Solara slowly opened an eye, keeping her breathing slow and even. It was early dawn, the sun had probably only risen several minutes ago. She could see its first few rays poke through the roofless tower. That was a good sign, especially because she could hear something out there.
It was small enough, she could tell. It sort of shuffle hopped around her room, occasionally moving on its feet then either jumping or flying a bit. It didn't make much in the way of sounds beyond the sounds of its movement. And it couldn't have been a ghost or a rattata, either. They were nowhere near as powerful as the creature she was sensing.
Finally, whatever it was, it had stopped moving. It was still out of her sight, she was pretty sure it was behind her somewhere. Then, there were a few thuds before she could hear the shuffling again down on the bottom level. Solara slowly rose to her paws, keeping her breathing nice and quiet. The wooden floors gave soft little creaks as she moved towards the giant gap in the floor. She peered down and…
…Nothing. Solara tilted her head, unsure of what was happening here. Whatever it was, it had just vanished. The Wraitheon scowled. Maybe the local ghosts were playing tricks on her. It wouldn't be the first time that happened. Like the time when—She let out a sharp screech as something rushed her from behind, sending her flying over the edge.
It wasn't too bad a fall, nothing was broken, but everything did hurt. Solara groaned, bringing herself back up onto her paws. "What the hell was that?" She snarled angrily, immediately looking around for something she had missed. She pricked her ears, and a wave of psychic energy surged by her, missing only because she had sensed it coming.
"Arceus dammit!" Solara yowled, whirling to find where the source of it was. She immediately retaliated with her own psychic surge, only to find that she couldn't. It was still too dark. Too dark in here for her to use her powers properly, especially in this hole. Oh, hell. This was going to be fun.
"Come out, wherever you are. How about we just talk? Talking is nice, right? You come out, I won't find you and tear you into bits, and everyone goes away happy and in one piece. Okay?" Solara called out coaxingly.
Emerging from the shadows was a creature Solara couldn't say she had ever seen before, not even during the Dusk Wars. In build, it looked somewhat like a Lugia, albeit a very small one. It wasn't quite as big as her, maybe a bit smaller, that was if you didn't count its heads. Three of them sprouted from its torso, the middle one being the biggest and its crest the most pointed and longest, while the other two were smaller.
Solara winced at the sight of it, recoiling. "Dear Ho-Oh, the hell are you?" She asked the Lugia-Thing. It chattered at her aimlessly, flapping its wings that looked far too large for it. Solara took a step forward, feathers bristling, when suddenly all three of its heads whipped up, peering at her. They opened their collective maws and a blast of tornado-like air whipped at Solara, sending her flying several feet and crashing into the wall.
Lugia-Thing used Aeroblast!
Solara shook herself, forcing herself back up onto her paws. She looked up hopefully; maybe the sun had magically become noon, but no such luck. It was taking its sweet time. "Okay, fine then. You want to fight? I'll give you a fight." The Wraitheon growled, springing towards the Lugia-Thing. Unfortunately for it, its heads weren't very communicable with each other, and they weren't incredibly intelligent either. It struggled to move away from the leaping Wraitheon but was far too slow, pinned down by Solara.
"Now you're going to start answering my questions," Solara hissed softly, pinning it down with her paws, "And you're going to answer them quickly. Who are you? What are you, better yet? Who sent you here? Do you have to do with the missing Legendaries?" She demanded.
The Lugia-Thing keened sadly, thrashing furiously to try and escape. Its two smaller heads were lashing about in frenzy, scrabbling to try and bite Solara. Its main head though peered at her coolly, tilted a bit in curiosity. Solara growled, pressing her claws down to try and startle it into talking. Nothing. Finally, the Lugia-Thing stopped its other heads from thrashing, and all three peered at the Wraitheon. Its main head let out a little warble.
"Are you capable of coherent words?" Solara snapped furiously. And then, a blaze of fire hit her in the back. She howled, twisting away from the Lugia-Thing in pain. She could smell her fur burning, which on its own was an awful experience she hadn't wanted to relive. She let out a keening cry, imbuing it with a bit of energy to soothe her burns.
Solara used Healing Bell!
She twisted to see what had hit her and froze in surprise. It was a far smaller version of Forrestal—Ho-Oh, rather—except it had four wings as opposed to the normal two. It hissed at her and Solara took several steps back. Only to get blasted by a wave of air from the Lugia-Thing.
Dammit! Solara let off a psychic pulse—the best she could do with the limited sun. However, neither the Ho-Oh nor the Lugia monsters were affected. Rather, it was a distress call. Wherever Forrestal was, he'd know something was happening. She just hoped the large bird was close. She stifled a whine, wishing that the sunlight would come sooner. She was powerless.
