Let me tell you a story, children. It began five long years ago, when I was but an edgy teen. A brooding teen with many ideas, some of which -
Oh, forget it. You're not here to read my life story, you're hear to read the story of my characters' lives. This story is a rewrite of Embers of the Past, a 40-chapter fic that attempted to blend PMD2 with SoulSilver. Was it a success? I'll leave that up to you.
But enough with the introductions! Let's start the fanfiction, already! Welcome to Sparks of the Future!
Hoofbeats echoed through an ancient passageway as Team Flame made their way down a hallway deep within Underground Temple. Water dripped down from the cracked stone ceiling, and the air was cool and musty. The only source of light came from the flaming mane and tail of the ponyta who led the group. Behind him followed a bellsprout and bringing up the rear was a camerupt, whose heavy, plodding steps echoed hollowly through the halls. Though the three pokémon were far below ground, the distant sounds of the storm raging far above were still audible. The ponyta pinned his ears back in annoyance. Of course the storm of the century had chosen the day of his team's expedition to hit. This humidity was already wreaking havoc on his perfectly-groomed palomino fur.
"I simply cannot stand it anymore!" he announced, coming to a stop and stamping a hoof. The contents of saddlebags slung over his back jangled about noisily, amplified by the narrow stone walls on either side of them. "We've been walking for hours now with no end in sight! I propose we exit these passageways at once and return home before the storm worsens!"
Bellsprout began to answer, but he was immediately interrupted by Camerupt, who sounded tired beyond his years. "I'm sure we'd already be at the heart of the temple if you'd move just a bit faster than a snail's pace, Ponyta."
"Have you seen the puddles, Camerupt?" Ponyta demanded. "They're absolutely everywhere! Filthy, horrendous pools of water, all over the bloody floor! It's a miracle I've been able to sidestep them this whole way!"
Camerupt let out a deep, low sigh. "We ain't quitting now. Buck up, Ponyta, it shouldn't be too much longer."
Ponyta snorted but continued on, high-stepping over the puddles. He found it very difficult to both hold his head up in defiance and keep an eye on the pools of water below him.
The hall stretched ever forward, diverging into alternate paths and great, empty rooms. Set at even intervals along the walls were rusted metal brackets that sagged away from the walls as if slouching with age. It was likely they once held wooden torches, but any trace of them had long burned or rotted away.
Only a few days ago, the Underground Temple had been discovered by an ordinary civilian who had stumbled upon its entrance by accident. Word had spread quickly about the discovery and soon explorers from all around expressed interest in venturing into the temple and searching for the valuable relics and treasures that may be hidden inside. When Bellsprout had brought it up to Camerupt and Ponyta, the latter protested against going on an expedition to the temple. Unfortunately for him, Bellsprout - as leader of the team - had the final say, and with Camerupt on the side of journeying out here, Ponyta had no legs to stand on.
"This temple's architecture is fascinating," Bellsprout commented, gazing up at the passageway's rounded ceiling. "I wonder if the humans built it?"
"Don't be absurd, the humans surely weren't strong enough to lift the stones these halls are built from," Ponyta was quick to respond. "And if they were, and they did construct this horrid place, they would have done a better job to ensure it was waterproof!"
"Give it a rest, Ponyta," Camerupt said, "this place is probably hundreds of years old."
Ponyta made an irritated sound, refusing to acknowledge Camerupt had a point. "You know, you could at least refer to me by my preferred name when treating me like a young foal."
"Your 'preferred name' is a goddamn mouthful."
Ponyta stopped and turned to face him, prepared to argue until morning came, but Bellsprout held up his leaf-like appendages before he could say a word.
"H-hey, let's not start fighting now, okay?" he said. After a moment, he added, "I'm sure Camerupt didn't mean to be rude, uh, Sir Majestic Tail."
Sufficiently placated, the ponyta swished his fiery tail and turned back around. "Yes, I'm certain he didn't. It would be a sad waste of firepower to fight over a non-issue, wouldn't it, Camerupt?"
