It was right in the middle of the rainy season, and there was no rain.
The ground was parched and cracked, totally devoid of life. Acres of land which had once been brimming with rice, wheat, and corn now lay barren, stripped of their bounty by the merciless drought. While some summer heat was expected every year, the sheer magnitude and persistence of the dry spell had managed to squeeze the residents of Solaceon of all their stored resources. It had been decades since a heat wave this bad, and no one had really anticipated the likeliness of such an event repeating itself.
Actually, it would have been more accurate to say that someone had predicted what was coming, but that no one had been particularly attentive to said warnings.
At the edge of town, there was a hut where an elderly woman sat in a circle that had been scratched into the dirt floor. Garbed in several layers of clothing and wearing at least three shawls, she did not seem affected in the least bit by the torturous heat.
"This... this was in the bones..." she rasped, as she fiddled with the remnants of a Manectric's skeleton that she was examining, "The bones... they never lie."
"But how do we end the dry spell?" asked a young man - one of three that were seated before her on the hard-packed ground, "It was done before!"
Not looking up, the old lady shuffled about in her place, still tinkering with the yellowed bones, "That was a long time ago... I know not if it can be done... or if the price will be any heavier."
"Price?" echoed one of the young men skeptically, "What price?"
"The rainmaker is not a benevolent soul... what you seek, you may not find... unless you pay the price it states."
"But the stories say that Mokgobja beat it in a battle, and that it bestowed rain on our lands in reward," said the first young man, "He beat the rainmaker with his Marowak, and the town was saved."
For a while, silence reigned in the hut. The old woman continued to rearrange the bones, seemingly in random patterns that made no sense whatsoever to her three young visitors. After what seemed to be an hour, she finally spoke up.
"That part is true... but what the stories never mentioned is how he was left as a wreck of a man, never again to be who he once had been. Young men, are you certain of this?"
"Yes!" they replied in unison, their voices cracking as they spoke through parched throats that wouldn't have minded a drink of water.
"Very well..." whispered the woman, her voice barely audible, as she dug around in her garments for something hidden beneath all the layers of fabric, "But make sure that you take this with you - it will help you to keep the rainmaker at bay, should it decide to turn on you."
"We thank you, Lady Pornthip," said the last young man, as he reached out to take the trinket which she offered to them with a bony fist, "Your advice has been invaluable."
"Fare thee well, my young friends," she murmured, as they got up and left her hut. The aged shaman didn't miss the fact that none of them had wondered why she never looked at them during the entire duration of their visit.
If her white eyes had met theirs, though, she was sure that the answer would have been obvious.
"Here is it," said one of the young men, "The rainmaker's cave."
His two companions looked to where he was pointing, and saw that he was right; a cave's entrance was visible between two large rock formations not a hundred feet in front of them. Had they not been looking for the cave, they would have probably missed the small opening, hidden as it was within the dark shadows of the natural formations around it. Somehow, even from their present location, the cavern mouth seemed to convey a sinister aura of its own.
"Are you sure it is the right one?" asked the tallest of the men, squinting to try and make out the tell-tale signs of the rainmaker's dwelling, "I can't see the markings."
"We'll have to get closer, then."
Silently, the three of them approached the dark opening. As they drew closer to it, it somehow appeared even darker than it had been at first, as though it had swallowed up any light that tried to enter it. When they were just twenty feet from the cave, the third man stopped his companions with a raised hand.
"I think I see the markings."
"Where? I don't see them..."
"There, just on the right of the entrance. Two circles above a triangle."
"Yes," nodded the tall man, "Koli is correct. Gian, release your Pokemon."
The one named Gian nodded and released his Charmander, "Chiko, you'd best be letting Kudu out, too."
With a flash of light, a lithe Houndoom materialized from its apricorn-Pokeball, snarling at whatever its trainer had perceived to be a threat. Seeing nothing of the sort, it instead began wagging its tail and pawing at its trainer's feet, eager to have a game of catch.
"Kudu!" Chiko greeted his Pokemon warmly, "We are going to battle a strong enemy... Are you alright with that?"
The Fire/Dark type sat down on its haunches and cocked its head to one side curiously, "Doom?"
