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Dragonspiral's Children (redux)

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

A story of camaraderie with a family and growing up with them across the years, with a perspective twist.

Hi everyone. You might have recalled me alluding to it in the opening of my Context Switch rewrite earlier this year, but I’d been plugging away on-and-off with some heavy surgery on my freshman fanfic, Dragonspiral’s Children. Admittedly I’m taking a leap of faith right now on my publishing pipeline, but it’s Christmas, and for those of you familiar with the original work, there’s literally no better time of the year to kick off a rewrite of this story.

Okay, so for the uninitiated, the original Dragonspiral’s Children was a cute, slice-of-life short story focused around a Druddigon and the family of trainers she grows up with that I wrote back in 2014, which itself was a modified version of a submission to Serebii’s Interpretations One-Shot Contest from 2013. So… yeah, it’s an old story, and the original version definitely has its share of rough edges and warts from back in the day where I was a lot less experienced as a writer. But the ideas and characters behind that story have always been something that I adored, and after comparing it to my current output… yeah, I felt compelled to try and give them a better canvas to shine through.

The fundamental narrative in this version of the story hasn't changed a whole lot, though a number of other things have. The formatting’s changed a bit, the dialogue has been cleaned up, some stylistic choices that didn’t work in practice have been binned in favor of ones that are more tried-and-true, and most importantly, the story’s been cut up and re-indexed into chapters that are a bit more digestible to read than in the original version. There might still be some lingering issues in the final product beyond my ability and patience to smooth out, but eh. Better to swing and miss than never try at all.

This series is basically operating off of "when I have time and energy" for a release schedule, since it’s kinda a sideshow to another sideshow I’ve got going on from my main work. Though if all goes smoothly, you should expect this rewritten tale to be in a finished state come spring showers. Just like with Context Switch, the link in my signature will lead here instead of to the original version once this rewrite is completed, which will be added in the final update to the new table of contents that’s been added for organizational purposes for curious readers to click on to see a side-by-side for how things evolved. I would like to take a moment to extend my thanks to @Tangent128, @Venia Silente, and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading, to @Chibi Pika for making the lovely banner that's gracing this story, and to those of you who enjoyed the original story and motivated me to take another bite at the apple to realize my vision with it.

And with that, let’s get the ball rolling and jump right into this dragon’s tale…
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Prologue: Season’s Greetings

Oh, hey there. How’s it going? I don’t really know how I let myself get talked into volunteering for narration since I’m not really much of a storyteller... But since you’re here and you’re listening to me, I guess I can tell you one about a family I knew while growing up.

Alright, so this family lived in a detached home on the fringes of Icirrus City and weren’t all that special… literally named the ‘Doe’ family, at that. It’s admittedly a bit hard to decide where to begin my story about them, though I suppose the Christmas morning the kids got their first Pokémon is as good a moment as any.

I remember the snow was a little heavy that year and the weather was a bit cloudy. That’s Icirrus City for you—if anything, it was the faintest grace that the Sun was visible at all at that time of year.

The tree was in the corner of the living room, decorated with tinsel and ornaments, with only a handful of presents left underneath it that the Does’ clutch hadn’t already gotten to. By the side was a window that faced northwards, where if you looked through it that day, you might have been able to see windmills and Dragonspiral Tower frosted with snow in the distance.

Anyways, the Doe family’s made up of a husband and wife, along with three kids between them: John, Jane, and James. A bit bigger than the families we hear of in stories these days, because reality, like children, tends to be disorderly.

James was the younger son, around five or six years old at the time and had just started kindergarten a few months before. He had simple tastes back then which were easy for his parents to satisfy, which they did that year with a toy truck that he took a shine to the moment he got it out of its wrapping.

“Vroom! Vroom! No mountain’s a match for these tires!”

John was the elder brother, and eldest child of the three. He wore glasses much like his father back then, and was in his last year of grade school. He had a bit of a habit of snarking and quipping at the time, and it didn’t take a break for holidays. Christmas was no exception, which John proved by throwing in some unsolicited commentary as he rooted around for a final gift under the tree.

Right, James,” he scoffed. “So when should we expect that toy of yours to get across Twist Mountain?”

Snugly between the two in age was Jane, the Does’ daughter. She took after John’s sardonic tendencies a bit, since I distinctly remember her looking up from a music player after John’s commentary and chiming in herself.

“Well, your gift can’t be that good if it was just buried under the tree like that!”

Yeah, sibling rivalry can be like that. Normally, this sort of arguing between the Doe kids would continue on until the three got bored and opted to focus on other things. But that day, their normal banter was cut short after John pulled a small red-and-white ball from under the tree, which had been wrapped with a blue bow for the occasion.

“Whoa! Mom! Dad! You got me a starter?!”

There’s been some debate in recent years as to how fitting it is to present a partnering Pokémon as a gift. Something about it objectifying the Pokémon and cheapening the bond between it and its trainer. I personally don’t really see the connection given that Pokémon that don’t like their trainers have a tendency to vote with their feet, but that’s a talk none of the Doe kids or their parents were thinking about that day. Instead, Jane and James were more worried about being left out. Which if you’ve ever been around kids, tends to lead to lots of loud complaining.

“What?! Moooom!” Jane whined. “John’s not old enough to have a Pokémon!”

Yeah, John got the honors of opening up that ball. It was just a run-of-the mill Pokéball, but hey, with that ribbon and polished surface, it would have been kinda hard for anyone not to get excited. I remember Mr. Doe really seemed to get a kick out of the occasion. But, being the ever-responsible type as a parent, he was quick to cut in and make a few clarifications to his children.

“Heh heh... You’re right, he’s not,” Mr. Doe said. “But... it’s not strictly his gift. It’s someone your mother and I got to be a friend you could all share with one another and practice training a Pokémon with.”

Just like that, John’s beaming grin melted right off his face, and was replaced by a sour expression that looked a bit like he’d swallowed a Nomel Berry whole.

“Aw, come on, I can take care of it on my own!” he protested. “What’s another year, anyways?”

Those three would wonder for years why their parents would insist on them taking care of a Pokémon together. Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Doe’s made that decision because of some sort of legal thing about kids and Pokémon that I’m not aware of, but given how red-hot Jane and James’ jealousy got in the thirty seconds or so before their dad explained they were sharing a Pokémon together, it was probably for the best. After all, nothing ruins a Christmas like heated bickering, and after Mr. Doe revealed their new companion would be shared Jane’s worries turned towards topics like who their new companion would be.

“... So what sort of Pokémon did you get us?”

And James, being the rambunctious little scamp he was back then, really let his imagination get ahead of himself. He had stars in his eyes, as fantasies of going around with a Pokémon that would’ve made Champion Alder blush as his new friend swirled in his little head.

“Is it a Haxorus?” he asked. “Oh! Oh! Maybe it’s a Volcarona!”

Mrs. Doe got a little worried by her little one’s fantasizing. I doubt she really expected her husband got them the likes of a Champion’s signature Pokémon to practice training with... but letting expectations run wild like that would’ve spoiled the present. After all, their new partner was supposed to be a Pokémon that wasn’t that out of the ordinary, at least not for people from this town. Which Mr. Doe was quick to remind his children of.

“Not exactly,” the father said. “I chose a Pokémon a bit more related to home to be your first Pokémon.”

You see, kids in other places in Unova sometimes get a Lillipup or a Purrloin for Christmas or for their birthdays. Well, in Icirrus, people following local traditions would often give Pokémon that live around the ancient ruins in the north called ‘Dragonspiral Tower’ instead. There’s some fascinating folklore about them supposedly being guardians of sleeping gods and watching over the lands around, including all of Icirrus City.

Not that the Doe kids likely had any of that ancient history on their mind right then and there. Instead, they were focused on figuring out what sort of Pokémon they’d be training. And as it happened, their father already had a Pokémon of his own he’d received in similar fashion as a child himself: a purple weasel about John’s height, who was resting and playing around with his wispy fur next to the tree with a knowing smile.

“So you got us a Mienfoo to be friends with Duke, then?” John asked.

To be fair on the kid, a Mienfoo wasn’t all that bad of a guess. They’re warm and fuzzy, they’re hardy in the winter, and they aren’t particularly big or hard to feed and care for. Such traits make them fairly common first Pokémon for growing up around Icirrus even among less traditionally-minded folk. But Mr. Doe had other plans when picking out a Pokémon for his children, as he gave an impish smile back and pushed his glasses up against his brow.

“Well, I actually considered it… but no, I didn’t get you a Mienfoo,” he said. “But I’ve given you enough of a hint. I think that you’ll appreciate your new friend more if you see what kind of Pokémon she is for yourself.”

In retrospect, that probably wasn't the smartest thing for Mr. Doe to say that in front of his wife. After all, she fully expected that her husband was going to give the kids a Mienfoo, and after he flatly said he’d gotten them something else... well…

“... Dear?” Mrs. Doe asked. “If you didn’t get the kids a Mienfoo, what did you get them?”

It made her ever so slightly antsy that maybe he’d done something foolish and gotten his children that Haxorus or Volcarona after all. The Doe kids had plenty of questions of their own after their father’s revelation, but they weren’t anything like the ones on their mother’s mind. And they were all quickly sidelined in favor of more blunt ways of satiating their curiosity.

“Come on, John!” James insisted. “Open it already!”

“Alright! Alright!”

James hastily undid the bow around the Pokéball before aiming it at the center of the living room carpet and tapping the release button. The Doe children watched as a red light shot out and a form that was much bigger than any of the three had expected filled in. Much to their and Mrs. Doe’s surprise, when the light settled and the Pokémon inside fully emerged from the ball, they saw that rather than some Deerling or Pidove, she was a blue-winged hunchback of dragon with a red, crested head and a gold ribbon about her neck.


Now being drug out in the middle of winter takes a lot out of a Pokémon that needs warmth like a Dragon-type, so the new member of the Doe family was understandably drowsy. The dragon yawned and shuffled off for the tree, where she stretched out and started to curl up under it. All the while, the Doe children looked on in quiet awe, before their excitement proved too much to handle, and from oldest to youngest, they made their feelings known.

“Awesome! All my friends will be jealous when they find out we got a Druddigon as our first Pokémon!”

“Aww! She’s so cute curling up like that!”

“Thanks for the Christmas present, dad!”

The Druddigon blinked and raised her head at the youngsters’ racket, giving a low grumble over their loud, excited chatter that was depriving her of rest. The Mienshao shuffled up, and after giving a playful wave, spoke a greeting to her that was answered by a tired growl. Satisfied that the new family member had made a suitably positive impression, Mr. Doe turned back to his children with a wry smile.

“Well, I was going to put her right under the tree with that ribbon,” he said. “But I decided that keeping her in her Pokéball for a little while would be more of a surprise for you.”

The children excitedly cheered and voiced their approval of their father’s presentation, musing about how well it worked. All the while, Mrs. Doe had had a deepening scowl cross her face, as she was far from enthused about suddenly having a large, carnivorous reptile added to their family’s ranks.

“Dear, I thought you were going to get them something easy to care for like a Deerling!”

Now Mrs. Doe’s worries weren’t totally unfounded. After all, Druddigon are significantly larger than Deerling and eat quite a bit more… have sharper teeth and claws too, not that that ever seemed to be an impediment for starters people fawn over such as Totodile. Normally, a person when confronted about such doubts of their judgement would attempt to argue the merits of their actions, to convince the other side that their misgivings were unfounded…

“Now, now. A Druddigon is easy to care for.”

And usually one would back up their argument with far better claims than that simple sentence. Mrs. Doe was wholly unimpressed with her husband’s retort, which did little more than to deepen her scowl, and even his Mienshao partner couldn’t help but find himself also narrowing his eyes and tilting his head back skeptically.

“... Shao...?”

After sensing his appeal had achieved the complete opposite effect on his wife, Mr. Doe rubbed the back of his head sheepishly and quickly amended his words.

“... For a Dragon-type Pokémon, of course,” Mr. Doe said. Mrs. Doe let out an exasperated sigh in reply, before gesturing off at the Druddigon under the tree.

“Dear, she’s physically larger than all of the children!” she fumed. “Why on earth would you get them a giant dragon like that as a first Pokémon when you could’ve just as easily gotten them a Mienfoo?!”

Mr. Doe was a bit chastened by his wife’s reply, and after seeing the worried glances his children were giving him over the prospect of being denied their new companion mere minutes after being introduced, he paused and thought to himself. After a moment’s hesitation, he opted to try and sway his wife by offering a more serious-minded argument.

“Dear, I already thought of that. Which is why our Druddigon has a smoother hide than many others,” he explained. “And exposing the children to a variety of Pokémon is important too! We have a Mienshao already, and even if he’s been a good companion, he’s hardly the sort of Pokémon children who haven’t gotten licensed yet should practice with for training a Pokémon.”

Mrs. Doe maintained a flat expression at her husband’s reply. Sensing that at the least, he hadn’t soured her mood further, Mr. Doe gave a tilt of his head back and closed his eyes with a cheerful smile.

“I wouldn't be trusting the children with her if I didn't think she was good-natured,” he insisted. “And Druddigon are practically synonymous with this town. With how dutifully they watch over Dragonspiral Tower, wouldn't you want someone like that looking out for the kids?”

It was at this point that Mrs. Doe realized that there was little that could be done to put the genie back into the bottle. Her children’s expectations had been set, and her husband’s argument had given them hope as they’d given pleading glances back. She could insist her husband care for the Druddigon and keep them out of her children’s reach for a few years, but one way or another, it was a foregone conclusion that the large, blue-and-red lizard’s presence would be a new fixture around the house.

