The great redwoods towered over Xir and his party as they approached the forest. With Balto at his side, the court advisor marched ahead of his soldiers, both worried about Ardnak and eager to end the chaos that this forest produced. The alien sounds emanating from within made the hair’s on Balto’s back stand on end, signaling his human trainer his thoughts on the place.
“I know, it’s a very dangerous place” he replied taking the second to kneel down to his pokemon. Stroking the fur back down he added, “But once we find Ardnak, we can be rid of this once and for all.”
“Besides, imagine the homes we could build with those trees,” one of his followers commented. There was further discussion on the topic though no more than a murmur on the wind to Xir.
Adjusting the weapon on his side, he took the first steps into the tree with Balto on his heels. The chimera pokemon’s ears constantly flicking back and forth at the sounds around him. Pausing once to look back at his troops, he notice the sunlight almost evaporating from sight leaving him in near darkness. Lighting torches, the soldiers followed, giving them some sort of navigational ability.
For the greater part, the party trekked through the trees. The large roots acting akin to hills on the plains, slowing their progress. Continually harassed by the strange noises coming from the trees, the soldier’s remained on edge. On one occasion, a member of the rear guard screamed out and slashed at space behind him.
“What’s the matter?” Xir asked as he backed tracked towards the man.
“I felt like I being watched for a while, sir!” the man replied, pointing his sword to the black abyss that sat just out of the torch light. “Just now I swear something licked the back of neck.” The man’s words soon traveled up the ranks setting everyone’s nerves on fire. Balto himself seemed to sense something there as well, baring his teeth in defense.
Raising his hand, Xir quickly silenced the growing unrest. “We’ll break here for a quick meal. Go in pairs and gather some wood for a small fire, but don’t lose sight of me. These trees are dense we can easily become separated.”
As commanded, the troops started to fan out. Picking up random sticks and branches, the soldiers soon gathered a sizeable pile of firewood. Meanwhile, Xir and his pokemon checked the area around them. The pokemon’s nose was alive, sniffing at almost every pebble and twig possible.
“Did you catch her scent yet boy?” Xir asked, kneeling down to his pokemon’s height. With a bark, Balto stared at patch of visible root. Inspecting it, Xir discovered that the bark was slightly burned. Looking up the trunk, he found a slash mark in the shape of a crude arrow. Smiling his commented, “For once she is using her brain for things outside of combat.”
“HELP!” one of me cried out. Turning around, Xir quickly gather his troops and ran toward the sound. It wasn’t too far off from the impronto campsite but still out of sight. Roading the tree he saw two of his men fighting off the person they came to save.
Ardnak lashed out with her usual savagery, swinging at the poor man trying to defend himself. “Ardnak, ma’am we’ve come to rescue you!” he shouted, blocking a sword swing with his own weapon. Tiamat on the other hand was busy trying to bite down on the other soldier’s legs.
Jumping into the fray, Xir blocked another attack from the myst-touched woman. “Ardnak! Come to your senses!” he shouted, looking down at her.
She didn’t raise her head as she replied, “You’re just there to put me to sleep again, aren’t you! I know you have control of this forest! You can’t trick me by faking Xir’s voice.”
Groaning, Xir shouted back, “Balto knock out Tiamat!” With a bark, the chimera rushing into tackle the other pokemon.
“You don’t dare lay a finger on her fake!” Ardnak shouted making a blind swing for Xir’s head. Predicting the move, Xir ducked underneth and slammed his clinched fist into the woman’s gut. Spitting out some mucus, she slumped over his fist, passed out.
With a sigh of relief, Xir hoisted the woman over his shoulder before shouting, “Tiamat! Heel!” His deep voice startled the pokemon, making her slowly turn to look at him. Meeting his eyes, the pokemon’s hostile expression quickly soften as it leapt over to him and into his arms. Sighing once more, Xir exclaimed, “Let’s head back to camp and wait for her to wake up.
Ardnak awoke to the smell of ash. Sniffing as she sat up, she mumbled out loud, “Tia? Did you set the woods on fire?”
“No, but we might have to in order to escape it,” Xir replied with his curt tone.
Snapping her eyes open, she stared at the court advisor as well as the gather troops he had brought with him.”So you were real,” she said patting the big guy. “How long have you guys been in these woods?”
“Since about midday,” Xir replied handing her a piece of jerky, “Was busy with clearing out the rest of the ghost in the town.”
