Chapter 22: Hiding Out
“Well, that settles it. I’m off back to Broussard!” Nisbeth said after a lengthy and uncomfortable pause.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Melinda replied, sounding very snappy.
“That it’s my ‘duty’ or something hokey like that? That’s not going to work. Come with me if you want to live Basil; you’ll soon die or wish you were dead if you stay here.” He said while my sister rolled my eyes.
“They have most of our money. You’d never be able to afford the trip back.” She said as Nisbeth paused for a second before angrily kicking over a stool. He swore loudly before diving onto Heinrich’s old couch looking as furious as he did terrified.
“This is what I get for chasing my old dream! I should have known! It could be my last mistake…” Nisbeth said as he stared out of the dark window.
“Well, I’ve already let one person die through incompetence, but I’ll be damned if I let someone die through negligence! Gather what you need quickly; we’re going to find Audrey and Charlie and see if we can do a thing against The Devourer! Just…well, there’ll probably be no convincing you Nisbeth, so just do whatever you want.” She said, her tone slowly becoming rather spiteful.
“If you want to become a black statue, I won’t stop you.” He replied, clearly thinking about finding a good place to hide.
“We’ll need to know roughly where they are. Murphy, where about did you get separated from them? There’s a map about a minute’s walk from here.” I said. Did I want to go looking for them with The Devourer out there? Absolutely not, but if we were strong-armed into it, I’d want to do it right. No fuck-ups this time.
“I…I can’t go back there.” He replied, still looking shell-shocked from his experience.
“At this rate, this planet will get what it deserves…” My sister said, my eyes widening at such a dark gesture. “Sorry, I just…I could really use your help.”
“Ok, I’ll point it out.” The heliolisk said as he shyly lead us out of the house to the map at the street corner. This small town wasn’t as well lit as Newer Orleans, so we had to rely on Melinda using some of her flames to brighten it up.
“That’s barely more than half an hour away. Come on, no time to lose!” Melinda said, gesturing us to follow.
“Was nice knowing you Melinda…” Nisbeth responded through gritted teeth. “I’ll tell you this again: I reckon your sister will end up getting you killed at this rate.”
“It’s absolutely foolish of her, yes, but she’s my sister. She stands a better chance of surviving if I’m with her. You can figure out the rest.” I said before Nisbeth suddenly grabbed me, holding me tight to his chest as my legs dangled as my feet left the ground.
“I’ve watched too many good folk die back home! I’m not going to…let…I’m not letting you die too Basil!” He said loudly as he put me over his shoulder and started storming off in the other direction. He completely ignored my protests as he stormed towards the way we initially entered Thalnacht, muttering about a good hiding spot. I couldn’t really do anything to slow Nisbeth down, given he was twice as tall as me and at least four times as well built. I saw Murphy follow us from behind, clearly wanting no part in all of this either.
“W-wait, with what Melinda said. We won’t be getting off this continent without their money.” He said, dashing in front of Nisbeth to speak to him.
“We can think about that after The Devourer goes away. I reckon it can cross continents anyway, so it won’t stay here forever.” He responded, keeping his quick strides as we left the town. Guess now was a good a time as any to scream in his hear to get his attention.
“And do you think they’ll give us the cash if we abandon them?!” I yelled right by his head, causing Nisbeth to jump slightly in shock. “And as for getting a job to get the money, I think the employers will be more concerned about how they and their business can survive The Devourer’s plague of statues more than looking for new recruits! So, put me the fuck down Nisbeth!”
“You really are that determined to make sure Melinda’s doing fine, aren’t you.” Nisbeth said, putting me down and looking exasperated. “Reminds me of some people I knew...”
“You don’t have to go into that right now, since I’m more worried about-“ I said, but it seemed like a certain entity was more than happy to finish my sentence. A sudden loud, droning sound came out of the blue, causing us all to jump in our skin. It sounded like sort of like glass being crushed by a bin lorry underneath a murmuring groan, as if some barely conscience animals were also being squashed to a bloody mess. A sudden bright light dispelled the darkness, now much closer to us when we last saw it. It was here, and it had gotten bold.
Murphy looked like he simply had enough of it all. His entire body was trembling, even after the sudden light vanished, although his legs seemed to stand firm. Without a moment’s notice, he suddenly turned around and dashed headlong into the darkness before any of us could say a word. I wanted to follow and help him dearly, yet he was already out of sight, and there was no way I could catch up with him. Duke was hopping madly on the spot, looking like he was about to follow suit.
“There’s little cover out there. If we’re going to hide, then we’re best doing so here.” I said, wishing I thought of that earlier before Murphy ran off. I bit my slip in stress to avoid freaking out over what could happen to Murphy or my sister, but I had no clue where either of them went off to. I couldn’t control of influence their fates at all now, and the crushing feeling of uselessness started to set in. Murphy was an extremely fast runner, maybe he could simply get to safety through speed alone. Couldn’t say the same for Melinda. If I somehow get her out of this, I’ll probably have to try and convince her to do everything I say for her own safety by this point.
