Hey, I'm gonna post in this fossil, kay?
Chapter One: Forest Fire
Rikki slept badly that night.
His head was still ringing with Hades’ insults. Family neanderthals? Our clan killed, by the ‘will of Giratina’?
Rikki just couldn’t believe that any Legendary – even the one in charge of guarding the Gates of Death – would do something like that. Would they?
Then again, Arceus had been the one who had banned Giratina to the Reverse World – the Netherworld, Underworld, whatever you’d like to call it – just because he was powerful. Drakivortek from the far-off Eos Region strove to swallow the sun. Zekrom and Reshiram fought constantly, and Groudon and Kyogre were no better.
Rikki shook himself. This wasn’t a way to be thinking.
“The Legendaries are here for a reason,” Rikki’s father had told him once when he was young. “They are here to protect and guard us. And when they can or will not do their job on their own, we are here to remind them of their duties.” Rikki had been very young then, so he’d just nodded and asked very politely if he could play in the forest. But now…
Now Rikki was just confused.
I need some night air to clear my head.
Rikki stood up, stretching on all fours in the cramped space. As the clan leader’s son, he slept in a den with some of the more important Zors, and he didn’t want to disturb them. Almost silently he managed to slip out of the den, into the cool midnight. With the moon shining down and reflecting off the cliffs, it was almost as bright as day. Rikki stood on the ledge and breathed in the cool scents.
“Hi, Rikki,” called a soft voice. Rikki turned his head, surprised, to see a young female Zoroark standing at the entrance to the clearing.
Rikki felt his face heat up. “Oh… Hi, Neya.”
Neya beckoned him over. “Come out here. This is odd.”
Rikki nodded and loped easily across the clearing to Neya’s side – the side of the night sentinel. She pointed at a spot just above the trees. “Look, Rikki,” she whispered, “look at all the birds.”
Rikki frowned. A large amount of bird Pokémon were flying around just above the canopy, very near the clearing. He caught a glimpse of small, rectangular wings and an obnoxiously big beak. A Pelipper…? He could also see a faint smudge of orange light, even though it was nowhere near sunrise.
Suddenly a gust of wind blew, sweeping the leaves towards the clearing. The birds screeched in alarm, and Rikki almost did the same as the smell hit his nostrils.
“Pretty weird, don’t you think?” Neya was asking – she obviously hadn’t caught the scent. But Rikki didn’t hear her question; he turned and howled.
“Smoke!” he barked. “Fire! FIRE! The Forest is burning!”
Sleepy heads poked out of the cliff crags. “What?” asked a bleary-eyed Zorua with pup-fuzz still rimming her face.
“FIRE!” Rikki repeated, and at that second a loud crashing filled the forest. Rikki whirled to see that a blazing tree had crashed near the clearing’s entrance.
Instantly the clearing erupted like a disturbed Ainto-hill.
“RUN!” screamed a voice.
“Get the children out!” a mother wailed.
“Arceus, help us!” a warrior moaned.
“CALM YOURSELVES!” Mayerzor bellowed, leaping into a tall tree. “To panic is to die! We must keep order! We must –”
He broke off with a curse as the branches he stood on snapped. Mayerzor leaped, landing with a yelp of pain on the rocks.
“Dad!” Rikki cried. He was about to run for his father, but the old Zoroark stood, shaking himself off.
“Get the pups out!” the clan leader called. “We must save the pups!”
Rikki raced towards the lowest cave in the cliff, one of the largest. He dove into it to find a mother Zoroark frantically trying to carry all four of her mewling babies.
“Rikki!” she whirled, gasping. “I need you to carry two, Rikki!”
Rikki nodded, holding out his paws. “Give them to me, Starcross.” She nodded gratefully and plopped the wiggling children in his claws. Rikki burst out of the hole with Starcross following behind.
Most of the Zors in the clearing were already gone, with only a few of the older warriors searching dens. One of them, a large male with a missing eye, turned to Starcross as they made for the exit. “Is everyone out of the nursery?”
