“Oi! Where’d you go, Krieger?”
“Right ‘ere, mate, same as always. Jumpy, much?”
“Can’t see five feet with this forsaken mist.”
“It en’t mist, it’s fog.”
“Sure, and how’d ya manage to divine that, now?”
“Fog’s thicker, you dunderhead. Now shaddup, we’re gettin to a good part now. Hear that?”
Across the forest floor crept a pair of men clad in khaki hats – chap safari get-ups, - dark in color and with clothing that matched and fairly well blended in with the surroundings. The hats sported a thin gauze of mosquito netting, which shrouded the faces and, where they could be made out, shifted and twisted them. Here the ground was thick with roots, tangled and twisted into sharp verdant netting. Krieger, the one walking in the front, was slighter of build than his companion, with a thin sharp face and high cheekbones, suntanned. His eyes were blue, shockingly so against his sun baked skin, and his whole visage had a wary, predatory look about it. He was smiling as a wolf smiles when it has cornered a helpless lamb, eye teeth breaking white against his thin dark lower lip. Just past the rim of his hat were a few loose strands of hair, sepia in color, almost lighter than his skin.
His companion was heavier-set, with a wide brow beaded now with sweat, but at the same time possessing a healthy, tough air. His eyes were dark and surly, close-set around a short nose with bread flaring nostrils. Like Krieger, however, he had the air of being at home in the thick jungle, an easy sort of grace about the way he picked his way across this ground despite the heavy fog.
“It’s a bad day to be out, Krieger,” he spoke in a baritone, but quietly, eyes straining out through the white sheet that draped over everything. The fog was thick, impenetrable, clinging to the vague amorphous shapes of tree trunks and preventing even the view of the looming, august sweep of canopy that he normally would have searched out. “The Mwambe are prolly out, y’know. Got some suspicions ‘bout all this weather stuff, and this fog, I mean… The thickest I ever seen in this part of the jungle.”
“Y’could be right, mate, but the fog means that we won’t ‘ave the Rangers after us. ‘D much rather deal with a coupla Mwambe than with the Rangers, see. Besides, we got an agreement with the chief ‘round these parts, see. There’s profit innit for ‘im, too.”
“But… these Chim… Chimpchars? They’s sacred to the Mwambe, en’t they?” Krieger shrugged, the rifle on his back arching up the hump of his shoulder. He actually did know, he’d lived near the jungle his whole life and grown up playing with a Mwambe child. He’d been to the temples deep in the heart of the jungle, lit by that rare pearly green sheen where a sunbeam broke through the thick leaves. He’d seen the painstaking carvings they made with tools of bone or Donphan tusk, right into the trees, meticulously detailed sculptures of those they held next to Arceus, the brightly colored flaming monkeys so rare even in this part of the world.
“Shaddup an’ listen will ya, Sully,” he growled after a moment, pausing among a thick tangle of roots. Just to his right rose the thick belly of an old tree, one of those that had not been cut down yet. They were quite deep in the jungle by now, travelling along one of those odd old abandoned Mwambe footpaths where vines did not have to be hacked through except on occasion.
This was Krieger’s place in the world, and he knew it. He liked it here, deep in the heart of a place that did not smell of human and of burning coal, much better than he liked it on those flat safari plains along which he had chased the fleet footed Luxray with its electric eyes and the elusive Rhydon, so rare in the wild and so powerful and indomitable. He had brought both down, in time, captured them and brought them back struggling and laid at the feet of the trainers who paid thousands of dollars for their capture.
Those league trainers didn’t catch their own Pokémon anymore, after all. It took too much time and effort in this rapid world for them to travel all over and get themselves in all kinds of dangerous situations to find the world’s rarest and most powerful monsters. That was his job: a snatcher’s job… a poacher’s job, on the occasion. This was the occasion. Within the bounds of a natural preserve, which had laws against both the slashing and burning of ground and against catching Pokémon, the actions of Krieger and his partner were considered illegal. Yet, there were certain jobs that they could not pass up, and this was one of them. For one, Krieger and his transient, dispensable partners such as Sully were paid considerably more for obtaining some of the extremely scarce, endangered Pokémon in these areas. There were other reasons, too. There was the thrill of illegality, of living well within the shadow but now staring across the divide at the glaring light.
