Traveler

Ash Ketchum has been determined to become the best since he was a toddler. He has his eyes set on a charmander, but a twist of fate led him to the humble Nidoran. Note: Mix between anime and the games.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8466693/1/Traveler

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69. The Prophecy Part 1

"You know, Ash," Jonathan began, "I just realized that you never really got around to telling us what happened to you after the St. Anne. Wanna enlighten us?"

Ash, who had reclined against the couch as the rest of the Pallet rookies jabbered on about whatever entered their minds, opened his eyes.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but Johnny has a decent point," Gary grimaced. Jonathan scowled and started a venomous retort but Amelia's soothing hand calmed him down. "Ugh, I feel like I've lowered my standing in the universe by saying that."

He cracked a smile and pulled himself up until his forearms rested on his knees. Sneasel whined when he realized that Ash wasn't petting him anymore and scurried off with an annoyed hiss. Ash didn't have to say anything for Dazed, who had lurked in the corner that was dark with the swirling clouds that had sprung up suddenly outside, to head off after him to make sure the dark-type didn't do anything too obnoxious in his spite.

"It's a long story."

"We've got plenty of time," Amelia gestured to the windows where fat drops of rain had begun to spatter against the pane of glass. "I don't know about any of you, but I really don't want to get caught up in that."

Gary looked like he was in pain as he nodded alongside Jonathan. He hadn't formed anything resembling respect for either of the other two rookies over the three weeks they'd remained in Pallet Town after the Indigo Conference and took a great deal of pleasure in clobbering Jonathan's team again and again with his own highly-trained pokemon.

"Fine," Ash relented. He knew he wouldn't be able to tell them everything that happened since some things were too personal or too dangerous to tell them about. None of his experienced with the Legends would be told to them. Not yet. "Make yourselves comfortable."

"So, I suppose I should start at the beginning…"

XX

"Then I met Michael after I left Celadon," Ash continued as his audience listened on intently over the swirling storm outside that had come out of nowhere. He absentmindedly rubbed his forearms to try and get some heat back into them. It was oddly cold for late April.

"Awesome! We ran into him in Fuchsia, but he didn't have time to talk," Jonathan interrupted. "Man, too bad he didn't get past Lorelei…I really thought he could have made it to Agatha at least."

Ash waited for Jonathan to stop talking and didn't bother to explain that Michael had far more important things on his mind than an Elite Four challenge. He wouldn't have been surprised if Michael hadn't put forth his full strength just so he could return to Orre without anywhere near as much media attention.

While any Conference Champion would have a few days or weeks of fame, it was the rare contender able to push their way past one or more of the Elite Four that were mobbed by the media. Defeating any of the Elite Four was a huge event, as it could lead to an upheaval in the well-established ranks and invite quite a bit of potential change if the Conference Champion proved skilled enough.

"Shut up, Johnny-boy," Gary sneered. "I don't think I heard anyone say they were interested in your opinion. Did you?"

Jonathan glared at Gary and reached for a pokeball, but Ash cleared his throat to cut the two of them off. He wasn't in the mood for this right now.

"Anyways," he frowned in thought as he skipped past meeting the First's Rhydon, "I made it to Saffron, where I challenged Sabrina and lost terribly. Infernus put up a decent fight but her Alakazam crushed us."

All of the others nodded, as though they sympathized with his former self. At least he knew he wasn't the only one arrogant enough to have believed himself ready to face a Gym Leader that didn't take pity on weaker trainers and use a younger team.

That was never in question with Gary, of course.

"Afterwards I left and met Gary on the way out," he smirked at his former rival. Gary made a face and almost cringed at what he knew was coming next. Jonathan and Amelia both leaned forward, hungry for a tale of Gary's humiliation. The Oak's pride hadn't endeared him to either of the other Pallet rookies. "So I —"

He was cut off by a thunderous crash as Bruiser barreled through the door and nearly tore it off his hinges in his desperation to get inside. Seeker was held tightly in his arms, shivering and covered in —

"Snow?" Ash murmured as he accepted the cold body of Seeker into his grasp. She squirmed into his heat and he held her underneath the light jacket he'd stayed in the habit of wearing. "Bruiser, what's going on?"

His friend grunted quietly and shrugged with great effort. The Machoke looked as though he were fighting off an invisible force that desired to yank him back into the cold, which had evidently intensified as great clouds of black and grey swept into Pallet and cast the small town into darkness.

He could see it now in the light of his porch. Snow pounded down in endless flurries and wind roared as it pulled the light flecks of ice with it into the breeze. What little light there was reflected off of a small layer of it that stretched as far as he could see.

"Where are the others?" He demanded of his friend and rose, although he was sure to keep Seeker's cold body in contact with his own heat. She was too small to take this kind of intense cold for long.

Bruiser shrugged again and tensed as he shivered uncontrollably, although he knew it was not from the cold.