The town by this point had been completely overridden by raw terror. Whether they knew exactly what was on their doorstep or not, who could tell. Regardless, they could surely tell how alien it was, and that no one had a clue about how to deal with it. Pokemon of all sizes were fleeing Thalnacht in droves if they weren’t locking themselves indoors. Nisbeth had to yank me away from some of the larger stampeding pokemon, some of them causing small cracks in the poorly made road beneath them. I saw a poor cinccino get trampled in the process, and there was nothing we could do about it. It wasn’t Melinda I guess, but it was another visceral reminder just how life-or-death this world was. Still, maybe this was an opportunity of some sorts…
“Looks like they’re all going down the road Murphy went. Murphy’s much faster on his feet than almost all of those pokemon so he’ll likely be fine. The Devourer might follow that crowd instead of investigating the town. Maybe we’ll be ok.” I said in case either Duke or Nisbeth were thinking about joining the stampede. I had no idea what The Devourer was capable of in terms of finding its prey. Could it smell, see, hear or have some unknown sense to tell where potential victims were? I assumed it had to be quite fast, given it could chase Serge around the planet, but that was everything I could speculate on. I just needed the other two to trust me here. I had to scream as Nisbeth to get him in line, but I barely know Duke. Who knows what he would do.
“Behind that house!” Duke suddenly yelled dashed ahead of us, leaping right over the fence. We quickly followed, Nisbeth giving me a leg up as he pressed ourselves against the wall.
“Did you see something?” I said quietly through gritted teeth and peered through the open window. From here, I could see a small part of the street. It seemed to be much quieter now, with only a couple of people scurrying around in a panic. That didn’t concern me. What did worry me was that kadabra. It looked way too calm for what was happening right now, as if it didn’t notice anything at all was amiss. It did seem rather preoccupied however, twiddling its moustache with his left hand while looking around him, as if he was searching for something, or someone.
“See that kadabra? I think it could be one of them.” I whispered to the other two. “He doesn’t look frantic or fearful at all, so I doubt he’s looking for a loved one.” I started to put some different sorts of powder into the weapon to get it ready. I’d surely be needing this before the night is done.
“It shouldn’t be able to detect us. Only the strongest of alakazams can tell for sure whether someone’s behind a solid wall or not using their psychic abilities.” Duke said, twitching constantly. That restlessness of his could get us exposed if he couldn’t keep it under control, and I slowly started to become grateful that I became a meowstic and not a pokemon with all these different problems.
“The Devourer can make your average pokemon do some freaky shit. Who knows what it’s capable of. See that house there?” I said, pointing to one a little further out from the town centre. “Make your way over there after I give the signal, I’m going to put this guy down. I’ll teleport after you once I’m done.”
“How do you know if he’s one of them or not? Maybe he’s just a weirdo. You could be murdering someone who done no wrong.” Duke said quietly as I shrugged.
“Better safe than sorry. I don’t want to risk this guy being a problem later. Melinda and the others are out there, and the less of these Devourer loyalists, the better.” I said as Duke looked rather disgusted, and even Nisbeth looked a little disturbed. “Look, he probably won’t be any help, let’s be honest here.”
“Basil, just in case you need reminded…you are talking about murdering someone who, as far as we can tell, has done absolutely nothing to warrant it. You sick motherfuker.” Duke said as I took a couple of steps towards him.
“I will do whatever is needed to make sure the ones I love get out of this alive…including knowing when to back down.” I said, looking to see that the kadabra was moving on from here. Duke was right, even about the ‘sick motherfucker’ part. I was getting carried away here, and to think I even considered an unprovoked murder…Melinda would never speak to me again if she caught me in the act. Had to keep a level head, I couldn’t afford any irrational mistakes, else all three of us could be dead or worse.
Dashing behind the other house, I considered ways I could find Melinda. I know she went to the North somehow, so hiding around that side of town felt like a good idea. I didn’t even want to think about the possibility of her already being found by one of ‘them’. Suddenly, that scathing, crunching roar sounded again, sounding so loud this time that I reflexively dropped to my knees to fore my ears shut, even more than they already were. That terrible, terrible sound…it was painful, physically painful. I could feel it all over my body, and for a moment of true, distilled terror, I thought I was going to become one of those black statues. I still seemed to be my usual, fleshy self after the ordeal, as did my two comrades.
“…Think it knows we’re here?” Nisbeth whispered to me after several agonizingly tense seconds. Neither of them seemed willing to dare to take a peek, but we had to figure out where that horrific beast was heading. After our ears had recovered from that assault, I could hear the lowest of hums, which sounded like computer fans if they were highly distorted. It made my skin crawl, but that was the least of our worries. It was real close now, and I was wondering if I had made a terrible mistake by not running when I had the chance. No matter, I’d have to make the best of this somehow. Nisbeth and a fellow human decided to trust me, and I wasn’t willing to let either of them two die horribly to that fiend!
The darkness was slowly being dispelled, with some kind of light seeping through the windows. Didn’t seem like a flickering flame causing it, yet it had the faintest of yellow tinges to it. I’d say it looked like it was from a street light, yet there was something unearthly about it that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. That dreadful humming was growing in volume slowly, it sounded so close by now! To my left, I could see Duke was using all of his willpower to not scream and flee recklessly. The poor guy was twitching on the spot, digging his claws into his arm out of the insurmountable stress, mouthing off words silently as he rocked back and forth slightly. Poor sod, he didn’t deserve to get dragged into all this.
If push came to shove, maybe I could jump to where the other two are and try and teleport us behind another building to confuse it, though saying it would be a long shot would be putting it mildly. If I strained my hearing, I swore I could hear the whispers of a small crowd coming from the other side of the building, only to be silenced by a barrage of an outburst of piercing static. Was The Devourer some kind of machine? What did it just do? Would I even be able if I was able to get a good look at it? Meanwhile, Duke snapped. The poor guy simply couldn’t stand it any more and dashed off between a couple of houses and out of sight. I heard those frantic, heavy footsteps clearly, which left one question that could decide the fate of my life: Did The Devourer also hear them?
