Where Angels Dare to Tread

by Cori Falls


Chapter 7 -- A Practical Princess, and a Narrow Escape

When Jessie was finally able to stop crying, she took a deep breath and looked around her cell. It was nothing more than a small, bare room with thick stone walls and heavy iron bars on the door and window. Getting to her feet and looking out the window, she saw that she was locked in a parapet atop an immense tower. The outside walls gave no purchase, and the ground was at least ten stories down -- the mere sight of it made her airsick!

"I guess escaping through the window is out of the question," Jessie muttered as she seated herself on the cold stone floor once again. She nibbled on one of her fingernails and frowned. Come on, think Jessie! There must be some way out of here! I can't just sit around on my ass, waiting for James to come and rescue me -- I'm sure he will, but I need to find him before Ayesha does! If there's any rescuing that needs to be done around here, I'm the one who needs to do it!

As Jessie sat there, trying to think of a way out of her predicament, she found herself recalling one of her favorite stories that Miyamoto had read to her when she was a little girl -- The Practical Princess. In the story, the beautiful and clever Princess Bedelia had been kidnapped by an evil sorcerer who wanted to marry her. But she'd escaped from his castle by rescuing a handsome prince who was also being held prisoner and climbing down on his beard. Then, she and the prince had defeated the evil sorcerer and lived happily ever after.

Jessie laughed bitterly. Too bad that won't work for me -- my handsome prince isn't here, she said to herself. Hmmm...what would Bedelia have done to escape from Lord Garp's castle if Prince Perian hadn't been there? she wondered.

After pondering this question for a few minutes, Jessie ran a hand through her hair and sighed...and that's when an idea came to her. "She would've improvised...like any practical princess would!" she whispered, pulling a bobby pin from her hair.

"Ayesha, you should've known that you can't keep a thief behind bars," Jessie chuckled as she straightened the pin and began to pick the lock on the door of her cell. After a moment, the lock popped, and the door swung open.

Knowing that she didn't have time to relish her accomplishment, Jessie slipped out of the cell and closed the door behind her. Then, she quickly made her way down the stairs. When she reached the bottom, she found herself standing in a gateway that opened into a lush, green courtyard on the roof of the tower. Three other parapets jutted up from the tower's far corners, and in the center of the courtyard was another stairway that led to the lower levels...a stairway that was being guarded by a pair of Ursarings and a swarm of Beedrills.

"Shit! How am I supposed to get past Ayesha's minions without getting attacked?" Jessie muttered as she ducked back into the shadows. And as she closed her eyes and assessed the situation, other questions began to form in her mind. And if I manage to get through the courtyard, how am I going to get through the rest of the tower? There's bound to be more pokemon patrolling the lower levels...and Ayesha is in there, too! And what do I do if I manage to make it out of the tower?! We must be on some other plane of existence if this city is still intact, and Ayesha has the powers of a god -- she even said this is "her world." How am I supposed to get back to my own world?!

Suddenly, Jessie heard the slow, rhythmic sound of sarcastic applause. Opening her eyes again, she saw Ayesha standing before her. "Good questions, Jessie. You're a clever girl...."

Jessie gasped and took a step backwards.

Ayesha chuckled. "You didn't think you could sneak past me, did you? I see and hear everything that goes on in my city -- I've been watching you the whole time. You truly are a practical princess, Jessie. I'm sure escaping would have been a simple matter for you if you were up against a normal foe, but even the most practical princess is no match for a goddess!"

"You're no goddess," Jessie retorted. "You said yourself that you're just a ghost."

"On your plane, yes. But here, I am a god," she replied.

"Where are we?" Jessie asked.

"The Astral Plane, of course! The world of dreams. You see, I don't actually belong here -- normally, when souls die, they go to the outer plane that matches their belief system and karma," Ayesha explained. "But I didn't like where I was going when I died, so I came here instead. I do love the energies of this plane -- all the wonder, hope, and fear of those who dream...I've been feeding off of it for 2,000 years. It's made me into what I am now...."

World of dreams?! Jessie thought as she listened to her. That means....

"Yes. This is all a dream you're having," Ayesha interjected. "Back in your world, your body lies safely in bed while your soul is trapped here."

Jessie raised an eyebrow.