Ash bit back a curse, which would have disturbed his fellow trainers even more than they already were. He was almost as rattled as they were at the sudden blizzard, which appeared from absolutely nowhere. Nothing in the news had mentioned anything about this freak storm, let alone snow.

It was only when a gust of icy air swept through and seemed to wrap around him with an oppressive familiarity that froze him to the bone that his memory kindled and he realized that this was even worse than what he'd expected.

Articuno, the Bird of Ice. Winter's Lord, Blizzard Incarnate.

A terror that he had awoken all those months ago when he had been naive to the existence of the Legendaries.

The others gasped as their breath was stolen away and fell back into their seats as they shivered. Their strength was sapped by the frozen air that seemed to caress them and drag their spirits away with a wave of cold.

"Focus," he snapped. Ash had nearly succumbed to it himself before the Feather bonded to his chest flooded with heat. Each of the tiny obsidian membranes glowed red and gold and shone from beneath his shirt as every cell felt a rush of energy. "Stay here and keep warm. I need to find my team before this gets any worse."

"No," Gary slurred, eyes unfocused. Articuno's power seemed to have affected him the worst, as he barely seemed to be awake. "We've got — gotta stick together. I'm gonna help you find them, man. Just give me a sec, alright?"

Ash's mouth quirked up into a smile at that but he shook his head. "No. Stay here. You can barely talk, let alone go running around in this kind of cold."

"No!" Gary growled and started to pull himself up before his arms collapsed beneath him. "I'ma get up, believe it! And I'm gonna help you."

His eyes shut and he fell into a deep slumber moments later.

He will arise within the hour, Friend-Trainer Ash. Shall I subdue the other humans as well? They will only hurt themselves in attempting to aid us.

"Don't bother," he nodded to Dazed, who'd shuffled in the open doorway without his notice. "Jonathan, Amelia, you need to stay here and keep an eye on Gary. It's too dangerous to go out there right now."

"Then what're you doing?" Amelia managed to get out. "You need help finding your team, right?"

You do not. I have gathered those I could. They should be present shortly — Ice's wrath is not a subtle thing and I acted when I felt it approach. The Pidgeot is gathering those I could not detect — the insolent child is her responsibility.

"Thank you," Ash told Dazed, relieved. "Amelia, they're coming here. Just try to stay awake, alright?"

"Kay," she yawned and tried to start a conversation with a sluggish Jonathan. Ash didn't pay attention to them as he held Seeker tighter. She'd started to shiver less, which was a good sign.

"What's going on?" Ash demanded. "Why is Articuno doing this?"

Dazed idly polished her pendulum as she regarded him with her sharp eyes that were completely absent of any sort of fatigue. It was clear that she'd fed quite well on him last night, which was only a good thing with the current situation.

I do not know. Ice's power is unleashed now in a manner more dangerous than that of Lightning's Storm. It is swift and relentless. The Storm was a result of Lightning's presence. This Blizzard is born of fury. Conflict makes up its very essence.

"Can you feel anything else?" Ash questioned, desperate for any sort of answer. Articuno's Blizzard was far worse than Zapdos' storm. Whereas the Storm was a slow, ruinous growth that threatened all of Kanto in time the Blizzard was vicious and brutal in comparison. It stole life and vigor from humans and seemed to create an inescapable yearning in pokemon. "Where's it coming from?"

Many miles to the southeast.

Dazed's voice was harsh then, as though mentioning the beacon unleashed by Articuno had only made her want to leave for the source even more.

A short roar drew his attention from Dazed. Ash barely had time to react before Nidoking barreled into the house with fury in his eyes and tendrils of frosty air drifting from his horn. The poison-type found him instantly and rushed over to his side where he stood guard.

"I'm glad to see you too, Nidoking," Ash smiled and patted his starter's armored shoulder. "Stay calm. We have to wait on the others — I have to make sure they're safe."

Nidoking snorted and bowed his head in deference, although he angled himself so that he stayed between Ash and the gales of icy air that invaded the house with all the force of Articuno's fury. He smiled softly at his friend's gesture, even if the Feather helped to stave off the worst of the Ice Bird's power.

They draw near.

"Thank you," he directed to Dazed. She didn't move but her eyes curved upward in the way he knew so well. "Bruiser, could you find something to put over the others? I don't want them staying here like this without any cover."

Bruiser nodded and set off to follow Ash's request. He knew the house best of any of the team thanks to how much of his time was spent in the house since Seeker generally spent the long days sequestered safely in Ash's closet. The Machoke always ventured out to train or work personally with Ash on perfecting Rampage, but most of his activities took place at night when he could walk with Seeker as she flitted through the air.

Ash gently nudged Seeker to the side as he reached for his PokeNav. He needed to get in contact with Lance. He was sure that the Indigo Champion was already aware of the situation, but he also needed to know what to do.

He would probably get involved even he wasn't the newest member of Indigo's Elite Four, but with his official position it was imperative to react quickly.

His fingers were flush with the Feather's warmth as he typed in the number he'd made sure to memorize after the debacle in Viridian.

