Cole has already traveled to many regions before the story opens, and has many victories to his name. Just before the story, Cole was the central figure in a clash with N, Ghetsis and Team Plasma, calling down Zekrom to help him sweep Plasma away. He emerged alive and victorious, but not without several scars. As he recovers, he receives a letter from a man named Raj, inviting him to a summit at a Tower far south of Unova. Cole takes along his Victini, Athena, and his oldest partner Charizard.
When they arrive, they are welcomed into a new league, of which Cole is selected to become the fire leader. He meets with several other members of this league, and finds a friend in Raj, the Founder, Ammy, a water type specialist, and Mozzeh, a dragon leader. Cole finds a little friction in the ground elite four member, Becca, and an enemy in Nate, the dark elite. Several other leaders, like David, the flying specialist, Fire, a steel type user with a personality to match her name, and Karin, a stoic electric type master, arrive, and the summit, mainly to discuss logistics, begins. At the end, four cloaked men arrive, informing the newly founded Journeymen league that their comrades, several missing leaders, have been kidnapped. The leader reveals himself to be Ghetsis before he disappears, and declares that Team Omega is rising.
Raj instructs the other leaders to return to their gyms or places of residence so he can have some time to think. Becca and Cole make an effort to reconcile their previous disagreement before Cole soars away to find a gym. He eventually finds it in the Autumn Forest, a region forever with leaves in the tapestry of fall, far north of Lacunosa Town. Skyla, an old friend, flies in the rest of his pokemon from Professor Oak's lab in Kanto, and Cole begins his new life.
Some time later, Cole returns to the Tower of the Ancients, with a brief stop by Becca's cabin on Twist Mountain along the way. He meets several of her pokemon, including her blind Charizard, Dracoburn. The two together return to the Tower, and find Raj has brought a new comrade along, a young man named Xander, an expert on shiny pokemon. The present members of the league assemble a strike team to infiltrate a suspected Omega base, and find Ghetsis and his legion of followers there, about to crown a new King, now that N has fled to cleanse his soul after the Plasma Incident.\
The Journeymen interrupt the ceremony, and drive Omega away. However, in the battle, Ammy losses her pokemon to Omega. They recover Adam and Nate, their two captured comrades, and retreat to the Tower. During this, David and a trainer named Jo go to the P2 Lab and N's Castle to try and discover clues on what Omega's plan might be. After only discovering cryptic references to a Prime Pokemon and the relative location of a back-up warehouse, they return as well.
When everyone is gathered again at the Tower, Cole explains to raj his life as the Defender of Legends, and how he came to possess a shiny Entei and Athena. Mozzeh goes to Castelia City to see Nate and Adam in the hospital, and interrogate the captured sages of Team Plasma, meeting with Clair and Lance in the process. After his search turns up nothing, he has a chance meeting with Fire, who has been missing since the Summit. She tells him that Omega invaded her gym and drove her out. She and Mozzeh return to the safety of the Tower.
Cole, Becca and Ammy then proceed to the Omega Warehouse, in an effort to reclaim Ammy's pokemon and strike a lasting blow. Karin, who has found her own way to the complex some time ago after her gym fell, joins them. They invade it covertly, and find a massive underground cavern filled with captured pokemon. Cole and his partners set them free, but incur Ghetsis's wrath. He activates a "collar" of sorts on his captive pokemon, driving them insane with blood lust. As the Journeymen escape, he sets his brainwashed army on a course for the Tower.
Cole and his allies speed back as fast as their pokemon will carry them, and warn their comrades. The full might of the Journeymen retreat to Cole's Flare Gym, where they are able to stay in relative safety and buy themselves some time. But the events of the world carry on around them, and Omega beings to ravage the various regions. Mewtwo is set upon Kanto as Regigagas tears a path of destruction in Sinnoh. Riots and terrorist strikes are rampant.
On an early morning run, Cole is confronted by Moltres, who beseeches him to go to Kanto and help Zapdos, who was severely injured in a clash against Mewtwo. Cole agrees, on the condition that Moltres warn the other legendary pokemon of the coming storm and urge them to take shelter. Moltres consents, and leads Cole, David, Karin, Jo and Mozzeh to Kanto, with some aid from Skyla. As they pass over the ruins of what was once Saffron City, Mewtwo attacks.
The Journeymen hold as long as they can, but are soon forced back. Ghost types rise up from the ashes to distract the clone, and the two Deoxys Cole saved in the Sevii Islands descend from the heavens to lend aid. They draw Mewtwo's fire long enough for Cole and Co. to get out of range and to where Zapdos has crashed. Cole does his best to fix up the legendary bird, and returns to Unova.
As this happens, Zekrom descends on the Flare Gym to warn the Journeymen there that Omega will be coming soon, having driven through Unova, and leaving much of it in ruins. They gather their forces, and prepare a defensive. Omega arrives before Cole returns, and the Journeymen hold the Gym until he does, with considerable help from Zekrom. Cole and his friends descend from Skyla's plane, taking the enemy by surprise. In the end, Omega is driven back by the wild pokemon of the Autumn Forest, but not without considerable cost.
Cole loses several pokemon in the battle, and as he grieves, the other members of the Journeymen scatter to all corners of the globe to find allies, in gym leaders, elite four members and powerful trainers the world over. As they do this, Ghetsis's Beheeyem teleports into the Flare Gym and gives Cole a letter. The letter issues an ultimatum challenge to Cole, saying that Omega will match him on the battlefield of the Entralink in the challenge of his choice, single combat or all out war.
When his friends return, Cole tells them of his desire to meet Ghetsis alone in one-on-one combat. The Journeymen soundly reject this, saying they will stand together. The force then proceeds south to Unova, and meets with their allies. Together, the massive army of people and pokemon crosses to the Entralink and prepares for battle. In a titantic clash, the two armies collide, and Gensect arrives for the Omega side.
Omega also brings several other enslaved legendaries, which the Journeymen and their allies have no hope of matching. Then, in their darkest hour, Zekrom arrives with the cavalry, if the cavalry were made up of other legendary pokemon. Kyurem and the King of Team Omega fly out, though Cole and Becca ride out to meet them. Through an exhausting battle, Kyurem is subdued, and Cole meets the King mano-a-mano in a pokemon battle.
The King is revealed to be Red, the heartless pokemon master responsible for Dracoburn's blindness. Cole's Charizard and Swampert take down all of Red's team but Lapras, the vile thing itself. As Charizard flies in for one last attack, it strikes with Blizzard at point-blank range. A mere instant before Charizard is killed, N and Reshiram arrive in a pillar of red and gold fire, defeating Red and Lapras. Ghetsis races to the scene, and berates N for his weak heart.
He orders Mewtwo to destroy Cole, but N lunges in front of the fatal strike. As the young man dies in Cole's arms, he begs him to move on, and accept the past. With his last breath, he beseeches Cole for forgiveness, and Cole grants it through his tears. Then, as N passes on, Cole channels the power of the Light and Dark Stones, destroying Ghetsis in a pillar of light.
Ghetsis perishes, and Omega scatters. Cole collapses.
Several days later, he awakes in a hospital and learns he and his allies were victorious. Several of his pokemon were killed, and he expresses concern over all the lost life. He learns that he has been bestowed the title Firebrand by several of the younger leaders. Adam invites all the gathered trainers to a ball in his penthouse several weeks later.
At the ball, Cole dances with his friends, but quietly he hungers for the freedom of the open skies. After a conversation with Becca, he dives off a balcony and is caught by Charizard. As they fly away, he talks to Zekrom one last time before the dragon returns to Dragonspiral Tower to watch over Unova. Then, Cole flies away into the night, onto his next adventure.
Character Bios (ONLY OPEN AS A REFRESHER! MASSIVE SPOILERS!):
Cole: Once the leader of the Flare Gym, and a member of the heroic Journeymen League. But after his triumphs in the Omega War and his rise to international fame, he began to crave the freedom he once knew. He leaves his old life behind to pursue a new objective, finding the legendary Keldeo at the Edge of the World. He faces many triumphs and trials along the way, and is constantly trying to escape the ghosts of his past, most notably the blood of Ghetsis, which will forever stain his hands.
The Firebrand: Cole's alter ego, a famed war hero. This is Cole idealized, the most perfect incarnation of him. The Firebrand is brave and strong, and does not have doubts. But what he has in bravery, he lacks in basic humanity. The Firebrand rises in moments of intense mental and physical stress, sometimes acting almost as an antagonistic force that tempts Cole.
Charizard: Cole's first pokemon, and now his most staunch companion. The fire type is more than a little a little cynical, and often is the one being that can bring Cole back to reality, whether he be coping with inner demons or external evil. Subtly represents what Cole used to be, a free spirit who scoffs at danger and sees the world with a bit of a rosy glow.
Masamune: The Samurott who traveled with Cole through the Unova region. Masamune is physically the strongest of Cole's Fellowship. Oftentimes, Masamune's personal sense of justice gets the better of him. Has a taste for classical music, especially the work of Bach, and an appreciation of fine art. He could also be used to symbolize Cole's Firebrand side. Masamune will let nothing, not even severe personal injury to himself and those he cares about, get in the way of doing what is "right".
Scathatch: A Zoroark Cole met in his travels, and subsequently caught. Now Masamune's mate and the mother of three, Scathatch lives up to her namesake as the Warrior Maid of the Shadows. She is a powerful fighter, but also very wise. Oftentimes, it is Scathatch who sees through deception and thwarts traps. Almost Cole's moral compass in matters that concern the outside world.
Thor: Cole's Zebstrika. Stoic, and communicates very little. He will say what needs to be said, and nothing more. Thor has a strong sense of honor, much like his namesake. He enjoys the company of others, though is slow to admit it. Above all else, Thor values the freedom of choice.
Maeve: A Weavile who has been Cole's partner for quite some time. She has recently shown signs of incredible intelligence, such as being able to read and write in Human, and do complex mathematical equations mentally. Still has the relative mindset of someone rather young, so doesn't seem to realize her potential. She is a fierce fighter, and shows her best potential when backed into a corner.
Athena: A quirky Victini that Cole saved several years ago from Team Plasma. The easiest way to keep her safe was to capture her, and now she and Cole share a very close bond. Like Maeve, she doesn't realize her potential, only using her very powerful ability a few times, and then unconsciously. It appears she does not even know she possess the ability Victory Star at all. She has become almost Cole's "mascot", since her pokeball was destroyed in a long-ago fight with Ghetsis. She rides on Cole's shoulder, and is very friendly and almost childish.
Magnus: A strange old man that Cole meets in the Sinjoh Ruins. Not much is known about him, except that he knows more than he'll ever let on. Has a penchant for Shakespeare and an affinity for nicknaming things. Dresses in a white cloak with a tall cap, and his electric blue eyes seem to hold more secrets than he has years.
Feste: Magnus's very vocal Chatot. Speaks only in Shakespearean, and always has a quip (or three) ready.
The Seven: Nick, Anna, Kim, Lucian, Lexa, Seithios and Zephyr. A band of seven trainers that Cole meets in his travels. A powerful band of warriors with very strong pokemon, they always seem to appear where they are needed most. Though their destiny is separate from Cole's (despite intersecting several times), it is just as great. And perhaps just as grave.
Sin and Lisana: A pair of trainers that Cole meets outside of Fortree City in the Occupation. They have been separated from their mentor, and become Cole's disciples.
Joan: The Chosen Warrior of Arceus. Her destiny and Cole's are intertwined in ways that only Arceus can predict. She has a heavy burden on her shoulders, and a quest that may cost her life.
This story is a sequel of sorts to my other fic, League of Heroes. However, there are some notable differences. The first, and most important of which, the League has a very negligible role here. In fact, after the third chapter, they won't feature at all. The first fic focused more on battles, and ultimately war. This one focuses more on an adventurous spirit.
But, this takes place roughly six months after the epilogue in League of Heroes. So Cole is now a little older, a little more jaded, and a little bit darker.