"And no, it's not that simple," Ayesha said as the thought formed in Jessie's mind. "You can't get away from me by waking up. Like the gods before me, I've used my powers to put a barrier around the city. While you're within its walls, planar travel is impossible -- the only way in...or out is through the gateway in my temple, and even then, the gateway can't be opened without my mask." Then, grabbing Jessie by the wrist, "And I can't let you do that. When I open the new gateway at midnight tonight, you're going to take my place in Hell, and I can live again! Your little escape attempt was most amusing, Jessie, but from now on, I think I'll keep you somewhere where I can keep an eye on you...."

Acting on impulse, Jessie gave Ayesha a swift kick in the shins. As the queen cried out in pain and doubled over, Jessie wrenched free from her grasp and tore the mask from her head. "Think again!" she called over her shoulder as she plowed her way through the pokemon guards and made a mad dash for the stairs.

Once Ayesha had recovered from the shock, she ran a hand through her auburn hair and smirked. "Still trying to resist? You're planning on keeping me entertained until the very end, I see," she chuckled. "How delightful! I enjoy watching the futile struggles of one who can never win...."

I...I took her by surprise! That means Ayesha's not as all-knowing or all-seeing as she thinks! Jessie said to herself as she raced down the stairs. Still, I can't let her catch me again -- if she does, I won't have the element of surprise anymore! I just hope I can get to her temple and make it through that gateway before she shows up....

No sooner than she thought this, Jessie felt another presence behind her.

"You cannot escape," Ayesha's voice whispered into her ear.

Jessie shook her head and ran faster.

"Nowhere to run...nowhere to hide!" the voice taunted her.

Oh, shut up! Jessie thought.

"I know what you fear, Jessie!" the voice laughed. "I've looked into your mind, and I know what chills you to the very core of your being!"

Suddenly, an image of a large man with dark brown hair and menacing gray eyes appeared before Jessie. The sight of him stopped her dead in her tracks.

The man's lips twisted into a wicked smile. "Remember me, Jessie?" he hissed. "I tried to love you, but you were always making me angry. Why? Why were you always making me angry, Jessica?"

Jessie shuddered and backed away as the man reached for her. "No! Get away from me, Antonio!" she cried.

Suddenly, the man lunged and grabbed her by the shoulders. "You stupid little bitch!" he screamed as he shook her about. "That's what you are, Jessie! I left you because you're too mean, and nasty, and evil for anybody to love! I was the best thing that ever happened to you, and you blew it! Now you'll be alone forever...."

As Jessie listened to Antonio Siciliano repeating all of the same things he'd said on the night he'd broken up with her, she felt her fear giving way to rage. "You're the WORST thing that ever happened to me!" she shot back. "You never loved me -- you only wanted me for one thing, and you were just angry because I never gave it to you! And I'm NOT alone anymore -- I have someone who really does love me...."

Antonio scowled and threw Jessie to the floor. "Who? That little fag, James?" he sneered.

Jessie got back to her feet and met Antonio's icy glare. "James is more of a man than you'll ever be, Antonio! He may be sweet and sensitive, but that gives him a strength you'll never have! And you? You may try to act tough, but you're just a fucking coward!"

A fire sparked in Antonio's eyes. "You're going to regret saying that, you fucking little bitch," he snarled.

"What are you going to do? Hit me?" Jessie asked sarcastically as Antonio balled his hand into a fist.

Antonio screamed and lunged at her again. Jessie responded by side-stepping and blocking his strike.

"You're too predictable, Siciliano!" she laughed. "It's pathetic!"

As Antonio threw a second punch at Jessie, she grabbed him by the arm and used his momentum to knock him off balance.

"And that's precisely why I'm not afraid of you anymore," she continued. With that, she brought up her foot and drove it into Antonio's crotch while he was struggling to get back to his feet.

Antonio's voice shot up at least three octaves as he howled with pain and crumpled back to the floor.

Jessie snickered and picked up Queen Ayesha's mask, which she'd dropped during the struggle with Antonio. "I'm glad you left me...and I'm REALLY glad I never slept with you -- I bet you would've been lousy in bed," she told him.

Antonio groaned.

"And just so you know, for a little fag, James sure does enjoy making love to me. He probably gets more sex in one night than you've ever had in your entire life," Jessie continued. "Oh, yeah. I give it up for him all the time...and he's good! Unlike you, he knows how to treat a lady."