Then, there was this walk through the jungle. Krieger inhaled deeply, breathing in the fetid scent of the plants that died and did not rot fast enough on the floor of the jungle, the fresh crisp edge of new buds forming up above heralded by the rain, that heavy burdened scent of heat and humidity that hung around these places close-cropped with trees.
“What’m I sposed to be listnin’ for again?” Sully’s voice broke his reverie and he snapped back to the living with a sickening jolt. Krieger turned and looked at him, glaring through the mosquito netting, but Sully either didn’t notice or didn’t comprehend. Probably both, Krieger reflected. He wasn’t exactly overjoyed to have the torpid, rather thick skulled and less than velvet footed Sully along, but it always helped to have another man to corroborate the cover story should the Rangers actually turn up.
“You hear those cries?” From overhead rose a high keening noise, a loud crackling burble and then a scream and an echo of a scream. A loud chatter followed and suddenly a great rustling filled every forest niche, and a shrill chorus of squalls filled the air. Sully listened for a moment and then turned to Krieger, a mist hanging over his brow.
“I thought you said that them Chimpchars was rare?”
“Chimchars, ya big dolt. And I did, that’s not them. That’s Mankeys, obviously, ya hear how they got those deep overtones to their voices? Big lungs on them. But this means we’re in monkey territory, see.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Sully said, a dull sort of disappointment coloring his face. Krieger rolled his eyes, exasperated, and turned away and moved a few silent steps on through the brush, moving gently aside the fronds of a clinging fern.
“C’mon, then, let’s getta move on. An try not to wake up the whole forest, will ya?” he snapped, then moved along swiftly through the mist, steps low to the ground and feeling and sensing his way more than seeing it. Sully had no such sensory prowess and was stumbling along behind, stubbing his toes on vines and the like. Chimchar were famously shy, and Krieger had a sinking feeling that he wasn’t even going to get close to his quarry with this club-toed weight hanging on his arm.
As it turned out, however, Sully was right about one thing.
A shadow moved in and out among tendrils of fog, nostrils flared wide and staying within the comforting shelter of trees. The man who it belonged to was little more than a fleck of oily dark skin against the white mist, just one of a million shifting noises through the twisted knot of trees and roots. He moved swiftly and silently as a stalking jungle cat, a Persian, silky footed and one with the trees. He wore no shoes, walking on nigh an inch of calloused that clung to the bottom of his feet. He moved so silently as to pass right by a dozing Chatot, brightly spangled with color. It did not even stir, dark hooded head pressed to the yellow insides of blue wings. The man did not pause even for a moment to admire the silky plumage, but continued along.
Quetzal, he was called, a boy on the brink of manhood. He was tall, broad-crested, and moved with eerie grace in and out among the place he called his home. The fog did not bother him, but the demons lurking ahead did, slinking through the underbrush with loud noise. Today was the day that marked his ascension from child to man, going off into the deep heart of the silence and the dense fog that came regularly with this time of year to find meaning.
He was voyaging to the mountain of the fires, where the bright monkeys gamboled and played and lived. These were the friends of his people, at times their allies and their helpers, and for centuries his people had been in alliance with them. His ancestors had been fascinated by them, by their capacity to destroy and also by their capacity to be gentle and their intelligence, worldly and natural, not like the sort which disillusioned man.
Others, older than him, did not speak of this journey through unfamiliar territory, through thick fog and in places where they had never treaded before. His heart had thrilled with terror and anticipation upon setting out, and did so now as he caught sight of the two shadows in the mist again. They wavered in and out of sight, hidden by a thick white wall. His feet instinctively found again the ridge that he had been told to follow, to make sure that these demons would not lead him off course. He steadied his feet and turned his head staunchly away, refusing to acknowledge them as he continued on, step after step.
