Rachel Dune

Clouds drifted across the moon as Vance headed along the path leading to the Pokemon Centre. Darkness had fallen some time ago, but he was still a long way from the shelter of the Centre and he hoped to get there as quickly as possible. Once there, he planned to rest himself and his Pokemon before heading for the next Gym first thing in the morning.

Vance was, like many youngsters his age, a travelling Pokemon trainer, journeying from Gym to Gym. He'd started off with a Poochyena, which had now evolved into a Mightyena and, during the course of his journey, he'd also picked up an Axew, a Vaporeon and a Heracross. Appearance-wise, he was of medium build with longish brown hair and green eyes, his usual outfit consisting of a red shirt worn open over a white t-shirt and black jeans. On his head, he wore a black baseball cap, usually turned so that the peak was pointing towards his neck. In short, he wore the sort of clothing favoured by most young male Pokemon trainers.

There had been no Gym in the town Vance had passed through most recently; it had been a sleepy sort of place where not much happened. Indeed, the only thing of any note which had occurred while he was there had been the battle he fought against a local trainer and his Luxio; it had been a hard-fought contest, but Vance and his Mightyena had eventually emerged triumphant. Afterwards, having nothing else to do, he had moved on, heading for the nearest town with a Gym. That, however, was two days' journey away and the route leading to it was, he had been warned, populated by some particularly tricky Ghost Type Pokemon.

He had hoped to reach the Pokemon Centre which lay along this route before night fell, but he'd tried to catch a Venipede along the way. Unfortunately, it had escaped and he had wasted time chasing after it before he was forced to admit defeat. By the time he found the path again, it was getting dark - and the Pokemon Centre was still nowhere in sight. It looked as though he would have to camp out tonight . . .

But, just as Vance was contemplating opening his backpack and getting out his camping gear, a young girl suddenly appeared in front of him.

Vance stared at her. She appeared to be an ordinary girl of around fifteen, the same age he was, with long jet black hair and pale grey eyes, wearing a purple dress trimmed with black lace. But he had an odd feeling that there was something strange about her, that she was not all she seemed. And where had she come from? Had she simply stepped out from the bushes or had she materialised out of thin air? Vance quickly dismissed the latter as nonsense; all the talk he had heard about Ghost Pokemon must be getting to him. She was, he told himself, just a normal teenaged girl who happened to dress in a slightly gothic style.

Then, she opened her mouth and spoke, her voice sounding soft and musical. "Are you looking for shelter, weary traveller?"

She had a slightly old-fashioned way of talking, Vance noted, almost as though she had stepped out of the past. Not only that, but there was something about her voice that seemed almost . . . alluring, drawing him towards her. He found that he could not take his eyes off her, that he did not want to take his eyes off her. And, when he tried to reply to her question, all he could do was mumble something about "the Pokemon Centre". It was not the first time he had been rendered speechless by a girl, but he'd never met one like this before; she was pretty, but in a rather spooky way.

"Come," the girl said, stepping back slightly and beckoning to Vance. "I will take you to my home." And, with that, she began to walk away and Vance found himself compelled to follow her. He couldn't help it; his legs seemed to be moving independently of his mind, as though the sound of the girl's voice had put a spell on him. He had to go with her, had to follow her no matter where she went; that was the only thing that mattered to him right now. He gave no thought to the fact that she was leading him even further away from the path to the Pokemon Centre.

Nevertheless, he retained just enough sense of self to say: "By the way, my name's Vance. What's yours?"

She looked around, an oddly sinister smile on her face. "I am known as Rachel," she replied in her hauntingly musical voice. "Rachel Dune."

Rachel Dune - the name repeated itself in Vance's mind over and over. It sounded beautiful, almost enticingly so, drawing him towards this strange girl with her mysteriously haunting voice. As he walked, her name continued to echo in time to his footsteps: Rachel . . . Dune, Rachel . . . Dune. He had to go with her, had to follow her wherever she went; nothing else mattered to him except the hauntingly beautiful Rachel Dune.

Slowly, Rachel led Vance further and further away from the path he had intended to take, the path which led to the safety of the Pokemon Centre. Had he still been in control of his own body, he would have asked himself if following a girl he had only just met was such a good idea, especially since he had no idea where she was leading him. She had said she was taking him to her home, but there had been no sign of any houses so far . . . But it did not occur to Vance to question this; it was as though he was under a spell, a spell which compelled him to do whatever Rachel told him.