Antonio looked up at her and frowned. "Whore," he growled in a high, squeaky voice.

Jessie smirked and kicked him in the groin a second time. "Eat shit and die, Antonio," she said.

As Jessie began running down the stairs again, the crumpled form of Antonio Siciliano slowly transformed back into Queen Ayesha. "Damn! She gets more strength and courage from James than I thought -- I was sure that ex-boyfriend would paralyze her with fear!" Ayesha hissed. Suddenly, her cold green eyes began to glow with an eerie bluish-white light. "No matter. You may have seen through my little illusion, but you're still not going to escape, Jessie! I'm through playing games with you!"

"Oh, my god! I never thought I'd see the day when I kicked Antonio Siciliano in the balls!" Jessie laughed. "I know it was only one of Ayesha's illusions, but still...." Her expression became grim once more. "She said she knows what I fear. That means she's going to use something else against me since Antonio didn't work. Well...as long as I keep in mind that they're just illusions and mind-games, I should be fine...."

As soon as she said this, the staircase vanished, and Jessie found herself back on the roof of the tower. "Oh, no. Not again," she grumbled.

"I told you that trying to escape would be futile."

Jessie wheeled around and saw Ayesha standing behind her. The golden mask was back atop her head, and there was a wicked grin on her face.

"Now, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted," Ayesha continued, "I think I'll keep you where I can keep an eye on you from now on. There's not the slightest chance that you'll get away, really, but I still don't want to risk it. There's too much at stake." With that, she snapped her fingers, and the stairway that led to the temple vanished. Then, a circle of iron bars sprang up from the ground, forming a small cage with no door and no lock around Jessie. "Get out of that...if you can," she said smugly.

"You're afraid," Jessie remarked. "I don't care how omnipotent you think you are -- I almost did get away from you, and your mind-games didn't work on me. You're paranoid about me escaping because you know that it's possible...and that your plans can still go awry...."

"SILENCE!!!" Ayesha screamed, reaching through the bars and bringing her staff down on Jessie's head again. "I would kill you now if it were possible, you insolent little wench! And if you insist on annoying me, then I'll only make your death...and James and your pokemons' torment that much more painful when the time does come!"

Jessie frowned and turned away from her.

Ayesha snickered. "Yes, I know that your friends are your weak spot, Jessie. James may have given you the strength to overcome some of your old fears, but your feelings for him make you vulnerable. Caring about him makes you easy to control -- it makes you weak!"

"You lie," Jessie muttered through clenched teeth.

"I never cared about anybody or anything during my life," Ayesha went on. "And I'm glad of it! Not once in my life was an enemy ever able to defeat me! How could they when I never gave them a friend or loved one that they could use against me? It's only when you care about nothing that you're free to do everything."

"I used to feel that way, too," said Jessie. "But I was wrong, and so are you. Not caring about anybody or anything didn't make me strong or take away my pain and fears. It didn't make me feel invincible...just empty. And it's no different for you, Ayesha -- you may not have been defeated by your enemies, but you died anyway. And if you never cared about anybody during your life, that means you never really lived...."

Ayesha scowled and struck her again. "I said shut up!" she roared.

Jessie pressed the palms of her hands into her throbbing temples and trembled. You know I'm right, and you can't stand it, she said to herself.

"Your devotion to James...and his to you is touching, but I fear it won't be enough to save you," Ayesha sneered. As she continued to gloat, however, her face suddenly contorted in pain. "No...this can't be," she groaned. Once she'd recovered, she held her staff aloft, and the red crystal on its tip began to glow. Moments later, a scrying portal appeared before her.

Looking into the portal, Jessie could see James and Meowth standing in the streets of Rowandale. Meowth was holding a large black box with a pentagram carved on the lid, and James was plugging his ears and wincing as Ash screeched at them. While Ash continued to rant and scream, James removed one of his hands from his ear and closed it over a pendant that he was wearing around his neck. Then, he began to glow with a warm, white light.

What's going on?! What's happening to James?! she wondered.

"It seems your boyfriend has figured out how to use magic," Ayesha commented as she watched an illusion of a basilisk appear at Ash's side and lead him away from James and Meowth.

"How can that be?" Jessie asked. "James said himself that he's not an expert on magic...."

