes.

Chantalai told them everything that had happened in the temple, and what there was inside the temple. They seemed stunned from the surprise.

'The statues in there... the ancients Gods of Black and White, the Gods the Dark Cult is basing its religion upon. And you said they wanted something from there?'

'There were cylinders with runic symbols on them. A black one was missing. They implied that something was inside the cylinders and were about to destroy one of them, but I stopped them. Do you know what the cylinders could hold inside them?'

Raskalov nodded his head negatively. 'No. We're not aware, but you spoke of symbols... I know somebody who could decode those.'

Chantalai instanly remembered the runes he had copied onto his cloak. He looked at it to see them still there. They seemed even more menacing than before, even if they were not blue.

'So you propose we go there and claim the place? But you said that it's semi burried, right?' said Hermes.

'Rocks fell as I tried to climb back up. I'm somehow alive... I felt like something was keeping me from death.'

The Camp leaders looked at each other, wondering if what Chantalai was saying is true.

'If the place's been burried, we need to get some Pokemon to get the rocks out of the way so we can see the cylinders.'

Chantalai sat on a chair, exhausted from the trip. He watched
Raskalov pace back and forth. He stopped after a while.

'If we can get our hands on some precursor technology, the odds of this war could be even. I'll see to it that our army is ready.'

Raskalov said and Chantalai took his eyes from him to look at Hermes.

'And you? What're you doing here?'

Hermes looked back at Chantalai.

'The East Camp doesn't need me any more. We have joined our men together. We have about four hundred now that we got reinforcements from Altica.'

Altica was the northeastern part of Stygia, where the Dragon's End mountains dwelled and their citadel Acanthus was located. Chantalai remember his dad talking about another tribe of the north, the Illinkar. He wondered if they were officially fighting for the Frontier.

'We'll take three hundred with us and raid the Divine Temple, and we'll be taking Hermes with us too,' clarified Raskalov and the other two nodded. He turned to Chantalai. 'The Frontier is grateful for your services. Here's your reward,' he said and grabbed something from his belt; it was a pouch full of noisy gold coins. He threw it at Chantalai who caught it above his shoulder, grinning. Hermes walked out of the tent to inform the soldiers.

'It's worth four thousand dollars.'

Chantalai said nothing. He thought his father was well paid for his services, but he did not speak his mind up. He'd rather get paid more. Raskalov stood in front of him and leaned forward slightly.

'Chantalai. You said Baron is gaining influence by the gold he has gained from the Dark Cult. If we are to destroy him.. we must destroy his sources.'

The Zoroark nodded under the hood. Raskalov's red eyes flashed.

'I wouldn't ask a normal spy for this. Once you're done weakening him, finish him - but be warned, he knows you're coming. He somehow knows you are a killer.'

'I told Conrad the Baron will be silenced, and that I will do. Nothing will stop me.'

Raskalov seemed pleased. 'That's the spirit, boy! You look and talk just like your father!' Chantalai took that as a great compliment. He nodded, got up and walked outside the tent with the pouch in hand.

Lumos and Alinthea were just outside; Chantalai noticed how beautiful Alinthea was again. The intense sun was reflected on her fur, making it white, and her eyes were flashing red as she looked at him.

'Thank you, Chantalai, for bringing her here. You casted your mission aside...'

Chantalai said nothing as he looked at the Zangoose. He knew that Alinthea was not willing to come to the Frontier, and he was not feeling comfortable being the one who forced her to. He glanced at her, but she didn't seem upset anymore. Alinthea gave him a hearty smile and he smiled back.
Lumos noticed their moment.

'Beautiful, isn't she?'

Chantalai raised his eyebrows under the hood. He kept smiling.

'Yeah. Very'

As Alinthea giggled and looked on the ground, Chantalai approached the two. 'Lumos. I'll force the Baron out of town. If you appear at the right time, you'll restore your place in Erca.'

The Ninetails eyed him, worried, letting one of her tails subtly touch his shoulder. Lumos seemed surprised.

