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Rated [T], for violence.
Maybe you have seen my other fic, Tales of the Hashashin: First Book. Maybe you haven't. Either way, this is the 'Second Book', which is not a continuation of the previous one. This fic is related to the franchise of Odyssey, a roleplay made by Supervegeta. Held in an entirely different continent, and before the events of the roleplay, those two are not affiliated in any way.
First I'd like to say that this is the first piece of novel that I am fully determined to finish. My inspiration, if not quite obvious, was the popular Assassin's Creed games, novels and comic books, as well as various MMORPGs that I have played over the years. With the Tales of the Hashashin, I attempt to bring the assassins into my own perception of the Pokemon world, which has received its good amount of influence from Odyssey. It kinda fulfills my own wishes about how Pokemon should be.
Having said that, I wish that you'll enjoy this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it.
'All these years, I have fought, and for what cause? In the end, I find myself blind to the horrible truth of our world...'
Four hundred years after Chantalai Ancelotti's death, the Dark Cult has dominated the Stygian grounds, attaching itself onto the Stygian Empire, controlling it and corrupting it to the core. The Cult is spreading its religion with force, crushing the small resistance by the rebel native Stygians. The only ones who resisted and managed to survive were the secret organization Hashashin. Being a notion of freedom, and not a solid nation, they kept their liberating activities underground. However, the Dark Cult proposed that they work for them in promise of unspeakable wealth as their reward. The last hope of the Stygian natives was vanquished when they saw the Hashashin siding with their enemies. The brotherhood Master Chantalai Ancelotti had built was now laying in ruins - the Hashashin would take innocent lives away for gold. The native Stygians, once friends with them, were now afraid of their own shadow as they knew that inside every dark corner of this world they lived in was hiding an Hashashin, ready to slit their throat in the slightest misstep towards revolution. All of Stygia belonged to the Dark Cult, who enforced an Emperor of their choice on top of the Stygian High Command and creating the Templar Order in order to maintain their religion and ensure its growth.
The Cult, along with the massive Stygian Empire on its side, eventually turned against the neighboring Empire, Hesperia, their original target. Having built a gigantic army of mercenaries, native Stygians and fanatic members of their own Cult, they marched against Hesperia to disrupt the peace, with intentions of destroying it completely. The Prophet of the Dark Cult announced that the Ionian Verdict and the Hesperian Empire would bow to the Dark Cult. But the very same Verdict that had once driven them out of the Empire, now held them off of it, remaining faithful to its cause - protect Hesperia from the scourge of this Cult.
The Dark Cult weakened greatly after its losses in the Hesperian grounds. Peace fell amongst the Empires, the Stygian natives were silenced by the Cult, although their spirit remained, the King of Hesperia became even more abusive with his power... a shadow even greater than that of the dark clouds of war engulfed the world. It came to be in a state of perfect order and control. But how good was this? They say that those who believe they are free when they are not are the most enslaved of us all. The leaders that openly rule this world could have their authority challenged by the people any time. What about those who ruled from the dark?
Our story follows a seemingly unimportant individual, for now... due to his legendary but unknown heritage, Shango Maverick will grow into a... 'political' figure of significant power, known as the Phantom Dancer. Inspired by the ways of the Hashashin, he will seek to free the Empires from corruption and shape a better tomorrow for the people, as well as rebuild the brotherhood. The world will come into its golden age, and the Phantom Dancer will once again be praised as a legend...
#1, The Hashashin of Ionia
#2, Reconnaissance Operations Front-Line Soldier
#3 The Shadow
#4 The Darkstar
Part 1: Rise of the Phantom Dancer
Chapter 1: The Hashashin of Ionia
Night, silence. Only the distant sound of the patrolling guards' steps echoed in the dark streets of Ionia. This was the perfect time for the thieves to come out, nobody was awake to catch them on duty. The city would be calm and deserted until the morning.
The royal guards were pacing quickly, staying in the middle of the road and avoiding any narrow streets where the moonlight had no access to. They weren't afraid of any thieves or rogues; you'd be insane to attack those guards, anyway. No, the guards were afraid of the dark. There are, indeed, threats hiding in the shadowy alleys of Ionia. They come out this time of the night to terrorize the citizens. But now, all that there is left to attack is guards and thieves, as the citizens had realized that the streets weren't safe at night.
Ionia's streets were trusted by the city's residents, until recently. A strange, unknown feeling of a higher presence appeared in every corner or straight road after the sun went down. Taking into account the brutal murders of many royal guards, the Ionians have come to the conclusion that the brotherhood of Hashashin has descended from the north. Now the menacing image of this group of assassins is haunting the whole city of Ionia. Of course, the citizens are not aware of this; this is confidential information between the aristocrats of Hesperia, the King and council, and the Ionian Verdict. The Verdict had been created with the sole purpose of banishing the Dark Cult that plagued Hesperia with its ill ways, and was now dealing with other threats inside the Empire. They were trying to uncover the motives, numbers and locations of the Hashashin, who relentlessly killed guards. Keeping the citizens in the dark about the Hashashin caused the birth of many terrifying tales and exaggerated explanations of the murders that only boosted the fear.
A member of the Ionian Verdict, a Seeker in particular, was standing firm, hiding in the shadow of the Lighthouse. That mysterious building in the middle of the town dwelled right in the middle of the Trade Square for about one hundred years. Its door was locked and nobody knew what it was used for exactly, not even the Verdict. The Seeker has gone unnoticed one more time, thanks to the darkness that surrounded him. His name is Shango Maverick, the uprising hero of the Ionian Verdict. A Zangoose known for his speed and skill, but mostly for his devotion to his duties and his noble qualities.
"The kid is a prodigy," his teachers in the Ionian Academy of War had said on his evaluation trials. "His skills are extraordinary for someone his age!"
It wasn't just the fact that Shango was a prodigy that made him so adapt at everything he did. It was that he was a voidborn, or so it had been suggested by the professionals of the Academy. He had been touched with the Nether Plane's dark powers, but no one was ever able to prove it. The voidborn are considered a threat towards the Hesperian Empire, because the Dark Cult's Prophecy is claiming that this kind of Pokemon originally belonged to their ranks. Shango had no blood connections with any family of Ionia, which was fairly suspicious; the infant Zangoose was found floating in Acheloos River by an aristocrat of Ionia, Baron Ascendio Nome and was adopted by him. Shango had developed into a promising warrior and an upcoming great hero of the Ionian Verdict, despite being only seventeen years old. And now, he was sent to deal with the Hashashin themselves; as a Seeker, his job was to spy and steal information in account of the Verdict. Although he was promoted from a Seeker to a Keeper and then a Needler, he stated that the life of a bodyguard (basically a Keeper's job) or the harsh responsibilities of the city's protector (a Needler's job) was not how he envisioned his life; he thus returned to being a Seeker.
It was quiet outside. Not even the Hoothoots on the trees were blabbing tonight as usual. The patrolling guards were approaching the square. Shango had a dark, odd hunch. The Zangoose was hidden well in the shadows, leaning againist a wall. He was wearing a dark blue cloak, a hood which allowed exit to his ears, a dark cape and leather boots; rare equipment. You could only get clothes in tailor shops, by special request.
Everything was quiet in the Square, only the lonely sound of a broken window that was gently shaken by the wind was reaching Shango's perked up ears. It was a clear night with absolutly no clouds, only the moon was sheding its light on the square, where the steps of the guards now echoed closer and closer. The breeze of the night touched Shango's face under the hood gently, as if trying to warn him. His hair was electrified from anticipation, his green eyes burning with the fire of youth and excitement. He secretly hoped that something would happen tonight, even if it meant a life would be removed.
Four guards, a Machoke, a Cacturne and two Granbulls were crossing the square now. The moonlight fell on their armours, shrouding them in a strange aura. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a circular portal of darkness was formed above the guards; Shango had frozen in fear of what he was seeing. A tri headed dragon bursted downwards right from the Nether Plane. Before they realized what was going on, before even getting the chance to scream, they were all put down to the ground. Their bodies were sizzled by the darkness and the beast then flew up the sky, disappearing from sight.
Shango fell on the pavement with his heart pounding like crazy. He tried calming his breath down. He had witnessed an Hashashin on duty with his own eyes. Four lives in one second... he thought darkly. The beast had taken four lives in one second. How did this happen?
The Zangoose still had his guard up, in case the dragon was nearby. When he gathered the courage, he approached the corpses of the dead soldiers, the sound of his boots on the cobblestone echoing. He quickly examined the bodies from a safe distance. It was as if their skin was ripped apart by thousands of needles, and the expression of fear was frozen solid on their faces. Their armor remained completly untouched. He glanced up towards the starry night. The peaceful moon seemed to be mocking the dead now. A shiny object on the ground caught his attention; he kneeled and picked it up, observing its strange light and his own reflection on the stone. He recognized it as one of the evolution stones, but he didn't know which.
"What in the world do they want?" Shango quietly questioned himself, tightening his fist around the object as he stared at the sky where the beast had disappeared. He was now convinced that the dragon-like Pokemon had dropped it.
It was now time to report back to the Ionian Verdict.
"So, you're telling us that a beast appeared from the Nether Plane and attacked the guards?" inquired Jericho Sandaros, an Armaldo, the Supreme Chancellor of Ionia. Next to him was a Sceptile namely Dominique Slasher, who was in the lead of the Ionian Verdict. The two of them exchanged troubled looks.
Shango was standing before them. He still had his cloak and hood on, as such were the rules of formality. Behind him was standing his step-father, Baron Ascendio Nome, a mighty looking Scizor. They were in the Ionian palace, which was far beyond grand. The walls had drawings of epic fantasy, representing some Pokemon going through some kind of Odyssey taken from an old myth. The red carpet lead to a throne-like chair decorated with crystals. Ascendio always believed the Ionians overdid it with such things, but he had still granted them access to his massive wealth, only for them to waste it on appealing palaces. Shango felt repulsed, but he had never stated his thoughts. Now he had his emerald eyes fixed on the Armaldo with a rather serious expression on. The Chancellor and the leader leaned in together and whispered something. Then they looked over at Baron, instead of Shango.
"We know what it was," stated the Sceptile. "It was Oneiro 'Nightingale', the most feared assassin in Stygia."
Silence fell into the room for a moment. Jericho's expression made him seem overly disturbed. Then Ascendio spoke in a worried tone. "But what is he doing here?"
Dominique shook his head. "We do not know, but it must be important since they sent him." He looked over at Shango. "There was nothing you could do, Maverick," he said sincerely. "The lack of action from your part is entirely justified."
The Zangoose remained silent. Even if he was in the frame of mind to challenge openly the Hashashin, he never had the time to do so. As for the shiny stone he had found, he didn't say a word about it, considering it non important. Maybe he'd sell it at a good price at the local antique shop. Shango was always resourceful like that, Ascendio had taught him to be an opportunist instead of spoiling him rotten with his riches.
"We cannot afford to lose one of our best Seekers to Nightingale. The matter will have to be handled by the Needlers," stated Dominique, looking at Shango, whose face was expressionless now. But inside, he was thinking that it was a lost chance of being promoted to a lead Seeker; he wasn't afraid to cross ways with that Hashashin, but now that the leader of the Verdict had decided otherwise, there was nothing he could do about it. There would be other opportunities of promotion, anyway. The Baron would make sure of that, although Shango never asked for his step-father's help regarding his career's matters.
Jericho and Dominique seemed skeptical. They were throwing each other glances, Shango could tell something was bothering them.
"Maverick," started the Sceptile with his hands behind his grassy back, "we are about to share information kept hidden by order of the council of the King. Can we entrust you with them, knowing you will keep the utmost secrecy?"
"Good, I would have to have your head if you said no," said Dominique with a grin. Shango didn't have any doubts that he was being serious. The Verdict wasn't kidding around, and the traitors could only hope for a quaint death.
"The King has sent a recognition mission to the Contested Lands."
The Contested Lands of the west were the part of this world which was constantly blasted by war. The two Empires, Hesperian and Stygia, were laying claim on these foreign nations, turning them into battlegrounds of dominance. Their main native enemy was the Fire Clan, which is protecting its lands from the two Empires, blending in the wars between them as well. Shango nodded to make the leader of the Verdict keep talking.
"Well, the mission has been lost in the uncharted lands beyond the southwestern mountain range," said Dominique in a serious tone, having lost his grin now, "and we are now recruiting our best members of the Verdict to bring them back. We are asking you to go to the Contested Lands, locate and bring that squad back."
Shango was slightly surprised at first, but he didn't show it. He couldn't say he hadn't seen that coming. "I am honoured to take on this mission."
"Splendid!" shouted Jericho, raising his pinchers. "We are currently gathering more members for the mission. You will be informed when we are done preparing, and you should be ready to leave soon. As for the Hashashin," the Armaldo paused, looking at Shango's plain expression.
"Leave him up to me."
Somebody was knocking on the door. Shango opened his eyelids, smirking his eyebrows in a slight disturbance. He recognized the way that particular somebody was knocking on the door; it could only be Baron Ascendio who slamming it with his steel pinchers, causing his whole hut to shake.
"Shango, open up!"
The Zangoose glanced outside the window to see dark. He got up from his cotton bed, wondering what Ascendio was thinking, knocking on his door this late.
"Alright, alright!" he said, managing to hide his irritation. He quickly wore his boots, put his cloak, cape and hood on. Then, he crossed his small house and reached for the door to knock it open. The Scizor was standing on the doorstep, holding a pouch.
"Come, my boy," he said and motioned. The Zangoose closed the door with his green eyes fixed on him.
"What is going on?"
They followed the rocky path Shango himself had made to exit the small garden of his turf. There was no moon, no stars, only clouds. Yet, the lake of Acheloos, where the city of Ionia was built next to, along with the city itself, was illuminated by the moonlight that sneaked through the openings of the clouds.
The night was fairly cold, and Shango felt rain was coming. His nostrills took in the scent of the flowers of his neighborhood, probably for the last time in a long time. He would surely miss the Kecleons' shouts as they fought over who would sell the oran berries, he would miss the bunch of clowns and street performers that entertained him for a single silver coin, and he would especially miss the girls of the neighborhood.
"The team is ready."
