I plan on this being divided into 5 parts;
Chapter 1: Exodus
Chapter 2: The Hunt
Chapter 3: The Victory Circle
Chapter 4: Triage
Chapter 5: Epilogue
Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: I don't own pokemon, game freak or any of it's affiliates. This is just a simple work of fan fiction.
Chapter 1: Exodus
Single combat was an age old tradition among Clan Nightfire; the loser of such combat would have his mane cut at the root while the victor would gain status and favor. It was through these trials that males proved their strength to earn the right to mate if any female found them worthy. In his youth the elder had never lost in single combat, as a result his mane was longer than he was tall and it was set in a circle around him as he sat cross-legged beneath the Demonwood. As bright as the jade bead, his eyes were as green and flecked as polished moss agate, watched the activities of the clan below and on the two figures that traveled away near the horizon.
"Phobos." The elder croaked in a wizened voice. Seeming to bleed out of the shadows the named Zoroark stepped forward and inclined his head in acknowledgement. The Alpha stood tall and strong, twin slashed scares across his left shoulder marked him as a sworn brother of the Dark Hunt. A lengthy gash started above his left eye, crossed his snout and muzzle, traveled down his neck and across his right shoulder, an injury from his youth that stood testament to the Alpha's resilience. His left eye was left a milky white orb by the injury. Further evidence of his status was his mane, whose bead dragged among the gnarled roots behind him.
"Grand elder." Phobos answered in a low rumble.
The elder never took his eyes off the horizon where the two figures just faded from view. One a Zoroark, the recently banished Dark Hunter Avon and the source of his corruption; a marked Lucario female, a bastard-born impurity from among one of the Highborn clans. "When the moon turns, when the sworn brothers hunt, they must pay the price for breaking sacred law. Avon has brought an outsider to the heart of our realm and penance must be had."
"And the blood price will be paid." Phobos agreed.
Avon woke up to a nose full of crisp, cool morning air. Small beads of dew clung to the surrounding blades of grass and caught the sunlight to make it appear as if he was at the heart of a glittering sea. As he stood and stretched several droplets fell from clinging fur and left him to shiver before he heated himself up. Wafts of steam filled the air and covered the clearing in a dense fog.
Avon got to his feet once he was comfortable warm and looked behind to where Cassandra slept. He watched her take a deep breath in her sleep before shaking her lightly awake. Her eyes opened wearily after she inhaled sharply. When she felt the humidity she looked up to Avon uncertainly.
"How did we get back to the springs?" She asked rubbing an eye, not yet fully awake. Cassandra's back arched as she sat up and stretched in the morning sun. Wisps of steam swirled around her giving her a shrouded appearance and making the sun gleam over her shoulder.
She winced and sucked in air through her teeth when she stretched one arm the wrong way causing the withered leaf Avon was using as a bandage to tear. "careful," he said as she pulled her arm close to her chest. "Just sit still, I'll be right back."
The leaves Avon had used were large, broad and smooth enough to wrap and around her upper arm and most of her shoulder to hide the burned flesh that hid beneath. After a few minutes of searching for the herbs he needed Avon spent a considerable amount of the morning gingerly removing the bandaging he had applied the previous day. Cleaning the small bits of crushed herb from the poultice Avon used to ease the pain was tedious work as well.
Avon couldn't help but admire Cassandra's fortitude, while he worked she would only occasionally gasp or whimper and he knew she had to be in great pain. When he finished cleaning the wound the flesh was puffy and pink. Clear fluid and pale pink blood oozed from multiple sores and there was still a scattering of blisters around the edges where fur still grew. The previous day at the Deepwater Springs had worked wonders for clearing away dead and burned skin and scabbing.
"You were right about the pain," She said while Avvon knelt behind her. "The herbs do help."
"I'm glad." Avon told her as he daubed freshly ground herbs onto the wound. It took a while to spread the mixture across the burn evenly but by the time he was done her upper arm and shoulder were completely covering in fresh bindings.
It had taken the better part of a week to the hot springs and until that point Avon had been very concerned about Cassandra's wellbeing. The burns had scabbed over in spite of the medicines Avon had applied and they cracked every time she moved. White, yellow and reddish green puss would between the cracks and had the sickened reek of death. The infection was painfully obvious and had left Cassandra feverish and fatigued even if she had a full nights rest.
