Chapter 11: Lord of Indigo

To Some Girl with a Haxorus: I wanted to thank you for the nice review you sent me. I wish I could answer your questions, but you don't have an account(or if you do, I can't find it) :(. It's nice to see someone caring about little ole' me. But how about this: go to LiveJournal and search for gweniveve_skyes and I'll post something there to answer you questions from the review, m'kay?

Or, if you have an account, sign in with your next possible review and I can reply to that as well.

Also, my pen name reminds you of dragons b/c my avatar is a dragon hanging off a hummingbird feeder, probably lol :)

The lone mountain of Mt. Battle loomed over their heads, a solitary sentinel heralding the entrance to the desert. Faint veins of vibrant, almost blood hued, shades of red indicated that the mountain was, in fact, active. The near limitless expanse of the desert spread out in front of them, a rough looking landscape with scraggly looking bushes and rough sand. The desert had no name, but some of the citizens of Orre dubbed it "The Cradle of Death".

Ash prayed that it wasn't true.

He scrubbed some of the grit that had accumulated on his face. His hat was providing some shade from the glaring, unblinking eye of the sun, but it wasn't enough; he had long since shoved his jacket into his pack. Sand was getting everywhere, as the wind was starting to pick up a bit, blowing the sand around in dust devils, dancing around each other like the creatures they were named after. They had been wandering into the depths of the desert for three days now, just entering the more rocky and dangerous part of the desert, like they had just passed an invisible boundary, for the change was that reached for his water canteen and unscrewed the lid off the metal canteen, bound in leather, and poured some water into the lid, handing it to Pikachu, who guzzled greedily. Pikachu, who was considerably smaller than Ash, was far more susceptible to dehydration than his larger trainer. Thus, keeping the small rodent pokemon hydrated was a priority to Ash.

"This desert is so hot," Drew groaned, adjusting his things. "Even the desert in Hoenn wasn't this roasting. You could cook an egg here."

"But would you want to?" Brock asked. "Sand would get everywhere in it."

"I'd laugh, but I'm too hot to."

"Since when were you in the desert?" May asked.

"That's how I got Trapinch. It's an interesting story."

"You'll have to tell it to me sometime."

"Do you think that we'll find wild pokemon here?" Max interjected, before May lost her composure.

Gary, who had been listening, shook his head. "Probably not. I heard the desert was all but lifeless when it comes to wild, native pokemon. Most "wild" pokemon here are probably transplants from other regions like Johto and Hoenn. Besides, if there were any wild pokemon, then Cipher would be all over them. At least, that's what Gramps told me before we left."

"Who is Cipher?" Dawn inquired, echoing the thought that was in all their minds.

"From what Gramps told me, Cipher is a criminal organization intent on corrupting the natures of pokemon and turning them into weapons. He didn't really have much to go on. Orre is notorious for keeping a muzzle on their media, preventing from any of their dirty laundry from airing."

Blaidd kept his thoughts silent as he trekked ahead. He didn't know where they were heading specifically, for Ash was fuzzy on details from Ho-Oh's vision, but he had a sense that they should travel in a northeasterly direction. He wasn't sure why he had to head that way, but it was drawing him like a magnet. The sense he had, it was like a trickle of something, luring him in like he was being pulled by a fine thread. A scent of something was the best way he could describe it; the problem was that he didn't know what it was that was driving him.

"Blaidd?" It was Ash.

"What is it?"

"Do, do we know where were going?"

Blaidd shook his head. "I'm not very sure Ash, to be honest. But, there's something in the air. I don't know what, but it is drawing me closer," he pointed toward the northeast, in a northwesterly direction from where they were. "Do you feel it Ash?"

Ash paused, lifting his head to the sky, inhaling. "I don't sense anything."

"Open your eyes—no, not your real eyes. Your Aura Sight."

"Why my Aura Sight?"

"It is a hunch."

Ash huffed and closed his eyes once again, stopping in his tracks to get a better sense of direction and his location. When he opened them once more, he saw the world rimmed in Aura. His eyes swept across the landscape, hoping to find the "phantom" sense that Blaidd was seeing. He scowled when he didn't find anything. Suddenly though, in the direction that Blaidd pointed, he saw it. It was a thread like trail, winding its way through the desert in a seemingly haphazard pattern. It was pale blue, the distinct signature of Aura.