So now, without further ado, here's the first part of Hero's Journey:
Cole was frantic. He had just gotten the call an hour ago. A surprise visit from Raj! The Champion was flying up from the Tower, and he was going to test Cole’s team! “Charizard, get yourself warmed up! This is going to be a heated battle! C’mon, get the A-List ready! Athena, head up to the top of the tower! Let’s go!”
The young man tripped over a rock, stumbled and fell flat on his face. He took a deep breath, stood up, dusted off the legs of his jeans, and surveyed the area.
The Flare Gym, a small collection of cabins deep within the Autumn Forest, was clean enough. The tower in the middle of the clearing soared high above his head, and many of his pokemon relaxed in the early morning sunlight. Wild fire and flying types could be seen drifting through the red, gold and orange leaves of the forest. Entei and Firekeeper the shiny Absol were out there somewhere, but he didn’t need them for this battle.
Kami, Cole’s Lucario and second in command, appeared at his side. The blue fox inclined his head slightly. “No, Kami,” Cole said softly. “I don’t need you right now. Just make sure Raj gets here safely.” The Lucario nodded, and bounded off.
Cole looked at the base of the tower. Charizard was there with Ninetails, Infernape, Solar the Sceptile, and Swampert. Athena, his Victini, was already climbing up the curving tower steps.
“Well? Get on up there.”
Cole turned away from his top-tier gym team, and whistled. Masamune, his Samurott, Scathatch, his Zoroark and Thor his Zebstrika, came around the buildings. Faust, Houdini and Ruki, Masamune and Scathatch’s children, followed them with little tottering steps.
Unlike pokemon raised to battle, Cole allowed these to grow up at their own pace. Ruki had evolved into a Dewott a few months back, but Houdini and Faust were still mischievous Zorua pups. Cole smiled at the sight of them, and crossed his arms in mock severity. “We have an important visitor coming. Best behavior.”
Scree, his Pidgeot, called out from above. Cole looked up and nodded. That was the signal Raj was close. However, Cole remembered its origin with a pang. That particular cry had been developed in the war against Team Omega to alert the Journeymen and their allies of an approaching enemy.
Far in the distance, a dark speck appeared. It grew and grew, eventually taking the shape of a Hydreigon. Cole’s own Hydreigon, Tri, roared a challenge, but Cole gave it a sharp glare. The dragon, chastened, lowered its heads in deference.
Raj descended on his dragon, Mr. Socky. The dragon gave a scary grin in greeting, and Cole shuddered involuntarily. The tanned, bespectacled man on Socky’s back leapt off and grinned at Cole. “Hey! It’s been a while! How’ve you been?”
“Pretty good,” Cole replied. “How are things at the Tower?”
“Good, good. Now, let’s cut to the chase. It’s battle time.”
They climbed the long steps to the tower. When they reached the top, Cole recalled all the pokemon waiting for him there, except Athena, and shuffled the balls in his hand. “It’ll be a surprise who you go up against.”
Raj scowled. “I saw Swampert and Solar. One wild card. The rules clearly state…”
“I know, I know,” Cole replied. “But there’s gotta be some surprise. I’ll only use one, promise.”
Raj sighed. “All right.” He walked over to the northern dais, and experimentally worked the foot pedals that turned it. “Now, the rules are simple,” Cole explained. “Rotation battle. Four pokemon each. I don’t have a referee, so Kami will fill in.” The Lucario nodded brusquely at the Champion of the Journeymen league. “Shall we begin?”
“With pleasure. Snowcone, Socky, Medusa, take the field!” Raj cast out the three pokeballs, and from them materialized his Hydreigon, Samurott and Steelix.
Cole raised an eyebrow. “You should know by now that type advantage alone won’t win you this battle. Ninetails, Charizard, Solar, let’s do it!”
Ninetails gracefully assumed the position of lead battler, with Solar and Charizard flanking her. The fox howled, and the skies cleared as her Drought ability came into effect. Raj’s eyebrow rose. “Good strategy. Socky, Dragon Pulse!”
“And that’s just the beginning.” Cole tapped one of the rotation pedals, turning the dais counterclockwise. “Solar, protect!”
The Sceptile threw up a wall of light, stopping the purple rush of energy. “All right, follow it up with a Focus Blast!” Solar nodded brusquely even as Socky shot a column of flame from his left maw. The orange ball of light struck the fire, and burst through it, striking the Hydreigon down.
Socky howled in indignation. It was injured, but somehow not down. The creature was tenacious, Cole would give it that. “All right, Flamethrower!” Raj ordered.
Cole tapped the counterclockwise pedal again. “Charizard, Dragon Pulse.”
The orange dragon took the fire attack and brushed off the damage. He grinned, baring a mouth full of sharp fangs. A blast of indigo energy issued forth from his mouth. It struck Socky, and this time, the Hydreigon did fall. Raj sighed, and returned the dragon. “All right, Donnie, it’s your turn.”
He threw out another pokéball, revealing his signature Accelgor. Cole laughed. “You brought a bug type to a fire battle? I thought you were smart.”
“I always have a plan, Cole. Don’t get overconfident.”
The fire leader scoffed. “All right, whatever you say. Charizard, Heat Wave, finish it.”
The sunlight bolstered the power of the already-mighty attack, and the rush of fiery hot air rushed at Donnie. Raj tapped his foot on one of the pedals, and the dais quickly turned. Snowcone, Raj’s Samurott, took the blow.
Despite the fact that the strike was sun-charged, the Samurott brushed it off like it was nothing. “Snowcone, Waterfall.”
Snowcone dashed at Charizard, cloaked by a veil of water. Charizard withstood the attack, but only because of the sunny weather. The dragon quickly ate the Sitrus berry it grasped in its claw.
Cole cringed. “Damn.” He tapped the pedal for a clockwise turn, and brought Solar to the fore. “Energy Ball!”
Raj too rotated. Donnie leapt forward and used a Bug Buzz attack, which caught Solar off-guard. The super-effective attack brought the Sceptile to her knees.
“You’re not done yet!” Cole cried. “Come on! Dragon Pulse!”
But before Solar could move, Donnie launched another Bug Buzz. This time, Solar fell forward, and did not rise. Kami held up a flag, signifying that she was knocked out.
Cole returned the lizard to its pokéball. “All right, Athena. Time to shine.”
The Victini leapt from Cole’s shoulder, and took an empty space on the dais. Ninetails rotated to the front. Raj quickly switched to Steelix. “I expected that,” Cole said softly. “Ninetails, Solar Beam!”
The attack, already charged by the bright sunlight, shot down from the heavens. Medusa took the attack, and retaliated with a Stone Edge. Ninetails dodged, but barely, and attacked with another Solar Beam. This time, Medusa shuddered, it’s steel plating making an unearthly hiss and clatter, and fell to the ground.
Raj recalled the metallic serpent, and Cole realized he had just gained the upper hand. With Raj’s rock type out of the picture, it would be no problem to deal with the other two in the sun-saturated weather.
“All right! Ninetails, use Solar Beam on Snowcone!”
The Samurott surged forward. Ninetails was knocked out by Snowcone’s brute force before she got a chance to launch her attack. Cole returned the canine, and rotated Charizard to the fore. “Dragon Pulse!”
Charizard took to the air, dodging Snowcone’s attack, and then unleashed a Dragon Pulse at the aquatic creature. The Samurott drew back to Raj’s side of the tower, and Charizard landed. It winced at the wounds it had taken in its earlier clash with Snowcone. Cole would have to end this quickly.
Then, Raj surprised him. He rotated Donnie to the front. “Final Gambit!”
The Accelgor rushed at Charizard. It glowed with white light, and crashed into the dragon at top speed. Charizard roared in pain, and fell to the ground. Donnie staggered next to it, and fell as well.
Both trainers returned their pokemon, and rotated the dais to their final battlers. Snowcone glowered down at Athena, but the small fire type bravely glared back.
“Athena! You know what has to be done!”
The little creature jumped up high into the air. Electricity crackled around it. Raj scowled. “What’s going on? Is that a Wild Charge?”
The lightning took on a blue tinge, and flowed up around the creature, becoming an energized comet tail. Athena cried out. “Vic-tini!” Then, it dove at the ground.
She slammed into Snowcone at top speed, and the explosion of electricity was immense. Cole threw his arm in front of his face as his leather duster flapped in the wind.
The smoke from the attack cleared, revealing Athena panting slightly over the unconscious form of Snowcone. “What was that?” Raj cried.
“Fusion Bolt,” Cole replied, a little breathless. “When Athena and I paid a visit to Dragonspiral Tower about a month ago, Zekrom taught her how to use it. We’ve never tried it before, so I’m a little surprised it worked this well.”
Raj sighed. “Well. You won. Come on, let’s heal these guys up.”
The two young men sat outside, on a fallen log Cole used as a bench. Inside one of the cabins, their pokemon were recovering from the strain of battle. “So,” Raj said finally, nursing a mug of coffee. “Have you seen any of the other league members lately?”
Cole shrugged. “Not since our beach party a few months back. I went flying with David when he was on vacation. I see Becca sometimes when I go to Mistralton or Driftveil for supplies. Oh, and a few weeks ago I met up with Ammy in Undella Town.”
“Oh, did you now?” Raj said, a teasing note in his voice.
Cole didn't catch it. “Yeah. She was staying with Cynthia. We hung out on the beach for the day, and then flew over to Nimbasa City. We caught a musical, and then got dinner.”
Cole blushed. “It wasn’t a date!”
“It sounds like a date.”
“It does not!”
They sat in silence for a time. Finally, Cole took a deep breath. “Raj, before you started the Journeymen, you were going through a crisis, right?”
“Yeah, man. I lost that spark I had when I first started out. I needed something fresh and new to get me started as a trainer again. So I traveled around, and after meeting all of you guys, I realized that there was more to pokemon than endless battles. There’s a journey involved too, and bonding with your pokemon, developing strategies that work. So I started the league, and well, we all know what happened after that!”
“Right. But you had to go on a journey?”
“And find out what your true purpose is?”
“Sure… I guess you could put it that way…”
“Well, Raj, I need to go on a journey.”
The other man smiled. “Really?”
Cole nodded gravely. “Uh-huh. I haven’t had a true adventure since the war with Omega. And that was eighteen months ago! I need to go off into the world, and rediscover that spark I used to have.”
“What do you plan to accomplish by this?” Raj asked. If Cole had no goal in mind, he was going to stop him, and prevent him from leaving until he did. Every quest had to have a goal.
“Keldeo. I made a promise to Athena. I’m going to go and find Keldeo.”
“That’s not much of a plan.” Raj pushed his glasses up his nose. “Don’t rush blindly into this. Yes, okay, plenty of trainers have gone off on a journey because of rash decisions. But you’re not a little kid anymore, Cole. You need a clear objective. A place to start. And then there’s your gym to think about…”
“I’ve got a proxy lined up,” Cole replied. “My friend Taylor. I’m leaving a lot of my pokemon behind. He can use them.”
“And what pokemon are you taking? You still have that special license, don’t you, that allows you to carry more than six?”
The fire leader nodded. “I do. But… I’m leaving it here. I only want to bring six with me. It just feels right. I’m bringing Charizard and Athena, of course. Along with Masamune, Scathatch, and Thor.”
“That’s only five.”
“Thanks, Captain Obvious,” Cole shot back. “I know. I was thinking about bringing Kami, but he has to stay here and keep the gym in order. Taylor has his own life, and can only be at the gym on an as-needed basis. He’ll come out to meet the challengers and so on. When he’s not here, Kami will take care of the pokemon.
“I also considered Shiva, one of my Sceptiles, the one who was with me in Johto. But from what I’ve heard about Keldeo, that’s not the wisest choice.”
Raj sat back, and took a long swig of coffee. “Oh really? And what, pray tell, have you heard of Keldeo?”
“Not much,” admitted Cole. “But he makes his dwelling at a place called the Edge of the World.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“Well, yeah, that’s kind of the point. It’s supposed to be secluded. If people knew where it was then it would defeat the purpose. Athena doesn’t know much about it, because she’s never been there. Only that it’s near one of the poles. It will be really cold, and Shiva doesn’t like the cold.”
