Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Twelve Now Posted]
Azvida returned shortly, this time without the zubat, and immediately began moving onward again. Solonn followed her with an eagerness that belied his weariness of both body and spirit, hoping that he was right in guessing that their journey was near its end. He figured that the prospect of actually meeting his father after having believed him to be dead for all these years would certainly help to take his mind off of his own physical obligations, at least for a while.
It wasn’t much longer before they reached their destination, but the relief that Solonn had anticipated would come at their arrival was dampened somewhat when he actually laid eyes upon the place itself. He and his mother now hovered at the edge of a fairly wide and deep hole. According to Azvida, this was where Grosh lived, meaning that anyone wishing to visit him would apparently have to experience quite a fall.
“All right… so exactly how do we go about getting down there?” Solonn asked, peering cautiously into the dark chasm. His question went unanswered, and when he turned toward Azvida to perhaps find out why, he recognized at once that she was deeply focused on something. Her eyes were nearly closed, letting only a sliver of blue light seep through.
A slithering, scraping noise began to emanate from the chasm then, and Solonn looked toward it to see a flat, glistening ice platform rising up through the hole. It came to a stop once it was level with the ground, and it was only then that Azvida emerged from her apparent trance.
“Move onto the ice,” she said. “I’ll lower you into the chamber that way.”
Solonn did as he was instructed at once. He set himself down upon the platform, making sure to leave enough space on it for Azvida to join him there… but Azvida did no such thing. Puzzled, Solonn turned a questioning gaze upon her, and Azvida’s eyes shifted aside awkwardly.
“I think I’d prefer to wait outside,” she said very quietly. “This time, at least,” she added hastily upon seeing the way her son’s brows drew together in what she fully suspected was disappointment. “I think that maybe this moment should be just for the two of you after all these years apart.”
Solonn saw right through her reasoning, though, and she knew it. “I’m sorry… I just don’t think things have quite healed enough between us yet. I’m not quite ready to face him again,” she admitted, “but, if you really want me to…”
Solonn held a saddened gaze upon her a moment, wishing that she hadn’t put her decision into his figurative hands like that. He rather liked the idea of having both of his parents brought together with him, a complete family once more, even if only for a short time… but at the same time, he didn’t really want to drag Azvida into a situation that might make her uncomfortable, especially after she had already had to battle her fears just to give him this opportunity.
“No, that’s all right,” he said softly. You’ve done enough for me today, he added silently with a weary heart.
Azvida smiled in response, but the expression was somewhat diminished by the sense of guilt that attended her at the moment. Nonetheless, she said nothing more and slipped back into her trance again, and the ice platform on which Solonn sat began to descend. Moments later, it reached the floor of the chasm, where it dissipated into vapor just as Solonn resumed his levitation.
The shaft through which he had descended opened into a large cavern that connected to another chamber via an imperfect archway. The room in which Solonn found himself was entirely empty, but he could hear something in the adjacent one: a rushing, rumbling sound with a distinct rhythm. He could also see something stretching clear across that room, something silver that gave off a dim glow of body heat.
Slightly gingerly, Solonn approached the metallic form in the other room. That he was about to meet his father was incredible enough to him, but the exact nature of the creature whose presence he was about to enter impressed itself upon him now more than ever. He knew of Grosh’s kind only from films—he had never encountered anything quite like him live and in person before. As he drew nearer, he began to feel a deep, very primal anxiety welling up inside him.
With a faint annoyance and only partial success, he silenced the instinct. His element isn’t important, he told himself firmly. He had always managed not to let the matter of type stand in the way of friendship before, and he was certainly not going to let it get between him and his own family.
He passed through the rough-hewn archway, and his perception was monopolized at once by the presence of the enormous creature occupying the chamber beyond. The steelix almost completely surrounded Solonn, his long, segmented body wrapped in an open ring that went nearly all the way around the stone chamber.
Grosh was fast asleep, oblivious to the presence that had just joined him. Solonn wasn’t altogether certain about the prospect of waking the steelix up, concerned that interrupting a good nap might not be the best first impression to make. At the same time, however, he was certainly eager to make his father’s acquaintance after over two decades…
Solonn remained torn between these two angles for a short time, but then Grosh stirred unexpectedly, his segments rotating lazily with an accompanying grinding noise as he stretched. Grosh’s broad head lifted slowly, and his heavy jaws opened to release a yawn whose volume and pitch made the walls and floor shudder. He opened his eyes halfway, blinking slowly with a seemingly unfocused gaze turned toward the wall.