I didn’t hear much aside from that terrible hum and those eerie whispers. Did it hear Duke? Was it listening out for other sounds? I wanted to follow that vigoroth so badly, just to get anywhere, and I mean anywhere that isn’t here. Then, the humming and voices suddenly faded away, as did that strange light. Was it gone? No, I refused to believe it. This must be a trick, a scheme of some kind. Yet, if I refused to move or take a peek, we could be here forever, and even if The Devourer couldn’t find me, one of its lackeys would eventually. My mouth became a desert as I slowly put my head to the side of the wall and took a look. I had no real expectations for what a creature this terrible would look like, and even now, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
It was rather huge, which was about the only thing I expected to be, and emitted a faint, sickly yellow glow that occasionally pulsed with a stronger light every other second. Judging by the way the light shining down on the buildings, it must have been at least twenty meters tall, possibly even thirty, yet it seemed to pay no heed to gravity as it hovered in the air with the most minimal of movements. What I assumed must have been its two – no – four wings seemed almost for show, though the massive claws on its thick and somewhat darker legs surely were not, but given what that thing and its soldiers could do, perhaps you might be grateful if they impales you. The only parts of its body that moved much were its swaying tail and its head, which seemed to be looking around for something, or someone. Thankfully, not in my direction. Its entire body was horrifically jagged, with all the cruelty of a serrated dagger, but the thing that looked by far the strangest of all was the only part of its body that wasn’t covered in bright or dark shades of that putrid yellow: Those strange spikes and other twisted forms atop its head, of which they were many. They didn’t shine at all, and looked like they were a dull red in colour. They twisted and turned slightly, and straining my eyes, they look not too unlike the antlers of a sawbuck in winter, though far grander and more imposing. Few things about this alien made sense to me, and it looked far more foreign than anything I had encountered in either planet I’ve been on. No doubt about it: I was staring right at The Devourer.
It suddenly moved as it started gliding away further from us as if it had found what it was looking for, and in the distance, I could see it rear up slightly before it let out that ear-piercing distorted static as it completely covered several houses in that dark light its minions could use, except this was far more intense. Whoever was near that beast clearly stood no chance, and after it was done, it floated away quickly, right down the path where Murphy and the stampede went if my bearings were correct. I could do nothing to help Murphy now. Poor guy: I just hope the townsfolk end up being enough of a distraction to get away. After the night ends, I’d be sure to find him, one way or another.
“I’d say ‘what the fuck is that?!’, but I think I already know…” Nisbeth said, as he moved to peer into the window. “New plan: We search houses and hope they’re empty. If they have money, take it and get to any port town that’s not Südreiches, since it looks like that…thing’s heading there. Anyway, that will give us the money to get out of here.”
“Not without Melinda and Murphy. Hopefully Duke too. I agree on the first part though.” I replied as he picked me up and put me gently inside the house. The place seemed to be abandoned, as I heard no sounds coming from within, even as Nisbeth rather clumsily landed on the floor, causing a loud thud. “Go upstairs, I’ll look down here.”
“Seems like this family was kind of rich.” Nisbeth said, coming down the stairs after a couple of minutes, clutching some coins in his hand. “I’ll be honest though, I’ve no idea how much this is worth, so I could be way off the mark.”
“Shove it in your bag. With The Devourer out of town, I’m going to look for Melinda. I just hope Duke hasn’t got himself into trouble while he ran off.” I said, looking north and trying to figure out the best way to go. “I just hope she’s not desperate enough to actually follow that thing, because I wouldn’t put it past her at this rate.” I didn’t have a problem with stealing here. Their woes aren’t really my concern, and besides, they’d probably be happy to just be alive after tonight, if they hadn’t been caught by that monster by now that is.
“There’s a road we can take that takes us east to a port where hopefully we can afford to get a ride away from this chaos. It goes around the field with Raikou as well, so we’ll be as safe as houses. By the standards of Fremdesland at least…” Nisbeth said, looking at a map on a street corner as I kept watch for anyone suspicious. “Looks like it’d take us a full day to get there if we move quickly, so we’re probably looking at a ride about the morning after the next.”
“Yeah, sounds good…” I muttered, as I kept watch. Didn’t seem to be anyone around on the streets by now, though they could be hiding. I just hoped the hiders were friendly…
“This way Nisbeth.” I said quietly as we made our way quickly and quietly across the back gardens. Thankfully, the fences were bare enough for me to get through easily or weren’t present at all, so our progress travelling North was swift.
“Shh!” Nisbeth suddenly said before grabbing me and leaning against one of the house walls listening closely. A moment later, I heard something being knocked over and a bit of a struggle. A shout later, I heard frantic footsteps coming towards us, so we hid behind the corner to watch two electabuzzes dash out of the back door. However, they didn’t get far at all, as a blast of pitch black light suddenly emanated from the doorway, enveloping them in darkness. A mere second later, two black statues stood where the victims once were. One of them looked unbalanced, as if it should have fallen over, yet it stood firm in defiance of gravity itself. Neither of us made a sound, having no desire to be the next victim. However, the assailant didn’t appear and closed the door after the deed was done.
Nisbeth and I looked at each other briefly and remained as still as a corpse afterwards, trying to listen for where that freak was going. Shortly, I heard the front door open and it revealed my initial suspicions to be correct; it was that kadabra I saw earlier! I knew it! To think; I could have saved their lives if I just went ahead and tore off half of its face with the weapon, but no matter. I was considering ways I could sneak up and put this threat down for good, but Nisbeth yanked me behind the corner before I could conceive of a good method. He knew I was likely considering it, and didn’t want me risking myself like that. Nisbeth merely shook his head and pointed north. I didn’t want to push my luck regarding his good will towards me, so I let it slide this time as I lead the way.