Raj looked pensive. “You realize that ‘near the poles’ is like, hundreds of thousands of miles.”
Well, yes. But Athena says that it’s an island. So I’d only have to search the areas outside the Artic and Antarctic Circles, because anything over that point would be covered in a sheet of ice. And I only have to look near the oceans. Now, Athena does know a place where we can get more information. It’s in a jungle far south of the Tower of the Ancients, where a monument of the old Pokemon and Human war is.”
“Keldeo was orphaned in that war,” Raj said softly, recalling the one bit of the Keldeo legend passed down through the years. “And it was raised by the Unova Warrior Trio.”
“Right. And they built that monument.”
“Oh! So you’re hoping that information on Keldeo’s whereabouts can be found there!”
“Yes. And Shiva does like forests. So he’d be useful there. But that would only be a short leg of my journey, and I don’t want to make him uncomfortable.”
Raj thought for a moment. “Cole, don’t you have a Weavile? I bet it would do well in cold temperatures.”
Hearing her name, Weavile bounded over from where she was entertaining Ruki and Faust. The black creature blinked up at Cole. “Hey there Maeve,” Cole said, scratching her behind her head. He had named the Weavile after the legendary Seelie Warrior of the North Wind, and sometimes consort of the hero Cuculain. In the Old Stories, Maeve was the most powerful warrior in the Winter Court of the Celtic Fae. “Want to go on an adventure?”
Maeve nodded. Raj laughed. “Looks like your sixth companion is found. Well, Cole, I won’t stop you from undertaking this journey. It seems like it’s something you have to do. Just… stop by the Tower when you leave. It’s on your way, isn’t it?”
Cole nodded, and Raj stood up. He walked into the cabin with the recovery equipment. His pokemon called out to him, and he returned Medusa, Snowcone and Donnie, and then mounted Socky. “I’ll see you soon Cole.” Then, the Champion shot off into the encroaching night.
Cole stood up. It was time to make arrangements for his journey. He would leave on the vernal equinox, the traditional start date of quests in his ancestor’s homeland. That meant he had just over one week to prepare.
He stared up at the sky. Soon, soon, he would be flying free among those clouds. Flying to his destiny, whatever it was.
Well, it's about time you got a sequel going! Just kidding, but seriously it was a good start. The battle flowed nicely, and the conversation was pretty good. It's too early to really critiaue anything yet.
Before you criticize someone walk a mile in thier shoes, that way, when you criticize them, you are a mile away, and you have thier shoes.
Shiny Expert: Xander
After Xander loses the Unova League, he gets a mysterious call from Prof. Rowan saying that he must come back and see what he's found. Xander has no idea what's in store for him.
Cole guided Charizard down on the slopes of Twist Mountain. He hadn’t been here in months, but little had changed. The small cabin was still a shining beacon of light set amongst the unforgiving rocks.
Charizard deftly navigated down, and Athena clung to his shoulder. Cole suddenly had his doubts about this stop. Surely, it was only fair to tell Her he was leaving, but would She really want to know? Well, he was this close. Better to just see it through.
The orange dragon landed softly on the rocks just outside the light of the cabin. Cole walked slowly up to its wooden door, his hand poised to knock. He was certain he would not be seen; the light from within would ruin any vision without. The young man peered into the window, hoping not to catch Her at a bad time.
Inside the cabin’s main room, a young woman was leaning forward, talking animatedly with a young man. He had dark hair and dark blue clothes, and his hand rubbed through the fur of a Glaceon at his side. The young woman laughed at something he said, and then brushed her hand against his.
They both fell silent for a moment and looked at each other. Then, they started talking again. The thick glass of the window and the sturdy wood walls of the cabin made it so Cole could not hear the conversation, but it seemed rather intimate. Perhaps it was best if he just left…
Who was he to barge in on Becca when she had done exactly what he hoped she would have? She had new friends now, not just the ones she had made through the Journeymen. Obviously, very close friends. Cole was happy for her, but at the same time a little sad. Though both of these emotions were eclipsed by the pride he felt at being the one who drew Becca out of her rocky, cold shell.
A growl behind him startled Cole out of his thoughts. Athena hissed, and Charizard moved forward in the darkness. “Hang on,” Cole whispered. “Hang on, it’s just me. Hey there, Ferocity. Oh! And Dracoburn.”
The Garchomp and blind Charizard stood just outside the light behind him. Cole slowly walked over. “I haven’t seen you guys in so long.” He ran a hand along the ridge of Ferocity’s back. The Garchomp bristled for an instant, but then relaxed as she recognized Cole’s gentle touch. “Looks like you’ve got a few new notches there. But still, you’re looking well. I just came to say hello to Becca. And goodbye. I’m going away for a while, you see. Perhaps a very long while.”
Dracoburn, the blind Charizard, inclined his head. Cole’s Charizard edged over to his side, and looked sharply at Cole. “Oh, and Draco? I’ve learned something, a little while ago. Apparently… you and Charizard are brothers.”
Dracoburn inclined his head and growled softly. “He says he has known for some time,” Athena translated.
“You did?” Cole was a little surprised. “And I suppose Becca knows too. Well… just know that I think of my Charizard as a brother. And if you’re genetic brothers… welcome to the family.”
He moved forward, and wrapped his arms around Dracoburn’s neck. “I know you can’t see me, but… I’m very, very happy I got to tell you. And it’s nice to know.”
Dracoburn made a soft growl, which in the tongue of Charizards was the equivalent of a cat’s purr. Ferocity whistled through her fangs. Athena tapped Cole’s shoulder.
“She says that Becca won’t be satisfied with just a brief goodbye. Even if she’ll never admit it.”
“You’re right, Ferocity. I’m being stupid. Hang on.” Cole reached into his backpack, and drew out a pencil and a piece of stationary. He quickly wrote a brief letter, folded it, and placed it in an envelope. “Give this to Becca for me.”
Dracoburn took it in one clawed hand, navigating by the slight rustle of the paper. Cole embraced each of the draconian pokemon in turn, and then walked to his Charizard. “Goodbye, you two. Good flying, sweet hunter, and clear skies, scarred warrior. Give the others my best.” And then he flew off into the night.
The next morning, Becca rose early. She walked out of her bedroom to find Matt, her boyfriend, stretched out on her couch, right where he’d dropped off the night before. His Glaceon looked up at her, and blinked. It opened its mouth, yawned, and padded over to her small kitchen, looking for something to eat.
Becca moved to follow it, but caught a small movement out of the corner of her eye. A flame flickered outside her window. She vaulted over her coffee table and threw open the door. Was Dracoburn hurt? Why was her Charizard lying on her doorstep? Did something happen to Ferocity? Was, Arceus forbid, Team Omega reformed and attacking her mountain?
Hearing the door open, Dracoburn grumbled softly, stretched, and got to his feet. “Draco!” Becca cried. “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you down the mountain with the others? Did someone ditch you up here? It was Scarr, wasn’t it? Ooh, I’m going to kick his…”
Dracoburn shook his head, cutting her off. The Charizard held out an envelope. “A letter?” Becca asked. “For me? From who?” Dracoburn simply shook the letter, obviously saying that she should just shut up and read it.
The Mountain Trainer tore open the envelope and drew out a piece of thick, pale stationary. On it were words drawn in a close, hasty scrawl that looked like a fifth-grader’s handwriting. Becca immediately recognized it as Cole’s from another letter he had sent to her a few months ago, inviting her to his villa in Undella Town. At the time, she had to decline because she had an appointment with Skyla, and besides, she hated the beach.
She quickly scanned the letter, and began to regret not going to the beach that day. At least then she would have been able to say goodbye. She whispered the words aloud as if to make sure they were real.
“Becca, I’ve decided to go away for a while. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Hell, I barely know where I’m going. I need to figure out what it means for me to be, well, me. I came to say goodbye, but I saw you had company, and I didn’t want to intrude. I’m sorry. Stay safe. See you again someday. Cole.”
Becca shook her head. The tears in her eyes were from the mountain wind, or at least she tried to tell herself that. “Oh, Cole…”
Matt roused himself from the couch. “Becca? What’s up?”
“Remember Cole? He was here last night.”
The dark-haired young man got to his feet. “Whoa. I must have been out cold, if I missed the Firebrand. Did he stay long?”
Becca sighed. “I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?” Matt growled. “What do you mean? Did he rob you? Are you hurt?”
Becca glared at him. “Cole wouldn’t do that! No, he landed here, but didn’t come in the cabin. He gave a letter to Draco to give to me. And now he’s gone.”
Matt shrugged. “Well, you’ll see him again. He probably just went to Driftveil City or something, right? He’ll stop by on the way back. Oh, I should totally get an autograph for my little brother…”
“No, Matt. I don’t know if he’s coming back at all.” She passed him the letter, and Matt read it over.
“Oh. Becca, I’m sorry. I know he was your friend, but he’ll be back someday. Didn’t you tell me once that Cole is impossible to tie down? Well, this is probably just one of those things. A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. How about I make us some breakfast?”
Becca nodded, but her mind was elsewhere, far away, over the mountains.
Cole was flying over the Entralink, when he made Charizard stop. The gray dawn light made the world look flat below him, and the trees glistened with a light rain that had fallen the night before.
“Land down there. Just for a little while.”
Charizard, understanding his trainer’s intent, obliged. They drifted down through the lofty boughs of the trees. The soft cries of wild pokemon waking up filled the air. Athena peeked out of Cole’s backpack. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“I... I have to. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t.”
They landed on the soft, damp grass, and Cole started his pilgrimage through the trees. He had to reach the deepest part of the forest, where the strange power of the Entralink was at it’s most powerful. It wouldn’t be long now.
He finally stepped into a small clearing at the heart of the Entralink Forest; far from the field that was it’s center point. In the center of that clearing was a marble stone, perfectly rectangular. It was unadorned, except for a single Victorian letter, an ‘N’.
Cole knelt down in front of the stone, and laid a hand on it. “I’m going away now. For a while. I don’t know when I’ll be back. I just thought I should probably say goodbye before I left. I’m sure my path won’t be taking me anywhere near Unova for a long time. So… wherever you are, I hope you can hear me, and I hope you’re watching over me. Goodbye, N.”'
He sat in silence for a moment. The forest around him seemed to fade, the cries of pokemon simply vanishing. A light breeze played through Cole’s hair. “Beee.”
Cole looked up sharply, and saw a brown creature hovering in the air above N’s grave. “You!” He staggered back, and glared at the Beheeyem. Ghetsis’s Beheeyem. “Why are you here?”
“She says that she is the guardian of this place,” Athena translated softly. “She wants to atone for her sins, so she made herself the keeper of N’s grave.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. And… I should know better. You were under Ghetsis’s control. I shouldn’t fault you for what he made you do.”
The Beheeyem nodded, and held out one of its hands. There was a flash of light, and a vivid crimson rose appeared, hovering just above its tri-colored fingers. It held it out to Cole.
The fire leader took it, and laid it atop N’s perfectly geometric headstone. “Thank you.” Then, he lowered his gaze. “Someday, my friend. Someday, I’ll come back.”
Love it. I'm really going to need to include this in my fic.
"Trainer: We would like to invite you to try your hand at a new kind of challenge. The League of Heroes is a league of world-class battlers, with its own set of leaders and elite four members. If you are interested, please mail your invitation to the location listed below with your RSVP and we will send you a map with the locations of our gyms.
Yours truly, the Elite Four of the NCTH
Tower of the Ancients, Unova"
If you challenge our league and are lucky enough to get to me, you have a shot at winning the Mountain Heights Symbol. Credit to Northern Lights for the badge.
Diamond friend code-
Black friend code-
And here ends the involvement of the Journeymen, the League of Heroes.
The Tower of the Ancients loomed up against the horizon. Charizard huffed, flaring out his wings to reduce speed and allow for a smoother landing. He glided to a stop on the flat top of the mesa, cutting his momentum just before he crashed.
Cole walked slowly up to the large wood and brass doors of the Tower, and took a knocker in his hands. He hit it twice, and a man in a suit opened the opulent portal. “Ah, Sir Cole. The present Journeymen are convening in the Council Chamber. Shall I take you?”