'You'll return in Erca?!'

'No, Chantalai, stay here..' muttered Alinthea. It sounded like she was begging, but Chantalai had already taken his decision.

'I will return in Erca. I need to finish what I started,' he smiled at Alinthea to calm her down. She paced forward, her snout reaching really close to his hood and she whispered, 'I'll be waiting for you, then.'

Chantalai felt like he was energized - he now had a strong motive to stay alive and finish his mission. Their eyes met for a moment and Chantalai almost thought of abandoning his duties. He looked at Lumos.

'We'll be getting three hundred men to raid a certain location outside Erca.'

'That'll cause trouble with the Baron, you sure we should proceed like that?'

'We don't have a choice right now. Besides, it'll be a good way to extend our dominance over the Wastelands.'

'But what are you raiding, exactly?'

'The Divine Temple,' Chantalai said with a sarcastically pompous tone.


***

After three days, the Stygian forces had formed another camp on the foot of the hill the Divine Temple was located. The camp looked exactly like the others: two Stygian flags were raised on the opening of pointy logs that surrounded the tents. Around three hundred Pokemon were chunked up in the camp; they had also claimed the hill as theirs. Chantalai was now in Raskalov's tent with Raskalov himself, Hermes, Lumos, Conrad and an old-looking Noctowl. The sight of that Noctowl made Chantalai think he had seen him somewhere else - and he considered it a bad sign. Raskalov introduced him as the scholar who would translate the runes for them, who was named Eosforos. He was coming from an Alamagna Academy of Knowledge.

'Alright, men. The operation will be carried out with extreme care, yeah? If we manage to get the job finished without the Ercans noticing, we will avoid a collision with their mercenaries.'

Everyone nodded. The Weavile turned to Chantalai. 'I want you to escort the excavation team to the temple, along with our scholar friend.' The Zoroark nodded and put his hand onto his heart, performing the warrior's salute. Raskalov did the same and turned to Hermes.

'I want you to be on constant lookout - if the Baron will strike, we need to know of it sooner so we can prepare our forces.' Hermes nodded, letting Raskalov continue. 'Our stand here is powerful - they can't surround us, they may be outnumbering us but the path between the hills is relatively narrow. We'll crush them with our superior skill.'

He then turned to Conrad and Lumos. 'Conrad. You will be the one to take your brother inside Erca, quietly of course. Keep informing us of any news from the city, too.'

'What will you be doing?' asked the scholar with a curiosity Chantalai found most annoying. It was as if he was saying that Raskalov would just sit there and do nothing. However, the leader did not take offense.

'I will be organizing our forces; I will also send scouts and recognition groups to the hills in case they hit us from above.'

'Any questions?'

Every Pokemon in the room fell silent. Chantalai walked out of the tent, the scholar following him.


***

The excavation group mainly consisted of trained Sandslashes, around fifteen of them were following Chantalai, who walked in the front with the Noctowl right next to him; they were climbing the hill, which was getting abrupt at some points. Clouds were blocking all view from the camp beneath them. No flying Pokemon could find its way to the top of that hill. Chantalai's eyes fell on the runes on his cloak.

'Can you translate those?'

Eosforos leaned over the end of his cloak, which he was holding up so the Noctowl could see.

'Here it says, "Black will hide you from harm, and White will guide your intentions". Where did you find these runes?' he asked again with the same annoying curiosity. Chantalai did not answer; he rubbed the runes off from his cloak. Black will hide you from harm, and White will guide your intentions. Only later in his life he understood what that meant.


They reached the top, the temple was standing pridefully in front of them. Chantalai looked inside the temple, where a massive hole was instead of an altar. Every Pokemon looked down at the hole; the bottom was not visible. The dark clouds prevented the sun from reaching that area. However, Chantalai could now feel that something was down there. At that point, he could not imagine what was hiding down there. He commanded everyone to climb down; he hung from the grassy cliffs that surrounded the cavern and made his way down to the rocks that had fallen on the bottom, blocking the river.