“I was under the impression that it was the windmills that were synonymous with Icirrus City, dear,” Mrs. Doe grumbled.

Now, one of the things that had run on Mr. Doe’s side of the family was a tendency to poke gentle fun at others. He was no exception to his family’s pedigree, since his immediate response to his wife’s protests was to give a small chuckle in reply and pipe up with a witty retort.

“Oh come now,” Mr. Doe insisted. “If the kids went off on a route, would you trust them with a Deerling by their side or with a Druddigon?”

“I’d trust them with neither!” Mrs. Doe snapped, pointing back at the Dragon-type by the tree. “Travelers aren’t allowed on Routes on their own without licenses!”

Now Pokémon and humans have always had a tendency for the details of their words and sentiments to be lost in translation from their different tongues. For the Does’ Druddigon, she had to parse the parents’ disagreement along with the drain of winter tiredness, and her attempts to paw and tug her ribbon off her neck. Which altogether, left her a touch confused and unsure what was going on with the humans about her. Sensing that something might have been amiss, she shuffled out from under the tree and sat up, rubbing her eyes briefly before giving a quizzical tilt of her head back at Mr. and Mrs. Doe.

“Druddi... Gon?”

Mrs. Doe and the Druddigon’s eyes met for a moment, as the mother looked into them and saw a hint of puzzled curiosity staring back. Mrs. Doe hesitated briefly, and sensing he had an opening to sway his wife, Mr. Doe leaned in beside her and made an appeal to her marital confidence.

“Don’t worry, dear. She was calm enough to not cause trouble after all that racket, wasn’t she?” he reassured. “It’ll be a learning experience… for everyone.”

Mrs. Doe faltered briefly, before sighing and conceding. And so the Doe children’s first brush training Pokémon began, with their first real partner being that blue, rough-hided Druddigon they met in front of their tinseled tree and presents.

There was much that awaited them after that day: names to pick, seasonal weather to dodge, early awkwardness from sudden life changes like… Well, we’ll get into some of those next time, since those were a saga in and of themselves.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 1: Learning Experiences

As things are, with any 'learning experience', whether for a human or Pokémon, there are bound to be a few bumps along the way. Toes to step on, rules and assumptions to break that normally get taken for granted…

You know, innocent misunderstandings that seem a bit obvious in retrospect.

An example of those misunderstandings, you ask? Well, for the Does those started happening as early as just a couple days after their Druddigon joined their family. The yard to their house was blanketed in white that day by an overnight snow. The Doe children treasured such events, as they represented little snatches of winter wonderlands to be indulged in. Young James was no exception, as he’d gotten dressed in winter wear and ran up beside the fireplace where the family’s Druddigon was resting and gave a tug at her spikes.

“Heeeey! Come on, Neela! Let’s play!”

The Druddigon poked her head up, still getting used to the ‘Neela’ name that the humans had given her. After seeing James’ attire, she immediately realized he meant to go out into the snow. Which, for a Druddigon like her in the dead of winter, sounded about as appealing as jumping off a cliff-

Er... wait. I suppose that analogy doesn't quite hold: Druddigon can use their wings to glide, which they do to navigate from the gaps in Dragonspiral Tower’s walls down to the forest below. But I'm getting off onto a tangent there. Anyways, after realizing James’ intent, the Druddigon did what was most logical for her: give a low growl back and keep her scales planted firmly in front of the fireplace she was curled up by.

If James were a year or two older, perhaps he’d have known well enough to leave the Druddigon be. But children that age don’t fully understand the world around them, and they have a tendency to be stubborn types, which in James’ mind seemed to indicate he simply needed to be more forceful with the Pokémon and prompted him to start tugging at the Druddigon's arm.

“Don’t be such a lazy butt!” he protested. “You’ve been curled up in front of that fire all day already! Let’s go make snow angels!”


Which again, wasn't received warmly at all. Dragon-types generally suffer the cold poorly and Druddigon are no exception: once their body temperature gets low enough, they fall into a torpor in which their bodies go rigid and are unable to move. Which is just an ever-so minor annoyance for them.

Unfortunately, James didn't really take the dragon’s hint, and being the rambunctious little kid that he was, it only made him grow more impatient and start tugging harder at her arm.

“Come on!” he whined. “I said, get up- Ow!”

At that point, the Druddigon’s patience with James finally wore out and she did what any Pokémon her size fed up with being harassed by a little human child would do. Get up, shove the little tyke to the ground, and give a loud growl to tell him to step off.


If that Druddigon had the wisdom back then that she has now, I’d assume she’d have done things differently. Though misunderstandings like those from a Pokemon in their first days of being trained aren’t exactly uncommon, and time and time again, the Doe family worked through them.

Around that time, Mr. Doe came in with his Mienshao, along with his other children at the sound of the Druddigon’s growls. The Mienshao hurriedly went up and pulled the still-fuming Dragon-type aside, leaving James to look off sourly after her before turning his attention back to his father.

“Daddy! Neela’s not listening!”

As obnoxious and whiny of an appeal as it was, you couldn’t fault the kid for trying. After all, if you’re going to try and get your way in an argument you can’t win on your own strength, who better to ask than the guy who carried the loyalty of the toughest Pokémon in the house?

John and Jane weren’t particularly impressed and rolled their eyes at their younger brother’s ploy. Being the font of sarcasm that he was, John made sure to cut in, as he couldn't pass up the chance to throw in a barb over the whole episode.

“Good on her,” the elder brother scoffed. “I wouldn’t want to listen to you either!”

Thankfully, Mr. Doe and his Mienshao were both of calmer persuasions. While the Mienshao did his best to explain to the Druddigon that the little kid wasn't actively trying to irritate her, Mr. Doe did his part by stooping down beside his youngest child and trying to clear up why the family’s new addition had had such a negative reaction to his attempts to drag her into his play.

“Why don’t you try and find something to do with her indoors, James?” Mr. Doe insisted. “It is a bit cold outside, and Druddigon aren’t particularly fond of such weather.”

James gave a curious tilt of his head back at Mr. Doe. After getting shoved and growled at, he’d expected his father to be more forceful with the house’s Dragon-type. So the youngster couldn’t help but find his father’s reaction to be a bit disappointing… and puzzling. It probably wasn't quite what he wanted to hear then.

“... Eh?”

I suppose that it wouldn't make sense to be too hard on James in retrospect. He was young enough to not be in kindergarten back then, and kids act stupid at ages well past that. After picking up on his sons confusion, Mr. Doe shook his head and gently spelled out why he wasn’t taking his side of the dispute with the family Druddigon.

“Remember James, a Pokémon travels along with humans because it wants to,” Mr. Doe reminded. “You wouldn’t appreciate someone trying to drag you off into the snow without clothes on, would you?”

James stopped and thought the matter over, his father having made the Druddigon’s misgivings quite a bit easier to understand by that point. But the little boy was not the one to give up his desires so easily, which prompted him to try and compromise so that his playtime in the snow could still happen.

“... Can’t she just wear a jacket?” he asked. “I mean, I wear that before going out and it keeps me warm.”

James’ suggestion accomplished little other than to draw an annoyed growl back from the Druddigon, who much to his surprise seemed to pick up on his proposal enough to find it objectionable. The family’s Mienshao did as well for that matter, as the weasel threw a paw over his face loud enough for the Doe children to hear an audible slap as he let out a quiet groan in reply.

James blinked a moment at the two Pokemon’s reaction, before his father tapped at his shoulder and gave a sighing shake of his head back.

“... Again. Neela seems like she wants to stay warm right now,” Mr. Doe insisted. “If you really want to play with her, surely you can think of something to do together inside, can’t you?”

At last, James finally began to take the hint and relented. Sort of. Even if his plans of snowy fun with the family Druddigon couldn’t come to pass, he was going to have the playtime he wanted, and a fallback option had already crossed his mind.

“Well… I guess there is one thing we could do...”

While James still had not fully kept his new companion’s wishes in mind, he acquiesced to the Dragon-type’s desire for warmth and took off his winter wear before ducking off for his bedroom. After his father and siblings drifted off elsewhere in the house to pursue their own distractions, the little boy returned to the living room with six stuffed dolls of Pokemon in in his arms.

Volcarona and Golurk... Reuniclus and Krookodile... Mienshao and Druddigon, all with more rounded and less fierce appearances than their flesh-and-blood counterparts. The Druddigon quirked her brow as James set out the dolls on the living room carpet and squared them off against each other in groups of three.

He left the Golurk, Reuniclus, and Mienshao plushes from the lot in front of the Druddigon facing away from her, and took a seat a short distance away with the remaining dolls sporting a beaming grin.

“We’re gonna have a triple battle!” he cheered.

Back beside the fireplace, the Druddigon blinked puzzledly and sniffed curiously at the dolls. After a brief, blank stare at the lumps of fluff, she sat up and tilted her head back at the young boy.

“... Druddigon?”

“Yeah! You line up three Pokémon, and they fight each other!” James insisted. “The side with the last one standing wins!”

Given the confused stare and visible yawn that the Druddigon followed the explanation with, it was surprising that even at his age, James hadn’t put two and two together that the poor creature just wanted some rest. The Dragon-type reached down and prodded at the Golurk plush from her trio, pausing and poking again and again after finding that it and the others were soft to the touch. The Dragon-type cocked her head puzzledly before crouching and staring over at the Druddigon plush on James’ side. Undeterred by the Druddigon’s confusion, James carried on, determined to have his triple battle between his toys as he reached for the plush likeness of his opponent from his lineup of three.

“Okay, I’ll pick- Ah!”

Only for said opponent to abruptly snatch up the dolls and curl up on them. James stared blankly for a moment, watching as the Dragon-type propped up the Druddigon plush of the lot by her head, and closed her eyes and began to doze off with an audible snore.

“H-Hey! Neela! Those aren’t pillows!”

There were also the inevitable misunderstandings over duties and responsibilities. When a Pokemon joins in companionship with humans, they are often asked to help out with tasks in the human’s life. Given that humans are expected to provide of food and shelter as long as they’re together, and medical care when said Pokémon is hurt or ill, it’s not an entirely unreasonable ask, though things sometimes get lost in translation.

One of the more memorable moments of such a nature for the Druddigon happened on a spring night after her first Christmas with the Does. Mr. and Mrs. Doe had planned some manner of outing for the night that the two of them were looking forward to, I believe it was some manner of ‘anniversary’, and John had just crossed into an age where Mr. and Mrs. Doe felt comfortable leaving him home alone…

Mostly. Mr. Doe still saw it fit that he would have some supervision in his absence, as he stood facing the family’s Druddigon and Mienshao with a serious expression.

“Duke… Neela... we’re going to need you two to watch over the kids while we’re out,” he explained. “It should only be for a couple of hours, but given what you two used to do at your old home, this should be a cinch for the both of you.”

The task seemed simple enough to the Dragon-type. After all, both her and her Mienshao mentor were of stock from Dragonspiral Tower, whose Pokemon dutifully kept watch over the grounds they called home as part of their natural rhythms. And since her Mienshao counterpart was both more experienced and shared a background, he’d be there to guide her through unfamiliar circumstances and expectations with these new grounds to stand guard over. Not that she felt that would really be needed...

“Think you can do that?” Mr. Doe asked.

The Druddigon nodded back then, the first human gesture that she had learned from the Doe family. After a quick glance to her right to see that the Mienshao felt she was responding properly, the Druddigon raised her voice and grunted back in a confident tone.


Mr. Doe smiled back and prepared to take his leave, only for his smile to abruptly slide off his face after the Druddigon attempted to make good on her instructions and rounded over to his children with a stern scowl. Most humans and Pokemon have a tendency to understand each other in broad strokes, and it quickly became apparent that the Dragon-type had understood Mr. Doe’s instructions to 'watch over' his children in a very different manner than he’d intended.


Namely she’d understood it to quite literally mean to watch over his children, and much as she would a small pile of shiny baubles, she promptly shoved Jane over onto the ground. Mr. Doe’s daughter let out a startled yelp, and before she knew it, the family’s Druddigon was seated firmly on her back, pinning her to the ground and vigilantly watching out for would-be interlopers.

“Ow! Dad! She’s crushing me!”

Mr. Doe’s mouth hung open blankly at the turn of events, while Jane was… understandably upset about being guarded much like a treasure hoard. Her brothers couldn’t contain themselves at the scene, as the pair traded barely-stifled snickers with one another.

“I dunno, Jane. Neela’s definitely putting the ‘sit’ in ‘babysitting’ here,” John teased.

The Mienshao hastily rushed over and pulled the Druddigon back upright and off the Does’ daughter, leaving Jane to hurriedly clamber back onto her feet as the Fighting-type tried to explain Mr. Doe’s intended request to his less experienced counterpart in their own tongue. After a moment blinking and tilting her head in confusion, the Druddigon started to understand that she’d misinterpreted the human father’s request, and glanced back with a sheepish grin as he buried his face in an open palm and let out a grumbling sigh

“... Not watch over them like that, Neela,” he sighed. “And don’t do that in front of the wife, please.”

Mr. Doe was… unamused by the episode to say the least, and it probably was for the best that Mrs. Doe remained in the dark over what had happened until a few days later. It probably would’ve really put a damper over that ‘anniversary’ if it hadn’t.

There were also misunderstandings between the Druddigon and her companions over behaviors that used to come naturally to her that were no longer acceptable while under the care of a trainer. Such as the matter of how to feed oneself.