In the few days they spent at Deepwater the hot springs had killed back any infected and dead flesh and her fever had gone down. With her injuries properly cleansed Avon was able to keep them clean and devoid of any further infection.
"Does it look like any of the fur will grow back?" She asked looking over her shoulder at him.
"Its too early to tell." Avon told her as he traced a claw over her shoulder blade to press down the ifnal crease in the bandage. When she sighed Avon looked her over in concern. "Whats wrong?"
"Maybe its better if it didn't. Then I wouldn't have to deal with any of this." She said looking away, her ears folding back dispairingly.
"I don't think that would help. Your other arm is still okay, now let me see that paw."
The fur on her upper arms had been the cause of her exodus, and by extent how she came into Avon's care. The natural blue fur between the shoulder and their black 'gloves' had been dashed with cream like on her chest and belly. It was a simple genetic fault, not unlike that which caused total alternate coloration but the Highborn clans saw it as an impurity as it was commonly caused by crossbreeding with other species of pokemon. To be bastardborn among the Highborn clans was among the highest of shames not only on the mother but on the offspring as well. Such offspring were often the result of rape, fetish or genuine affection, Avon had seen instances of each.
He had bound another poultice around Cassandra's wrist spike where she had tried to block a night slash. The attack left a gouge in the steel wrist spike and a winking gash across her forearm. It was this wound that had particularly worried him; it had festered after the first couple days but Avon cleansed it with the rest of her hurts at Deepwater. As he removed the bindings and cleaned out the remains of the poultice he was still nervous.
The gash bit deep, almost deep enough to reveal bone. Fur and flesh parted cleanly for the most part but the edges were ragged, swollen and puffy. Broken blood vessels spiderwebbed in the rent flesh and spots of pale white and green marked new muscle growth that would fill in the signifigant gap. The entire thing glistened with clear and yellow fluid. Without a doubt this wound would scar but for the time being it appeared to be healing properly.
"Ouch." Cassandra issed when Avon's claw prodded one of the growths.
"Sorry," Avon said through clenched teeth as he applied the fresh poultice. He was meticulous with his work and took his time applying the remedies evenly and to ensure the bindings were secure.
The sun was at its zenith when he finsihed and Cassandra was eager to be on her feet. In spite of her hurts she had an energy about her that Avon liked. There was a sadness there was well, to be sure, but it was only brought on by her recent exodus. Avon saw how much she liked seeing the new places and her eyes always wandered from one thing to the next. She would always point out little things like how the scatter oak and maple trees were different than the sentinels and soldier pines that grew in the mountains where she had come from. The pidgey and pidove native to the Gauntlet and the Flatlands were different from the starly and rufflet she had grown up with.
Avon eventually learned that Cassandra was born of clan Breakstar. Her voice had started to quiver during the conversation and Avon realized it wasn't a topic she wished to discuss. He knew enough about Breakstar to have a fair knowledge of Cassandra's origins.
Clan Breakstar made itself at home in Stonestar vale, a massive valley formed in a ragged circle. Avon had heard tell that the valley was actually a crater formed by a fallen star in ages past and it was that very star the formed the heart of the vale. The Breakstar lucario shared the valley with a clan of Xatu and Espeon and the valley also attracted the company of Solrock and Lunatone.
Stonestar vale was directly north of the Gaunlet and the Demonwood through the Spirit mountains. The mountain range itself spanned the entire width of Anterim and is divided by Absol's Eyrie. To the east loomed the expansive Spirits but in the west, bordering the Shattered Lands the mountians were know, out of reverence and fear, as the Dragons Teeth.
"And you've been wandering ever since you left the vale?" Avon asked as he led the way west. They stopped for a moment to regard a trio of Sentret that peeked up from a creeper cluster.
"through the mountains, yes. I was devastated, I didn't know where to go." Cassandra explained quickening her pace to match his.
"Why not stay in the mountains where you were more familiar?" Avon continued to ask. " You wouldn't even have to stay in Breakstar territory, The Spirits are massive."
"I was going too, I had found a place that I like. I was comfortable there for a few days."
"Then why continue south?"
