A home burned.
A couple died.
A boy escaped.
Tree shadows danced back and forth in the flickering light of the flame held in the lead houndoom's mouth as he peered through the forest, eyes scanning the night for his quarry. Clouds drifted across a dark starlit sky, under a new moon heralding a blood-red dawn.
The lead houndoom could still smell the blood that he had taken that night, smell the smoke from the fire, smell the scent of terror and grief of the family who had briefly and vainly fought. Fought and died after they had refused to accept the demands of his master's master.
But it was the scent of statically charged wool and of a terrified child that he needed to find.
Behind him, more houndooms waited as his nose tasted the air, growling and pacing in anticipation for the renewed hunt. They looked like black dogs at first, but anything beyond a cursory would quickly reveal that to not be the case. After all, black dogs didn't have curved gray horns, three rib-like protrusions on their backs, nor long, whip-like tails ending in a point.
This way, the leader said, pointing to the south, where the trail of his prey diverged from the dirt road they had initially fled down.
Away from Pallet Town? What do they hope to find out in the wilderness? Another houndoom asked.
Maybe they panicked, another growled. And now that mareep is just running blind.
That's probably the case, the leader replied, thinking back on his many successful hunts where his quarry, whether human, pokémon, or animal, had panicked and, in doing so, had furthered their own demise. But keep your nose and ears out. There's always a chance that that mareep has a plan.
The pack set out once more, silent and deadly as dark forms slipped between the dark pillars that were trees in the night. They tracked their prey by scent for another mile before the trail came to an end in a small clearing. Growling, the lead houndoom pawed at his face, wiping off an errant piece of sticky silk.
Looks like there's a bug-type around here, he said to the rest of the pack. Tell me if you step on something sharp. Be ready to use fire.
Who's making all that racket? A scratchy voice called out from the darkness. A yellow-brown bug-like pokémon, with a white horn and a curved stinger, crawled out of the darkness, their carapace covered in old and faded scars, and their head was drooped under the burden of their age. Some of us are trying to sleep you know.
The houndooms shared a glance.
Has anyone else run by here? The leader asked the weedle. A pokémon carrying a human child? There's been an abduction nearby.
Oh, how horrid, the weedle wheezed. Was it a local child?
We didn't have time to find out, the houndoom replied. When the weedle looked skeptical, the houndoom continued. We're part of an experimental houndoom unit with the human police and they didn't really have time to brief us. Did you see anything?
How long ago was this? The weedle asked. My memory's not what it used to be and it's been a busy day. It might still be summer, but you can never start preparing for hibernation too early, and there was this nice-
Maybe ten minutes ago. Did you or did you not see anything? The female houndoom from before interrupted, growling.
Ten minutes ago, what was I doing? The weedle pondered. I think I was sleeping when there was this noise…. Now that you mention it, the noise might have been a crying child… hmmmm, where did it go…...
Hurry up! Growled the lead houndoom. After a moment he added, A human child is in danger.
A child in danger, we can't have that now can we, the weedle replied. Hmmm…... I think they went south of here.
Thank you, the lead houndoom huffed, adding about time you senile old…. under his breath. Move out! he called out to his pack and they obeyed, heading south once more.
However, just before they left the clearing the old weedle spoke up again.
By the way, why would the Ketchum family's mareep abduct their son? he asked innocently.
The houndooms froze in their tracks, a sudden tension filling the air.
The leader of the pack turned back to glare at the weedle, his pack moving into position to surround the weedle. Hackles were raised, fangs were bared, and fiery sparks began to leak out of their mouths. Arid, choking, foul-smelling smoke filled the air, as did the constant growling of the pack. Snapping and snarling they started to advance, malevolent dark shapes in the night, lit by the orange hellfire carried in their mouths.
Shoulda kept playing dumb old bug, their leader growled out.
You certainly made it easy. 'We're an experimental unit with the human police'- please, I was not hatched yesterday, the weedle snorted in response. By the egg of Mew who did you think you could manage to fool with that line? And while you are explaining that, would you also care to explain the fire north of here, the one that woke me up?
Where are they? Their leader growled, teeth and horns lit by fiery sparks leaking from his mouth and drifting skyward. Tell me and maybe we'll go easy on you.
Oh, really now, the weedle said, eyes scanning the group. I see that you and your comrades are operating under a significant misapprehension. Pocket Watch, if you would care to enlighten them?
Translucent panes of light shot up between the trees, surrounding the clearing.
If one of the present company can manage to educate me as to what is happening, then maybe I will be the one who will show mercy to you, the weedle said, voice lowering into a growl as he spoke. Now-
The lead houndoom, acting on instinct, didn't bother waiting until the weedle was done talking before he attacked. Orange light flared in the night. Flames crackled and a lance of fire shot out of his mouth.
But the weedle was moving even before the houndoom had finished opening his mouth. He rolled to the side, strands of silk wrapping around his horn. The weedle coiled his body, and then launched himself upward, pulling a line of silk to the snapping point as he went.
When that strand snapped hundreds of other strands were loosed, whipping out of the surrounding forest and off of the ground, lashing the assembled hell hounds. Houndooms yelped as they felt hundreds of tiny pricks, and stabs; hundreds of poisoned pins and barbs had been embedded into the silk.
Ten minutes was more than enough time to prepare for the arrival of you miscreants, the weedle said as he landed.