Lunging for the Ho-Oh thing, Solara tried to knock it down on the ground. However, it moved far faster than the Lugia-Thing did, and retaliated with a blast of dark energy. Solara snarled as she took it, shuddering and crashing back down to the ground. The Lugia-Thing also came out of nowhere, releasing a loud, painful shriek. Solara buried her head in her paw, trying to block out the side. The Ho-Oh thing lunged down, clawing her back.
Solara growled. If it had been just an hour or so later, she could put both of these bastards in their place. She shook herself off, switching her targets back to the Lugia-Thing and lashing out at it. She grinned in satisfaction as she managed a fairly deep scratch on its chest. The creature looked down at it curiously, as if unsure what exactly had happened.
The Ho-Oh thing moved to cast another blast of flame, but Solara could sense the shift in the wind now, and twisted out of the way. She hoped the Legendary Beasts didn't mind a new scorch mark on their floor, she mused. The Ho-Oh thing moved higher into the air out of Solara's reach, letting out a piercing shriek to its companion.
And then suddenly all light was gone as a far larger shape blocked out the sun. Solara grinned brightly as the real Ho-Oh let out a sharp, furious cry and lunged down towards its smaller mockery. The smaller bird was far quicker and managed to lunge out of the way, pelting out of the Tower. The Lugia-Thing let out a keening cry, before there was a flare of psychic energy and it was gone.
Forrestal landed next to the wraitheon, chirping a bit nervously as he spent some energy recovering her burn wounds. "What happened?" He asked.
"Hell if I know. I don't even know what those were. But I have a bad, bad feeling I know what's been happening to those poor Legendaries…" She said grimly.
The great grey dragon slowly rose his head, staring at Pharaoh. The voice, he could see, had come from the small device strapped around the Kabutops' arm. It had mixed with static, crackled, muddled the sound; but that voice... He got to his feet, staring intensely at the device, flame dripping like saliva from his half-parted jaws. That voice...
He knew what the transmitter was doing. Ra, wherever the tiny bird was, was picking up sounds and sending them to her leader. She'd flown off an hour ago, maybe less, to scout out a tower; one supposedly infested by an irritating Ho-Oh. Was the Ho-Oh the one talking? It... no. It couldn't be. He knew this voice. He knew it like he knew Pharaoh. Instinctive, in his bones. Pharaoh was a leader, his leader, the only leader he would follow. The image of the Kabutops with his avian companion was burned into his brain, an image from long ago.
It felt odd, to him, that he had memories. As far as he could tell, he'd been born and rapidly aged in this lab, closed in by these walls. So why did he remember war? It was all he could think about. There were no details, it was all in a fog; the smoke of flames, burning skin and scales... The sun setting for the last time and the furious roars of an army, his own voice, and a cat's scream.
"Come out, wherever you are..." the transmitter taunted. That cat. He knew that voice because it was the cat. The cat from his presumed past. Who was it? He knew her, he had to know her. Slowly he sunk to the ground, head pressed against the bars of his cell. She was important. Think, Buzzard. What is your strongest memory? He knew that one. He'd dreamed about that one. It replayed over and over in his sleep, the searing pain, something he'd never thought he'd feel before; his own fire running out of control. He'd never seen anything in those dreams, nothing but flame and bits of burnt scale. The pain always woke him up in seconds, but in that precious moment...
Hate. That's who the cat was. He hated that cat. She had done... something. There was fire. She'd tricked him? She'd tricked his body, tricked the furnace in his gut, let it consume him alive. She was the enemy he was fighting? As if he needed any more reason to fight. War was in his blood, his leader of two lives stood before him, and that cat, the one he remembered in dreams filled with fire and hatred, that cat was the enemy in his sights.
"Pharaoh." The Kabutops looked up, gaze as calculating and even as always. "That voice, the one that Ra is hearing." His voice was scratchy; he hadn't spoken much in his very short lifespan. "I know her... She's an old enemy, of sorts." He straightened up a bit, thought the roof was still too low for him to fully raise his head. "Someone I remember very, very clearly. I know I've been alive before, Pharaoh. This isn't the first Buzzard. The last one... I think he had a feud to settle with that cat."
"She will be dead shortly. Do not fret with old memoriesss, Buzzard." With that Pharaoh turned towards the door again, staring out but not moving. He was planning. Buzzard knew it without knowing it; his leader did that often.