“You do realise this will be a wild goose chase and a half Basil, right? They would have gone anywhere, and I reckon screaming their names would be a good way for one of those weirdos to find us.” Nisbeth told me, still seeming determined for me to abandon my friends. I admit, combining this with his desire to keep me alive didn’t sit all that well with me for some reason. Still, if he was one of them, he had more than enough chances to murder me or whatever happens when you become one of those statues, so I concluded it was very unlikely he was in league with The Devourer.
“I’m guessing they went down this road somewhere, though I don’t think Melinda would have walked upon it directly.” I said, pointing to the path that lead out of Thalnacht in front of us. “By then, shit was already happening, and she’d have want to stay hidden?”
“You’re sure she wouldn’t have tried to fight The Devourer by herself?” Nisbeth said back to me as I frowned at him.
“She’s not stupid. I’ve questioned a few of her decisions here, but do you really think she’d do something that brainless? No.” I said firmly as I looked around us. This all seemed a bit hopeless, given five of us had run off to fuck-knows-where, many of them in different directions. I could definitely see where the toxicroak was coming from, but I wasn’t having any of his pessimism right now.
“Ok, I suggest we go though this wooded area ahead of us. We won’t be as exposed. If we see nothing, we’ll…we’ll see.” I said, struggling to think of what to do as the feeling of helplessness started to bear down on me. I lead Nisbeth through the bushes and trees, occasionally scratching myself on a thorn or two, but far better that than being seen by that stranger walking towards town on the path. He or she didn’t seem to notice us, as we were able to remain extremely silent at a moment’s notice. I was starting to get good at sneaking around by now.
I suddenly saw a small flash of light in front of us and dived behind a bush instinctively. I felt almost allergic to the light after seeing that terrible monstrosity earlier, though Nisbeth pointed out that it was a small fork of lightning, clearly getting a better view.
“It could be Charlie, want to take a look?” Nisbeth said as we pushed forward, and shortly afterwards, we could see a familiar looking ampharos, albeit one that looked exhausted and battered. He was sitting down next to an unconscious, or a possibly dead heracross, clutching his left arm and breathing through his teeth, likely trying to endure the pain.
“Charlie, it’s just us two.” We said, walking out onto the small clearing to join him. Upon closer look, his hand had a fair bit of blood on it, suggesting that the heracross nailed it dead on with its savage horn. He looked at us and smiled slightly, looking happy to see us still alive.
“Ah, I was worried I was going to be alone for quite some time.” He said, carefully grabbing his back with this injured arm while keeping his hand on the wound. “Mind helping me bandage up this wound?”
“Of course.” I replied and helped him out. That wound looked serious, and all things considered, Charlie was very lucky his arm wasn’t broken. Regardless, this was probably the most lucid I had ever seen him, and I couldn’t even get a slightest whiff of booze off him at all. Was he putting his rampant alcoholism on hold to deal with the danger, or was he just unable to get any? Who could tell. “So, where’s Audrey? And have you seen Melinda anywhere? She was looking for the two of you.”
“This heracross wasn’t the only one that attacked us. There was a trevenant and something else that I can’t remember, and Audrey and I got separated. I think she was cut off and ran off to the west somewhere.” Charlie said, as he stood up. “Hopefully she comes back.”
“As you’ve guessed, Duke and Murphy have also ran off. They’re not together. I also take it you’ve seen ‘it’.” I said as Charlie nodded slowly, looking rather afraid.
“Some people of that human church have supposedly started praying en masse for the return of The Sound of Perseverance, and in a way, I’m almost with them. What were we thinking? What can we do against that thing? There are beings in this world that are incredibly powerful, and yet they are just as terrified of it as we are. I heard rumours The Watcher of The Skies just abandoned this planet entirely. Oh, and it seems like Serge was wrong: It doesn’t seem like there’s anything you humans can do to take that thing down, at least not compared to the locals like us.” He said, while taking out a couple of strange stones from his large rucksack before putting it on his back. “Won’t be for a lack of trying though, right?”
“You’re not chasing after The Devourer, right?” I asked as he smiled and shrugged.
“Not exactly. Well, truth be told, I’m not sure what to do. Won’t be nothing though! Come on, an adventure awaits us!” Charlie replied, looking eager to go.
“I choose life.” Nisbeth said, seeing a faint flicker of light way off in the distance.
“If you lot were feeling suicidal, I think the best way we could have a look, from a safe distance of course, about how some of these strange pokemon get the same sort of powers as The Devourer: y’know, the whole black statue thing. We would want to discover the nature of this power, then maybe we can find a way to stop or reverse it. Also, it seems likely that The Devourer forces individuals to serve it, possibly giving it the black statue ability. Finding out how this happens could be important. That being said, I’m more interested in finding Melinda. Seen her anywhere?” I asked.
“Not recently no, and do you really think studying from a distance is going to help all that much?” Charlie asked as I scoffed at him slightly.
“More than running headlong into battle with that thing. If it even sees you, you’re likely completely at its mercy, and even if you did sneak up on it, I somehow doubt you’d be able to really hurt it much. Also, you’re not getting out of that stunt alive.” I said, dismissing the idea entirely. I didn’t even want to carry out my ‘safer’ suggestion. That being said, aside from the obvious threat The Devourer posed, there was something about it that seemed to make my very soul crawl with anxiety and disgust, something primal that I couldn’t quite tap into. Of course, I wanted to ensure the safety and prosperity of those close to me, but if I can remove this abomination from existence entirely while I do so, I’d be more than happy.
