"Now, wake up. WAKE UP!"
The voice of the Xatu still rang in Paladin's ears as his eyes shot open. He breathed quickly and deeply, blinking a few times so his vision would come back into focus. His breath slowed as he relaxed himself. He was still in the same place, an underground lair, but he felt...normal. Normal was a feeling he hadn't felt in a long, long time. Wait...had he ever felt normal? Not that he could remember. But he could remember. There was a time, long ago, before all this mess, that Paladin could honestly say he felt normal. The first thing Paladin saw when he awoke was a great, green Salamence with an angry look on his face. Paladin didn't move, but he felt absolutely terrified. Where was this fear coming from? He hadn't been afraid of the Salamence before, but it seemed as if some hidden instinct inside him had been awoken. This instinct apparently caused him to feel paralyzed at the sight of a Dragon-type Pokemon. Eventually, though, the fear faded when he realized that the Salamence's anger was not directed at him. The second thing Paladin saw was his good friend Allora sitting beside him. She seemed worried sick. Then, a voice began ringing in Paladin's ears, if any, and he realized that it wasn't the Xatu this time. It was another, more sly-sounding voice. The voice sounded confident, almost too confident. He shifted his head to face the direction of the voice, and saw various members of the Gold Tribe along with the Golduck. The Xatu was nowhere to be seen, but Paladin assumed that he had been under the employment of this Pokemon. The Golurk tried to get up, but found that his body was unresponsive to his brain's commands. He could only move his eyes and his head, and even that took much strength from him.
Paladin imagined that his tiredness had not only come from the collision with the ceiling, but also the amount of energy that his transformation had used up. He had let his dark powers take him over, and it had cost him dearly, and yet...he did not regret it. During that short period of time when he was the darker version of himself, he felt so strong that he could not resist it. The strength felt...amazing! Still, it also seemed like he was no longer in control of himself. As if he had been...possessed or something.
Suddenly, Paladin was overcome by a horrible pain in his head. The migraine was returning, almost as bad as before. Images flashed before his eyes, flashbacks of times long gone.
Come on! We can't stop now, Paladin!
Slow down, brother! You'll..!
Brother! You will pay, foul Ancient! Pay with your life!
A battle flashed before him before the migraine ceased. Paladin wanted to scream from the pain, but he found that nothing could come out of his vocal cords, since they, too, were unresponsive. Paladin was with another Pokemon, his ally and friend, a member of the Gold Tribe. They were fighting in...Gold City, Paladin recalled. They were fighting for the city, against wave after wave of Ancients. Paladin had lost many brothers and sisters that day...
Finally, Paladin could move again. He quickly sat up, just as the Golduck appeared to be leading the group out of the arena. Allora was still beside him. "I'm..." he grunted, realizing that his vocal cords were once again at his disposal, "fine. I'm fine, Allora." He turned his head, now with relative ease, to face some of the other Gold Tribe members who were being led by the strange Golduck. Apparently, he was now on their side, despite the ordeal he had put them through. Paladin disliked this Pokemon already, but decided to follow after him in hopes of finding a way out of this place. "Come on," Paladin said to Allora, as he heaved his large self up with a groan.
The Golduck, whom Paladin had now identified as the Madman, led them out of the arena and into what looked like a small underground settlement. There were houses and building all around them, and it looked a lot like a more suppressed version of a community. Were these perhaps refugees? Paladin turned his attention back to the Madman. This was undoubtedly the figure he had come here to see; the mysterious Pokemon with connections all over Valkaria. He wanted to ask him so many questions, but decided to hold back as they advanced through the underground town. Hardly any Pokemon spared a second glance at the Gold Tribe, though some turned their attention from their chores to look at the towering Golurk. He found himself feeling sorry for these poor Pokemon, who had been driven from their homes into the underground. Paladin's attention was then drawn to Zane Tyrael, otherwise known as Vigil. Paladin was now certain that he knew this Pokemon. They had been good friends in the old days, and had fought quite a few battles together. Zane was sort of a legacy, although the legacy may have skipped a generation, since his grandfather was also a member of the noble defenders of Valkaria. Paladin, on the other hand, had joined the Gold Tribe many years earlier, when he was discarded by his family and taken in by...he couldn't remember. However, he was stunned that he had already remembered this much. After a year of searching, it was all coming back to him. He felt overjoyed as a few childhood memories of training at the HAS Academy came back to him, barely noticing the slight headache that came with them.
"Alright, we have mapped out this part already, but we still are unable to find that gold crystal. It must be hidden." said the Madman, stopping and kneeling down on the ground in front of a massive map. Gold Crystal? What was he talking about? The words ignited a spark in Paladin's memories, but he could not remember where h had heard that term before. "Alright, with this map finding the gold crystal will be easy. Look it over then. If you need any help just call for Lashire, he should be around here somewhere." the Madman said. Paladin noticed various routes that had been marked on the map with impressive detail. This thing must have taken a long time to craft. "When you all are done and you have the location head over there. Go in and you can shop around. Don't take too long though." and with that, Madman left the group and made his way over to several other Pokemon gathered around a board, and began discussing something with them. Paladin was about to make his way over to the Madman to ask him the questions that had been plaguing his mind for over a year, but the green Salamence from earlier beat him to it. "Penance! If I may inquire, I would like to know your plans, I myself have some knowledge in strategy and I honestly would be interested to hear of your plans for taking the city." Penance? Paladin guessed that it was the Madman's real name, but how would the Salamence know that? Did he have some prior connection to this Pokemon?
Paladin overlooked the structure of the map before him. He then proceeded to retrieve the map Excadrill had given him from his satchel. Comparing the two, Paladin saw that the map he had been given was in fact a tracing of a section of the map before him. An exact tracing, which meant that Excadrill had been here before, and had seen the whole map. Was he also working for the Madman? And if so, what of Veletra's true intent? Was she working for him, too? Maybe they had been plotting to send Paladin and Allora down here all along. This brought up another important matter in Paladin's mind: the saving of Veletra. This whole Madman business had taken so long that Veletra could have been captured and killed by now. Deciding that Veletra's life was more important than Penance's talk with other Pokemon, Paladin approached the Golduck with thundering steps. "Madman. I believe we haven't been formally introduced. My name is Saul, though I would prefer you referred to me as Paladin," Paladin said grudgingly. He didn't want to be so nice to this Pokemon, who had tricked and trapped him like a common Rattata. However, he knew it was the only way he'd be getting out of here any time soon. "There is a pressing matter that I must attend to, but I cannot because you have taken me here. One of your operatives, Veletra, is in danger of being captured by the Silver Tribe, if she hasn't been already. She might die. Please, let me rescue her."