"Then give me the honor," Buzzard continued. "I remember her. I know how she fights. I know how to kill her." Pharaoh turned his head with a flash of warning in his eyes, but an unearthly wail cut the air, emanating from the transmitter. Both froze. Ra was in trouble? Something was wrong. Someone had been hurt. Instantly Pharaoh went stiff, waiting. They both let out breaths when there was a soft chitter. Ra could not talk, he knew; she was too young. Like the near-infant Lugia that had been sent, she had been hatched only recently, and the mutations plus her lack of true teaching meant that speaking was coming slowly.
"...There was trouble. She is strong," Buzzard hinted. Pharaoh gave him a sharp look, knowing what he was doing, but conceded and nodded.
"Very well, you will get your wish. Buzzard, you are in command of hunting her down and killing her. Undersssstood? The army will focusss on the Legendary." Buzzard grinned toothily, nodding. He'd waited two lifetimes for this, hadn't he? To hunt down the one that had him killed. And he had the advantage. She would never expect. Her old foe had come back from the dead to take revenge.
Pharaoh stepped out of the lab and looked around him. The trees were converging on the lab like an enemy army, surrounding it and hiding it under trailing branches. It was familiar, the forest base. Comforting, the perfect place to lead from; he even had his own lab, his own scientist. It felt right.
That in itself was... odd. Only a few days ago, he'd walked out those doors for the first time and he'd felt completely wrong. His body had been uncomfortable, reluctant to move. The trees had seemed as if looming monsters and he'd felt watched and uncomfortable. Now, it was simply calming. Everything fit together, and whispered promises of a new age, a powerful army.
He didn't need promises of an army. It was around him now, gathered, waiting. They stood and flew in a ring around the door, all of them a little bit... wrong. That seemed comforting too. Unnerving on day one, but now the perfect army. He smiled slightly, so much as he could with a hard shell instead of skin, and turned his head to Ra. The Ho-Oh was a perfect companion. That he'd known from the start.
"A faux attack on Ecruteak Tower will be ssstaged now. Nobody issss to engage the Ssssun Legendary or hisss feline guardian, underssstood?" he hissed sharply. There were nods and grunts from the small army around him. He paused, looking from Legendary to Legendary. His army of gods. No... Not his. Terra's army. Had to remember his place in this. He was no longer the leader.
Which was another funny thing because he'd never been the leader. He glared past his army, frowning. His head was messing with him. Was this the consequence of his birth as a clone? He was not Buzzard. He did not cling to flickering images and call them memories. He was, however, surrounded by many psychic type Legendaries. If anything could cause his mind to malfunction, it was them.
Either way... Being commanded felt wrong. It was not his place to be lead about and prodded like a ridiculous puppet. He lead. This "puppet leadership" was going to need to see some changes. He greatly wished he could speak privately to Ra, discuss with her, but all of his conversation was recorded. It was like being in a cage. She, he knew, would be his greatest advisor. She could spy, fight, and she had already proven how cunning her mind could be. Perfect.
"...You will return here through a roundabout route. Do not return ssstraight here or you may lead a powerful Legendary to our doorsssstep," he continued, ignoring the fact that he'd paused for some time. Nobody would question him. "We will attack again tonight. Sssslay sssome guardsss and create chaosss. Make them feel we are ssseriousss." He paused again, staring at the army before nodding. "Make hassste. Ra and Ssssekhmet will lead you there." The three-headed Lugia brightened, taking to the air. Pharaoh nodded at Ra and swung up his arm, throwing her into the air. The two small Legendaries circled above them, and the army looked up in anticipation.
"For now, I will ssssend only minor Legendariesss. Keep them feeling ssssecure. Now, you may go." The two guides took off, and a section of the ring of soldiers ran after them.
"Buzzard. I require your presenccccce," Pharaoh requested, not looking back. The dragon padded forward from where he'd been lurking, nodding respectfully. "You will be used assss a sssscare tactic. Do not show your facccce unlessss the othersss are in danger of death." The dragon nodded, though he shifted his weight impatiently, wings folding and unfolding. The Kabutops smirked. "You have sssomething to sssay."
"The tower will be in uproar, Pharaoh," the Charrosaurus responded, keeping his voice low and respectful. "I would be able to take down the cat with ease." Pharaoh shook his head, tapping the dragon on the throat with a scythe tip.
"Do not engage her. Show yourssself to her oncccce, quickly. Let her fear." The massive dragon's eyes cleared, and he nodded, a grin on his huge muzzle. Without another word, he pushed off with his heavily muscled back legs, wings flapping hard and carrying him skyward. Then he too was off, flame-covered back flaring before disappearing over the trees.