“Well, given how enthusiastic your sister is about finding a way to kill that alien and with Audrey also running West, I think we should head there now.” Charlie said, briefly searching for something in his bag. He produced a bottle and stared at it for a couple of seconds. “Empty…” He muttered before throwing it over his shoulder.
“What about Duke though?” I said, hoping he hadn’t got himself into trouble.
“You said he ran towards the East, right? It’s away from The Devourer. We can go find him later during tomorrow morning and hope he hasn’t run off too far.” Charlie said as I raised an eyebrow.
“Risking the loss of a human like that? I know you said you were losing faith that they could help you and all, but…” I said as I looked at the two of them. I could already tell what Nisbeth thought we should do: have us two split off and look for Duke. Not happening when Melinda was out there somewhere. The only logical outcome from these people was to all go search for Audrey and my sister. No point in arguing this now, since Charlie looked dead set on going East. “Fine, we get Duke later.”
“This map’s so hard for me to see in the dark…Basil, help me out.” He said after a short while of trekking through rough terrain, which snaked up and down by the mountainside. My night vision had improved in this body, and in spite of how little light there was, I could see the details on the map quite clearly.
“We’re at this side of the lake here. I can’t make it out from here, but we’d reach the shore by walking south for a few minutes. It’s likely the townsfolk ran down this path we took to get here, just south of the lake.” I said, staring south, then towards the east. Couldn’t see much of anything aside from a few nearby trees. Guess my night vision wasn’t that good. “Can’t see any sign of The Devourer, and if its goal is to turn us all into pitch black statues, then I doubt he or any of his minions would bother coming at this exact spot. They’ve gotten more aggressive, so they’ll likely sweep towns before hunting down stragglers in the countryside.”
“Well, you two know Audrey and Melinda better than I do. What do you think they’d be doing?” Nisbeth said as I thought about it briefly.
“She has been a bit reckless since she’s got here, but I doubt she’d be trying to fight The Devourer directly. I’d say she’d be trying to get some of the fleeing pokemon to safety. I can imagine she’d have found a way to catch up with them and possibly convinced them to split up, or possibly try to get them to turn and dogpile The Devourer. Doubt she’d be successful with the latter however.” I said, hoping she didn’t even think about it.
“Audrey would try to get them out of there.” Charlie said almost instantly.
“As for Murphy, he can really run. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made it to Südreiches by now. I just hope he has the sense to either hide himself really well or not stay around there for too long. Anyway, if we want to find the two slower people, we’ll want to get closer to the path, but obviously not too close. We need to stay hidden.” I said as they both agreed with me, Nisbeth obviously being the more reluctant of the two.
My mouth was slowly getting dryer the further we pushed on, my primal instincts demanding that I turn tail and go west to avoid ever seeing that terrible thing again. Besides, he wasn’t alone, and I had no idea how many servants it had accrued. The terrain started getting a little flatter as we moved ever so slightly closer to the lake’s shore as we pushed on. Nothing noteworthy happened for quite some time, but when something did appear, it got us all to have second thoughts about our plan.
“What’s a black statue doing here?” Nisbeth said, as I quickly pointed it out to Charlie before he accidentally knocked into it. I wouldn’t mind that ampharos generating some light so we could see better, but that’d be borderline suicide at this moment in time.
“Oh…oh I get it now. It’s speculation, but I think I’ve figured out how The Devourer’s operating here. It goes after the crowds, while its allies hunt down isolated stragglers. We saw in Conviction that they can be taken down like any regular pokemon if you can avoid getting turned into a stature. They operate like assassins, while The Devourer himself acts like a squadron of bombers. Like assassins…shit, it could still be nearby, be quiet, listen closely and keep watch.” I said, slowly remembering that we were still in a life-or-death situation. Couldn’t afford to get careless again.
“Clever you Basil; maybe this is why The Guardian of Forever brought you here.” Charlie said, still being a little too loud for my liking.
“Yeah, maybe…” I said quietly, clutching the weapon tightly, gesturing for the others to stay completely silent. It was hard to tell how recently that doduo got turned into a statue, but if it was during tonight’s attack, then the perpetrator might still be nearby. It seemed like it was in the middle of running back towards the town judging by its final pose. Perhaps it was trying to sneak by the other side of the lake to get home. Whatever it was trying to do, however, it didn’t work.
I was grateful for my fairly good night vision, but it meant I had to be the eyes for all three of us. From my studies about all the different kinds of pokemon out there, Charlie would have to be our ears. I gestured for Charlie to stand at the back and listen closely for anything strange, while I’d go at the front and lead the way. There were no questions asked, and I began to wonder if Charlie had given up trying to be the head man and gave me the role of de-facto leader.
Not being able to see or hear that murderer was frightening and comforting in equal measure. Maybe he or she wasn’t around here, or maybe it was following us, waiting for its opportunity. Regardless, nothing seemed to happen as we kept making out way to the west side of the lake. Eventually, I was able to see the path ahead and decided this was close enough. We still had some cover from the nearby bushes and trees, and I didn’t want to ruin that. A flash of that pale, sickly yellow light way off in the distance ahead of us assured me that staying concealed was the right choice.
“That thing’s still chasin’ them…” Nisbeth said, crouching behind a push next to me.
“Melinda’s likely in that direction somewhere, so I suggest we-“ I said before spotting something strange from at the other side of the path, just at the edge where my vision completely gave way to darkness. There was a specific spot where it seemed a tiny bit darker than usual, and the air around it seemed to waver ever so slightly. It was this moment where I suddenly recognized it.
