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A Leash of Foxes

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Hang on and hope it lands or slows down soon.

The ride feels endless. More than once, you come close to slipping back into unconsciousness – but you refuse to go; you bite your tongue, over and over, trying to sting yourself into wakefulness. You don't want to put the strength of your grip to the test. If it slackens, you will find out very soon how high up the Charizard is flying, and it will probably be the last discovery you ever make.

So you cling on, burnt and bleeding, as the dragon continues on its journey. After a while, your hearing begins to come back, and you can hear the sound of its occasional wingbeats, like thunderous knives splitting the sky apart. It does not flap often, for which you are thankful: nestled above its shoulder blades as you are, every beat of its wings jolts you hard against its spine.

As the day wears on, however, it begins to beat a little more often. The sun is sinking, the sky is darkening, and the air is getting cooler; the thermals the Charizard was riding are beginning to give out. Now the wind is not hot but lukewarm. Against your burning skin, it feels blissful – you are reminded of the water you drank when you first woke in the desert. The cool sting of it revives you a little, and so you are fully conscious when the Charizard begins to land.

Its wings flare suddenly, its body swinging suddenly to the vertical; you are tossed into the air, clutching fingers afire with pain – and then you slap back onto its shoulders with enough force to drive the breath from your lungs and make you hope distantly that you have not broken a rib. On either side of you, the vast blue wings windmill frantically, throwing you from side to side with each movement―

With surprising gentleness, the Charizard touches down, dropping to all fours to absorb the impact. The dust has barely settled when your fingers give way and you fall painfully to the ground at its feet.

You lie there, unable to move or even think about where you might now be, and as the Charizard's inquisitive yellow eye fills your vision you at last lose the battle with fatigue. Your body takes over, and you slip into a sleep deeper and darker than the cave.

*​

You never really hoped that you would feel better when you woke. That is why you are not disappointed when you do, and find that nothing has improved.

The first thing you notice is that it is dark: the moon is high overhead, and you suspect it must be sometime around midnight.

The second is that it's cool.

You sit up with surprising speed. The sudden movement sets your head whirling, but you master it; you will not fall now, not when you have one experience like this already under your belt. You have done it before. The wasteland won't beat you this time.

You are sitting on the crest of a hill, looking south at the desert below – a vast, unending sheet of pale sand, unbroken save for the occasional dot of a hunting Cacturne. None of the dots are people, you know. No one rides this way – you think you are on the southeastern foothills of the Argent Peaks, and the only traffic that passes over those is formed of airgalleys heading north and west to the forest cities of the Peak folk.

To your left, the Charizard is curled up in a clear space between two banks of scrubby bushes, its tail carefully tucked under its breast so as not to set anything alight. In sleep, it is easier to overlook its gigantic size and see it as an animal rather than a force of nature; you can see now the livid marks around its jaws where the metal bands held them together, and the thinness of its limbs and trunk. When was it captured, you wonder – and has it been fed since then?

You are about to get up when another wave of dizziness hits you, and you fall awkwardly onto your side, your cry of pain coming out as a gasp for lack of breath. A shadow passes over the moon. You look up, and catch the edge of the bird's wing in silhouette as it flies by.

If it really is a scavenger, you think grimly, its patience may just have paid off.

You are thirsty.

You are badly injured.


Note: I hadn't planned anything. I was counting on your basic sense of self-preservation for you not to jump. I'm so glad that the gamble paid off, or this would've been a really, really difficult update to write. Here's to good luck and the common sense of my readers!
 
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Okay. It's possible we may have just earned the 'Zard's loyalty (or at least it's curiosity) given the way it conspicuously failed to eat us. On the other hand, it may well have just wanted to eat us when we woke up. So, treat it with utmost caution, but there's not really much we could do about it even if we did want to run.

On the matter of injuries, check yourself over. See what damage has been done and what you did to yourself.

Lastly, see if you can spot water. If you can't, go over all the ways you could get water.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
On the matter of injuries, check yourself over. See what damage has been done and what you did to yourself.