"I see they didn't waste any time."
Small raindrops started falling slowly as they walked down a road that was surrounded by trees - Shango was already seeing pools of mud on the ground with his imagination. They reached the peaceful and dark Trade Square, where the most murders had been commited. Shango thought that it was quite possible that the Hashashin were watching them right now, but he kept on walking. The palace was on the other end of Ionia and they would have to cross all of it to reach it.
"You are leaving tomorrow," Ascendio informed him and turned to look at him. "You've become a grown up, now, Shango. I am both happy and sad that you'll have to leave on this mission. Happy that your career will be shot upwards, ensuring you a good future and sad that my son will have to leave on such a dangerous journey."
Shango looked at him. "I'll be back, father. I won't be gone forever," he said after a moment and gave it some more thought. "I'm happy I will take on something more serious than spying missions."
The rain had now become intense, but neither of them seemed to mind; Ascendio was purely made out of steel, and Shango had his own cloak to ward it off and his fur to keep him warm.
The Scizor smiled genuinely at him, but Shango had already turned his head elsewhere. His eyes were fixed on a source of light across the street; the flames of an Infernape were lighting the night. He was staring at Shango with a grin full of yellow teeth; his black eyes were menacing - he emitted something strange, something that Shango recognized, somehow, but could not define. Strangely enough, the rain did not seem to affect his flames in any way, not even visually... Shango noticed that the fire-type was dressed as a firebreather, particularly a red uniform and blue vambraces. Those people performed all over Ionia, and he had gone to see their shows multiple times, but the sight of this Infernape was something out of the ordinary.
The Infernape stood immovable as they crossed the street. Shango's eyes fell onto two red spots in the darkness behind him; eyes. He took his own eyes away to glance at Ascendio, who had a moody frown hovering over his face.
"Weird bunch," he said when they were at a safe distance away. Shango nodded, but he quickly forgot the event, thinking of the Contested Lands as they crossed the bridge over the river that flowed through Ionia, diving it into East Ionia and West Ionia. The palace was close now. They stayed silent as they reached the gates, the Ampharos that guarded them stepped forward to ask for clearance, but once they saw Ascendio, they bowed and backstepped. The Scizor and the Zangoose went through, entering the majestic garden of the Ionian palace. All kinds of plants and berries were blooming, and now the bushes were full of flowers as Spring was coming. However, they'd seen this garden so many times they ignored it completely. On the far end, figures could be seen standing by the light of the torches. Once they were closer, Shango's eyes could pierce through the night to see a group of Pokemon standing next to the fountain that continuously spew water. Chancellor Jericho was one of those figures.
"Ah, Maverick! You're here, at last," said the Chancellor, greeting him with his pinchers spread. Shango could now see the others; various species, seven Pokemon that looked tough and experienced. All of them were at least thirty years old. The Armaldo turned to them.
"This is Shango Maverick, a Seeker; he is the eighth member of your team."
They all nodded towards him, keeping strictly formal stances. Jericho turned to Ascendio and thanked him for some reason, then looked at Shango.
"This," he said, pointing at a male Furret with a helmet and goggles, "is Cena."
They both nodded at each other with a glow of recognition in their eyes. Shango knew this Furret - he was a talented Seeker that was famous for the dangerous missions he had pulled off in Stygian grounds. Fredric, as was his first name, was also known for his services to the aerial forces of the Verdict.
"Meet another Seeker, Sunny," said the Armaldo. Shango's eyes fell on a female Bayleef that was wearing the spy's blue cloak but no hood. He was surprised she was named 'Sunny', it was such a strange surname. It was known that the Keepers of the Verdict only used their surnames instead of nicknames, but what kind of name was Sunny...? Jericho solved his question right after by leaning forward and whispering, "she is the daughter of Kingfisher, but she's using this name for cover. And this Tahan," a green Bronzong was floating next to the Bayleef; their colours seemed almost identical, from what Shango could see. He had heard of the Bronzongs being skilled Keepers, but he was not aware of this particular Bronzong. They were just too many and had those weird surnames; they were usually coming from the west.
"Behold," Jericho spoke again, "our famed 'Swifty'!"
A Manectric winked at Shango, smiling. He returned the smile. This Keeper had saved Jericho himself from the Dark Cult, and that's why he was receiving some extra care that Shango's eyes caught and disapproved greatly. He liked him, however; he seemed like a relaxed Pokemon.
"And this is 'Brutalinax'," said the Armaldo, introducing a mighty Garchomp that stared at Shango with a piercing look. The Zangoose felt a true warrior was in front of him, his power seemed overwhelming even from distance. Brutalinax had served the King as a member of the Praetorian Guard during the first war of the Contested Lands; he was a veteran Needler of the Ionian Verdict.
Now, if Swifty and Brutalinax seemed like a good addition to the team, the next two would make the mission alot easier.
"The two Needlers that will be accompanying you are Chan and Lee," said Jericho and pointed at the remaining two Pokemon. A Hitmonchan and a Hitmonlee were standing next to each other. They firmly saluted Shango with serious expressions; he could clearly see that they were veterans as well.
"Now," said the Armaldo, facing the small team, "everyone's ready. Your objective is simple: cross the southwestern mountain range, where our recon mission was sent and lost. Sunny here will guide you with her maps," Shango noticed the bag the Bayleef that was hanging on her side, "the leader of this team is Brutalinax," stated Jericho. The Garchomp's face didn't even shift despite everybody glancing at him. Jericho walked over to him.
"This is the King's orders written in paper," he said and grabbed a paper with the red mark of the King from his belt and handing it to the Garchomp. Brutalinax gave it to Lee, who carefully slid it in a glass sheath and put it in his bag carefully. This paper would clarify their purpose in case they came along any other Hesperians.
Jericho was looking at the rest of the Pokemon. "Remember to keep this mission secret. Should you succeed in bringing back our lost members, you will be deemed as heroes of our Verdict by the King himself."
They all nodded. Every member of the Verdict would take on this mission, but only the best of the best were chosen for this. Shango was feeling small and inadequate compared to the rest, but he was going to give it his best. Although, the idea of crossing the southwest mountain range seemed too dangerous for all of them to risk their lives just to save a recon mission.
"Time is wasting. Off you go!" said Jericho and directed them towards the gates of the palace's garden.
Ascendio, who was silent during the introduction, grabbed Shango's hand. They looked at each other.
"Be careful, son, be careful... those lands are unforgiving," he whispered. Shango nodded quietly and followed the others, leaving the garden of the Ionian palace.
"Farewell..." muttered the Scizor, looking down.
As the distance between them and Ionia grew, its protective walls disappeared in the clouds that had decided to descend. The sun of the dawn was sheding a weak light that barely got through the thick leaves of the trees. Then the dawn flew away with the fog, giving its place to an extremely hot evening.
Everybody was sweating as they progressed through the forest, trying to stay in the shadow of the leaves as much as possible. Brutalinax's dragon skin was protecting him, and he was the only one who was able to endure the heat. Shango would give his cloak away for a silver coin now; but he discovered that he needed it during the night. They chose to stay next to a river, and the night there was cold.
Brutalinax and Sunny were walking in the front, and the rest of the members of the Verdict behind them. Shango had started a conversation with Cena, who proved to be an interesting Pokemon. Soon afterwards, Swifty had joined them.
Chan was whistling whilst walking and looking around the trees. Lee was throwing death stares at him for a while, until he couldn't resist telling him to shut up. They started a full-scale argument and Shango figured they were doing that alot, despite being a pair. Swifty was glancing at them with his eyebrows smirked in irritation. Two hours later, the argument had come to their battling skills, and they'd have solved it in a duel if Brutalinax hadn't separated them quite violently and with a terrifying expression.
After that took place, the group went silent for some time. They exited the forest and the intense sun hit them on their backs; they were now in open grassy hills, following a sand path that led to the distant western mountain ranges that were visible in the horizon. They could see a village amongst the hills - Sunny informed them that's where they would rest for the night.
"It's about time," said Cena with a tired look.
They headed towards it with a quicker pace. Chan and Lee got in an argument about who was able to eat the biggest amount of food, and this time Brutalinax didn't stop them; he was busy talking with the Bayleef. Shango subtly walked up closer to them so he could eavesdrop.
"Beyond this village, there is nothing - just us, the mountains and whatever lies beyond," said Sunny and Brutalinax smirked, skeptical.
"We'd better get all the supplies we can carry, then."
The Zangoose behind them lost speed and joined with Swifty and Cena, telling them the news. They all remained silent till they reached the village, where they were welcomed like the King himself; they had been informed of their arrival, apparently. There were many members of the Verdict here because of the Bastion of Bonacia. Guarding the grounds of the Empire from the Dark Cult wasn't an easy job, and the other members of the Verdict that met up with the travelling group were happy to see new faces. They invited them to an inn where they all feasted, except of Shango. The Seeker had another hunch of his; when they entered the village, he had caught a glimpse of a shadow on top of a roof that disappeared right after. He knew that nobody would believe him except his close company, but he believed they were being followed. He was assured of that when he saw a pair of red eyes glowing in the darkness across the street - and he was sure he had seen those eyes before.
Shango didn't sleep well that night. He was up before the dawn, staring at the crimson planet and the surrounding stars that were stuck on the sky. All the gold of the world wasn't worth such view! But he wasn't thinking of the view; he was thinking of the shadowy figure on the roof and the red eyes he had seen the other day.
Later, when everybody was up, he approached Brutalinax and confessed his fears. The Garchomp seemed to be thinking about it for a moment.
"I will keep that in mind, Maverick. As for you, you better relax. We're probably the most powerful team of Pokemon in this Empire!"
"I would say so too," said Shango, but he had his doubts.
They headed out of the village early morning, bidding their Verdict brothers and sisters farewell. The southwestern mountain ranges were visible in the horizon; they would reach it in about half a day. And then, they would cross that mysterious land in search of the lost explorers.
* Pair *
Last edited by Ray Maverick; January 22nd, 2013 at 10:55 AM.
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.
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.
* Pair *
Chapter 3: The Shadow
Brutalinax and his squad continued travelling towards the mountains, using Sunny's compass necklace to navigate. There was a certain path between the mountains that wasn't dangerous, according to the Seekers that were sent to prepare the grounds for the main reconnaissance mission that would come here. The Seekers did not follow the path to the end, though - that was not their mission, after all.
"No Hesperian has ever gone beyond these mountains," Swifty informed the group. "Not because we couldn't, but because we shouldn't. You see, locals believe the Contested Lands are cursed with the spirit of death and they're afraid to even set food there."
"And what's with the King sending a reconnaissance mission there?" wondered the Furret. Frederick Cena proved to be the curious type; he had managed to fish up some interesting information about Brutalinax's favourite food (the macaroons, apparently, made of wheat and meat) and Swifty bribed him with those to reveal some information about the lands they were headed into, as it was kept as confidential information up until now. From what the rest of the Verdict's elite members heard, these lands sounded cursed for sure - the Fire Clan must've corrupted them.
"I suspect an imperial march onto these lands," said Shango in a serious tone. "That's why the Empire needs maps."
Brutalinax jerked his head. "Shush, you rodents! Blabbing about the King's intentions isn't our mission!"
Shango put his arms behind his head and smiled peacefully. "I'm merely questioning his motives. We are risking our lives, anyway. Should we not be aware of the reason?"
The Garchomp said nothing in return, mainly because the Zangoose had a point. He would very much want to know why they were sent so far away from their homes, too.
"I see the passage, guys," shouted Sunny. The Bayleef half-shut her eyes, staring at somewhere between the mountains; they were about two hours away from there. Everyone was relieved they would reach the mountains before evening - that would mean they would've crossed the passage by midnight. The villagers had warned them not to spend the night there, and Brutalinax chose to trust them.
Tahan, the Bronzong Keeper, was strangely quiet. He was levitating backwards on the back of the group, keeping rearguard; Shango slowed down to walk besides him.
"Everything alright?" Shango asked the Bronzong. It was extremely difficult to tell what this kind of Pokemon were thinking, as they were expressionless, but Shango had a hunch. Tahan replied without looking at him.
"Oh?" Shango looked down at the rocky path, awaiting for an explanation. He took out the shiny evolution stone he kept in the inner pocket of his cloak and started fiddling with it.
"I fear there is somebody who desires to... meet with us." Tahan threw him a side look, and Shango noticed with the edge of his sight; he could now tell his comrade was worried about something, other than their mysterious follower.
"How do you know?" Shango questioned him, ignoring the look of the Bronzong.
"They expulse a strange kind of power... a dark one, I would say," another side look. He finally decided to speak directly. "The same one as you do."
Shango felt surprised that Tahan was able to tell, but he chose not to believe him; if he was ever found out to be a voidborn, his future would collapse, not to mention he would probably end up being hunted, dead, or worse. The Bronzong had no way of knowing, anyway... unless he himself was a voidborn. Shango's eyes flashed devilishly as he looked at Tahan.
"You are a voidborn," he stated in a whisper. The psychic voice of the Bronzong produced a sound as if he was exhaling, sighing to be precise.
"I would not know," he said, then jerked his head towards their back, Hesperian plains only to be seen. "They're getting closer," he gasped.
"How many are they?" Shango asked curiously, trying to look over his yonder. He saw absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Why is it that only Tahan can feel them, but not me?
"I cannot tell."
"Perhaps we should inform the others."
"Good thinking, friend."
Tahan turned around and floated above everyone, headed towards the Garchomp. As Brutalinax raised his head, Shango perked up his ears and subtly approached them to listen to their private conversation.
"We are being followed," stated Tahan in a cold, robotic manner.
"Are you sure?"
"Is this a rhethorical question?" asked the Bronzong irritably. "Of course I am sure," he added after a moment. Shango thought that Tahan had gone through the Seeker's job. Brutalinax turned to look at the Zangoose, ignoring the fact that he was probably close enough to listen to them.
"Come over here, Maverick," he ordered and Shango approached even closer. His eye caught Sunny winking at him; she was eavesdropping as well.
"What did you say you saw back in the village?" inquired the Garchomp with a frown.
"Somebody was up in a roof and two red eyes were watching the inn where we stayed."
Brutalinax took a moment to think, then turned to the floating Bronzong.
