Long... For so long...it has been cold. Why? I cannot stay here... I cannot leave...
“Long, long ago, there was nothing here. But, below the waves, deep at the bottom of the sea, something was growing. A volcano, bursting with the heat of the Earth, fought against the cold depths of the water. Every year, the glowing rock would pour forth. And every year, the volcano would grow a little taller. After a little time passed, it was close enough that the gas and steam was no longer trapped by the waves. A little more time, low tides would expose the lava still erupting. The molten rock would explode at the surface as it reached for open air. Until one day, there was such an eruption that finally let mountain burst from the waves!”
The young children that sat on the grass ooed as a Camerupt behind the storyteller let hot embers burst from his back and tumble into the nearby water. Small wisps of steam rose behind the grey-haired man sitting on a boulder. He continued as his voice rose and fell in his telling.
“Hot rock was finally able to shoot into the air. But with nowhere else to go, it was cooled instantly as it fell back into sea. Everything from pebbles to boulders tumbled down the side of the ever growing mount. Beneath the surface, waves crashed and attempted to break the volcano apart, smashing the fragile rocks and spreading them far and wide.” A Whiscash in the water created a ripple that splashed against the Camerupt to douse its embers for a moment. “But still, the fire burst forth. It would not allow the waves to break it down. For years on years, molten rock rose up from deep inside the Earth. It kept coming until...the volcano was silent. Nothing but a little ash and hot gas still rose from within the mountain.” The Camerupt had stopped the embers so that only smoke rose from his back. “Now, the outside of the volcano was too big, too strong for the waves to break apart. But, there are other ways that water battles the land.”
“Rain!” One little girl sat hugging her knees. She shrank back a little when a couple of the others snickered at her interruption.
The old storyteller though, smiled approvingly and nodded. “That’s right. Just as the volcano had grown inch by inch for so many years, when the waves could not bring it down, rain began to fall...inch by inch. The heavy walls were still too strong to be washed away, but inside, rock was weaker and water trickled deep into the smallest spaces. Cracks began to open wider as small bits of the weak rock were washed away to the sea. Many more years passed still, and perhaps there were one or two more attempts by the volcano to fight the rain. But eventually, the lava that gave its heat ran dry and the heart of the volcano was cooled for good. Rain filled the empty caldera. And then what happened?”
“We have our city!” several children shouted at once.
“Correct. We have our lovely city.” He swept his arm in a wide arc across the view of Sootopolis. “Some say it was created because of Groudon and Kyogre’s stubborn fighting, but I believe places like this come from a rare moment of cooperation. Even between enemies such a wonder can be forged.”
“But, it’s kinda sad too, doncha tink?” Everyone turned to look at the same little girl who had interrupted before. “The volcano just couldn’t fight no more. I tink it’s sad.”
“Uh oh, look out. Ellie’s gonna cry again,” one of the boys teased.
The little girl swung her head around to face him, shaking her dark pigtails indignantly. “No I’m not!”
Ellie was an intelligent child; enough so that her father enrolled her in school early. At six years old, Ellie was the youngest in the school group. Also the smallest and quite sensitive, she was an easy target for some of the older students. A couple of the boy’s friends immediately jumped in with their friend by poking fun at the girl and causing a few of the other kids to giggle. By this point, Ellie looked as if she really would start crying, but the storyteller called an end to it.
“That’s enough of that. Our story time is done for today, and I won’t have teasing because someone has different ideas. Go on back to your teacher. She’s waiting.”
All the children stood and spoke together, “Thank you, Master Kotan.”
They turned, laughing and shouting as they ran up the steps to where a young woman stood waiting patiently. All except Ellie, who still sat with arms wrapped around her knees. Kotan waved up to the teacher. Getting the message that her last student would be along shortly, she lead everyone back to the schoolhouse. The old storyteller stood slowly, his aged back bent slightly as he walked over to the little girl. He knelt down slowly to sit on the grass beside the young pupil.
“Now, why is young Ellie so upset by today’s story?”
She had managed to get her impending tears under control after the others left, but their teasing was not easily forgotten. It was something that happened often when she would offer a thought from her young and simple logic. The little girl told him that she did not want to say anymore about what had bothered her. Everyone else had decided she was silly.
Kotan smiled kindly. “Really, would I call you silly?” The girl shook her head. “And do you truly think that I might find it funny?” Another shake of the head. “Then won’t you tell me what is on your mind?”
Ellie looked up at the old man and sighed. “I tink it’s sad cause the volcano was fightin and growin for so, so long. Then the rain stopped it an it couldn’t fight no more. It’s like the volcano lost.” She turned her gaze back to the red bows on her shoes, her voice getting soft. “But the other kids wouldn’ lemme finish. They never lemme finish.”