“Yes,” she breathed.
Rikki looked around. The flames had spread; orange firelight now made the rocks glint instead of silver moonlight, giving the world a high contrast. Rikki held the pups tighter to his chest as they wriggled; they seemed to calm down when they could nestle in his puffy chest fur.
“Be quiet, brats,” he muttered, hoping that Starcross couldn’t hear, “I’m saving you.” He looked at the camp entrance. Flames were felling trees all around it; the ancient trunks were smoldering, far too hot to touch. A few warriors milled about it anxiously. One of them was growling, “Wish I could learn a Giratina-condemned Water Move!”
“Where’s Garen?” called Mayerzor. Rikki knew what he meant; the ancient shaman knew Rain Dance, which would have helped them greatly.
“We can leap the logs!” Rikki urged. “We have to do it now, before any more of them pile up!” to demonstrate, he hooked both pups under his left arm and used his right paw to propel himself in a three-legged run. He dashed out of the clearing and into a tunnel of blinding light and dizzying heat, leaping up into the air with all his might. He rolled out into an untouched section of grass, sparks flying from his mane. Rikki checked the pups; they hadn’t been hurt by the fall.
Starcross leaped out next, landing on three paws in the same way Rikki had been running. However, she skidded on the grass and stumbled, falling gracelessly on her chin and skidding to a halt. Her pups whined and yelped under her arm.
“Are you all right?” Rikki asked. She looked up at him to answer, but her words were drowned out by an ear-splitting crash. Rikki whirled, cursing, to see that a huge tree was falling practically on top of the clearing. He heard his father shout, “NO!”
And then the tree fell, landing with a deafening thud and making the earth vibrate beneath Rikki’s and Starcross’ paws. A conflagration of glowing orange sparks twisted into the sky before winking out like fickle Illumise.
Rikki gasped. “Father!”
“I’m all right!” Rikki let out a breath of relief at Mayerzor’s call. “We’re all okay! However, you must leave us!”
“What?” Rikki called. “Father, no
! I can’t leave you!”
“You have to, Rikki!” snarled Mayerzor. “Go… we’ll be fine.”
Rikki felt Starcross lay a paw on his shoulder. “Come on, Rikki… we have to save ourselves, and let your father save himself.”
Rikki felt tears well in his eyes. “But how are they all… how can they escape?”
“Your father and those warriors are tough,” Starcross assured, “and they have a chance. We have to leave now, however, or the smoke will kill us.”
Rikki turned away. He tucked the pups further under his arm. “Fine,” he growled, and began to run.
They were silent from then on. They dashed through the flames and smoke, coughing and gagging from the noxious fumes and feeling nauseous from the extreme heat. Rikki’s pads acquired numerous stubs, scrapes, and burns, but he didn’t care.
“Go! We’ll be fine… What kind of warrior was Rikki? He’d left his father, his clan chief, alone with four other warriors; he’d left them alone to perish in smoke and flames. He was nothing, lower than dirt, lower than an Ekans’ belly.
Tears escaped from the corners of Rikki’s eyes. I’m sorry!
Suddenly, there was the sound of cracking bark and wood. Rikki and Starcross stopped – foolishly – to see a pillar of orange motes spiral up into the air, stemming from a thick oak tree. A second later, the tree released a huge, menacing noise and began to fall. Rikki leaped to the side, but Starcross began to frantically scamper backwards.
! NO!” Rikki howled, engendering vengeful squeaks and yips from the pups. Starcross seemed oblivious to the looming shadow that was rapidly growing over her – she had stumbled and was now laying on the ground, the puppies beside her, and staring with blank eyes up at the falling tree. The Zorua babies began to wail and crawl blindly in Rikki’s direction.
No. No! NO!
Rikki was frozen the same way Starcross was. Time seemed to slow as the tree fell, blazing.
Time seemed to slow until Starcross’ scream cut the air.
Her body was crushed under the tree; Rikki could see that instantly. However, he still rushed forward. He had to see the damage for himself.
