Where Angels Dare to Tread
by Cori Falls
Chapter 5 -- Rude Awakenings
"JAMES!!! JAMES, WAKE UP!!!"
When James opened his eyes, he saw Meowth and Wobbuffet standing over him. The two pokemon had panicked looks on their faces.
"Come on, Jimmy! Wake up!" Meowth shouted, grabbing him by the shoulders and giving him a shake.
James sat up and placed a hand on his forehead. "I'm awake...I'm awake...." he grumbled. "What's the matter?"
"Jessie's gone! Dat's what's the matter!"
An icy finger of dread ran up James's spine as he looked and saw that the other side of the bed was empty. And suddenly, the memories of the dream he'd been having came flooding back.
So it's true.... he said to himself.
"We looked all over the cabin, and we even went outside and searched a bit of the forest -- we couldn't find her anywhere!" Meowth went on.
Where could she be?! Wobbuffet cried.
James reached out and placed his hands atop Meowth and Wobbuffet's heads. "Calm down, guys," he said.
"Calm down?! How can we calm down at a time like dis, James?!" Meowth demanded.
Yeah! Jessie could be anywhere! She's already sick, and being out in that storm isn't going to do her any good! Wobbuffet added.
"Yes, and panicking isn't going to do her any good, either!" James retorted. "Now will the two of you please listen to me?!"
Hearing the commanding tone in James's voice, Meowth and Wobbuffet fell silent.
James took a deep breath before continuing. "I think I know where Jessie is...."
"You do?! Where?!" the two pokemon interjected.
"Meowth, do you remember that irrational fear you had earlier, that Jessie was possessed by an evil spirit?" he asked.
Meowth sweatdropped. "Y-yeah?"
"Well...it turns out you were right -- when Jessie put on the mask, the spirit of the ancient city's queen took possession of her," James replied.
Meowth and Wobbuffet exchanged nervous looks.
"I had a dream about my grand-mama just now," James continued. "She told me that the queen plans to banish Jessie's soul to the lower planes and return to life in her body."
The sweatdrop on Meowth's face doubled in size. "Yer awfully calm about dis, Jimmy," he remarked.
"Believe me, Meowth, I'm as worried about Jessie as you are...maybe even more so," James told him. "But I know what I have to do to save her, and I already have a plan."
"Whadda we gonna do?" Meowth asked.
"We don't have time to sit around and talk all night," James replied as he jumped out of bed and put on his pants. "I'll fill you in on everything as we go along."
While James was pulling on a pair of socks and his boots, Meowth and Wobbuffet exchanged looks again.
Under normal circumstances, I'd think James's story is crazy...but these are hardly normal circumstances, Wobbuffet whispered.
"Yeah," Meowth agreed. "After all the weird shit dat happened dis afternoon and dis evenin', I wouldn't dismiss anythin' as impossible."
Once he was dressed, James sprang to his feet and left the bedroom. "Well, are you coming with me, or not?" he demanded. "We must make haste!"
"Wow! I haven't heard Jimmy talk like dis since dat time he went into Moltres-mode," Meowth muttered to Wobbuffet as they followed James to the living room. "Either he really knows what he's doin'...or he's gonna get us into a shit-load a trouble."
I hope it's the former, Wobbuffet replied. Because if he's right and this really is some sort of evil spirit we're up against, there's a lot more than our self-esteem at stake.
Meowth shuddered as he recalled how easily James the Moltres had been shot down by Butch and Cassidy. If we couldn't even defeat two lowly pissants with over-inflated egos, den what chance do we have against a supernatural foe? he wondered. But when Meowth looked up at James and saw the determination etched on his face and the steely resolve in his emerald eyes, he felt his confidence returning.
James did, indeed, know what he was doing. And with Jessie's life in the balance, this was one battle he wouldn't lose.
"So...what's goin' on, James?" Meowth asked as he pulled his trenchcoat from his backpack and put it on. "Tell me about dis dream ya had."