That confusion came to the fore in an incident in late spring during a run by the Doe children out to a corner store to pick up some snacks. The three had cobbled together some pocket change and bought a couple bags of candy from the checkout counter. All the while on their way home, the three eagerly helping themselves to their sugary treats as James hesitated and gave a wary look at his older siblings.

“... You don’t think that mom and dad will mind if we eat this before dinner given that we paid for it, do you?” he asked.

John and Jane shrugged their shoulders back. After all, what their parents didn’t know surely wouldn’t harm them, and this was hardly the first time the three had made a snack run together before dinner… even if they now had bulky and scaly company with them. It would’ve been just another uneventful day in their everyday lives, but for them running into a college-aged man with a Tranquill at an intersection who shot a dirty glance at them and their Dragon-type charge before letting out a sharp scoff.

“What on earth are you kids doing with that?

John and Jane blinked at the elder trainer’s hostile demeanor, while James remained blissfully oblivious to his tone and smiled back with a proud reply.

“She’s our Druddigon!”

The stranger narrowed his eyes back at the younger brother, which his Tranquill took as a cue to mimic by throwing in a condescending look of his own. That snide sort of look that all but screams 'Are you stupid?' that everyone has to endure at least once in their lives.

“I know what a Druddigon is, kid,” the man scoffed. “But why on earth do a bunch of ankle-biters like you have one?”

John and Jane bristled at the man’s tone as James cheerily prattled on about how “We’re training her together! Isn’t she awesome?” All the while, the Druddigon had found the human argument she couldn’t fully follow to be a tad uninteresting compared to the Pokemon right beside her.

After all, the other Pokemon present was a Tranquill. A Pokémon that she and her counterparts in the wild regularly hunt. And a visibly plump-looking one to boot. Just standing in front of her as the humans around her were distracted with their petty disagreements.

“Druddi... Druddigon...”

And like any carnivorous reptile in proximity to perceived easy prey, she began to sniff at the Tranquill, and move her tongue over the edge of her maw at his scent. The Tranquil noticed the Dragon-type’s behavior and began to grow unnerved. After eyeing his trainer’s Pokéball for a moment, the Flying-type steeled his nerves and shot back a defiant scowl, opting to stand his ground. With newfound determination, the bird fanned out his wings in challenge with a sharp squawk, determined to let it be known that whatever their relationship in the wilds would be, that he didn’t fear her.


The Flying-type’s cry drew the attention of the four trainers, the Tranquill’s trainer immediately noticing that something was amiss with the blue dragon and her behavior towards his Pokemon.

“Hey, what’s the big idea, you overgrown skink!” the man shouted. “Stop sniffing at him like that!”

Only for it to suddenly dawn on him that the Druddigon meant to make his bird into dinner. The trainer reached for his Pokéball, only for the Dragon-type to pounce on her Flying-type quarry, pinning him to the ground and biting and slashing at him as the hapless bird flailed with panicked squawks.


Which I suppose is as proper a reaction to be expected from a Pokémon that was about to become lizard food. The Doe children startledly reached for their Druddigon’s own Pokéball themselves, the Tranquill’s attempting to recall his charge only for the Dragon-type to drag the Tranquill out of the way of his Pokéball’s beam, making the young man snap frantically at the children with him.

“Don’t just stand there, you little brats!” he spat. “Get that thing off of him!”

Now, one of the most fundamental rules for trained Pokémon is that no matter the species or circumstances, hunting another Pokémon in a human’s care is strictly forbidden. It was a lesson the Druddigon would’ve had to learn one way or another, but...

There probably were better ways to learn that lesson than the way she did. Mr. Doe came along shortly afterwards and tried to apologize for everything and smooth things over. John, Jane, and James were still taken aback from the whole ordeal of having to pry off their Pokémon off of some random stranger's. Fortunately for everyone involved, the Tranquill was still alive, if busy cowering behind his trainer minus a few feathers here and there...


Okay, he was missing a lot of feathers. And had a few lacerations. And puncture wounds. And it got the Druddigon into a heap of trouble afterwards to boot. But all of that hadn’t come to pass at the time, as the Dragon-type fumed from behind the the Doe children over being stiffed out of an easy dinner while the family’s Mienshao tried to explain yet again to her how she’d blundered into a serious faux pas as a Pokémon that lived among humans.

Mr. Doe passed some money and a few Potions off to the Tranquill’s trainer, giving an apologetic nod and glance aside at his children’s sharply frowning Druddigon.

“I am so sorry about all of this,” Mr. Doe insisted. “She’s still just starting to be trained, and as you can see, she’s… still learning a few things about living with humans.”

The father let out a sheepish grimace as he tried to soothe the Tranquill trainer, only for the young man to rebuff him with a sharp harrumph.

“Mmrph. Some consolation that is to the trainer who almost lost his Pokémon to that miserable lizard!” the Tranquill’s trainer spat. “Just look at what she did to his feathers!”

Yeah… the family didn’t exactly leave on good terms with Mr. Bird Lover. Fortunately they never ran into him again. Really, the only silver lining from the whole episode was that John got the opportunity to cut in with a particularly memorable defense of his companion...

“Oi, give her a break already!” he huffed. “You train a Tranquill! If I ran into him on an empty stomach, I’d be thinking of dinner, too!”

Which didn’t really endear him to anyone involved, and put him on the receiving end of a pair of looks that could kill. But anyhow, moving on that moment...

There were also some occasions where the awkward misunderstandings began from the Does’ end. One such moment happened when it came time for the customary return visit to their companion’s old home that summer.

Nobody fully knows how the practice originated among humans. I’ve heard more idealistic types explain that it helps trained Pokémon deal with feelings of homesickness and their trainers to better understand the world their new pals came from. I’ve also heard cynics say that it came about as a way for trainers to wash their hands of Pokémon who got cold feet about being around humans without making a mess of the surrounding environment. Either way, there were some… expectations about the Druddigon’s native neck of the woods that the Doe kids didn’t quite meet on their first visit.

Remember when I said that the kids’ Druddigon came from Dragonspiral Tower? Well, you could say that it's a bit of a tradition for humans like them who live near it to pay a visit. Maybe it's the history behind the place, maybe it’s the fact that it's a shrine to the region’s traditional patron deities, or maybe it’s just normal trainer considerations happening to brush up with a bit of a weird neighborhood… but just about everyone in Icirrus City visits Dragonspiral Tower multiple times in their lives, and the Doe children weren’t an exception.

So when it came time to visit to the forests around the old ruin for the first time with the family’s new Druddigon companion, the Doe kids set off with her in tow serving as their guide. While the three had gone before under the guidance of their father and his Mienshao, this was the first time that the three had made the journey on their own. John, Jane, and James each followed dutifully after their guide, who stopped in a clearing with a throaty grunt and motioned up at the ancient tower poking up over the treetops

“Wow, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten this close to Dragonspiral Tower before,” Jane murmured.

For reference, Dragonspiral Tower is really, really old. Now, the inside's pretty neat and all, but there’s something to be said about the exterior craftsmanship that was put into it. If you stand in just the right spots in the woods, like the one that everyone was in back then, you can see Pokémon moving around inside. Druddigon and Meinfoo poking their heads out to keep watch, Golett shuffling to and fro along the corridors, with their stronger counterparts occasionally making an appearance. The Doe children were mesmerized by the towering relic, and they began to wonder aloud to themselves about just how old the place was.

“Looks like it’s ancient,” James murmured. “Was it built in the sixties?”

“No, you moron,” John scoffed back. “Ancient history started in the thirties.”

Er... well, I suppose you couldn't really fault James as a kid barely in kindergarten at the time for having such a skewed definition of history. John really should’ve known better than to pipe back with a retort like that, which made their guide roll her eyes. After all, this was Dragonspiral Tower, a towering link back to the ages of the Heroes of Truth and Ideals, which even she knew about even without human education.

Anyways, in the forests around Dragonspiral Tower, particularly as you near the moat about it, you sometimes can spot little relics lying around. The Does’ Druddigon happened to run across one of them during her tour, which if my memory serves me right, was a small decorative pebble that sat underneath the shade of a tree along the path.


The Dragon-type dutifully pointed out the stone, perhaps once part of a frieze or a mosaic... or perhaps it’d just been set out because it happened to look pretty. But whatever the story behind the little rock, it was old, and it was mesmerizingly colorful. Curiosity got the better of John afterwards, as he made his way over and stooped down to pick up the little pebble, playing with it in between his fingers.

“Huh... What a neat rock,” he murmured. “Good eye there!”

Only for his blood to suddenly run cold at the sound of low growls and a sharp hiss. John jumped back from the tree, just in time to see two Druddigon and a Mienfoo emerge from the brush and round on the Doe children with sharp glares.

“Uh… J-John?” Jane stammered. “I think you made them angry.”

“What, do you think I’m blind?” he snapped back. “I can see that!”

The children hastily retreated behind their Druddigon guide, who had sported a sour frown over the turn of events, struggling to think of what to do in the face of the hostile Pokemon. James for his part was always one to try and act in the face of a bad situation, even if it was in a bit of a blind panic- like the sort of panic he felt then while being encroached on by three strong, angry-looking creatures, two of which were bigger than him or any of his teammates’ selves.

Drawing on what he’d learned about Pokemon training, he quickly deduced that he and his siblings were in an unavoidable battle. And every trainer called out to their Pokemon to use attacks when needed, didn’t they? With a frantic tinge in his voice, he pointed forward and hastily called out to his Dragon-Type guide.

“Q-Quick! Neela, use Dragon-!”

Only for her to whirl about and loudly roar in her charges' faces. The Doe children jumped back and yelped, having gotten a good scare that their Pokemon had turned against them as she stomped over to a wide-eyed John.

“H-Hey! Neela?! What are you-?!”

And wrenched the stone out from John's hand. The wild Druddigon and Meinfoo paused for a brief moment as the Does’ Druddigon carefully cradled the pebble, and returned it to its place under the tree. With the relic brought back to its rightful place, she glanced over at the three wild Pokemon, before turning her attention back to the Does, batting her wings out, and giving a sharp roar that the three quickly put together carried a scolding tone.


The trio from the brush glanced at the Does’ Druddigon, and then back at the three humans with her. After a moment’s pause, they let out low grunts and drifted off back into the forest, occasionally shooting a wary glare back every now and then to make sure that the human children and their guide weren't intending to disturb the pebble again once they thought they were alone.

The Doe children stared after the rustling brush, their breaths coming tense and shallow before the three breathed sighs of relief. After a moment to bless the stars for their lucky break, it began to dawn on John
why the wild Pokémon had gotten so upset with them. He gaped at the pebble under the tree, before turning back to his Druddigon guide with an incredulous frown. I suppose he must've found the reason for the whole incident to be fairly dumb, as he couldn't help but ask…

“Wait. That’s what they were mad about?” he scoffed. “A stupid rock?”

To be fair, I guess it would have been a little much to expect any of the Doe children to know back then that the Pokémon that live in Dragonspiral Tower—weak and strong, young and old, and across all species in its confines—guard every last flake of paint there like they would their young.

It’s a behavior that makes even brighter scientists among humans scratch their head to this day, since they haven’t understood why the place means so much to them. Let alone why the tower’s residents would upend their species’ natural rhythms to defend it.

That impulse usually doesn’t fully go away for Pokemon that hail from there, and the Does’ Druddigon wasn’t exception. After hearing John slight the Pokemon she once dwelt with as compatriots, like any other Pokémon that still has feelings for the places they called home, she got a touch defensive and... roared square into the boy's face.


John recoiled, and after losing a bit of color from his face, hastily shook his head back and let out a defensive huff.

“Okay! Okay! It’s not so stupid! Yeesh!” he cried. “Note to self, look and don’t touch out here...”

Fortunately, those misunderstandings were easy to figure out. And not every misunderstanding in the Druddigon’s early life with the Doe family was awkward or embarrassing to reflect on...

The dragon and the children wound up learning quite a bit about each other in those days. A few days after their excursion to Dragonspiral Tower, James chanced to spend the afternoon baking homemade bread with his mother. And in spite of his young age, he proved to be quite the little chef alongside her, helping at every step of the way in the family’s kitchen. Kneading, shaping the dough, putting it into the oven, and with her help, taking it out to cool off on the counter. Once the loaves had sufficiently cooled, James took the tray and proudly carried his handiwork about the kitchen to show off with a beaming grin, walking past the family’s Druddigon, who had coincidentally been resting by a wall and perked her head up at the smell of fresh bread pricking her nostrils.

“... Druddigon?”

The Druddigon was quickly roused by the smell of fresh-baked bread, prompting her to shuffle onto her feet and make her way over to James and his tray. There on it, were curious, vaguely spiky golden loaves, which the Dragon-type eyed curiously, before lowering her head in to sniff at them. At the same time, John happened to walk into the kitchen, and stop and gave a double take at the Druddigon eying the vaguely spiky loaves on the tray before shooting a puzzled glance at his younger brother.

“What’s with that bread you’ve got there?” he asked. “And why do they look like a bunch of Ferroseed?”

“It’s Druddigon Bread!” James insisted. “Mom helped me make it!”

John stopped and squinted at the misshapen loaves on the tray. Sure enough, after looking at them hard enough, he could somewhat make out a vague resemblance between them and the family’s Druddigon.

John frowned and scoffed at the explanation, which surely struck him as the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard of. Though I suppose I shouldn’t be that harsh on him, since when most humans think of food that dragon Pokémon would enjoy, ‘bread’ usually doesn’t top the list.