"What did they look like?"
"I don't see them. I feel them..." said Tahan in a mysterious manner.
"What do you feel, then?" asked Brutalinax and rolled his eyes. He clearly wasn't a believer of spiritual powers. But then again, he was a dragon; they had other things to believe into, like their own sacred powers.
"I cannot define this type of... energy."
"It's good to know it's approaching," said Shango, glancing behind him.
"We'll just have to be ready," said Brutalinax. He didn't even try informing the group - he knew everyone would know soon, nobody could keep a secret in this team with so many Seekers. He started to miss the iron hard discipline of the Needlers.
They continued their way towards the mountains; a cold breeze ran through the Zangoose's fur, making his cape and cloak shiver. He glanced behind him again, only to see empty fields and plains.
The mountains were now towering above them like massive spikes. They would be normal if they weren't so steep - and lucky for the Verdict, Sunny knew exactly the way through them. The passage was a maze-like, steep path and navigating was extremely hard as the rocks were deceiving the eye. But the Bayleef knew the path so well, it seemed like she had been there at least ten times. Shango told her that he admired her and that he aspired to be as a skilled Seeker as she was. She only told him that he should've expected she was skilled just because she was Kingfisher's daughter.
The Verdict crossed the waterfalls, steep rocks and bottomless craters of these dangerous mountains, while fighting off the wild Pokemon. Shango's acrobatic skills proved to be most useful in this passage and everyone wondered where he had learned these and, most importantly, how. He simply explained it was part of his job with a tricky smile.
The red, sun burnt wastelands of the Scortching Steppes opened in front of them. None of them had seen such a sight. The sun was setting down, painting the whole sky orange to fit with the ground; no wild Pokemon lived there. And if they did, they would live underground. The group settled on a small cave on the foot of the mountains they just crossed. Everyone was exhausted from the walking, but they still left someone awake to guard all of them, just in case; they didn't seem to worry much about whatever was approaching. Shango fell in a sleep, and he had a strange dream... a Pokemon in a cloak and hood identical to his, was standing in front of him. He was a little taller than Shango; he was talking with the wisdom of centuries, words and phrases that Shango thought they were from another world, but he still could not understand a single phrase. It seemed as if the figure started hymning, but the vision got blurry and vanished as the Zangoose opened his eyes. He noticed it was still night; the moonlight fell on the dead, burnt trees in front of the mountains. It was a horrifying sight, but Shango focused all of his attention elsewhere.
A shadowy figure was standing on a rock behind Swifty. The Manectric was chosen to guard them during this time of the night, apparently. Shango opened his eyes wide, expecting the silhouette to disappear after he blinked, but it seemed as if it was moving. Towards them. Swifty noticed him getting up and looking somewhere behind him, and he turned to look too. Now the moonlight fell directly on the figure that was approaching them with swift jumps from rock to rock. It was an Accelgor.
"Hey, you!" shouted Swifty, baring his fangs and charging his fur. He was ready to attack, but Shango had a strange feeling they wouldn't need to fight. Accelgors were hive minds and clever species - if they had evil intentions, they wouldn't go out in the open like that. Whoever it was, they wanted to get noticed...
The bug Pokemon raised his head and stared at them with his black, piercing eyes. Half of his face was hidden in shadows, but Shango thought he saw a small ironic grin which quickly vanished as he spoke.
"I'm surprised you guys got so far already."
He was at a safe distance away from the Verdict. Shango walked over to stand next to Swifty to observe the Pokemon that was right there, thirty feet away. The Manectric reacted to the Accelgor's attitude by letting some threatening sparks out and growling.
"Who are you? Do we know you?"
The bug type Pokemon folded his arms and observed them with a serious expression for a single moment. "No," he said, "you don't know me. But you can call me Shadow."
Swifty seemed shocked for a moment, but he quickly got over it. "You're an Hashashin," stated the Manectric. Shango looked at the Shadow, overwhelmed by surprise; indeed, the insignia of the Hashashin was fastened on the Accelgor's chest membrane. He wondered what reason could the Hashashin be doing, following them... he thought that the Accelgor could be a voidborn like Tahan had said.
"Why are we still alive, then?" Swifty asked in a sarcastic tone. Neither of them knew about the Shadow; not his power, not his speed, not his skills. The Accelgor grinned in response. His whisper was heard all around the valley like the Dark Cult's hymn of death.
"Because I didn't want to kill you."
Swifty didn't lose self-control, and if he was quite worried, he didn't show it. They could now both tell that he was an extremely powerful Pokemon. Shango slowly awoke the others as the Keeper continued speaking.
"Why are you here, then?"
Brutalinax rose like a predator and stared at what seemed to be a hostile Pokemon. The Shadow simply grinned as he watched all of the members of the Verdict wake up and rise from the ground to look at him.
"I know where your reconnaissance team ended up," he stated hurriedly. Whispers from the other side. Swifty made way for the Garchomp to step forward and face the Hashashin.
"You're an Hashashin, why should we trust you?"
"I've got something interesting to show you," the Accelgor said. He reached under one of his sides and pulled the membrane up, grabbing something that was hidden under it. He raised his hand in front of them for the Verdict to see. Everyone held their breath: it was Kastor's Verdict emblem. Kastor was well-known all around Hesperia because he was the only member of the Verdict to join the R.O.F.L.S. missions, sent exclusively by the King. Brutalinax immediately responded in a burst of rage.
"Where did you find this?! What did you do to them?!"
"... I have no quarrel with you. You are just tools of the King."
The Garchomp was red with anger it seemed as if he would explode any second. Shango thought the 'tools of the King' insult was far too much for any member of the Verdict to handle, and it was far worse for their leaders; Brutalinax would've attacked the Hashashin if Lee wasn't holding his shoulder. Meanwhile, the Hashashin kept a straight face as if he hadn't noticed the impact of his words, and as if he was simply stating facts. A thought crossed Shango's mind: what if the Hashashin truly knew something more than they did?
"The ones you're looking for are being held in a camp by the Fire Clan," informed them the Shadow in a plain tone. "And this is the emblem of your beloved Kastor. I found a Bibarel's dead body just outside their camp, and what do you know. It had this emblem!" he shouted, raising his arms and chuckled as if he was a clown. Suddenly, the resemblance of the Shadow to a clown seemed extremely strong to Shango for some odd reason. His laugh echoed in the mountains and in their ears, confirming he was absolutely sincere. The Verdict took a moment of silence, mourning their fallen hero. Brutalinax was the first one to recover.
"And why are you telling us?" asked in a wild tone. The Hashashin suddenly got serious, losing his grin.
"It is within the Hashashin's interests for you to succeed in this mission."
Nobody knew how to react to this strange statement. Hashashin, supporting them? Shango thought that they only cared about the outcome of the mission, as if it'd somehow affect them... there was something fishy here.
"I can take you to their camp," continued the Accelgor, but Brutalinax rudely interrupted him.
"What do the Hashashin could possibly want from Hesperians?"
The Shadow didn't show any irritation - Shango thought he was especially chosen for this job for his diplomacy. Thought the laugh before wasn't diplomatic at all. Or was it? Maybe that's the way the Hashashin displayed their might.
"I've told you enough already. I take you to the camp and help you retrieve your friends, then we peacefully part ways. Or I walk away and leave you searching these blasted lands for the camp - and when you do find it, all of them will be dead."
Silence fell amongst the members of the Verdict. Brutalinax then ordered a minute for a personal conference with his team, to which the Shadow said nothing and nodded them to go on. The Garchomp gathered them around him and started speaking; some of the Pokemon glanced at the Accelgor who stood like a statue on that rock he had landed when Swifty spotted him.
"First off. How could you not 'feel' him coming, Tahan?" inquired Brutalinax, facing the Bronzong. Tahan spoke with his robotic voice in a strange whisper that made Shango's ears perk up like he had just found his wild meal.
"As I've told you before, I am unsure of what I felt, and it suddenly subsided at some point."
Shango grabbed his right elbow and his chin. He looked at the ground, thinking. "What this Hashashin says is suspicious. If the Hashashin truly wanted to help us, why didn't they send a dozen of them? As the lore says, only ten of those guys can break the whole Empire apart..." he said that with a hidden admiration in his voice. Ascendio had grown him up with various tales of the Hashashin, and he considered them living legends instead of an organization of assassins that worked for those who paid them the best.
"You've got a point, Seeker, but I doubt even half of what they say about the Hashashin is true. We don't really know any of them."
Shango shook his head and shrugged. Yesterday, he had witnessed an Hashashin on duty, and all of his fears - more like assumptions - were confirmed by the dragon-like beast. The power of the Hashashin was clear enough for Shango to see.
"We have no choice but to trust him," said Chan, obviously not willing to agree.
"Are you done back there?" shouted the Hashashin. "If we don't get moving, they'll all be executed when we arrive!"
They all turned to look at him. Shango thought the Shadow had an attitude like he knew their decision all along, and then questioned the validity of that - could the Hashashin have calculated everything?
"You," said Brutalinax, with his eyes glowing with anger, "are hiding something from us."
The Shadow threw a menacing grin at the Garchomp. "The world is filled with smoke and mirrors, mister Brutalinax. You can't know everything."
"How about you cut off that attitude, or we ain't going anywhere! And your organization won't exactly like it, will they?!" spit Brutalinax and Chan and Lee held him back.
"The King won't like it if you fail, either. And while I, as an Hashashin, am equal to any other Hashashin, you will be deemed as worthless tools and executed..." he whispered in the same manner, leaning forward. The eye that was visible from the moonlight was half shut. This was certainly not one of the pair of eyes Shango had seen before.
* Pair *
Last edited by Ray Maverick; November 29th, 2012 at 02:45 PM.
Chapter 4: the Darkstar
They were forced to accept the Hashashin as part of their team, despite Brutalinax's protesting. The Shadow led them towards the southwest, and he wouldn't even let them rest at night; not that they wanted to rest, as they were afraid of the fates of the Pokemon on the lost mission. The Hashashin was walking silently in the front, not disturbing anyone. He didn't display a single bit of his personality the following days. Shango thought he truly knew where he was going, as he didn't ask for help from Sunny and her maps. His figure intrigued him greatly, so he approached him. He walked next to him and faced him with a grand smile.
"What's on your mind, Hashashin?"
"I miss my people," was the unexpected answer that caught Shango off guard. The Shadow seemed a bit sad for a moment, but his expression hardened.
"I miss my people, too," said Shango in reply. His thoughts flew from the ongoing conversation to Ascendio. It was highly possible that he'd never see him again. Maybe they would all die in the hands of the Fire Clan, trying to free the members of the R.O.F.L.S.
The Hashashin spoke as if he read his thoughts.
"Perhaps you won't see them again."
"And what about you? Are you afraid of death?"
The Hashashin started laughing. "I don't die that easily," he stated.
He was speaking the truth, surely. His tone made Shango think so.
"Why are you Hashashin so powerful?"
The Shadow chuckled again. "Define 'powerful'."
"They say ten of you can destroy an Empire," said Shango with a serious expression.
"That was in Chantalai Ancelotti's days. Now we're far more powerful," he replied with a menacing grin.
"If you're so powerful, then, why haven't you took down the Empires already, then?" Shango inquired, mildly sarcastic.
"That would greatly disrupt the balance of the world. Have you even considered the consequences of one of the Empires falling? No, the Hashashin are fighting for the liberation of Stygia, for freedom of the natives and for justice throughout the world."
"So far, I only hear you get paid to be the Cult's lackeys."
"You obviously can't see through things, if you believe so. We extort massive amount of wealth from them in exchange some thousands of lives, while earning their trust as well."
"Ah, I see where you're going with this..." and why should I trust what you're saying? he almost asked, but he held himself back.
"Exactly. When the time's right, we'll strike back."
A shout was heard from the back of the group. The furret got passed Shango with speed; he followed him with his eyes, only to fix them on a green figure laying on the ground a moment after. Cena leaned over the Pokemon, then looked at them.
"It's Maria, the personal Lilligant servant of Princess Rosa!"
The group ran towards the grass-type Pokemon. Cena informed them that she was alive.
"Get her some water!" ordered Brutalinax. Shango opened his small glass bottle and poured the remaining water all over the Pokemon's body. Sunny approached her and put her foot on her belly for some odd reason. Maria was panting heavily and muttering a phrase all over again, while looking upwards.
"Oh look, she's crying," noticed the Hashashin in a rude tone. Then he looked at the Pokemon who stared him down. "What? Touchy..." he said and fell silent.
The Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan helped the Lilligant up and held her. She looked around, as if she had just awoken from a long dream.
"Who are you people?" she asked shyly and with a quite worried tone.
"We are from the Ionian Verdict, do not worry," said Chan.
"We are here to save you," stated Tahan.
A weak smile appeared in Maria's face. But it vanished right after. "Kastor is dead... he sacrificed himself to let me escape..." she started crying again. The Hashashin crossed his arms and looked away.
"They.. they are holding the others," she tried to say, but the Shadow interrupted her. "We know."
"Wait, what is the Princess doing here?" asked Brutalinax. The Hashashin acted immediately - he stared at the Lilligant with his pupils dilated in the scariest of ways.
"Wh-who is this?" she asked terrifyed, pointing at the Accelgor, whose face hardened. Shango wondered why he would do such a thing.
"He is an Hashashin," the Zangoose said. "He guided us here."
Sunny clutched Maria to prevent her from falling down again from the shock. The Hashashin spoke again.
"I really hate to break this to you people, but if we don't get moving, we'll only find remains of your old recon. mission," he said in a serious tone.
"As if you care," said Brutalinax out loud. The Shadow turned to face him with an expression that resembled stone.
"You're right. I don't care - let's just all sit here and have a picnic."
They soon got moving through the desert, giving the Lilligant all of their water sources to keep her from dehydrating.
"I see the camp!" shouted Cena, who had the keenest eyes of the team after Shango. "We will be there in one hour!" The Zangoose would've seen it, too, if he wasn't busy talking with the Hashashin. They were walking next to each other in front of the group; the others had noticed that, and had assumed he was doing his job as a Seeker, fishing for information.
"I can't understand why you're helping us, Hashashin," Shango was saying.
"And you wouldn't understand if I told you," was the reply.