"Inside that cave is the rainmaker," Chiko gestured with his right hand, "And if the stories are true, it has a minion guarding it - one weak against fire."
Kudu the Houndoom bared his fangs in anticipation of what was soon to come, some embers flying out of his mouth as he did so.
With that, the five of them slowly walked into the pitch-black cave, their path illuminated ever-so-slightly by Gian's little Charmander.
"I think we are getting close," whispered Koli, after what felt like an eternity of walking in the near-darkness of the cave. Even the Charmander's considerably strong Flash attacks had not been able to fully-illuminate the cave, and so they had all been walking single file with their left hands up against the wall of the subterranean tunnels. Hopefully, if they were lost, all they'd have to do would be to make an about-face, and walk back with their right hands on the wall instead. They were currently in a large, room-like section of the caves, large enough so that a single Flash wasn't capable of reaching all of its periphery at once.
"What makes you say that?"
"I think I know," replied Gian, nudging Chiko in the ribs. His taller companion looked in the direction where he was pointing, and balked at the sight that greeted his eyes.
Barely ten feet ahead of them, at the edges of the Charmander's Flash light, lay a human skeleton that had been picked clean. Shredded pieces of fabric were visible on the floor around it, as though someone - or something - had ripped the person's clothes off before killing the poor soul.
"There are no bats in here..." murmured Chiko, as he instinctively stepped closer to his Houndoom, "It must be the rainmaker's work... or its minion."
As if on cue, a hollow ringing sound was heard, echoing eerily in the dark chamber. All of them immediately huddled closer together, the other three nervously clutching at Chiko and Kudu.
"Who dares enter the rainmaker's lair?"
"Did- did you hear that?"
"You certainly did. I ask again - who dares enter the rainmaker's lair?"
"Nobody!" answered Chiko firmly, as his ancestor Mokgobja was said to have done.
There was a pregnant silence, before the voice spoke up once again in their minds.
"Nobody? Very well... what is it you seek to ask of the rainmaker?"
"The drought is merciless this year. I seek to challenge the rainmaker, so that if I win, the dry spell may be ended."
As soon as he had answered it, the telepathic voice began cackling with what sounded like a mixture of mirth and murderous intent.
"As you wish."
Before anyone of them could do anything, a second telepathic voice spoke up.
"Leave the challengers."
Two red lights flashed in the cavern's darkness, and three sickening cracking noises were heard in rapid succession. Chiko gasped as he heard the three soft thuds that followed, even as Gian's Charmander dropped dead with a broken neck, its tail flame going out instantly.
"Step forward... child," the second telepathic voice said with a hint of satisfaction in it, "Step forward, and approach my altar."
"You- you killed them!"
"They were of no consequence," the first telepathic voice retorted, its tone distinctly scornful, "Now, young one. Do as the rainmaker has said, and step up to the altar, lest you suffer from the same fate as your companions."
"SILENCE!" boomed the second voice, "It is I, the rainmaker, who governs life and death in these chambers! You have forgotten your place, Bronzong!"
"Apologies, master," whimpered the Bronzong, as it lit up the cavern with a powerful Psychic-powered Flash, "Step forward, challenger."
Swallowing hard and trying to not look at the bodies of their murdered companions, Chiko and Kudu slowly walked forward, towards the Bronzong which had done the dirty deed.
"The altar lies beyond that doorway," pointed the Psychic/Steel type with one of its flat, finger-less arms, "Luck to all."
The two of them walked past the doorway to the next cave - which was curiously square-shaped like a man-made door. As soon as they crossed its threshold, the Bronzong stopped its Flash attack, plunging the chamber into darkness.
A malevolent laugh was heard, even making Kudu the Houndoom whimper slightly, "You have brought a fellow Dark-type to challenge me, or so Bronzong has said. Hence we shall duel in darkness... to the death."
Kudu growled, and the cave was briefly illuminated by a sickly-green light as the rainmaker launched its first attack.
The battle was nightmarish, to say the least. It was hard for Chiko to see what was going on, unless an energy-based attack was actually coming his way. Even the little spell tag which his town's shaman had given to him was now little more than dust - the rainmaker had disintegrated it with a casual Psychic attack, giggling like a madman as it did so. The laughter was unnerving enough, but the few moments when it had actually started sobbing hysterically and wailing like a banshee were considerably scarier. Sometimes, it even spoke up in guttural voices, or spouted random bits of speech that sounded like they had once been parts of several sentences.