“And you’re shoving that tray in her face why?

“Why not? The loaves look just like her and Neela likes them!”

“James, Neela’s a Druddigon,” the elder brother sighed. “Druddigon eat meat-!

John trailed off and held his tongue after he saw the Druddigon take one of the loaves up in her claws. After a few tentative sniffs, the Dragon-type bit down on it and tore a small chunk off with a wary bite. The Druddigon chewed slowly and hesitantly at first, before her eyes lit up in delight and she tore into the rest of it.

Much to John’s astonishment, the loaf all but vanished down the Dragon-type’s maw, and she reached for another, repeated the process once again. And then did the same with another, and another. As the Druddigon made her way through her fourth loaf, the elder brother blinked and gave a curious tilt of his head at the Dragon-type.

“... Huh. Okay, maybe they do eat bread, too.”

The Does and their Druddigon learned a lot about each other in those early seasons, and as awkward as they got at times, there’s not a whole lot any of them would change about it looking back. Thankfully those early ‘stumbling out of the nest’ days passed without too much trouble and both the children and their companion…

Well, mostly anyways. After all, youth is a season of innocence, and foolishness. With all the Doe children still at some stage of learning from their elders, it was only inevitable that their ‘Neela’ would get drug into it too.

But those are tales for another time. With school occupying much of the life of human hatchlings, I’d need a moment to narrow down just what stories from those days I’d want to share lest I keep you here all season.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 2: Hitting the Books

Even without strength like ours, humans are surprisingly a lot like Pokémon. They begin life weak and inexperienced, and need to be taught by their elders how to manage. It’s just that for whatever reason, humans are slower than most Pokémon to learn the things they need to, and have a preference to learn it through stories.

They call it ‘schooling’. Wake up early, go sit down in a building to be taught from books for the better part of the day, interact with other kids a bit, and then go home. Then those kids have to learn more on their own at home before going back and repeating the process day in and day out.

The process takes up much of a human’s life in childhood, and even though they have an occasional ‘break’ and don’t seem to do the practice much in summer, such seasons of learning are fairly unavoidable both for the humans and the Pokémon that call them companions. And the Does’ Druddigon was hardly an exception herself.

Now much to the children’s disappointment, they were swiftly reminded that on most occasions, their schools didn’t allow Pokemon to mingle with their trainers freely. Supposedly it is to keep the students focused and their Pokemon from getting into trouble with one another. Not that that kept the Doe children from making attempts to get around such restrictions.

As the eldest child, John had the most secondhand experience from his peers for evading such rules. Even if his learned experiences were often a tad lacking. One of his more memorable attempts came during the first spring the Druddigon spent with the Doe children, when John got the idea to use a large cardboard box to sneak the family’s Druddigon into his school.

To John’s credit, his scheme worked far better than it had any right to, and it managed to get her onto the grounds and even into the school’s hallways. And had the Druddigon wandered about a bit less, she could’ve potentially gone the entire day undetected… if it weren't for the Principal happening to make the rounds about the school’s halls.

“Good morning, cardboard box...”

Which was when fortune ran out for John’s plan. After all, even if the old man hadn't remembered to drink his morning coffee that day, it wasn’t a reasonable assumption that he’d somehow overlook a box in the middle of a hallway. Much less one large enough to hold one of those larger ‘appliance’ devices that humans keep about their dens. Or one that had a blue tail with red spikes sticking out from underneath on one end.

“... Cardboard box?”

And in spite of all that, John’s effort was one of the more successful attempts of the Doe children to sneak their new companion into school, even if all he ultimately had to show for it was a swift visit to the Principal’s office. It didn’t exactly help that on that particular occasion, John had snuck the Dragon-type into school without her Pokéball, meaning that she was there for the principal’s entire scolding lecture to him.

“-nd leaving a Pokémon outside of its Pokéball unattended like that was extremely irresponsible, young man!”

“Why?” John scoffed back. “We don’t watch over her every minute at home and she’s just fine there…

John’s attitude during the whole ordeal was… ill-advised, to say the least, given that he earned a week of detention afterwards over his stunt. Now words like ‘detention’ don’t mean a whole lot to most Pokemon, much less to the Druddigon back then. So much like most other Pokemon in her position might’ve done, she went through the whole proceedings a bit lost as to why the old man was so upset about everything and chimed in with a question of her own.

“... Druddigon?”

The Dragon-type gave a curious tilt of her head, as the old man spluttered up parts of his morning coffee. He had dealt with many annoying incidents and episodes during his tenure, but even so, he went out of his way to spell out in bluntest terms as to why John’s appeal was not swaying him.

“This is a school, young man! Not your living room!”

Now to John’s credit, he was the first of his siblings to discover that there were a couple of occasions where Pokémon could be brought into school without getting into trouble. As it so happened, later that semester, his class was given an assignment to do a report about a Pokemon and its biology, which much of his classmates took as an opportunity to bring Pokemon from their family into school with them for show-and-tell.

The reports followed a general, predictable format: go up by the whiteboard in front of about 30 peers with your Pokémon if you had one. Tell a bit about how their bodies worked, and show off to the teacher that you’d spent at least a night’s worth of effort putting your presentation together by reading it off a paper.

“Hello everybody, my report is on Druddigon. Ahem...”

Now John was keen to bring along the Druddigon for his turn to give the report, and basked in the quiet ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s from a few of his peers envious of his Dragon-type companion. He definitely had a good sense of drama, as he highlighted his blue-and-red companion and began to read off a handwritten sheet of paper in front of the class...

“Dusk! With an eerie foreboding sensation, you hear the tread of heavy feet! Druddigon! With glowing yellow eyes, vivid red heads, and blue hides, these fierce dinosaurs prowl-!”

And promptly revealed to the whole world that it had rather obviously been slapped together in the hallway fifteen minutes earlier. His teacher cocked a brow and frowned over his opener, which was met by a swift and unanimous chorus in reply from his classmates.

Druddigon aren’t dinosaurs!

Had John put in a lick of work into his report, there were a lot of things he could have said about his Druddigon companion that day. The Sharpedo-like scales on her hide, “dermal denticles”, I believe the term is. He could’ve gone on about how her “glowing eyes” were adapted for life in caves and tight tunnels and how they focused better in low light. He could’ve even brought up the glands in her body that generate gases that get lit up by weak electrical currents for breath attacks... “igniter cells” or something those lines. But instead...

“Look, who’s giving the report? You chowderheads, or me?!

His report was pretty much just a cartoon drawing with fangs on it, and he tried and failed to play ‘blame the audience’ when caught. After sensing that she’d been drug into an embarrassing farce, the Druddigon shook her head and threw a claw over her face.


After all, even with a language barrier, it was readily apparent that her companion had made a fool of himself. Though at least he got credit for his art!

Whatever there is to be said about children making fools of themselves in their classes, it pales in comparison to when they take the plunge into training and actually get Pokémon companions of their own. ‘Starters’ as humans call them. Which for John came the following spring when he was thirteen, slightly early by Unovan standards, and in the thick of a busy semester of school that was itself in the middle of an already busy season in life.

Unlike what many human stories would have you believe, most of the time, a human’s “starter” Pokémon is just whatever Pokémon he or she catches first with the help of a borrowed Pokémon after receiving a trainer’s license.

It's a bit of a big deal in human culture, something about it being remnants of a rite of passage from earlier ages when the world seemed a lot bigger and scarier to them. And when John got his starter, for a time, he more or less thought he was the king of the world. Those feelings were particularly strong on the day he went to show off his new companion to his mother. He walked into the family kitchen with a beaming grin and approached Mrs. Doe as she read a travel magazine, proudly tossing the red-and-white plastic and metal orb he’d caught his starter in up and down in his hand.

“Hey mom! I’m back!” he cheered. “Check out what I got for a starter!”

Mrs. Doe looked up from her magazine and turned to her child with a surprised blink. John had been licensed for all of a week at the time, so she was a bit taken aback at him already having obtained a first Pokemon. Despite her misgivings, she put on a smile for her child and gave him her full attention. After all, John’s partner would be another member of her family, and part of her was curious as to who her son had chosen for his first companion.

“Oh? A starter? What did you- ACK!

Much to Mrs. Doe’s startled shock, the boy's choice for a starter was already outside of his Pokéball. A magenta and green creature with twin stingers, and markedly more chitinous than she would have wanted, which scuttled about the kitchen floor beside her child. The woman all but fell out of her chair at the sight of the Bug-type, as John grinned and continued on, wholly oblivious to his mother’s alarmed reaction.

“He’s pretty cool, huh?” he asked. “I caught the Venipede myself!”

The Druddigon shot a sour frown over at the child and gave an irked grunt. It was her efforts that had helped John catch the Venipede, and she’d understood enough of John’s conversation to pick up that she hadn’t been credited at all in the process.

As for poor Mrs. Doe, scolding her son over not giving the family’s Dragon-type credit where it was due was a very distant secondary concern at the time. Right then and there, she was more preoccupied with darting to the other end of the table and clambering onto the chair as she pointed at John’s starter and shot back with a particularly loud and pointed hiss.


In retrospect, John’s choice of a starter probably could’ve been more prudent, as he hastily reached for his Pokéball and complied with his mother’s demand. After all, a starter is someone who shares life with everyone that his or her partner does, and it took some time before Mrs. Doe was ready to share hers with the chittering bug.

The Does’ Mienshao happened to be observing from the other end of the kitchen, and couldn’t help but let out some stifled laughter at Mrs. Doe’s reaction. The Druddigon was significantly less amused, with her response to the whole episode more or less being the closest thing that to an eye roll that she could muster.

Mrs. Doe’s hostility to John’s Venipede eventually subsided, and he was grudgingly accepted into the ranks of the Doe family. With that, John could train his attention more fully to the dreams of many a child in Unova: a shot of becoming the region’s next League Champion.

Apparently there’s something humans do called “Trainer’s Leave” that happens around the time that their younglings are in what they call “middle school,” with most such children opting to take it in their first year. It’s essentially a month of journal keeping and absentee homework, and it gives those kids a chance to wander about the region with their Pokémon to become better trainers and challenge a League Gym or two… or else squander it bumming around at home watching television and playing video games.

Now John was always the more proactive sort of child, and when the time came for his turn to take Trainer’s Leave just a few months after getting his Venipede, he was chomping at the bit for a chance to topple old Alder from his title. He’d taken his Trainer’s Leave close to the end of the spring semester so that he could continue his conquest of the League over summer break, sensible since most such journeys wind up taking longer than expected to make any progress. His pick for a first gym to challenge was close to home, the local dugout of a gym in Icirrus City back when Brycen still ran it prior to moving on to star in cheaply-made B-Movies.

That day in late spring, John sized up the tunnel-like entrance to the gym, and seemed to have a grasp of the gravity of the moment. After all, the first gym challenge was the first major test of any trainer’s prowess. And he was ready to show the world he was ready to conquer all takers with his Venipede at his side...

“... Druddigon?”

And of course, with the family Druddigon at his other. After all, arriving at any gym with just one Pokemon was hardly tactically impressive, and foolhardy to boot given that Gyms were supposed to always field at least two Pokémon for challengers without any badges. John had hoped to also bring along the family’s Mienshao as well, but he’d always had a mind of his own when it came to taking instructions from him in battle. Mr. Doe had explained it as him being wary of trusting the judgment of a rookie in such circumstances, but John was convinced that the family’s Mienshao just had a fondness for teasing him and joking around.

Even without the Mienshao’s aid to count on, John came to Icirrus City’s Gym brimming with confidence, and the emblems of the Unova League plastered around the entrance did little to tamp down his enthusiasm.

“Heh. An Ice-type gym, huh? Well, they didn’t get a tower all to themselves,” the boy remarked. “And you’re already used to riding out winter weather, aren’t you, Neela? A couple flurries ought to be a piece of cake!”

The Druddigon shot an askew glance over at the young trainer, bristling a bit at the mention of ‘winter weather’ and ‘flurries’. Undeterred, John sauntered forward and motioned at his Pokémon to follow after him.

“Come on! That badge’s as good as ours!”

And like many a trainer before, John set off with his party of two, who after a moment’s hesitation followed after him. There along the way in, he met and greeted an old man who gave him a Fresh Water for his ordeal, and went in for what he assumed would be a tough but surmountable challenge.

Now sometimes, kids accomplish some really crazy things during their Trainer’s Leaves and breaks from school. Pretty sure that there’s even been a couple regional champions minted that way here and there. But most of the time, their efforts get bogged down partway through a League challenge.

And in John's case, Brycen’s gym was the first hurdle he got stuck on. A little over an hour later, John made his way back out of the gym doors alone with a low sulk, his confidence having been swiftly squashed by a slab of ice along with his accompanying Pokémon.

“... First gyms aren’t supposed to be this hard…

I’d say that he got a better idea of what to expect from a gym challenge after he and his partners got dusted like that, but it wouldn’t be the first time he exited the gym with his tail between his legs in such a fashion. It took all of Trainer’s Leave just for him to get past Brycen! And the old codger was going easy on him!

Now while “catch local Pokemon and challenge the nearest gym” is the model that most amateur trainers follow, there are other trainers that aim to cut their own path and follow a different route. Among them was the Does’ daughter.

In the spring following John’s gym challenge, Jane wound up getting her trainer’s license herself, and she also sought out a starter of her own to journey with. And on a crisp weekend afternoon, she finally got one, and waltzed into the Doe family’s living room alongside the family’s Druddigon positively beaming, ready to share her new companion with her father and the rest of the world around her.

