Chapter 23: Redemption and Revival

Normally, I wouldn't be publishing this right after I posted the previous chapter, but in light of the story ending, I thought I would give a little 'treat', so to say, and because I know you guys just have to know what happened to Blaidd. So, here it is, the final chapter of The Aura Rising Trilogy Book I: Revival.

Ash ran to the fallen Blaidd, turning him over. Blood poured from a gaping wound in his chest and a dagger protruded from his side. His pallor was pasty and his breathing was faint. Ash felt no heartbeat. "No no no no," He muttered over and over again. "This can't be, it can't be." He carried Blaidd down the stairs and placed him on the tiled floor, kneeling beside him. "Come on Blaidd, wake up," Ash pleaded. "Please, please, wake up. Wake up!" He shrieked, tears forming in his brown eyes. "Wake up Blaidd!" There was no reply from Blaidd.

"Pika." Pikachu nudged Blaidd's arm gently. "Pikachu?"

Ash started to weep, mourning for his friend. The others knelt by him, Misty placing a hand on Ash's shoulder. They all wept that night.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Blaidd found himself back at the Hall of Origins. Soon he could go home and he could see Sir Aaron once more. He smiled at the thought. His bootsteps padded softly down the hall towards an entryway, where he found himself blocked by Giratina, lord of the Distortion world and the protector of the afterlife.

"I cannot let you pass," Giratina's voice thundered in his head.

"What?" Blaidd cried, stunned. "You have to let me pass! I'm dead for crying out loud!" He snapped. "I'm dead."

"I have orders," Giratina rumbled. "I'm sorry."

"He is right you know," Arceus said, coming up behind Blaidd. He was dressed in his human guise, the white robes unsullied and brilliant. His eyes looked apologetic. "He cannot let you pass. Your task is not finished yet."

"How can that be? I did everything you asked!" Blaidd protested.

Arceus shook his head. "He still needs you. He is not ready to be alone just yet. You must guide his steps. The war has only just begun and without you, darkness will fall, whether he is 'strong enough' or not. I am so very sorry."

"No you're not!" Blaidd screamed. "How can you say that! This is unnatural I tell you! It's cruel and inhumane, you monster!" Blaidd sank to his knees. "I just want to go home," he wept, tears leaking from his red eyes, head bowed.

"Lucario," Blaidd looked up slowly to find a familiar face fill his vision. "Blaidd."

"Sir Aaron?" Blaidd whispered. "Master?" Sir Aaron nodded. He was dressed in his regular regalia, only it was white, with gold and blue trimming.

"Yes Blaidd, it is me." Sir Aaron tipped Blaidd's chin up. "You know, you look a lot like me as a human."

"I do?"

"Almost like a brother, like you always were to me." Sir Aaron crouched down to Blaidd's level. "Remember what I told you? How you would end up teaching another?"

"Yes."

"This is it. This is your time. You can't turn your back on a student now. He needs you. I know you want to come home and I want you to too, but sometimes, we need to push our own selfish desires aside for what is really important and right now, Ash and the world are the most important. Do you understand, Lucario?"

"I, I just want to come home," Blaidd said in a ragged whisper. "But I understand."

Sir Aaron enveloped Blaidd in a hug. "I miss you, old friend," Sir Aaron whispered.

"I miss you too, Master."

"Don't call me 'Master'. We're equals now, remember?" Sir Aaron pulled away, smiling.

"Yes, Sir Aaron."

"Just Aaron will do." Sir Aaron flashed one more smile and faded away. Blaidd scrambled upright, looking about frantically for him.

"Aaron? Aaron!"

Arceus placed a hand on Blaidd's shoulder, calming him. "Do not worry, he will be waiting for you, just as he always has." Arcaus produced something in one hand a small golden sphere. "And now, a gift. While I cannot let you go on just yet, I can at the very least let you be you again." He pressed the sphere into Blaidd's chest. Blaidd staggered away from Arceus, clutching his chest and fell to the cobblestones, unconscious.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Lady Ilene watched from a distance as Ash and his friends mourned the death of Blaidd. The warrior had given so much to protect the young man. She hoped that he finally found the peace he had been seeking. She closed her eyes, struggling to contain the tears that threatened to fall. "I hope you find peace," she thought. She was the only one who had known his true identity, the costume of flesh and clothes that he had been wearing for so long.

