Tales of the Hashashin: the Phantom Dancer and the Endarkened Ones
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January 21st, 2013 (02:00 PM). Edited February 2nd, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
The Prince of Sweet Sorrow
Join Date: Feb 2009
Chapter 10: The Hooded Figure and the Altar of Shadows
Shango and Crystal were heading towards Podville Town under Karnos's midnight light. The sky looked like a pool of blood, but the Pokemon of this world were used to such sight every night and before dawn. The Zoroark was staring at the red planet with a kind of attention Shango hadn't seen before.
"What's so special about Karnos?" he asked her, observing her at the same moment.
"It's where the Gods of Black and White live. That's where the Nether Plane draws its power from - like the sea draws power from the moon," she replied without looking at him. "And the stronger the Nether Plane is, the stronger the dark-types are, and of course, we, the voidborn."
"Yes, Nether Plane. The void that consumes our world. Some say it's infinity, but I dunno about it..."
"I see," said Shango and glanced to his shoulder where Tristana was standing, invisible. He couldn't wait to talk to her; but he couldn't reveal her now - he would have to explain where he found her.
They entered the quiet and peaceful town, their steps echoing in the streets as they progressed on the sand path.
"Is 'Crystal' some kind of code name?"
"No. they didn't give me any code names," she responded with her eyes fixed on somewhere ahead. Shango looked as well to see a wheeled stand parked in front of a fence at the side of the road. Two torches stuck inside the ground were shedding their light across the empty street.
"What's this?" he whispered, with his guard up. The Zoroark started laughing.
"It's the vessel that gets us around. Ravenscare!" she said and pointed at a sign above the stand. The name Ravenscare was drawn with pretty flowers... and a Salamence destroying them with fire. As her loud voice was heard (probably all around the neighborhood), two familiar shady silhouettes appeared behind the stand.
"'Hey, you two," shouted one of them. Shango recognized Enzo the Ambipom; the one next to him was the Bisharp named Vincenzo. "You rookies ready to have some fun tonight?!" shouted the Ambipom, just as loud as Crystal. Vincenzo next to him buried his face in his palm and muttered, "oh, brother..."
Before Shango could protest, or even ask what kind of 'fun' Enzo was talking about, Crystal nodded vigorously.
"Yeah! Let's get going! Where to?"
"Horlon Forest, it's the Druid Festival Under the Full Moon!"
Shango raised his claw in the height of his face in a questioning manner, "wait, what will we be doing there?"
"Celebrating your promotion, I suppose," said Vincenzo in an expression that revealed boredom. Shango didn't take offense - he was bored of celebrations too, but in this particular case, this was good. It meant he would get to know them better. "C'mon, hop in!" shouted Enzo, motioning to them with his tails. Shango got aboard the moving stand, feeling kind of ridiculous at first.
"How does this thing move?" he asked Crystal, full of curiosity.
"You'll see," said Crystal and winked at him, right before Enzo started shouting again. He seemed to be the talkative type.
"Ramos! Ramos, wake up you lazy fatass!" the Ambipom was looking at something beyond the fence behind us, something that Shango couldn't see.
A giant bear escalated from the ground almost immediately; an Ursaring was standing behind the fence, where it was sleeping moments ago. Shango's eyes opened wide, trying to grasp the might of that Pokemon. The small black eyes were giving off the feeling that this bear was wild, and that it had destroyed many Pokemon before. But when he spoke in a deep, calm voice, Shango was assured that he was a good Pokemon.
"Somebody called?" he asked, looking at the four Pokemon aboard the stand. "Oh, I get it... rolling duty again."
He jumped above the fence, landing on the other side with a small quake. Shango glanced around, fearing they would wake up the innocent citizens. At the same time, he wondered how this mighty bear ended up doing "rolling duty" for the Hashashin.
"Who are you?" he heard the deep voice of Ramos ask. He jerked his head towards the bear, who had just noticed him.