The storyteller was quiet for a moment as he considered what she told him. When Ellie began attending his stories she quickly became one of his favorites. Despite being the youngest, she was the most attentive. She would often pipe in to add what came next, just as she had that day. There was always a question to be asked or an answer to give. And every question and answer was uniquely hers as she searched for the meaning in each story. Yes, Kotan was glad to have this young individual among his story circle. While he pondered, Ellie was beginning to feel that maybe she had
said something silly when he finally spoke up. When he did, his words were gentle and thoughtful.
“I do believe you are correct.” He chuckled at the surprise on the child’s face. “It is certainly a sad thing for something so powerful to fade. So much time went into building up the island, only for it to be broken down again. Such is the way of things in many aspects of life. But, do not allow these things to upset you. The loss of the volcano gave us this protected island to live in. Many times along the way, you will come to a point of change or loss. There will be a return of hope, even if you must search for it. Do you understand?”
She thought about what he said, her young mind attempting to find the meaning. “Bad things happen, but good stuff can happen cause of it?”
“That is correct,” he nodded.
“But,” she argued, “what bout me? What’s good bout comin here? A lot of the other kids tink I’m weird.”
Kotan’s smile softened. He understood what she was talking about having heard her story from the teacher. Ellie’s mother had passed from illness when the girl was only two. Being too young, Ellie had no memory, so it had never been a real issue for her. From the time she could remember her father had raised her alone. However, he remarried a year before and the family moved to Sootopolis shortly after. From the time they arrived Ellie had trouble acclimating to the new city and her new school. Her father believed that keeping busy would be good for her. But with so many changes all at once, Kotan and her teacher agreed that was a lot to expect from such a young girl. No matter how intelligent she might be.
“I believe that there is something good waiting for you here. You must be the one to find it. As for the others, you shouldn’t worry about them. Especially since they cannot seem to come up with anything new to pick on, don’t you think?” He had whispered that last part making a face that caused Ellie to giggle. “The others tease perhaps because they do not always understand you. You see things from a different point of view and being different can often upset people. It is a strange fact of life you will encounter again, I’m afraid. Do not allow them to break you down, child.”
Ellie crinkled her nose a second as she considered this. “You mean like the rain and the volcano?”
Kotan gave a deep laugh. “Very well put indeed! That is exactly right, dear child.”
“There’s something I like bout this place,” she said, dusting her bottom as she stood. “I get to learn from Master Kotan.”
“I am very glad. And I have the pleasure of learning from young Miss Ellie.”
“Silly! You’re too old to learn from me,” she giggled.
With a shake of his grey head, Kotan disagreed. “Most certainly not. You are never too old to learn. And the opposite is true as well. You are never too young
to teach. Just like today, I learned to see one of my oldest stories from a new point of view. So, thank you very much.”
Ellie blushed a little at the praise. She knew that grown-ups still had things to learn. Her father was a scientist after all and he was always telling her about new things he learned. To think that an adult could learn from her...she had never thought of that. Saying good-bye to Master Kotan, she ran up the steps to rejoin her class. Kotan waved after her while his Camerupt walked over with a look that seemed to ask how the old man planned to get up from his seat on the ground.
Later that day, Ellie was playing near the shrine at the center of the city. She liked going there, though she was not really sure why. Maybe it was curiosity about the Cave of Origin where only a select few were allowed to enter. There were many days that she would sit outside and wonder what might be in there or if there was a maze of tunnels where people would lose their way exploring. She was lost in thought when three older boys from her class walked by and spotted her. Not wanting to be teased again, Ellie jumped up and ran off in the direction of the cave. She heard someone yell behind her and stopped outside the entrance. The boys were hurrying in her direction to stop her going inside the restricted area when someone spotted them. An older man was coming down the hill, yelling at the three boys. He had not seen Ellie who panicked and dodged inside. She heard him tell the boys outside that they had better go home before they got in trouble. Looking around the corner, she could see him standing outside and it did not look like he was going to move anytime soon.
Taking a look at her surroundings, Ellie felt a small pang of fear. She could not go out without getting in huge trouble, but on the other hand, she was inside a dark tunnel. Glancing around the interior, she noticed a small stack beside the wall. Sitting on top of it were a set of beat up lanterns that authorized visitors had left behind. Curiosity was gradually overcoming fear. She walked over to take a look. The lanterns were all battery powered so she tried turning one on. When it worked, she looked down the passageway behind her. For a moment she considered going back out, but she had thought about going inside the cave so many times. She reasoned that since she was already inside and likely to get in trouble anyway, it would not hurt to explore a little. So, she started to walk further in.
There was not really much to be seen. In fact, she seemed to be following a single path that went deeper into the island. She was not even seeing many Pokemon. Some Zubat clung to the ceiling, but they did not seem to bother with the small intruder. Now and then she would shiver slightly, her light shirt and shorts not much protection in the cooler underground. Coming around a bend, she froze at the sound of voices and the glow of more lights at the next corner. Ellie was starting to back up when she heard one voice speak up over the others. Someone was coming! Looking around quickly, she saw a small niche in the rock. Sliding down behind the edge, she switched the lantern off. A man with dark hair came around the corner. He swung his flashlight around, frowning when there was no one there.