"Ash — hear me?" Lance's distorted voice called out. The PokeNav's screen was reduced to static and the odd blur that might have been Lance's head. "St — Orange Isl — s — Al —"

It went black.

Ash scowled and clipped it back onto his belt. He should have known technology would have been useless. The Blizzard itself would be enough to scramble communications and the added influence of Articuno couldn't have done humanity's inventions any favors.

But he'd gotten all that he needed from Lance. Even if he'd only managed to ascertain static and a few words he'd heard enough.

The Orange Islands. That's where this apocalyptic Blizzard had been birthed and that was where he would go.

Somehow. It wouldn't be an easy journey — far from it, in fact. The Orange Islands were nearly three hundred miles away from Pallet Town and he'd have to find a way to cross the ocean to get there.

He needed a source of teleportation. That was the only way he'd get there in time to see what was going on.

His only hope for that happening was if the Champion had sent an Alakazam for him. There was a good chance of that if Lance wanted to bring him into the situation, which he certainly would. Ash was the only in modern times to have seen the full Trinity of Fire, Ice, and Lightning — or have even the barest amount of contact with the living winter that was the source of their current ills.

Still, he wasn't sure if any Alakazam could pierce the Blizzard. He remembered very well that Zapdos' Storm had stopped teleportation somehow. It was the reason that they had to spend weeks trekking through the vicious tempest rather than materializing at the power plant, realizing that Zapdos had taken roost, and leaving.

Ash frowned at that tangent of thought. What had sparked Zapdos' sudden appearance in the first place? There had been no records of storms like that except for the old stories from untold centuries ago.

Oak's Alakazam could help him, but he doubted even she had the ability to teleport him all the way to the Orange Islands. He'd probably need at least two Alakazam working in tandem to get through the Blizzard.

So that was a possibility, although he wasn't sure that Oak's Alakazam would be willing to leave her trainer behind in this kind of situation.

Her great power and wisdom did give her a deeper insight into the workings of the universe, though. Ash frowned as his mind flashed back to her words to him before and after he went to New Island…

New Island.

Mewtwo.

A cold fire rushed through his veins then and he felt a faint sense of amusement that was not his own. Power coiled within him, potent and far beyond even Articuno's ability to disrupt and —

He clenched his fists and forced that thought away.

He was not that desperate.

Yet.

The icy power waned and he felt one last chuckle echo through his every cell before it vanished almost entirely, the last remnant of Mewtwo's continued influence a light, constant pressure in the back of his mind.

Friend-Trainer Ash, are you alright?

"Yes," he replied tersely. "I'm fine. Where are the others?"

His response was a small white blur with the odd fleck of inky black that rushed into the house, little more than a ball of excitement that couldn't sit still if its life depended on it. A tall, white shapeless mass bounced in after the first blur, although it shook itself off to reveal Tangrowth's huge form with only a few traces of snow left on him.

"I'm glad to see you too, Tangrowth," Ash allowed himself a smile as he patted Tangrowth's worried vine. "Could you get Sneasel under control? I need to stay focused."

Tangrowth gurgled back an affirmative and sent a few seeking vines after Sneasel, who deftly avoided them and raced around the room at speeds Ash barely believed possible.

That only left Oz, Plume, and Torrent to recover. They were almost certainly on their way. Oz's fur would stave off the worst of the cold and she knew Pallet Town as well as he did from her frequent chases of Sneasel, who'd decided to test out his rapidly increasing abilities by ambushing her at every opportunity.

This was hardly a hindrance to Torrent. His body could survive under the crushing pressure and icy cold of the abyss without any sort of strain. The cold was his domain and frost, even that spawned from Ice itself, was his plaything.

Plume was weakest to the Blizzard's wrath but he held faith in her. The Pidgeot's strong wings would be more than enough to carve a path to him.

All he could do now was —

Trainee Ketchum?

A snide voice cut into his head, crisp and sharp as the gales that ate at his skin.

"Yes?" He frowned thoughtfully at the Alakazam that had just appeared beside Dazed. The powerful psychic didn't even spare the Hypno a glance — he actually seemed to focus more on keeping his gaze away from Dazed. "You're from the —"

The League? Yes, obviously. I'm glad to see that the Champion chose you for your keen intellect.

Ash sighed at that. The Alakazam practically reeked arrogance and sarcasm. With any luck its personality wouldn't be psychically projected onto his friends — especially Gary, of course. The youngest Oak really didn't need any help in that department.

If only you were so lucky, human.

"What's your name?" Ash asked in an attempt to get to the point and avoid the Alakazam's obnoxious personality.

My name is Robert, Captain of the Third Teleportation Squad. I have been assigned to you as your personal Alakazam in case of emergency. Are you as disappointed as I am?

"I'm sure you can answer that question yourself," Ash snapped. He didn't have time for this. "I doubt my thoughts are especially subtle at the moment."