"He is Shango Maverick, our newest assassin. I suggest you get moving, or we'll lose the Festival" Vincenzo said in a mild tone.
The Ursaring grunted as he turned around to grab the rope that was on the ground next to the stand; he tied it around his waist, and when he started moving ahead, the whole stand with the sign of Ravenscare started moving. Shango hadn't experienced something like that, as he had never gotten on a vehicle before. Who would want to ride a moving thing when you could run? Tristana seemed to like the feeling, and he sensed she was smiling and was cheerful in days, he could tell by her pulse. He ended up smiling as well, trying to relax and enjoy the ride.
Enzo chuckled, patting the moving stand and glancing at Shango. "Latest technology, bro. Don't tell me you thought we were gettin' 'round the towns, on foot?"
Crystal and Enzo clutched each other and started laughing like he had just said an extremely funny joke. Shango's smile was enlarged, seeing them, and when his eyes met with Vincenzo's, he could clearly read his thoughts:
So, they smiled at each other, forming a secret, unspoken alliance. Only then Shango noticed the whip that hung folded from the Bisharp's belt, and he wondered what its use was. He decided it wasn't the time to ask, and he turned his head to watch the scenery of the moving trees as Ramos pulled them through the street - soon, they would be out of Podville and into the forest on the northern side, now deeply inside the Empire of Stygia.
"What is this festival you mentioned?" Shango asked suddenly.
"The Hotori Druids gather in one of the ponds of Horlon forest every month," Vincenzo proceeded to explain, "they honor nature and the wonders of our world."
"And what will be doing there?"
"Giving a show, of course!" yelled Crystal, excited at the very thought. Then she looked at her peers. "Shango, you'll be our firebreather. Enzo here will making acrobatics and Vincenzo will be taming the 'wild' beast that is Ramos!"
She pronounced wild sarcastically, and Shango thought it was easy for the crowds to buy that Ramos was a wild Pokemon. Suddenly, Vincenzo's whip made sense. It was an ingenious marketing maneuver. "But what will you be doing?" he asked his cousin.
"The clown, of course. People love my illusions!"
And the conversation went on, as they were leaving Podville behind them; the Ursaring did not seem to be tired at all, even after two hours. The Pokemon must have been used to this kind of work. They had entered the forest a long time ago, and the red planet had disappeared from the sky as well, giving its place to a full moon. The moonlight barely passed through the thick leaves of the forest, but the gentle wind managed to touch Shango and refresh him. He was afraid of the heat emanating from his fairy Pokemon reaching the others, but they did not seem to feel a thing.
After some time, they heard voices from the depths of the forest. Ramos lead the moving stand through the sand path, trying not to shake it too much. Ahead of them, there was a clearing in the middle of the trees allowed the moonlight to fill the area; a pond with crystal clear and reflective water was waving calmly. On the other side of the pond, multiple grass and water type Pokemon were sitting on the lush, rich grass, forming a circle. And in the middle of them, a great fire was brimming, teaming up with the moon to light up the clearing. The druids, once they heard the wheels of the stand rolling on the sand, turned their heads in obvious disturbance. But once they saw the Pokemon, they stood up, leaving the seriousness and devotion of their rituals, to cheer like the Hashashin. Some druids run around the pond to greet them cheerfully, shaking hands and tails with Enzo, who was the first one to reach them. Crystal grabbed Shango's shoulders and forced him to face her.
"Listen up, Shango," she started, "these people are familiar with us, but they don't know we're Hashashin, so lay low, 'kay?"
"Why are we even here?" Shango asked with a plain expression that hid the original question he couldn't voice: what business had the mighty Hashashin with some partying druids? He thought all the Hashashin do were scheme in the dark and eliminate their enemies to advance politically and amass greater fortunes. But this... they were just going to put on a show. He recalled what he knew about the druids of the Hotori... they were hive minded people - they did not trust outsiders. Yet, they trusted the Hashashin... perhaps they are playing a diplomatic game here, one that he was not aware of.