A stranger staggered into the Palace that night, a cold winter's night with the heavy scent of snow, even though there were no clouds. His clothes were ragged and torn, the once lustrous black hair now lank and dirty. He looked exhausted and frightened, as he occasionally glanced over his shoulder when he went inside. He didn't relax until the heavy doors of Cameran Palace shut behind him. The servants assisted him inside, into a small guest room, where he was given a change of clothes and some hot soup. He seemed unsure on his feet and was wary and paranoid. One of the servants had discovered scars criss-crossing his bare back, some fresh, some old and scarred over, when she had helped him into a bath. Lady Ilene visited him that night.

"May I come in?" she asked, knocking on the door frame. The stranger, who had been eagerly devouring some bread, perked up and Lady Ilene was taken aback by his haggard and weary appearance. Dark circles rimmed his eyes and his cheeks looked hollow. His red eyes were feverish and bright, like fires into the soul. Recognition stirred in Lady Ilene, yet she couldn't place where she had seen them before. However, as she didn't recognize him, he recognized her. A light dawned in his eyes and he sat upright and bowed at the waist.

"Lady-Lady Ilene," he stuttered, unused to speaking in so long. He had only screamed in agony all this time.

"Do I know you?"

He nodded vigorously. "It is me. Lucario, Sir Aaron's Lucario. Remember?" Lady Ilene shook her head, but she began to see the resemblance and the intonation in his voice. She dismissed it though.

"But, you are a human," she said. "And besides, Lucario died at the Tree of Beginning."

"I know I did and I really did die, but Arceus, he brought me back," he spoke haltingly. "How can I make you believe me?"

"What makes you think I don't?"

"Because I know exactly what happened at the Tree of Beginning, down to the minute details." Lucario spoke at length about the incident at the Tree, how he had protected a young boy named Ash at the Tree, how he went to help rescue Pikachu and to find out what happened to Sir Aaron. When he had finished, Lady Ilene starred at him with wide, unbelieving eyes. "Now do you believe me?" he asked.

"But if you are the Lucario, then why are you here? And what happened to you? You look like a prisoner of war."

"I am here because I have no where to go," Lucario breathed. "I am hunted by those I do not know. They captured me and tortured me and I eventually escaped. I came here for safety because I know you'll give it, and I thank you."

"You-you are welcome Lucario," Lady Ilene replied.

Lucario raised a hand, a very human hand. "Do not call me that, please. I am no longer a Lucario, I am human, just like you now."

"Then what should I call you?"

"Blaidd. That was the name my clan members gave me when I was born. It means 'warrior' in my tribe's language. Only Sir Aaron knew of it, which is why you haven't heard of it until now."

"Very well, Blaidd," she stumbled over the name, unused to it. "Good night." she closed the door softly behind her.

"Good night, Lady Ilene."

Lady Ilene pushed the memory aside and back to the scene at hand. It was ironic in a way, that once Blaidd had ran from those who hunted him and now he finally confronted them and his fears, at the cost of his own life. She went to Ash slowly, stepping around the corpse's of some guards. She gently placed a hand on Ash's shoulder, breaking him from his grief. "We'll need to get him away from here, where we can clean him up and prepare for the funeral."

Ash looked up at her, his face red and blotchy, then back to Blaidd. His face, though pale with death, was calm and serene as a faint smile sat on his face. "Alright," he whispered. He went to brush a strand of hair from Blaidd's face when it began to glow with a golden sheen. Ash jumped away from Blaidd's corpse, startled.

"My gift to you," A voice echoed in the room. To Ash, it sound eerily familiar, but he couldn't place it. The golden sheen grew brighter and brighter, until he could no longer see Blaidd. It lasted for a few heartbeats, then went away. Blaidd was no longer there, but instead, the body of a lucario took his place. The dagger that had been in Blaidd's side was now sitting by the lucario on the tile. The lucario looked young, but weathered by the ravages of time. Lighter streaks of blue fur covered the areas where Blaidd's wounds once were, Ash realized.

"Could it be...?" Ash wondered. The lucario sat upright, rubbing his eyes sleepily. He gasped in amazement as be gawked at his paws. Lucario patted himself down, feeling the fur. He grabbed his snout, then his ears. He began to weep in happiness.

"I'm me," he breathed. "I'm really me." His hand flew to his throat as he said those words. It would seem that Arceus let him keep the gift of speech.