How scathing. I don't know how my superiors could ever think a delicate flower such as myself could work with a brute like you. If I weren't so humble I'd call say they're a bunch of gibbering simpletons whose job could easily by done by a simple Hypno.

"Shut up," Ash growled as Dazed's eyes flashed. "I don't have time for your crap, Bob. We are going to wait for the rest of my team and then you will teleport me to the Orange Islands so that I can fix this. And you'll apologize to Dazed."

Is that all? Do you want me to lick your boots before or after I accomplish a feat of teleportation that would require a team of no less than seventeen Alakazam as highly-trained as I am in the current climate? It took a decent bit of energy just to reach you from the Indigo Plateau, Trainee. You do have such a group ready, I'm sure?

Ash gave Robert — what a ridiculous name for an Alakazam — a hollow smirk. "I think I can provide as much energy as you need."

What are you — oh. OH. That is FANTASTIC! Perhaps you aren't as useless as the rest of your kind after all. My my, you just reek of the Pillars. Flame and something else. Something more powerful than I can even imagine…it's intoxicating.

"Are you done?" Ash asked Robert, who stared at him with something close to giddiness. The irritating psychic's eyes lit up — there was a literal glow as he touched upon the remnant's of Mewtwo's presence — and its spoons trembled with excitement.

Oh yes. I'll take you to the Orange Islands. I'll take you across the world and back again if you'd like. I could solve this nasty business with the Blizzard right now if you'd like.

"Keep dreaming," he said drily. The Alakazam's mustache twitched in annoyance but Robert didn't reply. "Just because you can leech off of Mewtwo's power doesn't mean you're a match for Articuno."

In this moment I am euphoric! I am made the Cosmos itself! Ice is a mere Facet of existence and I am its Whole! The entirety of the universe's passing has led to this moment!

"You aren't wrong," Ash muttered. "Just not especially right either. Dazed, could you fix him or —"

Plume shrieked with indignation as she hopped into the house covered in shards of ice and a soft blanket of white snow. She ruffled her feathers and puffed them up to try and shake some of the cold material off but it stubbornly clung to the glossy lengths.

"Dazed?"

His friend nodded and squeezed her eyes shut. Light glowed faintly from behind the lightly-furred lids as she exerted her power. Moments later the snow collapsed to the ground in an odd heap.

"Thank you, Dazed. Plume, do you —"

He was cut off yet again as Oz rushed through the door in a manic blur, electricity coiled about her as she fled the freezing cold. Her entire body was puffed up in an effort to stave off the biting wind and her tail looked thick enough to block the doorway. If the situation weren't so dire Ash would have given a reaction beyond a slight twitch of his lips.

Torrent levitated in moments later, regal and composed as always. The ice and snow refused to touch the Kingdra and billowed about him in a freezing cloak until he reached the doorway, where the chips of frozen water fell lifeless to the ground.

"I'm glad to see the three of you," Ash nodded to the new arrivals. "Now we can leave. This is Robert, an Alakazam from the League. He's going to teleport us to the Orange Islands, where the source of the Blizzard is located. I don't know what we can do to help, but we need to do something. I'm going to recall you now, but when I release you be ready for action."

His friends nodded seriously before they disappeared in a series of red flashes. There was no time to waste with pleasantries. Lance needed his help and Ash wasn't going to let the Champion down.

"Focus!" Ash snapped at Robert. The Feather burned with his urgency and he had to fight the urge to wince. It was almost painfully hot now but he couldn't afford to tear the Feather away from his skin. Not now. "Do you know where to take me?"

Of course I do you insolent brat! I am Robert, a genius amongst Alakazam. I knew where to go as soon as Lady Sabrina did.

"I see you're back to normal," Ash remarked as he shut the door and draped as many blankets as he could find over his slumbering friends. Amelia and Jonathan had succumbed to Articuno's power at some point. "So take me. Show me what the 'Whole of Creation' can accomplish."

Robert's eyes narrowed and burned with an icy fire that Ash had seen but a few times before. The pressure in the back of his head slackened for the briefest of moments as the Alakazam tapped into Mewtwo's presence and took the whole of reality in his hands.

Ash looked on at a wasteland of ice. A fell tempest brewed in the black sky, so thick that he could see less than a mile into the distance. Only a few rays of light managed to break through the thick layer of clouds in order to illuminate what Articuno's fury had wrought on this unfortunate land.

"These are the Orange Islands?" Ash whispered as he looked out upon icebergs that tore apart the monotony of the frozen plain. In some places the icebergs were so close together that they seemed to form a great wall of ice that stretched as far as the eye could see. "How long has this been going on?"

The disturbance that attracted the League's attention occurred roughly eight hours ago. Truly impressive what even a mere Fragment can accomplish, isn't it? I had heard the old tales of Ice's power, but I admit to have been a skeptic. Now I see that it was the Passer of Tales herself who doubted the stories' veracity.

Robert's spoons had already formed a thin layer of ice as he spoke into Ash's mind.

