Chapter 1-Burning Sorrow

Akira held on tightly to Farlo's soft cream-colored fur, giggling as they walked through the forest. Her long, dark green hair bounced behind a light blue headband, and she skipped ahead to where a small pool of water lay sparkling in the afternoon light.

"Look, Farlo! It's you!" she remarked, watching as he gazed into the water. Farlo looked and saw the brown furry head of an Eevee looking back at him with inquisitive—yet rare—blue eyes. Akira grabbed tightly onto his neck and hugged him fiercely, and together the two enjoyed each other's company.

A rustle in the bushes behind them made Farlo perk his ears. Akira opened her eyes, and turned to stare curiously behind them. Another rustle, and a twig was broken; Farlo broke away, bristling now at the forest around him. Now, everywhere seemed to rustle and shake, and suddenly a strangled cry came from Akira as she was dragged away from behind.

"Farlo!" She cried, struggling in the grip of a large man with bushy eyebrows. "Run!" Farlo hesitated as two gloved hands reached at him from behind, and he squirmed free of the tight grasp that tried to possess him. Men and women were everywhere now, reaching at him and tugging him with cold, heartless eyes.

I must find the Master, then Akira will be safe…he thought quickly, and streaked off in the direction of the house; he was stopped short, however, by a shriek and a thump sounding from behind him. The man with the bushy eyebrows stood over Akira's body, which now suddenly looked twisted and wrong. Farlo looked, horrified, as the man ran toward him. Farlo couldn't think, couldn't breathe; Akira was broken, cut, and he had left her if only for a moment….

Farlo awoke in the dark cellar, breathing a sigh of relief. It had just been another nightmare. He struggled to sit up, his leafy body withered and weak. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the cellar, he could just make out the dark shadows of his partners around him; the musky body of Rex, the bulk of Claws, and the shimmering outline of Snow, the Glaceon that had been his trusted friend through the nightmare he endured every day.

Ever since that dreadful afternoon where he had been separated from Akira, Farlo had been living with his captors who worked him to their will. Most of the time he bit his tongue when he wanted to make a comment, but sometimes the fights and whippings were so grueling that he had to fight back tears of anger as well. All his life he had dreaded living like this, being pitched in the fights that his masters forced him to do, and all of his life he has been waiting and wishing on the empty dream that Akira will come for him, alive and well, to rescue him from this devil's place.

He shook himself, clearing his thoughts from the repetitive nightmare. He would never forget the day that they broke her.

Claws stirred, his spiky yellow body sparking as he came awake. "Morning, Farlo." He grumbled, and Farlo greeted him. At least Claws was in a good mood; the Jolteon was famous for his temper.

Claws yawned. "So, what fights do you think we'll have today?" He said this with an eye roll, and Farlo sighed at his sarcastic cheeriness.

"Don't know. Hope they aren't as brutal as…as Vera's." Farlo hung his head, sorrow and hatred filling his heart. Vera, a small Eevee, had only been three months old when she had been caught and pitched in a fight against a Rhiperior that took her life; Farlo remembered that him and his partners were ordered to watch from the sidelines, and he remembered every shriek that she emitted before slowly lowering toward the ground, half-dead and bleeding…

Rex and Snow stirred in their nests at their conversation, and both of them yawned and stretched before a glare of light opened above through the door to their small cellar underneath the stadium.

"Come on you lazy slugs! Get a move on; L-26, J-47, and G-68, you all get up here!" Farlo's name, Leafeon-26, seemed to appear on the master's lips every day now; it seemed that they were working him to his breaking point. Snow and Farlo exchanged a glance, then Farlo, Snow, and Claws leaped gracefully out into the light of day.

Farlo breathed in the fresh morning air, his mind clearing as he spotted the other members of the traveling group of performers and fighters; Farlo's master, Emerson, whistled to him, and Farlo was tugged by his soft cream fur over to him.

"There's my little fighter," Emerson smiled, but Farlo detected no warmth in his gaze; only cold triumph.

"Yeah, 'e's been workin' every day now." the master said in his grubby voice, rubbing his beard. "Been fightin' and pushin' against the rivals." He spit into the grass next to Farlo's paws, and Farlo stepped to the side warily to avoid it.

Emerson nudged Farlo with his leg. "Looks strong and well-rested. Here's a little something for your trouble." He handed the master three gold coins, and the master greedily stuffed them into his pocket.

Master pulled up his trousers. "Right then. Come on you louts, move along." He pushed Snow and Claws away from them, and with a loud thud they disappeared through a door at the side of the huge arena around Farlo.

Farlo looked around at the rows and rows of empty seats around him, Smeargle and Phanpy still cleaning up from the last fight. He saw that the gatekeepers, Gus and Vlad, were unlocking the gates that opened to the public when the performances and battles were to start.

The coliseum was slowly coming to life around Emerson and Farlo, gates chinking open while sounds were checked for the performance. Farlo saw blood-red ribbons tied around the sides, a formality only out for special occasions. He shuddered as the memory of Vera echoed into his mind; these same ribbons were there to witness her death as many before her.

Emerson tugged at Farlo's ear, and he yelped in surprise. "Come on. You must be behind the gate before the public come in." Farlo nodded gloomily and padded after Emerson as he led him to a large wooden door with a brass lock that fell into place as soon as Farlo entered the cramped room. He was plunged into semi-darkness, and he turned to see who else would be out in the arena today.

As well as strong fighters, the masters chose talented performers to please their public during the small breaks in between the fights. The performers were hardly treated better than the fighters, yet their punishments were less-harsh if they slipped up; they would only get one lash of a whip, while if the fighters messed up they would get severe beatings and harsh training the next day. Farlo was used to it though; he had been here for most of his life, and his evolution, and he had many scars to mark what he had been through.

Something stirred at the back of the room, and Farlo could just make out the tall shape of Gypsy, the Gardevoir that opened every ceremony with her enchanting dance.

"Morning, Farlo," she rasped, and Farlo felt a sudden pang of misery for his friend; Gypsy rarely spoke, and when she did it was raspy because of her lack of fresh water.

"Morning." Farlo said gently. He padded toward her and helped her to her feet; he saw a fresh wound striping down her side. He started to lick it, and already the healing juices of his spit were helping it heal. Gypsy sighed in relief as her wound was patched up, and in no time it had vanished completely; an advantage of being a Leafeon was that, if wounded, your healing powers of herbs would come in handy.

Half an hour later, the booming voice of an announcer filled their ears. "Welcome to the Pokemon Fights! I'm your host, Tony Bradbury, and I will commentate on the events. First and foremost, a stunning performance by our own Gardevoir, Gypsy!" The wooden doors creaked open and Gypsy glided forward, a sorrowful look in her eyes. The roar of the stadium drowned out any other noise, and Farlo was disgusted by the public's love of their pain. The doors closed again, and the music of Gardevoir's dance started. It was a thrumming beat of tambourines and drums, and Farlo closed his eyes as it ended.

Who will be my opponent today? He thought. Tony Bradbury's voice came on again as Gypsy left the stage.

"And now, the moment you've been waiting for… the main event, the Pokemon Fight!" The crowd roared with excitement, and the wooden doors in front of Farlo opened. The blinding light of day streamed in, and Farlo took a step forward into the stadium.

This is it, he thought, I've got to give it what I've got, and hope for the best.

The doors on the opposite side of the field burst open, and the gong sounded, hollow and empty.