Max danced up and down. "I knew it! I knew it! You are Lucario!"

"A Lucario?" Ash asked.

The Lucario turned to Ash. "You don't remember me? After all this time I've traveled alongside you?"

Recognition dawned on Ash's face. "Wait, you're Blaidd? You were a Lucario all this time?"

"I'm so confused," Drew said, still nursing the headache he had obtained.

"You said it," Misty agreed.

Blaidd chuckled, clenching and unclenching his paws. "Not only that, but I am Sir Aaron's Lucario." Seeing the bafflement on Ash's face, he smiled broadly. "Don't worry, I will explain it in good time. Now, I would just like to get some rest." Blaidd stood up slowly, stumbling only a little, unsure of his footsteps. After walking like a human for so long, he was having difficulty walking on his footpads like a normal Lucario. Ash steadied him. "There is a room in one of the towers up that way," he pointed. Ash helped Blaidd back to the room, with the others trailing behind.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Archer paced the office of the transport freighter, angry and bitter at the horrendous loss at the bridge. The battle, which was tipped in their favor, had been overturned by the actions of one pokemon, what pokemon it was, he wasn't sure, but it was powerful enough to light nearly the entire bridge on fire, decimating his army. All was not lost though; Stella had arrived at the frigate shortly after Archer had, tired and with a broken kneecap. She had faced off against Blaidd and mortally wounded him, using his own knife in a stoke of irony. She confessed that she didn't have the location, nor the boy, but she had destroyed his teacher, leaving him vulnerable to outside influences.

"He should be relatively easy to track now that he is one of the very few living people that practices Aura now," Stella explained. "Blaidd is gone, leaving him easy prey for us."

Archer stopped pacing for a moment to glare at Stella. "Blaidd may be gone as you say, but we still don't have the location of Sir Aaron's tomb, nor do we have the boy. And you consider this a success!" he roared. Stella shrank back from him, edging near the door. Archer paused for a moment, contemplative. "And if he discovered the location of his tomb, he would be able to lead us there," he mused quietly to himself. "We may have lost the battle, but we have in no way lost the war." He dismissed Stella. "Leave me," he commanded. She duly left the room. When it was quiet again, Captain Archer tilted his head upwards and laughed.

"Oh yes, Ash," he chortled. "You think you may have won now, but when this is done, I would have won the real prize."

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Charizard landed in the courtyard of Cameran Palace and Gary and Dawn stepped off the fearsome beast, their steps a little unsteady. The night sky had already begun to lighten with the first traces of dawn. While he couldn't see the carnage in the light, they could hear the moans, the cries, he could smell the scent of death and carnage, the sickly sweet and coppery tang of blood leaving a foul taste in Gary's mouth. Charizard chuffed in pain and Dawn turned to the dragon. She felt the arrows in the mighty dragon and her face fell.

"He's hurt," she said, tugging slightly on one of the arrows. Charizard roared in anguish."He needs help right away!" she shouted, drawing the attention of a few of the trainers. A couple ran over to Charizard, one of the trainers summoning a blissey. Dawn guided Charizard to the pair, and they went off to tend to Charizard's wounds. Gary watched them and pulled out Charizard's pokeball. He suspected that they would need the ball sometime soon, but with Dawn there, Charizard should be cooperative, mostly. Dawn wasn't exactly Ash.

"Speaking of Ash..." Gary muttered. He stopped a person, who looked like he worked in the castle. "Hey, hey you! Have you seen a guy named Ash?" he asked, grabbing the person's arm. "He has a Pikachu and he was traveling with a guy named 'Blaidd', or 'Faith' or something like that. Oh and he was with a redheaded chick and a guy with squinty eyes. I can't remember the other people though."

The person nodded, much to Gary's relief. "Oh yes, I know who you're talking about. He's in the castle, resting. He's had such a long night," she cooed to herself. She eyed Gary up and down. "I don't remember you being at the battle. Are you one of the trainers?"

"Nope. I was the guy who turned the bridge into an impromptu fireworks display," Gary said, cocky.

Her eyes got wide. "Oh! That was you?" She grabbed Gary's hand, shaking it vigorously. "Then on the behalf of the residents of Rota, we thank you for your bravery and saving countless lives."