Solara forced herself to stay calm, keeping her tail wrapped around herself. Her previous physical injuries had been healed long before between Forrestal and her own efforts, but the mental ones still lingered. What in Arceus' name had attacked her? If she hadn't known better, it would have been painfully similar to the things that had happened during the War of the Shadows. Which was impossible. All of the insane scientists' notes had been lit ablaze, burned, destroyed. The Dusk Virus was dormant.
"You look worried, Wraitheon." Forrestal said quietly, edging closer to her and radiating a bit of heat comfortingly. Solara scowled at his efforts, snorting.
"I'm fine, boss. Just been thinking about those weird Legends."
"I've notified Solstice and his Flock. I imagine the word will have spread rapidly among the other Legendaries. We should see reinforcements within weeks." Forrestal replied carefully. "And I'll remain here for the time being to support you in case of any further attacks."
The Wraitheon got onto her paws, stretching and shaking herself. "Good to know you care so much, boss. Not like your friend, though. Arceus, if I could have a fair fight with Solstice I could wipe the floor with him—Ahem. Sorry again, sir." Solara added, settling back down from her pacing. "You don't have to brood. You can go back to the Bell Tower. Besides, I'm worried the floor will fall in because of you. I rather like my home."
Forrestal let out a raspy, bird-like chuckle before flapping his wings up and away out of the tower. Solara was tempted to take a nap and bask in the sunlight while it was safe and warm. She hadn't really got much in the way of sleep last night.
Solara managed to close her eyes for a few seconds before a sudden surge of psychic energy screamed around the city. Solara lurched upright, immediately surging for the entrance of her tower. All the humans were scattering, fleeing inside in a panic. Solara growled. What now?
Oh. That was what now.
Solara bristled as she noted the Ho-Oh creature and the Lugia-Thing darting around in the sky. She growled, immediately letting psychic energy build. They made a mistake coming back here. And then, a loud screaming roar filled the air, causing Solara to balk.
Stepping out from the shadows and making their way towards her tower was the Legendary Beasts. Solara felt briefly relief—they had come faster than Forrestal had expected. And then Solara noticed something was…off with them.
The usual stormy cape on Raikou's back had faded into a foul, smoggy mist that choked the area around it, causing grass and plantlife to wither and die. Its eyes were a deep red, and spikes emerged from its shoulders. Entei had grown an additional pair of legs, running around on six as opposed to it usual four. Foul smog hung around it as well, emanating from his mouth with every exhale. Suicune's colors had turned all murky and dirty, and its crest had sharpened into a deadly point. Like Raikou, its cape like mane had turned into awful smog that was spreading through the air. The Legendary trio, like the birds, had been defiled in foul mockery of themselves.
Solara hissed, baring her teeth in worry. More children had fallen into corruption. As opposed to finishing their beeline path to her, the Trio immediately twisted away and split. Buildings were destroyed and the ghostly guardians of Ecruteak were sent back to their Realm as the Beasts began wreaking havoc.
Solara lunged forward, charging Suicune. She encouraged the dying grass to grow, entangling the foul monster. It crashed to the ground, writhing. Solara lashed forward, claws blazing with psychic energy. The Suicune Thing let out a pining shriek, and the Lugia-Thing lunged down, battering Solara. As quickly as it had dove down, though, it was wheeling away.
Solara rolled away, baring her teeth as the Not-Suicune got back on its feet. It let out a soft shrilling cry at her, before turning away and continuing its destructive rampage.
"Hey!" Solara snarled. "I'm not through with you, get back here!" She charged forward after it, only to get attacked from behind again by a blast of flame. "Oh, it's you again, you little bastard!" Solara shrieked, letting out a keening cry to try and heal the burning pain, before leaping up after it. The Ho-Oh thing was far out of her reach though, and Solara growled irritably, turning to face the Suicune.
Except the Suicune was gone. She pricked her ears as she realized all three of the Twisted Beasts had gone as fast as they had arrived. She could still hear the keening shrills of the Not-Birds hovering high above. Immediately the wind shifted, and Solara knew something bad was coming. She whirled towards where she had seen the Beasts come from and could see it—the familiar draconic shape. It was impossible. He was dead.
Buzzard crashed down in front of the feline, spreading his wings wide and letting out a guttural growl. Fire dripped from his parted jaws as he stared at the cat, taking her in. This was his enemy. She seemed... off, somehow. Something was different, even though he didn't remember her in the first place. But he knew this was her. The shock on her face assured it. She never thought he'd come back, did she? She'd gotten rid of him for good. Until now. Oh, she'd changed her shape, maybe a little bit... But he had found her.