I must say that I'm glad this isn't my problem. Have fun, Trainee.

In that moment Ash thought he truly hated Robert the Alakazam. Especially since he felt Mewtwo's pressure recede for a moment as the Alakazam teleported away.

"You made it. I was worried — Robert's very good but this Blizzard neutralizes any sort of controlled techniques like teleportation," Lance said grimly from behind him. Ash whirled around and barely held back a grin as he saw the Champion, who looked like a hero of legend as his cape billowed in Articuno's gales. "I was lucky enough to arrive in the early stages, before the Blizzard had spread beyond this place. I don't expect anyone that doesn't have a Legend's power behind them to make it."

"Mewtwo turned out to be good for something after all," Ash snorted. "What's going on, Lance? This morning it was fine. Now there's an apocalypse."

"That's a very good question and one that I wish I had the answer to," the Champion scowled. "Sabrina told me to head to the Orange Islands last night. By the time I got here this," he gestured to the frozen sea, "had already happened. All of the pokemon are going insane and I've barely been able to reach any other members of the League. The order's out to get Lorelei here while the rest organize emergency procedures before the Blizzard arrives in full to Indigo."

"How long do you think it'll take before she gets here?"

Lance glanced out at the raging Blizzard that would have left a normal human inert and drained in mere seconds. He didn't even flinch as a particularly fierce wind sliced at his flesh with sharp shards of ice. His Feather blazed and consumed his arm with golden fire, holding the ice at bay with its long fiery tongues.

"Too long. She's making her way here on her pokemon. Faster than foot but not fast enough. We have to act sooner."

"Do you have any kind of plan?" Ash asked, desperate. He was still trying to adjust to the situation. Just minutes ago he'd been recounting the early stages of his journey to his friends. Now he was desperate enough to contemplate fighting Articuno. "Could Moltres help? It came to fight Mewtwo."

"That won't happen. Moltres is conflicted. I can sense its presence near, but it's also very far away. It's strange — it won't communicate with me with anything other than a few vague images that it doesn't mean to give," Lance lightly kicked the ground, frustrated. "I've been busy working with the Orange League to keep everything under control, so at least I've accomplished something while I'm here."

"Is everyone safe?"

Lance snorted. "Look around, Ash. You know better than I do how dangerous a Legend can be. Articuno might not have the calculated malice of Mewtwo but it is just as large a threat. But most everyone's out of danger. I managed to get Drake to declare a state of emergency before communications went down, so no one was exposed when the worst of it hit."

Ash frowned out at the frozen wasteland begotten by Articuno's presence. This wouldn't just affect people. Pokemon and the environment would be devastated as well by this sudden shift. They could resist such a drastic drop in temperature for a time but even a full day of this would leave serious damage. A prolonged exposure like what had happened with Zapdos' Storm could leave permanent ruin.

"We can't just leave the situation to sort itself out," Ash remarked. "We've got to do something. Do you know what's behind those icebergs?"

"Three unnamed islands under the authority of Shamouti Island, which is what we're on now," Lance said with a troubled frown. "Three islands in the formation of a triangle. Restricted from all but the…Orange Crew. Damn it, Drake…"

"I think I know why they don't want anyone going near them," Ash scowled. "They didn't tell you that Articuno rests there?"

"They did not," Lance took on a stormy countenance. "I'll be having words with Drake after this is all over. I think there's more than just Articuno. The Feather is calling out for something — it's only like this when I'm around you or the Flame of Moltres."

Ash shook his head at that, wary of the thought of challenging more than one Legend at a time. Even Articuno would have been beyond them if they tried to take it on in a straight battle. One couldn't fight it any more than one could fight a snowstorm.

But if two Legends were this furious around one another then there was no hope. They were liable to destroy both him and Lance in an errant flap of their wings.

"We need to know what we're going up against. The Blizzard's too thick to even see past the icebergs and it's only getting worse."

Lance nodded. "I agree. I wasn't able to get past them before — the winds were too strong for me to stay on Dragonite. When you got here I was about to try and burn my way through."

"Maybe Dazed can help…" Ash muttered. Psychics were particularly adept at sensing Legends it seemed, even though Dazed's strengths didn't lie in the mental arts. Her powers were based upon physical manipulation mostly. "It's too bad Robert left."

"He wouldn't have been much help," Lance cut in. "Most sensitive psychics have fallen unconscious under the Blizzard's influence just like the last time Articuno was active. It doesn't restrain itself like Moltres — if Robert hadn't left when he did he wouldn't have lasted more than a few minutes here."

Ash nodded at that and released Dazed. Hopefully she'd been around enough Legends to have built up a sort of resistance to their power. At the very least she could draw upon the power of Mewtwo locked within him in order to shield herself.

His lips quirked up at that. He never thought he'd see the day when he actually felt a measure of gratitude for Mewtwo. Strange times invited strange thoughts, he supposed.

A pulse of icy fire seemed to agree.