Crystal glanced at the druids, following his plain look.
"Oh, nothing. Just a little thing we like to call 'spying'. They're Hotori, you see - and we need to keep track of their movements. This Tribe is dangerous, even when peaceful."
Shango nodded, cocking a smile as his assumption was confirmed. Crystal had already jumped off the stand, and so had Vincenzo. Shango jumped down as well; he felt the sand wet under his feet. Ramos stopped the stand and Vincenzo placed it so the sign reading 'Ravenscare' was turned against the druids. The Ursaring then roared, and the Bisharp grabbed hold of the ropes, bringing him in front of the cheering druids.
Crystal walked next to him,
but didn't stop next to him when he kept a safe distance from the crowd.
"Greetings druids, Ravenscare has arrived," she yelled. A massive Venusaur had stepped forward from the druids; he appeared to be the Archdruid. He slowly gave a great pouch full of coins to Crystal, who turned to hurl it at Enzo. The Ambipom caught in the air with a theatrical pirouette and landed on top of the sign of the stand. Crystal winked at Shango, who kneeled like a prince and faced the sky, opening his mouth. The next moment, he was shooting fire endlessly as the invisible fairy was supplying him with all the energy that he needed.
The flamethrower was shot to the starry sky, offering an amazing sight to the druids who let out cries; Shango then stopped to take a breath, and he would start again, but then a great roar from the Ursaring broke to the skies. Ramos's massive figure was towering above the crowd, having his arms raised as if he was attacking. Vincenzo's whip hit the 'wild' Pokemon, who let out a cry and turned to face the Bisharp.
As Shango was watching the show from the sidelines, Crystal was found next to him. "Don't worry, the whip doesn't really hurt him," he whispered, looking at Ramos and his tamer fight each other pretty convincingly. Shango thought it was amazing so far; he admired the spirit the Hashashin put into this, but he had a feeling he hadn't seen anything. Enzo launched himself from the stand, landing on top of the Ursaring. He started laughing maniacally, clutching Ramos's back. Laughs were spread as Ramos started rampaging, seemingly out of control, trying to throw Enzo off his back.
The Ambipom jumped into the crowd, stepping on the heads and backs of the grass Pokemon. He performed a couple of flips in mid air, then suddenly disappeared. A stream of green fire appeared from nowhere in the sky, engulfing all of the area in a mist that seemed unreal. Shango glanced at the Zoroark, who had a strange glow in her eyes; she was apparently casting illusions.
A Salamence appeared from the mist and roared with all the might of its lungs; the trick was clearly aimed to scare, but the druids cried in support as the dragon kept circling above their heads. Just then, when everyone was looking above, Shango saw something in the crowd. It was a white hood, an impeccable darkness underneath that prevented his keen eyes from seeing through it. The hooded figure of his dreams was standing right there, staring directly at and through him with a piercing gaze that didn't seem to exist - the whole scene was unreal, the druids looking up the sky, while that hooded Pokemon between them all ignoring everything that went on.
After three seconds that seemed like an eternity, that somebody in the white hood turned around. The Zangoose saw the back of his white hood, two black ears falling in the back. Under Tristana's urging, he charged in the crowd, nobody noticing him as they were busy with the show Crystal was giving. He gently pushed the druids out of his way, even though he was running, slipping past them easily. He had his eyes fixed on the black cape of the unreal Pokemon. He finally exited the crowd, his eyes catching the white of the cloak disappearing into the bushes; without second thought, he jumped into the bushes as well and tracked the white down, amidst the dark of the night.
Shango saw the white hoody running between the trees at the same speed as him. It suddenly glanced behind, the dark in his hoody still impenetrable; Shango was forced to stop from the intensity of the look, but the hooded Pokemon kept going. It was as if they wanted to make sure they were being followed. They disappeared in the trees and Tristana popped next to his shoulder.