“Get out of here!” I suddenly screamed and turned round and dashed away. Thankfully, the other two got the idea as I heard the sound of the undergrowth being trampled on, before a small burst of a static-like noise, as if it was from a faulty television. Looking round, I could see Nisbeth beside me, but I couldn’t see Charlie past that stream of dark light, but is very quickly passed, and, thankfully, it seemed like the perpetrator missed.
“Where’d he go?!” Charlie yelled, looking around. I ducked down low behind a push, peering just to the side of it where the blast of dark light came from. Nothing. It could be anywhere! Panic and dread welled up inside me as I realised that I had no clue where that thing was. I bit my bottom lip, shuddered, and stared at different points in the oppressive darkness. I could see the ampharos, but I doubted he could see me. I needed to gesture to Charlie to follow me so that we could all stick together, but a sudden burst of flame that shot right above me made that thought go right out the window. I instinctively lied as low as I could against the ground, as I felt the heat of the fire singe the edges of my fur.
Unfortunately, Nisbeth was not so lucky as I heard him shriek in pain in a voice far higher than I imagined my good friend was capable of. I knew just how badly heat and dryness can utterly ruin a toxicroak, and seeing him writhe on the ground like that was a firm reminder of that fact. I threw caution to the wind and jumped over to him as I desperately took some water out of my bag and threw it over his burns. It didn’t do much, but it was the best I could do at the time. Unfortunately, I knew his sudden screaming would lure unwanted attention from all around. We had to act quickly.
“Hold on!” I yelled as I put a hand on Nisbeth and pointed the weapon between some trees. Just before I teleported away, I saw the eyes of a crazed looking rapidash, galloping towards us. It seemed to turn its head to the left however, a split second before I activated the weapon. After being warped, I went to check on Nisbeth, since I thought we had cover, yet it seemed like the rapidash was already charging in our direction. How did it know where we were going to be that instantly? They were hardly known for their good night vision, so how could it…
No matter. I’d get Nisbeth out of here. To try and confuse it, I teleported us to the right of the rapidash instead of directly away from it. We didn’t dare move as we kept watch from behind cover. It seemed to be fooled, as it charged past the trees and bushes, its personal fire causing them to wither slightly as it passed by. From here, it seemed like it had crawled straight out of the underworld as it galloped on by. It stopped after a while, and in the distance, I could see it start to walk slowly, clearly searching for us.
“Shh, stay quiet, I’ll see if I can bandage you up.” I said, seeing the cracked skin on the side of his face and right arm. I had no idea how to do first aid properly, let alone on a toxicorak, but it was all I could think of right now. This could at least provide some padding to the sensitive skin, at least in my mind. However, I barely had time as I saw something approaching through the gaps of the trees. I couldn’t quite make it out, but it sure wasn’t Charlie and hardly looked friendly either, given how it was tearing down bushes without mercy on its way to us.
“How the fuck are they finding us so quickly?!” I muttered to myself as I saw that Rapidash turn to look at our location too. Were there far more of them than I thought?! Or were there more to their tracking and hunting methods that I perceived? Telling Nisbeth that he’d have to run with me, I pointed the weapon away from our two pursuers and teleported us a fair distance. One more, they seemed to see exactly where we went without the slightest delay as they continued to barrel past the trees and bushes.
I wondered how they seemed to know exactly where the two of us would appear during the first and third time, but not the second, as we leapt over a small stream. I knew I didn’t have many teleports left before having to reload, two at the most. I had to make them count.
“We’ve no idea where we’re running, do we?” Nisbeth said, sounding like it was painful for him to speak. Given the side of his throat looked like it was hit by that vicious stream of fire, I couldn’t blame him for his hoarse and weak voice. He was right. Any sense of direction was lost as we went headlong into the wilderness, hoping that fortune would change. However, I soon realised that it was foolish. That rapidash and, getting a good look at it now, that weavile was far faster than us.
“Count of three, we turn and fight. I’ll swap places with the weavile, you pounded it to death once I make the switch.” I said quietly to him as we continued to run. “Three, two, one, now!” I said, spinning around on the spot and looking at the weavile about ten meters in front of me, murderous intent glistening in its eyes. I aimed at the weavile and fired a speck of teleportation powder at it, causing me to swap places. I was now looking at the rapidash, who was thankfully having difficulty navigating the forest, weapon in hand. I expected to hear a loud satisfying thud, but instead I heard Nisbeth scream once more.
“Nonono!” I yelled as I looked over my shoulder. In spite of our planning, the weavile got the first hit in, blood coating its right claw as Nisbeth clutched the side of the huge gash in his face. How did it manage that?! Then it hit me: Somehow, these two must have known about the weapon. But how?! Did they have spies? Perhaps. It’s like they knew what I was going to do. How far does this information go? It’s a rabbit hole that I pray is shallow. So what do I do now? I could try teleporting next to it, but I’d probably just suffer the same fate. Right, I simply had to use its knowledge against it, but how?
Biting my lip, I started running straight towards the agile and deadly pokemon. I assumed it knew that a point blank blast to its face would be lethal, and that I would probably try to warp in range. So I would simply not warp. Keeping one eye on the weavile and one eye on the ground next to it, I pointed the weapon just to the left of the pokemon. However, I had no intention of teleporting this time. My eyes occasionally shifted to the right, trying to trick the weavile into to striking the open air. Just before I reached striking distance, I pretended to teleport right there, and indeed, the weavile turned to swing at open air. This was my chance! I suddenly took two big steps forward before leaping up slightly, and just as the weavile turned to look at me again, bang! Its face was ruined to the point its own parents couldn’t recognize it.