"A pokemon?" he wondered. "Or a person?" He knew it wasn't Misty's, nor Blaidd's, for he knew both of their signatures, so it had to be something else entirely. It reminded him of the trails jets leave behind when they flew. As the planes flew farther away, their smoke trails would fade into the sky, with only the most recent residue to leave evidence of their passing.

"Follow it, and see where it may lead," a voice whispered in his inner mind. It sounded like Ho-Oh, from the tower, but he could be sure.

"What the. . .?" Ash said unnerved by the intrusion.

"Something wrong?" Misty asked. She had caught up with the trainer. He could tell that she wasn't used to the heat of the desert; her skin was flush with heat and a growing sunburn. Underneath her flushed skin, she looked unusually pale and tired. Her hair was practically plastered to her skin from sweat. Azurill was in his ball, to prevent heat exhaustion.

"Just looking for something," Ash muttered, unaware of her physical presence; he could sense her Aura.

"What, exactly?"

"I don't know, exactly." He focused on the trail. The trail was weak, very weak. "Did someone use their Aura, or is it their signature?"

"What do you see Ash?" Blaidd asked, eager.

"A trail, I think. It's like a tiny string of Aura, going that way." He pointed to the northwest.

"See if you can study it," Blaidd urged.

"Okay." Ashe sought the trail again, for he had lost track of it while he was talking with Blaidd. He decided to take Blaidd's advice and delve into it, trying to discern what it was exactly. He imagined himself seizing the trail in his mind's eye, but as he got "caught" it, it faded away, only to congeal back into the "trail". The discovery baffled and frustrated him all at once.

"What is he doing?" Brock wondered.

"Looking," Blaidd replied, watching his pupil.

After about fifteen minutes of strained silence, he sighed and ended his Aura Sight. "I can't tell what it is," he admitted.

"So, nothing about the originator then?"

"Every time I get close to it, the trail seems to fall apart," Ash snarled with contained annoyance. "Then it gets back together again when I go away. I don't get it!"

"Ash, calm down," Misty chided. "You found the trail, that's a good thing."

"But we have no idea where it goes or who it's from. For all we know, it could be Archer and his gang!"

"Don't lose your temper with me," Misty warned.

"Like you would know about holding your temper-"

"Ash." Brock interrupted. "We've been traveling all day and I think the heat is getting you, to all of us. We're all tired and cranky, but don't take it out on us. We'll take a fifteen minute break to sit and get some water, okay?"

Ash deflated under Brock's mild scolding, but it didn't stop the teen from scowling. "Alright." he snatched the water canteen off his shoulder, startling Pikachu in the process and guzzled it greedily, glaring in the direction of the trail all the while.

May exchanged a look with Drew. "That could have been bad," she muttered.

"Shame we didn't have a camera with us."

"Drew!"

"I was kidding, alright? Don't have to screech."

They seated themselves on the ground, too tired to care about the sand that was getting into their clothes. Misty was seating herself away from Ash, who was still temperamental at the moment. Dawn decided to seize the opportunity to ask Gary a question. Something had been nagging her since their arrival at Agate Village. She slowly crept next to him, trying to be subtle in her movements.

"Gary?"

"Yeah Dawn?" He was fingering the strap on his drink.

"Can I ask you something?"

"About what?"

"Back at Agate Village, Eagun mentioned something about a man who looked like you. When he mentioned it, you turned really pale and quiet. What happened?"

Gary turned his face away and his expression grew dark, pain written in his eyes. "I don't think you would understand."

Dawn inched closer and placed a hand on his leg. "You can try me. I'm a friend."

"I think...I think he knew my father."

"Your dad?"

Gary nodded slowly. "Yeah," he added quietly. "You see. . ."

Just then, Max trotted up to the pair. "Sorry to interrupt, but Brock says that we should get going."

Gary embraces the opportunity to stand up, brushing the sand off his clothes. "We better get going then." he remarked hurriedly, ending the conversation as quickly as it came. He grabbed his pack and left, leaving Dawn by herself.

"Why won't he talk to me?" she said to herself.

