Tales of the Hashashin: the Phantom Dancer and the Endarkened Ones
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February 2nd, 2013 (11:47 AM).
The Prince of Sweet Sorrow
La tristeza es mi sangre
Join Date: Feb 2009
The sun had just settled behind the mountains of the west, in the depths of the horizon, painting the sky orange and purple. The clouds that usually cover Stygia had disappeared, strangely, offering clear sight to the travellers. Crystal had tripped three times already, as she was staring at the sky as if it was a magical object of captivating beauty, and the rest had to agree with her. They were all walking now, the stand moving besides them; their journey on their proud vessel was getting boring and monotonous. Two days had passed till the events of the Druid Festival, and Shango hadn't parted with his newfound cloak, even when he went to sleep. Tristana liked his new look, comparing it to the cloak of the Verdict, which was 'tighter and smaller and less cool'. Lately, she was on a cheerful, petty and teasing mood, filling his mind with her sharp comments, ideas and thoughts. But he would have none of it.
Shango seemed to worry about his past, especially about his step father. Ascendio Nome was so proud of him, and he simply disappeared from Ionia without saying good bye... not that he ever had a chance, but Ascendio wasn't aware of that. He wondered what had crossed the Scizor's mind after his disappearance. All aside his step father, he wasn't missing any of Hesperia. He felt like his place was now in Stygia, perhaps it always was. His place, amongst the Hashashin. Though he was afraid of whatever future might hold for him, he was somehow welcoming it. The glorious life of a nobleman of the free city of Ionia wasn't what he desired, he realized. All that fancy talk and dressing was the hypocritical side of life: beneath the high class of the Empire, poverty, struggle and sorrow filled the streets and the grand forests. He would rather see to that, instead of attending Ionia's council meetings, which were directed by the main question: how would the city's balance be spent best in favor of the strong ones.
The Hashashin... he had seen how they worked. It wasn't like how he had heard - there was connection between everyone, unlike what he had heard: that they are lone killers, always striving for the better of themselves, but still bound to rules set by the head of the brotherhood. No. What they were doing was corporate. They were helping each other. Being aware of that, he was sure uncle Pasqual wouldn't deny him his help. He was looking forward to his meeting his uncle. He would surely have the answers he was seeking about these braces he had found. Besides, the old man had promised to teach him how to 'fight like an Hashashin'. He didn't have a clue yet, apart from that time he fought the Shadow - but then, he was drunken with the power of the darkstar and he couldn't quite recall what his own movements were and how they affected his opponent's attitude in combat. Perhaps the Shadow wasn't as strong as he believed at first, and the powerful image the organization had created about themselves was just a phony. Stories from his childhood once made him believe that a single Hashashin could deal with hundreds in combat, but from what he had seen so far, that was impossible to be true. While Crystal seemed capable, she was too kindhearted to hurt anybody. It was true she was young still, but the fact remained. He didn't believe she had even killed anybody. Enzo was the same; as was Vincenzo. The Ambipom and the Bisharp didn't seem to be serious and dedicated enough to be
As for Ramos, he had no doubt he was an extremely powerful and experienced Pokemon, but, he had seen plenty of those in the ranks of the Verdict.
Crystal's voice suddenly brought him back to reality; he realized he was staring at her.
"I see Yanakard," said Crystal, looking up the cliff. Shango turned his head to see the gray stone buildings of the city on the edge of the steep cliff. There was no protective wall around them, as no opponent would reach them from the cliff.
"All right! Lollipops, here I come!" Enzo ran forward with his tail-hands gripping imaginary candies. He seemed to be in a hurry.
"Huh? What is he talking about?" Shango questioned, tilting his head as he looked at the running Enzo.
"Oh, he just likes lollipops," Crystal answered and giggled while staring at the excited Ambipom, who was now doing flips in the air as he ran up the hill. Shango did an expression that went unseen, questioning that Pokemon's connection to the Hashashin. Or rather, the seriousness of the Hashashin altogether...
They followed the path to the west through the fields that were full with flowers. When they reached the hill that would bring them to the same height with the city-state, they helped Ramos by pushing the stand. If Shango looked at them some years ago, when they were operating in Ionia, he would never think they were Hashashin; the circus business was truly the perfect cover. He vowed to ask uncle Pasqual who was the one that came up with it.