“No thanks, Hastings,” replied Cole. “I can get there myself.”
As the young man walked through the halls of the Tower, and up the winding, twisting staircases, he remembered his first time coming to this Tower. He had been exuding energy back then, bursting with excitement that he had been chosen to be a gym leader.
He had met Mozzeh and David, and become fast friends. He recalled Fire and her large steel types, Metagross and Steelix, blasting down the doors with a Hyper Beam. Nate trying to buy Athena and Charizard off of him, and Athena biting his hand. And meeting Becca, who had seemed so abrasive and mean at the time. And of course, it was the beginning of the brutal war against Team Omega.
That had been the start of a new chapter in his life. And now, it seemed only fitting that it draw to a close in the same place. He walked up to a large set of ostentatious doors that were rather newer than the rest of the Tower. They had been put in six months ago to replace the ones Fire had blown apart.
Cole threw them open, and strode confidently into the hall. “Raj, I’m here, just like you ordered.”
The bespectacled man looked up. “It wasn’t an order. Merely a... request. Still, I’m glad you came.”
Three other young men were seated at the table with Raj. One looked up and smiled, while the second scribbled at some paperwork. The third abjectly refused to look at Cole, his face twisting into a sneer.
Cole walked over to the smiling one first. “Hey, Phoenix. It’s been a while!”
“It has,” Phoenix replied, shaking his hand. “Keeping well?”
“Yeah, and you?”
“Oh, I’ve been great. Went back to Sunyshore for a vacation, and now I’m back, albeit a little sunburned. I won’t say where!”
Cole smiled. Then, he turned to the second young man. “Xander? Hey, Xander? What’s up?”
The fighting elite four member looked up with a start. “Cole? Cole! How are you?”
“Well enough. How does the research go?”
“Well, I’ve been examining various shiny pokemon at the P2 Lab, where I’ve sort of set up. Professor Juniper helped me out, and now I’ve converted it into a sort of preserve for them. I can observe how they interact with their habitat, and if the environment, or specifically, any factors in the aforementioned environment, play any effect in the proteins that govern color in pokemon. In fact, I’m wondering if it’s a spontaneous mutation at all, and a new theorem I have is that it is a highly recessive gene that once engaged—”
“Whoa. Slow down there. You lost me.”
Xander smiled. “I know. It’s a lot to take in. I’m sorry.”
“I know what you mean. I felt the same when I gave a lecture on fire-type physiology at Castelia University. So… you’re at P2 Lab, huh? If you find any NES games, make sure you blow them up. Can’t let them fall into the wrong hands.”
Xander smiled at the old joke. “I will. Or maybe I’ll send them to Jo. She’s researching the Regis off in Hoenn, you know.”
“I said don’t let them fall into the wrong hands!” He laughed. “But yeah. She challenged me for the Flare Badge a while back. She barely won, and only because I didn’t use Charizard or Athena.”
Xander smiled. “She’s set her sights on Champion.”
Cole turned to the third man. “Nate? How are you?”
The Firebrand sighed. “All right. Well, has Raj told you why I’m here? No? Well, it’s because I’m leaving on a journey. The Flare Gym will be taken care of by a friend of mine. I just need to go back out into the world and make something of myself.”
Nate sneered. “Yeah, life must be tough when you peak at seventeen.”
Cole ignored the jibe. “Well, I’ve decided to go look for Keldeo. Make sure he’s safe.”
Raj nodded. “I’ve given him clearance to go. I don’t know how long this journey’s going to take, but… our league is founded on that adventurous spirit. I could not in good faith deny him his request.”
Phoenix looked down. “Aw. We’re going to miss you.”
“Stay safe, Cole,” Xander added. “And come back soon.”
Nate pushed back from the table. “Are you freaking serious? We’re just going to let him waltz out of here? He has a duty to the league! Okay, sure, he was important in the Omega conflict. Big deal. That doesn’t give him an excuse to just drop everything and go traipsing around the globe. Look, Cole. No one leaves like that without an exit interview.”
“Let me guess,” Cole sighed. “A battle?”
“You got it.”
“Look, Nate, I don’t have time for this…”
“I don’t care. Crawdaunt, let’s go!” The crimson lobster appeared before him in a burst of light. It clicked its claws and started towards Cole.
Cole sighed, and glanced at Athena. “We have to get going. End this quickly.”
Athena jumped up, and began gathering electrical charge. “Oh no,” Raj muttered. “Get down.”
Xander and Phoenix quickly flipped the solid oak table over, and hid behind it. Athena let loose a cry. “Fusion Bolt!” she screamed in a voice only Cole could hear. She crashed down onto Crawdaunt with an incredible amount of force.
The smoke from the impact cleared, revealing the water type lying on the ground, unconscious. “What?” Nate shouted. “That’s… That’s cheating! Cacturne, go!”
“Athena, follow it up.”
The Victini channeled her power, and let loose a giant pillar of fire that crashed down on the grass type. Cole turned his head slightly, to look at Raj. “Oh yeah. Did I mention Reshiram taught Athena how to use Fusion Flare, too? Because he did.”
Nate recalled the knocked-out Cacturne. “All right! Enough of this madness! Mightyena! Finish it!”
“Are you sure?” Athena asked. “We’ve never…”
“No time like the present. Just do it. He’ll never let us go if we don’t.”
Purple fire flickered to life between Athena’s pointed ears, and shot at the charging canine. The V grew in size, finally exploding in Mightyena’s face. The wolf yelped and tried to flee, but the damage was done. It staggered, and fell over.
Athena panted with exhaustion. That last attack had taken all of her focus. Cole walked over and scooped her up, cradling her like an infant. “This interview is over. Goodbye, everyone.”
“Wait!” someone cried, running in from an adjoining room.
Cole looked up and was all but tackled by a rhapsody in blue. “Ammy? What are you doing here?”
“Raj told me you were leaving!” Ammy said between sobs. She wrapped her arms around Cole in a tight hug. “You weren’t even going to say goodbye!”
“I sent a letter to Lake Verity. It must have just missed you.”
Ammy clutched Cole’s duster. “I’m going with you! Keldeo is a water type, and they’re my specialty!”
Cole thrust the water gym leader away. He hoped it wasn’t too roughly. “No. I’m sorry Ammy, but I can’t let you do that.”
“Why not?” the girl demanded. Her piercing blue eyes matched her entirely blue outfit, from her sky blue top to her navy blue jeans to her midnight blue shoes.
“Because… I need a new adventure, new companions.”
Nate looked up. “Listen to him. He’s saying we’re not good enough for him.”
“No! It’s not that at all! I’ve had some great times with the league! We’ve done so much! But… I need to start this journey by myself, with no one but my pokemon by my side.” Cole put his hands on Ammy’s shoulders. “Can you understand that? I’d love to go adventuring with you, really, I would. Just… not this time.”
Ammy nodded, biting her lip to keep the tears from flowing. “When will I see you again?”
“I don’t know. I suppose a year and a day, at the earliest. That’s how long it takes to find a unicorn, at least if the Old Stories are anything to go by.”
Ammy hugged Cole again, pressing herself close to him. “I’m going to miss you.”
Phoenix nodded. “We all are.”
“And I’m going to miss you all,” Cole replied. He had to concentrate on keeping the emotion out of his voice. “More than you could ever fathom.”
Ammy stood on her tiptoes, and brushed her lips across Cole’s cheek, an incredibly chaste and brief kiss, if one could even call it that. “Come back safe,” she murmured.
“I will,” Cole replied just as softly. Then, he gently pushed her away again, and walked to the main door of the council chamber. He put one hand on the doorknob. “Goodbye, everyone.”
Whoa that was one succint ending line. I LOVE the tower of the ancients, let's hope 'Journeymen' does it some justice! You and Xander's character development is ridiculously good at this point. I just get a chuckle knowing that Nate isn't actually as cold or cynical as his character in here makes out. Sad to see the Journeymen won't make an appearance again, but I'm glad I get to carry it on.
Cole knew that the other league members would probably think he was selfish, or callous, or simply bored with the league. They probably thought that he felt he was entitled to go off like this. But no, that wasn’t it.
He needed to go on this journey because soon, everything would change. Like Raj had said, he wasn’t a little kid anymore. He had grown up. Some of his friends had gone off to college. Cole just felt he needed to make something more of himself, and he needed to get away.
He was sick of going into cities, and being mobbed by a crowd of people begging for the Firebrand’s autograph. He was even starting to think of himself as schizophrenic. There was Cole, the adrenaline junkie with the adventurous spirit, and then there was the Firebrand, the war hero and elite trainer.
Well, the Firebrand was just going to have to go away for a while, because Cole was back in charge of his own life. He was flying high over the desert plains southwest of Unova. Mesas rose up beneath him, and a herd of Bouffalant kicked up a dust cloud some seven hundred feet below.
Charizard’s wings caught a thermal, and the orange dragon suddenly rose up on the column of warm air. “Hey,” Cole murmured. “No rush, partner. Slow down a little. We have no deadlines or anything.”
Charizard rolled an eye back to look at his trainer, then nodded. He banked in a long sweeping turn, cutting his speed. Now they drifted over the great plains of the south.
Cole sort of half expected to see a group of armored men riding Rapidash to charge by below. It looked so much like a place he’d read about in a storybook. What was it called? Rohan.
“Lacho callad. Drego morn,” Cole whispered, recalling the Sindarin battle cry he’d memorized as a kid. “Hiril, Dunedian.”
“What?” Athena asked.
Cole smiled as he scratched behind her ear. “It’s Elvish. Well, a form of Elvish.”
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you sometime. I’ll tell you all about Frodo, and the One Ring, and Aragorn, and Legolas, and Gimli and Gandalf, and the rest of the Fellowship.”
“Okay! Sounds cool! What did you say?”
“Well, it’s a battle cry from the War of the Ring. It means ‘Candle’s light, flee night.’ And the second part is a greeting, which means ‘hail Dunedian.’”
“I don’t get it.”
Cole looked out at the horizon. “Well, it’s early yet. Perhaps if I start now, I can get up to the end of the beginning. How about a story, about heroes and quests?”
“How about you, Charizard?”
The dragon snorted a puff of smoke, and then nodded.
“Okay. Well, I suppose I shall start at the beginning, then.” Cole cleared his throat, and settled into what he called his ‘story-telling voice’. “There once was a hobbit who lived in a hole…”
The telling of The Hobbit took two days. Cole couldn’t remember every snippet of dialogue, but he did his best, and sometimes added his own. As he concluded the tale, Athena looked up at him. “But what about that other stuff you told me about? The War for the Ring and the Third Age and…”
“Oh, that’s not the end. There’s a lot more left to be told. But let’s rest now. Charizard, why don’t you land there?”
Charizard nodded, and landed on a rocky outcropping. Cole called out his other four pokemon to stretch and eat. Masamune and Maeve walked over to a nearby stream to catch some Basculin, while Charizard and Scathatch worked in tandem to bring down a Bouffalant. Cole, with his vegetarian sensibilities, took out his berry pouch and began to make a sandwich.
Athena snatched a Sitrus Berry and ran off into the thigh-high grass to eat her prize. Thor stood nearby, cropping stalks with his powerful molars. The Zebstrika eyed Cole as he dipped his head to eat.
Cole, sandwich in one hand, walked over and ran a hand over Thor’s glossy coat. “How are you, partner?”
The Zebstrika blew out some air, and shook out his mane. “Cramped, huh?” Thor nodded. “I’m sorry. Hey… you want to get some exercise? I’ll let Charizard take a rest, and ride you. If you’re up for it.”
Thor nodded, and pranced around, happy. At that moment, Masamune and Maeve returned, bearing three Basculin. Maeve carried two in her claws, and Masamune had the other in his mouth. They were already dead, felled by a quick slash from Maeve.
Masamune tilted his head back, and the third Basculin disappeared down his throat. With a cough and a slight crunch, he spit out the bones. Maeve laid one of her prizes on a rock, while she cut into the other with surgical precision, removing any large bones.