"I saw the queen -- she took Jessie away. Then, my grand-mama showed up and explained everything to me," James began. Once he'd clipped his poke balls and Jessie's to his belt, he put on his own trenchcoat and headed for the door. "Grand-mama said that when Queen Ayesha died 2,000 years ago, she got a sorcerer to create a gateway between the planes in her temple. He turned her mask into the key that would open the gateway and allow Ayesha to return to this world. All she needed was a body to inhabit...and she chose Jessie...."
"How does yer grand-mama know all dis?" Meowth queried as he and Wobbuffet followed James outside.
"Because Ayesha once chose her as well," he replied. "My grandparents were friends with Professor Oak and his wife, and they accompanied them on an expedition to Yew forty years ago. While they were there, grand-mama and Vivien Oak had nightmares about the queen -- they felt her luring them to her temple...enticing them to don the mask. But since they were both witches, they were able to sense the danger and protect themselves from it. Jessie wasn't so lucky...." His voice trailed off as he closed his eyes and brushed away the rain that was dripping down his face.
Meowth shuddered. "Well...how're we supposed ta save her?"
"The first thing we need to do is find Jessie's body," James told him. "Grand-mama said that Ayesha is holding Jessie's soul captive on the Astral Plane -- that means she took Jessie back to her temple in order to get there.
"The Astral Plane is the world of dreams," James explained when he saw the confused looks on Meowth and Wobbuffet's faces. "When you have a dream, your soul is traveling on the Astral Plane, and when the dream is over, your soul returns to your body. And since Ayesha doesn't have a body to return to and doesn't belong on the Astral Plane anyway, she needs to use the gateway in her temple to travel between worlds."
Why did Ayesha take Jessie to the Astral Plane? Wobbuffet asked.
James frowned. "Ayesha is using the energies of the Astral Plane to increase her powers. On that plane, she has the power of a god...and she plans to use that power to open another gateway to the lower planes. If she succeeds, Jessie's soul will be lost forever, and Ayesha will return to life in her body...and if she returns to life, she'll have the powers of a god on this plane as well."
Meowth buried his face in his paws. "Dis is all my fault," he muttered. "I'm the one who used the Dugtrio Dig-a-tron ta tunnel our way inta the temple, and I'm the one who took the staff and mask offa the statue and gave 'em ta Jess. If I hadn't...."
"Don't blame yourself, Meowth," James said, cutting him off.
Yeah! You didn't know about the danger. None of us did, Wobbuffet chimed in.
James nodded. "Wobbuffet is right. Besides, Ayesha was calling to Jessie...luring her. Even without the Dugtrio Dig-a-tron, she would've found a way for us to reach the temple."
"I guess," Meowth sighed, brushing his tears away.
"Stop feeling guilty -- guilt isn't going to save Jessie," James told him.
"Den what is?!" Meowth demanded. "James, ya said yerself dat dis Ayesha has the power of a god! How the hell are we supposed ta take her on?!"
"With magic," came James's reply. "Once we find Jessie, I'll have to go to the Astral Plane and get her soul back...and make sure that Ayesha's soul can never return to this world...."
"Dat's all well and good, but how're ya gonna do dat?!" Meowth interjected. "In case ya haven't noticed, you don't know magic!"
"And that's where you're wrong, Meowth," James countered. "In my dream, grand-mama showed me how to use magic. She helped me awaken the power within myself...and now I need to use it to save Jessie. I don't know exactly how I'm going to do it yet -- I won't know that until I have grand-mama's books and learn her spells."
"Well, where are her books?" Meowth queried.
For the first time since he awoke, James smiled. "Grand-mama told me that she gave her books to Vivien in order to keep them safe from my parents. Vivien's grandson is going to bring the books to us."
Now Meowth was smiling, too. "Ya mean Gary?"
James nodded. "I just hope he gets here soon -- we don't have much time...."
When James, Meowth, and Wobbuffet finally arrived back in the ruins of Yew, they wasted no time in finding the tunnel that Brock's Onix had made as an escape route from the temple. James frowned as he turned on his flashlight and peered into the tunnel. The incline was steep, and the rain had made the passage slick and muddy.
"How're we gonna get down dere without slippin', and fallin', and breakin' every bone in our bodies?" Meowth asked.
"Easily," James replied. With that, he returned Wobbuffet to his poke ball and released Victreebel.