My victory was short lived however as I felt something hit me hard from behind, knocking the weapon right out of my hand. Should have factored in that rapidash! I was knocked past Nisbeth who looked like he could barely stand and was using his left arm to try and stem the bleeding over my useless first aid. This was all rather hard to make out as my vision had become blurry from the force of the impact. Turning around, I saw it charge at me incredibly quickly over the bare patch of ground. I barely just had enough time to avoid its horn as I was hit hard by the side of its head. I was sent sprawling back into a thorny bush as I felt the skin beneath my fur get lightly shredded by those little spikes. Forcing myself off it, I only narrowly dodged a deadly jet of fire. I covered my body with my arms slightly, instinctively thinking it would protect me, but as I looked at the rapidash, I realised that I was truly alone.
Nisbeth seemed too injured to fight, and I no longer had the weapon. I felt completely naked in the face of such danger, as violent shivering and heavy breathing started to override my body. No choice but to try to run and hide, I couldn’t take that thing head on. I started to wonder why it wasn’t turning me into one of those black statues. Maybe it couldn’t. It’s all I had to go on right now as I forced my cut ridden body to move quickly in between, around, over and under the bushes, each one more laced with thorns than the last.
I wondered why it hadn’t attempted to turn either of us into a statue. Either it couldn’t or it didn’t want to, of course. There had been cases of weirdos just attacking others on a whim recently, so perhaps not all those working for The Devourer had the ability. I sincerely hoped that was the case this time, since the idea of The Devourer not wanting me dead was oddly terrifying, since I could only imagine what else it would have in store for me.
I whimpered slightly as I tripped and tumbled down a slope that I failed to notice, hitting my arms and body painfully on the ground as I crashed into a bush. Thankfully, it wasn’t jagged, though it didn’t stop my entire body from shooting all types of pain through every nerve. I stared up the slope in my daze to see that rapidash somewhere at the top of it, looking around. Do I continue to run, or do I stay hidden here? ‘This bush had good cover, it had to have good cover!’, my mind yelled at me as I started to become too afraid to even move. The only part of me that moved were my eyes as they shifted from left to right. The trees were more spread out this time, providing ample room for the pokemon to charge me down.
It slowly made its way down the slope, as I heard it making strange growls that made my blood run cold. Melinda used to have a rapidash, and it couldn’t make noises like that. What had The Devourer done to this thing?! However, the closer I looked, the more I realised that it was struggling and limping, and shortly after, I could see a fairly large putrid wound at the top of one of its hind legs. Nisbeth, you might have just saved my life again! It was the unmistakable mark of a vicious puncture from one of its toxin-laced claws! My pursuer would likely collapse soon, though I hardly wanted to flee right now.
Its unearthly growling started becoming more hoarse as it looked less and less stable on its feet, the poison doing its job just fine. However, it was wandering dangerously close to me by now, and a horrifying thought dawned on me: I simply didn’t know how well these things could smell, nor did I know if The Devourer had tampered with this pokemon in such a manner that it could find me more easily. I clenched my hands ever so slightly, as if to hold the weapon, but that couldn’t save me now. This was completely out of my hands now, all sense of control over my own fate being thrown to the hands of another. How could I secure the safety and prosperity of my closest friends when I couldn’t even save my own skin? How pathetic of me. Nothing left for me now. All I could do was close my eyes and pray to the god of chance, whatever that being that may be.
One footstep, two footsteps and a grunt. Silence. Another footstep and a snort. Three more footsteps. They didn’t seem to be getting any louder or quieter, so I couldn’t be sure if it was walking away. One footstep, then, suddenly, a large thud, accompanied by the cracking of twigs on the ground. I slowly opened my eyes to see the rapidash laying on the ground a short distance in front of me. Luck was in my favour this time, though I dared not sigh in relief, in case giving away my position would inspire a second wind from it. I had to be quiet now, getting out of this bush and then, well, heading to anywhere but here. Melinda, Murphy and now Nisbeth…I had no idea how they were doing, and the feeling of helplessness towards them in this most savage of nights, well, it cut deeper than anything I had experienced before in my entire life. I couldn’t be alone here, I couldn’t, I can’t! But could I really say that I won’t?
I didn’t hear much of anything now, and my surroundings looked identical, no matter which direction I turned. The night sky above offered no stars, the clouds obscuring and covering every single one. I might have been out of immediate danger, but this feeling of being completely and totally lost wasn’t much better. I had no idea where Nisbeth was now, and without him or the weapon, I felt like prey, ripe for the taking for any predator that wanders anywhere near me.
I slowly made my way up a tiny hill in this seemingly endless forest, eventually sitting beside a tall three that vaguely resembled a great oak and got a faint view of Südriches in the distance. It looked to be in a real sorry state, as the sickly glow of The Devourer coated it in its malevolence. To say that thing is an abomination would be an understatement, and if someone were to eventually put a stop to that thing, I’d happily host a party in their honour. If that thing would just fuck off and get rid of itself, I’d still be home, working on preparing Melinda for the next tournament and not having to be frightened for my life every other day.
All the cuts and bruises I accrued felt like I has needles pricking me over my entire body. Sure, they’d fade in time, yet I wonder what else could fade. I hadn’t a clue where Nisbeth was, and thinking back, I rather callously left Charlie behind. Shame, he’d have been useful to me. I guess Melinda would be near Südriches, though alive, dead, or a black statue, I had no idea. Nothing for it, and from here, it looked like it would take just over an hour.