Then, she took out several organs, and ate them, still warm with the living flesh. “You know,” Cole said softly. “I could cook the last one. It may taste better.”
Maeve eyed him, and finally handed the dead fish to Cole. The one-time gym leader procured a flint and pocketknife from his pack, and started a small fire with the dry brush around him, making sure to leave a wide radius of dirt.
When he went to cut off the Basculin’s head, Maeve hissed, and slapped his knife away. “She says,” Masamune grumbled, “that it is a hunter’s duty to deal with her own prey. Crazy dark types.”
Cole stepped back, and watched as Maeve darted her dexterous claws out over the fire, and flipped the Basculin over on it’s spit, allowing for an even burn.
Charizard and Scathatch returned then, dragging a yearling Bouffalant buck. Scathatch sliced into the animal, and she, Charizard and Masamune began to eat from the carcass. Cole realized that the reason Masamune had only eaten one Basculin was to save room for this kill, so it would not go to waste.
Suddenly without much of an appetite, he offered the rest of his berry sandwich to Thor, who happily snatched it from his palm. Cole had decided to go the vegetarian route when he started his journey at age ten, feeling odd about eating a pokemon who could have been his traveling partner under different circumstances.
He did not begrudge his carnivorous pokemon from eating meat, but he did encourage them to eat berries or wild fruit if it was a viable alternative. He walked with Thor as the carnivores finished off their meals, and found his feet wandering of their own accord. He picked up Athena from her hiding place in the grass, and placed her on his shoulder.
“Are we just going to have berries this trip?” she asked.
“I should hope not. Even the Fellowship tired of journey bread. Or lembas, as the Elves of Lothorien called it.”
“You’ll understand soon enough.”
He glanced over his shoulder, and saw Charizard crunching the bone from the dead Bouffalant, to suck out the marrow. He swung up onto Thor bareback, and took a fistful of the equine creature’s mane. “Just get us away from here for a bit.”
Thor nodded, and began to gallop off. The fur on his back was slick like a cat’s, and Cole soon found himself slipping. He wrapped his arms around Thor’s neck, and the Zebstrika eased into a canter. They rode over a ridge of hills, and Cole gasped.
“Athena, do you remember this place? I thought we skirted it, but…”
“No, I remember.”
The three of them came up over the rise, and saw a large crater in the earth, a yawning black maw that revealed a dark cave. Nearby was a compound of squat ferroconcrete structure with silver Ω emblazoned on the sides. They were surrounded by what remained of an electrified barbed wire fence.
“This was Ghetsis’s fallback base,” Cole murmured. “I thought… I thought that our escape destroyed it.”
“No, but you did a lot of damage,” Athena said in a rather deep, slightly abrupt voice as Thor whinnied. Cole realized she was translating. “Any signs of life?” she said in the same voice. Then, she snapped to alertness and returned to her own voice. “Oh… uh, nope.” Her ears glowed indigo as she used her psychic powers to sense any life in the base. “Nothing. Abandoned. Not even wild pokemon.”
Thor nodded slowly, and Athena began to translate. “We should destroy it. That era is over.”
Soon after, the carnivores joined them, and Cole nodded to Charizard. “We’re going to destroy that Omega base, once and for all, okay?”
Masamune walked forward. “Allow me to begin.” He created a wall of water that surged down the hillside and swept through the base, weakening the overall structural integrity. Athena ran forward, launching a powerful Fusion Flare that blazed through several outbuildings.
Taking a cue from the small creature, Charizard and Thor wove together a Thunderbolt and Heat Wave, creating a devastating pillar of energy that tore through the main building of the complex. Scathatch used Night Daze to level a building, and Athena finished the job with a powered-up Fusion Bolt.
When Cole’s pokemon had finished, nothing remained but a smoldering ruin, a large dark spot on the plains. Cole returned his other pokemon, and mounted Thor again.
“Now, let’s begin with the Fellowship of the Ring, eh? I’ll begin with a Long-Expected Party.”
As Thor galloped off, this time saddled, Cole wove together the vibrant tapestry of Middle Earth. “When Mr. Bilbo announced he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton...”
Thor snorted as they galloped on, across the endless plain.
Yeah, he had seen the shows on TV, and read adventure novels, but nothing could prepare him for the harsh reality. The jungle was hot. Cole had taken off his duster and rolled up the legs of his jeans. And still, he was dripping with sweat.
Cole was tempted to jump into the slightly green water of the nearby river, except that he had recently spotted three Gyrados surging upstream, surrounded by a school of raging Basculin. It appeared to have been a territorial squabble, and the water had been turned red with their blood.
Cole sat down against a large mangrove tree and called out Maeve. “Hey, do me a favor?” The Weavile nodded. “Cut into this tree. I don’t want to go around in circles.”
Maeve flexed her claws, and made a large incision into the tree’s knobby bark. Then, she sat back with Cole. “Weave.”
Cole almost asked her to use Ice Punch on him. It was that balmy. Instead, he called out Masamune. “Masamune… can you cool me down?”
The Samurott glared at him. “That might not be a good idea. Most of this heat is humidity. If I doused you, I might make the situation worse. Have you been keeping hydrated?”
“Yeah. This jungle… it’s really big.”
“Maybe you should just fly.”
Cole shook his head. “No. The monument is rumored to have been built from a hillside, and is probably overgrown after centuries of neglect. I’d probably miss it from the air.”
Masamune shuffled his feet, something he’s been doing since he was an Oshawott. It meant he was thinking about something, but it looked rather funny on a large, imposing Samurott. Maeve chuckled.
“I’ll ferry you up the river. Charizard can fly in the air with Athena, directly above us to see if they spot something. Since we’d be in the river, they won’t lose sight of us or fear us disappearing into the trees.”
Cole saw the logic of the plan, and assembled the required pokemon. Charizard and Athena swept off into the clear jungle sky, while Cole, Maeve and Masamune continued up the river. Masamune was a powerful enough swimmer to go completely against the current. The Samurott surged upriver, startling Magikarp out of their routines.
They traveled in this manner of some time, Athena occasionally calling down how she and Charizard couldn’t find anything. At one point Cole just shouted up, “Look for hills! Or any bumps in the terrain!”
Charizard peeled off, complying with the request.
A soft moan made Cole glance at the riverbank. A Dragonair lay in the shallow murk, her blood tingeing the water. There appeared to be bite marks up and down her serpentine body.
Cole leapt into the river, and swam to her side. The Dragonair hissed at him, and tried to lift her head. She collapsed back, gasping. Cole dug through his pack, and sprayed her with a Hyper Potion. The dragon-type writhed as the stinging sensation came into contact with her injured body. But despite the medical treatment, her wounds would not heal quickly.
Cole bent down to inspect the bite marks. “Looks like Basculin. No… wait. Not enough spacing, and the cuts are too big. Seems like there are other scratches too…” He dug out his long-neglected Pokedex, and thumbed through several menus. “Ah. Carvanha. It’s not unheard of for them to come upriver, but still… it’s rather far from the ocean.”
“Cole,” Masamune growled. “Carvanha sometimes injure prey and leave it weak, to assist in the kill later. We may be in terrible danger.”
Cole cracked his knuckles. “I’m not going to let a defenseless pokemon die.”
“It’s the nature of life. Death nourishes the living, and in turn the living go to the earth.”
“I’m a vegetarian.”
“I don’t see how…”
“I know, I know,” Cole interrupted. “Not one of my best snappy one-liners. Still, Dragonair aren’t really Carvanha’s standard diet. I’m just going to preserve the natural order.”
Masamune rolled his eyes. “You probably expect my help.”
“And Maeve’s. Get ready, I see something from downstream. C’mon, Masamune, help me get Dragonair out of the river.”
With the Samurott’s help, Cole was able to move the injured dragon, and then stood in front of her, his fists balled. The surging river erupted into a school of about twenty Carvanhas.
Maeve surged forward, and slammed her clawed fist into the first Carvanha, in a mighty Brick Break. The fish’s Dark-typing did nothing to help it, and it fell. The Weavile hissed as its Rough Skin ability came into effect.
Cole kicked at one of the red fish that leapt at him. Masamune struck with his horn. Maeve switched between Brick Break, Poison Jab, X-Scissor and Ice Punch. Cole noted that she was only effect by Rough Skin about half the time she attacked. Still, it was weakening her…
“Maeve, fall back!”
The Weavile nodded brusquely, slashed at another Carvanha, and then jumped to Cole’s side. Cole quickly sprayed her with a Hyper Potion, and then surged further into the surging river. “Protect Dragonair!”
Then, he punched a leaping Carvanha. The instant before his fist made contact; the fish changed its aerial trajectory and fell back into the river. “How did it do that?” Cole hissed. Then he remembered a report he heard from the elder Professor Juniper, about how many pokemon were developing secondary abilities. The report had included a list of confirmed pokemon and abilities. He recalled that Poochyena were becoming Rattled, and Ponyta were developing the Flash Fire trait. His Ninetails was not alone in its Drought ability. Was Carvanha on that list?
It was, he recalled. And its secondary ability was… Speed Boost.
“Masamune!” Cole shouted. “We have to end this, now! Get out of the water!”
The Samurott complied without question, leaping onto the bank. Cole did likewise, tossing out a pokéball. “Thor, Discharge in the water!”
The Zebstrika landed gracefully, and began to gather it’s electrical charge. It released a large field of electromagnetic energy into the water, shocking the Carvanha and disrupting their navigation ability. The savage fish began to crash into each other, shrieking and crying out. Cole recalled Thor as the Carvanha fled.
The one-time gym leader knelt at Dragonair’s side, the blue serpent gasping for breath. Cole knew that he did not have sufficient medical supplies to heal the creature, and he wouldn’t let it die here. He pulled out a pokéball, one of the few he had brought on this trip. He dusted it off, and pulled out a sheet of paper. He hastily scrawled a note saying that this Dragonair needed medical attention, and that as soon as it was well, it was to be released.
Then, he tapped the dragon with the pokéball, and waited as it shook. The Dragonair was too weak to break free, and the ball locked. Then, there was a flash of light as the ball was transported to Oak’s lab in far-away Kanto.
Cole shivered. He hadn’t caught a pokemon in over a year. It was strange to think that he had just caught the Dragonair. But then, he really hadn’t. He had used capture as a means to an end. The Dragonair would have died if he hadn’t done anything. Now she would have a pokemon expert to treat and rehabilitate her.
Cole nodded to Masamune and Maeve. “Let’s keep going.”
After another three days of searching, Cole finally came upon the first structure he had seen since the Omega Base. It was an ancient stone citadel, carved out of a hillside. The marble walls seemed to shine in the dawn light. He drew closer, startling a small group of Butterfree from the ruins.
All along the walls were glyphs, carved in Unown script. Cole tried to decipher them, but the words did not make sense. They were likely written in an ancient tongue that had been lost.
There was a long avenue carved of cobblestones that led up to a large complex. Intimidating statues of pokemon lined the walk; in the way Mesozoic man must have viewed them. Cole saw a very intimidating Charizard, a regal Haxorus, an elegant Sawsbuck, a bold Fearow. The statues seemed to glare down on him and his pokemon.
Cole pulled out a disposable camera and snapped a few pictures, first of the statues, then the architecture, and finally snippets of the wall writing. When he returned from his journey and had these developed, he would send them to Jo, a friend of his who was also an archeologist. She could make sense of them.
Athena glared at a large opening in the citadel walls. “This way!” And the Victini bounded off into the darkness. Scathatch followed closely behind, slipping into the chasm with ease. Masamune, Charizard and Thor would not fit, so Cole recalled them. Then, with Maeve at his side, he ran after his two pokemon, into a dark labyrinth of tunnels.
If Athena had not used fire to light her way, Cole would have been lost. As it was, he was left to chase her down by the ambient glow and the clicking of Scathatch’s claws on the stonework. These caverns were also decorated with elaborate friezes on the wall, but it was so dark Cole could barely make them out.