“Dad! Dad! Look at the cute Pokémon that I got!”

Now while Mr. Doe could be a bit aloof, he always made sure to pay his children mind during their key crossroads in life. And so he turned away from the family television and the daily episode of ‘Eyes on Unova’, and looked over at his daughter, expecting to see her with the likes of a Mienfoo or a pink-furred Deerling at her side.

“Oh? What did you-?”

Only to see Jane cradling a rather startled, shivering runt of a brown lizard in her arms. The thing had most of her head and snout covered up by some sort of bony helmet. Supposedly they’re usually made up mostly of clay and stone with a few fragments of actual bone, but I’m hardly an expert on that. The little Ground-type was nervously eyeing the Druddigon the entire time, clinging onto a worn-out bone, probably scavenged from some dead thing found on the side of a road like her life depended on it.

“Cu- C-Cu-”

While the encounter definitely left a better first impression than the one John made on Mrs. Doe with his Venipede, it still took Mr. Doe aback. After all, Cubone and their evolutions only turned up in the wild in Unova around Route 15, hardly a day trip that a beginning trainer from Icirrus City could make casually. And yet here the Ground-type was, in his living room, and as his daughter’s starter...

So then how did Jane get her?

“... Jane, I thought that you said that you were catching Pokémon up in the north,” Mr. Doe murmured.

“I was! And I caught a Mienfoo with Neela’s help!” she explained. “But then I ran into this trainer with this really cute thingy-”

Basically, Jane went through something called ‘trading’. Pokémon between trainers get swapped around and take orders from a new face, and it can be a bit of an exciting experience for the Pokemon involved. You’re supposed to wait a few days after making one just in case the Pokemon gets cold feet, not that Jane knew that, or that the Cubone would’ve been any less of a nervous wreck under her original trainer.

“... Shao?”

Just then, the father's Mienshao happened to come in from the next room over, and upon seeing the strange lizard in Jane’s arms, walked up and gave a wary prod at her helmeted head. Which probably wasn't what the high-strung Ground-type needed, since the Fighting-type’s touch made the little lizard visibly flinch and yelp with a start. The whole time, Mr. Doe eyed the Cubone warily before explaining the Pokemon’s identity to his daughter.

“... That’s a Cubone, dear.”

“Right, and the other trainer offered to trade!” Jane explained. “Isn’t she adorable?”

It was around this time that the helmeted runt began to whimper and squirm in Jane’s arms. Now Pokemon can be hard to understand with their language barrier at times, but there was no mistaking what the Cubone wanted at that moment: to be anywhere far, far away from the strange creatures in the room that were much bigger than her and likely fierce-looking and frightening from the perspective of a lizard short enough to be a literal ankle-biter.


One of the things that human children are taught fairly early on is to not corner a Pokémon when it's scared. And while I guess it wouldn’t have occurred to Jane that a hug could make a Pokémon feel cornered or intimidated, the Cubone’s squirming and unease caught Mr. Doe’s eye and made him raise his hand out worriedly.

“Um, dear, you might want to set her do-”

Only for his warning to come too late. The Cubone tightened her grip on her club and gave Jane’s left arm a stiff swat. Jane let out a startled cry and dropped the little Ground-type, as she winced and nursed a bruise left behind that would accompany her around for about a week afterwards.

OW! She hit me!”

Her Cubone in the interim, tumbled to the carpeted floor with a squeaking yelp. After looking up to see the family Druddigon and Mienshao closing in on her, she went wide-eyed and shrank back with a startled cry, beelining behind the couch to cower and let out a few low whimpers.

The Mienshao narrowed his eyes and slipped a wispy-furred paw over his face with a grumbling shake of his head, with the Druddigon chiming in with an annoyed groan of her own. Mr. Doe looked off at the couch for a brief moment, before turning back to his daughter with a low sigh.

“Oh boy...” Mr. Doe murmured. “You and John sure know how to pick ‘em…”

I suppose there’s a reason why trading isn’t recommended for trainers that are just starting out. And given how Jane had more or less done everything wrong with her first trade, it’s a bit of a small miracle that the Cubone turned out to be a reliable companion in the end. After all, suddenly getting thrust into a whole new world surrounded by strange faces can be disorienting and intimidating for any Pokémon...

... and for their trainers too. Especially when they find out that those cute, sweet-looking Pokémon are actually deceptively large handfuls to take care of.

About a month after Jane took her Cubone under her wing, the crisp weather of spring was just starting to melt into summer. It was the first full moon since she’d started training. A time, as those who have ever been around Cubone know all-too-well, that was a terrible occasion to try and get any sleep.

The Doe family was no exception on that front, as they quickly discovered for themselves that Jane’s new companion had quite the set of pipes. The creature's cries filled the house that night, denying anyone who didn’t have the luxury of sleeping inside a Pokéball a good night’s rest. Among them was John, who thrashed about in his bed in a second-floor room covered full of posters of various movies and Unova League members, trying in vain to smother the Cubone’s cries by burying his ears into his pillows to no avail..

“Argh! Why won’t that stupid bonehead shut up?!” he fumed. “I’ve got an exam tomorrow!”

John rolled about in his bed and glanced at his door just in time to see the yellow eyes of the family’s Druddigon linger briefly before moving on with a low grunt. He paused briefly, before flopping back and looking up at the ceiling. He was the one who made the... er... "reasonable" choice to train a Pokémon he found nearby his town, and yet here he was, suffering for his sister's impulsiveness and a choice that he had no say in.

The boy sank in his bed, throwing a hand over his face as he growled under his breath and bemoaned his fate, hearing heavy footsteps go down the stairs. After a brief moment, the Cubone's crying died down and the normal quiet of night barring the expected chirping of distant Flying-types and Bug-types out the window set in.

“... Finally.”

John sank into his bed and closed his eyes, relieved from the abrupt quiet that had settled over the house. After a brief moment settling in, he paused after realizing that the newfound silence it had come quite suddenly. Too suddenly.

“... Hey wait a moment, Jane’s Cubone never quiets down that quickly.”

Perhaps the family’s Druddigon had managed to push the Cubone back into her Pokéball… though then again, with her larger frame, her teeth and claws, and her adaptations to low-light ambushes… Well, even if it was a failure of trust on his part, John couldn’t help but be worried.

John quickly threw the sheets off his bed and got up, hurriedly shuffling down the stairs for the living room, where he felt about in the darker parts of the hallway to make sure he wasn’t bumping into walls or corners. Eventually, the boy found himself in the family’s living room, where barring the faint sound of breathing, he couldn’t pick up any hint of the Cubone that had very loudly been in the room just a few minutes prior .

“... Hey, Cubo- Er… darn it, what did Jane name you again? Are you alri-?”


John froze for a moment after being answered by a low growl and walked around the living room couch, where there on the carpet beside it was the household Druddigon curling around the form of Jane’s still-sniffling Cubone. The Dragon-type shot a sharp scowl back at the eldest Doe child, which in spite of the lack of words, was easy enough to decipher in meaning. She’d worked hard to get the little Ground-type on her flank to finally start to doze off, and she didn’t want her hard work to be wrecked.

John stared and blinked for a moment, before giving an awkward paw at the back of his head. Words failed him at that moment, and the boy faltered briefly trying to find the right words to say to his Druddigon companion.

“... Oh... er… thank you, Neela.”

A tired, grateful smile crossed John’s face. In the end, he would get some sleep before his big exam the next day. Grateful for the Druddigon’s aid, the boy stuck out his hand and patted her crest before whispering to her.

“Shame we can’t just ask you to explain what’s going on,” he sighed. “You seem to understand that little bone lizard better than we can...”

Well, that was something for Jane and the rest of the family to learn for themselves. That sometimes those Pokemon that start out as headaches to be around just require a little bit more effort than normal to get to know and befriend. I’m not sure how much of that realization occurred to John right then and there, but he made sure to give credit where it was due before drifting back upstairs, leaving the Druddigon behind to growl softer and begin to doze off herself.

Jane eventually got the hang of training her Cubone, and she began to calm down and grow into her strange new world. A few months after her rocky start at training, the time came for Jane to try her luck at challenging a gym for herself during her summer break.

She took care to plan everything out about her would-be path to being the next Unova League champion. Unlike John, she'd take her Trainer’s Leave in the coming fall semester only if she needed the extra time for her challenge, and start out by taking a day’s hike out to challenge Opelucid City’s gym first instead of the one at home where she and her companions were strongly disadvantaged. On the way over, she’d toughen up her team a bit by traveling the route over to the city and challenging other trainers she ran into along her path. After arriving, she’d best the Gym Leader who was some rookie still being apprenticed by Drayden at the time, and then work her way through easier gyms elsewhere in Unova before doubling back home towards the end of her journey.

To be fair, it probably was a decent plan on paper, and with how smoothly the trek over to Opelucid and the battles along the way had gone, perhaps Jane could’ve been forgiven for being a bit confident that day. Not that anyone could’ve been mistaken otherwise about her state of mind as she glowed with pride in front of the gym's dark stone walls and dragon head statues that day.

“Alright, this should be easy for us. We’re not starting our League Challenge picking a hopeless fight like John!” the girl piped. “We’re gonna start with one that we’ve got a type advantage with!”

“Druddi... Gon?”

Now, not everyone in Jane’s party was quite as enthusiastic as her. The family Druddigon had once again been roped into the first Gym match of another Doe child, and after hearing Jane’s proud boasts, the Dragon-type couldn’t help but feel an uncomfortable sense of deja vu.

The other Pokémon with Jane were a bit less openly dubious of their chances. Jane’s Cubone had grown more used to her trainer, and had been joined by a Deerling not long prior to Jane’s first Gym challenge. While I’m sure that there was a lunchmeat joke to be made about pairing a Druddigon and a Deerling together on a team, one the Druddigon might have made herself in her own tongue just a couple of years earlier, the three stood there united in shared purpose that day. They were there to help their trainer chase after her dreams of conquering the regional League alongside them, and they would fight with their utmost strength to seize them.

The Cubone had a few hints of skittishness at the sight of the great stone drakes’ heads that loomed over the building, but did her best to puff her chest out and put on a brave face, and the Deerling was a bit impatient for battle and pawed at the pavement then. Even so, the pair couldn't help but trade uneasy glances to each other- regardless of language anyone could pick up some hints of doubt over Jane’s plan of action. And perhaps Jane herself would’ve too…

Had she only stopped to pay attention to her Pokemon.

“Why, with this combination of cuteness and toughness, and three Pokémon instead of two, we’re a shoo-in to beat this Gym!”

Unfortunately for Jane and her Pokemon, they weren’t a shoo-in for besting Opelucid City’s gym. About an hour and a half later, Jane found herself slinking out of the dragon-headed building alone, with her teammates recalled back to their Pokéballs. She was at a stunned loss by how badly she had underestimated her ordeal and how utterly her careful planning fell apart in the face of an apprentice Gym leader who was younger than her at the time.

“B-But I don’t understand!” Jane muttered to herself. “Dragon Claw was supposed to be super effective!”

And it was— both ways. In the end Jane did a bit better than her elder brother did with her League challenge, but even with her Trainer’s Leave… well, none of the Does’ Pokémon have ever made it into the Unovan Hall of Fame even by now.

Stories of League challenges that sputtered out for one reason or another like that are kinda a dime a dozen anyway. I’ll spare you the details about them and... What to do instead...?

Oh, I know. I think I’ll talk about some of the friends that the Does and their Druddigon made over the years, some of them were really memorable characters that they met not long afterwards and left quite a mark on their lives.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 3: Getting to Know You

As part of growing up, both humans and Pokémon tend to find that the world grows bigger around one’s self. The Doe family was no exception to that trend, and they found their lives intersecting with others who would go on to become good friends of theirs.

How did that happen, you ask?

Well, sometimes humans leave their homes in search of new lives much like how Pokémon sometimes do. They call it "moving". And like Pokémon, sometimes it happens for happy reasons, and sometimes it doesn't.

The instance of 'moving' that I was thinking of didn't involve the Does. It happened back in the summer when Jane was in the thick of her Gym Challenge. Even if she ultimately flamed out at the third Gym, it would've been pretty difficult for the family to move anywhere else at the time. Instead, during one of her visits back home, a new family chanced move into the tract house right next door to the Does'.

Now, there are some differences between how humans and Pokémon leave their homes behind. The biggest one I’ve seen is that every time I've seen humans do so by ‘moving’, they bring along a small hoard of stuff with them that needs to be moved by a truck. And the new family that moved in that summer was no exception.

The day the new neighbors came, all three of the Doe children trained their eyes on a red moving van with a Pokéball pattern on its panels right in front of the house right next door. The kids stepped out onto the sidewalk, crouching along the low fence on the property line to watch the movers as they and a team of Gurdurr and Timburr helped ferry furniture out the back of the van and into the neighboring house.

John, Jane, and James did not come alone for the occasion, but were accompanied by their Pokémon, and even their parents' Mienshao and Druddigon. The lot of them, gaped curiously at the procession of movers and furniture going between the van to the other house. While it was not the first move that John and Jane had witnessed, it was James’, who turned to ask his siblings...

"What's going on? Why are they unloading all that stuff into the house?"

John turned his head back as his Pokémon, a Whirlipede at the time, took turns with Jane's Pokémon peeking around the fence at the strangers shuffling the moving van’s contents along. The elder brother frowned at the question and replied with an impatient scoff to his younger brother.