When they were all safely standing on the bottom of the cave, the Sandslashes started taking rocks out of the way, clearing the template. Only one cylinder, the cylinder where Chantalai had miraculously landing on was not burried under the rocks. The scholar had lit a light ball, which was extremely helpful againist the thick darkness of the cavern. He and Chantalai were standing next to the black cylinder with the blue runes, which were still glowing.

'Can you translate them?' asked Chantalai impatiently as he stared at the symbols. The Noctowl shook his head.

'They seem to be an unknown language.'

'What do you mean? You were able to translate those I had on my cloak, which I took them from here, therefore you will be able to translate those.' Eosforos looked at him as if he was only a disturbance. Chantalai thought there was something fishy about his attitude; but he did not investigate, as the Noctowl insisted he was not able to translate the runes.


***

Another three days passed; the excavation team had almost finished with the cave. They had revealed the black dragon statue, causing much controversy as to what it is between the Stygians. They did not know what to do with the rocks that had fallen inside the temple either; they were taken out by the Sandlashes, who were piling them up just outside the temple, on top of the hill. Meanwhile, the scholar had copied all of the runes into pages, Chantalai thinking he would take them to the Academy of Knowledge.

The third day of excavation, a terrible scream was heard outside the temple. Chantalai rushed outside and heard more screams echoing underneath the clouds. He rushed down the hill, leaving the excavation team and the scholar behind. Chantalai reached the camp; he looked around to see nobody - he saw them all in the front of the camp, where the screams were heard.

Raskalov was in the back, waving at him with his golden armour having lost its glimpse.

'Chantalai! The mercenaries are attacking us!'

The Zoroark ran over to him. 'How many are they?'

'They must be over seven hundred.. but they are attacking us from two sides! The teams which were scouting the hills were found dead, they destroyed them...'

Chantalai did not speak of his anger. He remained dead calm. 'How did they know where we were? How could we not see this coming?'

'I don't know.. Hermes is injured, I don't know where he is, he might already be dead...'

He patted Raskalov's shoulder to give him courage. The Weavile was getting too old for this, he thought momentarily. Necro's mercenaries knew their location, and the scout's positions. I smell betrayal. What if they caught Lumos and Conrad as well?

Chantalai pushed away any other thought and rushed to the Camp's entrance. Outside the camp, all of the Stygian forces were fighting off the mercenaries in the narrow path, but the rest of the mercenaries were coming from the hills of the southwest. The situation was grim, but Chantalai did not frown.

He rushed, invisible, towards the hills on the southwest, breaking apart from the Stygian army. He glanced behind him at Raskalov who was charging againist their enemies; he then looked forward to see the mercenaries coming in groups from the narrow southwestern path. Chantalai hid in the bushes, taking his revolver out of its hatch. He had a plan; he aimed carefully at the first group. He pulled the trigger and the sound cracked like thunder in the area - a mercenary fell, and every other group stopped to look at what happened. Chantalai fired the handgun again with precision, taking another life and making them back off. He fired again and again, until they were literally running for the hills. Chantalai, despite his tension, laughed out and headed towards the spot where the mercenaries had fallen.

He examined the fallen Seviper first - it had a belt with a sack of coins and a necklace of some sort. Chantalai grabbed the small sack and emptied it of any coin, adding them to his own. He was about to move to the next one, but he heard a sound from behind the trees. Chantalai raised his head to see the mercenaries appearing - they had surrounded him. A Rampardos caught Chantalai's attention; it was an enormous Pokemon in a silver plate armour.

'Look what we found guys, the fairy who kills us!'

The Rampardos said and the rest laughed. Chantalai slowly got up to his feet, darkness forming in his hands. He adopted a battle stance and was about to send a wave of darkness in front of him - but a sharp voice coming from afar stopped him.

'Stop right there'

The mercenaries turned around. Lower than them, a group of Pokemon in golden armours were standing, and a Garchomp in front of them. The sight was truly marvelous; Chantalai wondered how much powerful these Pokemon were. Each of them seemed skilled in the art of war, yet they did not have that bloodthirst the Stygians had. The Garchomp walked forward - he seemed mighty despite the distance.