Camerupt's response was reluctant. "...Yeah, sure, Sir Majestic Tail."
Sir Majestic Tail sniffed, then his ears pricked up. The air smelled less like decay and dampness and more like...well, still decay and dampness, but there was a fresher hint to it, like someone had poked a hole into the wall to let a little outside air in. Could it be that they were finally approaching the temple's centre?
"Hey, are either of you picking up on the change of atmosphere?" Bellsprout asked eagerly. Evidently, he'd also caught a whiff of fresh air.
"What change?" Camerupt said. "Still feels like old temple t' me."
"The air pressure's...getting lighter! I think we're almost there!"
Even the hall was a little brighter now, illuminated by some unseen source up ahead. Remaining wary of the puddles, Sir Majestic Tail picked up his pace slightly and followed the light and fresh scent down the passageways, his teammates following close behind. He turned a bend onto another path and was ecstatic to find the hall appeared to open up into a much larger room than any they'd walked through so far. He trotted towards the room, halted suddenly to shake off his hoof in disgust after accidentally dunking it into a water-filled rut in the floor, and finally entered the room.
The chamber was much bigger than Sir Majestic Tail had expected, and to his pleasant surprise it was also much drier than expected. The only water to be seen flowed down from a square-cut hole in the ceiling and onto the sloping, four-cornered canopy over the raised altar in the centre of the room. From there, the rainwater pooled around the base of the altar's steps and drained away through some holes in the floor, keeping the rest of the room free of those pesky puddles.
Both the altar and canopy were made of a different kind of stone than the dull grey kind that made up the hallways. Rather, this variety was a rich shade of red, and appeared to be much more durable as the canopy only looked very slightly worn down by the elements. The walls of the room, too, were made of this stone, and their surfaces were adorned by intricate carvings depicting primitive illustrations of pokémon accompanied by strange inscriptions. Bellsprout appeared spellbound by all of this, but Camerupt merely grunted dismissively.
"Eh. Not the grandest place I've seen."
"But Camerupt," Bellsprout said, "look at that writing! Doesn't it look like Unown Runes to you?" He ran up to the nearest wall and gazed up. "It's gotta be Unown Runes! That means this temple was made by humans!"
Sir Majestic Tail couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Who cared about some silly human runes? The idea of a written language based on the shapes of the unown pokémon seemed inconvenient at best, and the drawings were far from impressive. The anatomy was all off! He couldn't tell whether any given carving was of a wooper or a servine.
"Good grief, those humans should be ashamed of themselves!" Sir Majestic Tail walked up behind his leader and studied the images, tutting. The height of his flames increased, a visual indicator of his frustration. "Absolutely no regard to realism or accuracy! What is that supposed to be?"
"Which one are you looking at?" Bellsprout asked, taking a small step away from Sir Majestic Tail to avoid the heat of the flames.
"Why, that vague squiggly shape, of course! It's the worst offender by far!"
"I think that's a tangela?"
"Or it could be a tangrowth! How are we to know? Atrocious, simply atrocious!"
"If you two are done staring at a wall," Camerupt interjected, "why don't we shift focus and do what we actually came here to do?" He jerked his head in the direction of the altar.
Bellsprout ducked his head. "R-right, right, the treasure." He scurried over to the altar and began to ascend the steps. They seemed a little lofty for the diminutive pokémon, but he was strong enough to hoist himself up all the way, though his over-the-shoulder bag thumped against each step. Sir Majestic Tail walked up as well, finding it much less of a difficult task due to his long legs. Clearly, the steps were built with humans in mind, not pokémon.
Beneath the stone canopy, standing in the middle of the altar, was a large, ornate chest. It was made of silvery and gold coloured metals and was inscribed with more arcane symbols and patterns.
It was also wide open and completely empty inside.