"I saw an Absol." She said solemnly. "In my clan seeing a solitary Absol is an omen of bad luck. Even the Ancients of Old Anterim called them the 'disaster' pokemon and the Eyrie is renowned for its oracles." She was quiet for a time and Avon was about to speak when she added, "so I continued south, but I had no idea that I'd come out of the mountains right into the middle of Nightfire territory. At most I expected to deal with the roving packs from the Flatlands but I never imagined the Dark Hunt." Avon knew the rest. The New Moon came, and with it the Frenzy that consumed any member of the Hunt, and what made them so notorious. Avon clearly remembered that morning in the foothills, the light of dawn purging the Frenzy from Avon's mind and as he regained control of himself came Cassandra's cry. He was in time to find her prone between a pair of Hunters and both were about to deliver the killing blow. The would have killed her without a moments hesitation had Avon not intervened.
One of Avon's greatest regrets was not being able to see her in the light before she had been burned. But Avon's mercy was his undoing, in saving Cassandra he had broken clan law. By robbing the other two Hunters of their kill his hope of helping her had turned into his own banishment.
"What are you looking at?" Cassandra inquired suddenly.
"Just checking our heading." Avon said watching the sky.
"Making sure we're going the right direction." For days they had been traveling with the dawn to their backs and dusk in their path but travel was difficult through the thickly wooded foothills they now navigated. Aside for the thick forestation the ground was clogged with briar brambles, grape vines, creepers, thorny blackberry vines and low shrines that grew in the spars sunlight. It was slow going but Avon still had hopes of reaching the Flatlands by the half-moon.
"Why where are we going?" She asked uncertainly. Avon knew she never fully trusted him but her sudden alarm worried him. She stopped in her tracks and her ears folded back nervously. "Where are you taking me?"
"We're going west," Avon said pointing ahead. It wasn't something that needed to kept a secret. "I'm taking you to Victini's Wish."
"But thats halfway across Anterim." She said unmoving, he could see she was skeptical.
"the Wish is the only place where we'll be safe." The Wish was situated at the center of Anterim. It was a city built in ages past by the Ancients of Old Anterim. Centuries of erosion caused the River Run to carve clean through the city and flood many of the streets and alleys. The River Run ran from the Frozen North beyond Absol's Eyrie and emptied into Kingler's Bay on Anterim's southern shore. Victini's Wish was mostly untouched but had become overgrown with a wildly invasive flower for which the city was named. The Wish provided ample space and resources allowing nearly any type of pokemon to live there happily and because of the the flowers unique healing properties the Wish served as a triage to most of Anterim. "We don;t have time to look for some place to hide or to look for some other clan to take us in. "The Wish is the only place I know we'll find safe haven."
"What do you mean we don't have time?" Now she was getting the point but just to be clear Avon continued.
"I broke clan law, I had hoped the Grand Elder and Phobos would fireguard it because of your injuries but it only made things worse. I'm an exile of clan Nightfire, I'm a sworn brother of the Dark Hunt and I'm of good repute as a fighter. In my clan you have to fight for everything, the higher your status the more you get. I am a tempting target for anyone out to make a name for himself. And you, being able to boast killing a lucario is no small matter in my clan, even if you are a bastard female."
He didn't mean to but his comment caused Cassandra's rage to flare. "I am not a bastard!" She growled. Avon managed to sidestep and avoid her swing but missing her mark her punch continued into the trunk of a tree behind where Avon had stood. The bark and wood beneath splintered from the force of the impact but she cried out as it also jarred her injured paw. Leaves began to fall as she clutched her arm to her chest. "I'm not!" She choked, tears began to soa into the corners of her eyes. "My mother was Alayna Breakstar of the Highborn and my father was Dondarrion of the gifted!" Avon didn't know if it was the force of the impact of remembering her family that made her cry but she fell to her knees as she sobbed. Hoping to console her he placed a paw on each shoulder and brought her to eye level.
"I'm not!" She sobbed again trying to shove him away.
"I understand, I really do." Avon murmured. "But that is how anyone is going to see you." He felt awful seeing her cry like this. Now she refused to look at him, her eyes on her paws which were folded in her lap. After giving a moment Avon cupped her chin in his claws and gently brought her to look at him. " They won't care what you look like at the Wish."
She shook free of his embrace and turned her back to him. Cassandra sniffled and wiped away stray tears from her eyes before looking over her shoulder. "What if you're wrong?"
She was scared, she stood there hugging herself and for a moment Avon wouldn't have thought of her as much more than a pup. She had been cast out her of her clan immediately following her evolution and had been wandering ever since. She had nowhere else on earth to go. He regarded her for a moment as he came to realize just how young she was, it was that reason he began to feel protective of her. "Just trust me."