It took a while for Cole to realize he was traveling downhill. Maeve darted along next to him, and from the way she was acting, Cole knew the air was getting danker. The Weavile hated closed-in spaces like caves and buildings, preferring the wide-open expanses of the great outdoors. She also loved clean mountain air, and the fact that she was glancing around nervously was all Cole needed to know the air was growing stale.
Then, the ambient glow from Athena vanished, and the rapid scratch of Scathatch’s claws faded into echoes. Maeve stopped dead, and shivered. “What’s going on?” Cole demanded.
Maeve shook her head and shrugged, then scratched out three letters on the dirt floor with her foot. B-A-D.
Cole was at first impressed his pokemon could spell, let alone write. Then, he was worried at the danger his two companions were in. “We need to hurry.”
He and Maeve bolted off, hurtling down the passageways. In the darkness, Maeve seemed to know exactly which way to go. Cole later found out that it was because Scathatch had made a claw mark on every turn she had made, and Maeve had been tracking those from the start.
The Weavile led Cole into a darkened room. From the way his footsteps echoed, Cole knew instinctively that it was massive, bigger than even the Great Hall in N’s Castle. He called out Charizard, Masamune and Thor. “A little light, please?”
Thor illuminated his mane, and Charizard made his tail fire as bright as possible. But even with these dual light sources, the cavern Cole was in stretched out far beyond visible range. Somewhere high above was a vaulted ceiling, and Cole couldn’t see the other walls or the far side of the room.
“Moria,” he gasped.
Masamune glanced at him, and then nodded, getting the reference. Cole had finished telling them the tale of the War of the Ring up through the end of The Two Towers. “Perhaps we should guard against any Balrog.”
Charizard growled at the Samurott, recalling Gandalf’s warning not to speak its name. Cole moved to the near wall, and placed a hand on it. “Charizard, bring your tail over here.”
The orange dragon did so, and Cole’s suspicions were confirmed. The entire wall was covered in Unown script. It was as if an entire saga was carved into the cold granite.
“Thor, stay where you are. Charizard, I want to fly do a fly around; see if this continues all the way. Scathatch and Athena can’t be far.” He snapped a quick picture of the script, though it was indecipherable.
Charizard swooped up into the still, stagnant air, and carried Cole slowly out and around the room. Cole guided the Charizard up to the room’s ceiling, and made a quick estimation. It was about a hundred and fifty feet above the floor!
And indeed, the script continued all over the walls, but stopped at the arched ceiling. Cole took a few more pictures, before landing Charizard on the other side of the room, about the length of three football fields. “Wait there.”
Then, his foot struck something, and there was a strange sloshing sound. “No, hang on. Charizard, what is this? Man, what I wouldn’t give for Kali’s eyesight right now…”
Charizard swept his tail over where Cole stood, and the young man fell back with a cry. He had stumbled into a stone vat of oil, which ignited as Charizard’s fire passed over.
It illuminated more than the dragon’s fire could, and revealed a granite portal set in the wall exactly opposite where Thor stood. “Hey!” Cole shouted. “Get over here! Athena and Scathatch must have gone this way!”
Maeve, Thor and Masamune hurried over across the smooth stone floor. Masamune was humming something under his breath.
“What was that now?” asked Cole. “Sounds familiar…”
“In the Hall of the Mountain King. It seemed fitting. I heard it on your iPod. The Epica version from The Classical Conspiracy.”
“I didn’t know you like Wager.”
“It's not Wagner, it's Grieg. And it's not from the Ring Saga, it's from Peer Gynt. But I do like Wagner very much. And Mozart. Vivaldi, as well. I dabble in Bach, though not as much as the others. As for a more contemporary, I do enjoy Hans Zimmer. His work on the Luxray King, Inception, and Pirates of the Sevii Islands was excellent.”
Cole gaped at his Samurott. “I… I didn’t know you liked music. And such good taste…” Better than mine, he thought a little ruefully.
Masamune tossed his head. “Of course. Now, shouldn’t we keep moving?”
Cole nodded dumbly, and followed behind. It seemed to be a day of revelations. First, Maeve could spell. Now, Masamune liked classical music. What next? Would Charizard pick up viola? Or Scathatch become an artist?
Then he realized something. The stones that made up this citadel or monument or city or temple or whatever were marble at the top, and then granite under the ground level. And neither of those stones was native to this area. The closest place to find marble was Driftveil, and granite on the Great Plains. So how had it gotten here, and in such large quantities?
Then, he noted that the passage they were in now was a large vein of sandstone with smooth, blank walls that gave off a rosy orange glow in the light of Thor’s mane and Charizard’s flame. Sandstone was native to the area, at least some miles under the earth. What was going on here?
Then, the passage ended abruptly in a small, well lit room. It was not much bigger than the largest cabin at the Flare Gym. Fires crackled on wall-mounted torches. Athena and Scathatch sat in the middle of the room, staring at a strange obsidian fixture on the wall. It appeared to be a gateway arch, but it led straight into the wall. A door to nowhere.
“Athena?” Masamune growled softly, his voice heavy with apprehension.
Scathatch turned and slunk to Masamune’s side, brushing up against her mate. Athena looked at Cole with scared eyes. “I… I just felt I had to come down here. Scathatch followed me to keep me safe. I’m scared. That gate scares me.”
Cole picked her up, and looked around the small chamber. “I guess this is the end of the line. The architecture here doesn’t look like the other ancient structures I’ve seen. The Tower of the Ancients, the Ruined Fortress, even the tower at the Gym. Those were pretty utilitarian, but these seem to have been built for beauty. And with stones from far away…”
He laid a hand on the obsidian gate. There was a rush of wind, which was impossible this far underground. A blinding light flashed, and the torches went out. Cole’s pokemon gathered around him, and Scathatch hissed out a challenge.
A light appeared from the gate, shockingly white. Cole squinted as he tried to make out the source, but to no avail. And then, his right foot moved forward of it’s own volition. Then, his left, and then his right again. He was moving ever closer to the strange stone gate.
His pokemon were the same, inching steadily closer. “Guys! Get back!” Cole cried.
“We’re trying!” Masamune roared.
Maeve hissed and spat and clawed at the air, trying to dispel an imaginary enemy. Scathatch pressed closer to Masamune, seeking solace in that simple touch. Charizard flared his wings to try and protect Cole, while Thor struggled as though resisting a bridle. Then, they all stepped through the blinding white light. There was a roar, a sharp hiss, and a second rush of wind.
Then everything was still. Absolutely still.
A cookie for anyone who can remember what story that last line comes from.
It was cold, startlingly cold. Cole’s hands groped in his pack for his duster, and then he rolled down the legs of his jeans, trying to conserve his body heat. He realized his hiking boots were buried in a thin coating of snow. Looking at the rocky terrain around him, he assumed he was in the mountains, where the spring thaw had not yet happened.
Charizard moved closer to Cole, trying to keep the young man warm. Maeve tasted the air and sighed happily. Cole recalled his other pokemon, and placed Athena on his shoulder. Then, he turned around to try and go back to the ruins. He was greeted with another obsidian gate, but this one didn’t respond to anything he did. It only led straight into the rock face.
Cole hammered on the gate for a solid twenty minutes, trying to return. He was in no place he recognized. Perhaps he had gone through a tunnel that put him in the highlands south of the jungle. Perhaps he was near the South Pole, and this journey would be over faster than he thought.
Then he realized he couldn’t feel his toes, and his fingers were turning red, obvious signs of frostbite. He needed to find shelter fast. Cliff walls rose up around him, and the only way to go was straight ahead.
Maeve ran before him, scouting out the area. After plodding along for about fifteen minutes, Cole began to hear music, played from a flute. He felt invigorated, and began to run through the snow, Charizard following quickly.
He came to an opening in the canyon, and saw an old man sitting on a rock. There was an Abra sleeping next to him. The man finished playing his flute, and then began to sing in a cracking voice, “An old man by the seashore, at the end of day, gazes the horizon with the sea wind in his face. On a storm tossed island, seasons all the same, the anchor lies unpainted by the ship without a name. Sea without a shore for the banished one unheard, he lights the beacon, lights at the end of the world.”
Cole stepped forward as the man continued. “Showing the way, lighting hope in their hearts, the ones on their travels, journeys from afar.” The young man felt as though the man was speaking directly to him, and yet he had not acknowledged his presence. “This is for long forgotten, light at the end of the world. Hori-zon crying the tears he left behind so long ago.
“The albatross is flying, making him dream. Of the time before he became one of the world’s unseen. The princess in the tower, the children in the fields. Life gave it all, an island of the universe.”
“Sir?” Cole whispered hesitantly. The old man paid him no mind, merely folding his hands over his white beard.
“Now his love’s a memory, a ghost in the fog. He sails one last time, saying farewell to the world. Anchor to the water, the seabed far below, wood under his feet and a smile beneath his brow…
“This is for long forgotten, light at the end of the world. Horizon crying the tears he left behind so long ago… so long ago…”
The old man tapped out a small rhythm on his knee to conclude the song. Then, he looked at Cole with piercing blue eyes. “Well, come on then, foolish lad. Don’t stand there in the cold.”
“It’s Gandalf!” Athena whispered. Cole had to agree. The man wore a white cloak, had a white beard, and the same eyes. There was even a carved ash walking stick lying against the rock beside him.
“Gandalf?” the man laughed. “Hardly.”
“You can understand her?” Cole cried.
“Of course, lad. Now, come to my home, for I can see you are cold.” The old man turned to his Abra. “Newton, can you take us?”
The Abra nodded. “Aaaaah.” There was a quick flash and a feeling of vertigo, and then all of a sudden, Cole was in a wood cabin with a crackling fire. The old man went to a rack of wood by the fireplace and threw on two logs. Then, he went to a small wood-burning stove and set a kettle on to boil.
“Sir?” Cole asked hesitantly. “Just who are you?”
The man glanced over his shoulder. “Name’s Prospero.”
“Like from The Tempest?” Cole asked with a smile.
“Yeah. Everyone says that. ‘From The Tempest?’ Bah!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend.”
“No matter. Just call me Magnus.” The man turned and pulled two mugs out of a cupboard.
“Not ‘the dread wizard, master of a full poor cell’?”
Magnus turned and smiled. “Ah, you know your classics, boy! How about this one?” He cleared his throat. “He who stands by my side is my brother, and I will die among my brothers this day.”
Magnus smiled. “I think I’m starting to like you, boy. Why’d you come out here to the Sinjoh Ruins?”
Cole sat bolt upright. “Is that where I am?” His mind was racing. The Sinjoh ruins were very far north, located on the Johto side of a small land bridge that connected the Tojoh Continent with southwestern Sinnoh. That was halfway around the world from where he’d been this morning! Still, it made sense that it was darker here, but Cole’s C-Gear read eleven o’clock, just like Magnus’s wall-mounted analog. So he had traveled twelve time zones in a heartbeat…
Magnus raised an eyebrow. “You seem surprised. But the Sinjoh ruins are the only reason anyone would come out here.” The kettle started to whistle. Magnus leapt up, showing remarkable dexterity, and jumped to the stove.
He poured a steaming liquid into the two mugs, and pulled out a pokéball. “Miranda, take this to our guest please.”
There was a flash of light, and a Liligant appeared. She took the second mug and brought it to Cole. Then, she moved to a small flowerpot on the windowsill, and began to water it with a tiny tin watering can.
Cole took a tentative sip. “This is delicious!”
Magnus smiled. “Hot chocolate, made from milk, with some melted peppermint. A special family recipe. Perfect for a cold day in the mountains.”
If you had told Cole, who earlier today had been in a humid jungle far to the south, that he would be drinking hot chocolate in the mountains later, he would have laughed. But now…
“You have a Liligant. Those aren’t native to this hemisphere.”
“I traveled quite a bit in my youth. Ariel is good at keeping the place in order. It’s Caliban you have to watch out for. Miranda, where’s Caliban?”
There was a clatter from an adjoining room, and a bundle of what appeared to be white fuzz shot out, whizzing around the room. “Caliban!” Magnus roared. “You’ll be pinched for this!”
