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Old November 21st, 2012 (03:18 AM).
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The Prince of Sweet Sorrow
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Chapter 2: Reconnaissance Operations Front-Line Soldiers


Beyond the mountain range of the southwest was located a burning and rugged land, ravaged by war between the Stygians and the Fire Clan of the south. Both were claiming these grounds, turning them into massive graveyards and ruining them forever with fire. These lands were called the Scorching Steppes, and they stayed uncharted by the Hesperians due to the war that raged on them. But now the Fire Clan had dominated, the King thought it was safe to send a reconnaissance mission of his best soldiers to create a map and ensure they note down all the elements the Hesperians needed to tend to in order to proceed into this dangerous part of the land. The team that took on such services for the Empire was named Reconnaissance Operations Front-Line Soldiers (or R.O.F.L.S. for short), and they were now wandering the southeastern steppes, lost and with limited food supplies.

Baron Marcus Vanchez, the leader of the expedition, was not in a good mood. As a matter of fact, he was never in good mood, and that's why his subordinates always avoided to bother him. But if one could ever be in a worse mood than him, it was Princess Rosa. A good question to be raised would be, what in the world would a Princess be doing in an expedition in these foreign lands? No one really knew, not even Marcus. The Princess was a fifteen year old Weavile with tricky red eyes and short build, characteristic of the Nagrand family; her attitude was extremely disruptive and she was always being difficult. She managed to slow the group down and get them lost, but nobody would dare complain. Rosa was right now in the said bad mood, walking apart from the group on her own with only a robe protecting her from the intense sun.

"Apparently, the Princess is displaced with her servant, Maria," said Raigeki, an Electivire, to his friend Hinotama, a Magmortar. "She refused to massage her feet with our remaining water."

"Bet it's because she's too lazy, rather than avoiding to use our precious water," said the Magmortar and the two bursted into laughter as if it was some kind of inside joke between them.

"Shut your yaps, you gravitationally challenged oafs! I'm trying to think," shouted Marcus, the Excadrill in lead of the group. Why he called him gravitionally challenged instead of just fat would remain a mystery, because, nobody dared to question this man.

"By all means, carry on, sir," said Raigeki with a slightly ironical smile the Baron did not notice. The Excadrill jerked his head towards another member of the expendition, a Bibarel named Kastor.

"You!" he said in his loud voice and demanding tone, making the Bibarel face him, "go get that maid to explain to our princess that we don't have enough water and we all might be dead by tomorrow!"

Kastor sighed and nodded, then turned and looked at Maria, a Lilligant, who was right behind him and had heard all of what Marcus had said. Kastor and Maria were good friends, they would share everything; but in this trip, they would only trade complaints about Princess Rosa.

Maria rolled her eyes and walked unwillingly towards Rosa, who was profoundly ignoring all of them. As she engaged in a conversation, Marcus gathered his subordinates close to him with a single glance; the soldier's were now well-aware of these glances. Raigeki, Hinotama, Kastor and the last member of the expendition, a Grumpig by the name of Kazzak formed a walking circle. Kazzak was carrying papers with him in a bag tied around his chubby body; he was responsible for drawing the maps, but so far, he had not progressed at all.

"Listen up, ladies," the Baron shouted in a whisper. He glanced at the Princess and her 'maid' and then back at his soldiers, warning them not to be loud. "Does ANY of you have a clue why the King made us take his prized daughter in these wastelands?"

Kastor, who was the most devoted to their leader, spoke first. "No sir, but we cannot answer that question right now, so I will pose another question: why did he keep her departure with us a secret?"

The Excadrill scratched his chin with the end of his drill hand. Kazzak spoke next, "she has got to be important for this mission, somehow. But we do not know how, yet... we should wait some more."

"Waiting's for losers," said Hinotama and chuckled. "I'd rather go ask her myself!"

Marcus slammed slammed his drill on top of the Magmortar's head. "Silence!" he ordered, shooting a worried glance over the Princess and her servant, who were now arguing as usual. "Do you think she wouldn't have told us by now?"

"No, I think it's quite more important than that," stated the Bibarel. Everybody looked at him; they all appreciated his opinion, even Raigeki and Hinotama. "We will find the purpose of her presence in this journey, sooner or later. All we've got to do is stay quiet and be ready for whatever's to come."

"Good thinking, soldier! But we don't even know if we'll survive here..." said Marcus, looking around. The Scorching Steppes had gotten their name from the ashes the grass had turned into and the red sand that made the area look like it was constantly in fire.

The Weavile and the Lilligant approached the circle; they subtly lost formation as to not arouse suspicion. Rosa and Marcus had those frowns that would scare any person in his senses, and the rest fell in the silence that dominated them the past months. Suddenly, Rosa broke it, letting out a girly scream. At first, the soldiers rolled their eyes and prepared their ears to hear another of her usual rants, but they saw she was pointing as somewhere in the horizon.

"Village ahead of us! Ahh, at last, I'll be able to have my feet massaged!~"

Marcus fixed his eyes on the spear logs that surrounded the 'village'. Red flags were racing with the wind above it. He then turned to the Weavile. "This, Lady Rosa, is one of the Fire Clan's camps..."

She jerked her head to stare at him with a menacing look on her face. "What do you MEAN!" she yelled, "Maria tells me we're running out of water, so that's a perfect chance to find some!"

Marcus shook his head. He had no choice but to lead them right into a camp full of bloodthirsty warriors of the Fire Clan. It was highly unlikely they'd ever leave the place alive.