He had been steadily ascending for some time, and knew that this was the mountain of which his people spoke with such reverence. As he went, the terrain became rougher and harder to traverse, the fog thickened until he could not see his own hands by his side, and the trees and the ridge were his only guide. He did not see the sheer drops begin to slake off the sides of the mountain all around him, nor the peril of the ground where he trod. Many a man would have turned back had he been able to see the great terrors of that place, and it was a calculated move that the first journey was made in the thickest month of the fog. He no longer saw the dark demon shadows whose voices had wafted towards him before, hearing now only his own heart and the rush of his blood in his veins. He had a sense of having passed some sort of great test and was now ascending, slaking off his worries as he grew bold, but not rash.
This was what it was to be a man, towering above all things and never fearing what he could not see for a wall of white. The trees thinned out here and at once the fog lightened and he could see the outline of a thing that made his heart quell and tremble with terror. Ahead was the greatest test of all, a sheer face of granite – well pocked and with plenty of footholds, but more than twenty feet high. He would have to heave himself up the face of this to get to the place where the Chimchar lived, atop this great rising mountain of fire.
He came to the wall, and he began the arduous climb, steeling himself mentally for the challenge that was to come. There was only one more test after this one, and that one was the hardest of all. He would have to gain the respect and trust of the fiery Pokémon who he was seeking out. They would sense him and they knew his people, but if his intentions were impure they would know it and flee from him.
And that was a great disgrace for a man, and meant that he would be turned away from the tribe.
Sully, for all of his deadweight and dull mind, was accustomed to mountains, a fact for which Krieger had picked him. As usual, for a few months before heading out on assignment, he’d spent some time around locals on the edge of the jungle. It was from them that he’d heard the rumor about the great mountain where a tribe of Chimchar lived, and the speech had awakened in him a half-forgotten memory…
He was running through the trees, branches whipping across his face and vines lashing his legs, but he did not care. They called him the running one, the golden one for the golden highlights in his hair. But he could never catch the shadow who he ran after, a lean boy his age who could have been his brother except for the fact that the colors of their skin did not match. The Mwambe boy was swifter than him by half, and knew the jungle like the lines of his hand, and when he ran he did not send birds flying and other small animals scurrying for shelter.
Krieger had longed to be like that boy, instead of being in his place, living impoverished on the edge of that prosperous golden land of the jungle that fed all who lived there. Yet he could never be one of them, and his dream had fallen flat as so many of his dreams did.
Now he was back, and the irony weighed him down. A journey he had so longed to make chastely he was now making with intentions that were far from benign. They would never call him the golden one again, his hair was ashy and his hands were red with blood.
He followed Sully, ascending the side of the mountain. The path to the top was not one that Krieger knew, nor one that anyone knew, but it could be scaled, as all mountains could be scaled. They had picked what seemed the easiest path and taken it up as far as they could go before reaching a sheer face, which was luckily chalky in material and therefore relatively easily to scale using gripping claws and lines and the abundant chalk shelves.
Krieger was pleased by the time they were making, nearly half-way to the peak already. The mountain was not tall, but the ascent was steep, and he knew that this was the sort of land that Chimchar would inhabit, living not among the trees but among the clouds. Sully was ahead of him, pushing footholds and handholds in where he had to, quiet on the mountainside. This was no place for speech, though the words would peal out and echo for miles and miles. Up here, the mist was thinning and they could at last see the vast covenant of canopy, stretching below them unending, as ground. The sun was above them now, and heat soaked through the long sleeves that were necessary here for all the pests. A mosquito could kill a man ten times faster than a Rhydon, probably.
What a horrible way to die.
“I can see the top from ‘ere, Krieger,” Sully grunted from up ahead, since Krieger couldn’t see anything but his rather unappealing backside.