They were silent on their way to Yanakard. Shango was picking up some tension. Like the others, he was not aware of why they were needed in Yanakard, and according them, that city-state had history with the bloodthirsty Illinkar, the icy tribe that resided in the northern wastes. The Dark Cult had once made a secret agreement with the Illinkar that didn't go unnoticed by the Verdict, and of course, not unheard by Shango's ears. The Illinkar were to bring their armies in the plateau behind Yanakard, to get rid of the troublesome town that caused much fuss in the Stygian Empire after the war. The Cult wished to maintain its 'friendly' bonds with the other Stygian tribes they had conquered, so they simply hired the Illinkar to do their dark bidding. Now, the Dark Cult had taken over the town and the Hashashin presence in it had dropped greatly, as Crystal had informed him. Would they have to cross the Cult?
The great walls of Yanakard got even greater as they approached them. Archers were keeping their loyal vigil on top of them, ready to protect their city. Nobody was to enter apart from its own citizens, and the traders who had been officially invited. But, it seemed that the Hashashin were also familiar with the guards on the entrance. In truth, they were bribing them to let them pass, threatening to kill him if he ever spoke, of course. What was it gonna be, some extra money, or the end of his life? Not a very hard choice for anybody. Vincenzo flashed the papers of Ravenscare Enterprises and they were through in minutes. Without a second suspicious glance from them.
Shango was examining the city as they progressed further in it with curiosity mixed with dark interest. The houses seemed to be made entirely from gray stone, the roofs triangles with heavy, durable wood from the pine trees of the north - the Hotori wouldn't let anybody near the trees of their own forest, so the citizens of Yanakard were forced to travel across the plateau to bring lumber into the city, from the foot of the northern ranges. The stones were also brought from there, the gray mountains of northeastern Stygia. They were worked upon with extreme care - no pointy edges, only beautiful and slippery surfaces, making the houses look perfect. The Zangoose's eyes scanned the surrounding buildings; nothing seemed to be out of his reach, despite the surface not offering him standing when he climbed. He would be able to climb to the top of the tallest building of the area, if he ever had any need.
He was completely absorbed from his studying of building structures, when Crystal clutched his arm with massive strength he never expect her to have. She faced him with an expression that let him know now things were about to get serious, one he'd never seen again.
"Quick, hide," she said and looked forward again. Shango suddenly stopped moving and blended with the walking crowd behind him, letting the Pokemon be his hideout. He suddenly became somebody with a white cloak and a hood, a traveler, perhaps, by the look of him; he grinned at the feeling this ability of his gave him. It felt nice, being hidden once again, like a predator. He almost forgot to silently question Crystal what the meaning of this was.
Ahead of them, the Hashashin stopped their stand and stared at a certain direction; following their eyes, Shango saw and smelled two giant Skuntanks wearing white, silk braces on their right front feet. The braces had a black heart marking on them, being crossed by two shortswords. Shango recognized it right away - it was the symbol of the Dark Cult and the Templars. As a former member of the Ionian Verdict, Shango had shared the hatred of the Verdict towards the Cult. Now he could see why Crystal asked him to hide. He wasn't exactly anonymous to the Cult, as he was once with the Verdict. But that wasn't the only reason. He was an Hashashin now - the symbol on his sash claimed so - and the Cult had a much bigger quarrel with the Hashashin than the Verdict.
The two members of the Dark Cult seemed to harass a Swalot that appeared to be a citizen. The Pokemon passing by glanced at them and then quickly took away their eyes; Shango could feel their fear of losing their heads. He could now see the terror the Cult had spread in Stygia first-hand. With his eyes fixed on the evil Pokemon on the side of the street, he removed the symbol of the Hashashin from his sash, putting it aside. There was a sudden urge within him. He stopped walking, staring at the Swalot who was cowering, backstepping towards a backalley. Shango grabbed hold of his own wrist, bringing it in front of his red sash, as he stood there watching them. Some of the Pokemon around looked at the hooded Pokemon, being aware of his cloak, the symbol of the Hashashin. The Skuntanks disappeared in the darkness of the narrow alley and the Zangoose walked amongst the crowd, unnoticed by his Hashashin fellows that were still standing by. Shango wasn't sure of what they were planning on doing, but he knew one thing: he was going to kill the members of the Dark Cult.