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

A woman wandered across the top of a sand dune, careful to avoid the sharp rocks that protruded from the earth. She did not look like one of the native tribesmen, with her light colored hair that looked to be the shade of the pale colored sands beneath her feet, and her eyes, the hues of the swollen underbellies of thunderclouds. She wore the traditional dress though, with a long, slitted skirt and white tunic, all hemmed with indigo thread; a belt of hammered copper plates with rock quartz insets kept it together. Sandals graced her feet, with leather thongs that wound up her calf. A bladed implement- a curved short sword—rested lightly in her right hand while a matching one rested in its sheath on the right side. Her storm hued eyes scanned the western horizon. The air had a tense, precarious quality about it, as if the world was teetering on the edge of a knife.

A harsh cry shattered the silence like a broken mirror and the woman was stirred from her thoughts. A staraptor, twice the size of a normal one of his species, landed heavily on the sands. She knelt and placed her hands on each side of the raptor pokemon's fierce visage, her eyes keeping a steady gaze with the bird's bright red eyes. "What do you sense, Horus?" she asked the bird quietly, reluctant to break the salvages of silence. The bird cocked his head to one side, trying to make an attempt to understand her question, but was unable to answer. She ran her fingers through the soft, downy facial feathers, her mind wandering elsewhere. She felt uneasy, tense, as if her core was a tightly wound coil, ready to spring if the the timing was right. She absently returned Horus to his pokeball and placed it back in the leather draw string bag that was attached to her belt.

"Mercedes," a man walked up behind her. Like the woman, he was dressed in white, though unlike hers, he wore white pants; he wore a leather vest over his bare chest. He had strong features, with high, broad cheekbones and a hooked nose. His eyes were the color of amber and he wore his raven black hair in a short braid, feathers and strands of precious stones woven into it. He wore no sandals on his feet. "What do you sense?"

She turned to him slowly, eyes gazing upon him lovingly. "I don't know, love. It has me feeling uneasy though, like I'm witnessing the end of an age. Do you sense it?"

He shook his head. "I sense nothing, Mer, save only the wind upon my face and the sand under my feet. Nakiri might sense it though."

"I don't think so, Mru." Mercedes, the woman replied sadly, turning back. "It is only something that I can only feel, I think."

Mru, the man, placed his hand on her lower back, eyes on the western horizon. He watched the landscape with her for a while. From the corner of his eye, he could see the vague forms of his tribe heading in the direction that Mercedes had been studying. "We must get going. My uncle would not appreciate his scouts shirking from their duties."

"Right." Mercedes pulled out another pokeball, this one an ultraball, known by the black and gold pattern and summoned the creature dwelling within. The beast that emerged was a monstrous creature, its scales the color of granite and protruding from its form like stalactites and jagged rocks; it was an ancient monster, from a past epoch, now living in its present. It was built like a wyvern from myths, with wing membranes the shape of dark purple, turning to almost black at the edges; the edges were ragged from age. Twin horns twisted and writhed from just behind its baleful red eyes. Teeth peeked out from its underslung jaw. Its spiked tail swished back in forth in impatience. The wyvern like creature was an Aerodactyl, not seen since the dawn of time. "Paathurnax, scout ahead for Teldas and don't eat any of the mareep please, this time." Paathurnax gave a screech and sprung into the sky, using the desert thermals to head in a westerly direction, flapping his massive wings only occasionally.

Mercedes then took Mru's hand and pulled him along, running in the shadow of Paathurnax and alongside the tribe's caravan, just out of sight.

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

The day was beginning to break into the afternoon, the sun now overhead, heat crashing down on them like a hammer on an anvil. The air in front of them seemed to shimmer with the incalescence of the sun. He was still following the trail of the Aura thread, occasionally lapsing into Aura Sight to make sure he was on the right path. Blaidd came up closely behind him, to guide him as needed. The pair was followed by Misty and Brock, then May, Max and Drew, with Gary and Dawn bringing up the rear. In the beginning, Blaidd had been much more strict about how the traveled, demanding that they travel in a single file line to throw off trackers, but was they pushed their way deeper, he had wavered in this thinking and eventually they coalesced into one large group. Occasionally though, Blaidd would look over his shoulder, just in case.

"Can we take another break?" Max asked. "My feet are killing me. I think I'm getting blisters."

"We all are," May reassured him. "Trust me."

