Art: SpaceSmilodon (http://www.furaffinity.net/user/spacesmilodon/) and Vexxblack (http://vexxblack.deviantart.com/)
Characters (c) of Space and Vexx
Story: BRNQuil (https://brnquil.sofurry.com/) and myself. (https://arcane-reno.sofurry.com/)
Make sure to check out other work done by Space and Vexx, at http://pmdbtad.deviantart.com/
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Thoughts were bumbling through Stuart’s mind like a Roggenrola careering down a cliffside. It was hard to know what to say - or even feel. Oh, Dusty...
Stuart noticed his paw shaking against the ground, and quickly steeled the erratic limb. He made a hard effort to look straight back into Boris' gravely concerned eyes -- yes, he should look at the mamoswine… the mamoswine. Absolutely not Thomas.
The persian, just beside and behind him, was merely picking between his teeth with a dry thorn - and making an infuriatingly quiet squeaking sound that uncomfortably pried itself into the thoughtful silence between Boris' grave words.
The Leafeon was doing his best to keep reserved, but anxiety had long-since frayed his nerves. The trail to the Mamoswine’s encampment hadn’t been especially difficult, and even Thomas seemed to take it completely in his own stride… but in the memetic silence and reverie of Boris' guiding company, the disquiet had granted him him nothing but time to himself.
Accompanying every silent step on the trek to the herd’s enclosure came another flashback to Dusty’s fainting spell, Angie’s horrified expression; her shriek of fear… warm Pecha poffins falling to the floor, the clattering of utensils; the sheer sickening juxtaposition in the sweetness of the smell of Angie’s home-cooking and the fear that he had felt flutter through his own heart as Dusty had fallen to his bed...
Stuart grit his teeth tighter, clenching his eyes shut for a brief moment -- anything to stop them from flicking towards Thomas and seeing that self-satisfied kitten. Not now. Right now, there wasn’t a chance he could stand Thomas’ attitude.
Dousing his mind of frustration, he opened his eyes once more - taking a carefully measured look over the mamoswine encampment.There was unusually few of the giant, hardy creatures - and those they did see were, also unusually, hustling with a frighteningly fast pace.
Nothing seemed safe, no mamoswine seemed secure. For a species that stories were told of, stories that came from the first Ages, of hardiness and resilience… For him, to see a single mamoswine worried was a concern in itself; for an entire herd to be this distraught was shocking!
And yet, Thomas was just sat on his rump, cleaning his teeth - how could he possibly be so above this?
The leafeon’s teeth ground roughly in his maw - as Boris finally coughed, ready to speak.
“Young Moonlighter,” he murmured, solemnly bowing his head to answer - just as his words were drowned out completely by the galloping footsteps of a piloswine. The brown-furred creatures dashed between the three of them without a word, careering so suddenly into them and appearing so quickly from behind Boris that Stuart barely had time to leap aside as it thundered through, vanishing into a silent tent behind them.
“Hey!”, barked the leafeon, taking a calming breath - steadying his balance. Thomas was looking at him with a curiously raised brow - Stuart quickly flicked his ear, silently beckoning the persian and leaning in close.
“Er...did you catch that?”
“... Yes, dear leader, I did,” drawled the Persian. “He answered your question. He said twelve -- so listen a little harder, if you’re capable.”
“Don’t mock me, Thomas. Or him. Twelve mamoswine is serious; this herd is suffering.” Stuart muttered, deadpan, as Angie’s face came to mind. “...and Dusty’s state isn’t a joke.”
“Psh. Nyon’t nock knee, Thomas. Focus on the issue at hand, Stuart.”
Stuart grimaced, and stepped back, looking back round to Boris. Sometimes… well, most of the time... it wasn’t worth the trouble.
The Mamoswine’s gaze focused on each of them in turn, then twice more, before he spoke again. A breath of wind stirred between them, making the leaf on Stuart’s head flutter uncomfortably.
“Hmm… yes. Mm. Twelve… to be more precise, the first one fell from a most furious fever into, mmmm, a most deep sleep a mere few sunsets ago.” Boris' eyes seemed to grow ever more serious as he spoke.