Ayesha frowned. "Somebody taught him...somebody who must've known about me...." She closed her eyes and thought for a moment, then gasped as realization dawned on her. "NO!!! Why didn't I see it sooner?!" she cried.

Jessie cringed as Ayesha dispelled the portal and turned to face her. She was still scowling, and her eyes were glowing with an angry blue-white light. Suddenly, however, she began to chuckle. "So, Rose, you're still trying to fight me, are you? Well, you may have resisted my call and won the battle forty years ago, you witch...but your grandson isn't as strong as you are -- he will fail where you succeeded, and I shall win the war!"

She called to James's grand-mama, too?! Jessie said to herself. Does that mean Rose Morgan taught James how to use magic...to stop Ayesha?

"That's precisely what it means," Ayesha replied. "She must've sensed what was going on and initiated her grandson." She grinned as a malicious light sparked in her eyes again. "Your James is smarter than I gave him credit for, but even with his new powers, I doubt he's strong enough to stop me. Still, I can't afford to take that chance. It's a shame I won't get to keep him as my consort, after all, but I'm sure there are other attractive men out there...ones who aren't out to get me. I hope you're happy, Rose Morgan -- you've done nothing but sign your grandson's death-warrant!"

Jessie shuddered as she watched Ayesha walk to the edge of the tower and pull the mask over her face. A flash of lightning illuminated the dark red sky, and an icy wind began to blow when she held the staff aloft.

"Pokemon of the world, hear the call of your queen!" Ayesha announced. "Find the grandson of Rose Morgan...and kill him!"

No! This is impossible! Ayesha can't be that strong already! Jessie thought as the queen continued to chant her orders, over and over again. Oh, James...please be careful....


James and Meowth made their way through the forest as quickly as they could. Once they'd crested a hill about two miles out of town, James paused for a moment and brought out his binoculars. He chuckled as he peered through them and saw that Ash was still chasing the basilisk through the streets of Rowandale.

"I think it's safe to say that the twerp is off our tail for now," he remarked. "By the time the illusion wears off...or he gives up, he'll probably have forgotten all about seeing us in town."

"No doubt. He usually forgets stuff a few minutes after it happens, anyway," Meowth agreed. He whistled as he brought out his own binoculars and watched Ash lob yet another empty poke ball and scream in confusion as it passed through the basilisk. "Holy shit dat kid is dumb! And Me-owth ain't talkin' no regular dumb, either -- I'm talkin' POWERFUL dumb!"

James nodded and put his binoculars away. "Yep. He's definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed."

"But he sure is a tool!" Meowth quipped.

James snickered, but quickly became serious again. "We can't afford to stand around all day, laughing at what a dumbass Ash is -- with our luck, he probably will remember seeing us...and he'll probably tell everybody that we're the ones who attacked Tierra."

"And if dat happens, the twerps'll definitely be comin' after us," Meowth concluded. "Dey won't care dat it wasn't us who hurt dere friend...and dey definitely won't care dat we're tryin' ta save Jessie's life -- nothin' short a blastin' us off again will make 'em shut the fuck up and leave us alone!"

"The scary thing is, you're absolutely right, Meowth," James grumbled as he continued on his way. "Those little shit-weasels never listen to reason anymore -- as far as they're concerned, whenever there's trouble, we're automatically the ones who caused it...and no matter what we're doing, it's automatically evil."

"And dat's all the more reason we can't let 'em bother us today," Meowth said, brushing away the tears that were filling his eyes. "We can't afford ta have 'em messin' up...whatever spell it is ya need ta get Jessie back. And we can't let 'em find out dat Gary is friends with us, either -- ya just know Ash would attack him or try ta get him in trouble for somethin' like dat!"

"Indeed," said James. "Let's just hope that Ash's stupidity will keep working in our favor...and that this rain will wash away any trail we may have left."

When the two friends reached the bottom of the hill, a flash of lightning zig-zagged its way across the dark gray sky, and the icy rain began to pour down even harder than it already was. A chill wind started to blow, rustling the leaves and branches of the trees. Suddenly, a flock of Murkrow emerged from one of the trees and began cawing loudly.

"Uh, oh," Meowth muttered. "The Murkrow are sayin', We found 'em! We found 'em! Dey're over here! Somethin' tells me dey ain't the welcomin' committee...."