“Best news I’ve ‘eard all day, mate,” Krieger managed, although he wasn’t as much of a veteran mountaineer as Sully. His wind was practically destroyed from all this climbing. He was breathing heavily, sweat staining the khaki dark around the neck and underarms. Attractive, he supposed, but that didn’t matter here.
“Y’really think they’ll be at the top o’ this? Seems like an awful long way to climb, don’t it?” Sully seemed to have no problem talking while climbing, though he, too, was winded. His voice had risen a few hertz as the air thinned, breathing heavily and quickly as his lungs tried desperately to compensate for the thin air.
“Yeah, I do.” There were a lot of other things to say, like how he could never be one hundred per cent sure and how Chimchar actually liked to live up in the clouds where no one would disturb them.
They stopped talking, then, and just climbed up and up until they came to a flat place, still below the highest point. The mountain rose and jutted to the east, a jagged tooth cut against the sky, and the peak was dusted with a light powdering of snow despite the jungle sun. Where he had been sweating on the jungle floor, Krieger was now beginning to shiver. He withdrew his coat from the large sack that he carried on his back and slung it over himself to fight the chill.
“Right, then, we shouldn’t ‘ave to climb any further. This’ll be the highest any fire Pokémon in its right mind’ll climb. We’ll set trap ‘ere an’ then go back down a piece,” he said, once he had sufficiently gotten his breath back. “they’re shy animals, they won’t come ‘ere while we’re still standing. But they’re also curious, see? Couldn’t leave a trap alone even if they were used to seein’ ‘em, and these ones aren’t.”
Sully nodded, gasping at the air. Krieger was, too, breaths catching in his throat as his body tuned to the mountain. They would be alright in a moment, he knew, and they hadn’t ascended at a dangerous speed, but for those used to having their feet at sea level, the mountainside was perilous. They looked at one another after a moment and went into simultaneous action, setting a trap that would catch but not harm a curious Chimchar. Having a Pokémon badly injured did not go well with the trainers who desired them, a lesson which Krieger had learned well enough. He was grateful, this time, for a chance to catch one of the less imposing creatures that wouldn’t devour him as soon as look at him. It had been a long time since he’d tracked something as tame as this.
Trap set, glistening tantalizingly to the eyes that stared secretly from the far brush, the two men turned and made their way back down to a ledge on the side of the mountain upon which they had rested earlier. Here they would wait for an hour or two before rising and going back up the mountainside to check the trap, sure that it would catch what they were looking for.
Quetzal turned his eyes skyward, lying flat on his back in the thin grass and feeling every thrill of frost down his arms. He had made it! The rock face below him seemed a half-forgotten dream, something that need no longer be looked upon. His feet, his toes, were cracked and bleeding through their tough callous shells, but he no longer cared for pain, for here was a victory as sweet as the honey flower, something to breathe in and hold for a moment and then let fly away.
For a few moments he just lay there, looking up into the deep blue of the humid sky but feeling nothing but a strange, unfamiliar cold. It was beautiful, though, a thing of nature, and the ice seemed to melt away some hard hot part of his soul, letting it slough off and run down the side of the mountain. He was free, he was changed. This, he thought, was the real moment of becoming a full member of the tribe – this moment of sweet release of all the past struggles, this invincible bravery that surged through him like it had the heroes of old.
The journey was not finished, however, so he stood after a moment, not shivering despite all the cold that clothed him. He felt full and joyous, and when he stepped forth it was with a calm, unasserted kind of confidence. When he walked, he danced. The childish phrasing was gone from his body language, every part of him now working towards some new goal. He was calm, cool, collected, but with a kind of tight coiled alacrity filling his motion. He moved quickly, but not hastily, every movement taking its proper time and place in the spaces that came before him.
A loud scream pierced the air, a metallic snap, and he froze and the confidence eked away. The noise had not been friendly, it had been full of pain and terror and shock. For a moment Quetzal’s heart quailed and shrunk from that unearthly scream, but something rose up within him and he went forward, cautiously, a fearful child.