Cole smiled. Magnus took his namesake seriously, naming two of his pokemon after Prospero’s island companions. He wondered if there was a pokemon named Gonzalo hiding out somewhere. Magnus returned the Whimsicott to its pokéball, and sank back in an easy chair. “So tell me, traveler. How did you come to be here?”
“Cole. My name is Cole.” The young man sighed. “I don’t really know how. You probably won’t believe me but… this morning, I was far south of the Unova region, in a jungle. My pokemon and I were exploring some ruins, looking for a clue about Keldeo. We went far underground, and found a chamber with what looked like a gate. The gate lit up, and sort of… sucked us in I guess. The next thing we knew, we were here.”
Magnus smiled. “Ah. You found the Ancient Gates. Yes, it has been some time since they were last activated. You’re looking for Keldeo, you say? The pokemon that lives at the Edge of the World? Well, you won’t find it by flying there. You’ll have to pass through the Gates.”
“How do you know?”
“Boy, you don’t get to be my age without learning a few things.”
Cole scowled. “I never heard of these... Gates. And I’ve met with some of the most prolific archaeologists alive, and I’ve made a study of ancient architecture. So how is this new to me?”
“Because the Gates only show themselves to those who are worthy, and at the right time,” Magnus replied. “They’ll take you to where you need to be, even if it takes a while. Now, rest here for the night. Tomorrow, I’ll take you to the ruins, and then we can figure out where you go next.”
“But I don’t really…”
“Boy, if you came all this way, you should at least see the only thing in these mountains.”
Because Cole still was operating on Unova Standard Time, he was not tired. To him, it was midday, while for Magnus it was the middle of the night. He and Athena lay awake on a sleeping pallet in the main area of Magnus’s cottage.
Finally, they dropped off into deep, dreamless sleeps. They awoke some time later as Magnus bustled about the kitchen, preparing a quick breakfast. The gray dawn light of the mountains flickered trough the window.
Magnus smiled. “Ah, you’re awake! Good! Here, take these,” he said as he pushed a pair of worn leather boots to Cole.
“The boots I have are fine.”
“For trekking through foothills and forests, sure. But they won’t do any good in the snow. Can’t have you getting frostbite.”
Cole grudgingly put on Magnus’s old boots, and ate a quick breakfast with the man. He introduced him to Athena, and the old man’s blue eyes lit up when he saw the legendary pokemon. Athena took an instant liking to him.
Magnus led them out of the cabin and down a short, winding trail to a cave hewn from the rock face. It was decorated with megalithic art of Dialga and Palkia on each side, and an Origin Form Giratina on top. The Giratina was flanked by what appeared to be renderings of Lugia and Ho-oh. Everything was very geometric, with distinct angles and planes.
The old man in his white cloak led Cole into the building and lit a torch mounted on the wall. He used the torch to ignite several braisers around the altar.
Cole examined the circular etchings on the floor, which appeared to be an artistic rendering of the signature patterns of the Sinnoh Trio. They formed a triangular shape, with a large gap in the middle.
“It was said,” Magnus murmured, “that Arceus appeared here in ancient times to guide the first people from Sinnoh into Johto. And he would continue to appear here in times of great need.”
“Arceus won’t be appearing anywhere for a long time,” Cole whispered back.
“You speak as though you know Him.”
Magnus raised an eyebrow. “You’re no ordinary trainer, are you Cole?”
Cole shook his head. “Does the term Firebrand mean anything to you?”
Cole breathed a sigh of relief, though he wasn’t sure why. It was nice to have a chat someone who didn’t expect him to be a war hero. “Oh. No reason.”
Magnus smiled wanly, and walked up to the altar. The patterns on the ground glowed slightly as he passed. Cole let out a strangled cry. “Don’t worry about it,” Magnus admonished. “They always do that. Some primitive mumbo-jumbo. Come on, there’s something you need to see.”
He led Cole to an alcove across the cavern, dominated by shadows. He laid his hand on the wall. “This should have been where you needed to come.”
Cole realized with a start that this was one of the obsidian Gates. But this one had crumbled somehow, it’s top fallen off and the stonework chipped. “What do I do now?”
Magnus shook his head. “I’m afraid you have no choice but to go over the mountains, into Sinnoh. There are several gates there, gates I remember from my own journey through them. There is one near the Oreburgh entrance of Mt. Coronet. If you follow this path through the mountains, you will arrive near Canalave City. I’ll have Caliban guide you.”
“Thanks, but I can just fly on Charizard.”
“I wouldn’t,” Magnus replied sternly. “The wind currents through the mountains, especially at this time of year, are treacherous. You may end up dashed on the slopes. No, better you travel on foot. It will take longer, but it is far safer.”
Cole nodded. “All right. We’ll set out immediately.”
The old man placed a hand on Cole’s shoulder. “Newton, my Abra, can get you a fair distance away.” The yellow creature appeared at his side with a slight pop. “From there, Caliban will guide you to Canalave City.”
Magnus fingered Caliban’s pokéball. “Cole, before you leave… I have a question. It's customary for a traveler to be asked a riddle before each leg of his journey. You know this, correct?”
Cole nodded. “Of course. Ask away.”
“What’s more important? The body? Or the soul?”
The younger man paused for a moment, considering the question. “It depends on who you ask. Someone who is terribly ill or hurt will say the soul; because when they die they will be released from pain. But a man about to die for the sake of his spirituality will say the body, because he realizes how terrible it will be to lose it, and the fragility of his mortal shell.”
“Good answer. Newton, take them away.”
There was a rush of air and a feeling of vertigo as the Sinjoh Ruins fell away.
Author's note: Magnus's song is actually The Islander by Nightwish.
This may sound harsh from someone who has praised your work for a while, but I can't help but feel this fic is acting as a device to demonstrate your literary knowledge. I feel it would work better if the references were subtle and not paid any heed most of the time, especially the LOTR stuff (and not just because I don't get it) - it seems a bit hastily thrown in for filler if I'm perfectly honest. Just sayin'
I can see what you mean, but keep in mind that this is very much the beginning. The LOTR stuff was to help set the adventurous tone, and each character sort of represents a different literary or musical trend, and that representation reflects the world around them. Magnus, for example, represents classic literature and imposes that aura to the world (for example, having pokemon named after shakespearean characters, historical figures of mythological beings). When I start adding more characters (like crossovers from my other stories) they will add to the story a more modern fantasy twist.
Music is not represented as much, Masamune being the only good example thus far. He represents the classical, European music, as a counterpoint to the very japanese design of Samurott.
I have another character planned that will also showcase a different brand of music, and the action will start up very soon. I'm treating this fic pretty much as a sandbox, to try new things in. Once the foundation is in place, the rest will start to become clear.
“You know,” Athena said as Cole picked his way across the rocky mountain pass. “I was thinking earlier.” Caliban, Magnus’s Whimsicott, had left them the evening of the first day, after they had been teleported out of the Sinjoh Ruins valley. They had traveled three more days after that.
“You don’t say,” Cole replied rather absently. He grinned at Scathatch, who loped alongside. “Alert the presses. Athena’s started thinking.”
Scathatch barked out a laugh. Athena scrunched up her nose. “Hey! That’s mean!”
“All right, you. What were you thinking about?”
Athena spread her arms wide. “We’re the Fellowship!” Cole had finished the Lord of the Rings saga as they traveled, calling out all his pokemon so they could listen. They all had been enthralled by the tale, and all of them were incredibly sad when it ended.
“There are only seven of us. The Fellowship had nine members.”
“Well, whatever. Still, it’s easy to figure out. Charizard is Aragorn, Masamune is Boromir, except he’s not dead, and Thor is Legolas, and Maeve is Gimli, you know, because she’s short.”
“You’re one to talk.”
“Well, I can’t be Gimli, because I’m Frodo. And Scathatch is Eowina…”
“Eowina wasn’t part of the Fellowship. She was the niece of the king of Rohan.”
“But she met the Fellowship.”
“She met Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli.”
“Close enough. Besides, there were no other girls, and Scathatch isn’t going to be Smeagollum.” Athena hadn’t understood the concept of Gollum and Smeagol being two personas in one body, so she referred to them as one being with a combined name.
“So am I Smeagol?”
“Smeagollum. Say it right. And no. You’re Sam or something. Or you can be Merry or Pippin if you want. Or maybe Treebeard, because you’re tall, and hobbits ride on your shoulder.”
Cole laughed. “Maybe it’s best if you don’t think anymore!” Athena stuck out her tongue, pretending to be angry. They continued down the mountains, and camped that night in the foothills. Charizard did an aerial sweep, and relayed through Athena that a forest was a few hours journey on foot to the northeast, and he could dimly make out the lights of a city, probably Canalave.
The Firebrand called out Masamune, and reclined against the Samurott’s body. “I’ve never asked you, Masamune. What do you want to do? In your life, I mean.”
Masamune blinked in surprise. “Well… I suppose the only thing I want is beyond my reach.”
“What are you talking about?”
Masamune laughed sheepishly. “It will sound stupid, I assure you.”
“No, no! Tell me!”
The water type sighed. “I… I really want to learn how to play piano. I like listening to all the classical music on your iPod, and want to play it. But I can’t because, number one, I don’t have fingers, and number two, even if I did, my paws are too big.”
Cole thought for a moment. “You know… I think there is a way you can play piano.” Masamune made a cry of surprise. “Yeah, yeah, hear me out. There’s a big toy store in Castelia City, F. A. O. Schwartz. I’ve seen it on TV. They have this big balcony that overlooks the store, and on the balcony there’s a huge electric keyboard, so big you have to step on the keys to play!”
“And I could play that!” Masamune said, suddenly excited.
“Next time we’re in the city, I’ll definitely take you. Athena will like it too, and so will the other younger pokemon.”
Masamune smiled, and then decided to fall asleep. Cole was sure that he dreamt of giant pianos.
The next morning, Cole decided that they were far enough from the mountain currents to fly. He and Charizard soared over a long hilly expanse, surrounded on both sides by raging seas.
When they passed over a forest clearing, Cole had Charizard land, so they could continue the rest of the way on foot. Cole called out all his pokemon, and they walked along a crystal clear stream that sliced through the dense forest.
Burmy, Starly, Staravia and Aipom greeted them from the trees, while Buizel, Finneon and Lumineon leapt through the stream. Masamune surged through the water, Athena and Maeve on his back, sending up an iridescent spray.
Charizard, Scathatch and Thor walked at Cole’s side. Once, Scathatch jumped in abject terror as a Bidoof appeared around the side of a bush. According to Masamune, she had thought it was a much larger, more fearsome opponent. Maeve laughed uproariously that a mere Bidoof could reduce the normally unshakeable Scathatch to a frightened pup.
Cole remembered his friend Xander telling him about a truly powerful, nigh-on unstoppable Bidoof that had been a part of the Battle of Floraroma Town some years previous. With a smile, he comforted Scathatch, reminded Maeve that any pokemon, even a Bidoof, could become powerful if they worked hard.
As evening set in, they were still trekking through the forest. Cole didn’t mind, and switched out of the old mountain boots Magnus had given him, into his own more comfortable shoes. As the sunlight disappeared behind the budding trees, Cole and his pokemon began to look for a place to camp.
Athena squeaked, and pointed to an orange glow in the darkness of the trees. Knowing that probably meant there was a fire, and a campfire at that, Cole recalled Thor and Masamune, because they were not native to this hemisphere. He turned to Scathatch.
“Do you want to go for an illusion? Or take a rest?”
Scathatch sniffed, and motioned to her pokéball. Cole smiled. “All right. You’ve traveled a lot these past few days. You’ve earned it.” There was a flash of red light, and the Zoroark disappeared into her pokéball. Athena jumped into Cole’s backpack, leaving him with only Maeve and Charizard accompanying him.
Cole licked his lips, and approached the campfire. He had been away from civilization a long time, about two weeks, maybe three. He’d lost track of time. But in the back of his mind, Cole hoped he wouldn’t be recognized as the Firebrand, by whoever these people were.
As he approached, he saw that it was indeed a roaring, crackling campfire. Around it sat seven people, all about his age. Three were female, and the other four were male. Each of them had a pokemon with them, standing attentively at their side or reclining at their feet.
