Woohoo! I'm done already! Once again, it's a little on the short side, but it's not very action-packed.
The Rogue Smith
“We’re almost there. It’s just around the next corner.”
“That’s what you said at the last corner.”
“And the one before that.”
“And the one before that.”
“And the twenty-three other ones before that.”
“Will you all shut up?” Dragonite snapped. “I know what I’m talking about this time!”
The other four trudged along wearily behind their guide. Piplup was beginning to become convinced that this refuge Dragonite had spoken of didn’t even exist. They’d been walking for hours and there was no sign of life anywhere.
“We’ve got to be getting close,” Chimchar moaned. “Haven’t we? My feet are killing me, and if we can’t find a place to rest soon, they’ll kill you next.”
“I’m telling you, it’s not far,” Dragonite repeated. “All of the bends in this canyon look alike, so it’s even easy for me to get lost, but I know that it’s not far from here.”
“You! I finally found you!”
Piplup whirled around at the familiar voice. Combusken was running along the clifftop towards him, leaping across crags and swinging from protruding ledges. Slowbro followed, but he was clearly not making any attempt to run after his young ward.
“Oh, not you again!” Piplup sighed. “Didn’t I teach you enough of a lesson last time?”
Combusken simply smirked. “I’m just glad to see that my sister didn’t beat me to you.”
“Your sister?” Chimchar said. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“She’s adopted, actually,” Combusken said. “But that’s not important right now. What is important is that I can save my honor from that attention hog.”
“Still on the topic of your sister?” 88 interjected.
Combusken nodded. “If I know Gothitelle at all, she’ll swoop in here and catch you all without a second thought. She’ll steal all of the glory that she already has, and leave me stranded like she always has.”
“Sounds like you have some unresolved family issues to attend to,” Piplup said. Abruptly, he fired off his Aura Sphere, which exploded full on into Combusken’s chest and sent him flying backwards across the clifftops. There was a sudden scrabbling and a scream as he slipped into a tunnel and tumbled down into the cave system far below. “So I’ll just leave you to that.”
Having finally caught up, Slowbro looked down into the crevice where Combusken had fallen. “Well, it looks like he’ll have wound up in the caves down below, and I’ll wager he’ll have gained a few bruises along the way.”
Piplup rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “Er, sorry about that. I didn’t mean any offense in attacking him like that.”
“None taken,” Slowbro shrugged, floating down to the canyon floor on the power of his Psychic. “Combusken doesn’t tend to do a good job of making friends. And in your position, I would’ve done the same thing.” He turned to the nearest opening in the cliff wall and headed inside. “And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better go and find him before he starts getting into his angry mood again. You don’t want to see him in his angry mood.”
As they turned away, Piplup elbowed Dragonite. “Um, what mood exactly has been Combusken been in the times we’ve seen him?”
Dragonite shrugged. “Well, if that wasn’t his angry mood. . .”
As they continued walking, Chimchar suddenly stopped and lifted his hand to his ear. “Hey, does anyone else hear that?”
The others stopped and began to listen for themselves. “I don’t hear anything,” 89 said.
“Wait!” Piplup said suddenly. “There! I could hear it!”
“Me too,” 88 nodded. “It sounded like clanging iron.”
Dragonite smiled. “That’ll be the friend I told you about. We’ve finally arrived.”
They rounded the next bend and the noise grew in its intensity. A small cavern was set into the base of the wall. “Is that it?” Piplup frowned. “It’s kind of on the small side.”
“Trust me,” Dragonite said. “You’ll like it.”
As they drew closer to the opening, the sound of metal on metal grew even louder. The sound of running feet could also be heard in between the thunderous claps. “Sounds like a busy place,” Chimchar commented. “Are you sure we should just barge in?”
Dragonite didn’t respond. Instead, he stepped into the opening and hollered. “The Swanna are flying low tonight.”
There was a pause as all noise inside ceased. Then came the reply. “Gorebyss Gorebyss Gorebyss Gorebyss.”
“That’s the all-clear,” Dragonite explained. He continued into the cave. Piplup and Chimchar exchanged weary glances and then followed, with 88 and 89 close behind them. They were surprised to find that what they’d assumed to be a small cavern was actually and long and thin entryway. As the continued down the path, a soft orange glow began to illuminate the darkness. Finally, they emerged into an enormous cavern with a large pit in the center of the floor. In the depths of the pit, boiling lava gushed forth.
“Well well well, look who’s here.”
Dragonite laughed as a mole-like Pokemon approached him. “Haha, you haven’t changed a bit, you old rogue.” He put his arm around the Pokemon and spun him to face the others. “It is my pleasure to introduce to you the famous Excadrill, master blacksmith of the Beyond.”