Shadow Balls and Dark Pulses were fired, seemingly at random, by the rainmaker. At times, it would dazzle Kudu with a bright flash of light before slamming down onto the canine Pokemon with a nasty Silver Wind attack. Laughing maniacally all the while, it didn't even flinch when a Flamethrower from the Houndoom caught it square in the face.
From what Chiko could see, the rainmaker had no distinct body at all; it had a dark, dense lower portion, out of which emerged a swirling mass of purple smoke. Inside the shifting smog were numerous green spheres of light, which gave the creature a lantern-like appearance when it charged them with energy. As such, it was only truly visible when it was about to attack.
"You call THIS a challenge?" sneered the sinister being, "I am ending this, right now, right here!"
"Kudu, Crunch!" the Houndoom leaped forward, only to hit the hard-packed ground as the rainmaker zoomed aside with a Psychic push to the solid portion of its physique. As it flew aside, Chiko saw that the sand beneath its base was moving like the waves of an ocean, propelling it sideways rapidly.
'It said it was a Dark-type. But it still moves using Psychic powers...' Chiko frantically thought, as his Pokemon desperately evaded several Dark Pulses that its opponent shot at it, 'It must be manipulating the area around it!'
"Flamethrower the ground beneath the rainmaker!"
"DOOM!" snarled the Pokemon, as it exhaled a great gout of flame towards the shapeless being across the chamber. The fire curled around the rainmaker's solid base, causing it to screech in pain.
"Fool!" shrieked the Dark creature, as it assaulted Kudu with a large amount of flame-heated sand, "You shall pay for this!"
"Crunch on its base!"
Kudu pounced at the rainmaker once again, only to be swatted aside by a pillar of sand that surged out of the ground. As it hit the cavern wall with a yelp of pain, the sand pillar smashed into it with the force of a sledgehammer.
"NO!" Chiko shouted, running straight at the rainmaker. He jumped at it, and threw a punch at its constantly shifting face.
Almost immediately, time seemed to stop, and Chiko saw the world through a hundred sets of eyes. An overwhelming amount of mental images rushed through his mind like a never-ending wall of portraits that moved and spoke. Some showed males, some showed females, some showed Pokemon. And some were horrible visions - visions of cruelty, terror, and other dark moments that would have best remained forgotten. He finally realized that he was trapped in a pool of memories when he saw his ancestor's face - Mokgobja - among the massive cascade of images. However, once the images stopped, he found himself trapped in absolute darkness, with innumerable clammy hands clumsily swiping at him.
It was then that he understood the rainmaker's true nature - it was a being composed of numerous memories and souls, which removed its need for a true body. Every bit of spiritual energy the rainmaker possessed was bound to the rock-like part of its 'body', and so it couldn't even move beyond the cave where its Psychic powers were magnified. In a small way, he pitied the creature, Dark as it was. Even as the rainmaker forcibly ejected his hand from within its 'body', he felt rather than saw the chamber around him beginning to swirl and distort. With one final cry, he collapsed to the ground, leaving the chamber silent save for his Pokemon's panting.
Kudu howled, and the rainmaker calmly called for Bronzong to remove the body.
"I do not know what to make of this," Bronzong said, looking utterly bewildered, "The human sacrificed himself for his Pokemon."
"Some humans are noble beings," replied the bell-shaped Pokemon's master, "I have let the Houndoom go - but it will not return to the human's home. It shall wander the midnight darkness until Time comes to reclaim it."
"And what about the rain they sought?"
"It is theirs to have; I have ended the drought that ruined them... Someday soon, we must really talk to that lunatic Alakazam and stop him from randomly using Sunny Day on human habitations."
"Ah, you had me there - I had almost forgotten that you had even a fiber of mercy in you."
"All it took was one Rain Dance... And just because you have seen a FEW of my faces," jeered the rainmaker in a masculine voice - one which rapidly morphed into a uniquely female voice once it had turned away from Bronzong, "Does not mean you have seen them ALL."
Bronzong shuddered, and meekly watched in silence as the Spiritomb vanished into the fissure on its Odd Keystone.