The carnivorous plant emitted a happy shriek when he saw his master. Then, he tackled him and engulfed his head.
"Knock it off!" James snapped as he pried himself out of Victreebel's mouth. "This is no time to be affectionate -- we need your help!"
Victreebel shrieked apologetically and stood at attention.
"Meowth and I need you to steady us with your vines while we climb down that tunnel," James told him.
Victreebel nodded and wrapped his vines around James and Meowth's waists. Once he had a secure hold on them, James smiled at his pokemon and began his descent.
"Thanks," he said. Then, to Meowth, "Watch your step."
Quickly, the two friends made their way down the tunnel. Every time they lost their footing on the wet rocks, they grabbed onto Victreebel's vines and steadied themselves again. After a few minutes, they reached the bottom.
"Good work, Victreebel!" James called up to his pokemon as he freed himself from the vines. "Wait there -- we'll need you to bring us up again once we find Jessie!"
Another scream echoed down from the entrance of the tunnel.
"Viccie sez no problem," Meowth translated.
James nodded. "Let's get Jess and get out of here," he said. But when he turned his flashlight on again, he saw that there had been a massive cave-in which had destroyed the temple. The entire room was now buried under tons of rock. As he scanned the area, however, James noticed that some of the boulders and rubble had been cast aside, forming a pathway.
"Ayesha was definitely here," he muttered. "And her powers on this plane are already increasing...."
"Let's hurry!" James said as he started heading down the path through the rubble. "We don't have any time to waste!"
Regaining his composure, Meowth shook his head and followed him.
When the two of them reached the end of the path, they found themselves in a small part of the temple that hadn't been buried during the cave-in. An overhang in the ceiling had protected the statue of Queen Ayesha and the area around it. At the statue's feet, Jessie was lying in a crumpled heap.
James and Meowth gasped and raced to Jessie's side. Her body felt cold and lifeless when James took her in his arms and folded her into an embrace.
"Jessie," he whispered as he buried his face in her sea of crimson hair. "Oh, sweetheart...."
Meowth's midnight-blue eyes filled with tears. And he could tell from the quaver in James's voice that he was crying, too. "Is...is she....?"
James sniffled and looked back at Meowth. "No, she's not dead. But her soul has been taken -- this is only an empty shell. I just wanted to find her and bring her back to the cabin so that she'll be somewhere safe. I don't want her to wake up alone in this terrible place after we rescue her...." He looked down at Jessie again, and his voice trailed off. The tears in his eyes spilled down his cheeks and landed on her ashen face as he smoothed back her hair and planted a kiss on her forehead.
Meowth sniffled, too. Then, he placed his paw on James's back. "Den let's get her outta here."
James nodded and got back to his feet. As he picked up Jessie's body, he cast an angry look at the statue of Ayesha. She looked exactly like the woman he'd seen in his nightmare, and without the golden mask covering her face, she seemed to be glowering down at them...mocking them.
"Damn you," Meowth grumbled. He was looking at the statue, too.
James smirked. "Ayesha can gloat all she wants...because once I get grand-mama's books, I'm sending her to Hell, where she belongs."
This made the cat smile. "Yeah!"
As the two of them began making their way back to the tunnel, James held Jessie closer and gave her another kiss. Her skin was as cold and white as marble, but he could feel the faintest trace of her warm breath on his lips -- she was still fighting for her life.
"Hang in there, Jess," he whispered into her ear. "I'm not going to let that bitch do anything to hurt you. I'm not going to lose you...."
When Jessie opened her eyes, she found herself lying in a warm, cozy bed. The downy mattress and pillows felt like clouds beneath her body, and the perfumed sheets that covered her were softer than silk. At her side, James shifted in his sleep. A smile made its way across his lips as he rested his head on her shoulder and draped an arm across her chest, closing his hand over one of her breasts.
Jessie closed her eyes again and sighed contentedly, savoring the feeling of her lover's touch and the sweet...almost hypnotic floral scent that permeated the air. If this is a dream, I don't ever want to wake up, she said to herself as she ran her hands through James's soft blue-violet hair and traced the outlines of his handsome face with her fingertips.