"Not yet," Blaidd said. "If we stop, Ash might lose the trail."

"But it's the middle of the day," Brock argued, the beginnings of fatigue. "The sun is hottest now. The last thing we need is one of us to collapse from heat exhaustion or worse."

"We can't stop," Blaidd countered. "Not now, not until we find the origins of the thread."

Ash stopped suddenly and blurted, "The trail is getting stronger!"

"It is?" Blaidd asked.

"Yeah, I think it's getting thicker, actually!"

Blaidd laughed. "That's what I'm talking about! Can you figure out what it is yet?"

"No, not yet."

"Hmph. At least we're getting closer to solving the mystery."

"We aren't going to wander until we find what this thread is, are we?" Drew asked.

"We're only looking until Ash finds the temple from his vision; the trail could lead us there."

"For all we know, it could be leading us in the opposite direction."

Blaidd spun around, the remnants of a snarl gracing his features. "What do you suggest we do then?"

"I say we find one of theses "Holohians" and ask them."

May tapped his shoulder. "Um, Drew?"

"What?"

"I think he's getting angry."

Just then, Gary pointed towards the northwest. "Hey, I think there's something heading towards us."

Blaidd stopped. "Is it a sandstorm?"

"I don't think so. It. . .it looks like a bunch of people, actually."

"Well, there's your answer, Drew," Max said.

They froze in their positions, hands heading for their pokeballs, Blaidd readying his Aura and sparks crackling from Pikachu's cheeks. Gary's assumption had been correct. The tribe was about four score strong, full of men, women and children. The leader, a young man in his twenties and wearing leather armor, came to a stop. He raised his hand and the rest of the tribe stopped behind him. The air was filled with tension as the young man's eyes seemed to rest on Ash. Pikachu jumped off Ash's shoulder and crouched in front of the trainer, hackles raised.

"Who are you?" The man asked haughtily, looking down his nose at the motley group.

" I'm Ash, and these are my friends. We're looking for something-" he stopped when Misty nudged his side discreetly.

"Careful!" she hissed softly.

"What exactly, are you looking for, mukaatu?" the tribal leader, if it could be assumed, inquired, drawing out his words.

"I think he just insulted us," Drew whispered to Gary.

"Well, Holohians don't like outsiders, remember?"

"Right."

"A building, I think." Ash replied, his gaze even with the tribal leader. "I think it is a temple, built into a rock face." The answer drew an audible gasp from the other natives and the once quiet crowd broke in a jarring jumble of words.

A look of rage crossed the tribal leader's face and in an instant, a wicked looking sword appeared in his hand. "No mukaatu is allowed to know the Temple of the Rainbow Lord!" He raised the weapon over his head and started to swing it at Ash's head. "No one!"

"Ash!" Misty screamed.

Just then another man stepped in front of the path of the sword and stopped the tribal leader's wrist. "Ylvrios, what in the name of the Vulcan are you doing!"

"Out of my way, cousin! He demands to see the Temple of the Rainbow Lord!" Ylvrios spat, spittle flying from his mouth. "He is mukaatu! He deserves to be punished!"

"My wife is mukaatu too, if you recall," the other man growled,

Ylvrios sneered. "Do not tell me about your mukaatu wife, Mru. Now, move!"

"Mru, what's going on?" A woman, with dirty blonde hair and gray eyes, stormed through the crowd. Brock's eyes nearly bulged out of his head at the sight.

"Ylvrios aims to punish this mukaatu for wanting to see the Temple."

The woman laid her eyes upon Ash. "You wish the see the Temple?"

Ash nodded.

Mru, the other man, moved aside. "No outsider is allowed to see the Temple," he explained to Ash. "To do so would inflict severe punishment upon the viewer. How do you know of the Temple?" he asked, practically growling.

"I was told to come here, in a, in a vision."

"A vision?" the woman said.

"Who sent you the so called "vision"?" Mru sneered. It would seem that he had a poor impression of the teen as well.

"Ho-Oh did. He told me to come here."

The crowd died down at the mention of Ho-Oh, but suddenly, broke into peals of laughter. "Ho-Oh, the Rainbow Lord, told you to come here?" Mru said incredulously, in between laughs.