Were I any other I would flee from this accursed place. We of mortal stock should not be here.

"I'm well-aware of that, Dazed," Ash let a slight smirk play across his features. He idly wriggled his fingers and embraced the scalding heat of the Feather as it sang through his blood and staved off the deathly chill that had taken the Orange Islands into its grip. "Were I any other I would agree with you. But we have a job to do."

Indeed. Balance must be restored — I know not the cause, but I can sense the clash now. Fire's rage, Lightning's aggression, Ice's pride all arrayed against one another as they battle to establish the dominant. It is a primal thing and the world trembles before it.

"How far away are they?" Ash demanded. Any form of politeness was thrown out the window in the wake of Dazed's news. All three Birds battling amongst each other? That was much worse than he ever could have expected. Moltres and Articuno would be grounds for the evacuation of the Orange League. This demanded the evacuation of the world, if it were possible.

Dazed hesitated and stopped polishing her pendulum. Her eyes squeezed shut and her shoulders slunk as the little loop of stone trembled.

I do not know. I am sorry, Friend-Trainer. They are too strong, too large for me to differentiate. They are near but their power saturates the world for as long as I can sense. They could be a mile away or a hundred.

"Thanks, Dazed. I appreciate your help."

With that his friend disappeared in a flash of scarlet. Ash turned to Lance, who studied the icebergs intently.

"With all three in place we can't afford to wait. I tried to call Moltres again but it refused my call."

"I'd imagine it's rather busy at the moment," he remarked as lightly as he could given the circumstances.

Lance shook his head. "No. It's not nearby but it is at the same time. Moltres is ignoring me and I don't like it. It might be the only hope of resolving this. Not unless another Legend decides to step in."

Ash's mind flickered to — no.

Not yet.

"We have to get past those icebergs if we want to accomplish anything. I say we go for it," Ash said. "Dazed could ride one of your Dragonite and keep us from falling off. The Blizzard isn't so potent as to block minor uses of psychic power."

"That could actually work," Lance muttered. "Good thinking, Ash. Do you want Plume or Dov?"

"Plume," Ash said firmly. While he trusted Dov, he had much more experience flying with Plume. Not to mention that she would do everything in her power to keep him safe. Dov's first priority would be to tend to Lance. "Can Dazed ride on Dov? I don't think Plume can support the both of us."

"Of course," the Indigo Champion nodded and released their mounts. Plume joined them a second later, the light just barely bright to pierce through the quickly strengthening Blizzard.

Ash felt a slight grin worm its way across his face as he placed a hand against Plume's glossy feathers to share the Feather's warmth. His friend shivered and leaned into his touch as the full power of the Blizzard lashed her with shards of ice and cutting winds, eager for whatever heat she could salvage.

"Dazed?" He prompted. Moments later Plume was shielded with a layer of deep blue energy that moved easily with her, as the Pidgeot proved with a few experimental flaps of her wings. "Thank you. We need your help. Could you —"

I understand what you require, Friend-Trainer. Do not fret: my power is strong and my will stronger. I will protect you as you venture to soothe the fighting. We all shall.

His grin became more genuine. "I never would have thought otherwise. Can you get onto —"

Dazed teleported atop Dov before the words could leave his lips. Ash withheld a sigh. He didn't know whether the power of the warring Birds had caused Mewtwo's power to leak from him or not, but something was giving the Hypno access to more power than usual. She had grown much more skilled with telepathy and accessing the minds of others but even now it took concentration.

For her to so easily pluck the thoughts out of his mind revealed something more at play.

Not to mention that it was slightly annoying. Aside from her habit of staring intently at whatever caught her interest for hours at end his friend had avoided the common tics of psychics.

Now it looked like he might have to adjust.

Do not fear, Friend-Trainer. In times less dire I shall not resort to such crude measures.

Ash rolled his eyes and climbed onto Plume's back. The energy flowing from Dazed — who had locked herself onto Dov in what looked to be an extremely awkward position despite her humanoid form — instantly stuck itself to him and locked his body in place.

"Ready, Ash?" Lance's baritone roared over the Blizzard's din. The Indigo Champion was bound to Dragonite with a determined scowl plastered onto his draconic features.

"Ready," Ash shouted back and looked out to the raging skies ahead. Every now and then he could see a brief flash of white just barely enough to pierce Articuno's ridiculously thick storm. A dim glow still brighter than what little of the sun he could see raged for a few moments before it was extinguished.

"Then let's be off!"

Ash reflexively gripped Plume tightly when she shot off into the Blizzard. He had just begun to futilely shield his face from the chips of swirling ice that threatened to carve him to pieces when Dazed's shield extended to cover his body as well.

He breathed a sigh of relief when the instant of sharp pain faded away. Ash hadn't realized just how dangerous flying through the Blizzard at these speeds could be. If it weren't for Dazed's shields then they would have been cut to shreds by now — Articuno's spawn had only strengthened, if anything. It only seemed to grow in viciousness and power as they slowly carved their way closer.