Now that Grosh was awake, Solonn figured that he didn’t need to hesitate any longer, ignoring the instinct within him that still begged to differ with that idea. His heart racing, he drew closer to Grosh, trying to calm himself with steadying breaths as he approached. He inhaled deeply one last time, and then, “Father?” he said.
His overcharged nerves had weakened his tone somewhat, and he wondered at first if Grosh hadn’t heard him, for the steelix gave no indication that he had. Solonn watched him with bated breath and was about to try to get his attention again but then saw Grosh’s head perk up suddenly, rising almost completely to the ceiling in little more than an instant. Solonn looked up toward him and saw his father’s red eyes widen and shift his way in their deep, dark sockets, locking into his gaze.
“Hello, Father,” Solonn spoke up again, more steadily this time.
Silence hovered over the room. Then it was shattered to pieces as thunderous, positively jubilant laughter came roaring forth from Grosh’s mouth, reverberating powerfully within the chamber.
“Well, I’ll be!” Grosh exclaimed heartily in a very deep, metallic-edged voice. “Solonn, right?” he said, at which the glalie nodded. “Ah, I’d hoped to death that I’d get to see you again someday!”
Solonn couldn’t help but smile in the wake of his father’s elation at meeting him. The steelix slithered in a circle around him, looking him over. “By God, look at how you’ve grown since the last time I saw you!” Grosh said as he stopped to face Solonn again, his eyes shining with tears of pride. “To think how long it’s been since then…” He sighed wistfully. “I reckon we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, then,” he said, then gave a slightly growling chuckle.
“I suppose we do,” Solonn agreed, still smiling.
“So. What sorts of things have you been up to all this time, hmm?” Grosh asked.
“Well, not really much,” Solonn replied, “at least, not before I was found by a human.” He proceeded to give Grosh a brief, carefully edited account of events from the day that he was captured by Morgan onward that was similar to the one that he had given Azvida, still less than comfortable with the idea of discussing some of the stranger and more terrible of his experiences, still mindful that there were certain details in that story that he should probably never relate due to their connection to his linguistic abilities.
Still, he did feel a bit guilty about keeping things from someone who had waited so long just to get the chance to talk to him; he figured that Grosh at least deserved some explanation for the withheld information. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’d like to go into more detail, but… well, I’ve only just gotten away from it all. I don’t feel like I’m quite ready to talk about some of the things that happened.”
“Understandable,” Grosh said in a kindly tone. “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t feel comfortable with. Well then, I reckon it’s my turn. How about I start by telling you how your mother and I met and where I’ve been all these years?”
“Sure,” Solonn said. He was earnestly curious about those things, particularly regarding how Azvida could have gotten involved with such an unlikely person as Grosh, someone and something that he would have never expected to find in a place like this. He set himself down and looked attentively toward the steelix.
“All right,” Grosh said, settling himself back into a more relaxed position. “Now, I’ll warn you: it’s not the happiest story you’ll ever hear, but it’s the truth. Your mother and I met in a very unpleasant place after we’d both ended up in the hands of the same human, who stole us from our original captors.”
“Wait… my mother has actually encountered humans before?” Solonn asked incredulously.
“That’s right,” Grosh said. “She got caught by one when she was about… oh, ten years your junior, I believe.”
There was another thing that Azvida had never told Solonn. He found it incredible to think that she had been taken by humans at one point and had later been taken from the one who had originally caught her, just as he had. As he thought about it, though, he ceased to be surprised that she hadn’t told him of this before, figuring that it was because of that event’s connection to her involvement with Grosh that she had never mentioned it.
“Anyway,” Grosh went on, “the human who kept us made us fight pokémon belonging to the other humans in that place for hours nearly every day, and when I say fight, I mean hard. Those were rough times, and Azvida and I were each all that the other had. I looked after the poor girl, did everything I could for her, and she put all her trust in me.
“We were forced to serve that creep for quite a while, and then one morning, he decided to go and toss us into the ocean while we were in our capture balls for the night. Can you believe it?” he said with a chuckle.
“Hm… yeah, that is pretty strange,” Solonn said. “Do you have any idea why in the world he did that?”
“Well, what I suspect is that someone must have found out that he’d stolen us, and so he ditched us to get rid of the evidence. Ah, I hope that slimebag didn’t get away with it in the end, though… So. These grass pokémon found our capture balls out in the water, brought us back to their island, let us out, and told us what had happened. They also mentioned that they knew of a cave to the north where Azvida’s kind was rumored to live. We didn’t know for sure if it was really the place where she’d come from, but after her ordeal, she wanted to go back home badly enough to check this cave out. I decided to go with her just to keep an eye on her and help her stay safe… I’d come to care about her quite a lot by then.” Grosh smiled wistfully in the wake of that last statement.