"He did!" Ash shouted over the laughter. "He told me to come here-"

"What is going on?" A voice boomed over the crowd, silencing them. A man sat astride an arcanine dressed in leather and scraps of metal plates. The pair was at the top of a large hill of sand and rock. The crowd moved aside as Arcanine made its way through the crowd and Ash got a better look at the stranger. He had an air of authority about him, evident by the crowd's reaction to him. He had a craggy face, with a scar over the bridge of his nose. His eyes were a very dark brown, almost black. Lines of weariness and laughter were around his mouth and the corners of his eyes, denoting great age, even though he did not move with the slow movements of the aged. His hair flowed behind him in a black, silver streaked curtain down to mid-back. He wore a long, indigo robe over white pants, with a midnight blue sash. In his right hand he held a large spear with a broad head. It looked like a lance in his hands. The spear shaft was adorned with feathers, small bones and chunks of crystal and ore at the top.

Ylvrios bowed his head. "Father, I can explain-"

"The mukaatu wishes to see the Temple, Uncle," Mru explained hurriedly.

"I see." the elder said. He dismounted from Arcanine and stepped closer to Ash, scrutinizing him. "Tell me boy, what is your name?"

"Ash, sir."

"Very well, Ash," the unfamiliar name rolled on his tongue, the 'a's elongating as he pronounced the boy's name. "I am Teldas, chief of the Voran sect of the Indigo Tribe. Why do you wish to see the Temple? It is not a tourist attraction, you know." Behind him Ylvrios raged silently, his face an unpleasant shade of maroon, giving Ash a dark glance.

"I was told to go to it, by Ho-Oh." One or two members of the tribe snickered behind the elder at the mention of this, but were silenced by Teldas' steely gaze.

"Ho-Oh told you to come. It is not very often that Ho-Oh visits those of the mukaatu."

"You believe him?" Ylvrios said in disbelief.

"He has an honest look about him." Teldas answered, almost scolding.

Ylvrios turned his head away from his father. "Yes Father."

Teldas turned his attention back to Ash. "However, outsiders are not allowed to view the Temple. Only those accepted as members of the Holohians are allowed to see it."

"How can I see it then?" Ash asked. There was something about the elder that made him feel at ease, unlike the man Ylvrios, whom looked as if he still wanted to take a swing at his head with his sword.

"You must become one of us."

"I do not believe this father!" Ylvrios shouted. "You cannot lot allow this! He is mukaatu!" Some of the other Holohians nodded their heads in assent.

"The wife of my nephew is, by your standards, a mukaatu, and she is one of us. Besides, you are not the chief, as I am not quite dead yet, so I make the decisions, not you."

Rebuked, Ylvrios sunk back into the crowd, giving Ash and the others dirty looks all the while. The elder continued. "If you wish to join, you must pass the Test."

"Test?"

"Yes. You must face one of our members in a challenge. If you lose, you are banished. If you win, you may join us and we will teach you in our ways and maybe Ho-Oh will guide you to the Temple you seek."

"What type of challenge? A pokemon battle?"

The elder shook his head. "Not a pokemon battle, but a trial by combat. Mru, my nephew, will fight you. Are you up to the challenge, Ash?" he asked.

Ash hesitated, glancing behind his shoulder. Everybody had varying degrees of horror written on their faces, Misty's worse of all. Blaidd, whose expression was inscrutable, shook his head sightly. "Trust yourself," the voice called to him again. "The Aura will guide you."

The voice—whether it was a hallucination induced by the heat, or really an outside influence, he couldn't tell—but the reassurance was all he needed. It was the only way, besides.

"I'll do it."

Teldas nodded sagely. "Very well then, Ash. The challenge shall begin shortly."

Okay, another batch of pronunciations, lol:

Teldas: Remember the 'e' sounds like 'ae', so Teldas sounds like "Tael-das"

Mru: Sounds exactly it looks- "Mroo"

Ylvrios: The 'y' sounds like 'ee', so it is pronounced "Eel-vree-os"

And for those who noticed, yes, Mercedes' Aerodacytl is named after one of the dragons from Skyrim...I blame the game. When I look at Aerodactyl, I'm reminded of their dragons (which are technically wyverns, but...). I'm such a nerd. Maybe my brother will let me play instead of being a back seat player. *Sighs* Someday... :(

FUS RO DAHHHHH!

Shame on me...