James shuddered. "You're right. I heard a voice on the wind just now -- a woman's voice...it sounded like it was saying, Pokemon of the world, hear the call of your queen...."

"Does dat mean Ayesha's already strong enough ta control wild pokemon outside her city limits?" Meowth asked nervously.

"That's precisely what it means!"

"Dat's what I was afraid of!"

James scooped Meowth into his arms and began to run. "Let's get out of here -- I'm betting there's more dangerous things in these woods than Murkrow!"

"Yeah, and dose goddamned birds are leadin' 'em right to us!" Meowth growled as the Murkrow gave chase and continued to caw. "I wish ya hadn't left all yer pokemon at the cabin, Jimmy -- if anything does attack us, we ain't got no way ta fight back!"

"You're wrong, Meowth," James said as he took a poke ball from his belt. "I just hope Ayesha can't control tamed pokemon yet...." When he tossed the ball, his baby Articuno emerged.

"Are you crazy?!" the cat hissed. "How d'ya expect little Arti ta fight off a whole flock a Murkrow?!"

"And how do you expect him to get stronger if he never battles?!" James countered. "I know he's young, but he's not helpless! How do you think Articuno survive in the wild?!"

"Point," Meowth conceded.

James grinned. When he, Jessie, and Meowth had put on their Dunsparce vs. Moltres play a little over a week ago, pretending to perform all of Moltres's attacks had reminded him that he'd have to teach his baby Articuno in a similar manner. Without his biological mother's example to follow, Articuno would have to rely on James to show him how to fly and use basic attacks. That evening, Jessie had dressed James in the Articuno costume she'd made for him that spring and hoisted him into the air with some rope and pullies. James had then flapped his arms and instructed Articuno to do the same. It had been such an absurd sight that Meowth had almost died laughing, but it had worked -- when Articuno had seen daddy-bird's example, he'd started flapping his little wings until he was hovering in the air next to James. After that, Jessie and James had gone up in the balloon, and James had coaxed Articuno to fly up to him. And once again, Articuno had flapped his little wings until he was hovering next to James. Articuno still had a lot to learn about flying and battling, but he already knew how to ascend, descend, and hover, and he could even soar for short periods of time. He'd known instinctively since birth how to use his Peck attack, and once he'd mastered the basics of flying, he'd learned how to use his Gust attack as well. He was, indeed, far from helpless.

Articuno cocked his head and looked up at James. "Cheep, cheep?"

"We need your help," James told him. "Do you think you can handle those Murkrow?"

Articuno studied the six black birds that were circling overhead and cawing. His red eyes narrowed to slits as he nodded and took to the sky.

"All right!" James cheered. "Use your Peck attack, Articuno!"

Articuno nodded again and grabbed the nearest Murkrow in his talons. Then, he began to pound on its head with his little beak. The Murkrow screeched and thrashed about in an attempt to throw him off, but it only caused him to sink his talons in even deeper and peck harder than ever.

When the other five Murkrow saw what was going on, they stopped cawing and went to the aid of their companion.

"Look out, Articuno! Dodge them!" James cried.

As the first Murkrow succumbed to the pain and crashed to the ground, two of the remaining Murkrow began to dive-bomb Articuno from either side, and the other three continued to circle overhead. Once the dive-bombers were too close to change course, Articuno quickly descended and watched the two of them crash headlong into each other. As they fell to the ground, the last three Murkrow broke from their formation to attack Articuno en masse.

"They're coming in from your right!" James warned his pokemon. "Use evasive maneuvers, and DON'T let them surround you!"

When Articuno veered to the left and made a rapid ascent, the three Murkrow followed him. Then, their eyes began to glow with an angry red light. The Mean Look attack had caught Articuno off guard, but he remained on course and didn't let it give his enemies any purchase. Unfortunately, James couldn't call him back now...not until the battle was over.

It was do or die.

And they all knew it.

Knowing that he had to remain calm for Articuno's sake, James took a deep breath and issued another command to his pokemon. "Stay on course, Articuno! And get ready to use your Gust attack!"