"Tch. Come on, James. Haven't you seen this on TV or something by now?" the older brother asked. "We're getting new neighbors-!"

"Oh hey! You must be those neighbor kids mom and dad told me about!"

John froze and bit his tongue at the sound of a perky voice from behind him, the boy whirling around and turning his attention along with his siblings to see a girl just a little younger than him on the sidewalk. The girl had short, brunette hair, and sported a set of round glasses, the elder child of two from the Verne family, the one that had just moved in next door.

"I'm Carol! How about you three?"

'Carol Y. Verne' to be exact, even if one almost never heard other humans call her that when she wasn't somehow in trouble. John, Jane, and James blinked and found themselves at a loss for words over the stranger's appearance, none of them knowing what to say back to her. After a few awkward fumbles with their words and wary stares from their Pokémon, the family Druddigon broke the silence, and approached the new neighbor girl with a puzzled tilt of her head.

"Druddi... Gon?"

Much to John's surprise, the girl seemed wholly unfazed by their craggy and spiny companion, and gave a playful wave in greeting at the Dragon-type. After a moment to collect himself, John quickly dusted himself off and introduced himself with an awkward wave of his own back.

"Er… hey, I'm John," he replied. "And these are my brother and sister James and Jane."

Jane gave a pouting frown and rolled her eyes in reply, not thinking much of John's impulse to step in and speak for her.

"We can introduce ourselves fine on our own, John… Though 'neighbors'?" Jane asked. "You mean that's your stuff on the truck over there?"

"Well, some of it is, but most of it's my parents' and my little brother's," the girl answered. "We all just moved in from Opelucid City!"

The Doe children raised their brows at Carol's mention of a brother, and after noticing their parents’ Mienshao turn his head, glanced over. Sure enough, on the other side of the fence, they spotted a little dark-haired toddler popping into view along with a mother and father who were a bit younger than Mr. and Mrs. Doe at the time. Their son had already settled into life in his new neighborhood, and he was happily playing with a ball on their new lawn. John, Jane, and James gaped off at the Verne family's other members, before seeing Carol reach out her hand for their Druddigon's crest, only to briefly falter and turn sheepishly as the Druddigon gave a confused gape back at her.

"Er… does he like to be petted?" Carol asked. "I had just assumed he would, but…"

"She wouldn't mind, I'd think," James replied. "Though are you sure you want to pet her? Her scales feel really rough."

There was a flicker of sheepish embarrassment that crossed over Carol's face at James' reply, making the neighbor girl briefly hem and haw in response before pawing at the back of her head.

"Hehe... Right. I guess I should've known better that your Druddigon was female, since I train a Dragon-type myself, but it can be confusing to tell between them sometimes..." she said. "Though your Druddigon isn't the first one I've dealt with before. How else would I know that they like this?"

Carol cupped her hand underneath the Druddigon's chin and curled her fingers in, giving a firm scratch with her nails. The Dragon-type blinked for a moment and batted her wings reflexively, before closing her eyes and letting out a contented growl, wagging her tail slightly as the neighbor girl pawed at her chin. John looked on with a puzzled tilt of his head, wondering how this girl knew to stroke their companion like that, when he recalled an earlier comment in the conversation.

"You mentioned that you also trained a Dragon-type, right?" the boy asked. "So do you also have a Druddigon?"

"Oh no, mom and dad wouldn't let me start training with a big dragon like yours," Carol explained. "Besides, it's a bit hard to find Druddigon around Opelucid. Though haven't you already seen my Pokémon? He should be here right next to-"

Carol trailed off briefly and looked around expecting a presence beside her. A flash of worry briefly came over the neighbor girl's face, when she heard a quiet knock against the wood of the fenceline, which made her peek behind it and the worries in her expression ebb away.

"Oh! There you are!" she exclaimed. "Come on out and say hi, Chopper!"

The Doe children and their Pokémon waited, expecting to see a Pokémon come forward, only for no Pokémon to emerge and some quiet whines to answer her. The Does’ Mienshao made his way over to the fence, followed by the Doe children, and looked over to see a short Pokémon with green scales. Before any of them could get a firm look, the Pokémon noticed them and let out a yelp before bolting away from the fence and retreating behind the neighbor girl's legs.

It wasn't any easier to make out the Pokémon from behind his trainer, and all they could see of Carol's supposed Dragon-type beyond glimpses of a green hide. Along with what appeared to be some sort of bony protrusion and a pair of small red eyes that timidly peeked out from behind her.

The Druddigon noticed the hidden figure, giving a quizzical growl before she attempted to peek back at the red-eyed creature. The larger Dragon-type's approach made Carol’s Pokémon nervously shift back and screw his eyes shut out of fright. James, curious as to what sort of Pokémon the shy creature was, stooped down and held a hand out to pat at the family Druddigon, trying to reassure the hiding creature that she posed no threat.

"Aww... Come on! Don't be shy!" the boy insisted. "She's a lot nicer than she looks!"

The Druddigon shot an unamused glance at the young boy comment of her being 'nicer than she looks', though James' words ultimately had their intended effect. The hiding Pokémon shuffled out reluctantly, revealing himself to be a tusked, green runt of an Axew, who timorously squeaked out an introduction in his tongue.

"A... Axew..."

The Does’ Pokémon spoke back replies of their own one after another, and when it came time for their Druddigon to do the same, she gave a puzzled tilt of her head, not knowing what to make of the little drake before her. She walked up and sniffed at the Pokémon, and after seeing him flinch with an audible whine, pulled back a moment with a moment of brief hesitation. The larger of the two Dragon-types glanced at her claws, then down at the squirming Axew, before stooping down and cupping a claw to give a gentle scratch under the Tusk Pokémon's chin. The Axew cracked his eyes open and blinked, giving a puzzled murmur back before the Druddigon moved her claw over the Axew’s head and pat at it, which Jane was quick to highlight.

"See? She doesn't bite!" Jane insisted. "Not when she's trying to be friendly!"

The Doe children and their Pokémon watched the Axew stand there for a puzzled moment as the Druddigon pulled her claw back, a timid smile crossing his tusked face. The smaller Dragon-type bashfully pawed at the back of his head, before he cautiously sidled up beside the Druddigon with a cheerful cry. One after the other, the family Mienshao and their other Pokémon gathered around to introduce themselves more fully. From the side, John let out a quiet sigh of relief, glad that the Axew's fears were easier to dispel than they'd feared. Though even so, the elder brother still couldn't help but wonder to himself...

"Wait, why'd parents let you train a Dragon-type as your starter?" he asked. "And why Axew in particular? I kinda would've expected that you’d choose a Pokémon that was a bit… cuter."

Carol let a small frown flicker over her face briefly, before shaking her head back with a bemused scoff.

"Oh trust me, Axew can be plenty cute," she said. "As for why... well, we are from Opelucid City, remember? There's a long tradition of training dragons there, and Axew and their evolutions can be found living in the regions just north of it."

John and his siblings blinked for a moment at the neighbor girl's reply. While it was to be expected that locals would favor training the Pokémon that lived around them, he was pretty sure that Axew were most commonly found around Opelucid City on and around Victory Road. The perky neighbor girl before them didn't mean to say she'd gotten her Axew from there, had she?

"Originally I wanted to get a Deino. But mom and dad said I couldn't because my brother was too young to be around one," Carol said.

… Maybe she had gotten her Axew from Victory Road. I don't know the full story about how Carol and her Axew crossed paths, but there's only so many places you can find one of them around Opelucid, and considering how even back then she had a small mound of Drayden posters in her bedroom. I doubt anyone would've been too surprised were that were the case, even if she probably would’ve needed a bit of help catching him.

"But that's alright. I think things wound up working out better for it! I like this little guy better anyways!"

Part of meeting new people is that you sometimes learn things from them in the process. Which for the Does, one would think that learning to train Pokémon with a Druddigon wouldn't have left many opportunities for others to teach them things about her, but…

"Neela, come on, give it back!"

Youthful inexperience has a way of complicating such things, for both humans and for Pokémon. Now, the summer of Jane's Gym challenge was a particularly active one, as the girl found herself setting off about Unova in search of challenge with her team… even if most of those journeys were just between her home in Icirrus City and Opelucid.

It was after one of those trips back from Opelucid City in midsummer to rest at home that she found herself in the unenviable position of having her Druddigon companion take a shine to one of her belongings… one that happened to glint under the light and catch the Pokémon's eye. And in short order, the Druddigon eagerly took for it herself and carried it off before ducking out to sunbathe on the house's front porch.

Now, had Jane and her companion shared a tongue, perhaps the matter could've been something the pair could've talked through. But… humans are a lot like Druddigon in the sense that they form attachments to shiny things. And when the girl discovered the family's Druddigon fiddling around with that little bauble of hers…

"This isn't funny! I just set it down for just a minute and need it back before it gets lost!"

She got a bit possessive of it.

It was a little gray-and-black bauble with a golden fringe, and a red bead set into its center that looked much like a dragon's eye. A 'Legend Badge', as humans call it. The first such bauble that Jane picked up in her journey, and one that carried deep sentimental value for her.


And perhaps even more so for the Druddigon since it was through her efforts that Jane had gotten the little bauble in the first place. The Dragon-type was not particularly keen on being parted from the token of her hard work, and tightened her claws around it with a sharp scowl when Jane confronted her. The girl frowned in reply and put her hands on her hips, doing her best to try and give the stubborn Dragon-type a piece of her mind.

"Look, nobody else on my team does this! Don't make me recall you into your Pokéball!"

The Druddigon responded by tucking the bauble under her stomach and laying on it, giving a sharp harrumph as she fanned her wings out to try and ignore the girl's badgering. While humans and Pokémon are bound to come to disagreements with one another, humans have a way of forcing their end of an argument if they really want to through those Pokéball things they keep Pokémon in. Smarter trainers will avoid doing that, since a Pokémon that goes into one upset has a tendency to also come out upset afterward. But Jane wasn't thinking about that at the time, and with her patience worn thin, she reached for the Druddigon's red-and-white…

"Oh? Playing a game there?"

Just as Carol happened to be walking by with her Axew along the sidewalk, with a backpack slung over her shoulder. Jane and the Druddigon turned their attention over to the pair and blinked for a moment, as Jane looked down at the Pokéball in her hand and gave an annoyed scoff.

"I wish," Jane harrumphed. "I was just about to recall Neela for a while since she's acting up a bit."

Now, the neighbor girl wasn't exactly an expert trainer herself, but she had trained an Axew as her first Pokémon. And after noticing her Axew's puzzled expression over the Druddigon and her trainer's interaction, she traded a glance between her new neighbors and cocked a brow back.

"Acting up how?" she asked. "It looks like she's just sunbathing."

"Yeah, but she snatched my Gym Badge and now she won't give it back."

The neighbor girl blinked a moment at Jane’s reply, before cracking a bemused smile and stepping forward towards the porch.

"... Wait, that's it? You don't need to recall her over that. Here, I'll show you a way to get your gym badge back that won't leave her upset with you."

Jane gave what had to have been the most puzzled face a thirteen-old human girl could muster as Carol neared, with her Axew following along behind her. The Axew was the first to approach the Druddigon, giving a cheerful wave as Carol stooped down and held a hand out.

"Hey, so you beat your first Gym, huh? Can I see?"

The Druddigon snorted and shifted in place, turning her eyes away. It didn't take much for her to gather that the neighbor girl had come to part her from her beloved 'Gym Badge'. And she had no intention of just rolling over and letting her take it. Carol's Axew shrank back briefly as his trainer faltered for a moment, before reaching out and giving a soft pat at the Druddigon's crested head.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to take it," the girl insisted. "I just want to see it, and show it to Chopper as well. We're going to go on a Gym Challenge in the future and it would be something for us to look forward to."

The Druddigon hesitated briefly as the neighbor girl pulled her hand back, and glanced over to see her Axew companion eyeing her curiously. After a moment's hesitation, the Druddigon slipped a claw under her body and pulled the black-and-gray bauble out, sitting up and holding it out with her claw cupped to close tight around it at a moment's notice as Carol's eyes lit up.

"Oh, that's my old hometown's Gym Badge!" she remarked. "Drayden wasn't too hard on you out there, was he?"

"Er… his apprentice was running the Gym when I was there, actually," Jane said, giving a paw at her shoulder. "A girl named 'Iris'?"

There was a moment of awkward silence, as Carol's Axew gave a puzzled tilt of his head. After some brief hesitation, Carol shot back a sheepish grin, before turning her attention to the Druddigon.

"... Right, I forgot she took over right before we moved," she said. "You must've been really proud to beat her team, huh?"

To this day, there's some things about their trainer's words that the Does' Pokémon don't fully understand. But then, their Druddigon understood enough to put together that the neighbor girl was praising her for having bested her foes in battle. And she couldn't help but indulge her pride a bit, puffing her chest out and fanning out her wings with a satisfied grunt.


"Yeah, I figured," Carol said. "That's why I wanted to give you something in return for it."

The neighbor girl slipped her backpack off and fished around in it until she came across a small bag that rattled quietly as she moved it. She turned it over and poured it out, revealing that it contained a small collection of glass marbles of different sizes and colors.

"They're not quite a Gym Badge, but they're pretty-looking and some of them catch the light well, don’t you think?"

I don't know how humans do it with those little glass balls, but those 'marbles' of theirs come in all sorts of colors and swirls and patterns. And it put a spark in the Axew's eyes as he reflexively reached for one and snatched it up. The Druddigon stared at her smaller counterpart as he fawned over the little glass bead, making her glance at him, and then at Carol as the girl gave a warm smile back.