“Glad to know that is taken care of,” She replied tearing into the dried meat. “So what’s the plan now?”
“To get out,” He replied bluntly, “But I’m guessing that is harder than it sounds.”
“Seeing how I didn’t get myself out already? Yeah. There is something in here keeping me trapped.”
“We’ll have to find it then, whatever it is,” Xir replied, standing up and brushing himself off. “For now rest up. We’ll track the thing down in the morning. I’ll take first watch.”
Morning came with the dew and with it, the urge to press on. Letting their pokemon take the lead, Ardnak and Xir lead their troops through the woodlands. The two dog like pokemon worked their noses overtime, sniffing every rock and stick they passed. The dampness of the morning added a extra layer of fog to the dense forest, forcing the men to hold a rope to prevent anyone from seperating from the group.
Reaching the top of one large root, the party was greeted with sunlight peeking through the trees. “Did we make it out?” one of the soldier’s asked as news of the change moved down the ranks.
Not taking chances Xir and Ardnak both turned to their followers. “This could be a traps, be on your guard,” Xir stated.
“Yeah, whatever this thing is, it has control over the trees,” Ardnak added.
Inching up to the source of light, they found a clearing. It was no bigger than the training yard back at the castle, but it was a welcome sight for the lost. Some began to shed some of their armor to relax while others just collapsed in the warm sunlight.Balto and Tiamat quickly began playing with each other, enjoying the sunlight as much as the humanoids.
Their revelry was interrupted though as a mass of smoke collect in front of them. Panicking, the soldiers fled to the cover of the tree line, leaving Xir and Ardnak alone to challenge the master of the woods. The smoke condensed into a defined shape before them.
The lanky body that stretched out towered over them by nearly three times their size. Its legs added to its height, being long and thin, seemingly impossible to hold up the larger body. Its arms trailed out of the main body, ending with a claw with nail shaped like sickles. The glowing red eyes that Ardnak remember all too well beamed down at the two of them with anger and hate clearly visible.
The wild general took a step back out of fear and shielded her eyes. Xir on the other hand, trembled at the creatures presence. “So this is the master of these woods?” he asked finding his voice.
“Yeah,” Ardnak simple replied. Drawing her weapon, she pointed it at the creature with more staged bravado than expected. “This is the thing we need to take out to escape!” Nodding in agreement, Xir drew his own blade and called their pokemon to their side.
With Balto and Tiamat at the ready, the to leaders nodded once at each other and charged with pokemon at their sides. Tiamat began the battle by spitting a stream of fire from her muzzle. The flames licking at the shrouded form, clearing away some of the smog and revealing a solid formed underneath it.
This was not unnoticed by the fighters while the reveal body was quickly covered up. Then with a scream of anger, the creature slashed forward with its claws. Ardnak and the pokemon ether jumped over or dove under the attack. Xir on the other hand, bought his weapon to bare and blocked the blow. Being cast aside he got himself on his feet and shouted, “Disable its arms!”
Unsure of what to do Balto summoned several small rocks around himself before firing them off. The stones faded into the smoke and produce no sound whatsoever. Despite no visible damage, the creature did turn its gaze toward the smaller pokemon and brought its claw down. The attack barely missed, leaving Balto breathing hard as he watch several of his hairs off his tail float to the grass below.
Seeing a chance Tiamat rushed over and used her long body to wrap around the embedded talons. Despite still having a free claw, the action enraged the creature even more, swing his trapped claw around, hoping to dislodge the chimera. In response Tiamat tightened her grip even more by biting down on her own tail.
Ardnak took advantage of the monster’s distracted state and jumped at one of its legs. Her blade sliced clean through but with no blood or cries of pain. In fact she watch as the leg reformed itself before batting her away.
Recovering from the attack she shouted, “Our weapons aren’t doing anything!” Then her thoughts reeled back to Tiamat’s first attack and how it revealed the creature’s body. “Tiamat, heel!”
Watching the chimera detach itself, Xir asked, “What do you have planned!”
“Cover Tiamat!,” Ardnak replied watching the creature flex its freed claw, “I think she is the only one that can harm it!” With a nod of understanding, Xir positioned himself next to Ardnak while Balto stood before them both. Behind them Tiamat reared her head back and prepared another flamethrower.
“I hope this works,” Xir commented as the master of the woods prepared another attack.
“Me too,” Ardnak replied as Tiamat unleashed her flamethrower on the creature..