"Hello, kitty. Tell me, did that evolution hurt?" he asked. As soon as he did, he wondered why. Did evolutions ever hurt? Something was clamoring for attention in the back of his head. Yes. They did. Sometimes they hurt a lot. Nothing like burning, though. Nothing like that at all. She deserved far worse than a painful evolution. He took one step closer, rotating his head to sniff the air around her, still drooling fire. Just a look for now. And it could have been so easy...
Solara bristled, lashing her tail. "You'd know, you underwent plenty of them yourself. How the hell did you come back, anyways?" Fear was making her sound far harsher than she intended. "You were dead. I remember it. You were in Giratina's Realm with me."
She took a few steps back and shook her head fiercely. "Buzzard. You have to go. You have to leave. He made me promise to protect this city. Things are different now, Buzzard." She sounded pained. "I serve someone else now." Those words hurt more than she wanted them too.
She stifled her desire to whine, everything screeching in her head. This was her brother. This was Buzzard. She couldn't hurt him. And he wanted to kill her so badly. What had happened to him to make him want her to die? Was he furious she had left him? Rage built up—it wasn't like she even had a choice in the matter. It was serving Ho-Oh or watch her family burn. She had chosen the former.
"You serve someone else?" Buzzard asked, as if hurt. She'd served the enemy, hadn't she? He knew it. She had. And she was trying to escape her guilt by... what, blaming her actions on her old leader? She'd forced him to burn himself alive with his own fire. "Do you think that changes anything?", he continued, voice turning to a mocking laugh. What did she think, that team ties were everything? She would die for what she'd done, and saying she had just taken off the guilt like a coat was insulting. Disgusting. No matter the order, what she had done was her own action.
"Oh, I'll leave. Don't worry. Orders are, I can't kill you. Not yet. You're off the hook for now." He circled, huffing out a puff of burning air. "But you may want to keep your eyes on the sky." He backed up, whipping open his wings. "So hey. Keep your chin up, kitty."
Solara bared her teeth, forcing her guilt down deeper. This wasn't the Buzzard she knew. This was an imposter. This was a threat. So why did it hurt so much? "I'd watch your own tail if I were you, lizard. You might remember, I'm tough old cat, and I don't die easily. You're in for the fight of your life if you think a showy, weak snake with wing like you will be able to take me down." The words were bitter and angry and they made her feel sick to her stomach, but old wired habits were taking over. You never showed weakness. You never showed fear. Not unless you were ready to die.
Buzzard smirked, raising his head and looking down as if impressed. "Well, looks like you have some spirit, cat." He grinned, ducking his head down again. He didn't have much more time to talk, Pharaoh would expect him back soon. He'd already stayed way too long. Show up for just a moment, yeah. That hadn't worked out. But this was the first time he'd seen the cat in... his entire new life, actually. He was risking a little time to chat.
"I'll tell you a secret, kitty. I don't remember much about you, not anything but the important things... I suppose burning alive relieves you of those messy things. But I remember enough. And if you've got any sense, you'll be staying out of sight a lot more often." He could see the discomfort in her. It was hidden under rage, but there was fear; it thrilled him.
"I'm not going to follow your recommendations, Buzzard," She spat. "I can take care of myself just fine. I've been doing so for quite some time." She inhaled, finally letting herself shut down, numb itself out of safety. She gathered the guilt and launched in a blast of shadowy energy, rushing Buzzard to try to chase him off. "I told you. Get out of my city!" She roared, her furious cry responded by her patron's arrival, the large phoenix like bird taking back into the sky and shrieking. "Run, dragon. And tell your master I'll come for him first." She warned, blazing. He needed to go. Before she lost control again.
Buzzard took a step back to brace himself, letting the shadow energy crash into him. Ouch. Arceus, that was actually pretty painful. He couldn't show it though; never show weakness. Showing weakness would only let her win, and he could never let her win again. No. He would destroy her for making him destroy himself.
"I've stayed too long anyway. Pharaoh will be wondering." He promptly lunged forward as if to attack, but his wings pumped down hard and he lifted into the air, twirling around and retreating towards empty forest. Well, okay. He said a little too much, perhaps. But they didn't know Pharaoh, and either way, they'd learn his name eventually. And they still didn't know about the midnight attack. Really, all they knew was that he wanted to kill her... And that would be pretty obvious soon.
Solara twisted away from his feint, watching him take back off into the sky and away. Ecruteak had fallen silent again now that the attackers were gone. The humans were still hiding in their buildings, too scared to emerge.
Forrestal landed heavily next to the Wraitheon, folding one of his wings around her. "You okay, Sol?"
The wraitheon didn't reply immediately. When she did, her voice betrayed her with a quavering to it, "He was my brother. I've lost my own brother." She fell silent, shuddering. All the Ho-Oh could do was let out a soft little keen of comfort.