"It'd take me three days."
"Can you at least tell me your real name?"
"It's Bart, if you want to know it so badly."
Brutalinax then approached them and spoke with a loud, commanding voice. "Hey! Can it with the chatter! We're approaching the camp!"
The Accelgor turned to the Garchomp. "I seriously hope you're not planning a full frontal assault on it."
"That's exactly what I'm planning."
"Just a piece of advice, strategy genius, if they see us, their prisoners will be dead long before we know it."
"Alright, then what do you suggest we do?" Shango asked before the Garchomp could explode.
"I will sneak inside by night--"
"No, I don't trust you. Cena will come with you," yelled Brutalinax.
"Cena can't follow me inside the camp," the Hashashin said, looking at the rodent behind him. Then he looked at the Zangoose. "Only this guy - Shango, right? - can follow me inside."
Shango's heart jumped with excitement, but he did not show it. A special mission, with an Hashashin? That would be interesting. Brutalinax stared at him. "Will you be alright?"
"Of course, you can count on me!"
The group hid behind a hill, and when the night fell, the Shadow and Shango departed for the camp under the starry night. They had agreed that flames from inside the camp would be the signal for attack. They were now walking on the dry sand that was burning hot from the sun that scorched it all day.
"What's the plan, Bart?"
The Accelgor smirked his eyebrows as if he was bothered by Shango calling him by his real name. The stars were reflected on his big black eyes.
"We sneak into the Fire Clan's turf and contact your friends, see what's up. Then we kill their master and set the camp on fire - our allies will attack."
"But how will we deal with so many enemies?"
"We will think of that later. Now, I suppose you can jump higher than six feet?" he asked with a subtle smile.
"Alright, then... We will leap into the camp from that hill next to it, see?"
Shango looked at where the Accelgor was pointing; a pile of rocks next to the camp. The pointy spear logs that surrounded the camp were were about six feet high at that point.
"Yeah. Let's go," said Shango, but Bart held him back in the shadows the hill provided.
"Wait. The guards will see us." He looked up in the sky. "See those clouds? We'll wait for the sky to be covered, then we move."
Shango looked up as well to see clouds in the horizon that were coming towards them. He smirked. "That'll be in hours..."
The Accelgor sat down on the ground with his eyes fixed on the Fire Clan's camp. "We can't do otherwise."
So, they sat down. Shango had laid down with his hands behind his head as a pillow. The Hashashin stood as immovable as a statue, staring at the camp for hours with a determination unknown to Shango. The Zangoose had gotten the evolution stone Nightingale had dropped in the crime scene and started fiddling with it to spare himself from the tension before the mission. Bart eventually noticed the stone.
"What's this?" he asked, with his eyes wide open in surprise.
Only then Shango realized the Hashashin could recognize the item. It was no use lying now.
"Your friend Nightingale dropped it. I was spying on him," he said blatantly with a plain expression that baffled Bart.
"You mean, he didn't notice you spying on him?!" he shouted.
"I am starting to lose faith. Maybe he's gotten old, after all these centuries..." then he started laughing.
"Well... don't you want it back?"
The Accelgor stared at the shiny rock the Zangoose was holding with a worried smirk. "No, thanks. You can keep it."
"Good, because I wouldn't ever give it to you."
Their laughs echoed through the wastelands. A wind stream blew some dust from the ground, carrying it around like a menacing ghost spirit that foretold death and desertion.
The clouds had now covered a big part of the sky, blocking the moonlight; meanwhile, to their good fortune, the area was shrouded in a thick mist. The Hashashin suddenly got up from his spot and motioned at Shango, who launched himself up from the ground. They both dashed through the mist, seemingly not know where they were headed; but the Accelgor found the pile of rocks in just five minutes of navigating.
Climbing it up was no challenge for either of them - they quickly jumped above the spear fence and landed quietly inside the camp. Shango observed the ground and its holes; it seemed to be a huge extent of just holes. He could barely see the other end of the spear logs in the dark. He glanced at the Accelgor next to him, who read his thought - how will we find them?
"We'll just search the holes," he whispered. "Don't split up."
And they went peering inside the holes in the ground. They seemed bottomless, and the dark of the night didn't help them at all; Shango thanked his eyes for being so keen - without them, he'd surely fall in one of those traps. The two of them kept wandering all around the camp for an hour, searching for a sign of their allies. Shango was getting fed up with searching, but then something happened; the Hashashin was no longer next to him, out of a sudden. He wondered if he already had betrayed them, but decided that stopping to think about it would only mean wasting time, so he continued his search.
As he was peering inside another bottomless hole, he felt an odd presence behind him; as he turned around, somebody pushed him inside the hole. Before he went down, his eyes caught a quick glimpse of a Pokemon in a white cloak, with a hood covering their head.
He kept falling and falling, until he landed on his four feet, without harming himself. Another advantage of being a Zangoose. He clutched his head, as if it was killing him in pain. In fact, he was trying to find a hint as to where he had seen that figure again... then he realized that Pokemon, with the exact same structure and cloak, was on his dream last night. So it was not the Hashashin who pushed me... But whoever is this man, and what does he want?
Shango would try to find some answers later. He was able to climb back up, but his subconscious pushed him forward; his instinct was telling him that something lay just ahead. A scent of burning flesh reached his nostrils, but that didn't hinder him. He glued himself to the rocky wall inside the shadows, with his senses in full alarm and his eyes opened wide to receive any possible suspicious movements in the dark ahead. He perked up his ears, realizing a voice was echoing in the cave.
The Zangoose put on his hood and started pacing quietly towards the voice; he was more silent than the predators of the Ionian forest. His ears suddenly caught another voice, a feminine one this time. Intrigued, but still careful, he walked deeper into the darkness until the voices became really clear. He could now see that the cave was turning to the left, and that light was coming from there. He peered from the corner to see something that would make his heart race.
Deep underground, the Fire Clan had created a massive chamber entirely made from tristanite, a legendary mineral which had a silver and turquoise glow and was said to be fireproof, light and frankly indestructible. In the far end of the chamber, there was a massive statue of a Pokemon that was relatively small in real life; Shango recognized it as the Victini, the God the Fire Clan worshipped. The walls of the chamber had paintings of otherwordly beauty on them, carved onto the tristanite like jewels; however, nobody could touch them, as an eight feet crater separated them from the ground of the chamber itself. A blue, vibrant light was coming from the bottom of those craters, but something told Shango it wasn't the time to find out what source of energy would be projecting such glow.
Two figures were standing in the middle of the chamber, the statue of the Victini towering above them. A Typhlosion and a Weavile in a dress. Shango immediately recognized the Princess of Hesperia, but he was not aware of who that Typhlosion was; in fact, it was the first time he was seeing a Typhlosion with his own eyes. He seemed extremely powerful at first sight. Shango also noticed he was holding something on his tightened fist.
"For the last time. How did you know I have control over the darkstar?" the Typhlosion asked Rosa, who had crossed her arms. She looked unharmed, thankfully.
"You're gonna have to ask my daddy!" she shouted back in a stubborn tone that would annoy the most drunken Pokemon.
The Typhlosion circled around her slowly. "You do know, that if you take a single step, I'll vaporize you." his voice was sounding menacing as it echoed inside the chamber. Rosa looked at him with an expression full of anger, her piercing eyes burning him with her own passion.
"That's why I haven't ran away, you moron!"
"And if you don't tell me how you and your father know of this, you're going to stay here for an eternity."
"Let's see if you have the patience to deal with me, you oversized mutant of a Pokemon!"
Just then, the Typhlosion jerked his head upwards for some odd reason. A second later, a shadowy figure landed on his shoulders, throwing him down; his hand let go of a dark stone that was sent away with a clinging noise that echoed all around the chamber. Shango recognized Bart the Shadow, trying to land a hit on the struggling Typhlosion, but he was soon hit by a blast of fire that sent him flying next to Rosa, who took immediate action; she bashed her small body againist the Typhlosion who'd just stood up, and despite her size, she threw him back again, making him fall onto the crater, directly into the source of the blue light. As the roars of the mighty Pokemon faded, Shango walked forward from the shadows into the chamber, with his eyes fixed on the dark stone.
He felt a massive, uncontrollable power emanating from it as if it could destroy a thousand armies. The Zangoose's green eyes were reflected on the dark stone as he approached it, kneeling over to pick it up from the ground.
"No!" screamed the Hashashin and started coughing as he was immobilized on the ground with his body burning. "Don't touch it!" Shango raised his head and looked at him under his hood. It was the first time he had seen the Hashashin being worried - but why? Rosa, too, had noticed him and screamed for him to stop, but the stone was drawing him forward like a Volcarona being drawn to a distant light. He touched the black stone, picking it up from the ground. His own reflection was now clear on it, then it disappeared as if a curtain was covering it. He tightened it on his fist, it touching his claws and imbuing them with its destructive power; he felt a deep connection with the gem, as if he was actually made from it.
He raised his head to look at the other too with a slight mocking grin, now that he had touched it. The Accelgor stood up, still coughing, although the flames had been put out. Part of his body was black and rotten, but he still seemed to be healthy. The Weavile approached Shango with a strange expression.
"You're still alive..." she whispered, trying to look under his hood.
"Why shouldn't I be?" Shango inquired, with his voice sounding strange in his head, just like the Weavile's expression.
"That gem..." she begun to say, but the Hashashin had silently approached them. He had stopped coughing now, and his black pupils were as dilated as they could get.
"Give me that."
His ordering tone confirmed Shango's assumption - he was no longer his ally. He tightened his fist even more, feeling like he was harnessing a power beyond their world. Now he understood why the Typhlosion was holding it like that.
"Come and get it yourself," he whispered.
The Hashashin suddenly launched a shadow towards the Zangoose, but he was ready. He nimbly dodged it and charged against him, with darkness dripping from his claws. Rosa backed away as a fierce fight commenced; although the Hashashin was hit from the blast of fire before, he seemed to have recovered unnaturally quickly. They were now even, though, as none of them could get a hit on the other - the speed they were using was blinding. The darkstar had merged itself with Shango's right hand; he felt that hand was now stronger and faster, somehow. The strength and speed he needed to keep up with his opponent were massive, but he was able to muster it to counter him. He went on an assault of swift and powerful hits against the Hashashin's defenses, and one of them ripped through the membranes of his chest, making him grunt and throwing him back.
The Accelgor stood up rather quickly, but he was panting heavily.
"You... who are you? How can you keep up with me?"
Shango said nothing in return. A thought crossed his mind at that moment - he truly did not know who he was, and the darkstar that was attached onto his hand was guiding him through a path of light and knowledge, knowledge that seemed disturbingly familiar yet so far away, that he was unable to harness.
The Hashashin backed away with his eyes fixed on the dark liquid that was dripping from Shango's hands.
"This isn't over, Shango. We will return," were his last words, as he launched himself from the ground, touching the walls of the chamber and kicking himself higher, vanishing in the darkness above them. Shango stood unmoving for a second, then he fell on his knees, the gem escaping his hands. He suddenly felt dizzy, as if his head was overloaded with drunkening power.
Rosa kneeled next to him, clutching his shoulders; she removed the hood and looked him straight in the eye. His look was unearthly, like he had just waken up from a strange dream.
"Are you alright?" she asked and shook him.
"Uhh," he paused and blinked a few times, realizing that the darkstar was not in its rightful place between his claws. "I don't think so..."
"Power overload," she said half jokingly, getting on her feet; she picked up the darkstar from the ground. Then, she stared at the Zangoose who had just gotten up.
"How were you able to touch it?"
Shango was getting tired of this question, and suddenly he could see his surroundings extremely clearly. Just as sudden, rumble was heard from above. The chamber shook with quakes; Rosa got to the exit of the chamber, where Shango had came from.
"We'll figure out later. C'mon, let's get outta this place before it blows up or something!"
He simply nodded, letting her go, but he stood right where he was. During this time, more quakes shook the chamber, but he could only stare at the hooded guardian that was sitting on his ankles, on top of the Victini's left wing. Though the darkness under his hood was impenetrable, he appeared to be staring at him.
"Who are you?" he managed to shout, despite the dizziness. But the figure vanished right after; a corner of his subconscious was filled with that same hooded somebody, as if it was only a figment of his imagination. His eyes fell on the foot of the statue. A small red and white Pokemon was laying there unconscious. Shango opened his eyes wide, trying to decide if what he was seeing was real or not. He approached, with his steps echoing in the chamber.
He leaned over the Pokemon; it was an exact copy of the Pokemon represented by the statue above him. A Victini was laying there, breathing peacefully. Shango figured it was sleeping, and he wondered what had happened and why it was there. He didn't remember it being there when he looked at the statue for the first time.
He decided to take it with him; as soon as his hands touched the Pokemon's white fur, it was awake and looking at him with sleepy eyes.
"Who are you?" asked a feminine voice.
"I don't know. People call me Shango Maverick, but I'm not too sure anymore."
The Victini blinked, observing him in surprise. "My name is Tristana. I'm not too sure who I am either!" she said in a cheerful voice that made Shango give her a grand smile.
"Let's find out, then. The Pokemon who took you here aren't exactly good-willed," said the Zangoose and put the tiny Pokemon on his shoulder. He felt like it was the right thing to do - mainly because he felt like her power was similar to what he felt when he touched the darkstar. It seemed as if it was infinite, and he had instantly liked her by the way she was smiling.
* Pair *
Chapter 5: Escape
Shango climbed out of the hole that Pokemon had pushed him into; screams were heard from outside. Rosa was just six feet away, staring at the troops of the Fire Clan that had gathered in the entrance, getting out of the camp.
"Better disappear," whispered Tristana in Shango's ear and giggled, "I'll be right next to you!"
The Zangoose walked over to Rosa; he would later think over what had compelled him to take the legendary Pokemon with him.
"What's going on?"
"You tell me," was the answer from the Weavile, who looked at him sideways with a grin. "You are from the Verdict, aren't you? You're here to save us!"
When Shango nodded, thinking his hood had given him off, Rosa turned to one of the holes. "Come," she said and he thought that she was talking to him, but the next moment an Excadrill pierced the ground before them, an Electivire and Magmortar appeared next to him.