“Four had followed him by the next sunset, and, mm... four more the next. We resolved to find a rescue team to aid us that very same night. And thus far, today…” Boris' gaze wandered into the sky, seeming to seek out the sun behind the day’s thick clouds.
Stuart followed, swallowing nervously - finding the glare of the day behind a particularly thick black cloud to the west. It seemed to be barely past noon.
“Mm, I am told three more have failed to wake up from their night’s rest, and a further four have fallen during the day.”
Silence fell once more upon the small group. Stuart closed his eyes. So, it was inevitable, then… but how long would it take, from the first signs of fever, for someone to fall asleep?
Thomas growled suddenly, the grinding purr sending a dark shudder through his spine. Stuart looked at him with surprise, as the Persian suddenly bit down on his makeshift toothpick - swallowing it with a noisy gulp.
“So,” he drawled. “What do you need us to do?”
Stuart balked, stammering. “H-hey, wait…”
“Hm! A man of action… but it is no small task, little one… yet perhaps you are indeed the ones… what say you, Moonlighter?”
“I’m --” began Thomas, but Stuart cut in.
“Wait -!”, he interrupted quickly. There was still one more important question. Stuart breathed in, making sure that no wavering emotion would slip into his voice.
“How long do we have?”
Boris stared at Stuart, silently.
“The oldest stories tell of a virulent spirit that may choose to pass through a cursed land. This vile curse may indeed be no spirit, but indeed, mm... the illness it tells of is the same. A fever may last up to just three sunrises before the afflicted creature will fall asleep. And of those who fall asleep…”
The elder mamoswine’s ancient eyes wandered, as if to gaze over the multitude of oversized tents that made up the dusty encampment the three Pokemon found themselves in.
“Of those, indeed… mm, it is not known how long they have, but rest assured, Moonlighter… without expedient care, they do not wake up again.”
Stuart swallowed, his foreleg shaking again. He quelled it once more, resolutely stepping forwards, staring up at the Mamoswine until Boris was forced at last to stare back down at him and meet his anxious gaze.
“And the cure - you want us to find the cure?”
“Mmm… no, little one. We know the cure, and our expert herbalist, Saint Vileplume, knows how to produce it. No… what we need is an ingredient.” Boris seemed to ruminate for a small while, as if considering a heavy choice. “It is a flower’s extract… one that Saint can prepare much of if he was to have but a single living flower.”
The sound of a Persian licking its paw raked Stuart’s ears, but his concern was overriding. Dusty!
“And this flower, and Frostbite mountain… what links them?”
“The flower you will seek, Moonlighter,” intoned Boris, eyes raising once more, “grows only in the peaks of Frostbite’s ancient mountains, in monasteries built by our elders in ages long since passed, blooming only under the greatest care and supervision. It is an ancient treasure, and fragile. It is The Frostbite Flora, and it is unable to survive, mm... even our tender cultivation in these warmer lands... were we even able to get one ourselves.”
Boris gave one final sigh - his deepest yet.
“Our greatest strife is this… that the Frostbite peaks are occupied now by new generations of our… Mmm, indeed, our most ancient and most bitter tribal rivals. They are some of our oldest grounds, where even the hardest vagrants will fear to tread... Regrettably, they do not belong to us anymore, and indeed, there may be no shortage of such… Mmmm, vagrants on the way there.”
Boris shuddered, ancient disgust welling in his eyes.
“While we can no longer go, for fear of inciting tribal conflict by our mere presence, it is our hope that you are as able to pass, as we once were. You should travel… Hmmm, unmolested, and, young Moonlighters, you must - for you must bring Saint that flower.”
Another gale blew between them, making Stuart wince from the cold.
Where they were going, the winds would be much worse, he knew.
Thomas rasped suddenly, making Stuart and Boris look back at him, both blinking with surprise. The Persian suddenly coughed up half a thorn, before licking his paw once more, and matching their shared gazes.
“Frostbite, got it. Hate the place.”