He did not comprehend what he saw there. As he approached, vague orange shapes turned tail and darted back into the shelter of the trees. Chimchar, he thought, but why were they running? They were used to his people coming here, but they seemed terrified…
His heart froze. He would be expelled from the tribe, they had rejected him, seen some great darkness in his being. He was doomed to childhood forever, doomed to a life of wandering away from his people where no one else would go, into the heart of the jungle. The idea hit him like a cold wave, and he staggered.
Another sharp scream, however, brought him back. There was something still there, and he approached just a few steps until he could see around a scraggly, scarred tree. There, on the thin grass and the dirt, was a metal cage, a long tall box that gleamed in the sunlight. The shine of metal made him flinch, it was unfamiliar in such large quantity and it seemed cold, dangerous.
Movement came from within the strange box with its flat, straight lines, and another scream. There was a Chimchar in that strange apparatus, and it was in pain. Images of those two dark devils that had walked ahead of him on the path flashed through Quetzal’s mind and at once he knew that this was the work of demons. They had trapped the Chimchar for some reason… perhaps to drive the whole tribe away.
He knew what he had to do, and strode forward in the grass, cautiously. As he approached, the Chimchar in that strange metal box let out a frantic scream and tried to run away from him, slamming into the opposite side of the trap desperately. It was of no use, but to see it scream at his approach wounded Quetzal, raised to love and cherish these creatures. It was so afraid of him.
“Sh-hh-hh,” he hissed low through his lips, and at once the head turned back towards him in what he hoped was a more relaxed way. The dark brown eyes were dilated in terror, as were the slits of nostrils seen on the creamy mask. As he approached a few more crouching steps, the dish-like ears swung back and forth, and the large paws trembled as they grasped at the thin bars. Quetzal watched as the Chimchar loosed an ember at the bars, attempting to burn them, but it was unsuccessful. These bars could not be melted.
“Sh-hh-hh,” he moved forward a few more steps, and he was so close he could almost touch the lick of hair on the terrified monkey’s head. It backed to the extreme corner of the trap, and eyed him there with a wary, feral look. Quetzal found the bars with his hands, tried to pry them apart, but it did not work. He eyed it, worked it over with his hands, tried to find how to free the Chimchar… But he could not.
He calmed himself, or at least attempted to, closing his eyes and blowing out through his lips, before opening them again and looking at the trap again. He stared at it for a while, looking at it from all angles, and as he did he noticed that the Chimchar was looking at him with its head slightly to the side, still backed into the corner but curious, now.
Just as he reached his hand out and found the clip placed on the door of the trap, a stick broke behind him and he jumped. As he did so his hand contracted involuntarily and the trap opened with a clatter. The Chimchar was frozen for a moment, then darted out, scurrying back into the woods as Quetzal looked up.
He was facing down the demons.
“Oi! What’s he doin’ here, Krieger?” Sully shouted, “an’ ‘e just let our quarry go, by the looks offit, too! I told you they’d be all out today!”
Krieger stared at the Mwambe boy with an odd mix of vicious hatred and recognition, his jaw slightly agape, but not enough that Sully would notice. The boy met his eyes, and he couldn’t see the dark terror in the near black eyes that identified the tribe so well.
“No use yellin’ at ‘im like that, Sully,” he said after a moment. The boy was frozen with terror, wanting to run but frozen by the things before him. He had seen men like these before, they came to the village to trade a few things like food from outside – rice and beans and fish. Yet these, these were demons. The taller, thinning, sharper one leaned towards him now, and his face was the face of a hawk.
“You, you let our Chimchar go,” he said, in Quetzal’s own tongue. The boy’s eyes widened, stricken by the sound of his own language coming from this devil’s tongue. “You must go, leave, now, or we will kill you.” Quetzal stared at him for a few moments, and for just an instant it seemed he would flee, but them a hard resolve entered his jaw and he spoke.