"Who is this?" she asked in a quite worried tone, holding onto his shoulder for dear life. Shango had never told her about his dreams - mainly because he had not seen that particular one again, and, because she got too worried about these things.
"I don't know," he replied between his breaths as he ran through the trees. He had focused his eyes on the figure, that seemed otherworldly... like it was an illusion. But Crystal was nowhere near, and how could an illusion appear in his dreams? He had also seen it in the Fire Clan's underground chamber. But just who was it?
This night hunt continued for about ten minutes, until a rock wall appeared behind some trees, blocking his way. There was a small entrance to a cave, right there on the ground, and the mysterious figure was gone. The Zangoose kneeled and examined the entrance carefully. His instinct was telling him it was safe, but Tristana was shouting in his ear.
"We're gonna be fine," Shango said as he hurled himself into the cave; it appeared to be a slide that lead him deep underground. The darkness was thick in the tunnel for a moment, but then Tristana started glowing as if her body was a shimmering flame. She was holding onto his chest tightly as they slid, and he felt her warmth taking over him. She was such a great help at these times, but he sure wouldn't tell her so she wouldn't get cocky.
Shango finally landed somewhere on his four feet, and the Victini flew above him to sit on his shoulder again.
"Never again," she said jokingly, her voice echoing in the cave. Shango looked around, only to see he was standing on a rock, endless darkness around him. "Uh-oh," he muttered as he touched the rock with his claws to check for its stability. It seemed to be fine, but he could tell there was nothing beyond it. He was standing on a column, right above the abyss. Suddenly, he jerked his heads towards a direction, perking up his ears, which were picking up a distant sound of some kind of psalms.
"Shango, look," whispered Tristana. He looked at her sideways, then turned to look at what she was looking at. The light of her fiery body fell on some other rocks were ascending right from the abyss; the gap between them was fairly large.
He took some steps back, as much as he could on the rock. "Hang on," he said, and before Tristana could say a thing, he dashed forward and leaped from the rock. The black abyss threatening to swallow him whole passed under his feet; the Zangoose landed on the rock, tumbling on it and regaining his balance quickly so that he may jump again if the rock crumbled away. He glanced behind him, at the gap he'd just crossed with a single leap.
"Fifteen feet," stated Tristana. Her tone gave away her smile; Shango was smiling also.
"Impressive, aren't I?"
There was another rock, to where the psalms were coming from. He repeated the jump, executing it carefully like the first one; beginning to pick up the pace, the thought of unraveling the mysterious of the figure drove him forward. After some leaps, he reached a point where a rocky wall was blocking his way. Shango grabbed hold of the Victini and threw her upwards; she flew a little, looking around as her light was shed all around the cavern. Tristana then let herself fall directly onto the Zangoose's hands, looking up jauntily at him with her sparkling blue eyes.
"There's an opening up there," she said. "You can climb this."
Shango nodded and launched himself from the rock, his claws finding their way into the rock wall's openings and holding him onto it. A couple of small rocks fell into the abyss, never to be seen or heard again. He pulled himself up with swift and agile moves, reaching the opening in the rock Tristana informed him about. Another cave. The strange songs seemed to be coming from there. Shango started running forward with the light provided by his fairy revealing his path; it was a labyrinth-like maze, but there was only one way forward, thankfully.
The narrow cavernous path suddenly ended. Shango almost fell down on the abyss in front of him, but he managed to keep his balance. Then he raised his eyes; a vibrant, green to gray light was lighting the cave up. Thirty feet under him, the floor of the cave was perfectly shaped, worked by Pokemon as it was. An altar made of grey stone was raised right in the middle of the cavern; and in front of the altar, the Pokemon in the white cloak was kneeling, hands raised high. The hymns of Shango's dreams suddenly came to reality with this realization -
what he was he was hearing this whole time. Along with that realization, he was able to spot some of the features of the body of the mysterious Pokemon - it was certainly of feline structure, while it resembled closely to him.