Gary flushed. "Um, thank you, but I did sort of have help," he added, knowing that if Dawn got wind of this, she would be miffed that he didn't include her. "Now, can I go see Ash?" he asked, getting impatient.

"Oh sorry, I'll take you to him right away." She tugged Gary's arm, nearly dragging him across the battlefield.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Gary found Ash starring out a window, his features calm, but Gary could see the anxiety and turmoil churning underneath the facade. Hie eyes looked haunted, like he had seen too much, or the jaded soldier tired after years of fighting. Ash was dressed in white clothing, with a bandage wrapped around his left hand. Pikachu tugged on Ash's sleeve, pointing.

"Pi-Pikachu!" Ash turned to face Gary.

"Gary, what are you doing here?" Ash said, astonished.

Gary shrugged. "It is a long story. How are you doing?"

"Hm? I'm fine." Ash turned back to the window. "You know," he began. "I used to think that the world was an innocent place. Sure, I had my share of bad guys and villains, but after today, I don't think I could ever look at anybody the same way again. They wanted to kill me, kill me!, and they were willing to kill anybody that stood in their way, including Blaidd." Ash shot a sidelong glance at the room where Blaidd was resting. Blaidd's wounds had fully healed when he had been revived, but he still suffered the effects of his overexertion. Aura had a nasty way of depleting energy from a person, especially at the volume Blaidd did. "The world is a dark and nasty place and I guess that that innocence that I had once seen is now gone, kind of like tarnished metal. Like the metal can be shiny for a time, but after a while, the shininess is replaced with grime and tarnish. The world has become, dirty." Ash halted. "Guess I can't find the right words for it."

Gary nodded "I understand. But just because its dirty doesn't mean it's bad. You've met lots of nice people as the time passed and while you may have encountered some bad people, the good outweighed the bad, right? As kids, we never really saw the world the way the adults did. We never worried about war, or the bills, or crime. We were just kids you know. And now we're adults and for the first time our eyes have opened, but that doesn't mean you should give up on the world. Just find the good in it, the silver lining." Gary rolled his eyes as he finished. "Man, I sound so cheesy."

Ash laughed. "Yeah, you kind of did back there. Since when were you the philosophical guy?"

"When I hung out with a grandpa that composes haikus. And the fact that you get a little lonely when you're traveling by yourself. Gives you plenty of time to think."

"I didn't know you could even think," Ash countered and Gary glowered. The tension in the room eased a bit and Ash felt a little better about himself. "Well, as cheesy as it was, it helped a bit. Thanks man."

"No prob," Gary leaned back on the wall. He felt something push in his pocket and he suddenly remembered. He pulled out Charizard's pokeball and he tossed it to Ash, who caught it with his unbandaged hand. "Here's Charizard's ball. Dawn and I had to hitch a ride up here. He saved your butt you know, just take a look outside."

" Thanks. Is Charizard in the ball?"

"Nope. He caught a few arrows during the battle so Dawn's taking care of him. You know, she's really good with pokemon. She sort of reminds me of you."

"I'll take that as a compliment, I think." Ash then threw a sly look at Gary. "Does somebody have a bit of a crush on a certain coordinator?"

"No!" Gary blustered, saying it a little too soon.

Ash rolled his eyes. "Riiight." Gary snorted and the pair spent the evening looking out at the sun rising over the eastern peaks of Kanto.

Ash realized something that morning as the sun started to rise over the horizon. The world was a dark and scary place, filled with villains and darkness around every corner and he had grown up. Innocence was now gone, but there would always be the glimmer of hope, with his friends and pokemon at his side. He could always push through the darkness; he may not be able to fully banish it, but he can diminish the darkness, push it away.

And he would have the Aura to light the way.

And that my friends, is the conclusion of the first 'book' of the Aura Rising Trilogy, Revival. The story will continue in the second book Shaman of Blue Flame, where Ash learns that enemies and allies can lurk everywhere and legends can truly come to life upon the desert sands of Orre. While there wasn't as much romance here, there will be in the second book and third. So, be on the look out for book two and for some I would highly recommend setting author alert or something else along those lines.

Many Thanks to those who reviewed, favorited, placed on Alert, etc., this story and to those who didn't review, but still liked it, I thank you too. Your support helped make this story possible and inspired me to finish it through, despite the slight hiatus...bloody plot bunnies.

~Peace, and may your dreams be guided by dragon wings~

Gweniveve Skyes