In the back of her mind, Jessie was, indeed, aware that she was dreaming. She'd been having this same wondrous dream for the past two nights, and now she was having it again.
She knew what would happen next.
As Jessie laid in bed, stroking James's hair and caressing his smooth skin, she heard a voice outside the window. It was a woman's voice, soft and melodic...and it was calling to her.
Looking out the window, Jessie saw an immense city of gold appear in the mountains above the forest.
This can be yours, Jessie. All of your fondest wishes can come true, the voice whispered. Just imagine it....
As Jessie listened to the voice, an image of herself as a queen suddenly formed in her mind's eye. She was wearing a golden mask and a gown of white silk, and she was covered from head to toe in jewelry. James was on bended knee before her, kissing her outstretched hand. When he placed a ring onto one of her long, delicate fingers, Meowth, Arbok, Weezing, Wobbuffet, and Victreebel came to their side and offered them trays laden with cheeses, fruits, and other delicacies.
You will be queen...Queen of Yew...Queen of all pokemon, with a handsome king by your side, the voice promised.
"Yes," Jessie whispered back. "This is what I want."
Come to the temple beneath the city, the voice went on. When you don the golden mask, all that you've seen will become real.
Taking care not to awaken James -- her future king -- Jessie slowly got out of bed and draped a silken robe around her naked body. As she left the cabin and began making her way towards the golden city, the voice continued to beckon her.
Come....Come to me, Jessie....
"Yes...." she answered.
When Jessie reached the temple, she found herself standing before a statue of the city's queen. A golden mask covered her face, and a large staff was clutched in her left hand. The last two times she'd had this dream, Jessie had awakened before she could don the mask, but she had a feeling that tonight was going to be different. Tonight, her dream was going to come true.
A wild chill of anticipation coursed through Jessie's body as she reached up and took the mask off of the statue. As she fingered its smooth, shiny surface and gazed into the sapphire gemstones set in the eyes, she recalled the image of herself and James as queen and king, and a smile made its way across her lips.
Queen Jessie and King James. Has a nice ring to it, she said to herself.
Closing her eyes once again, Jessie slowly brought the mask up to her face and put it on. When it touched her skin, however, the gold suddenly became red-hot, and a searing pain ripped through her body. Jessie screamed in agony. Her hands blistered as she clutched the mask, and it felt like her flesh was melting as she tried desperately to pull it off.
When she finally succeeded in tearing the mask away from her face, Jessie awoke in a cold sweat. The mask and staff were gone, and when she looked at her hands and felt her face, she couldn't find any blisters or burns. Before she could breathe a sigh of relief and dismiss the events that had just transpired as a dream gone bad, however, she saw that she was still inside the temple.
Suddenly, she heard footsteps echoing on the stone floor. Turning around, she saw a woman standing over her. The golden mask was covering her face, and her countenance made her look exactly like the statue of the ancient city's queen. The sight of her made Jessie's blood run cold.
"Welcome, Jessie," she said.
"You...you were the one that was calling me here," Jessie whispered.
The woman nodded and removed her mask. "Yes. I am Ayesha, the queen of this humble village, and I've been waiting a long time for one such as you."
Jessie got to her feet and fixed the woman with a defiant stare. "What do you want with me?" she asked, trying to hide the fear in her voice.
"Don't be frightened -- I called you here because I need your help," Ayesha replied. "The visions that I showed you will be your reward if you help me."
Jessie raised an eyebrow.
"You see, only a truly exceptional woman can hear my call. You wouldn't have seen the visions...you wouldn't have come here...you wouldn't have donned my mask today if you didn't have the power to help me," Ayesha continued. A light sparkled in her ice-green eyes, and her lips twisted into a smile as she placed a hand atop Jessie's head. "Yes! You must be the one -- you're beautiful...and strong...and you have the blood of royalty! Jessie, I'm so happy that you've heeded my call for help!"
Jessie pulled away from Ayesha's touch and took a step backwards. "What are you talking about, lady?! There's nothing royal about me -- my family was as poor as they come!"
"And that's where you're wrong, Jessie," said Ayesha. "I saw many things about you just now...things that not even you are aware of. Behold!"