Screwing your eyes shut against the pain, you feel your limbs and chest. Nothing seems to be broken, fortunately, but everything is bruised – and on top of that, burnt. There is a reason the driftsailors of the Peaks harness Drifblim and not Charizard; without extensive – and expensive – insulation, the heat the dragons radiate is beyond what anyone can reasonably stand.

On top of that, the sun has been to work on you. Your hat has not survived to the end of the journey – it never really had a chance to, with the wind as its opponent – and your head feels sore and light. You are probably fortunate not to have succumbed to heatstroke.


See if you can spot water. If you can't, go over all the ways you could get water.

There is nothing to be done right now about your health. Some of it will improve with time; some will need medical attention. More urgent is water, and thankfully you have the means to procure some. Your canteen, after all, is still attached to the loop on your belt – and, more importantly, is still full. It takes a great exertion of willpower not to drain it at a gulp, but you have been in this position before and know how to master yourself. When you lower it from your lips, there is a little less than half still in the bottle.


Treat the Charizard with utmost caution, but there's not really much we could do about it even if we did want to run.

With some liquid inside you once again, your blood feels less like sand, and you can at last think seriously of getting up. It still hurts to bend and twist, but you have the focus now to push through the pain, and once you are upright, you find that it recedes a little. You stand there for a moment, breathing heavily and trying to calm your heart, and watch the Charizard.

It has not eaten you: that is the most important thing, and the most remarkable. It must be starving, after all. Fire and flight both require fuel in no small quantities, and from the leanness of its limbs you do not think it has been fed for a while. Perhaps it was simply too exhausted after its escape and the long journey north. You know little enough of saurian behavioural cues, but if you had to make a guess about how the beast feels based on how it looks, you would probably say it was fatigued.

Or perhaps, you muse, it recognises you as the one who freed it. It seems very unlikely – by the time its eyes were free you were already on its back, and you do not think it saw you until it landed – but, if Charizard are capable of telling humans apart, and if they are capable of feeling affection, then perhaps …

You shake your head, and suffer a minor wave of dizziness as a result. Too many ifs. Some dragons are intelligent. Nothing you know suggests Charizard are part of that group. And anyway, it would be dangerous to assume that the thing is safe. If you turned out to be wrong, you would probably not have long to regret it.
 
OOC: Would you have ended up letting us die of thirst if I hadn't done a check for methods of getting water?

IC: Okay, that's thirst sated. For now. The next job would be to try and make it to some kind of settlement, or something so that we're not stuck out in the middle of the desert. Try and work out where the closest areas that fit the bill would be. There's not much to do until we know where to go, aside from treating the Charizard like an active bomb, so that will have to do for now.

Also, check to see if the damn bird is there. It might have helped us a little, but it could have done something other than spend the entire time making us freak out about it.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
The next job would be to try and make it to some kind of settlement, or something so that we're not stuck out in the middle of the desert. Try and work out where the closest areas that fit the bill would be. There's not much to do until we know where to go, aside from treating the Charizard like an active bomb, so that will have to do for now.

Where are you exactly, you wonder? To the north-east, past the Charizard, you see only a few dozen more miles of hills, which must put you near Lazar's Spit – or as they used to call it, back before the army captured it, Qhat.Nash. It should be to the east, nestled within a curve of hills. In daylight, you might even be able to see it from here.

The nearest large settlement would be Tarnasshe, south and a little east of where you now stand. But you are not sure what state the city is in now.


Also, check to see if the damn bird is there. It might have helped us a little, but it could have done something other than spend the entire time making us freak out about it.

You look around, but you can't see the bird anywhere.

It makes sense. Black on black, after all.
 

Pink Harzard

So majestic
Hm, Tarnasse sounds like a city that could be a good place. If it is abandonned, you can get shelter there without being found by people.
I don't know what the army would think about your condition after your escape on the Charizard.
 