“Grand Master Blacksmith to you, Dragonite,” Excadrill scoffed.
“Excadrill, these are my new buddies and our greatest hope for survival,” Dragonite introduced. “These are Piplup, Chimchar, 88, and 89.”
Excadrill shook Piplup and Chimchar’s hands and then cast his gaze over the Shieldon and Cranidos beside them. “I don’t know about these last two. They just look like a couple o’ chowderheads to me.”
Piplup, Chimchar, and Dragonite looked back and forth between each other for a moment, then burst into uproarious laughter. 88 and 89 sighed indignantly.
A small red Pokemon ran up to Excadrill’s side from the other side of the cavern. “Oh my, visitors.”
“Magby, you always were the observant one,” Excadrill smirked. “Be a good lad and go get some drinks ready.”
“Yes sir, right away, sir.”
They watched Magby rush away and Excadrill shook his head slowly. “There’s something wrong with that lad, I tell you.”
“Oh, he seems like a good boy to me,” Dragonite said. “Is he your newest apprentice?”
“Yep,” Excadrill nodded. “Last one got picked off by Raikou.”
Dragonite shook his head sorrowfully. “I’m terribly sorry. I know how hard it is to find a good apprentice.”
Excadrill scoffed. “You would say that, Dragonite. There’s more to a loss than just that of a helpful apprentice.”
“Of course, of course,” Dragonite nodded. “It must hurt horribly to lose someone so close to you.”
Excadrill made no response. He turned and strode back to the table where he’d been working. He began pounding his enormous metal claws on the anvil, pounding the molten steel flat. Carefully, he melded it into place. Then, with a flourish so fast that it could hardly be seen, he whisked away the stick of metal and dunked into a large bucket of icy water, cooling it instantly and filling the air with steam. When he pulled it back out, he held a gleaming blade of iron.
Chimchar’s mouth fell open in awe. “Is that a –“
“Yes, it’s a sword,” Excadrill interrupted. “And a darn good one, at that.”
Piplup leaned over to Chimchar. “Not much on modesty, is he?” he whispered in his ear. Chimchar held his hand to his mouth to conceal his laughter.
“I’ll be modest when I’ve got a reason to be,” Excadrill said, causing them both to jump. “And as long as you’re in this forge, I can hear every word you say, so I’d guard your tongue, if I was you.”
Piplup and Chimchar looked at each other and gulped. 88 and 89 both cackled.
“And as for you two.” Excadrill spun around to face 88 and tapped his claw on his gleaming forehead. “That’s quite a noggin you’ve got. You’d best not get on my bad side, or I might just choose to use that ugly mug of yours as an anvil. Arceus knows they’re hard to find these days.”
“Excadrill, be nice,” Dragonite scolded. “Well, you can act however you want towards those chowderheads. You can toss ‘em into the lava pit, for all I care. But Piplup and Chimchar are the two greatest hopes we have of ever defeating Darkrai and Deoxys. So you owe them a little respect, I think.”
Excadrill snorted. “I’ll decide when to owe who respect and when. But I’ll admit, they seem like a good kind.”
“Thank you, sir,” Piplup said, bowing. “I think.”
Magby reappeared suddenly, carrying a large tray with six teacups on it. He offered first to Piplup and Chimchar, who gladly accepted. Dragonite took the third and Excadrill the fourth. 89 quickly snatched up the fifth, but 88 declined.
“Oh come now,” Magby said. “Surely you’re thirsty. Some tea will make you feel right at home.”
“Sorry, I can’t,” 88 repeated. “No opposable thumbs. Drink it yourself, you look like you need it.”
Magby flushed. “Oh, um . . . Thank you, sir.”
“Call me 88,” he insisted.
“Thank you, 88,” Magby said. “It’s just that . . . well, no one’s ever offered me a cup of tea before.”
89 smiled. “Well, you can have some of mine, if you finish yours and are still thirsty.”
Magby sniffed, tears at the corner of his eyes. “Th – thank you, ever so much. You two are so kind.”
Dragonite smiled and turned to Excadrill. “I have to say, I didn’t know those two had it in them. They may be annoying on the outside, but they’ve got heart.”
Excadrill nodded in understanding. “I know what you mean. Magby may be a nervous, jittery thing on the outside, but I’ve never had a better apprentice. I’ll admit that he deserves more credit than I give ‘im.”
The two carried on about the past and what they’d been through while Piplup and Chimchar sat down with the others. “So, Magby,” Piplup asked. “What exactly do you do here?”