“I will not go, I will not let you destroy the sacred mountain,” his eyes were dark and hard, but his fingers were trembling as Krieger quartered with him, coming closer, his face a twisted mask of rage and entirely inhuman.
“Go, or you will be killed.”
“I will not go.”
“Then you will die,” behind Krieger, Sully was reaching for the rifle slung across his back, but Krieger turned to him when he heard the shift and shook his head. “No, mate, where’s your sense o’ honor? ‘E’s a kid an’ ‘e can’t fight that.”
“Honor, now, issit?” Sully snapped back, angrily, “I don’t wanna kill a kid, neither, but it’s our job. We oughta put ‘im out of ‘is misery fair and square and quick, see.” Krieger fixed him with those blue eyes, and Sully quailed before him. In a fight, he probably could have beaten Krieger by virtue of weight, but Krieger had that indefinable thing called presence that made even the most stouthearted feel the cold grip of fear. He quieted.
“I give you one last chance. Go.”
“I will not go!”
“Arturo! Get him!” Krieger tossed a Pokéball in the air with one smooth, fluid motion and it burst open with a flare of blinding light that resolved itself into a giant gleaming form, a great bird. The Skarmory let out a high scream, red metal edges of the wings flashing through the air as the smooth, silver beak sliced down and Arturo caught the draft. He wavered a moment there and then caught sight of Quetzal, standing defenseless on the bare ground.
“SKAAARRR!” Arturo crowed, and launched himself at the boy, great metal talons outstretched. Quetzal looked at it, horrified, time seeming to slow as it came towards him. A great cold seized him and he felt that sheer terror, his stomach dropping as death sped towards him on great shining wings.
At the last moment, something intercepted the claws, and Quetzal was shocked from stillness, whirling quickly out of the way. Arturo’s claws closed around the frail body of the Chimchar that had only recently been freed from a similar cage.
“Skarmory?” Arturo circled high, holding the Chimchar, which was struggling, terrified, not thinking clearly and just batting blindly at the vice around it.
“Oh… ‘ow sweet!” Krieger piped up, looking up at the blinding underside of Arturo’s great body, “it came to save ‘im… Looks like it’s just gonna work out find for us, then, eh Sully?” Sully was looking on with his mouth open to about his knees, but at the sound of his name he snapped back, hastily trying to regain his composure.
“Chim… chhhaaa!” the Chimchar squealed and struggled in Arturo’s grasp.
“’Old onto it, Arturo! Just bring it back down gently now… Try not to ‘urt it too bad, then…”
“Sh-hh-hh! Chimchar! Calm down, use ember!” Quetzal shouted over Krieger’s voice, and Krieger looked around in surprise, having forgotten that the boy was there at all. Yet, amazingly, the Chimchar had listened to him, and at once it closed its eyes and when the snapped open they were full of new resolve. It took in a deep breath and then loosed a stream of flames across Arturo’s claws.
“SKKKAAAARR!” Arturo screamed in surprise, letting go instinctively. The Chimchar fell about twenty feet to the earth and slammed onto its side with such force that Quetzal feared for its life. The Skarmory screamed with the indignity of the attack and with the pain that suddenly surged up its leg.
“Arturo! Quickly, now, use Fury Attack while it’s down.” The Skarmory recovered itself and launched itself back at the prostrate form of the Chimchar, landing a heavy blow with its beak and preparing for another one just as Quetzal took action and dived in front of his savior. The consequence was that the beak hit him instead, a powerful jab that ricocheted pain through his ribs and being. Red flowers blossomed before his eyes. As he was knocked backwards onto his butt, the Chimchar ducked and rose, breathing heavily.
“Flame… thrower…” Quetzal spat out through thick lips, lying back and unable to move, stunned to the very core. Chimchar gave a nod, and began to prepare itself to loose its most powerful fire attack. Arturo, however, was on the move again and slammed into him just as he was opening his mouth to breathe out a great plume of fire, slashing and hacking with metal claws, a powerful Night Slash attack. Chimchar’s side was scored deeply, and the fire in its mouth flickered and faded as darkness seized at the edges of its vision. It had been an unbelievably powerful attack and already Arturo was wheeling heavily in the sky to come back and deliver another devastating blow.