You sonna of- the female houndoom growled, staggering as the poison entered her veins and ate away at her life. I'll kill you-
A barrage of needles took her life and smashed her body into the barrier around the clearing.
Now, before you expire, would anyone like to give me the truth? The first one to speak up will receive an antidote and a chance at survival, the weedle said, a tight smile evident in his voice despite his hidden mouth.
Screw- Another barrage of needles flew through the night and another houndoom suddenly died.
Any takers? Really, no one? I guess I can praise your loyalty if not your intelligence. No need to dilly-dally in that case. Yelping and whining the houndooms began to die as more needles shot out, spearing the already dying pokémon. Within ten seconds there was nothing but broken bodies, silk, and needles.
The barriers came down and a hypno joined the weedle in the clearing.
Are they all dead Pocket Watch? the weedle asked of the hypno. The hypno briefly touched a finger to its forehead and then nodded.
Their minds are gone. They're dead Poison Lance, Pocket Watch replied.
We will need to, appropriately enough, burn the bodies, Poison Lance said. But that will have to wait until we've finished attending to Mareep and Ash.
I've patched up the mareep's wounds, Pocket Watch replied, but I don't know any healing moves, and I never learned much about how to treat someone beyond the basics of first aid. Do you know of anyone around here that can do better?
I am afraid not, the weedle sighed. Convey me, would you? I'm not as swift as I once was.
The hypno held out an arm in response and the weedle jumped on it. The hypno then went into the forest, jogging while taking care not to jostle his passenger.
They continued in that manner for several more minutes before coming to another clearing, this one covered in String Shot silk, with a small white silk hut at the center. Poison Lance jumped down from Pocket Watch's arm and the two of them headed into the hut.
Within they found a wounded pokémon, with blue skin, a large amount of fluffy white-grey wool, a yellow and black banded tail ending in an orange sphere, and a yellow and black banded horn on either side of its head. It was the Ketchum family mareep, covered in burns, and with a large gash on her side, held shut with yet more silk.
A little boy with black hair and amber eyes lay on her flank, head and hands buried in her wool. The boy had no wounds, but still shook every now and then. His face was a mess of snot and dried tears. He was wearing a red one-piece footed pajama covered in soot and a stain on one sleeve that might have been someone else's blood.
Poison Lance quickly set about to weaving a small blanket with String Shot, while Pocket Watch knelt down beside the boy and mareep, laying his hands on their heads.
Can you wake her up? Poison Lance asked. We need information so that we know what to do with the boy.
There's little chance of her lasting the night if I do that, Pocket Watch answered.
There was little hope of her lasting the night in the first place if I remember your earlier diagnosis, Poison Lance replied, settling the silk blanket over the boy. And she should have the chance to give her farewells to the boy.
He won't understand.
It is not required that he does.
Pocket Watch sighed, and the hand on the mareep's head glowed briefly. Then the sheep-like pokémon's head lifted and her eyes opened.
Are they- the electric type began.
Your pursuers have been disposed of, Poison Lance answered. The boy is safe now.
Good, Mareep said, shivering.
We need to ask you, do you know why they were after you? Poison Lance asked. Why did they attack the Ketchums?
I don't know, she replied, still shivering as she thought about the horrible night. I was sleeping in Ash's room when the doorbell rang. I was confused about why someone would be there so late, so I looked out the window and there were all these pokémon…. Mostly houndooms, but there were some there that I didn't recognize.
So, she went on, I grabbed Ash and took him downstairs. There was this man in the entryway, I didn't get a good look at him, and my trainer and his wife were talking with him, and then there was yelling, and then-and then. Tears began to leak out of her eyes.
He ordered his pokémon to attack, and none of my comrades were out of their balls, and now everyone but Ash is dead, she went on, voice growing into a low wail. I couldn't do anything but take Ash and run…
It's alright, he's safe now, Pocket Watch said, gently rubbing her head. Do you know who the Ketchum's next of kin is? Or any close relatives that we can take the boy to?
I know he has some family, but I don't really know who or where they are, Mareep replied. It's just- just-
I understand, Pocket Watch said gently as Mareep's head began to droop. I think you should say good-night to the boy and then you need to go back to sleep.
You mean say good-bye, Mareep forced her head up as she spoke. I'm- well, I'm pretty sure I'm dying.
The odds are not in your favor, Poison Lance replied. Still, it is best to make your peace with the boy before you must struggle with your ill-fortune.
Mareep nodded and then turned to Ash.
I'm sorry I couldn't do better by you, she said. But I'm glad that you're at least safe for the moment. I'm glad that you found my wool comfortable during the nights. I hope you grow up to have a great heart. She gently nuzzled the side of his face, small silent tears falling from her eyes as she did so.
I wish- I wish I could have made it so your parents were there to see it. Good-night and, she shook with a silent sob, and good-bye Ash. I'll probably be with your parents and my comrades, returned to the First Spark, soon. We all loved you.
She lay her head back down. Pocket Watch once more put his hand on her head and used his powers to help her sleep again.
I'll go take care of the bodies, Pocket Watch said, standing back up. We need to do it before their masters find out what happened.
I will stand vigil over these two, Poison Lance replied. Maybe Cresselia's mercy will finally start shining tonight and both of those two will be able to greet the dawn.
It's possible, Pocket Watch answered, but it's a new moon tonight.
AN: I'd like to thank Magnive for beta-reading.
Also posting this on AO3. I'll have the URL for that in the next chapter
Touched up as of 4/13