The hymning seemed to be from a completely different world, vibrant and unreal like the light that fell from the ceiling of the cavern. It was as if it crossed dimensions to be heard in this one; it charmed Shango, it made him feel whole as if his subconscious could understand the meaning of the words, but he truly did not in the very end. Then, it suddenly ended. Shango snapped out of it; he realized the figure was staring at him again, deeply and piercingly. Suddenly, terror jumped out to engulf his heart: what if that Pokemon was the enemy?
Regardless of his fear, he leaped down the rock, charmed by the figure. Landing was easy - everything seemed easy at the moment. Tristana seemed to have been enticed as well, as she was simply looking at the figure - it was only ten feet away from them.
"Who are you?" Shango managed to ask, his mouth left half-opened after he finished his sentence. "You reek of fantasy..." he whispered to the unmoving figure, not daring to approach further.
"What do you want?" the Zangoose continued and took a step closer, trying to pierce the darkness under the hood. It was all in vain - despite his powerful eyesight, the hood was perpetually covered by a veil, like it was hiding the face of this mysterious Pokemon on purpose. The figure opened his arms wide, welcoming him in a great hug.
Drawn forward by an indestructible desire, he took another step forward and hugged the Pokemon for reasons even he did not know. He was taller than him by one feet exactly; Shango felt a familiar source of power inside that Pokemon. It was a darkstar, surely, the hand that had merged with the gem was now tickling him at the back of that Pokemon. Yes, of course. Whoever that was, they had been touched by a darkstar, and not just once; forever, for a million lifetimes. Not just touched, they were
from a darkstar.
"Who are you?" he whispered again, looking inside the darkness of the cloak. The psalms this Pokemon was singing before were still echoing in his mind, though it was silent now. He felt a raging power inside, threatening clouds, an unspeakable power; he let go of him. To his surprise, he finally spoke, or rather, a message was left in his mind.
The Spirit of the Hashashin.
The storm came out as fierce wind. Those were the last words of the hood\ed Pokemon before it dispersed into a mist that shrouded Shango; it was like he could inhale it inside his own body, and so he did. He fell on his knees in front of the altar, panting heavily. His stomach was burning, his heart was beating faster and the pupils of his eyes had dilated so much, the emerald shine was lost - only black remained. After a few moments, he blinked, realizing that a white cloak with a hood and a cape were laying between him and the altar.
"Shango, are you alright?" he heard Tristana ask. "What happened?"
"I don't know... Did you hear that?"
"Spirit of the Hashashin..." she repeated slowly, looking up and thinking about it.
"I've never heard of such thing..." Shango muttered; then he thought that maybe the phrase was not actually literal. That hooded Pokemon could be an actual person... but who? One thing was for sure, before him was the same white cloak that Pokemon was wearing. The Zangoose picked it up from the shoulders with the kind of attention you lift the most precious jewels in the world. The material of the cloak was unknown to Shango - but it seemed limp, it easily fit according to his body's structure when he wore it. Despite its ends touching the ground, it would not impair him from running.
Beneath the cloak were some tight finger-free gloves and a cape, everything made from skin of the dragons; they were fireproof and nearly indestructible. He attached the black cape onto the shoulder of the cloak; he then examined the gloves. They appeared more like braces especially made to fit his hands. When he touched them, he felt an invisible force radiating from them, like they were not just braces.
I'll get my uncle to look at them.
"You look alot different," Tristana admitted with an amazed expression, observing him from head to toe.
The gray light continued to hit Shango, who had now wore all of the clothes the hooded figure left behind; if he was a little taller, he would look identical to him, or so he thought. He smiled under the hood, feeling truly free in that cloak. He tied the red sash with his emblem around it to hold it up. It was much better than the old cloak of the Ionian Verdict.
"Come on," Shango said, with his eyes fixed on the rocky wall, his way out. He motioned at the Victini, who flew up and sat on his left shoulder, as usual.