“Well, the forge is exactly what you think it’d be,” Magby said. “Excadrill is the greatest blacksmith in the entire Beyond. He’ll make just about anything if he finds it fun enough, but he as of late, he mainly makes weapons for the rebels.”
“Like the sword he made,” Piplup said.
“Exactly,” Magby nodded. “And I’m his apprentice, so I run around doing any chores he needs done. I gather coals from the lava pit, carry his tools, fix lunch, that kind of thing.”
“Sounds like a fun life,” 88 said.
Magby shrugged. “Well, it could be a lot worse. Excadrill may be rough on the outside, but he has a good heart and means the best for me.”
Excadrill smiled slightly, but hid it from Magby as he continued his conversation with Dragonite.
“Well, we’ll be happy to help you out in any way that you need,” Piplup offered. “It’s the least we can do if Excadrill does allow us to lie low here for awhile.”
88 nodded. “Yep, I’ll do what I can to be of service. Granted, I won’t be much use since I don’t have opposable thumbs, but I’ll think of something to do.”
“You could always take up Excadrill’s anvil offer,” Chimchar pointed out.
The five continued chattering away as Excadrill led Dragonite to a more private corner in the back of the cave. “I’ll allow you to stay here for however long you may need.”
“Thank you so much, old friend,” Dragonite thanked. “It means a lot to me.”
“I know, I know,” Excadrill said. “But I can’t help but be leery of this.”
Dragonite frowned. “Why? I’ll be happy to offer you help in whatever way you need it.”
“It’s not that,” Excadrill said, shaking his head. “It’s that . . . well, Pokemon around you have a tendency to get into trouble.”
Dragonite didn’t reply, lowering his head.
“Admit it, it’s true,” Excadrill said. “You bring trouble crashing down around you wherever you go, and while you manage to escape unscathed, those around you lose everything.”
“That’s not – “
“How many of the last rebels that you tried smuggling to HQ actually survived?” Excadrill snapped.
Dragonite averted his gaze.
Dragonite finally managed to look into the blacksmith’s eyes. “But friend – “
“It doesn’t change the fact that I’ll allow you to stay here,” Excadrill said. “No matter what happens, I’ll still consider you a good friend and a strong ally. Even if your means of reaching your goals have been somewhat . . . unscrupulous in the past.”
Dragonite paled. “You know, it’s funny, but Piplup had a run-in with a Pokemon named Zoroark yesterday.”
“Never heard of ‘im.”
“I never had either,” Dragonite continued. “But he told Piplup to ask me about just that thing. I . . . I didn’t really . . .”
“You didn’t have the guts to tell ‘im,” Excadrill finished. “I would’ve guessed as much.”
Dragonite sighed. “It’s just that I don’t want him to worry . . . I want him to trust me. I need him to trust me, if we’re going to have any hope of defeating Darkrai. If he knew the truth, he might run away. He and Chimchar wouldn’t stand a chance in the Beyond alone, without a guide. They need me . . . and I need them.”
“Well, the way to earn trust is to be honest,” Excadrill said curtly. “If you tell ‘em the truth, they’ll be more willing to trust your word later, even if they’re mad at you at first.”
“I suppose that’s probably true,” Dragonite conceded. “But still . . .”
“Just do what you think is right,” Excadrill said. “I’m sure things’ll turn out alright.”
Dragonite smiled. “Thanks, old friend. I can always count on you when I need help.”
“Glad to be here for ya,” Excadrill nodded. “Now, let’s get these kids to work.”
“Targets located. Good work, girls.”
“Oh, you were the one who did all the work! Don’t go giving us credit!”
“Can we just hurry up and get this over with?”
“Not just yet. We have to wait for the perfect moment to strike.”
Three figures sat atop the cliff, carefully watching the entrance to the forge below them. Every now and then, the red duck-like Pokemon would run outside for some reason for another, but aside from that, there was no sign of life.
“To think,” the leader marveled. “This whole time, the forge of Excadrill was right here.”
“That guy must be a genius to have kept it a secret for so long,” a floating white Pokemon said, smiling sweetly. “After all, there’s not much that gets past you, Gothitelle.”
“So true,” Gothitelle laughed. “But there is not much time yet to wait, Froslass. We shall strike the moment the opportunity arises.”
“And just how long will that take?” the third figure, a floating purple Pokemon, interjected. “Days? Weeks? Months?”
Froslass sighed. “Don’t be such a bring-down, Mismagius! Come on, try to be happy!”
“I’ll be happy when I don’t have to sleep on rock,” Mismagius spat. “This place is so drab.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Gothitelle assured. “It may be days, it may be weeks, it may be months, but once we’ve made our move, victory will be ours, and then we’ll be living luxuriously once again.”