Yeah, go to Tarnasse, if it's possible. A larger population would help you blend in more, although disguising yourself would help you evade anyone looking for you. Go there as quickly as possible, trying to not aggravate your injuries any more than necessary. It also gets you away from the Charizard, hopefully before it decides that we're lunch.
 

teamVASIMR

Plasma Rocket
1. Isn't Tarnasshe burnt to the ground?
2. Didn't the 3 eyed thing say to go west or something?? O well.
3. MAKE FRIENDS WITH CHARIZARD. What's Pokemon without making friends and stuff. Besides, if he isn't friendly I'm pretty sure you can kill him/her/it real quick.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
A NON-NARRATIVE POST:

This decision seems to be causing more trouble than I anticipated. To clarify: as far as you know, Tarnasshe is all burnt down. There may or may not be much of a military/fox presence there. Lazar's Spit, in contrast, was conquered several years ago. It's guarded, as an easterly outpost ought to be, but its population is mostly civilian. Tarnasshe was built around an oasis, and Lazar's Spit is up here in the hills, so both will (presumably) provide respite from the desert.

The stranger in the cave told you to go northeast. You were, however, in the skies just north of Scourston when they said that, and direction is relative.

I'll give you some more time to decide what to do before writing anything, because the way people were talking about Tarnasshe having a large population and all suggests that they might've forgotten the whole destruction thing.
 
...

*Rereads entire thing*

Whoops. Um.

Okay, so the spirit-thing wanted us to go northeast, relatively. Both locations are east of where we are now; the question is how far north we went. Lazar's Spit is the one further north, and the closer (I think) one. It's not likely that they will have heard of the crazy escape, although if we go there we'll only want to stay for a little bit. It would also be easier to restock properly in an area you don't have to hide.

On the other hand, Tarnasse has an oasis. Easier to obtain water there, but it's a military encampment and closer to where we just came from. Getting caught there likely equals game over.

Seeing as its closer, go to Lazar's Spit then. (Ignore all evidence that I once posted saying the opposite. You saw nothing) Also, reload the gun with whatever bullets you have left. And keep an eye on the Charizard. And an eye out for That Damn Bird (TM).
 

Darkened_Kingdra

Whatcha want?
I agree with the above. Also, try to replenish any supplies you might need.
Give something to the Charizard, as it might get too hungry, and we wouldn't want that, would we now?
 

teamVASIMR

Plasma Rocket
Just something I thought of, if it's too much maths then disregard.

The state of alertness in Lazer's Spit would be dependent on the communications infrastructure Stone's people have access to.
What kind of comms are available?
If there is telegraph/telephone/(telepathic pokemon?)/(internet???) service between the towns you can pretty much expect a trap.
If there is pigeon/Delibird/airgalley post, it would depend on their airspeed velocity relative to that of the Charizard, and whether they continue flying after nightfall.
If there are only ground couriers, you may stand a chance, again depending on their velocity relative to yours. Is there rail service, and if so, how fast is the fastest locomotive? Pony express?

If the time for a message to travel to Lazar's Spit is greater than the time it would take for you to get there, do your business, and leave, fine. But if a message can get there before you do, I would consider a decision to go there rather questionable.

Of course that is weighed against the risk of running into government troops and/or Foxes if you go to Tarnasshe.

Did the Charizard head straight north after takeoff? If so, your enemies already know your general direction of travel.
If he went some distance in a different direction, and then turned north, well then he's pretty smart. If so I think it's a good idea to try and make friends ;)
 
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Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH CHARIZARD. What's Pokemon without making friends and stuff. Besides, if he isn't friendly I'm pretty sure you can kill him/her/it real quick.

You approach the Charizard, thinking for a moment of waking it – but you quickly realise that that would not be a good idea. It doesn't seem likely to thank you for interrupting the first good night's sleep it has had in some time.

Perhaps if you waited until morning you could investigate it further. But if you wait until morning, you will have to either travel in the daytime heat or wait until nightfall again before you move on, and both options would probably more water than you have. If you leave now, on the other hand, you might be able to get most of the journey to Lazar's Spit over with before sunrise. It's a choice that is no choice at all.


Seeing as it's closer, go to Lazar's Spit then. Also, reload the gun with whatever bullets you have left. And keep an eye on the Charizard. And an eye out for That Damn Bird (TM).

The Spit it is. Forward ho!