"You can even play with them if you want," she said. "Chopper will show you how."

"Ax! Axew!"

Carol gestured over at her Axew, who after a moment's pause, smiled and set the marble carefully onto the patio. The Druddigon raised a brow for a moment, before the Axew batted the marble forward with a claw and sent it rolling. The larger Dragon-type followed it with her eyes for but an instant, then she jolted down and snatched the marble up much to the Axew's surprise. She took a moment to carefully inspect it, dusted it off against her scales and gave it back to her shorter counterpart with a chiding growl in their tongue to be more careful with such a precious-looking treasure.

Now Carol didn't pick up on the specifics of that conversation between the two, but she gathered that she'd drawn the Druddigon's attention. She turned her gaze back to the marbles in her hand with a small smile, and gave them a soft jostle.

"That's more interesting than a badge you can't do anything with other than sit on, huh? So what do you say? Wanna trade?"

Carol held her hand with the marbles out in front of the Druddigon, and extended her other out alongside it, empty. After a moment's hesitation and bat of her wings, the Druddigon glanced down at the Gym Badge in her claws, and then down at the marbles. In a flash, she dropped the badge into Carol's open hand and snatched up the marbles in her other claw, before pulling them tight against her chest with a wary stare. The neighbor girl smiled over the trade gone well, and returned the badge back to the Does' daughter, who stared at her with her mouth hanging open.

"... How on earth did you know how to do that?"

"Well… Chopper sometimes holds onto things that he picks up, and trading him something for them is an easy way to convince him to give it back, especially if it's something colorful or shiny," Carol remarked. "I'd heard stories of the less experienced Dragon-types at Opelucid's Gym sometimes getting distracted by such objects in Gym Challenges, and Druddigon are supposed to be among them, so…"

It was an educated guess on her part, really. Though given that the trailheads around Dragonspiral Tower apparently warn visitors to not disturb any artifacts. I suppose tendencies like those do make for dedicated guards to an ancient shrine.

But even so, something about Carol's explanation struck Jane as strange. Not so much with how it worked, but…

"... How many of those marbles have you given Chopper, anyways?" she asked.

The neighbor girl paused for a moment, before giving a sheepish paw at the back of her head.

"He… has a bit of a collection by now."

And he still does to this day, even if he's grown quite a bit since that lazy summer day. I remember that he used to curl up around some of those marbles to help fall asleep. Still does, actually.

But I suppose that's getting off-topic. Even if there's a fun story behind that neighbor family, this is a story about the Does…

Now to be fair on Jane, she made some further progress with her Gym Challenge that summer. A few weeks after her triumphant return from Opelucid City, she came back again with her team and the family Druddigon after a hard-earned victory over the Mistralton City Gym.

She was preoccupied with worries about what leg to take next for her journey. She hardly felt confident about her chances facing down Brycen with a team that would probably keel over in a light frost, especially after seeing John's struggles the year before. But Driftveil City as an alternative was far enough that if she hit a wall there, she wouldn’t be able to turn tail and come home for the night.

"No, no. Neela, you're supposed to shoot them into each other. Like this."

But such worries were far from the mind of the family's Druddigon that day as she stooped in the driveway along with the Does’ sons under the light of a setting sun. John was there about a chalk circle with the Druddigon's beloved marbles cradling a red one with a swirl, crouching down and shooting it forward with an audible clack as it bounced off others in the circle and knocked a few past the line.


The Druddigon hurried over and hastily gathered up the displaced marbles, closely inspecting each one with a worried whine before carefully setting them back down one by one after discovering they were undamaged. John and James blinked a moment at the Druddigon's ritual, before his Dragon-type companion scowled at him with an annoyed grunt. The elder brother stood there flabbergasted for a moment, before James looked at him with a puzzled frown.

"Maybe Druddigon just play marbles differently from us?"

I suppose it wouldn't be fair to judge them too harshly given that the boys weren't there to see the Druddigon's initial reaction to receiving those marbles. Fortunately for John, the moment of awkward tension was cut short after he spotted Carol walking by on the sidewalk alongside her Axew companion and a younger boy with similar hair color. The Axew tugged at her pant leg and motioned over at their neighbors, prompting Carol to wave the younger boy off for her family's house just past the fenceline, and make her way up the Does' driveway.

"Oh, there you are! I wasn't expecting to run into you on my way back home!"

The Axew gave a cheery wave over to the Druddigon, who nodded back with in reply. It was another one of those human gestures she'd picked up from her trainers, and it's a story in its own right for those interested in how humans and Pokémon influence each other… but that topic wasn't on John or James' mind that day.

No, their attention turned towards a plastic bag in Carol's hand that bore a design from some little hole-in-the-wall from Opelucid City. With his younger sister having spent much of her first month of summer break just going back and forth from there, it made John wonder…

"You're starting a Gym Challenge this late into summer?" he asked. "Aren't you worried about not having time to make progress?"

"Oh no, nothing like that," Carol insisted. "I'm waiting until Chopper's a bit older and stronger before I take my Trainer's Leave. I don't think I'll need to wait too much longer, though."

The Axew shot an aside glance as Carol's hand dipped into the bag and she fished through it, pulling out a pair of cloth bundles from them that she passed over to her neighbors.

"Mom and dad just took us back to Opelucid City for a day trip and thought you might want some souvenirs," she explained. "I also got one for Jane, so just pass it along to her when you run into her."

The boys unfurled their bundles and quickly discovered they were a pair of shirts meant for the summer weather that had been bought from some tourist stand. John's had a stylized design of a great white dragon on it, the very one he'd heard stories of slumbering somewhere deep within the chambers of Dragonspiral Tower to the north. While James' had a design that had been styled after one of the Dragon-types from Opelucid City’s Gym.

"Oh cool!" James said. "There's a Druddigon on this shirt!"

James' shirt at once piqued his Dragon-type companion's interest as she went over to inspect her likeness in the cloth. It was a bit distorted from reality, but the ruddy head, the piercing yellow eyes, and the azure scales… it was definitely a design of a Druddigon, alright. The family’s Druddigon gave a few tentative paws at the shirt, as John looked off at the dragon for a moment, before turning an askew glance back to Carol.

"Not that I'm complaining, but isn't this a bit much for a place that's just a day's journey by walking from here?" John asked.

"Well, I've gotta give you some motivation to see it again," the neighbor girl chuckled. "We even got something for Neela. She seemed like she wanted a memento to remember her big gym battle with, so it'd probably be best to give it to her before she heads back off with Jane, huh?"

Carol called her Axew companion over to her side and stooped down to open the bag. At once, the Tusk Pokémon's eyes lit up, as he dug around in it and pulled out a little lump that could barely fit in his claws. Beaming with pride, the young Dragon-type sauntered over to his Druddigon counterpart, and happily presented his and his trainer's gift to his larger neighbor.


It was a resin model of Opelucid City's gym, stone dragon heads and all. The sort of cheap models that humans pick up in their wanderings to tuck away on a shelf to gather dust or else use as glorified paperweights. Now for the Druddigon, the sight of the miniature stirred up unwelcome memories of the ordeals she'd gone through just to finally bring that little Legend Badge back home. And she couldn't help but shoot an unimpressed frown in reply, before shuffling her wings and turning off for the horizon.


The Druddigon pointed off towards Dragonspiral Tower at the foothills of the mountains in the north. After all, she was no stranger to great structures that dragons called home. And in her own tongue, she explained how much a mere toy model paled before the looming tower in the distance.

The Doe children and Carol didn't understand most of that explanation. But between the Druddigon's unimpressed demeanor, and the Axew's flustered embarrassment afterwards… they were at least able to put two and two together that the gift had fallen a little short.

"... Not sure if that's how she interpreted it," John sighed. "But it's the thought that counts, right?"

John stooped down to collect the model from the Axew, who slunk off for his trainer with a low whine. The neighbor girl paused for a moment, before giving a disappointed sigh and passed off the bag in her hands to the elder Doe brother.

"... Maybe she'll feel a bit differently if she sees more of Opelucid in person? Admittedly I can't gift that so easily… but it's a thought to keep in mind."

The girl stooped down and tugged at her Axew's claws, motioning off at their house just past the fenceline.

"Come on Chopper, we should be heading in now."

The two dragons and their trainers parted ways after that. Though all the while, had one paid attention to the Axew as he left, one might've noticed him looking off towards the horizon, peering off at the stone tower off in the north. I guess the place must've left quite the impression on him.


After all, the very next morning, right as Jane headed back out to challenge her third Gym, the John, Jane, and James found Carol's Axew stranded on the branches of one of the trees alongside the street. The Doe children were the first to notice the scene, as they came over along with their Pokémon and stared incredulously at Carol looking up at her quivering Tusk Pokémon in the branches above, clinging for dear life with his eyes screwed shut.

"Oh no… Chopper, how did you even manage to do this?"

James' eyes darted towards the tree trunk, where faint claw impressions could be seen making their way up. He glanced up at the Axew in the branches, before turning over to Carol with a puzzled blink.

"I take it that you never learned about this from that Gym you liked to hang around?"

While Carol's mood probably would've been worse had John made one of his wisecracks there, James' question didn't do wonders for it either. The family Druddigon was present as well, having chanced to come over after hearing the Axew's cries disrupt her morning sunbathing, and gave a frowning nudge at the younger brother over the matter herself.

As for Carol’s Axew, the children's commentary was about the last thing on his mind then, as he chanced to crack his eyes open. He quickly noticed how far down the ground was relative to his little body, yelped and let out a low, frightened whine.

From the ground, John glanced up at the branch, and then off at the trunk. After seeing the claw impressions left behind, he reasoned that if an Axew could find footholds on the tree, then surely for a much taller human like him, it'd be a trivial matter.

"Well good thing he didn't get that far up. Why, I could climb that with my eyes closed!"

John made his way up and tried to grapple onto the trunk. He tried planting his feet in between bumps and divots in its bark to pull himself up, only to find himself not getting much further than about his waist height off the ground before he lost his footing and pratfell.

Nobody watching was particularly impressed, as even the family Druddigon shot an askew glance back at him. Jane in particular was particularly biting, as she rolled her eyes with a dismissive snort.

"'I could climb that with my eyes closed,' huh?" she scoffed.

"Shut up, it's harder than it looks."

James looked at the tree trunk, and back at the Axew still shivering in the branches overhead. He tried to jump up and grab onto them himself, only for it to be about an arm's length too far for his young body to reach. The young boy let out a sigh, ready to admit defeat as he shook his head and turned back to the other children.

"Let's just ask dad to get the ladder and- huh?"

James trailed off as he saw his family's Druddigon make her way over to the tree trunk. After a moment to inspect it, she dug her claws into the wood and slowly made her way up. With her kind having adapted to clamber up rock faces and about tight caves, and with such skills allowing her peers to do much the same on ruined walls in and around Dragonspiral Tower, the tree was little match for her. After feeling out footholds and testing her grip, she slowly made her way up to the base of the branch and extended a claw out towards the cowering Axew.


The Axew cracked his eyes open and turned back, where much to his astonishment, he spotted the neighbor dragon there waiting for him. The Axew faltered briefly before warily crawling over and letting her pull him in tight into her grasp.

Slowly, the Druddigon retraced her steps down and they got back on solid ground. The Druddigon stooped down and set her Axew neighbor down, who immediately took off running for his trainer and buried his face into her legs shedding frightened tears. Carol stooped down and patted her Pokémon's head, trying to reassure her young Dragon-type as the Does and their Pokémon crowded around… including their Druddigon, who she rewarded with a sighing pat of her crest.

"Thank you so much for your help there, Neela," Carol said. "I didn't know Chopper could climb like that, and I don't know what got into him."

The Druddigon gave a sighing growl in her tongue before motioning off towards Dragonspiral Tower in the distance. After glimpsing up at the tree branch and seeing that it had a clear line of sight to the ruins in the north, it occurred to the human children just what had gotten into the young Axew.

"Oh, so you wanted to get a better look around, huh?" Jane asked. "Well you didn't have to do something like that, Chopper."

The Axew sniffled a little, wiping a few stray tears from the corners of his eyes as he looked up at the Doe children and saw James beaming down at him.

"Yeah, we'd be happy to show you around!" the younger boy cheered. "We know all the places worth seeing around Icirrus City!"

The Axew blinked a moment before his Druddigon neighbor approached and stooped down beside him, beckoning him to come in her tongue. After some brief hesitation, the Tusk Pokémon made his way over and clambered onto her crest. The Druddigon then reared up, looking off at the tower in the distance and pointing it out to her passenger as Carol looked on briefly, before turning back to her neighbors.

"... I think that we'll take you up on that sometime, actually," she said. "How about the next time you're back home, Jane?"

That day came a bit sooner than expected, since as mentioned earlier, Jane's Gym Challenge hit a wall on her third Gym. And before everyone knew it, she was back in town with her team and the family Druddigon. More than capable of delivering on that offer.

Now Icirrus City may not have quite as much history in it as that 'Opelucid' that Carol and her Axew hailed from, but it's still a lively place where you can easily mingle with others. And resting square in the shadow of one of Unova's ancient high places, you can almost feel as if you're being watched over by gods sometimes.

The tour had gone smoothly that day, with the Doe children showing their neighbors the sights about town alongside their Pokémon. Or at least it did up until close to the end of the day when the kids decided to visit one of the local windmills before heading home.