"What's going on?" asked the Excadrill abruptly in a rude manner and furious eyes. He looked over at Shango and his face was lighted up a bit. "Ah, the Verdict! Here at last, eh? Let's get goin', then."
He was apparently Baron Marcus Vanchez, leader of the reconnaissance mission; by the time Shango realized this, all of them, including Princess Rosa (who had removed her dress) charged in the back of the Fire Clan forces that were exiting the camp. Shango followed into the crowd and started fighting his way out; he discovered he could form darkness on his hand, making the impact of his strikes alot stronger.
They slashed and hacked the backs of the fire types; their opponents eventually noticed what was going on and they panicked. On the other side, the Ionian Verdict was bravely fighting them. Marcus and his team slipped away from them once they were out of the camp, and once the members of the Verdict saw them, they started retreating; the Fire Clan outnumbered them, and they would soon be dead.
Baron Marcus set off a massive earthquake that made them all flinch, giving them time to group up with the Verdict and start running towards the emptyness of the wastelands. Shango noticed Swifty and Chan were missing; he would ask questions later, though. Rosa was running, clutching the darkstar with her hand.
The Fire Clan, headless as it was, gave up the chase.
"So, why are you here, Princess Rosa?" asked Brutalinax. They were in safety, far away from the Fire Clan's camp.
Rosa threw Shango a death stare, telling him to stay silent; and he got the message. Nobody knew of this 'darkstar', and he had no intentions of revealing any information. The gem that had given him the power - no, actually, awoken some of his powers - to stand up to the Hashashin had been hidden from sight by the Princess. That's what the King was hidding, then... was the reconnaissance mission sent to these lands for the sole purpose of escorting the Princess to the darkstar? Maybe. I'll demand an explanation later.
"That's none of your business!" she said as if the Garchomp was her inferior. Brutalinax smirked and looked at Marcus, who rolled his eyes. Those two had an argument over who would be in the lead after this, and Brutalinax won only because of the King's official paper and mark. They were all devastated by the loss of their two men, Chan and Swifty, though; they honoured them with the hymn of the Ionian Verdict.
Nobody was in the mood to chat. Shango had told them what happened in the chamber, excluding the information about the darkstar and the legendary Pokemon. The betrayal of the Hashashin wasn't met with great impact - they all knew it would eventually happen. He did however help them in their cause. They would now return to report to the King, as commanded by the Princess.
The fourth day travelling through the harsh wastelands, they reached the foot of the mountains and decided to set up there and rest. The night fell and Karnos's red light filled the area. Everyone was sleeping heavily, somebody was snoring loudly, and Shango couldn't shut his eyes. He had the same dream again: this white-cloaked sinister figure was in front of him, hymning and talking in a language that was unknown to him.
Shango stood up and looked at the red planet that was stuck on the night sky. A familiar voice echoed in his mind, and without him being startled, Tristana suddenly landed on his shoulder and became visible.
"Why did you follow me here?" asked Shango quietly, still staring at the sky.
"Why not?" she asked in a cheerful tone that seemed to be permanent. "You were the one who broke the seal and summoned me to this world, after all!"
Shango took his eyes from the sky to look at her, surprised. His hood was down and the gentle wind blew threw the hair on his face. "I did no such thing."
"Oh, but you did," she said happily, staring at him directly into his eyes. She had blue eyes that glowed in the darkness.
"But what did I do?"
"I'm not sure, but it was so sweet of you!" she said and pinched his cheek in a playful mood.
"Shh, they'll wake up!" he whispered, but he was smiling. He took the tiny Pokemon onto his hands and petted it; she only giggled in response. He was still feeling a massive power inside her. "So, Tristana... you said you've no idea who you are?"
She looked at him with a confused expression that made him want to burst into laughter. "No... I remember falling asleep, but nothing else apart from my name."
"Hm, now that's weird," said Shango, but another voice from behind startled him and made him drop Tristana.
"Who're you talking to?"
Rosa was standing there, eyeing him with a curious and evil look at the same time. Shango looked down, but he didn't see the legendary Pokemon anywhere. Then he looked at the Princess again.
"Nobody. Why are you awake, my Princess?" he asked in the same mellow voice he was using to flirt with the girls of the neighborhood.
"I couldn't get any sleep. I also want to talk to you," she responded calmly, with a serious expression. Shango got the message and smiled at her.
She approached him and revealed the dark gem from her pouch, putting it in front of his face. Shango observed it for a moment then looked back at her. He was still feeling that enormous power pulsing away from the gem.
"See this?" she asked, smirking.
"Yes," Shango muttered with an innocent look.
"Well, you aren't supposed to see it," she said with a grin, "because it's not there!"
And she hid the darkstar in her pouch again with a laugh. Shango smirked againist her attitude, reminding himself to be nice and gentle.
"I get the message, you want it to stay a secret."
The Princess observed his face with her red eyes glowing. "You ARE bright, aren't you?" she said with a more friendlier grin, but Shango was serious now.
"Why did you try to stop me from touching it?"
She turned her head to look at the others sleeping, her feathers swishing in front of Shango's face, who smirked. I bet she's doing that on purpose... but her expression was serious and secretive when she turned to look at him again.
"This thing here, mister...?"
"Maverick, Shango Maverick," he said and winked with a tricky smile. She chuckled in response and quickly got serious again.
"Well, mister Maverick, this thing is capable of destroying any living being who touches it."
"Then how come it didn't destroy me... or you?"
"Because... you see, me and my father are voidborns."
Shango raised his eyebrows in surprise. "And?"
"And only voidborns can touch it - we've got the right vibe of power to touch it, you know?"
"I see," the Zangoose said, but he didn't really understand. "Where are you going with his?"
"You are a voidborn," she said, with a hint of jealousy in her voice, as if she only got the right to be a voidborn. What is a voidborn, anyway?
"I suppose you didn't know any of this," she continued with a slight, mocking grin. Shango thought of how easy it would be to choke her on the spot, but he managed to laugh at the thought.
"The doctors of the academy said I was one, but they were never able to prove themselves right..."
"Who are your parents, Maverick?"
"I don't even know... Baron Ascendio found me in a river with a small note, containing only a prayer and my full name."
She took a moment to respond. "Aww, that's cute," she said in a plain voice that made Shango start laughing.
"Well," she started when the Zangoose stopped, "the voidborn are what the name suggest them to be - we are born from the void, just like this thing that doesn't exist is!"
"Uh-huh, so what does that mean, exactly?"
"It means that we have access to this jewel," she said, pointing at her pouch, "and it also means we have enchanced abilities granted by it."
Shango titled his head slightly. "That explains my 'unnaturally massive strength'."
Rosa nodded. "How do you think you were able to keep up with that Hashashin? They're warriors of legendary power, not even the Hesperians can deny that, although we're too proud to suck it up."
"So, this Hashashin... he wanted the darkstar--"
"Shush your mouth!" she whispered menacingly, throwing him a death stare. "Don't mention it! But yes... he wanted it for themselves - they were always power hungry like that," she said. Shango had a different opinion, but he said nothing. He still had faith in the Hashashin, somehow - or was he being fooled by his words? Bart the Shadow betrayed them after all.
"But what does this thing even do?" he asked, full of curiosity.
"Patience, Maverick... you'll find out in time. My daddy plans on promoting you to his very personal servant, you know."
"But how, he doesn't even know m--"
"Shh," she said, and this time she gently put her white hand on his mouth with a playful smile. Shango only then realized how beautiful she was. But that moment didn't last.
"Now, off to sleep you go," she said in a demanding tone, expecting him to fall asleep on the spot. She left for the only grass patch around here which she had claimed for herself.
Shango sat down and stared at the sky again. The crimson light had disappeared, giving its place to the moonlight and the stars. Tristana popped up onto his left shoulder.
"I don't like her," she said, making a grimace that Shango didn't notice. He stayed silent. His future now seemed bright. The images of the ones that sacrificed themselves so he could succeed in his mission circled in his mind, but the menacing shadow of the Hashashin was towering above him. We will return. They were fully aware he knew about the darkstar, and while they wouldn't be able to reach the Princess or the King themselves... he was an easy target.
The group entered the Hesperian grounds in the afternoon of the next day. Having completed their quest, they were met with great honour in the closest village to them. However, they got moving as fast as they could; word of their success had already reached the White Citadel, and they had already become heroes. They arrived at the capital of Hesperia a week later, only to be welcomed by one of those parties King Eoleo Nagrand the II threw from time to time. Shango stayed with the others inside the palace, which was alot different than the Ionian palace. It was not as rich, but it was still overwhelming; its white walls gave off the whole Hesperian might.
A few days later after the ceremony, Shango was called to the King's quarters. They were simple and with no decoration at all, but they were vast, and the bed seemed extremely soft; he wondered where the darkstar was.
The Empoleon, known as King Eoleo Nagrand, was standing there with his daughter hugging his enormous belly. Shango kneeled on one feet; he was wearing the Seeker's clothes, as always.
"Hello, Maverick. You can get up now," he said in a pompous but jolly voice. Shango did as he was told, now facing the King. He couldn't believe this was real.
"I hear that you know of our darkstar..." he said in a serious tone that made Shango feel bad.
"It was an accident, my King," he said.
"Ah, don't worry about it! Accidents happen," he said cheerfully and glanced at Princess Rosa with a meaningful smile. Shango mustered all of the power of his determination to keep himself from laughing; he managed to respond with a grand smile. Rosa understood none of the signs.
"My daughter is quite keen of you, you know," Eoleo stated with the same meaningful smile, leaning forward as if he was telling him a secret. The expression on Rosa's face was priceless, and Shango was afraid she would explode right there.
"But don't get any ideas, Maverick, she's way out of your league," he said and Shango almost started laughing. He nodded quietly, agreeing. He was sure Tristana - who was invisible as always, next to him - wouldn't approve of her either. They had become great friends with the Victini now.
"Anyway. For your deeds, the courage and dedication you showed in the Scorching Lands, you will be promoted to my personal assistant," the Empoleon stated.
Shango put his right hand onto his heart, suddenly remembering that it was the hand that got bound with the darkstar. "It is an honour for me, but what about the Ionian Verdict?"
"Ah, but that's what you'll be doing. You'll be my voice inside it."
He knew where this was going. The King would receive massive influence over the Ionian Verdict if this happened, but he didn't really care. He would now live the rich and glamorous life of a superstar and further his career as a hero that would be carved on the memory of Hesperians forever. Perhaps he was a bit too ambitious, but he was always aiming for that which was out of his grasp, so that he may achieve what it actually was. Such was the wisdom he had developed in 17 years of life.
"I accept, then," he said and he felt the burning flames of the Victini next to him. Her heart was beating faster and faster for some odd reason.
The King let out a laugh. "Alright, then! It is time we discussed of this darkstar, yes?" he nodded his head towards his bed, and Rosa went there, picking the pillow up and grabbing the darkstar from beneath. How cliche, Shango thought, but then again, this place is impenetrable... nobody is able to steal it.
"Do you know what a darkstar is, Maverick?" Eoleo said, as he held the gem onto his hands. Shango shook his head negatively.
"It is the gift of the Archaic Precursors to our generations. These gems are beacons of unspeakable power that, if used right, can destroy the whole world... you are able to accomplish whatever you wish for, with one of these. No more than five Pokemon know of its existance."
"I see," was Shango's quiet response.
"However, I can't quite get it to work..." the Empoleon continued. "Do you want to hold the darkstar, Maverick?"
Of course he wanted - and in the mere thought, the darkstar flew from the King's hands with blinding speed towards the Zangoose, who caught it in midair with his amazing reflexes. The King's expression turned dark.
"How did you do that?" he asked. Now his voice wasn't so friendly. Shango didn't know how to play this right. Perhaps the King was jealous, and in that case, he was in danger. Though, he knew he was useful to him, which meant he wasn't disposable. He wielded the darkstar correctly, anyway.
"I'm not sure. I thought of holding it, and it just happened."
"Think of something else... think of me using it," he said. There was something weird in his tone which the Zangoose didn't like. Now he was sure that him, along with most of the Kings, were corrupted; he personally didn't care, as long as he was paid his money and glory from what he was doing. Doing the right thing was another business.
"Alright," he said, and imbued the dark gem with his thoughts. In fact, he wished Eoleo would never be able to use the power of the gem. As he threw it towards Eoleo, he noticed his greedy expression which only lasted for a mere second, before becoming veiled again.
After many tries, the King was still unable to use it. He was fuming in disappointment. "We will try again, tomorrow. You will stay in your private chamber, of course, until further notice."
Shango rolled his eyes. Getting rid of him wouldn't be easy.
* Pair *
Last edited by Ray Maverick; December 16th, 2012 at 05:18 PM.
Chapter 6: The Return of the Hashashin
Three years had passed since the return of Shango Maverick in Hesperia, with no major or important events taking place. He had already become a nobleman that attended the Ionian council on the King's behalf. King Eoleo Nagrand had given up his attempts to manipulate the darkstar's immense long ago, and Shango would never find what he intended to do with him. Much to his disappointment, early the first year of knowing her, Princess Rosa was secretly sent in Erca. He truly had forgotten about her and the business with the darkstar, as well as the Hashashin, and had focused on the Ionian Verdict and the King's demands. The hooded figure of his dreams had also disappeared from his subconscious.
He was already richer than Ascendio Nome, but he found out riches were not suiting him; he missed the days of the Seeker greatly. Meanwhile, his friendship with Tristana had grown strong. Him and the fiery spirit would never part ways, although they didn't even know why they were stuck together. They had just found the friend they always wanted in each other. Plus, Shango found her company quite useful, as she had taught him how to use the technique of flamethrower, although she seemed unable to use any kind of hostile ability of that sort. Her advice seemed to be accurate and her words of comfort always effective; this was proven when they were going through difficulties with the King's temper and demands.
If we take a look at Shango from the political view of Ionia, he had become an admirable celebrity in Ionia, but his fame stopped when he abruptly vanished from the world. He was last seen attending an Ionian council; it was only finished by night, and he was forced to walk to his turf by then, as reported by the other members of the council. Various assumptions were made, but the fact that he was once threatened by the Hashashin was not brought up by the Nagrands, who were well aware of that.
