Disclaimer: Sadly, the only pokémon that I own are the ones in my video games. All original characters, locales, and pokémon that may appear in this piece are mine, however.
Rating: PG for mild violence, blood and gore. Strong language is used in later chapters, however, and will be noted.
Author's Notes: The Ninetales' Curse was my first foray into the world of pokémon fanfiction, and though I am overall satisfied with how it turned out, I have decided that a bit of revision is in order. As I revise each chapter I will remove the author's notes from the top, so if a chapter retains notes then it has yet to be edited.
Prologue: The Dawn
The morning sunlight crept slowly through the foggy window, almost as though it was reluctant to disturb the dark, brooding interior of the mansion. Its warm glow did little to enliven the bowels of the huge, silent house, which was slowly crumbling away beneath the weight of years of neglect and painful memories. The brave sunbeam struggled through eddying dust motes to cast a small patch of golden radiance on the floor, an oasis of light and hope in this, the domain of despair.
As the morning brightened, the ray of illumination intensified, drawing back the veil of darkness that shrouded the room into which it had intruded. It revealed sagging, defeated furniture quietly decomposing in the perpetual gloom, small piles of plaster fallen from the deteriorating ceiling, and, curiously enough, another light source, twin patches of red light lurking near the back of the room.
These mysterious lights were nearly as different from the perpetually optimistic sunbeam as it was possible to be, however; they glowed with baleful malice, seemingly offended by the sun's trespassing on their domain. And, most surprising of all, they moved forward, revealing that they were not, in fact, lights, but eyes—the eyes of a ninetales, illuminated from within by the pokémon's mystical power.
The fire-type moved silently through the patch of sunlight, her golden fur briefly illuminated before being swallowed once more by shadows. She proceeded through the darkness with the grace and ease of memory, stepping lightly around holes in the floorboards. Her luxurious tails swept away cobwebs and brushed up against moldering furniture as she passed, hardly making any sound at all.
She stepped out of the perpetually half-ajar front door and into the fresh air of early morning. Continuing out onto the garden path, she padded lightly across cracked stepping stones, now almost completely indiscernible beneath the tangle of unkempt grass that had grown up to engulf them. She continued past flowerbeds now overgrown with weeds, the only flowers remaining there feral, twisted specimens, eternally at war with one another for sunlight and nourishment. The air was scented with rot and damp, a perfume suitable for the decomposing mansion.
The ninetales left through the old garden gate, which now hung by one hinge, rusted open. Leaving behind the dismal mansion, she stepped out onto the windswept cliff top upon which it rested. The building behind her seemed even more forlorn from the outside, a lone, hunched crone huddled dejectedly on a cold, windy street, clutching her twisted gardens about her like a ragged cloak. One entire wing of the mansion was gone, only a few charred posts and sections of wall remaining to testify that a fire had occurred there long ago.
The ninetales, however, did not look back at her home as she strode purposefully up to the very edge of the cliff. A wide swath of forest spread out below, only just awakening to the trills of birds and the sigh of ocean breezes in its leaves. The ninetales surveyed it for a moment, her attitude almost scornful, before turning her gaze out to the ocean beyond. Its calm, peaceful waters sparkled in the early morning light, seeming to stretch on forever. As the ninetales stared out across its boundless miles, she looked not only out across her domain but also back in time, to an era long past and which few humans remembered. Her eyes burned with cold fire as she allowed her mind to wander back through her dark memories, utterly oblivious to the teasing breeze that toyed with the thick ruff of fur around her neck as she stood motionless on the edge of the precipice. She remembered.
She would never forget.
She would never forgive.
The rattata tore through the forest, his four small feet pounding the ground as he streaked through the underbrush, kicking up fallen leaves as he went. He had been running hard for several minutes now, and his light purple fur was soaked with sweat. His sensitive ears told him that his pursuer was still not far behind him, however, loping easily after him on her long, powerful legs. He forced himself to a still greater speed, and he flew through the sparse vegetation, knowing he was not far from a safe haven.
As he raced around a tree trunk, the rattata felt an unusual tingle spread across his body, starting at the tip of his nose and traveling down his body to the tip of his tail. It made his whiskers quiver and he nearly missed a step, but his body flooded with relief anyway. He threw himself into a blackberry bush that was just ahead, his small form able to squeeze through a gap between the plant's thorny branches without injury. Once inside his leafy sanctuary, he slumped to the ground, sides heaving.
Nishivma slowed to a halt and sat down outside of the blackberry bush, her cunning eyes fixed on the spot where the rattata had disappeared. She feigned nonchalance, extending a foreleg and working her tongue through the rich cream-colored fur that covered it. Her gaze never left the bush, lest her quarry try to escape while she appeared preoccupied. Once she determined that she had given the rattata sufficient time to recover his wits, she returned her paw to the earth and leaned closer to the bush, her wide ears detecting the small noises of the rattata within. "Jeremy, darling," she purred in a silky voice, "you know that you shouldn't have run away." The blackberry bush rustled in response.
Nishivma sat back on her haunches once again, the red gem set into her forehead gleaming as it caught a stray sunbeam. She continued her admonishment in a gentle, reproving tone, though beneath it her words seemed to have a sharp edge, clearly threatening. "You know how it upsets the Mistress so. Oh, she does so hate to see her guests leave without any notice. Imagine! Insulting her...hospitality..." Nishivma trailed off, letting the words hang in the crisp morning air. "You mustn't do anything like that ever again, Jeremy. I shudder to think at what might happen the next time you tried something like this. Why, I might just have to see to it that you would never be able to run away again."
Jeremy the rattata had recovered enough from his mad dash to sit up and glare out at Nishivma between the leaves of the bush. She couldn't see him, he was fairly sure, but he could see her perfectly well, her feline face set in a false expression of regret. He could see the cunning lurking behind her eyes and understood that she was enjoying the act, toying with him as cats are wont to do. "You know you could never kill me," he spat back at her. "The Mistress would be terribly displeased with you if you ever did that."
A sudden flicker of fear passed across Nishivma's slitted eyes but was gone almost before Jeremy was sure that he had seen it. The Persian's false kindly air evaporated completely, her manner turning deadly as she leaned in close once more, glaring into the bush, eyes searching for its concealed occupant. "Don't test me, rodent. It is by my courtesy alone that you are alive to taunt me," she growled warningly. Rising to her feet, she shot a last venomous glare at the bush and trotted off, deadly as a gengar and twice as silent.
Once he was positive that the Persian had left and was not just lurking out of sight, waiting for him to emerge, Jeremy rose to his feet as well. His head swam with dark, defiant thoughts as he slowly climbed out of his prickly savior. Nishivma or no, he would escape this accursed forest and free its inhabitants from their mutual nightmare.