Articuno flapped his little wings as hard as he could. The Murkrow had him outnumbered, and they were stronger than he was, but he had the speed advantage, and he had every intention of using it. Once he'd put enough distance between himself and his pursuers, Articuno turned himself around and continued to flap his wings. After a moment, the air around him began to whip about with the fury of a tornado. The cyclonic force knocked two of the Murkrow out of the sky and sent them plowing into the trunk of a nearby tree, but the third Murkrow had been shielded from the blast, and he remained on course. Too tired to keep up the attack, Articuno broke it off and began a rapid descent. As the Murkrow gave chase, he began to gain on the exhausted baby bird.

"Shit! I wish you could call him back, Jimmy -- he ain't gonna make it!" Meowth cried, sinking his claws into James's shoulder.

Please hang on just a little longer, Articuno! James silently pleaded. I know you can do it! Just remember the Team Rocket philosophy -- if you can't outbattle your enemies, then outsmart them!

As if he could hear James's thoughts, Articuno mustered his strength and dropped below the treetops again, hoping to shake his pursuer. The Murkrow followed, but he wasn't as agile as Articuno, and the thick canopy of tree branches slowed him down considerably. Once he was back on Articuno's tail, however, he was determined not to let the baby bird escape. As Articuno wove about, trying to dodge the trees, he glanced back and saw Murkrow swooping in for a Peck attack...and when he looked ahead again, he saw that his momentary distraction had put him on a collision course with an immense oak tree.

And that gave him an idea.

Quickly, Articuno slowed his pace and began to flutter about so that he wouldn't crash into the tree. Mistaking the baby bird's erratic movements for exhaustion, Murkrow took advantage of the perceived weakness and shot through the air like a missile, hoping to skewer Articuno with his sharp beak. Once Murkrow had committed to the attack and couldn't deviate from his course, Articuno veered away and watched as his enemy crashed headlong into the tree. And as the final Murkrow fell unconscious to the ground in a shower of black feathers, Articuno finally succumbed to his over-exertion and began to fall from the sky as well.

When James saw his pokemon plummeting towards the earth, he raced over to where the final part of the battle had taken place. For a split second, he worried that he wouldn't get there soon enough, like the time he'd tried to catch Jessie when she fell from the roof of an office building in Viridian City, but he quickly banished the fear from his mind and concentrated on the thought of saving his friends instead. Once he reached the base of the oak tree, James held out his arms and caught Articuno just seconds before he struck the ground.

"Whew! Thank goodness!" Meowth, who still had a death-grip on James's shoulder, sighed.

"Articuno! Are you okay?" James asked, hugging the baby bird to his chest.

Articuno nuzzled into him and smiled wearily. "Cheep...."

James stroked Articuno's ice-blue feathers and planted a kiss atop his head. "I'm sorry. I know that was a difficult battle, but I wouldn't have asked it of you if I didn't think you could do it. I'm very proud of you."

The baby bird nodded and closed his eyes.

"Take a rest now. You've more than earned it," James said as he called Articuno back into his poke ball. Then, to Meowth, "Let's hurry and get back to the cabin before something else shows up."

Meowth nodded.

As the two of them continued on their way, however, they suddenly heard a growling noise and saw a pack of Houndour emerging from the depths of the forest. They could tell from the dead, zombie-like expressions on the pokemons' faces that they were under Ayesha's control as well.

Meowth gulped and wiped away the cold sweat that was dripping down his temple. "Dammit! We're too late! Whadda we gonna do now, Jim?!"

James trembled and tensed his muscles. "RUN!!!" he shouted. With that, he leapt over the Houndour that were blocking the path and bolted down the forest trail.

Meowth's fur bristled as he looked over his shoulder and saw the Houndour giving chase. "It's no use!" he cried. "We can't outrun 'em, James!"

"I know that!" James shot back. "I just need to buy us some time so that I can conjure another illusion...or something!"

As the Houndour gained on their prey, they began barking and howling. The noise drew the attention of several Ursarings, and they joined in on the chase as well.

"You'd better buy us some time real quick, James!" Meowth screamed. "Cuz we're about ta buy the farm!"

Scanning the path ahead, James saw what he was looking for. "Hang on tight, Meowth!" he shouted. As Meowth sank his claws into James's shoulders, he quickened his pace and sprang into the air, grabbing onto a tree branch and swinging himself up...and missing the swipe of an Ursaring's claws by mere inches.