"Let's get outta here, before I get the urge to hug any more strangers," he said in a humorous manner with a whole smile carved on his face. He sprinted up the wall and grabbed hold of the rocky edges; he discovered the gloves helped him greatly in climbing.
"Where's this light coming from, anyway?" he wondered out loud as he looked up. There was an opening on the ceiling of the cavern; he hung himself from the ceiling and made his way to it. When he reached it, before he pulled his body up, he glanced back at the altar.
Shango detected the source of the gray light: multiple gems were stuck on the walls of the cave that reflected a beam of moonlight originating from another opening in the far back of the tunnel. The Zangoose watched his reflection on the gems, the hooded Pokemon with the cloak, one and the same. It was now him - or was he seeing somebody else?
"Oh, my, Shango! These are diamonds," Tristana giggled, jumping down from his shoulder. As she fiddled with one of the rocks on the floor, Shango kneeled and picked some of them up; those would make him rich!
"Give them here. Your friends will be jealous," she said and snatched the small pieces of jewels from his hands. He looked around; but there were no more shattered gems of the kind, and the ones of the walls of the cavern wouldn't budge. He thought of digging them up... but then again, he was never fond of riches. It was the simple things in life that mattered most to him.
Tristana didn't share his opinion though; her partner started laughing at her behavior and grabbed her tiny hand, forcing her to follow. He walked towards the opening, the Victini clutching onto the gems as her biggest treasures.
"Diamonds are a girl's best friend," she stated, gritting her teeth from the effort of carrying so many diamonds.
"There are more valuable things in life," said Shango, looking at his gloves and cloak.
All of the Pokemon near the pond, including the Hashashin, were disturbing the peace of the night by snoring loudly. It sounded like Ramos's roars, but he was also snoring loudly, fallen in front of the stand. Shango had just woken up his cousin Crystal, who was rubbing her eyes. The Zangoose shook her shoulders.
"Crystal! What happened here?" he asked in a worried tone. She looked around, trying to wake up. She seemed drunk.
"Oh, that? We were just partying, man, weren't you here?"
"No, I wasn't."
Crystal then observed him with her eyes half closed. She suddenly looked menacing, the fierce look making her seem like how he was imagining the Hashashin.
"Fancy clothes, cousin," she said, looking at him examiningly, "where'd you find them?"
"I walked to the north and I found--"
But something interrupted them. Darkness erupted from the depths of the pond, creating a whirlpool - the next moment, the massive dragon emerged out of the water. A Hydreigon, terrifying sight in the middle of the night, and especially because it was none other than Nightingale. He looked surprisingly calm as he examined the area, utilizing all of his heads; after a while of quiet, he faced the two Hashashin.
"Partying again, eh?" he snickered with a threatening grin. "I strongly suggest you cut these out before Master learns you're wasting your time, loitering around..."
"That's what business with the Hotori now is, right? 'Loitering around'?" Crystal said, her tone giving off a feel of her disapproval towards the dragon. "We're simply following orders. What about you? What'd you want?" Crystal asked plainly.
"I want many things, but the one you should be aware of is that Master requires your services in Yanakard, north of here," the dragon replied coldly. His right head suddenly snapped its jaws, as if it caught a bug.
"What's happening?" the Zoroark sounded rather upset.
"The Cult has slid their own command into town. Try not to lose your heads when you arrive there," he said in a mocking tone before he dispersed into darkness. Shango recalled that same voice stating that he had killed his parents, and hatred rose in his heart again. He would learn more about Nightingale. But other things were more important at the moment.
"Yanakard is the waypoint of middle-eastern Stygia... if the Cult remains in control, they will soon proceed to the Horlon forest and conquer the grounds of the Hotori Tribe, something
have strove to prevent for centuries now."
Crystal was facing Shango now, and she finally looked innocent and feminine, just as she was supposed to be looking at her age.
"The Hotori are our allies, Shango, even if they don't know it."
"How does that work?"
"... I don't know. Let's wake the others up. We have a long way to go to Yanakard."
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