Plume shrieked determinedly as she shot forward and just barely managed to gain a bit of altitude, not that he would have been able to tell if not for the angle of her wings. Ash didn't know what was up or down at this point — the Blizzard was so thick that he couldn't even see Plume's head. Dazed and the others might as well have been invisible, although he knew that they couldn't be far.

If it weren't for Dazed this would have been impossible. They'd have all gotten lost and probably crashed into the ground at this point. He could easily see why Lance had failed to pierce through this icy tempest.

Ash shivered as Articuno's influence slowly overcame Moltres' and cold seeped past the psychic shield molded by Dazed. Now he wished that he hadn't been so overconfident in the Feather's ability to stave off the cold. A fragment of Moltres couldn't compete with the Bird of Ice in the center of its power.

His hands went numb in seconds in the subzero temperatures. The shield slowly began to crack and flicker in and out of existence as the abuse reached levels beyond even the enhanced power Dazed wielded — not even Sabrina's Alakazam wouldn't have been able to sustain a barrier in these conditions.

Even his well-disciplined body couldn't resist a hiss of pain as a shard of ice slashed his cheek deep enough to scrape the bone, although he reacted instantly to the threat and ducked his head against Plume's icy feathers. If his face wasn't dead to any sort of pain he probably wouldn't even be able to think through the agony.

Worry thrashed in his gut as he realized that Plume would be suffering much worse than he, as would all the others as Dazed's power failed them. She was actually flying through this and bearing the worst of the pain without a single shriek.

His fear was assuaged as he realized that the shield still covered Plume — Dazed must have lost control or been forced to sacrifice his in order to protect Plume. It was a calculated gambit and proof that she was about to lose her war with Articuno.

He pulled his numb hand up to his face and grimaced when he felt slick ice. When he looked down at his fingertips they had a few drops of red on them. His blood had already frozen.

Ash squinted and turned his head to look down — or what he thought was down — in the hopes that they'd have finally made it over the walls of ice shaped by Articuno. They needed to get down to the ground if they had a hope of getting through this relatively unscathed.

As expected he could see nothing. Just an endless flurry of white and blue.

He ran an unfeeling hand over his pokeballs. Ash couldn't actually feel anything other than the pressure but just knowing that his friends were still with him was enough to calm the drumming of his heart.

Ash rubbed his gloved hands together for warmth, confident in Dazed's abilities to keep him locked on. She would maintain his anchor as long as she could.

The trainer stopped when the temperature shot even farther down, something he had thought impossible. His skin burned from it and he could barely see the outline of his own hand as the Blizzard strengthened exponentially. The shield flickered and slowly began to die and the cold bit and gnawed at him even more.

He felt as though his eyes were about to freeze in their sockets as a presence swept over them, the embodiment of the absence of heat. A void of energy. Twin orbs that shown with a horribly familiar icy glow — not the suns of Mewtwo but the very essence of ice, every component of Winter and Frost and Cold's identity revealed — passed him over with disinterest as the great Bird of Ice flew by at speeds even Plume couldn't match.

The Feather ceased to matter. What little warmth Moltres' token poured into him slowed and died, the trickle useless in the face of Articuno's mere presence.

Plume screamed.

Ash felt a wordless cry leave his lips as Plume fell deep into the Blizzard, the pulsing blue energy that had once surrounded them gone and vanished as Articuno's passing triumphed over Dazed's fiercest efforts. He clutched as tightly to his friend as he could even as he felt like his stomach would fly from his mouth and his exposed skin would be left nothing but red mulch.

He couldn't even breathe as they fell to their doom — almost a mercy given that his lungs felt as though they had frozen over — and black spots began to fill his vision as they were buffeted by ruthlessly strong gales that seemed to take delight in slashing at the two.

Friend…

Time slowed. What little he could see almost stopped. Ice shards moved at such a sluggish pace that he could track a hundred with his stinging eyes. Snow's dance had been reduced to a tiny swirl of motion.

Articuno's black shadow had left them. The Bird cared not for the deaths of mere mortals — it probably couldn't even realize that they were there. It simply saw a few tiny creatures as potent as a blade of grass in the face of its glory.

Plume's every feather rustled gently, the only sign of their peril a few lines of blood that flowed from her front. If he could see her head then he was sure he would see the slack of unconsciousness. Nothing else could stop her from fighting this.

Not yet.

He grimaced at the resurgence of the icy fire that enveloped him in its all-powerful shell and yanked him through the Blizzard at impossible speeds. Plume followed straight behind, still unconscious from the sheer cold and damage she'd taken in their foolhardy feat.

Ash didn't bother to fight as he was pulled through the sky, utterly immune to the cold and pain. He was actually grateful for the intervention, which was something he never thought he'd feel for the creature that acted through him.

His fuzzy thoughts were torn from their current direction when he saw a dim glow far away, powerful enough to pierce through and banish Articuno's Blizzard as it grew closer and closer. Before several seconds were gone it was so bright he couldn't even stand to look at the second sun that blazed its way towards him.