“Two of the grass pokémon swam to the cave, carrying us in our capture balls, and they let us out once we were there,” he then said. “Azvida and I searched through the cave for some time, looking for signs of her home… and it was during that search that, much to our surprise, we found ourselves in possession of your egg.
“Well, Azvida had been acting strangely nervous ever since she had been told of this cave, but once the egg was laid, her nervousness easily doubled. It came to a head when we finally found the border of her homeland—that’s when I found out what it was that she was so worried about.”
Solonn averted his gaze, feeling a strange sense of vicarious guilt come over him at the thought of what his mother had done to Grosh and why. “I’m sorry for the way she treated you,” he said sincerely.
“Don’t be,” Grosh said gently. “You know you’re not at fault here, not in the least. I’m not even entirely sure it was her fault, either—the things fear can make people do… Some part of her really seemed to want me to go ahead into her people’s territory with her regardless of what anyone might think, but the rest of her was just too scared of what they might do. In the end, I agreed to leave despite how I wanted to stay—I didn’t want for you and your mother to have to live in fear of others’ hatred.
“She still felt bad about the whole thing, and she said that maybe I could sneak in sometime and see you after you were born. I took her up on that offer, but just once. I was there when you were born, but I left right after.” He drew a long, slow breath. “I was too worried about possibly causing trouble for her… and I thought it would be easier for me to endure giving you two up if I didn’t give myself much of a chance to get too attached to you,” he admitted almost voicelessly. The steelix bowed his head very deeply in shame, his long neck nearly doubling over on itself. He gave a deep, shuddering sigh, and tears began to trace the contours of his armored face as they slid toward the floor.
It was a while before either of them seemed able to speak again. Grosh remained overcome by his tears for moments on end, while Solonn was hushed by the weight of the steelix’s sorrow. Finally, “It’s all right,” Solonn said quietly. His father’s gaze lifted slowly from the floor, his eyes bloodshot and still shedding silent tears. “I don’t blame you for anything you did. I understand… you have nothing to be ashamed of,” Solonn told him.
A low, metallic noise resonated deep within the steelix’s chest, and uncertainty showed through his features. “I don’t know about that,” he said doubtfully. “I think I most definitely ought to be ashamed for not trying to get back into your life even once during all those years—especially considering that I’ve been here all this time.”
Solonn was momentarily stupefied—how in the world had a thirty-foot-long metal serpent been living in the area all this time without anyone noticing? “So… what have you been doing all this time?” Solonn asked once his wits returned.
“Oh, you’re not going to like the answer to that…” Grosh half-sighed.
“Try me,” Solonn said evenly.
“All right… all right. I knew that it was going to be damned hard to resist the urge to come back to you two, so I sent myself into hibernation here. Some desperate part of me actually thought that if I let enough time pass me by, then it’d be easier to live without you two. I should’ve known better.” He gave a sad smile. “When I finally couldn’t stay dormant any longer, your mother and you were the very first things on my mind, and when I realized how much time must have passed, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I rushed right into that warren, made a scene looking for her after I found that she no longer lived where she used to—I was so worried once about getting her into trouble, and then look what I went and did.” Grosh shook his head, growling to himself in shame. “I abandoned you both to try and protect you, only to fail you to that end. I don’t think I could ever quite apologize enough.”
“Yes, you can,” Solonn said softly. “As long as you mean it, you only need to apologize once.” He lifted himself from the floor and moved closer to Grosh until he hovered directly under the steelix’s gaze. “You have nothing to worry about,” he assured his father, looking right into his eyes with a steady gaze. “Whatever anyone thinks of you, whatever they try and do about it, I can take care of myself, and I’ll take care of my mother, too. You haven’t ruined things, Father. Your coming back into the picture was the first step in setting everything right again.”
Grosh stared silently into his son’s face for a moment, into the sincerity in those eyes. A broad grin spread slowly across the steelix’s face, and he swallowed back a fresh surge of tears. “You’re right,” he said. “There’ll always be people who’ll hold on to wicked ways no matter what we do. We can’t let them get to us anymore.”
He sighed peacefully. “Guess this is like starting over, in a sense,” he said. “I made my mistakes, she made hers, and we’ve both paid for them by missing out on the family we could have had all this time. But now… well, now it’s like we’re getting a second chance.”
Grosh’s last name… XD Of all the things I could have gone with, I went with that? Well, that was the first surname that popped into my head, and wouldn’t you know it, it stuck. X3
Next time: Virc-Dho faces something that its people have not known for generations. See you then!
- Sike Saner
Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-10-2011 at 10:40 PM.