"Well, what's in there?" Camerupt called from where he stood at the base of the steps. Bellsprout looked back at him apologetically.
"Uh, well, you see - "
"Nothing!" Sir Majestic Tail exclaimed, stamping a hoof. "All this way! We come all this way, and for what? A single, emptied chest!" He kicked it angrily, then quickly pulled his hoof back, wincing. The chest was made of tougher stuff than it looked. His kick hadn't even left a dent.
Camerupt hardly looked perturbed. "Ah, shit, someone must've got to it before us. That's a few hours of listening to Ponyta's complaining I'll never get back."
"That's all you'll never get back?!" Sir Majestic Tail paced angrily. Bellsprout backed up out of his way, eyeing the ponyta's raging flames nervously. "Hours! Nearly a full day! I had to walk through wind and drizzle just to reach this accursed temple, then through all those damp, musty, filthy, filthy halls, without a single feral in sight to keep us occupied, and we have nothing to show for it! I told you we shouldn't have come, but you never - "
Sir Majestic Tail's attention was diverted when one of his hooves slid on something and he halted his pacing to lift his leg and take a look at what he had stepped on. On the floor in front of the chest was a small slip of paper. It had gone unnoticed until now. He stared at it accusingly.
"And what's this now? If it isn't some sort of map leading to the real treasure, I'll eat my hat!"
"You don't have a hat," Bellsprout mumbled as he picked up the paper to read it.
"'Greetings to whoever is reading this! Sorry you were too slow to get the treasure, but there's always next time! Not to worry, we'll enjoy it thoroughly for you!'" Bellsprout sighed as he read the last part of the note. "'Signed, the lovely ladies of Team Charm.'"
Sir Majestic Tail's eye twitched. Of course Team Charm cleaned the place out before Team Flame got there. They were every exploration team's worst nightmare - not only did they have the uncanny knack for tearing apart every ruin and cavern before anyone else had even heard of them, but they relished in making mockeries of other teams. Cheating, teasing, and, in this case, leaving mocking notes at the end of arduous temples instead of pinning them up at their entrances so others would know the places had already been pillaged. For new teams trying to make a name for themselves, being one-upped by Team Charm was the ultimate embarrassment. If it wasn't bad enough, this wasn't even the first time they'd beaten Team Flame to the punch.
"Hey, Ponyta?" Camerupt started. "I know you're about to lose your cool, kiddo, but could you maybe not? It's just Team Charm being Team Charm. You know how they are."
Sir Majestic Tail attempted to take in a deep breath to calm himself, but he only managed to suck in a bit of air between his gritted teeth. "Lose my cool? Who, me? I would never. I am not. This is but a minor setback, yes! Nothing to go on a livid rampage over! Besides, we still have this chest! I'm sure it could fetch a nice sum at the market or among collectors!"
Camerupt gave him a tired look. "Oh, sure, of course, I'm sure it would if we could carry it without breaking our damn backs."
"Couldn't we?!" Sir Majestic Tail shoved against the chest to show how easy it was to move it. Unfortunately, the chest failed to easily move. He tried kicking it again, then bucked at it with his hind legs. It didn't budge an inch.
Something lightly touched Sir Majestic Tail's leg and he started, but it was only a vine Bellsprout had summoned. The leader smiled nervously at him.
"We're disappointed, too, Pon - I mean, Sir Majestic Tail - but you know this happens sometimes. We'll beat 'em to the punch next time for sure!"
Sir Majestic Tail opened his mouth to argue, but he didn't have the heart to yell at Bellsprout. Giving an irritated huff, he turned and trotted down the steps.
"I've had quite enough of this temple. Let us be gone from this wretched place."
"Wait, already?" Bellsprout sounded disappointed. "But...we could still look at the murals…"
Camerupt shrugged. "Eh, I'm getting kind of sick of this place, too. Not much of a point in sticking around if we don't have to."
Gloomily, Bellsprout said, "I guess you're right." From his bag he pulled out his explorer badge. "See you guys outside."