'I am Anthrax "Ace" Lane, honourable general of the Ionian Verdict.'

Chantalai opened his eyes wide in surprise. The Garchomp was being serious - they truly were the Ionian Verdict. What are they doing here? He eyed the Rampardos on the right and snickered at his puzzled look. The Garchomp paced towards them; now that Chantalai was able to take a closer look at him, he recognized an extremely powerful Pokemon.

'I see you have surrounded a Zoroark. That's not exactly fair, don't you agree?'

The leader of the mercenaries, the Rampardos paced towards the Garchomp as well. Chantalai thought of something; he knew what the Zoroarks were.

'What we are doing is none of your business, you golden wanna-be'

Ace moved as fast as lightning - only a sharp eye like Chantalai could catch his movement. The Garchomp actually covered twenty feet of distance in a second, the next second pummeling the Rampardos to the ground. The mercenaries were stunned by the speed and skill of that Pokemon; Ace whistled right after and the Ionian Verdict charged againist the mercenaries. Chantalai could not believe in his eyes - the warriors with the golden armours were extremely organized, dedicated and skillful; every one of them seemed to be able to deal with ten or more opponents at once, as the mercenaries outnumbered them. The Garchomp, who appeared to be the leader of the group, swished through the battlefield like a lethal machine, eliminating his opponents with swiftness and precision; Chantalai noticed that he was always striking specific spots, making the mercenaries fall quickly and silently. He secretly admired the skill that was far better than his.

All of the mercenaries got slaughtered in a matter of minutes in front of Chantalai's eyes. More than two hundred Pokemon were laying dead on the ground, and the Ionian Verdict had not lost one man, they did not even have one injury. If this force turns againist Stygia, we will be exterminated... I must play this nicely.

Chantalai approached Ace and kneeled in front of him.

'Get up. I am no King, I am simply representing the
Ionian Verdict as a general.'

As Chantalai got up, the Garchomp looked over his shoulder to a Jolteon. 'Search for survivors. Keep them alive and tell them to carry a message to whoever is paying them to do this miserable job: the Hesperian Empire temporarily claims this area of Stygia. I don't reckon he is dumb, he will realize that if they refuse, the King will declare war.'

The Jolteon nodded firmly; Chantalai glanced at it and the soldier glanced back at him with a sharp look and a grin on his face. He then dashed off, Ace turning to the Zoroark.

'Now... what's up with you? Why are you wearing a hood and who do you think you are, fighting with two hundred mercenaries?'

Chantalai was offended, but he did not show it. He reminded himself to go easy. Sublety is what he needed now; time for some acting.

'I'm wearing hood so the mean men like them don't recognize me! I was simply passing by and they attacked me...'

'Hmm... what's your name?' inquired the Garchomp, skeptical. A dead silence had fallen behind him - no member of the Ionian Verdict was talking, nobody was moving and everybody was looking forward.

'Chantalai Cortez.'

'Ah, Cortez.'

A sigh of relief exited from the lips of the Verdict members, for reasons unknown to Chantalai. They even exchanged weird looks. He would later find out that, changing his surname was one of the wisest decisions in his life.

'And tell me, Cortez. What lies behind those hills?'

Ace's tone had changed now, it had softened up a bit. His bloodied razor-like fangs and claws contrasted this calm personality that was arising. Chantalai did not know whether that Pokemon was a threat to the Stygians or not.

'A temple with a big hole in it, nothing too big.'

'I'll be the one to judge the "nothing too big". You will kindly take us to the hill.'

Chantalai took a convincing worried expression. 'The mercenaries are fighting with the natives over the temple just north of these hills! I don't want to get involved...'

'We will lay claim on that temple, so they might as well end their quarrels.'

The Zoroark nodded, his heart racing. What do those people want?

That thought was torturing him as he guided them through the hills. The light of the night Karnos filled the sky as if it was blood.
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