Drinking some water and the last of my food, I slowly made my way down the small hill and onto flatter land. The trees seemed to be a lot more spread out than they used to be. Easier for those bastards to see me, but the opposite was also true, and I didn’t want to take any unnecessary detours. I shivered every once in a while as I constantly jerked my head towards any and every strange sound. Was I being followed? Did they know where I was? Wish my friends knew.
I breathed slowly and deeply through gritted teeth, trying to keep myself from panicking, trying to hold on to that logical part of my mind, as I felt it slowly try to tear away from me. Just keep focused. I kept pushing onwards, trying to fight my survival instincts screaming at me to get as far away from The Devourer as possible. In the long run, I had no chance to survive here without close allies, so it was a risk I had to take.
I didn’t see anyone or anything noteworthy for some time. Seems like I was so far off the beaten track that The Devourer’s soldiers didn’t bother looking for people this far out, probably completely pre-occupied with hunting the townsfolk. Still didn’t make me feel anything easier, as I felt my muscles starting to lock up slightly with distilled tension. A gentle breeze started blowing against my face as I continued to make my way through the thinning forest as I began to see the moon slowly appear from behind a drifting cloud. Normally, it’d be nice and pleasant, but I had a feeling that my enemies would enjoy it more than I would.
Suddenly, I saw a burst of pale green flames in the distance. Yes, that had to be her! I was no longer alone…providing it wasn’t some other marowak. Watching behind a tree, I saw the pokemon leap around, firing a couple of fireballs that exploded upon impact with the ground and trees, and shortly after, a burst of that terrible dark light just narrowly missed it. Whether it was my sister or not, it was clearly not with The Devourer. Sneaking around to get a closer look, I spotted an opportunity. Glancing over at the marowak, I confirmed that it was indeed my sister. This would be worth it.
I suddenly started sprinting at the assailant, which turned out to be that kadabra from before. A chance to help put this bastard down for good, was a chance I wasn’t going to let slip again! I opened up my ears and felt the psionic energy build heavily with in me. No chance of controlling it, I suddenly leapt right into him and let it all out in a savage burst of energy, sending us both reeling across the ground. It hurt me real good, but as I lifted my aching head slightly, I could tell that kadabra was about to get it much worse.
“Sorry that it had to come down to this.” Melinda said and brought down her flaming bone upon the kadabra’s head with crushing force. It was knocked out for sure, and from the looks of things, could possibly suffer some serious brain damage. Aw well, you’d have to be pretty mentally done for if you decided to side with The Devourer anyway, so nothing of value was lost.
“Basil!” Melinda said upon seeing me and helped me to my feet. I wobbled a bit before fully regaining balance. “Oh god, I thought you could have died!” She said, hugging me tightly.
“Please don’t run away like that again from me, it was hard enough finding you in this flaming dumpster fire once!” I said, returning the hug. “I…I got separated from the others. I’ve no idea how they’re doing.”
“It’ll be day before long, so if they’re alive, which I’m sure they will be…hopefully, we can find them then.” She said, looking around. “Come on Basil, before more of them find us.” She said, leading me further away from Südriches.
“What happened in town?” I asked as she lowered her head slightly.
“Südriches is also lost. I…I tried, but…I saw The Devourer itself. I tried to blast it with a huge fireball, but I’m not even sure if it even felt it! The townsfolk were braver than back in Thalnacht, but I think it just made things worse…” She said, sounding utterly defeated. “What were we thinking Basil…how do we stop something like that?” She said as I kept looking around for any assassins.
“…Maybe he can help us.” I said, suddenly noticing something atop a large mound in the earth in the distance. It looked vaguely humanoid, and partially wreathed in flames, and was standing rather still. It was doing something, but I couldn’t quite tell. A few seconds later, It seemed to open his arms and was surrounded by this strange lilac aura that wobbled around him. Naturally, this could bring about a lot of unwanted attention, so I signalled Melinda to find some cover with me while we kept watch.
The aura seemed to surround itself and grow wider as I tried to figure out what sort of power this was, and what sort of person could make it. And just when it had become truly bright, I saw him take a couple of steps forward, and both he and that otherworldly pinkish…stuff suddenly vanished into nothing.
“…Is that…?” I heard Melinda say as we both swiftly made our way over to where he or she once was. I think it could be him! Serge! The Guardian of Forever! And the architect of the needless murder of my people! If I had just charged at him on sight…I’d have a few choice words with him!
“I see a note here of some kind! Let’s take it and get out of here!” Melinda said, grabbing the note with her left hand and my arm with my right before running as fast as she could. I missed a few steps here and there due to her being much faster than me, so she occasionally had to drag me across the ground. Eventually, she just crouched down so I could get a piggyback ride, which was easier for both of us.
“Read the letter Basil.” She asked as I took it from her. The writing was borderline illegible, and Serge, if it was him, was clearly in a huge rush.
“Dear Marowak, I know what you are. I hope that you get this letter first. Go to the purified oasis in Mistet Ørkenen. Come alone. Trust no one. It has eyes and ears everywhere.
The Guardian of Forever.”
How brief. Guess he really was in a hurry! Can’t blame him really, since he has The Devourer and my wrath to answer to if he gets caught!
“He said to come alone…” Melinda said, thinking about it.
“I’m not leaving your side, understand? Besides, we’re both human. He’ll have use for both of us, right? Maybe we can get some real answers from him, and get out of here!” I said as I once against heard that familiar grinding roar sound loudly behind us, the terrible sound piercing our ears, inducing a splitting headache in the process. We both froze and turned around slowly, and we saw it. It was coming this way, and coming fast.
That bastard…it lead that thing right to us!