You are certain Lady will let your hunters feast on you if you tell Lady the truth of leaving the tribe, so you decide to lie; "I-I… was a part of a search party for a lost pichu that ran off south of the Crooked Tree, Lady. When we were attacked by a…" you try to think of something believable, "persian."
"Hmmmm…" Lady sounds interested. "Go on…"
"We got split up and the predator had its sights on me. The persian chased me through the woods. I thought I was dead, but I managed to get away somehow. But it was too late to return home and I had to spend the night out. I-it was so scary…" you begin to fake sob.
"It's okay, dear," Lady seems like she is buying your story, "and what happened next?"
You sniffle through fake tears, "I-I woke up to yellow eyes staring at me from a nearby tree. The persian had stalked me through the night. It kept blocking my path north, pushing me south. I was sure I was going to be its breakfast. But the storm must have scared it off, and when it let up, I kept heading south hoping to outpace the cat then double back, but these vulpix got to me first." You lower your head to sob, shaking all over, "Lady, p-please. I don't want to die. I just want to go home."
It is quiet for a moment, then Lady says, in a kind, motherly tone, "what is your name, pikachu?"
You sniffle, "Lulu."
"Lulu, do not let your heart be troubled for a second longer. I will return you to your tribe, intact, before the sun touches the trees on the horizon."
Relief washes over you. Your lie worked! The tribe will want something in return, and Lady will find out you were lying, but hopefully, a deal can be hashed out anyway.
"WHAT!?" Angrily yips Roxy. "She is our food by hunter’s right. You can't just take that away from us! I thought you were supposed to uphold forest law."
Lady responds, "I am deeply sorry, Roxy, but I also have a duty to maintain peace in the forest, and at the center of that peace, is the treaty between our two kinds. And that peace has been fraying for years now. Lulu is not some scrawny buck that needs to be culled to keep the pikachu stock strong but a youthful, healthy doe, whose young will be strong additions to her tribe. I'm sure the tribe will be grateful for her return, and some gratitude is needed to soothe tensions."
Roxy snaps back, "And what of our kits!? They will go hungry tonight for no fault of our own."
"Do not worry; I, personally, will go hungry in your kits' place. Traditionally, I do not hunt for vulpix, but these are unique circumstances. I have been keeping the invading deerling population in check without wasting their meat. I will give you my dinner for Lulu's life. The deerling will be twice her meat, so it should be more than fair."
Roxy groans but then huffs, "fine."
"Good... now Tavein."
"Yes, Lady." He responds.
"You and I will take Lulu to the tribe ourselves. Then we should talk to Pejic. He knows the agreement is that he is not allowed south of the tribe."
"Of course, Lady."
Lady turns back to your hunters, "then I will hunt a deerling for your dinner; I'll be back before sundown."
The vulpix all nod. It is such a relief not to have your impending death looming over you.
But before anyone can move, another unknown vulpix approaches out of breath. He says, "Tavein! Lady!”
Lady says, “what is it?”
“My apologies Lady, but a group of vulpix came running back from a hunt saying over sixty male pikachu are coming, and they don’t look happy.” Male pikachu? This can’t be for you, can it? You highly doubt it but then why are they here? Whatever it is, it can’t be good. When the tribe sends out that many bucks, it was usually to kill a powerful predator.
Lady looks down on you and asks, “Is this for you?”
Unsure of what to say, your thoughts seize, "uhhhhhhh…" Shit, Lady is about to find out you were lying.
“Well, come with me. I'm sure it is for you.” She reaches down a bites your tail and pulls you up, suspending you in the air. Lady quickly trots off with you to the clearing.
Upon reentering the clearing, you crane your neck to see sixty bucks emerge from the thick brush in a V formation, their battle formation. Lady takes you to the middle ground, sets you down, then quickly pins your tail with her front paw; you are going nowhere. Tavein stands by her side and your hunters stay way back.
The pikachu stop about twenty feet from you and Lady. They sent their best pikachu, this can't be good. At the front of the V is Dale and Boc, the two most powerful and respected pikachu in the tribe. One of them will certainly become the next elder after the current one passes, which will probably be this winter. To their left and right are all the older mated bucks of the tribe, ordered by their status, including your father who is in the center-right of the formation. He sees you and the devastated look in his eyes breaks your heart. The other males see you and look confused and start murmuring to each other. It was embarrassing enough to have to die but the whole tribe now knows exactly your fate.
On the hill with the borrows, all the vulpix adults sit outside looking down on the pikachu; their kits have been ushered inside the dens. They look down on the pikachu nervously. Even though the vulpix outnumber the pikachu three to one, pikachu only become more powerful in groups and they have coordination on their side. Vulpix tend to split at the first sign of danger. The only thing stopping the pikachu from routing the vulpix is Lady.
Lady shouts, "you can't just come here like this unannounced! You are here for Lulu? I was told her story about the persian attack and was just about to return her to you unprovoked. But, since you are here, I will return her now."
"Persian attack?" Boc chuckles and some chuckles from other members join him. "Lulu has always been good at cooking up lies when need be... There was no such attack. Lulu left the tribe yesterday to seek a Thunder Stone, of her own free will."
Lady low growls under her breath, "you lied to me, Lulu. I do not suffer liars kindly." You gulp nervously. She sounds like if the tribe wasn't here, you'd already be flambeed pika-steak served well-done.
Boc continues, “We are not here for her at all; We did not even know she was here. We expected this would be her fate, so do what you wish with her." A cold dread washes over you. Even though you expected such, to hear it from Boc's mouth really lets you know how little the tribe thinks of you; you were dead to them before you waved goodbye.
“Then why are you here?” Growls Lady.