Knowing that he didn't have time to relish their narrow escape, James climbed into the higher branches of the tree and braced himself as the Ursarings began slamming themselves into the trunk in an attempt to shake them down.

"Okay, we've got a few minutes before dose Ursarings knock us outta the tree and tear us limb from limb...so, ya better get crackin' on some magic NOW, Jimmy-boy!" said Meowth.

Ignoring the cat's hysterics...and the burning pain of his claws, which were still embedded in his shoulders, James closed his hand over his pendant once again and took a deep breath. Visualization and concentration. I need to think of something that'll get rid of these pokemon...or at least get us safely back to the cabin....


Snapped from his reverie by Meowth's scream, James saw that the Houndour were now using their Flamethrower attacks. The base of the tree was on fire, and the orange tongues of flame were steadily creeping up the trunk.

"Hurry, James! Do somethin'! Quick!" Meowth pleaded.

"Well, I'd love to, but I can't if you keep screaming and breaking my concentration!" James countered.

Before Meowth could reply, he and James suddenly heard the sound of another pokemon joining the fray.


When James and Meowth looked, they saw a Houndoom standing at the base of the tree. And when they saw the light that was shining in the pokemon's eyes, they knew that this newcomer wasn't under Ayesha's control.

James smiled. "Meowth, I think the cavalry has just arrived."

"Houndoom! Use your Roar!" a familiar voice shouted.

"Yeah!" Meowth exclaimed. Now he was smiling, too.

Taking a deep breath, the Houndoom emitted a loud howl that chilled James and Meowth to the marrow of their bones.

When the Ursarings heard the noise, they snapped out of their trance and fled. The Houndour, however, weren't so easily intimidated. The Roar had drawn their attention away from James and Meowth, but now they'd all turned to face Houndoom.

And they were about to attack.

Meowth buried his face in his paws. "I can't look!" he whispered.

James held up a hand and silenced him. "Houndoom's Roar just gave me an idea. I just hope it works...." As he closed his eyes, he recalled the terrifying noise Houndoom had made and imagined a sound ten times as immense and ten times as terrifying reverberating through the forest, breaking Ayesha's control over all the wild pokemon and scaring them away. And as he held the image and the sound in his mind, he felt a warm, white light filling his soul once again.

Suddenly, the earth began to tremble, and the air started to vibrate.

James's eyes flew open. "Gary! Call back your pokemon, and brace yourself!" he shouted.

As a red beam of light shot forth from the depths of the forest and drew Houndoom back into his poke ball, a bone-shattering screech erupted seemingly out of nowhere. When the Houndour heard the noise, they all went pale and ran away with their tails tucked between their legs. Even two miles away in Rowandale, everybody paused for a moment and felt their blood run cold as a sound like the wailing keen of a banshee echoed through the town.

Once the Roar had faded away, everything fell silent, and the only sounds that could be heard were the popping hiss of burning resin and the crackling of wood as the flames climbed ever higher up the trunk of the tree. But then, a very pale, very exhausted Gary Oak stepped out of the forest and tossed another poke ball.

"Nidoqueen! Put out that fire with your Ice Beam!" he commanded in a shaky voice as a large blue-violet pokemon emerged at the trunk of the burning tree.

Nidoqueen nodded to her trainer and sent forth a pale blue ray, encasing the trunk of the tree in ice. As the heat melted the ice, it turned into water and extinguished the flames.

Once the clouds of steam dissipated, Gary called back Nidoqueen and peered into the branches of the tree. "James?! Meowth?! Are you guys okay?!" he called up to them.

James peeled Meowth, who was still paralyzed with fear from the Roar, from his back and stroked his cream-colored fur. "We're fine now...thanks to you!" he replied.

"What was going on here?" Gary asked. "And what the hell was that noise?!"

James climbed back to the lower branches and jumped to the ground. "Ayesha knows that we're trying to stop her...so she sent those pokemon to try and stop us," he explained.

Gary shuddered.

"And that noise you heard was made with magic," James continued. "I had a dream last night where grand-mama showed me how to cast spells. So far, I've only been able to create auditory and visual illusions, but...."

"But that's about to change," Gary interjected. He smiled and patted his backpack. "I had a dream about my grandma, too. She said you were going to need Rose Morgan's books, so I've brought them."

James returned the smile. "Thank you."