He gave no thought to anything other than Rachel. All thoughts of his Pokemon, his next Gym battle and even his family were gone from his mind; he was like a sailor lured off course by the song of a siren. And so he continued to follow her mindlessly, heedless of where she was leading him, unable to do anything except obey and follow her wherever she went. Occasionally, thoughts that this was not such a good idea flitted into his mind, but they were quickly suppressed by an overwhelming desire to keep walking in her footsteps. Further and further . . .

Sometimes, Rachel would turn round and repeat the word: "Come." But mostly she stayed silent, as if she could sense that Vance was still following her. And indeed he was, for he now had no control over himself, powerless to do anything except obey the mysterious Rachel Dune. On and on she led him, luring him far from the path to the Pokemon Centre, though he no longer remembered that the Pokemon Centre had been his original destination. The only thing he knew was that he had to follow her.

Presently, Rachel came to a halt. At the same time, Vance stopped walking as well, as though something had connected him to her, turning him into a human puppet who stopped moving the instant she did likewise. Coming to his senses, he blinked and looked around for any sign of a house, but he could see nothing. Why, he wondered, had she lured him all the way out here? What was she up to? Did she just want a Pokemon battle and, if so, why couldn't she have challenged him on the path, instead of making him walk goodness only knew how far?

Before he had time to wonder for long, however, Rachel spoke again. "Good," she said, her voice still hauntingly beautiful, though now it seemed strangely inhuman at the same time. "Now I can reveal my true form." And, with that, she began to glow and her human form disappeared to be replaced by that of a purplish grey globe with four black arms extending underneath its body. In appearance, it was very like a lantern, an impression added to by the flames, purplish grey like the globe of its body, which burned on the tips of its arms. A Chandelure, the luring Pokemon . . .

Vance stared at the Chandelure, hovering directly over the spot where Rachel Dune had been standing seconds before. Staring at him out of glowing yellow eyes, it held him transfixed, rooted to the spot as it swayed back and forth as though moved by a breeze. He felt a shiver travel the length of his spine as he stared at the Chandelure, wanting to run away but finding himself rooted to the spot as though he was a tree. He did not know where Rachel had disappeared to, but he could sense that whatever this Chandelure was up to was not good. But he was helpless; the Pokemon had put some kind of spell on him to keep him from running away.

All right - if he couldn't run, he would fight. Perhaps, if he used his Pokemon against the Chandelure, he would be able to beat it and, perhaps, even add it to his team; a Chandelure would be a pretty impressive Pokemon to have. And he was prepared to use all his Pokemon to battle it if necessary. He reached for his Mightyena's Poke Ball, but, before he could press the button to activate it, the Chandelure spoke. And its voice sounded exactly like Rachel's . . .

"Look into my flames, young traveller. Look and find eternal peace."

He could not tear his gaze away; the Chandelure's voice drew him in, forcing him to keep staring as the Ghost/Fire Pokemon began to wave its arms in front of his face, a rhythmic movement like the swinging pendulum on a clock. And, as its arms waved, the flames on the ends flickered. Vance was aware that he was being drawn towards the flickering flames, trapped by the Chandelure's hypnotic powers, but he was helpless to do anything, completely under the Pokemon's spell. Had he been able to break through the trance the Chandelure had put him under, he might have been able to send out one of his own Pokemon to battle it. But he could not; he was completely at the Chandelure's mercy.

To Vance, the Chandelure's flames seemed to being growing bigger and bigger until they filled his vision. No longer capable of independent thought, unable to remember anything about his family or his Pokemon, he stood rooted to the spot, helpless in the face of its powers. Then, as the last vestiges of his conscious mind slipped away, the Chandelure pounced, seizing Vance with one of its arms and drawing him into its flames. Too late, Vance realised the danger he was in, but there was nothing he could do to stop it now. He was about to suffer a fate which he had heard mentioned in his Pokedex but had never believed in until now; his soul was going to be burned in a Chandelure's flames.

"No . . ." he choked out. But the Chandelure took no notice. Though a human-trained Chandelure can be trained not to absorb human souls, this was a wild specimen and it obeyed the instincts of its kind. Vance's last thought before his soul was incinerated in the purplish grey flames of the Chandelure and his body became an empty shell was a terrible realisation that, had it occurred to him earlier, might have saved him from this terrible fate.

Rachel Dune, the name of the mysterious raven-haired girl who had led him to this spot, was an anagram of Chandelure.