“Chim… charrr!” The Chimchar turned to face the great bird diving toward it, and loosed a great plume of flame in the direction of the Skarmory. Arturo was hit head on, too caught up in its own rage and not listening to Krieger any longer. The flames enveloped it, and when at last the fire faded, Arturo’s body had been melted and scarred in places, and his flight pattern sagged wildly. He could not fly straight – one of his wings had been badly injured – and as Krieger and Sully looked on in horror he slammed into the ground. Arturo convulsed and flapped on the ground and by some miracle rose again, to be met by another ember from Chimchar, aiming at the injured wing. The blow met its intended target, and Arturo again hit the ground, this time flailing and unable to regain his wings.
“Arturo! Stand up! Slash!” Arturo heard his trainer and, with an extraordinary effort, rose to shaky claws, advancing on the Chimchar quickly despite the fact that his wings were useless. Yet, he was too slow, and the Chimchar simply leapt out of the way, still bleeding from the wounds of the earlier attacks. Arturo let out a frustrated caw, and then fell again. He could not go on fighting.
“Return, return!” Krieger shouted, and Arturo was enveloped by the blessed white light of safety. Quetzal had regained his feet, but his ribs were cracked and his breath did not come well. Yet he faced Krieger without fear.
“You. Leave. Or. I. Will. Kill. You,” he spat out, glaring at the men. Krieger took one look at him and quailed at his presence. Sully reached for his gun. Chimchar snarled, but it was bleeding badly and could do nothing.
A great scream came from the woods behind, and at once five or six orange shapes were bounding towards them, as the entire troop ran to fight this enemy that stood before him. Sully shouldered his gun, took one look at Krieger, and at once they were running frantically, dashing for the side of the mountain and bitter escape.
Quetzal sat with his back against a tree, exhausted and with a great pain seizing through his ribs. Yet he had chased off the demons, and they would not return. Not while he was around. Not while these Chimchar were around to pursue and attack them.
At his feet, the injured Chimchar lay and allowed another of its own kind to spread some kind of berry paste on the large jagged wound in its side. Occasionally its eyes would flicker towards Quetzal, and he would look back down at it with a tired, earnest sort of love in his eyes. The former confidence was gone, but not that consistency of phrasing.
Despite the pain, despite the blaring sirens in his head, he felt full and at peace with himself, whole and part of the world once again. He stayed there for what seemed like a long time and the Chimchar gathered around him and touched him and looked at him and they understood one another and found in one another an ancient pact, a partnership that would never be broken.
After a moment, when the sun had moved in the sky just a fraction of an inch, he knew that it was time for him to leave and return to his people. He would return changed, and he would have a story to tell. Yet he was not proud of what had passed here. Times, he had been terrified to the point of wanting to run. That was not something, he felt, that a man should experience. These things were reserved for young ones who are scared of the shadows of trees in the night.
As he stood, though, and felt the constriction of pain in his chest, it dawned on him that this was what it all meant. Courage was not being able to face all things without fear; it was being able to face fear and feel fear and still not turn to run.
He stood, bowed to the Chimchar lying out on the grass behind him and those gamboling in their well-scarred tree, and walked away without looking back. His new friends let out soft noises of farewell and then returned, as they always had, to their play and discovery.
Before he came to that sheer wall, however, he became aware of the fact that something was following behind him, and he turned.
“Are you… coming with me?” It was extremely unusual for a Chimchar to come to the Mwambe village, and even more unusual for one to stay there, and Quetzal was taken aback. The Chimchar, too, knew this, and eyed him silently for a few long moments.
EDIT: Should probably add that if the capture is successful, the Chimchar will go with Quetzal. If not, it will head back home... Yup.