Froslass moved to the cliffside and squinted at the path in the distance. “Um, it looks like somebody’s coming down the path around the bend over there.”
Gothitelle leapt to her feet immediately. “Quickly, we must stop them.”
“But we’re in Darkrai’s territory,” Froslass pointed out. “There aren’t going to be any more rebels coming along. This has to be an ally.”
“Correct,” Gothitelle nodded, taking off at a run across the clifftop. “But if they find the forge, they may frighten off our targets, and then we’ll have a mess on our hands.”
Mismagius and Froslass quickly took off after their leader. The three reached the bend in the path and looked down. The lone traveler was directly beneath them.
Then, they struck.
Garchomp turned his ear to the air and listened carefully. He could hear the sound of banging metal in the distance. “So, it would appear that Excadrill is near as well,” he muttered. “I guess I’ll have the honor of bringing in yet another wanted criminal.”
Without warning, a barrage of glowing leaves whizzed through the air around him. Seconds after, he was struck by a flurry of snow. Two Pokemon dove down from the cliff at him, one purple, one white. He drew back his arms in preparation for a Stone Edge, but the purple one hit him once again with Magical Leaf. The razor-edged leaves slammed him backwards against the canyon wall and dug into his skin and the rock, holding him in place. As he struggled to free himself, the white one lunged forward and hit him with multiple light punches in rapid succession. At first he felt nothing, but was then astonished to find his muscles freezing with ice where the punches had landed. He attempted to pull his arms free, but his frozen shoulders were too limp to move.
“What is the meaning of this?” Garchomp growled. “Release me!”
“Not just yet.”
His assailants stepped aside suddenly, revealing a third figure behind them. It stepped forward into the light and Garchomp gasped. “Mistress Gothitelle?”
“Garchomp,” Gothitelle nodded. “Lead jailer, former partner of the traitor Dragonite. My father thinks quite highly of you.”
“That means a lot to me,” Garchomp said, bowing his head.
“He knows firsthand of Piplup and Chimchar’s power and doesn’t blame you for what happened,” Gothitelle continued. “So you’re lucky enough to be getting off clean.” Her eyes glowed blue and she pulled Garchomp away from the wall where he was stuck, allowing him to regain his footing.
Garchomp bowed deeply to her. “Thank you ever so much, Mistress Gothitelle. But why did your accomplices attack me?”
“We were merely trying to make sure that you didn’t spoil our plans,” Gothitelle said.
“I’m sorry, Mistress Gothitelle,” Garchomp said. “But I don’t mean to interrupt in your business in anyway. I’m currently pursuing Dragonite and his accomplices. I believe that they have taken up residence with the infamous blacksmith Excadrill.”
Gothitelle nodded. “You are correct in your belief. We have laid a trap for them even now. That is what you would have spoiled, had we not stopped you in time.”
“I’m incredibly sorry,” Garchomp said once again. “How may I be of service to you in this trap?”
“You can help by staying away,” Gothitelle began. “The fewer involved in this, the more confident I am of victory.”
Garchomp looked up suddenly. “But ma’am, surely there is some way in which I can be of use to you.”
Gothitelle scratched her chin and looked thoughtful. “Alright, I think I’ve got something for you.”
She smiled. “If my brother and Slowbro should come by, do whatever you can to keep them from progressing. Do you think you can handle that?”
“Of course, Mistress Gothitelle,” Garchomp saluted. “I shall stay here and stop them, should they attempt to interrupt your plan.”
“There’s a good ‘mon,” Gothitelle said. She saluted in return and leapt vertically upward. Mismagius and Froslass followed as she leapt nimbly up the cliff wall and disappeared over the top.
Garchomp watched as they left, then sat down against the wall. He sighed. “Well, she’ll be able to handle those rebels, of that I’m sure.”
He looked up at the black sky and sighed yet again. “If only I could catch Dragonite myself, though. To ring his scrawny neck and hear him beg for mercy!” A smile crossed his face. “Then again, if Gothitelle catches him, he might wind up sent to the jail.” His smile grew. “He could easily wind up in the prison he used to run, watched over by the partner he betrayed for strangers!” He chuckled deeply. “The irony, the delicious irony!”
His maniacal laughter echoed throughout the canyon.
Finally, he managed to compose himself and found a nearby cave from which he could keep watch for Combusken and Slowbro. He laid back against the wall, his hands behind his head. “Perhaps this’ll be worth the wait after all . . .”
Hope you all enjoy it!
Next Time: Piplup and his posse begin to work with Excadrill in the forge as a way to pass the time while they remain in hiding. Meanwhile, back in Treasure Town, a Pokemon named Shiftry arrives and offers his services to help find Piplup and Chimchar.