But this is the tale of Shango, so we shall be seeing this through his eyes. How it really happened. He was slowly pacing through the trade square, observing the lighthouse which could not be opened by any kind of method the specialists used. It was then when he realised the Infernape he had seen three years ago was standing across the square, staring at him. The pair of red eyes was behind the threatening Pokemon as well. Shango turned around to see the familiar Accelgor appearing from the shadows. More Pokemon appeared from the dark around the square, including the incredibly powerful dragon known as Nightingale. Next to the Infernape stood a female Zoroark, species that Shango nor any Hesperian or Stygian had seen before. With his pupils dilated, he spotted a figure coated in black was blending in with the shadows amongst the Pokemon that had surrounded them; he realized it was a tall Pokemon wearing a black hood and cloak so that his body was covered entirely. Not a single clue was given about his species. The only thing Shango could tell was that he was tall and bulky, much more than himself.
"Shango Maverick," spoke that particular Pokemon in a rough and deep masculine voice, walking towards him with heavy footsteps that made strange sounds as what appeared to be claws hit the cobblestone of the square. He was forced to look up into the impenetrable darkness of the hood. "It's nice to finally meet you. We have heard so much about you."
"What do you want?" asked Shango coldly, baring his fangs. All of the Hashashin could stare through him with their piercing eyes. He was not feeling safe without the Seeker's hood, but he hadn't wore it in a long time; Tristana was invisible, flying above, but she could help none. He threw her a quick glance, warning her to stay close.
"Information, of course," said the mysterious hooded Pokemon and laughed. His laugh seemed old and friendly, in a way. He appeared to be their leader, . "Have you any knowledge regarding some... darkstar?" he whispered.
Shango thought he was probably too important for them to kill him. Stay hidden, he directed his thoughts to Tristana, whose eyes had become large as she was on the verge of crying. He pitied her full of concern face. He came to the decision he firstly thought as most viable one: fight back. Jerking his body back, he charged at the Infernape; he saw him, he was sure of that, yet he remained unmoved. Much to Shango's surprise, he went right through the flaming Pokemon as if it was only an image. He fell abruptly on the ground and darkness immediately engulfed him like a mist; something landed heavy on his head and he was thrown unconscious.
When Shango opened his eyes, he felt truly sick. He slowly started to comprehend with his environment. A bed. Good start, he thought to himself. A window where the sunlight entered from. A blue carpet of extraordinary beauty, unknown to him - but he could tell it was probably Stygian, from its grey color. A wooden door in the far end of the small room with the white, worn out walls he was into. He heard Tristana speaking to his mind, giving him a bright idea of dealing with the Hashashin. He then remembered what happened in the Ionian trade square: he was kidnapped by the Hashashin, if the mysterious Pokemon in the hood and the rest who surrounded him in the square weren't a dream.
Suddenly, the sound of the door that got unlocked cracked in, and when it opened, the Zoroark he had clearly seen in the square entered, holding a piece of brown food on her hands. Her appearance only proved his assumption wrong - this was all real. He preferred himself to fight, but strangely, her otherwise wild face seemed friendly.
"Hello," she said in a cheerful voice, as if she was truly happy Shango was there. The Zangoose only stayed at bed and tilted his head, eyeing her confused. He had to play this right.
"I brought you some food," she approached him and gave him what she was holding. "It's chocolate." Shango was surely hungry, but he took the piece of chocolate with slow movements, still staring at the Zoroark. He was still staring at her when he ate it.
"Who are you?" he asked, in a convincingly confused tone. "Who am I?" he asked, looking at his hands, then around him. It was like the Zoroark's face was hit by a tidal wave; Shango enjoyed the effects of his acting, but kept himself from grinning.
"You mean..." she muttered, observing him, "that you don't know who you are?"
"No..." he said plainly. "Where am I?"
"Excuse me," she said with a dark expression and hurried out of the room; she didn't bother locking the door. Shango silently thanked Tristana for the idea she gave him. He was sure the spirit was above him right now, smiling proudly as she always was when proven useful. The Hashashin would have massive trouble with the amnesia; he chuckled at the thought. That would give him time to escape.
Still feeling kind of dizzy, he walked outside the room into a hall. Nothing special was there, only some drawer that contained strange garments. As Shango heard voices from the other room, he perked up his pointy ears.
"He's lost his memory, apparently..." said the voice that belonged to the female Zoroark.
"Perhaps it is better that way." said Nightingale.
"No, you fools. Without his memory, he knows nothing of this darkstar!" this was their leader, Shango was sure of that. The voice was the same as the tall Pokemon's he talked to in the square.
"You misunderstood what I said, Master," said Nightingale, slightly irritated. "What I meant was, if we build him to be an Hashashin, he will be on our side when he truly remembers. Besides, he truly is an Hashashin."
A pause in the conversation, silence from the other room. Shango did not know if things could get any more complex. He, an Hashashin? Tristana's flames flared upwards as her heartbeats quickened along with his.
"Y... you've got quite the idea, Nightingale. Since when are you so bright?"
Shango heard footsteps, so he took a garment outside the drawer and adopted a clueless expression as he holded it up and observed it. It appeared to be a white cloak with a hood attached onto it, but it was very different to the Verdict's Seeker uniform. Yet, it was cool to touch, and he bet he would look cool under it.
The door of the room opened; the tall Pokemon in the black hoody lowered his head to pass through the doorstep. He stared at the Zangoose looking around, seemingly lost. Shango turned his green eyes to him in his most innocent look.
"Greetings," he said with his eyebrows slightly raised, having a foolish smile on his face.
The Zoroark and the Hydreigon were right behind their "Master", with slightly worried expressions, as if Shango was a time bomb that would go off any minute. The matter of the darkstar seemed too important - perhaps it was wrong of Shango to never attempt to steal it from the King.
"Hello, little fella. Are you aware of who you are?" the Master asked in the same friendly voice he used back in the square. It was the kind of voice you'd expect a frail yet wise old man to have, who is absolutely harmless. It set something in Shango's mind off. How could the Master of the Hashashin be so... friendly? The man seemed almost as if he had good intentions.
Shango shook his head negatively in response, while trying to push away his thoughts so he could bring them up later.
"You are the last of the Mavericks, Shango Maverick."
"The last of the Mavericks?" asked the Zangoose with genuine interested mixed with curiosity and confusion.
"Exactly," spoke Nightingale. "The Mavericks were once the most powerful family of the Hashashin..."
Shango opened his eyes wide. He, an Hashashin? There was no way. They were definitely trying to trick him, as they had said before. But why would they lie about his entire family? He pulled himself together, trying to get over the shock and muster all of his patience and calm.
"Hashashin? What is this? And where is the rest of my family now?" he asked in the same convincing, confused look.
The Master crossed his arms, which appeared to be a lot smaller proportionally with the rest of his body. He glanced back at the other Hashashins. The Zoroark stepped forward.
"We, the Hashashin, are an organization dedicated to preserving the peace and justice over the Stygian natives that were forced under the Dark Cult's rule."
Yeah, that's the original definition, when they first formed four hundred years ago, Shango thought sarcastically. Nightingale floated next to his master with a small grin. "As for your family, I disposed all of them. They were traitors."
Shango tried his best to hide anger for the statement, as he detected no lie in his voice. Nightingale had done what he just said, and he was proud of it, he could tell by the way he was grinning. Shango's eyes flashed with the darkest of emotion: hatred. So it was all true: that's where he originated from, the Hashashin. They operated mostly in Stygia, and the river which brought him to Ionia and into Ascendio's hands was beginning from Mt. Aegis, which was in Stygia. He wondered what had happened and he was thrown into the river - it could have to do with his family being 'traitors'. Either way, he was going to find it all out here.
"Traitors?" he managed to ask with a trembling voice, forgetting to ask what the Dark Cult was; thankfully, nobody noticed.
"Indeed," said the Master. "They dared to commit incest amongst the families of the Hashashin; your grandmother from the side of your mother was a Cortez, your mother was an Ancelotti and your father was the only Maverick to survive the Ionian Verdict's assault to our stronghold in the Ishtero Monasteries," he stated, paused and took a deep breath as if he was relishing those events and facts. Shango smirked his eyes, sensing that the words of the man before him were clouded - it was quite possible that he was lying. "According to the Laws of the Five Families, nobody and under no circumstance is to mix the bloodlines - but your parents and grandparents did, and the result is right in front of us. You, my boy, carry the legendary blood of three of our families. We were not quite aware of your existance, until recently..."
Shango looked at him with his mouth half opened. Too much information to take in, but that was to be expected.
"You do understand, what this means, of course. You have many family members amongst our ranks. In fact, three fifths of our people," his voice was heard as if he smiling.
Arceus, or whoever is in charge, must be joking with me, Shango thought as he looked at the Master in disbelief. A weird thought crossed Shango's mind. "Am I related to you?"
The Master laughed for a while. "No. I am Ignacio Phylax. The Phylax's are one of the two families that are left unspoiled by incest." Shango couldn't grasp why the mixing of the families wasn't allowed. "However, this gal over here," said the Master, pointing at the Zoroark, "is your cousin. Her name is Crystal Ancelotti."
Crystal gave him a hearty smile that greatly resembled to his, as he shockingly realized just now. Shango's world started falling apart as each passing moment, something confirmed his connection to the Hashashin. "What species is she?" he asked with curiosity. All of the Hashashin laughed, as if it was an inside joke.
"She is a Zoroark, boy," said the Master. "We consider Zoroarks sacred masters of the art of assassination - their body's structure and the ability to create illusions easily place them on top tiers of the Hashashin. The greatest of assassins were Zoroarks. Chantalai Ancelotti himself, the one who founded the Hashashin, also our legendary hero and mentor, was a Zoroark. This kind of species is the characteristic of the Ancelotti family; each family has one, except yours truly. The Mavericks were mostly random Pokemon we recruited to our ranks due to the respect they showed us."
Each piece of information was a treasure for Shango, but he had a hard time accepting it. "Why were the Mavericks so powerful, then?"
A moment of silence fell amongst the Hashashin, who exchanged nervous glances. Finally, the Master decided to speak. "You'll come to know, eventually," he said mysteriously.
"Which are the rest of the families and their characteristics?" Shango asked quickly. The questions he had seemed countless.
"The Hashashin were formed by the last of the Ancelottis at that time, Chantalai. He recruited two more families in that era - the Phylax's, and the Cortez's. The symbol of the Phylax's is a Salamence, as the first Phylax member, Richard Phylax, was one of these dragons. As for the Cortez's, it was the Zangoose - you got that trait from father, I suppose. At a later time, all of the Dawsons joined our ranks to fight against the Dark Cult; their symbol is the Weavile. And then, the Mavericks."
"I see..." as an amnesiac, he wondered what to ask next. All this information had gotten his head spinning. "What is my part in all of this? Why am I still alive, if incest is a crime amongst the Hashashin?"
"Because..." the Master paused, apparently thinking. "We decided that you could be proven useful."
"Useful, how?" his sincere tone woud keep fooling them for a long time... because after hearing all this, he intended to find out more, which meant he had to stay more.
"Oh, but we just told you. You combine three of our bloodlines. Truthfully, after our consideration on the possibilities, you just might be the most powerful Hashashin in existence."
Shango's eyes widened in the coming of such news. He didn't know how to respond to any of this, only question them. So that is why he vastly outmatched his peers back in the academy, simply because he was the son of three of the Hashashin families? What was so special about them, anyway? Is that why he was able to keep up with Bart the Shadow, a seemingly experienced and deadly Hashashin who was double his age?
"Well, I'd bet my claws you have many questions," said the Master. "How about you follow your cousin here? I am sure her knowledge will suffice to quench all of your questions."
Shango slowly nodded, eyeing Crystal, who was smiling cheerfully. How did I get myself into this?
* Pair *
Last edited by Ray Maverick; December 16th, 2012 at 05:19 PM.
Chapter 7: Ravenscare
Crystal Ancelotti took Shango out of the house he was located. It was on top of a hill in a green, open field; there was a single tree that shed its shadow on the roof of that house. They were now walking down the hill towards a peaceful village with stone houses that had roofs with tiny red tiles and small chimneys which were smoking.
"Where exactly are we, Crystal?" asked Shango with the same genuine interest.
"This is Podville Town. Southeast Stygia. These lands are under Hotorian command."
"Oh... what do you mean by Hotorian command?"
"The Hotori are one of the eight tribes that inhabit Stygia, but I won't list them all for you," the Zoroark said with a subtle smile; she winked at him. "Even I had trouble learning them!"
Shango felt the wind blew through his fur, the scent of flowers entering his nose. The feelings of freedom and happiness he felt were unexplainable, but fear for the future was a shadow that engulfed all of them. He felt the urge to ask more about his family, about his father, about his mother, but he felt like it was not the right time. His questions would be probably reported to command, anyway, so he chose not to risk anything.
"What are we doing here?" he incquired with an innocent expression that fit an eight year old boy. Crystal stared at him.
"You only care about what you are doing here. Don't ask too many questions. The Hashashin want you to focus on your own work."
Shango rolled his eyes. "Then what am I doing here?" Good question, he said to himself. The town was getting closer and closer now; they entered a sand path that led straight in it.
"There is a Saloon - Ravenscare - that belongs to us somewhere in the town. A part of our crew is waiting for you there to meet them."
"I'll stay here," she said and suddenly sat down on the grass on the side of the road. Shango started laughing, clutching his belly.
"I'm serious," she stated. Shango got serious as well, under her meaningful expression. "And don't you try to run away," she said.
"Alright, bet'cha I'll find it."
And he dashed off towards the town.
The town proved to be far more great than Shango had imagined. All the small houses created comb-like paths that were so narrow, only two Pokemon Shango's size could pass through them at the same time. Tristana was sitting on his left shoulder, talking non-stop.
"... and you should escape when the night arrives, if you don't, you--"
"Hey! Zip it up there, I'm trying to find my way to the main street!"
Shango had accidentally entered one of the narrow paths, and now he couldn't get out. He was slightly pissed off, but at the same happy - he had never been in Stygia, and getting to know more places was interesting. He'd always wanted to travel around the world.
"Oh, why didn't you say so?" said the Victini and giggled. "Try the roofs, Shango."