A thin trail of blood oozed out of Starcross’ mouth. Her teal eyes were glazed, staring sightlessly into the sky as the conflagration of flames burned her home to the ground. The rest of her body was lost under the ancient trunk.
Rikki felt as if the ground was being torn out from beneath his paws – Starcross was not his mother, but she had been his friend, and she had been one of the firmest roots in his young life.
Rikki thought desperately. He looked up at the sky and shuddered, scooping up the other pups. He was dimly grateful for them and he knew without knowing that if they hadn’t have been there, vulnerable and needing him, he would not have been able to go on.
But as he stood up, straightening, he realized that there was no way for him to go on. The clearing was enveloped by the blaze on all sides. He could swear he heard a mocking voice come through the flame.
“Zyqm emc coi, duukr,” the voice whispered, deep and malevolent. “Sumofgs auy ekk coi.*”
Rikki crumpled, despairing again. He could feel the smoke and heat filling his lungs like a poison, and he knew his body couldn’t take much more of the fumes. The pups had stopped squirming and were now just moaning.
How could I have hoped for escape when all the others died?
... So this is what happens... This is how life ends.
The screech of a bird Pokemon brought Rikki’s mind back somewhat. He opened his eyes and saw a hazy white shape descending through the smoke. As it drew nearer, Rikki realized that it was a Pelipper.
The huge-beaked bird hovered above him, its black eyes wide. “Are you alive?” it asked rather Mareepishly.
“I dunno,” Rikki grunted honestly.
The Pelipper clucked to itself, then winced as it heard the sound of a falling tree above the din of howling and crackling flame. “Here,” it said, bending down towards the pups with its beak open.
“No,” Rikki growled. “They die with me, not in a Pokemon’s belly.”
“I’m no Sharpedo
!” the Pelipper assured anxiously. “I just want to help. You can ride on my back, and I can carry the pups in my mouth. Please? They’ll die if I don’t and so will you.”
Rikki hesitated; perhaps it wasn’t over. “Their mother died tonight,” he whispered, moving his arm off the limp furballs. “If you hurt them...”
“I won’t,” the Pelipper promised gravely. It opened its bill wide and gently scooped the babies up. They disappeared into the great red-lined cavern.
“Now...” It squished itself down a bit farther. “I can make a ramp with my wing, but you’ll have to climb on yourself.”
Rikki gave a little grunt, then scrambled up. The Pelipper’s wing wasn’t a good incline, but the Pelipper managed to hold it stiff and Rikki managed. He slung a leg over the feathered back, wrapped his claws around the odd bump that formed the bird’s forehead, and clung.
With a whoosh of wings, the Pelipper took off. The white feathers became swishes in the flames to Rikki’s tired eyes, with the rounded blue feathers at the end distant smudges.
They may have flown for seconds or days and Rikki wouldn’t have known any different. One moment the steady rhythm of the Pelipper’s wings was mesmerizing him, the next the flames were running out and the bird was descending.
There was a sudden burst of cool. The world became far more vibrant in color, so that Rikki could see the humans and Pokemon directing massive amounts of water at the conflagration. He could see more clearly, the heat was gone, and the air... Oh, sweet Arceus, the air!
It was cool with night and it cut at Rikki’s throat, but it was beautiful and it cleared Rikki’s head, firing panic and the will to live. It took him a few seconds to realize what had happened: they had passed out of the smoke cloud and were now flying –and descending – through clean air.
“Just hang on,” the Pelipper told him. “We’re almost there!”
Rikki tried, but he just couldn’t. He was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and his whole body ached, especially his lungs and eyes. He could sense that the danger was past, and now he could do what he wanted most: sleep.
And sleep he did, closing his eyes so as to escape into the sweet relief of dreamless slumber.
Sorry it took so very long; it was difficult to write and with the ASBL being back and with my art life coming back and my OTHER fanfic taking up time... You get the point~?
*Burn and die, fools. Tonight you all die.
Just a little cipher~!