“For years, our pichu have been disappearing near the watering hole. We’ve suspected vulpix. You, scoundrels, are the only things sneaky enough and the only predators we allow in our territory that could be blamed. But… we gave you the benefit of the doubt. Well no longer! Just this morning, we caught one of your kind with bloody maw after one of our pups went missing.” An audible gasp comes from the vulpix’s hillside. They all start whispering.
Lady relaxes her stance. “I am sorry that is the case, pikachu. I do not condone hunting at the watering hole and will personally execute the perpetrator if that is what you wish. But that is no reason to come here in threatening force.”
“Don’t worry, well execute the murder ourselves. And we’ll make it painful and slow. But we did not come here for show. The vulpix in question calls himself Xander.”
An even louder gasp comes from the hillside and all the foxes start low talking. Under Lady’s breath, you hear her curse.
Boc continues, “Xander claims he did not kill the pichu but his bloody snout tells a different story. He claims it was pidgey blood, but there was no pidgey to be found. The body of the pichu is missing and Xander was found only seconds after the screams. So he did not act alone. We know one or more of you helped him and demand the others step forward to face justice.” The hillside has now erupted into full-blown talking. “And!” Boc shouts over the ever-growing sounds, “our mothers are furious and demand additional retribution is taken. We demand a pup for a pup! Give us one of your kits to kill as an example. Then maybe your kind will respect the treaty.”
The hillside breaks into a full-scale riot. The vulpix yip, snarl, growl, shout, and blow smoke. You can tell Lady is not happy either; her body begins to radiate heat like the sun during a hot drought. She screams “SILENCE!!!” with such force it would make a thunder crack sound like a caterpie chirp. Lady unleashes a roaring Flamethrower into the air that burns with such intensity, you have to crouch low not to get burned. The heat makes you feel as though you will be cooked alive. The Flamethrower shoots fifty feet into the air over the group of pikachu. They all crouch in fear but stay in formation. Once the fire has ceased, the area goes dead silent and Lady yells, “this is an outrage! I understand your anger, but to kill an innocent kit just to satisfy your blood lust is something I will not stand for!”
Boc, not intimidated by Lady’s display, shouts back, “if our demands are not met, then the watering hole is no longer shared, and we will kill any vulpix who enters our territory.”
“You do not know what you tamper with, pikachu,” Lady growls. “Twenty of your lifetimes ago, war between our two kinds brought the forest to its knees. Without access to the watering hole, vulpix’s numbers plummeted to one-eighth of its current population - which is already low. Without us to cull the prey, pidgey and rattata numbers exploded, and with that came disease, famine, and larger predators. Greater Pokemon came from the mountains and plains surrounding our forest to feast on the gluttony of weak Pokemon. Roving bands of persian prowled the forest, dragonite swept down from the hills, as did the charzard, to hunt. And while hunting our forest, they made sure to try the local delicacy… pikachu. Your numbers also dwindled as you had to revert back to smaller clans to hide from the monstrous Pokemon. And that was before the invaders. A war between our kinds now would end the Central Forest as we know it and turn it into something resembling the Southern, or worse.”
Boc says, “then comply with our demands and peace can be reached.”
Lady pleads, “surely there is another way to rectify this without sacrificing an innocent kit.”
Your father breaks formation, runs behind Boc, and tugs on his tail. Boc turns around and begins talking to your father in whispers. You assume your father is negotiating for your life. While your father discusses your fate, Lady and Tavein begin to talk.
Tavein whispers, “Xander? You think it is the prophecy?”
“I don’t want to think of that now,” whispers back Lady. “You think Xander did it?”
“Unfortunately Lady, I believe so. Males that fail to land a mate tend to get… irrational, to say the least. I’ve seen one tod throw himself off the cliff after failing during the rut. A reynard's mind goes to dark places without a mate and young to keep him anchored.”
“Then it is probably so. But they said they think Xander had help, but he was a loner. What vulpix would have helped him?”
“None that I can think of. But if what the pikachu said is true, then it has to be.”
“Just something about this doesn’t feel right.” Lady trails off into thought.
Your father has finished talking to Boc and Boc turns around. “Lady, we have decided to drop the kit demand so long as you release Lulu...” It feels like a weight has been lifted off your back, “but…” and now it's back on, “she must agree to return to the tribe and be mated to Flik.”
FLIK?! Flik is an older male - two years your senior - and has never been mated. Most males will leave the tribe if they don’t secure a mate within their first two years as a pikachu. But Flik has stuck around. You're not even sure Flik likes females. He seems to only be interested in some bucks that he sneaks off with, and accusations of what he lets them do with him are unspeakable. Flik is Boc’s son and the Elder’s grandson and has been a blight on their family’s reputation - which is probably why they want you to be his mate. If Flik is mated with a pretty, young doe, and has pichu then those accusations turn into just rumors. Your life and womb will be a political pawn in the greater power struggles of the tribe.
“Then it is on Lulu what happens. What do you say?” Lady passes it to you.
Flik would be a horrible mate and your life would be a living hell back in the tribe. But if you don’t, then you will be vulpix chow tonight and possibly start a war between vulpix and pikachu. You could run off before making it back to the tribe. But the tribe will not take kindly to being snuffed like that and instead of being an estranged member, you’ll become an active enemy.
But there has to be another way… right? You quickly try to think of something. Xander killed a pichu? He may be a weirdo but he did save your life yesterday. If Xander denies it then maybe something else killed the pichu. But what? But what!
Maybe if you investigate the death of the pichu and find the true culprit if it is not Xander, then they might release you; both from your gruesome death and your forced mating. Or maybe you're just delaying the inevitable.
What do you tell them?