Silence reigned over Pinwheel Forest. Night had fallen, and the stillness was broken only by the soft movements of furtive night hunters seeking sleeping prey. Beneath the quiet rustling of the green leaves, a pair of insect-like Pokémon scuttled through the scruffy grasses. Their round yellow eyes darted back and forth as they watched for predators, while they carried the wicked, black-banded barbs on their tails high and ready. Four sets of tiny black feet supported either green body, which in the front were protected by round black shells.
After a few moments of wordless walking, the two insects – known best as the Pokémon Venipede – pushed past a thorny bush and into a small clearing. Scrub and thick ferns screened the little patch from seeking, hungry eyes, while above the thin branches allowed the light of the moon to shine down.
The smaller Venipede lay down in the center of the clearing right away, seeming exhausted from a hard day’s hunting. The larger of the two hesitated for a moment before he turned back to the bush. Closing his eyes to protect them from the thorns, he dug his blunt beak between the branches, probing with the tip until he found what he was looking for: a soft, plump pink berry. With more delicacy than his rather intimidating features implied, he plucked the fruit free of the twig that held it.
The small Venipede looked up, noticing that the other hadn’t followed. “Mel,” murmured the soft, feminine voice, drowsy with sleep. “What are you doing?”
Mel turned, still holding his prize. He scuttled toward the female and dropped the berry down before her. With a light and gentle touch he tapped his beak to hers. “A sweet for my sweet, Eri,” he said, settling down beside his mate. “Eat up.”
Eri blinked shyly. “Thank you,” she said quietly before slurping up the berry, crushing it in her beak so as to savor the juices. “It’s delicious,” she declared.
“And one of the last of the season,” Mel added somberly. “Autumn’s coming; I can feel it on the wind. The ‘doves are getting restless. While we were split up, one of them took a crack at me. I showed it what’s what,” he added, chuckling darkly. “It didn’t much like the taste of my venom.”
Concern laced Eri’s voice. “I hope you’re okay. And that you didn’t take any unnecessary risks!”
“Me? Risks?” Mel chuckled, only to stop abruptly as he noticed Eri’s stern glare. “Come on, now,” he added, twitching his antennae. “You know me, Eri. If something’s stupid, I try to avoid doing it.”
Eri gave her mate a withering glare. “You must have an interesting definition of avoid –” she stopped suddenly, looking up in wide-eyed horror. Mel followed her gaze. An entire flock of gray-feathered Pidoves, half a dozen strong, sat on the branches above, looking down with glassy stares at the Venipedes that naturally were their prey.
“Don’t make any sudden movements,” Mel whispered. The barbs on his tail lifted as he glared up at the birds. “When they come, I’ll try to –”
There was a massive fluttering of wings as the flock descended. Eri lifted her head, letting out a shrill, warbling scream that pierced the eardrums of the flock and set them to screeching. Mel whirled, knocking away the nearest of them with a flick of his strong tail. “Get back!” he bellowed. But the Pidoves would not be deterred so easily. They wheeled around to descend again, and this time they split, three attacking each Venipede. Mel shrieked in the same way his mate had, but only one of the Pidoves turned back. The other two careened right into Mel, knocking him onto his vulnerable belly and slashing him with their talons. A wave of disbelief and terror surged through the fallen bug. Is this it? Am I about to die?
A familiar voice rose above the din of thrashing wings, lifted high in a wail of terror and pain. Eri writhed under a mass of attackers, howling for help. “Mel!” she cried. “Mel!”
“No!” Mel twisted as Eri’s plea lent him strength and lashed out with his barbed tail. The Pidoves on top of him let out shrill cries of surprise as they backed away, allowing Mel to plunge into the fray beside his mate. He slashed and pecked at the Pidoves, until at last he managed to send them flying back to their tree. As soon as they were gone, he turned to Eri.
A wail of horror tore its way out of his throat. Eri lay on the ground, motionless. Her soft belly had been pierced and rent by beaks, and her shell was cracked in a number of places. One eye was gored by a deep gouge. The other was glazed and lusterless. Mel was too late, and now Eri was dead.
“No,” whispered Mel, feeling rage sweep through him. He whirled on the Pidoves, glaring at the hovering flock. “Murderers!” he howled. “You monsters! You killed her!”
Once more, the Pidoves descended, as if in response to Mel’s anger. Mel welcomed them. He fought like a demon, driven by his need to gouge flesh and splinter bone and spill blood equal and beyond what had been stolen from Eri. His tail slashed, delivering poison at every swipe. His voice rose, screeching promises of violence. His beak pecked and bit and the Pidoves finally were forced to retreat to their branches in the face of his fury.
When the dust cleared and the blood and feathers ceased to fly, Mel stood alone beside his beloved’s mutilated corpse. Crimson blood dotted the grass and stained Mel’s body; some belonged to the Pidoves, but he himself was wounded badly. His body was almost as scratched as Eri’s, and his right antenna had been snapped in half. However, Mel showed no sign of weakness. Defiance dominated his posture and gaze as he glared up at the Pidoves that had stolen his love away, the cowards that he would have gladly ripped apart if only he could reach them.
Then the birds lifted their wings in surrender and flew away.
Somewhere far away, the sun was rising. Somewhere far away, the world was about to come awake. Somewhere far away, everything was right and Eri’s beautiful spirit was resting peacefully. Mel lifted his head bleakly to watch the sky turn to fire as the sun chased the darkness away. Too late, the Venipede thought as his gaze fell to a Pidove that hadn’t escaped. It lay in a bush, thrashing vainly as the life within it strove against the poison in its body. With grim certainty, Mel knew that it would not succeed. Like Eri had died, it would die. Like I will die, it will die.
Mel lowered his head, still gazing at the sunrise, wishing idly that somehow, things might have been different. But what was was, and there was no more he could do. For the last time, the bulbous eyes slid closed. Beneath the red armor, the soft, bloodied green flanks of Mel’s body contracted slightly before going utterly still.
Silence reigned over Pinwheel Forest.