Shaking himself out of his daze, Meowth smiled, too. "Yeah! Thanks, Gary!"

"Don't mention it."

"Well, I hate to break up this happy reunion, but we need to get back to Jessie," said James. "Once we get to the cabin, I'll see if grand-mama has a spell that can protect us from anything else Ayesha sends our way...and then I can explain things in more detail."

"Sounds good to me," Gary replied. With that, he brought out another poke ball and released Blaze again.

Blaze looked every bit as exhausted as Gary, but he barked happily and wagged his fluffy tail when he saw James.

James stroked the Arcanine's thick golden mane. "That's a good boy."

"Blaze, James, Meowth, and I need another ride," Gary told him. "I know you're tired, but we're almost there. Do you think you can do it?"

Blaze nodded and knealt down.

"It's only two or three more miles to the cabin," James said as he climbed onto Blaze's back and set Meowth in his lap.

Gary swung up behind him and smiled. "Then I'll let you lead the way!"


As Ayesha stood at the edge of the tower, holding her staff aloft and chanting her orders, she felt a wave of euphoria washing over her. Ah! Just like the days of old! But soon...soon...soon, I shall wield more power than I ever dared to dream! The gods were fools to try and stand in the way of my destiny, but now they're weak, and they will pay the price for their arrogance! I am Ayesha. God of all pokemon. Vengeance will be mine....

Suddenly, however, a loud noise like the scream of a banshee ripped through the air and knocked Ayesha to the ground, breaking her concentration. Jessie plugged her ears and trembled.

Once the sound faded away, Ayesha stood up again and opened another scrying portal. When she looked into the portal, she saw a shaken but unharmed James and Meowth speaking with a young teenage boy...and when she saw the green and gold pendant that the boy was wearing around his neck, she emitted a scream of rage that rivaled the banshee roar that had knocked her off her feet only minutes before.

Jessie's brow furrowed as she looked into the portal as well. Gary?! What's he doing here?! Does he know about Ayesha, too?!

Ayesha took a deep breath and ran her hands through her hair. "Vivien Oak. I should've known you'd be in on this, too. You damn witches just don't know when to quit, do you?" she growled. Then, regaining a degree of composure. "No matter. Your grandson doesn't even have magical powers, Vivien -- getting him out of the way should be a simple task...almost too simple. You've made the same mistake that Rose has -- you've sent your grandson to his death."

Jessie covered her mouth with her hands and gasped.

Ayesha turned to face her captive and laughed. "My, my, my! This certainly is turning out to be a productive weekend, isn't it? My 2,000 years of exile are about to end, I'm going to become a god, and I get to settle a couple of old scores! Rose Morgan and Vivien Oak may have eluded me forty years ago...and they may think they can stop me now, but they have no idea who they're trifling with! Destroying their grandsons will be the perfect revenge, don't you think?"

A fire sparked in Jessie's sapphire eyes when she heard this. "My friends would rather die fighting for what's right than live in slavery and torment!" she said defiantly. "Kill them, and they'll die with honor. Let them live, and they'll destroy you. Either way, you can't win."

Ayesha scowled. "You have a big mouth, little princess. I have some advice for you." She reached through the bars of the cage and slapped Jessie across the face. "SHUT IT!!!"

Jessie placed a hand on her burning cheek and scowled back. Then, she spit in Ayesha's face.

Reaching through the bars again, Ayesha clamped her hand around Jessie's throat and lifted her from the ground. "I would not be so disrespectful if I were you," she hissed.

"Why not?" Jessie retorted as she dug her fingernails into Ayesha's hand and tried to break free. "You said yourself that you plan on killing and tormenting us all, anyway. What difference does it make?"

Unable to come up with a decent reply, Ayesha gave Jessie a rough shove and slammed her into the bars of the cage. "Just remember that this is all your fault," she told her. "James and Gary will die, and Meowth and your pokemon will be my slaves...all because you wanted a simple golden mask. Think whatever you want about me, but know that you're the one who destroyed your friends."

"No. You're wrong...you're wrong...." Jessie moaned as she crumpled to the ground and buried her face in her hands. The rational part of her brain knew that it was only more mind-games, but in her heart, she couldn't help but wonder if Ayesha was right.

To be Continued....


Special thanks to Christine for the cool illustration of Articuno battling the Murkrow! ^_^

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