Camerupt's badge, which was affixed to the fur on his chest, glowed brightly before he was consumed by a pillar of light and transported out of the temple. Bellsprout vanished a moment later, leaving Sir Majestic Tail alone. He briefly considered throwing his fit of rage now that everyone was gone, but decided against it. What was the point of having a meltdown if no one was around to see it?
He took his own badge from one of the saddlebags and teleported away back to the entrance of the Underground Temple. Immediately, he was drenched in rain.
"Arceus's sake I forgot aboutthe storm!"
There was no way either of his teammates heard him, however. The rain came down in sheets like some kind of nightmarish mega-waterfall and the furious wind whipped the downpour into nearly-horizontal blades. If it had been raining metal, Sir Majestic Tail had no doubt he would now be dead. Fortunately for him, it was just water, and the worst it could do was douse his flames, which it did.
He shouted curses that were lost in the din of the storm. Vaguely, he felt something touching his leg again and he looked down to see his leader attempting to say something to him. Bellsprout's words, too, were overpowered, and he had to mime his question with his vines. After the inquiry of whether he could ride home on Sir Majestic Tail's back was properly conveyed, the latter kneeled slightly, but not so much that his knees touched the muddy ground below, and Bellsprout clambered up onto his back awkwardly. Normally, he'd never be able to ride Sir Majestic Tail's back on account of the flames that burst forth along his neck and a thin line over his back, but like this there was no danger of Bellsprout being burned.
Slowly, Sir Majestic Tail set off in the direction of Treasure Town, Camerupt trailing behind due to his large hooves sinking deep into the muck with every step. Every few seconds, the sky was illuminated by flashes of forked lightning, and thunder growled angrily at frequent intervals. The storm was so massive that it was impossible to tell which thunderclap belonged to which bolt of lightning.
Walking through this was absolute misery. Water kept getting in Sir Majestic Tail's eyes and ears, and wet, squelching mud seeped beneath the fur around his hooves. At this point, he was sure he looked more like a mudsdale than a ponyta. The very thought horrified him. Could enough filth turn a racehorse into a draft? Was that how mudbrays were really born?
"Gosh, what a storm!"
Sir Majestic Tail was startled both by the words and the fact that he had gotten so used to the cacophony of the storm that he could now hear words again. Bellsprout was clutching at his neck tightly, leaning in as close as he could to Sir Majestic Tail's folded ears.
"You think?!" Sir Majestic Tail yelled back. "This is a travesty! A nightmare! I'll never be clean again!"
"D'you think this is linked to the mystery dungeon problem?!"
"Wouldn't that just take the cake! First they ruin forests! Then stupid temples! Then the bloody weather! One more storm like this and I become a diglett and hide underground forever!"
But Sir Majestic Tail was more worried than angry about the possibility. The storm felt unnatural in scale; more massive and angry than he'd ever seen before. If this was truly linked to the recent influx of mystery dungeons…
He shook his head, trying to push those thoughts from his mind. No, no sense in stressing about that now. Right now, he just had to brave the storm and return to the base with the team. Then they'd be nicely out of the rain and could begin discussing their plans for the next adventure - hopefully one that wouldn't end in defeat by the paws of Team Charm. Yes, instead of viewing the storm as a bad thing, he could think of it as wiping the slate clean, a new beginning. That was a much more pleasant thought.
And that's the first chapter completed! If you read Embers, you'll see a handful of familiar faces in here. Of course, I couldn't include everyone, but that's just the nature of rewrites. You gotta change some things around to make it all fit.
Be sure to leave a review if you enjoyed it, or even if you hated it! Constructive criticism and flames are always welcome! The first four chapters will be uploaded biweekly, and after that I'm sticking to a weekly upload schedule.
(And don't you worry about leaving a lengthy copypasta, Hybrid - you and all your alts have already been preemptively blocked! You're welcome!)