With that, she waved her hand, and an image of an elegant Japanese garden appeared before Jessie's eyes. A stone pathway lined with verdant cherry trees wound its way through the garden and led to a wooden bridge that spanned a small fishpond. As Jessie gazed at the garden, she could smell the sweet fragrance of the sakura blossoms and hear the melodious song of a nightingale perched in one of the trees.
"How beautiful...." Jessie sighed.
When she said this, a young woman entered the garden and seated herself on a stone bench next to the fishpond. The girl's hair was so black that it had an iridescent purple sheen about it, and her angular eyes were a deep, rich shade of amethyst-purple as well. She was dressed in a flowing kimono made of pink rose-print silk, and her elaborate hairdo was adorned with jeweled combs of emerald, ruby, and sapphire. Even though Jessie had never met her in person, she knew immediately who the girl was. She remembered the photographs Miyamoto had shown her when she was a child.
"Th-that's my grandma!" she gasped.
"She is Matsuki Musashi -- heiress of the noble house of Matsuki," Ayesha told her. "She was born a princess...though she did not remain that way...."
Suddenly, the image of the girl in the garden transformed. Now, Musashi looked a few years older. She was dressed in a much simpler robe of green cotton, and her long mane of hair was hanging loose. At her side stood a handsome young man with brilliant blue-green eyes and fiery-red hair that was pulled back in a short ponytail. The two of them had their arms around each other, and as the man ran his fingers through Musashi's hair, their lips met in a passionate kiss.
"And that's my grandpa," Jessie whispered.
Ayesha frowned. "Yes. Musashi fell in love with a peasant...a farmer who happened to be visiting Japan at the time. She knew that her parents would disapprove if a commoner from a foreign land asked for her hand in marriage, so she ran away with him, and they went to Kanto together. She renounced her royal title and chose a life of exile in order to marry her beloved, but it didn't change the fact that she was of noble birth. Granted, the noble line has been bastardized with peasant stock for the past two generations, but you're still descended from royalty, Jessie. The blood of a princess flows through your veins!"
Jessie's sapphire eyes widened as the image of her grandparents faded away. She didn't like the way this woman was insulting her grandfather, but the tale had intrigued her nonetheless. "G-grandma was a princess?! How do you know this?!"
Ayesha smiled again and ran her fingers along Jessie's cheek. "I already told you, I know many things about you, Jessie," she repeated. "You'd be surprised what one simple touch can reveal -- when you have the powers of a god, a world of information is quite literally at your fingertips! I've seen your ancestry, your memories, your dreams, your fears, your likes and dislikes -- everything!"
Jessie's brow furrowed.
"I know what you're thinking," Ayesha said before Jessie could ask her question. "You're wondering why I need your help if I have the powers of a god. And you're wondering what your noble lineage has to do with it."
"It's very simple," Ayesha continued. "You see, I may be as powerful as a god, but the fact remains that I'm not a god -- I'm merely a ghost. However, if I were to be given life again, I really could be a god. All of the visions you saw, I'd have the power to make real. Your beauty and royal blood aren't really necessary for my resurrection -- they're simply a matter of my own personal taste. As a queen, I can't have anything less than the very best, you know!"
A wave of revulsion washed over Jessie as realization dawned on her. "Listen, lady, if you want me to be your mother or your avatar, I'm going to have to decline...."
"Oh, no you don't!" Ayesha hissed, cutting her off. "You came here because you wanted what I offered to you. You can't get something for nothing, Jessie -- it doesn't work that way!"
"I know that! And I'm saying that I don't want what you're offering if that's the price I have to pay -- it's not worth it!" Jessie retorted. "I never agreed to help you in the first place, and now I'm flat-out refusing!"
As Jessie turned and prepared to take her leave, Ayesha began to laugh. "Oh, Jessie. Silly, silly Jessie. I'm afraid you have no choice."
Ignoring the queen's mocking, Jessie quickened her pace. Just as she was about to leave the temple, however, the world around her went blurry, and she suddenly found herself locked inside a prison cell. "What the....?!"
Ayesha laughed again. "You didn't really think you could just walk out of here, did you?" she sneered. "It's not that simple, Jessie. You're in my world now...and we're playing by my rules."