His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the alley; it seemed to be a dead end, and the Swalot had cowered to it. The giant Pokemon had their backs turned to the Zangoose, who approached them with his claws extended. Shango twitched his nostrils to repel the stench, but he didn't mind in the end - soon, the scent of blood would fill them anyway. The fiery spirit on his shoulder shook with fear and tried to warn him just before he talked.
"Don't you have anything better to do?" his voice didn't sound like him - it was deeper and more threatening. His face was well protected under the hood, the Skuntanks could not see a bit of it. They turned to face him, knowing he was an Hashashin despite seeing no insignia. Their looks were ruthless and evil for a moment, but then they were shaken by what appeared to be acknowledgement.
"Well, if it isn't Alexander..." whispered one of them with a biased grin that gave away insecurity. Shango smirked his eyebrows together in wonder.
Who is Alexander? Was he wearing the same cloak as me, is that how they recognized him?
"We thought you were gone from town," the other Skuntank chuckled. It sounded biased, as was his grin.
You ought to play along,
Tristana spoke to his mind, getting him to think that the situation was truly favoring him.
"So you found the chance to terrorize the city again," he said calmly, with the same menacing tone. He could see fear in their eyes, and he wondered a million times who this Alexander was.
"No! Of course not--" begun saying one of them, but the Swalot walked forward.
"They were trying to force me to leave the city!" he shouted in determination.
Shango didn't need to be asked twice. He charged forward with his arms slightly extended, as if wanting to hug the opponent. The move caught them by surprise and he managed to slash the nearest Skuntank's ribs, but the templar jumped away before he could do more damage. The other Skuntank attempted a night slash, but Shango was faster - he avoided the dark-type's extended feet and pounced on it from the side, throwing it down and sliding his claws on the vital point of the base of the neck. Blood was spilled on the ground, his hands soaked with it.
Right then, Shango was thrown away from the dead body, rolling aside; the Skuntank was right above him, ready to bite his head off. Their eyes met for a moment. "You... you're not Alexander," he whispered in shock. The Zangoose grabbed his feet and cracked them up under his strength with a nasty sound, his opponent letting out a howl of pain; his already bloodied claws were stuck on his chest, and his opponent was suddenly out of breath.
Shango threw the dead Skuntank away, careful not to touch any more blood. His hands and chest were already stained; now he was suddenly worried that somebody would have heard the howls, the Hashashin probably, and would have gone to see what had went on. He got up to his feet, to be faced by the Swalot right away.
"Alexander..." he spoke with concern, "where have you been?" the citizen asked quietly, with a sad expression. Shango stayed silent for a second, observing the Pokemon. He was a trader, surely - his belt was full of pouches with powder and coins.
"Taking a break," he said plainly. He didn't like lying, but when it became necessary, he was good at it. Shango pointed his claw to the Swalot. "You be safe from now on. Stay out of trouble."
"Is there anything I can do to repay you?"
"Bring me some water. I need to wash this filthy blood off my hands."
The Pokemon started laughing. "Since when did you get so touchy, Alex?"
As Shango stayed silent, staring at him intently, the trader was gone. This Pokemon seemed to be familiar with this phantom, Alexander. He was back after two minutes, carrying a steel bucket of water. Shango kneeled and sank his bloodied hands in it and washed them; then cleaned his chest off as well. He didn't want the Hashashin to see any signs of combat. The Swalot kept staring at him.
"Haven't you gotten old?" he finally asked, looking at him suspiciously.
"The bringing of justice and liberation aren't limited by age, my friend," Shango uttered, forging a faint smile under the hood. The Swalot still seemed troubled.
"... by my calculations, dear Alexander, you are about seventy five years old... nobody can take out two of those," he pointed at the templars, "at that age."
Shango stared at him and slowly got up from the ground. He was taking big risks, pretending to be someone else, and he was ready to take an even bigger risk. If this Alexander was wearing a hood, he would have been an Hashashin.
"Do you know who I am?" he asked, keeping his cool.
"You're an Hashashin... Alexander," the Swalot whispered.
"Exactly. That should answer all of your questions," Shango said and walked away.
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