The Zangoose stared at a wall and ran towards it with great speed; he lept and kicked it, launching himself high enough to grab the end of a roof and pull himself up.
"Wall kick, impressive," Tristana said in a playful manner.
"You better learn some tricks for battle, or I'm selling you for trash in the nearest merchant," replied Shango in the same manner, but she fell silent.
Shango didn't have a good view of the town from there; the houses were not particularly tall and were about the same height. The feel of that red stone under his feet was rather strange and he thought of geting back on the ground, but his eyes caught something moving in the next roof; he jerked his head to see a wild Starly flapping its wings. Shango would deem that as his meal if he was hungry, but the chocolate Crystal had given him kept him good, so he decided to leave the little bird alone.
The Pokemon of the area would surely know of the Ravenscare Saloon, Shango thought, so he descended from the rooftops and asked the first Pokemon he came across - a Breloom.
"Do you maybe know where the Ravenscare Saloon is?"
The Breloom looked at him in disbelief. "We don't have any Ravenscare Saloon in this town," he said and paused, examining him. "You must be new around here..." then he walked away. Shango frowned and continued his way down the main street. Not many Pokemon were walking around; as it was a relatively quiet town, Shango wondered if they knew how to party.
An enticing smell found its way into Shango's nose, and he jerked his head towards it with his eyes wide opened. "Flowers!" Tristana screamed, Shango staring at her. "No! You'll set the whole town on fire like last time!"
"You're mean, that's not true!" she shouted in his ear, but they both laughed anyway, until the Zangoose's eyes fell on what seemed to be a restaurant. A Drifblim was standing amongst the flowers of the garden outside the building; the Pokemon was staring at Shango as if he was one of his family members.
"Are you looking for the Ravenscare Saloon?"
It was a psychic voice directed towards him. The Pokemon around ignored the Drifblim as if it didn't exist. He realized no one heard the Drifblim but him, as it spoke into his mind. The Zangoose nodded and glanced at Tristana next to him that had apparently heard the voice too. She looked at him with her big blue eyes and then vanished from sight.
"Right this way, Hashashin," spoke the Drifblim with the same ominous tone. It raised one of its four yellow-tipped limbs and pointed inside the restaurant. Shango slowly walked towards that direction, eyeing the ghost Pokemon with his eyebrows slightly raised in suspicion.
Voices were suddenly heard from inside as he walked in; he felt like he entered an entirely different world. There was a room with stairs leading up, and a a wooden bar filled with all kinds of bottles. The bartender was a Metang, which was right now skilfully using its psychic powers to pour the liquid into glasses. He didn't appear to notice Shango, who looked around to see empty tables. Above the bar, there was a giant sign, 'Ravenscare'.
"How could that guy not be aware of this Saloon? He appeared to be from town," Shango whispered over to his shoulder, where the fiery spirit was sitting.
"Maybe this Saloon is only permitting access to the Hashashin!" Tristana whispered back in an excited tone.
"That explains how the Drifblim knew me," Shango replied after some thought. Suddenly, Crystal came down from the stairs on the left side of the Saloon.
He stared at her surprised. "How did you get here before me?"
She chuckled. "You're too slow, Shango. Come upstairs, I have a couple of friends I'd like you to meet."
I wonder if the rest of the Hashashin are as friendly as this girl. What reason do they have they to be friendly? They are murderers, Shango thought as he followed his Zoroark cousin upstairs, his heart beating with anticipation and curiosity. Maybe I'll meet more of my relatives...
"That Metang in the bar," Crystal started speaking, "isn't one of us, so you really keep your yap shut about our business when talking to him. Capiche?"
"Huh? Then what's he doing here?"
"Let's just say one of us knows how to control minds. And if it gets any idea of what we're planning upstairs, some one will have to erase his memory."
Shango was appaled. How could they use a Pokemon like this? Is this cruel, or what? spoke Tristana into his mind; he could feel her floating above his head now. He was ready to reply, but they reached the second floor. That's where the voices Shango heard before came from.
The room was entirely made of wood, just like the ground floor. Four tables with four chairs around each of them were spread, forming a circle around the center of the room. Four Pokemon were sitting on the nearest table; Shango didn't look at them carefully - he hadn't forgotten to act clueless. But the second he laid his eyes on one of them, he instantly recognized him. The Infernape that appeared in the streets of Ionia was staring at him, grinning in the same manner that revealed all of his yellow teeth. Shango wished he could ask him how he had disappeared when he tried to hit him back in Ionia, but that would give him away. Next to him was the familiar sinister bug Pokemon, Bart the Shadow; he was staring at the Zangoose intently, but with no apparent bad intentions. The other two Pokemon on the table, an Ambipom and a Bisharp, seemed to be observing him from eye to toe.
Shango assumed they would all know that he had lost his memory already; he wouldn't know how to react if Bart confronted him. It was possible that the guy still wanted revenge for the fiasco at the Scorching Lands. The Accelgor didn't look like he had forgotten, but at the same time, his look didn't seem hostile, and Shango was thankful. Bart had changed little in these 3 years. He remembered his last words, which hinted that the Hashashin would return. And that they have, and here he was.
"Shango!" Crystal exclaimed in a cheerful tone, "meet my friends and family, Pasqual," she said, looking over at the Infernape, "Bartholomew," the Accelgor slowly nodded as their eyes met, "Enzo," the Ambipom waved one of his tails, "and Vincenzo." The Bisharp nodded with a welcoming smile.
Enzo and Vincenzo, eh? Crystal looked at him as if she read his thoughts. "They're called the Dawson Brothers around here."
"Oh... nice to meet you all."
Vincenzo stood up with a metallic sound caused by his powerful steel feet. "A pleasure to meet you, Shango Maverick," then he proceeded to shake hands with him. As Shango looked in his black eyes, he wondered how many Pokemon that seemingly nice Hashashin had destroyed. His curious and kind stare, mixed with his tiny welcoming smile made him doubt his membership in the brotherhood; though, now he realized, the lot of them didn't seem scary at all. None of them, at least, except Nightingale. Tristana must have been thinking exactly the same, because he sensed a bit of disbelief from her part.
"Yeah! Nice to meet you, man," shouted Enzo, launching himself from his chair, landing next to his brother, in front of Shango; the Ambipom grabbed his other hand and started shaking it vigorously. When they finally let go of him, Shango glanced at the other too who were rooted to their chairs. The Infernape named Pasqual had something really odd about him, something Shango had detected back in Ionia. As if space around him was virtually... challenged. The feeling he was giving was extremely unnatural and mysterious, though his stare wasn't exactly mean, but rather... curious.
As for Bart next to him, he was probably still upset about losing the fight before. Or he just didn't believe handshakes were necessary, like Shango did.
Pasqual finally stood up as well and extended his arm. Shango reached for it, and the Infernape gripped his hand with great force, as if he was trying to break it. He shut his eyes while Shango looked at their hands - something was very wrong here; his hand didn't feel how it looked like exactly. Where there were the blue fingers of the Infernape, he felt fur. On top of that, he felt as if his mind was being messed with. Tristana's subtle thoughts transfered to his mind: was uncle Pasqual invading his brain?
"Have they told you who I am?" he asked. His voice surely hadn't been used in months. The Infernape took his eyes from Shango to look questioningly over at Crystal, who nodded her head negatively. Then, he looked back at Shango with a sense of amusement on his face. "I'm your uncle. Mentor of the junior Hashashin."
Shango raised his eyebrows in surprise. So the strange Pokemon was his uncle. He wondered if he was powerful - he looked old, yet still in shape. That's what made him mentor, probably. Uncle Pasqual turned around, his hands behind his back. He walked over to the window of Ravenscare Saloon and looked down.
"Do you know how the Hashashin work?"
"No, I do not," he replied in a pompous voice that apparently sounded rather funny to the Hashashin, who all chuckled, except his uncle. His mentor turned around and faced him, having lost his grin.
"Some call us brutal killers. Some others mercenaries. Hah! That's exactly what we want them to see. We are an absolute, independent organization which looks for its own survival, but mainly, we are the pursuers of liberty and peace. We cleanse the land from the filthy animals that take control of it by eliminating them," he paused to take a deep breath and started coughing slightly. When he stopped, he spoke again. "Clearly we cannot work in the public eye - especially our trainees, they can't. So, we disguise ourselves as street performers. Yes," he said, seeing Shango's surprise. "Our circus enterprise is far too grand for us to be suspected. Ravenscare is known all around Stygia for its shows."
Shango grabbed his chin and looked on the floor, wondering if that was just Pasqual's perception of things, or that was the reality of the brotherhood. A realization emerged from his subconcious: there were street performers in Ionia, and the scary part of it was that he had once worked with them to get the attention of the girl he had set his eyes on. Could they be the Hashashin? And what were they doing in Ionia?
Ravenscare was the name of the shop, and the name of the circus enterprises as well. "So I'll have to be a street performer?"
"Just like us," said the Infernape with his yellow teeth flashing in a grin.
"But I don't know any tricks." He could only balance on a tight rope without much effort, and that had gotten old in Ionia - too many Pokemon had great balance, as they were beings of nature.
"We'll teach you!" shouted Crystal, like they were about to go on a grand adventure in the end of the world. Enzo grabbed Shango's hand and examined it.
"You're agile! Maybe you could be an acrobat like me and Bart here!"
Shango smirked his eyebrows as he looked over at the Shadow. He didn't seem like an acrobat at all, though he had proven himself to be capable of high jumps. All those membranes attached onto his body looked like they would fall off any second.
"Hands off!" Crystal pushed the Ambipom away from Shango and clutched him. "He's gonna be a firebreather, we need one of those anyway. You can breath fire Shango, can't you?" she asked and pushed him with her elbows, winking.
"How'd you know?" he asked at first, but then realized his mistake. "I mean, can I breath fire...?"
Tristana's invisible flame next to him got more intense; he was glad nobody else was feeling her heat. The Victini was simply reminding him not to give away that she had taught him how to use flamethrower.
"Did you know, that as your Voidborn relatives, we have access to certain information of yourself, as you have in ours?" Bart finally spoke. Shango was now worried - did they also have access in his memories? Then they would be able to see that all this was an act. But how come they didn't try it? Or, maybe they did and found nothing for some odd reason.
"No, I didn't know... so what am I doing as a firebreather?"
Pasqual faced him and spoke. "You are simply a trainee right now... you'll be collecting valuable information for us. Move up our ranks, and you'll be an assassin. After the rank of the assassins... you become a Shadow Hunter."
Seeing Shango's troubled expression, his mentor continued. "The Shadow Hunters are the elite of the Hashashin - the ones our Master uses only for the most difficult of missions. Those are truly powerful Hashashin who live up to the world's reputation for us. There are currently eight Hashashin Shadow Hunters..." said the Infernape and looked over at Bart, "Bartholomew here being one of them."
Shango thought this Bart guy never seized to amaze him. How many other surprises was the Accelgor hiding? Pasqual crossed his arms and looked at Shango with his piercing eyes.
"Today, our little Saloon here will be hosting a show. We suspect the arrival of a spy; the Dark Cult is suspecting the location of the place. We simply kill the spy before they report back to the Dark Cult."
"But won't that confirm their assumptions about Ravenscare?" asked Shango. Since when the Hashashin fought the Dark Cult? The others laughed.
"You're clever, but we've got this one covered. Our man inside the Dark Cult informs us that the spy has not stated that Ravenscare could be one of our possible hideouts - meaning that if we kill him on the streets, nobody will ever know..." Shango liked the Infernape's dark tone, somehow. They had obviously thought of everything. Much as he'd like to avoid to kill, he couldn't see a way of getting himself out of this; he would have to play along for now.
"So, am I to track down the spy?"
"Yeah," said Crystal, patting him on the shoulder, "I'll help you."
"Wait, so you know who they are...?" asked Shango with a slightly disturbed expression. The Infernape chuckled.
"Of course we do... There's nothing gettin' past us, boy. You should keep that in mind."
Shango wondered if his words held an implication. That could mean his memories were in danger.
* Pair *
Last edited by Ray Maverick; December 21st, 2012 at 11:09 AM.
Chapter 8: As an Hashashin
The noun found Shango and Crystal sitting on one of the chairs of Ravenscare; the last rays of the setting sun crept in the room through the windows, painting the Ravenscare sign on the far end of the room orange, along with the rest of the room. At times like these, when the Verdict didn't require active duty, Shango would go dashing through the Ionian forest in search of a massive tree to climb and watch the sunset along with Tristana. And now, he was planning a murder with a cousin he didn't even know he had. In all his seriousness over the mission, his face had tightened in concentration as he looked at his braided hands in front of him.
"For your information, little cousin," Crystal was saying, "you should lure your target away from the bar..."
"How am I to do that? I don't even know who he is!"
"You can find out easily. As for luring them out, a simple threatening note will do..."
Shango threw her an examining look full of his own doubts. I've never used a threatening note, he thought but he kept himself from saying it the last moment. It could give him away.
"After the note... what do I do?"
"You kill him. Simply, with no witnesses."
Shango lowered his head, concerned with this task. He had killed before, many times, both wild and normal Pokemon. The former ones he hunted in the forest, and the latter ones were mostly outlaws and pirates of the southern seas; in other words, they deserved their fate. He never felt comfortable taking a life, but he couldn't do otherwise when he was working as a Needler for the Verdict. Tristana never liked it either and she was always trying to prevent him from hurting any Pokemon; he knew he would have to put up with her now.
***Ravenscare Saloon was filled with Pokemon in just a few hours. Apart from citizens having a good time in the seemingly innocent Saloon, all the Hashashin he'd met in Podville were there. His eyes ran through the crowd examiningly, noticing the Pokemon that had gathered in the middle of the room: they were playing music, and their singers were Chatots. Tristana was flying above him, invisible, clutching his ears together as he had told her, to prevent him from losing his focus from the cacophony. She, along with him, observed the Pokemon inside the room, but they were seeing none that was above suspicion. Uncle Pasqual had laid back to his chair, paying no attention to him, while Crystal was glancing at him every now and then. She winked, smiling slyly, and he retracted his look as to not seem like he wasn't working. Once his eyes were off of the young Zoroark, they fell onto a Toxicroak on the other side of the room. The Pokemon was looking everywhere except the singer Chatots, where everyone was supposed to look; it had a curious look. A curious look that would soon get him killed, as Shango thought; he had locked his eyes on the table in which the Pokemon was sitting. He got up and subtly walked around the tables, taking the hidden note off the fur of his belly. It slipped into Tristana's hands, but nobody saw the movement, not even the Hashashin.