Cole intentionally stepped on a small branch, making a crack to alert them to his presence. One of the males, who had long, dark hair, looked right into Cole’s eyes. “Who goes there?” The Umbreon at his side bared its teeth, and Cole noted that it’s markings were not the traditional yellow, rather, they were blue. A shiny, then.
“Um… it’s me. Cole.”
"Is he a threat?"
“No,” said a girl sitting next to him. She pushed some hair out of her eyes, pinned it back with a comb, and resumed petting her Pikachu. “Lucian, you really need to stop being so paranoid.”
Another young man, this one with dark brown hair and eyes that seemed to glow gold in the firelight, smiled at Cole. “Hey there, traveler. Share our fire for a bit.”
Cole took a seat on the log next to him. Charizard knelt alongside him, while Maeve squeezed in between Cole and the other boy. “Thanks… um…”
“Nick. Nice Charizard.” He ran a hand through his Flareon’s fur. “Say hi, now.”
The Flareon made a contented sound, looked up at Cole, and smiled. “Fla!”
“Thanks. Charizard and I have been through a lot together.”
The girl sitting next to Nick finished tying her auburn hair back into a ponytail, and scratched her Vaporeon behind its ear-fin. “My name’s Anna. Nice to meet you Cole.”
Cole smiled back. She reminded him of Ammy a little bit. They both had the same athletic, swimmer’s body, and had a Vaporeon for a companion. Anna’s shirt was blue, adding to the comparison. It also helped that she was rather pretty.
A girl on the other side of the fire leaned forward. “What brings you out here?” She had a Ralts on her lap. “I’m Kim by the way.”
Cole shrugged. “I’m just doing a little soul-searching. How far is it to Canalave?”
“Not far,” said a boy, a little younger than the rest. He sat on the ground, pillowing his head in the soft down of his Staraptor. “The pokemon center was full, so we came out here to camp. It’s maybe fifteen miles away.”
“That’s a long distance to come to find a campsite!” Cole exclaimed.
The boy shrugged, a little awkward when lying on the ground. “Eh. Wasn’t a big deal. We like these kinds of places. Oh, and where are my manners. Zephyr’s the name. Pleased to meet you. Want an autograph? You’ll be the envy of women everywhere!”
The girl with the Pikachu bopped Zephyr on top of his head. “Be nice. And rather, it would repulse women everywhere.”
“Ah, Lexa, what do you know about what women want? I mean, you’re with Seithios, for Arceus’s sake!”
“Well, I’m a woman for one,” Lexa replied curtly.
“And what’s wrong with me?” a young man with blonde curls and coffee colored skin growled, cracking his knuckles. An imposing Rhydon behind him rolled its shoulders back.
“Uh… nothing!” Zephyr said, trying to save himself from a beating. “Nothing at all! Seithios is great! Awesome! Lexa’s taste is impeccable.”
Seithios sank back. “Thought so.”
Cole glanced at the young man. Of the group, he seemed the oldest (but not by much), about Cole’s age. “Seithios, huh? Cool name.”
Seithios shrugged. “Yeah, I guess it is. We’ve all got kind of strange names. It sort of ties us together.”
Cole looked around the circle. Except for maybe Zephyr, none of the names seemed too outlandish. Nick took pity on him. “Most of us shorten our names to prevent confusion. My name is actually a lot longer than just Nick!”
“What is it?”
“Oh, I don’t use it that much. It doesn’t matter really.” Obviously diverting the point, he nodded to Cole’s Charizard. “Looks like yours has quite a few scars. Have you been pushing him too hard?”
Cole looked at Charizard, who had curled up on the ground, pretending to sleep. The young man rolled his eyes and mutter, “Faker.” He turned back to Nick. “Charizard and I have been together for almost ten years. Most of those scars are really old. The most recent are from about a year and a half ago. There was some tough fighting back then.”
Nick nodded in appreciation. Cole breathed a quiet sigh of relief that no one had made the connection to the war with Team Omega. “Wait a minute,” the boy with the Umbreon, the one Lexa had called Lucian, said slowly.
Damn. Maybe Cole spoke too soon.
“He said his name is Cole, right? And he’s got a Charizard, right? I heard a coat flapping as he walked by. Someone tell me if he looks familiar.”
Cole looked across the fire and realized that Lucian’s eyes were milky white with cataracts. He was blind! Perhaps his identity was safe…
“No. Way.” Anna gasped. “You’re the Firebrand!”
Or perhaps not.
“The Firebrand!” Sethios cried. “Man, you are epic. We’re you’re number one fans! We’ve been meaning to take a trip up to the Flare Gym to challenge you!”
“I think I remember that Weavile from some TV broadcast!” Lexa cried. “Do you have anyone else with you?”
“Like Darkrai! Or your shiny Absol!” Lucian said, his aloof attitude dropping somewhat.
“How about Masamune?” Anna asked. “Or Athena?”
Athena poked her head out of Cole’s bag, hearing her name. “Ooh!” Lexa shrieked. “You’re even cuter in person!”
Athena jumped down, and strutted over to Lexa and her Pikachu, relishing the attention. Lexa scooped her up and began fussing over the Victini. Seeing no way out of this, Cole called out Masamune, Thor and Scathatch. The Zoroark tried to hide in the form of Cole’s Infernape, but soon dropped the disguise.
Lucian seemed fascinated with Scathatch, though he admitted it would be a lot cooler if he could see her actually using Illusion. Thor began posturing, looking for the entire world like a warhorse out of the Old Stories. Masamune seemed to enjoy Anna and Seithios making a scene about how strong and powerful he was.
Nick took Cole aside. “Hey, can I show you something? You’re a fire type expert, right? And an expert on legendary pokemon?”
Cole nodded slowly. “Don’t tell me you’ve got Moltres. Or Entei. Or Heatran.”
“No, no. But I’ve got… well, a strange pokemon. It’s a Charizard… kind of.” He pulled out a pokéball from his belt. “Flayme, c’mon out!”
There was a flash of light, and Cole was rather taken aback. This certainly looked like a Charizard, except that it’s coloration was a few shades lighter, and there were strange, blood red markings on it. He knew from Xander that shiny Charizards were black or indigo, so it wasn’t that. “Nick, what is this?”
Nick shrugged. “Flayme is… Flayme. He’s a Charizard, sure, and he fights, acts and behaves like one. It’s just his coloration seems unique.”
Then Cole remembered where he’d seen this before. It was in a report on Mewtwo, who had been rumored to have cloned several pokemon, including the Kanto starters. His original batch was rumored to have had odd markings all over its body.
“Nick, I think… you have a cloned Charizard. The cloned Charizard. As in, the one Mewtwo made. Where did you find… uh, Flayme?”
“The Desert Resort. Cole, I… I have amnesia. I woke up in the Desert Resort about three years ago with no idea of who I was, or how I got there. I had no pokemon, no supplies, nothing. I was wandering around aimless, dying of thirst, when I was attacked by a group of Hippowdon. Flayme swooped out of the sky to save me, and carried me to shelter. Then, he decided to come with me.
“I met my friends shortly afterwards. We’ve been traveling together ever since.”
Cole whistled for Masamune to come over. “Hey, can you ask Flayme a few questions for me? About where he came from, and what he was doing in Unova?”
Masamune nodded, and took Flayme off to one side. The clone Charizard and the Samurott talked for some time before they returned. “Flayme says that he too has no memories before meeting Nick. It was their shared amnesia that bound them together. If he was an experiment of Mewtwo’s, or the first experiment of Mewtwo’s, he doesn’t know of it. I also asked him if he knew where the other clones were. Of course, he didn’t know. He just said he wants to be like all other Charizards.”
Flayme lowered his head, as Cole’s own Charizard came over. He greeted Flayme as he would Dracoburn, a meeting of one he considered an equal. Charizard looked Flayme up and down, and then nodded. He looked at Cole and flared his wings.
Cole smiled. “Charizard wants to battle.”
“Really?” Nick asked. “Against Flayme?”
“Yeah. But here’s not a good place for a fight between fire types. We could set the whole forest ablaze. Tomorrow we’ll get to Canalave City, right? Well, we’ll have our battle there.”
Nick smiled and rubbed Flayme between the wings on the Charizard’s back. “We can’t wait.”
Seithios called from the fire. “Hey, Firebrand! Got any stories to tell?”
Cole shook his head. “Only Old Stories, legends from ancient times.”
“What about from the Omega Conflict?”
“I don’t like talking about myself. I could tell you a legend if you want.”
Kim cocked her head to the side. “Okay. Which one?”
“Have you heard the story of Prometheus?”
Lucian shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
Cole sat on the log, next to Nick. “All right, then. It’s a rather good one, if I say so myself. One of my favorites at least.
“Centuries ago, before even the Human and Pokemon War, before the One Dragon and the Unova Hero brought life and civilization to the West, humans and pokemon lived separate lives. There was a young man named Prometheus, who lived in a village in the mountains.
“One day, while out hunting, he came upon an injured Charizard. Not having the heart to end the magnificent creature’s life, he nursed it back to health. He and Charizard became inseparable companions, and the village rejoiced that they could use Charizard’s fire to cook their food. Before this, humans had a great deal of trouble making fire.
“However, now they were faced with a new problem. They could not keep the fire going. No matter how much fuel they gave the fire, it would soon go out. Arceus did not want humans to harness its power, so he took it away from them.
“Charizard and Prometheus thought this was incredibly unjust, so together they flew to Mt. Coronet, and from there, the Hall of Origin. They snuck past Arceus, and stole his Flame Plate. Then, as fast as the North Wind, they flew back to their village, and used the power of the Flame Plate to once again bring fire to humans.
“They spread this fire to other villages, and it did not take long for Arceus to discover who had stolen from him. He descended to deliver Judgment onto Prometheus, but Charizard would not allow his partner to be harmed.
“The brave dragon fought Arceus, but in the end, he lost. Still, Arceus’s heart was touched by the bond Charizard and Prometheus shared, and he allowed humans to continue to possess the power of Fire, and he worked to bring the worlds of people and pokemon closer together.
“Where did you hear that story?” Lexa asked.
Cole thought for a moment. “Celestic Town. I learned a lot of stories there, actually.”
Anna looked at her friends. “Sine we’ll be in Sinnoh anyway, we should probably go there. How about a song?”
Nick smiled. “Sure. Who wants to sing tonight?”
Anna shrugged. “I’ll do it. I proposed it anyway. Since Cole talked about the Ancient Times, I’ll sing an Old Song from my hometown, Iccurius City.”
She cleared her throat and then began to sing in a clear voice, “Riddler can you ask me why the birds fly free in the endless sky. Ask me whither the wind goes hence, and the endless stream beings. Make me guess if the earth is round, set a guessing of fantasies all unbound. If tales aren’t just for children to see, that it’s peace and sleep will walk with me.”
She pushed her hair back and took a deep breath. “All mothers beneath the earth and sky hold their children’s hands for a while, but their hearts forever, yours and mine.”
Lexa forced back a sob as Anna continued. The other members of their group all looked down at their feet. “I wonder what’s the meaning of life. What’s the use to be born then die? Make me guess who’s behind the mask of the gods above. So I’ll wish, for the kingdom to come, to know the answers you think dwell in wisdom’s sea.”
Kim murmured, “I remember the last part.” She and Anna began a duet. “Sweet ignorance is the key to a poet’s paradise. Challenge the Riddler and you will see.”
Seithios turned away. “I think that’s enough for now. Good night everyone.”
The rest of his group nodded, and began to prepare their bedrolls. Cole wondered what caused the sudden change in attitude, and suspected it was the song line about mothers. He too felt a twinge, but that was snuffed out by the wave of weariness he felt as he laid down.
He pillowed his head on Charizard’s warm flank, while Maeve reclined against him. Athena curled up in the crook of his arm. In moments, Cole sank into a deep, dreamless sleep.
If these characters aren't familiar to you, then you haven't read Blazing Heart. Shame on you. Shame, shame, shame.
Also, Anna's song is The Riddler, by Nightwish.