The Feather, finally relieved from Articuno's overwhelming presence, ignited to life with renewed vigor. He grit his teeth to avoid letting out a cry as the obsidian seemed to melt into his skin and the golden flame seared his entire body to the point that he could actually feel it despite his frozen skin and nerves.

It never let up but he soon grew used to it. Ash just closed his eyes and embraced the heat as it grew stronger and stronger until it felt as though he would burst into flames as surely as the Feather had.

When he opened his eyes the glow he'd seen before had engulfed the entire sky in an inferno of gold and red and white, the whole of his existence seemingly engulfed in flames that could melt steel as surely as flesh.

"Moltres," he whispered in awe at the sight of the Bird of Fire. It was no less resplendent than when he and Lance had dared to challenge it at its own seat of power. His Feather's obsidian frame felt as though it was seeping into his very skin but he couldn't find it in himself to care as the raging firestorm that enshrouded Moltres' golden form swirled toward him in a fit of divine wrath.

The Inferno seared every remnant of the Blizzard in its wake. From what little Ash could see through the veil of shimmering power that protected him and the conflagration that had ignited the sky Articuno's icebergs had been reduced to nothing but water vapor. The sea itself boiled and writhed at Moltres' mere passing.

And then the Storm arrived from behind Moltres. An infinite expanse of black clouds reclaimed the sunny spots Moltres had created and roiled dangerously as it illuminated the entire world with thousands of lightning strikes every second, razing the sea beneath it and lashing out ruthlessly at Moltres.

Petty creatures. Tearing apart my world for nothing but their own satisfaction. And you humans revere them as gods. Rather telling, don't you agree?

Ash just scowled and refused to answer. The icy fire that had saved him flickered in amusement and fell silent.

He just stared out at the skies that would only remain clear for a few more seconds before the clashing powers of Moltres and Zapdos would consume his world once more.

Three islands, easily visible now that the raging Blizzard had been replaced with clear, burning skies, were arrayed before him. To his left there was a volcano that shone with a brilliant orange which emanated from its heart. Plumes of molten lava and thick billows of smoke shot out periodically, the rate increasing as the Storm mingled hatefully with Moltres' Inferno.

In the center there was a mountain that jutted proudly into the heavens. Even in Articuno's absence it was cloaked in an eternal snowstorm, although the Inferno licked and tested the Blizzard with all the fury of a wildfire. He could see the left side of the mountain flickered orange as brilliant white flames threatened to devour Articuno's haven.

To the right lay a relatively flat island. It had no mountain on it but it looked almost like a meteor had smashed into it and rent the center of the mass in two. He could scarcely make out the details, however, since the sky above it would have been entirely black with storm clouds were it not for the constant lashing of lightning that shot from the blackness like glowing rain.

The world flashed and he recoiled even from behind the shield granted to him by his unwelcome tenant. Moltres' form had dissolved to match that of its fellow Legendaries and was accompanied by a vicious roar of protesting earth that heralded the sudden explosion of the volcano — acrid smoke black as Zapdos' Storm poured unrelentingly from the volcano's crown and filled the sky with a torrent of lava and fire that seemed to ignite the atmosphere itself.

Moltres was no longer visible to him even with the protection of the shield, which had made looking at the white-hot form of the Fire Bird no issue before. It had dissolve into an Inferno that could devour the entire world in time, the same elemental state he had seen it face Mewtwo with before.

He could only hope that this time it won its battle. The sight of the glorious Bird of Fire entombed at the bottom of the sea, held captive by pressure powerful enough to compress a human into a fleshy pulp in an instant.

Ash frowned even as the speed yanking him and Plume — he wasn't able to move his head easily and couldn't check on the others — almost doubled in an effort to escape the terrible power unveiled by the Friend of Man.

How was this Moltres connected to the one that had granted him a tiny fragment of its essence? He doubted they were the same. The Moltres of Knot Island seemed to like its home in Mt. Ember and he figured this one would be just as attached to its volcano. And someone would have had to have tracked it if it flew here. Even the Blizzard or Storm could have been rationalized as the movements of some strange group of Dragonair — hardly solid for any scientist but at least semi-plausible.

A horrifying realization came through him when it finally clicked that this was a different entity.

There were more.

At least two of each if these truly were different beings. Two of each Bird, two of each force of nature. Two of each Legend that would hardly notice if humans were snuffed out by their unrestrained power — only Moltres even appeared to care for them slightly. Articuno was antagonistic at worst and territorial at best. Zapdos didn't seem to care in their one meeting.

How many more were there? How long had these Legends slept undisturbed in the far places of the world, out of sight and out of mind of mortal men?

And was this just the beginning of their return?

Was this the end?

He let a scowl slip over his face and resolved not to let those thoughts consume him. He had a duty to the world and he would not allow it to be torn asunder by the Birds.

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