The invisible spirit flew over the Toxicroak, who was staring at Uncle Pasqual at the moment. The Infernape was grinning back at him, showing his yellow teeth, almost welcoming him. The letter suddenly appeared in front of him, as a shadow got past behind him - Shango's shadow. The threatening letter seemed to work, because the Toxicroak's expression changed the more he read; he looked behind him, in the dark corner, but nobody was there. He looked around, at all of the Pokemon of the room, to see the table of the Hashashin - he could tell it was them by the Infernape who was looking at him funny. He got up, keeping his calm, and walked over to the stairs; seeing as the Hashashin made no move to kill or at least catch him - they wouldn't be so stupid, as to do it in front of so many people - he normally went down the stairs, looking behind him occasionally. When he was at the last step, he glanced behind him one more time. The Metang bartender looked at him funny and turned around to manage the drinks and the glasses; once the Toxicroak turned around, his eyes were locked with the green, emerald like ones of Shango's. Blood rippled out of the throat and chest of the Pokemon, to fall on the red fur of the Zangoose in front of him; the Toxicroak fell forward, dead within seconds, only to be caught in Shango's arms. He let no blood stain the floor as he dragged him outside the shop silently.
When the bartender looked around questioningly, in a look as if he was lost, the weird Toxicroak was gone.
Shango heard hands clapping behind him; he turned around to see uncle Pasqual and Crystal, grinning at him. They were at the side of the road, next to the Saloon; the street was empty, as the night had arrived and all Pokemon of the town were resting in their houses, except those who were partying in Ravenscare, oblivious to the drama that had just went on outside it. Pasqual laughed and approached Shango, who had a plain expression on as if he didn't do anything great.
"Well done, boy... tell me, how did you know it was him?"
"He was looking around instead of having fun. And he looked at your table more than twenty times. That's what I call suspicious behavior."
"Haha! Yeah, you're right. But that doesn't prove anything."
"This does," Shango said and showed him a pendant with the symbol of the Dark Cult: the heart, being crossed by two cutlasses. The Infernape's shone as he locked eyes with it. "He was wearing it on the other side, so the symbol wasn't visible," he explained plainly.
"Shango," Crystal exclaimed, stepping next to him, "that was perfect, all of us said so - don't think they didn't, just because they keep quiet! They just don't like complimenting people!" she said, with a complaining tone that made Shango smile. He could imagine the Hashashin being a strict society.
"No blood behind, they kill was silent and quick... where did you learn all this?" she went on and he had to look away from her.
"Come on, Crystal," Pasqual exclaimed, "don't you see he's a natural?" the Infernape said with a shine of admiration hidden in his eyes and grin. But what caught Shango's attention wasn't the admiration. He knew he was admired by many people, even those he didn't like - like Jericho Santaros. But in the eyes of Pasqual, however uncanny as they seemed, he saw pride. He was proud of him. That was his truest reward, even though he didn't know the man; Tristana's heart beat strongly above his head, he could feel her warmth, as she could fully understand his thoughts.
"I would expect nothing more than the son of Alexander," Pasqual whispered, with a tone of sadness, as he patted Shango's shoulder.
"Alexander..." Shango whispered back questioningly. "Was that... my father?"
"And Alice was your mother," Crystal added, noticing how Shango looked as if each bit of information was as valuable as gold to him. "Alice was my mother's sister..."
"What... what happened to them?" Shango asked.
"They were sentenced to death," Pasqual said quickly and clutched his chest, inhaling. Crystal grabbed him worriedly.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Yes... yes, I'm fine," Pasqual replied and took a few breaths. Shango raised his eyebrows, thinking all this was too important for Pasqual. Perhaps his parents were friends of the Pokemon. Crystal looked at him.
"Let's talk about something else. What did you do with the body?"
Shango looked down at his hands - the blood they had touched didn't stain his fur one bit, as they were already red. But they were also full of dirt. He pointed his black claw at the side of the road.
"He's buried seven feet underground."
"Wow!" Crystal exclaimed in admiration. "How did you do this...?"
"If you know how to dig, it's easy..." Shango replied with a warm smile.
"What if the Granbulls of the town find the body?" Pasqual asked in a skeptical tone.
"I burned it," the Zangoose readily replied, letting out a fiery breath as proof of his abilities; though, in truth, Tristana was the one who did the deed. Pasqual was excited and patted his back again, laughing cheerfully, as if he'd just spoken his first words. Now the Infernape seemed alot different from back in Ionia, Shango thought - he had changed so much.
"Well done, again, Shango. You've gotten your father's wits!"
Shango's chest filled with pride, even though he wasn't happy that he had taken a life. He'd just have to convince him to live with it for a while - many Pokemon died every day, what difference did it make if he was the killer, or somebody else? Besides, he always disliked the Dark Cult and their ways...
"Alright, then!" Pasqual exclaimed. "It's time for the Oath to the Hashashin!"
"Oath... to the Hashashin?" Shango asked, a bit worried. This didn't sound good, oh no, and Tristana flared up next to him. He needed to talk to her, right away, but he couldn't at this moment.
"Yes," Crystal said, "you'll be one of us for good, soon. At last... I've waited for this moment ever since I heard of you!"
"Wait," Shango said, thinking about his memory, "who was I... before I lost my memory?"
"Umm," Pasqual said, throwing a thunderous look at Crystal, who cowered; Shango almost laughed at her reaction. "You were... one of us, just not officially."
He speaks the truth, I feel, Shango conceded with his uncle. Now I'm one of them. No, I've always been.
* Pair *
Chapter 9: Oath to the Hashashin
The sun rose, dousing the village and the surrounding fields with light. Shango opened his eyelids and looked at the sleeping Zoroark next to him. She likes to sleep, he thought and chuckled. He slowly walked away, exiting the shadow of the tree; he was now going to talk to Tristana.
She appeared on his shoulder when he was at a safe distance away from his cousin. The Zangoose sat down and the Victini jumped in front of him.
"Shango, you can't do this!" she whispered, her tone and eyes giving away her desperation.
"Why not?" he asked her, slightly grinning.
"You've sworn to the Ionian Verdict! You can't... join them... you're not a killer!"
The pupils of his eyes were greatly dilated as he stared at her, thinking of her words. His grin had now disappeared.
"My parents were killers. But they had a sacred purpose, as the rest of the Hashashin. Don't you understand?"
Tristana sighed and tilted her head, observing Shango like a mother, rather than his friend. Shango continued. "I've found my origins now. I can't just escape..." he muttered, now looking down. She jumped on his shoulder again and stroked the fur of his cheek.
"Even if I did try to escape, I would be killed on the spot," he said as if he was almost sad, looking at her sideways. "Besides, there are some questions that need to be answered..." he said finally, looking forward in a dark expression. He was thinking about the deaths of his parents.
"Fine, Shango. I'll follow you wherever you go," Tristana said and flew in front of his face. A great smile appeared on the Zangoose face for a moment; then he perked up his ears to the direction of Crystal. Hide, Tristy, he thought, and his fairy vanished out of sight.
He heard Crystal approaching him. "Everything alright, co's?" she asked as she sat next to him. In front of them, Podville unfolded at the foot of the hill. The morning songs of the birds filled the area, but Shango wasn't in the mood - he'd rather eat those birds.
"Yeah, I'm alright, just a little nervous about the Oath..."
"Oy, don't worry about that!" she said, letting out a small laugh. Shango wondered how this Pokemon was an assassin, but he also had a feeling he would soon find out. "I was nervous, too, but it's nothin'," she told him.
They sat there for about half an hour; Crystal was humming along with the birds, and Shango was scratching the ground with one of the claws of his right hand. He could still feel the darkness he had channeled last night inside his hand - was it because of the darkstar? The move he had used was called 'Night Slash', or so Ascendio was telling him when he was little. It was the move that characterized the Hashashin, because all of them, regardless of their type and species, could use it.
"Why is everyone able to use Night Slash, Crystal?"
"Oh, it is the gift of our bloodline. I guess I can tell you now - we owe this power to the darkstar... Those who have been touched by it were able to manipulate the darkness of the Nether Plane in such way, so they can channel any kind of dark power. We, their descendants, are only able to use Night Slash," she said in a mysterious voice.
"What is a darkstar?" Shango asked in a fake confused look. He knew very well what it was. Part of it still lived inside him. But he was curious to hear the perception of the Hashashin.
"Not many Pokemon know of these gems outside the Hashashin... I am not supposed to know, either. I am just a good spy," she said and winked at him with her usual tricky smile. "They say the darkstars are the broken pieces of Arceus's Dark Plate. Can you believe it? I don't even know if Arceus exists..."
"What do they even do?" he asked with anxiety obvious in her voice. The Zoroark looked him inside his eyes.
"They corrupt, Shango. We, the true voidborn, originate from it, so only we are able to communicate with them - any other living flesh that touches it, gets vaporized in an instant. Nothing but ash as remains."
Shango remembered Princess Rosa informing him about all this the night after they escaped from the Fire Clan's camp. So, he was truly a voidborn, whatever that was.
"But where are the darkstars?"
"Nobody knows - historical records reveal multiple appearances of these gems in various time periods and locations, but all tracks have been lost. Our Master is searching desperately for one; it will give us the power to face the Dark Cult directly, he says. One thing is for sure - Chantalai Ancelotti once wielded one of these gems, when he was alive."
"... anyway, Shango. We need to get going."
Shango slowly nodded, the thought of the Oath returning to haunt his mind. They both got up and headed towards the house on the other hill.
"Shango Maverick, do you know why you're here?" asked the Master. As usual, he was covered in his black robes which hid any clue that would give away his species. Shango, however, was looking straight inside the hood.
"I am here to take the Oath," Shango replied in a plain tone. All the Hashashin he knew so far were in the room of the house he had woken up two days ago - Nightingale was levitating behind the Master, Crystal and Pasqual were standing next to Shango, and behind them, Bart the Shadow, Enzo, Vincenzo and the three fat ladies were watching them.
"And do you know what that means?" the Master asked in a rather serious tone Shango hadn't heard before. "It means that you are accepting our ethics, our goals and dreams as your own. It means that you will fight with the rest of us for the sake of liberty and justice. If you refuse... We will have to dispose of you, as you are already aware of many of our secrets."
"I will take the Oath, Master," said Shango. The towering figure of the Master approached him and put his hands on Shango's shoulders. He felt sharp claws on his fur, but he did not turn to look. As he looked inside the hood, he wondered why he was so important to this Master; would he attempt to make him remember about his past, or would he play along for now? That's what Shango would do, play along for now.
"Do you swear in your life, that you will be protecting our brotherhood and its secrets no matter the circumstances?"
"I swear in my life," said Shango fearlessly, putting his hand on his heart. The invisible Victini that was clutching his foot was brimming with fire and energy as her heart beat faster.
"Do you swear in your life, to work with the Hashashin for the rest of your life, and that you will never commit to an action againist them?"
"I do," Shango stated in the same tone. The cloaked Pokemon in front of him got hold of his hand, piercing his paw. Shango felt some kind of strange, undefined energy run through his veins when the Master touched him. Blood fell on the floor as the Master let go of him and raised his own bloodied claw in the air. "This is the evidence of your Oath," he whispered, but everyone heard him. He then motioned his other hand behind him, and Nightingale arrived, holding a silver emblem of the Hashashin and a red sash.
The Master grabbed those items and handed them to Shango. "These are the certificates of your Oath. You will be now bearing the symbol of the Hashashin."
Shango examined the symbol he had just received.
It's made of tristanite, Tristana informed him. Shango's green eyes reflected the symbol for a moment; he thought it greatly resembled the starting letter of the word Hashashin, in a way. He quickly tied the red sash around his waist and stuck the symbol of the Hashashin onto it.
"I hereby give you the code name 'Skidred' in hope that it will embrace your sharp claws," continued the Master. Skidred means 'sharp blade' in the language of the Precursors, whispered Tristana into his mind. It is an honourable name. Shango was about to ask her where she knew all this stuff, but then the Master turned to the others in the room.
"This is a historic day, brothers and sisters. Today, we officially baptised the descendant of three of the Hashashin bloodlines as one of us, disregarding the past of his recent ancestors and the law that states nobody is to mix the blood of our families. As the Master of our brotherhood, I have reconsidered his case and decided that it will not harm any of us to have him here. That, however, does not mean that the any of the Laws of the Five Families has ceased to apply."
They all slowly stood up. "You are dismissed," whispered the Master. Shango felt Pasqual pat his shoulder with his hot hand. He turned to face the Infernape, who was slightly grinning, just like the day when he saw him in the streets of Ionia. That day, he had seemed scary and threatening, but now he knew he had found a strong ally in him. At that moment, he questioned the rumours of the ethics of the Hashashin - they weren't truly evil. Nobody who knew them well could prove that, at least that's what Shango started to believe.
"What am I to do now, uncle?" he asked, smirking his eyebrows. Everyone else was leaving the house, just like that; maybe the Hashashin never considered any event of this sort sacred.
"When I get the chance, I'll teach you how to fight like an Hashashin. For now, do as your cousin says - you still have to prove that you are worth being called an Hashashin, boy," Pasqual said in his steel tone and patted Shango's shoulder again before going away. Crystal then commenced a hug attack that ended with both of them on the ground.
"Bravo, cousin! You make me so proud!" she shouted cheerfully and grabbed his cheeks.
"Hey! Get off'a me!" Shango was laughing, as the rest of the Hashashin remaining in the room were. He was not aware that this kind of happiness existed.
* Pair *
Last edited by Ray Maverick; January 21st, 2013 at 10:02 PM.
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: they're crazy. 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 - that's 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 made 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 we 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."
* Pair *
Last edited by Ray Maverick; February 2nd, 2013 at 07:50 PM.
Chapter 11: Alexander?
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 killers. 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.
* Pair *