"I doubt they'll have any water," said Hinotama. "Us fire types don't need any of it..."

Marcus frowned, considering the possibilities. Kazzak, as a psychic type, was not used to these rough conditions and was willing to risk his life for some water. Not to speak of the Bibarel, who was more water dependant than any of them. "We don't have any other leads right now. "

"I agree, it's our best chance," Kastor supported him. Even though he needed the water most, being a water type, he never showed any signs of weakness and he would always share his water with Maria or Rosa.

They reached the camp after twenty minutes; they had picked up the pace, since water was promised. These desperate search for water tortured them all along their journey, and they'd been pushed this far many times before, so they were all used to it. Except Princess Rosa, of course.

Flames were the symbol represented on the flags. It was simple yet menacing - the symbol of the Fire Clan was feared amongst the peaceful residents of the Steppes, who were burned to death by the invaders from the south. And those who survived were crushed between the Stygians that rushed in these lands. How would they be welcomed? Would the Fire Clan be friendly towards them? Those questions circled Marcus's mind as they walked towards the spears that could very well be their end. The camp seemed bigger than what they'd seen so far - maybe the Fire Clan had formed a town of some sort.

Howls were heard from two watchtowers inside the camp. Marcus and his squad kept their guard up, ready to slip into their battle stances and form a circle around the Princess to protect her. The howls suddenly stopped.

"Halt!"

The group headed the order, keeping a safe distance from the closed gates. They saw two Growlithes in each watchtower; Marcus thought of ordering the group to move out immediately, but he didn't.

"What do you want?" asked one of the fire Pokemon.

"We only need some water, and we'll leave you in peace," said Marcus.

The guards started laughing. They stopped after a while under the Excadrill's serious expression and they glanced at each other. One of them jumped from the watchtower inside the camp and the other stared at the group intently. The gates opened after some moments and the guard returned to his post on top of the watchtower.

The group slowly walked inside. The camp was seemingly empty, literally, but after a closer observation, the Hesperians noticed holes in the ground all across the fifty yards of the camp. When all of them were through, two Houndooms pushed the doors, closing them. A single fire-type Pokemon appeared from a hole on the far end of the camp and walked towards them through the path. It was a Typhlosion with a stare colder than the wastelands of Stygia. Marcus had no idea who it was, but he could feel the intense power of this Pokemon from where he was standing - this Typhlosion was the second sun on the battlefield.

"Hey there, young warriors," the Typhlosion said in an unexpectedly soft and calm tone. His accent was weird, but nobody noticed; everybody was busy with trying to define the power this Pokemon emitted... it was almost unnatural, Marcus thought. He also thought of not questioning the statement that they were young. Then he noticed the fire-type was holding something on his tighened fist.

"I am Sigmund Blados. And you are?"

It's like everyone was frozen under his unwelcoming, yet soft tone. This Pokemon would fry fifty of them without breaking a sweat. Marcus managed to say, "we are travellers," but Sigmund didn't react. The Excadrill noticed something weird, then: the Princess was staring at the Typhlosion's fist, instead of his face like everyone else. And his face was surely drawing one's attention, although looking him straight into his yellow eyes seemed dangerous.

"I can see that," the Typhlosion said sarcastically, approaching them with his fist still extended and tightened. "You are Hesperians," he said as if it was a known fact.

Marcus heard someone from behind him swallow and Maria sobbing quietly. Suddenly, the idea of coming to the Fire Clan's camp seemed like the most idiotic idea one could ever had to Marcus.

"And what would Hesperians be doing around these parts?"

Nobody answered. It was like they knew it was all in vein. If they told him they were mapping out the Scorching Steppes, they'd ask them why. And when they did, they'd know Hesperians would be coming here with bad intentions. Suddenly, fire-types popped out from the holes, surrounding them. Hinotama was the only one who could be hoping for mercy.

Sigmund, who appeared to be their leader, leaned forward and half shut his eyes in a menacing look. "Come to steal my treasure, have you?"

"No! Of course not, we don't know anything of a treasure..." shouted Marcus, his tone descending as he finished the sentence.

"Oh? And what is the Princess doing here with you?" asked the Typhlosion with a slight grin as if he had just won a mind game. Marcus thought of telling him he sincerely had no idea either, but Rosa stepped forward and spoke.

"Yes! I'm after your darkstar!"

Everyone looked at her, stunned by surprise. Except Sigmund, who let out a laugh. "And how were you planning to get it?" he inquired, suddenly serious again. Rosa remained silent, and Marcus wondered what she was truly thinking; he frowned, measuring their possibilities of survival through all these fire types. There were none. The elite warriors of the Hesperian Empire would die like this right in the Fire Clan's turf. And what was that 'darkstar' they were talking about?

"Tell you what, friends," Sigmund's tone suddenly changed again, although the last word was undoubtedly sarcastic. "I'll hold you here as hostages. I will question this lady about her knowledge of my treasure," he said, looking at the Weavile, "and for every unanswered question, I will execute one of you."

Marcus felt fear behind him, but not into him; this wouldn't end good for them in any way, he knew. Their lives were all up to the princess.

"Go on and kill them, see if I care! Let's see who you'll kill once you're done with them, freak!" Rosa shouted fearlessly at Sigmund who opened his yellow eyes wide. Marcus knew she was bluffing, but so did Sigmund. If Rosa did not give him the information he needed, whatever it was, they would kill them. If they did, they would still kill all of them except the Princess - they had no use of the soldiers, anyway. They would all die in the hands of that Pokemon either way.
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