You reload your gun – with regular bullets; you used up a quarter of your supply of houndtooths freeing the Charizard, and needle slugs are only really useful against foxes – and walk carefully around your gigantic companion, giving it a wide berth. It probably won't wake up. But you never know, and even if you managed to shoot it in some critical organ, you aren't sure that such small bullets would kill it before it had a chance to finish you.

So you avoid it, and look back every few steps as you make your way down the side of the hill. Not until you have reached the crest of the next hill to the east, and the Charizard is just a dark blot in the night, do you feel any more at ease. Presumably they have good vision, like most creatures that fly, but you don't remember ever hearing anything about them being able to see in the dark.

With a lighter tread, then, if not without caution, you begin your journey proper. Lazar's Spit is not far, but a series of hills lie between it and you, and you are still in no small amount of pain. Each successive slope takes a little more out of you, and more than once you have to rest.

Otherwise, it is quiet: there is the faintest of breezes brushing the sand, but other than tha the only sound is the crunch of your boots as you trudge on. Often, you pass a thorn bush, or a clump of straggly grass, and wonder what you would be able to see to the north if the sun were up. You can only be a few miles away from actual trees.

Once, you see a pair of shining eyes in the night, but before you can react they disappear, and you hear scurrying paws retreating across sand. A fox, maybe – one of the normal kind, not the monsters that go about stealing memories and burning down cities. But apart from that, the hills' inhabitants seem to be keeping their distance.

As the night wears on, you find you have to rest more and more frequently, and lose more and more time as you do. The water runs out; your legs burn; the moon sinks towards the horizon and ahead of you the horizon starts to glow. It will be dawn soon, you realise. And where is Lazar's Spit?

The sun begins to rise, and as you crest another hill, you see a ragged-edged silhouette against the lightening sky: the shadow of a twisturne barricade. You smile, leaning on your knees and breathing heavily. Respite is at last in view.

While you rest, you look to the north. The mountains are more distant than you thought – they're further west than you believed – but they aren't too far for you to see the oceans of green on their flanks, broken only by the occasional curl of morning mist. Trees. Whole forests, even. It's an amazing sight.

You could stare all day, but at that moment you hear a distant roar and, looking west, see a shape rising dimly into the air. To be seen from this far away, it must be huge. Which in turn means that it must be the Charizard. Presumably it is looking for breakfast.

Acutely aware of how visible you are from the air, you straighten up and hurry on down the hill towards the valley in which the Spit sits. Above you, a dark shape catches your eye, and you flinch – but it's only the bird, following you as steadily as ever. Trying hard to calm your heart, you shake your head and move on.

The valley is carpeted in thick, tough grass that looks dead but which, judging by the curiously lively way it seems to tangle around your ankles, is very much alive. It takes longer than you expect to cross it, and by the time you're close enough to the walls to start looking for the gate, the sun is climbing steadily and the day is beginning to heat up. Your head is starting to ache again, but you ignore it, promising yourself a drink soon enough.

There it is: the entrance. The gates are open, and a lone Crustle emerges from between them. The house carved out of its boulder is unusually ornate, with pilasters and pediments; perhaps it is some rich person's pleasure-carriage. As you pass by, you hear laughter coming from inside, and the clink of glasses. Beneath it all, the great crab itself crawls on, utterly expressionless.
And then you are in. Lazar's Spit spreads out before you: one of those little frontier towns, bigger than Rust but much smaller than Scourston, a jumble of houses and shops and small businesses planted firmly on top of a network of fox tunnels to stop them returning. There are dozens of places like this all over the desert, but to you, coming out of the wilderness, this one seems to have something special about it.

For one thing, you can get a drink here.



Note: Sorry about how long that took, everyone! I'll try and speed up in future.

teamVASIMR: Although the telegraph does exist, the only line in the East connects Scourston to Orre in the west. Other communication is by mail-coach or courier. Airgalleys are actually kind of slow unless they catch a good wind, and the prevailing winds blow south by south east, as I hinted at earlier. There are no railways in the East; as you have perhaps realised, what they call trains are, though they bear a passing resemblance to real-life armoured locomotives, mounted on caterpillar tracks and designed to run across open desert. They are quite fast, but none could match a desperate, angry Charizard.

