Snowdrift

Seven
Hotter Than Hot

"How do the volcanoes sound to you?" asked Shocker after a relatively peaceful night's sleep.

"Dunno. What's a volcano?" I had never heard of a volcano before. I made a mental note to get out more.

"A big mountain with fire inside. They're really hot," he answered paws behind his head as he looked up at the sky. I tried to picture a snowy mountain burning with fire, but couldn't.

"How does the snow stay there if it's so hot?"

He chuckled. "It doesn't. There's no snow on a volcano. You need to get out more!"

"I know," I muttered under my breath. How could I change the subject? Thankfully, Shocker did it for me. He got to his feet and waddled over to the bags stretching his arms and tail as he went.

"Better get moving if you want to get back to the Pokécenter by the end of the week," he said.

I breathed a silent sigh of relief and walked to the waiting Pikachu. He jumped on my back and I picked up the four remaining bags and took flight, Shocker waving goodbye to the rats below.

We flew in the general direction of the river again, but veered off to the west rather than heading north to my home mountains. We were still flying by mid-afternoon, and I could just see the tip of a mountain.

"This Jack person was a real traveller!" I exclaimed.

"Yeah, he said he'd go anywhere for powerful Pokémon, and kept telling us that he was so far unsuccessful. Didn't help with our self-esteem, I can tell you!" said Shocker.

We drifted on for another few hours when the sun sunk once again below the horizon and the moon took its place among the stars. Below us now were kind of scattered trees. I chose a clear spot and landed in the leaves below. Never had I flown for such a long time before in my life.

"Do you think we'll make it there by tomorrow?" I asked casually.

"If you keep up the speed we had today, sure, we'll be there by midday, I'd say." I could tell he had something else to say. "Do you legendary birds hang out together?" he asked me.

I thought a bit. Should I tell him about her? "No, not really. A Moltres got lost in our mountains, she flew too far north. I made really good friends with her too, but I haven't seen her since." Why not? What are the odds?

"And you never knew she lived in the volcanoes." He said it more as a statement than a question.

"No."

"Do you think you'll see her while we're there?" he asked.

I thought again. "Don't know. I wouldn't think so though." I nestled down for the night and put my head under my wing, determined not to get any more questions.

Thankfully, there were no more questions the next morning. Maybe he'd forgotten? Whatever the reason, we just took off and rose above the trees with the sun. Sure enough, by midday, the Pikachu told me to touch down. Strangely enough, we weren't actually up in the volcano, we were more near a cave at its base.

"Why are we stopping here?" I asked when Shocker had dismounted.

"See that cave there?" he said, pointing, "That's where our next bag lives. When we've set them free, we can head up into the volcano. Are you sure you can put up with the heat? I mean, you are used to sub-zero temperatures."

"I'll be fine," I lied.

I set the bags down and Shocker emptied the one for the cave dwelling Pokémon. There were seven in all. The bright lights revealed the huge rock-snake, ["Onix," Shocker told me], two Golem, two Zubat and two Golbat. After the Pokémon had dived back into their mountain home, I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness that Onix was gone! I know he wouldn't have eaten me, but still, he was at least ten times longer than my tail.

We flapped the short ascent to the top of the volcano, and I must say, the warm updrafts made flying much easier, but I felt my wings were going to melt under the intense heat. We set down on a ledge about twenty meters below the rim and let out the Pokémon.

Fire lizards, all three evolutions, fire horses and an odd looking thing with a beak leapt into the world. I had never seen these Pokémon before in my life, except the Charmander. They galloped, ran or flew away into various volcanoes rising above the landscape, the horses hurtling into the gorge below for a sprint.

When all the Pokémon were out of sight, Shocker crawled onto my back again.

"One more place to go! Back to- " he was cut short by an ear-piercing screech from inside the volcano. Oh no.

The orange light from the volcano grew brighter as the yellow bird sprang up from the molten rock inside, wings, tail and crest a blaze of fire. It couldn't be, but it had to be.

I raised my wing to my beak. "'Ferno," I whispered, shaking my head as the god of fire glided down to the ledge. Although I couldn't imagine being any hotter than I already was, I'm sure my temperature rose again by a few degrees from the flaming bird standing before us. I couldn't believe it. My best friend, yet worst enemy, back again.

"So, little goody-two-feet has come to pay the big bad birdy a visit," sneered the Moltres.

"Inferno, how did you manage to get away?" I squeaked, trying to regain my courage. My ice could beat her any day, but then, her fire...

"I burnt my way out, no thanks to you," she scoffed, "got a new friend to loose, eh?"

Shocker bent close to my ear. "So, she's a great friend is she?"

"What happened to you, 'Ferno? You were such a great friend. What did they do to you?" I was almost crying.

She turned her back. "Nothing much. Put me on TV, sold me, tortured me, sold me again, shot at me, you know, the usual stuff."

"Oh, 'Ferno, I'm so sorry."

"So you should be!" she screeched, flaming the sky, "You're the one who put me with them! Do you really expect me to forgive you? After what you did to me? I don't think so, girly."

We stood in silence for a few moments, the air growing tenser and tenser. She glared at me with such hatred in her eyes. I couldn't let that kind of thing happen to my chick, and I hoped it hadn't happened to Glacier.

The silence was broken by Inferno. "Let's battle," she growled through clenched beak.

"Oh, I really don't think-"

"Just a one on one, you and me, no little Pikachu, just us, Uno et Tres. Come on, don't chicken out again."

"I guess I could..."

"Great. Big-Ears can be the ref. Down in the bushland," and with that she took off and glided down into the trees from where we came.

"What happened?" asked Shocker, "You said you were great friends."

I explained as we glided down the side of the volcano. I took a deep breath and began, "Three years after I left home, I found her lying in a cave in the mountains. She was really cold and her flames had almost gone out. I piled up snow and iced it all together at the mouth of the cave, hoping to keep the heat she made with her flames in so she would be shielded from the wind.

"I'm not sure how, but she lived. She said she had come looking for adventure and got lost in the mountains. With the snow and the cold and the wind, she just gave up and went to die in the cave. When her flames were full again, she said she could never thank me enough for what I did for her. We were best friends for about a month.

"Then humans came. We battled as well and as hard as we could, but who-ever it was came prepared. They had Lapras, Dewgong, Blastoise, Poliwrath; Pokémon neither of us had a hope against. In the end, the human got her. The last words she screamed out at me were 'You're going to pay for this!' then she turned to that red light you see from the balls. I never saw her since, and never thought I would."

I sniffed and tried to hold back tears. I could tell Shocker didn't know what to say. I knew what he was thinking though.

We touched down in the dappled sunlight of the trees to where the bright orange fire was coming from. She was waiting there, a glint in her eye.

"Bring it on, Snowy," she mocked.

Eight