Somebody stuck their head around the corner. “Is it George?”
“No. There’s no one here. Strange, I could have sworn I saw a light coming.” He turned around walking back.
“Heh, maybe you’ve been down here too long, Bradley. Your mind’s starting to play tricks on you.”
Ellie did not hear the reply. She was too busy trying to get her heart under control. She had recognized Bradley’s voice immediately. More than once she had been told that the research areas were too dangerous and fragile for anyone other than his handpicked team. It was bad enough she could get in trouble, if her father had been the one to catch her sneaking around one of his research sites, she would have been restricted to the house for eternity!
Finally getting her pulse under control, Ellie decided it was time to leave. She at least had a better chance of sneaking by the guard outside. Turning on the lantern, she started to leave. Still stooped over, her lantern had revealed something that made her freeze once again. The crevice she had been hiding in was probably too small for any of the adults to really get a good look at if they had noticed it before. Right in front of her, normally out of sight, was a gap in the rock. Pushing her lantern in, she could see that it went on for some distance. Once again, curiosity got the better of her. She crawled in, noticing that the sides were smooth. Long ago, it had been a lava tube, but this was lost on the six year-old. Instead, she was more excited to see the narrow tunnel open wider ahead. Standing up, she found herself in a large chamber full of strange formations. Black rock that glittered as she moved her lantern created curls and enormous loops. In other places, black glass looked like the sugar she had seen stretched at the candy shop into long, fragile strings. She walked across the chamber, the ground crunching under foot. At the far end, there was a hollow beneath one of the big loops of black rock. Ellie lifted her lantern higher and suddenly heard a low growl.
She was so startled that she tripped when she stepped back, sitting down hard in a cloud of soot. She coughed a bit and stood to get out of the little cloud that slowly cleared. Her feet crunching in the ashes brought forth another growl. Ellie noticed that even though it was a warning, it sounded quiet and tired. After a few minutes and not hearing it again, she squared her little shoulders and walked forward. Deep inside the hollow rock flow, a large creature shrank back from the bright lantern that had suddenly flooded light into its dark home. Realizing, Ellie dimmed the light and sat it down outside the hollow. The Pokemon was dark red all over with a very squat body –though he was still much bigger than Ellie- and four squat legs. A metal plate covered his head and face, and there was a metal band around each of the legs. She had heard of this Pokemon. It was in a book.
“Heatran.” The creature ventured to open his eyes when she spoke the name aloud. “You’re a Heatran. What’re you doin in here?”
The Pokemon’s red-orange eyes were dim. When he saw the tiny human was the only one there, he let his body sink back to the ground. Ellie was watching intently. There was something different about this Heatran from the one she saw in the book. Other than his dull eyes, which should have been glowing brightly, there were no bright spots on this Pokemon’s hide. She did not realize that those bright spots were caused by the heat that burned through a Heatran’s blood, but she knew that something was wrong with this one. He was too still. She thought that maybe he might be sick. When she walked forward, the Pokemon flinched. She stopped a moment before reaching out again. There was no where for the large creature to go, and he resigned himself to the fact that he could not fight. When her hand made contact with the metal faceplate, she blinked in confusion. Maybe she could not remember everything she read, but she was certain that this was a fire type. Why was he so cold?
Then she looked around the dark chamber again and her mind returned to Kotan’s story. This had once been a volcano. Heatran were supposed to live in volcanoes. But, it had been such a long time since the volcano had poured any magma. Except that, the volcano had tried to start up several times before it fell silent. Realization dawned in Ellie’s quick little mind.
“The volcano wasn’t tryin to fight the rain. You were,” she said quietly. “You was tryin to start the volcano up again so you wouldn’ lose your home. And the water moved in an made it cold. Just like in Kotan's story. You was fightin the ocean an rain.” The Heatran seemed to understand her soft voice. Her eyes were beginning to brim with tears. “It wasn’ the volcano lost the fight. It was you. The water moved in and you couldn’ get out. And now you’ve got stuck here. I thought just the volcano lost.” She wrapped her arms around the Pokemon’s stout head. “I’m sorry. You was stuck down here alone all this time. It’s not fair you lost.”
The Heatran tried to draw back from the small person when she threw her arms around him. But...he began to feel something he had not felt in a long time. He wanted to draw it in, fearing that it would be lost again. The Pokemon began to wish that the little girl holding tight would not let go. Something sparked in his dull eyes. It had been such a long time. So long since the walls of his once burning home became cold. His attempts to save his home were lost as the volcano’s life ran out. Slowly, the cold had seeped inside, dousing the fire even that ran through his veins. Hope had been lost to the Heatran. Now, his orange eyes began to burn. It was dim, but the fire was still there. And with it came hope. Where most humans would have run or tried to capture the weakened demi-legend, he found himself happy that this one had found him. He did not know how she came to be there, but she found him. This small creature apologizing for the fate he had been dealt, a strange human who somehow understood, brought with her something he had longed to feel for so long.