Jessie frowned. "I don't give a fuck who...or what you are -- I don't play by anybody's rules except my own!"
"Ah! A woman after my own heart. How refreshing...yet at the same time, annoying," said Ayesha. Her smile became a scowl as she reached through the iron bars of the cell and struck Jessie over the head with her staff. "You will do what I want, Jessie...whether you want to or not. After 2,000 years of exile in this accursed place, I'm going to have my life back, and I will not be denied. Not by you, or anybody else."
Jessie clutched her throbbing head in her hands and backed herself into the far corner of the cell.
"Oh, cheer up!" Ayesha went on. "I promised to make all of those wonderful visions I showed you come true, and I intend to keep that promise."
"Only because it serves your own ends," Jessie grumbled.
Ayesha smiled again and nodded. "How true. Everything has a catch, my dear, and this is no exception. You see, I wasn't lying when I said that you'd be queen -- I just neglected to mention that it would be my soul in your body!"
Jessie closed her eyes and recalled the vision that Ayesha had shown her. Then, she began to chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Ayesha demanded.
"There's no way you can make that vision come true if you're the one inhabiting my body," she replied. "Even if you did look like me, James would never bow down before you or ask to be your king! He wouldn't have been kissing me like that or giving me his ring if it weren't really me!"
Now Ayesha was the one who was chuckling. "Ah, yes. James. A man who truly cares more about what's on the inside than what's on the outside. I saw your memories of his ex-fiance -- the woman who looks exactly like you on the surface but has a heart as black and cruel as yours is pure. You speak the truth, Jessie -- he would never love me of his own accord...but the vision I showed you wasn't exactly the whole picture."
With that, Ayesha held her staff aloft, and the image of James kneeling before Jessie reappeared. This time, however, the scene was unfolding from a different angle. This time, Jessie could see James's face, expressionless and devoid of light as he kissed her outstretched hand. Meowth and the other pokemon all had the same dead look on their faces as they carried the trays of food to their queen.
"Yes. They will obey me. All of them. Like you, they have no choice," Ayesha said.
Tears welled up in Jessie's eyes. "No! Leave them alone, you bitch! Leave them out of this!" she cried.
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Jessie," Ayesha replied. "When I reclaim my throne, all the pokemon of the world will be my slaves -- Meowth and the others included. And James? He's a little too devoted to you for his own good. If I leave him to his own devices, he'll only cause trouble for me. I suppose I could kill him, but I don't think you'd be too fond of that option. To be honest, I don't like the idea myself -- after all, he's incredibly beautiful and an even more incredible lover. I'd have so much more fun with him alive than I could if he were dead, don't you think?
"Yes, my soul was already inhabiting your body when he made love to you earlier this evening," Ayesha went on when she saw the look of horror on Jessie's face. "I felt everything that you did. Yes, I'll definitely enjoy keeping him as my consort -- he's so much better than any of the lovers I ever took during my lifetime."
Jessie shuddered and covered her mouth with her hand as she turned away from Ayesha. The thought of James, Meowth, and their pokemon being enslaved by this woman (and James being violated) was making the bile rise up in her throat. It was all she could do to keep from vomiting.
Ayesha closed her eyes and sighed happily as she dispelled the vision. "Tomorrow night, our dreams shall come true. When the full moon reaches its zenith, life shall be mine again...and your body will finally be inhabited by a soul worthy of its regal beauty and royal lineage. You should thank me, Jessie -- I'm going to make you the queen you were destined to be!"
Jessie said nothing, just shuddered again. She was still trying to supress the urge to throw up.
"In exactly twenty hours, your miserable, pointless existence will end, and this world will have a new queen...a new goddess. Nobody will ever call you a loser or look down upon you again -- instead they will all worship you. It will be wonderful," Ayesha hissed into her ear. With that, she turned away from Jessie and took her leave.
Once she was alone, the tears that Jessie had been holding back began to fall. "What have I done?" she sobbed. "I wish I'd never put on that mask...I wish we'd never even come here! James...Meowth...I'm so sorry about this. I just hope you can forgive me...."
To be Continued....
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