As far as you know, there is no way that a message could have got to Lazar's Spit before you. The East is still at war and mostly untamed, and it will take a while for many of the accoutrements of modern civilisation to reach it.

You really don't know exactly what direction the Charizard took. You were slipping in and out of consciousness at the time. You
think you're almost directly north of Scourston now, but you aren't certain; while you have a pretty good grasp of the geography of the desert, it would take a good map to be sure.
 
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First priority; Get a drink. You still have some money, right? After that is get some medical attention if at all possible. If questioned, come up with a plausible story for why you have such injuries; Getting seperated from a caravan by bandit attack, nearly falling off a cliff and attacked by wild Pokemon, for instance.

After that, a map would probably be a good idea. Some information on the surrounding area and wherever the spirit wanted you to go.
 

teamVASIMR

Plasma Rocket
Oh well. It was worth a try.

First priority; Get a drink. You still have some money, right? After that is get some medical attention if at all possible. If questioned, come up with a plausible story for why you have such injuries; Getting seperated from a caravan by bandit attack, nearly falling off a cliff and attacked by wild Pokemon, for instance.

After that, a map would probably be a good idea. Some information on the surrounding area and wherever the spirit wanted you to go.
What scizor said. Sounds like a good plan.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Get a drink. You still have some money, right? After that, get some medical attention if at all possible. If questioned, come up with a plausible story for why you have such injuries – getting separated from a caravan by bandit attack, nearly falling off a cliff or attacked by wild Pokemon, for instance.

After that, a map would probably be a good idea. Some information on the surrounding area and wherever the spirit wanted you to go.


A map will probably be a little beyond your means. They aren't cheap, and with the war on and towns being won and lost they go out of date fast. Most do without them.

But a drink – now, that you think you can manage.

Like Rust, Lazar's Spit is built around a central crossroads, only with a few more streets around the edges. It isn't much bigger, though, and it takes no more than a couple of minutes to find the saloon – a rough-edged wooden building a little bigger than the rest. Not that it's badly made, or in any sort of disrepair; the whole town is plainly constructed, but clean and well-kept. Inside, horn blinds shut out the sun, and if you were not so thirsty you might pause to enjoy the relative cool. But are not, and you do not, and you thread your way between unoccupied tables to the bar.

“You look awful,” observes the barkeeper.

You are forced to agree with him.

“Guessin' you came outer the desert?” He shakes his head. “Anyway. It's early, but I guess you could use a drink.”

You hand over a dollar in exchange for the only good beer you've drunk since Rust and drink it far too fast to appreciate it properly. The second one – bought with the very last of your money – you are able to take more slowly, slumped at your table in the dark cool of the bar. No one comes out drinking at seven in the morning, and if there is anyone staying in the saloon's guest rooms, they are evidently not up yet. So you and the barman are alone, and when it becomes clear you are too worn out to be a good conversationalist he moves off into a back room. Soon, you hear the sizzle of oil, and a moment later smell the sweet aroma of false-cactus root frying. Your stomach growls, but you sigh and pull on your beer instead. It doesn't do to think too much about what you can't afford.

As you come to the end of the second mug, a short, slim man enters through a door at the back of the room, scratching his moustache and yawning.

“Mornin', Sam,” he calls.

“Mornin', Verne,” replies the barman from the unseen kitchen.

“Some of that for me?”

“I'm puttin' more on now.”

“Admirable.” Verne nods contentedly and leans on the bar. “Is it today the mail-coach co …”

He catches sight of you and the word dies on his lips.

For what feels like forever, the two of you stare at each other, his shocked eyes staring back into your perplexed.

Then he kicks over a chair and runs out into the street.
 
...

Okay.

He recognized you very quickly, so it's very likely he knew you before you lost your memory. The only other alternative is that he was there when you decided to pull the Exit, Riding a Dragon- thus, finish your drink and go after him. Quickly, as he might be going off to fetch the guard or something but it would be best to not be thirsty if you have to fight.
 

Darkened_Kingdra

Whatcha want?
I third that, chase him down.
 
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