There, before long, the Doe children and Carol found themselves skulking around a set of narrow stairs in the inside one of those windmills. Icirrus City's windmills are certainly a sight to behold both inside and out, which is why there's always someone here or there in the area that tries to make some quick money taking tourists around them.

But as locals, the Doe children had gone through such windmills on their own more times than they could remember. It was hardly something that they would normally have gone into at sunset in late summer for a second look, not when it was time to return home for dinner and it’d risked getting into trouble with their parents...

"Hey! Come down from there!"

Except there were two obstacles for them to head home that day, which were sitting just out of sight on a raised loft atop a ladder. One that sported fresh claw impressions which Carol noticed, and prompted her to peer up after with her hands still cupped from her cry.

No response came, as she was left wondering how on earth her Axew managed to make the climb up after wandering off. A closer examination of the claw marks revealed that a larger Pokémon had made them, with stray blue scales quickly suggesting that the little Tusk Pokémon hadn't made the climb on his own. So then the Druddigon was also there, which while it solved the problem of finding their missing Pokémon...

"You two are going to get us into trouble!" James snapped. "We're already late for dinner!"

It didn't solve the problem of how to get them back down. The Axew and Druddigon, dutifully hiding from children's line of sight in the loft, finally called out in reply. The Axew, having grown uneasy from the scolding tone of their trainers' voices, answered back in a voice that seemed to be pleading or stalling for time. The Druddigon on the other hand, was the more forthright of the pair, and answered with a gruff and stubborn growl.


The four children blinked in confusion for a moment, only to realize that the two Dragon-types weren't making any sign of coming down the ladder. John grumbled and fished out a red-and-white Pokéball, shaking his head as he wondered what on earth had gotten into his family companion when she'd never been this stubborn about staying someplace that didn't involve clinging to warmth in the wintertime.

"What's so great about that stupid crawl space up there?" he demanded. " Some boxes? Hurry up and get down here!"

But the Druddigon still did not yield, and responded with a still louder and gruffer growl from the top of the loft. By that time, Jane had had quite enough, and snatched the Pokéball out of John's hand before she began climbing the ladder with a disgruntled grumble.

"Come on, John," she sighed. "If she's going to make things this difficult, we do have a way of making sure she'll come home."

Jane clambered up the ladder, followed one by one by her siblings and their new neighbor. After Jane reached the top, she let her eyes adjust to light filtering in through an open window, where she quickly found the missing Druddigon and Axew calmly staring out of it...

"I hope you two are happy with yourselves-? Huh?"

Jane abruptly trailed off and looked ahead, the other children catching up with her on the loft before they followed her gaze and those of the two Dragon-types... off towards a panorama of Icirrus City's north at sunset.

The children paused before walking up to the window where they gathered against a wooden railing and peered out at the distance. At once, the four immediately understood why their Pokémon had been so reluctant to leave.

The last few rays of daylight painted the sky a burnt orange, tinting the land below in warm colors. Rolling mountains and ridges in the distance poked over the horizon, with the other buildings of the city nestled among the lakes in the area that were fed by snowmelt. Other windmills like the one they were in punctuated the skyline from small bluffs, with Dragonspiral Tower looming above it all in the distance...

Why, after seeing the vista for all of a few moments, the Doe children couldn't help but feel an urge to stay a while themselves. Carol was hardly exempt from the draw of the overlook, as she stared out in quiet awe, before casting a glance back over at the two Dragon-types.

"... Oh... So that's what you two saw up here..."

The Druddigon folded her arms and gave a gruff snort back. The Axew for his part, had a visible pang of worry cross his face, the Tusk Pokémon giving a meek look and lowering his head apologetically.


Carol hesitated briefly at her Axew's reaction, and for a moment had an urge to just let the matter be… only to harden her expression when she remembered that the two had surely gotten them into trouble with their parents. It hardly made sense just to let the two off the hook entirely in light of that. The Doe children seemed similarly inclined, as Jane narrowed her eyes and gave a sharp frown at the two Pokémon.

"Alright, so which of you two put the other up to running off like this?"

The Druddigon's brave face wavered a moment at the girl's prodding. And after sensing that she'd gotten into trouble that her trainers wouldn't let slide with an affectionate nuzzle, hastily gestured with a claw at the Axew. The Axew squeaked and stammered, pointing back with a claw of his own as the pair quickly attempted to deflect responsibility over the idea to visit the loft onto each other.



Jane blinked and stared wordlessly at the two Dragon-types, before pinching her brow. From the side, James cocked his head, as he couldn't help but smile at the Druddigon and Axew's behavior.

"... Well, you can't say that they're not like us," he said.

Which of the two was the bad influence there? Heh, well I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Though it'd hardly be the last time those two and their trainers would cross paths with each other. It’s not that difficult when they lived separated by a fenceline.

Actually… next time, I think I'll talk about another of those times they crossed paths. There's a particularly memorable episode I can think of involving them just before the Doe children went back to school that year.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 4: No Year Has Two Summers

The Doe children and their Pokémon grew up quite a bit during the summer that Carol and the rest of the Verne family moved in. And during it, they picked up a surprising number of life lessons in that season. One particularly educational period came towards the end of that summer, in the last week before the schools took their students back in for their studies, right as the first chills of autumn began to creep on the winds. It was just after Jane had admitted defeat with her Gym Challenge, and about the first leaves began to lose their green color for their autumn yellows and reds.

Now, summer for human youngsters is a time when they normally go off and about in search of pursuits to pass it. Some try to squeeze in second or third chances at failed Gym Challenges, others focus on their studies to prepare for the next year of their "schooling". And others still stay closer to home, and spend the season wiling away their time with cartoons and games about their neighborhoods.

As the summer drew to a close, the Doe children spent more and more of their time homebound, especially after Jane's Gym Challenge ran out of steam and the three began to belatedly worry about finishing much-delayed summer reading. I remember that one day in the last week of that summer, the weather had broken a bit hotter than usual. Mr. and Mrs. Doe had successfully shooed their children away from the boxy television in the living room and out to play in the yard, where John, Jane, and James decided to try and beat the heat by filling up an inflatable pool with a hose, intending to play in it with their Pokémon.

"Druddi… Druddigon."

Except the family's Druddigon had already gone ahead and helped herself to it, and lounged in the cool water to escape the seasonal heat. The blue-and-red scaled dragon laid in the pool flat on her stomach, with her head, arms, and tail poking outside of it.

Perhaps calling the thing a 'pool' was a bit of an overstatement. After all, its volume was mostly filled up by the Druddigon's body, with scarcely enough room left over afterwards for even James to wedge his hand between her and the pool's rubbery wall. The Doe children gaped at the sight as the Dragon-type spread her wings as the hose's water broke over her scaly body, before James shook his head with a low sigh.

"… I think we should ask mom and dad to get us a real pool," he said. "There's not even enough space left over for a Joltik to share it right now!"

The Druddigon lazily raised her head for a moment, and then moved her wings to try and bathe them under the water pouring out from the hose, wholly unbothered by the Doe children's predicament. James and his siblings debated among themselves over whether or not it was worth trying to take turns between themselves and their Pokémon for using the pool, as the aforementioned Pokémon traded impatient glances and rolls of their eyes. But before any of them could settle on a solution to their conundrum, they were cut off from behind by the cheerful and now-familiar voice of a young girl about their age.


Jane turned around, and saw Carol walking up with a cheery wave in greeting. As usual, her Axew followed along closely behind her, though with a couple months' worth of extra familiarity with his surroundings, he had begun going about his adoptive neighborhood with ease and without the same nervous timidity he first had after moving in.

After walking up, the neighbor girl reached into a pocket, pulling out three slips of paper that had been emblazoned with a crescent shape that hooked up at its bottom and looked almost like a fang or claw, before holding them out to the three Doe children.

"I picked up tickets to a Dragon Tamer convention back in Opelucid City this Friday!" she said. "Wanna come? You all seemed like you were getting bored just loafing around all day."

Or considering what the slips of paper were for, perhaps the design was a stylized Dragonair. One could imagine worse designs to be had for the sigil of a gathering of Dragon Tamers, after all.

James' eyes lit up at the prospect of going out to see this 'convention'. Even if Opelucid City's Gym had given Jane a headache during her Trainer's Leave, time and again she'd brought back stories about the ancient town that mesmerized and excited him. He hadn't had many opportunities to see it for himself in the past either, let alone to see while it was hosting a gathering of Dragon Tamers and what would surely be a large cohort of strong and impressive Pokémon alongside them.

John and Jane traded dubious glances with one another, before the elder brother shot a small frown back at the neighbor girl.

"I'm not sure, honestly," he said. "After all, none of us are Dragon Tamers here."

Carol pointed at their Druddigon lounging in their inflatable pool. The Dragon-type perked her head up, sensing that she was being spoken about as the neighbor girl gave a bemused smile.

"Well… You train a dragon, so that ought to count for something shouldn't it?" she insisted. "Mom and dad said they'd be willing to let me take you along if your parents were okay with it. And, well… I'll be going along with a dragon of my own who'd really appreciate your company."


Carol's Axew waved eagerly, doing his best to welcome his human and Pokémon neighbors to come along. Among their number, he put special emphasis on trying to persuade the Druddigon lounging in the pool, going up with glistening, pleading eyes that made her look over from her place reclining in the shallow water with a flustered blink.

John, Jane, and James traded glances with each other, and mulled over their neighbor's offer. After feeling the sun beat down on them for about a minute, and remembering that the heat wave was set to last through the rest of the week, the three of them decided that, if nothing else, this gathering of 'Dragon Tamers' would most certainly beat standing around in the sweltering summer heat waiting their turn to share an undersized kiddie pool.

"… Eh… Fine," John said. "If mom and dad are okay with it, we'll come along."

And it was there that they and their Pokémon learned that no matter how strange or unique you think you are… that you're not really all that special in the grand scheme of things.

Now, much to Carol's relief, Mr. and Mrs. Doe really liked her invitation and before they knew it, Friday had arrived and the four children set off bright and early along Routes 8 and 9 for Opelucid City with their Pokémon on a set of folding bikes that were all the rage back then. The three Doe children donned the gifts Carol had brought them from her original hometown for the occasion: James, his Druddigon shirt. John, his shirt with its design of a white dragon with blue eyes. And Jane, a shirt that sported a design of black dragon with red eyes wreathed in lightning.

By around noon, the four children found themselves in the heart of Opelucid's central square. A large, stone-paved plaza sitting just south of the city's Gym anchored by a large fountain, and the beating heart of a city that respects history and values old things.

John was a bit disappointed to discover that this Dragon Tamer convention would be held outdoors and not in an air-conditioned hall like it would in a town that was 'up to speed with modern life'. Instead, the whole square had been filled with stands and stages of various sizes and colors for the grand gathering. Though even in spite of the weather's best efforts, there was only so much that the summer heat could do to detract from the children's sense of wonder at their surrounding scenery.

Opelucid City's central square is an ancient space ringed with stone buildings that have been continuously used for untold generations. Their aged, moss-covered walls serve as a snapshot into a bygone era when people still regularly went in and out of Dragonspiral Tower in the north of Icirrus to pay homage to the patron deity it was built in honor of.

Now, while the Opelucid City occasionally cops criticism by humans for being outdated and not well-adapted for modern technology and convenience, life has always found a way in and among its ancient stone buildings. And on that day, that snapshot of that bygone era stood in stark contrast to the lively hubbub of the crowds that filled it. Naturally, a good deal of said crowds were human, but much of it wasn't. And the members of the crowd that really caught the attention of the Doe children, and especially James'…

"Wow… That… That's a lot of dragons."

Were the Pokémon in it. All around the plaza, accompanying the humans in it were Pokémon of wildly differing shapes and sizes. While many were scaled much as the Druddigon and Axew were, a handful had their bodies shrouded in more exotic coverings such as feathers or chitin, and one or two unfamiliar figures sported hides covered with fur. There was even a large purple and lavender Pokémon that the Does couldn't identify, who much to their astonishment, was covered head to toe in slime.

Much like the humans they accompanied, these Pokémon too helped breathe life into the plaza. There was a Flygon proudly beating a faint rhythm with his wings, perhaps hoping to impress the others of his kind nearby. There was another Druddigon near the mouth of an alleyway lazingly rubbing up against a craggy wall to dislodge some loose scales. And off by the front of a convenience store at a nearby intersection, there was a Gible and a Bagon squabbling heatedly over a ball of red yarn.

As the initial surprise of the gathering wore off for James, he chanced to notice a large shadow fall on him. The younger brother glanced up, where he spotted a passing blue, four-legged dragon with red wings and head spikes. He reflexively shrank back briefly at the figure, but after a moment to calm his nerves, a beaming grin spread over his face as he held a hand up and pointed off at the imposing creature.

"Oh cool! A Salamence!"

The great Dragon-type paused for a moment after hearing James' exclamation, turned back to crane her head down. The dragon gave a puzzled blink, as she stared at the younger child and answered in a gruff, but quizzical tone… only with words that sounded quite different from what James or his siblings expected.

"Boh… mander?"

It's something that I still don't fully understand myself, but apparently humans aren't the only creatures in this world that don't share languages with one another. Pokémon speech too comes in different languages depending on where its speaker hails from.

Now, for a Pokémon, a language differs from one to the next through the rhythm of its words and the way their speakers enunciate them. Humans often struggle to distinguish between them, particularly those words carry the same sounds to their ears. Though for reasons I don't quite understand, sometimes the sounds of Pokémon's cries themselves differ entirely from each other, much like the songs otherwise identical Flying-types sing may differ from one forest to the next. Such was the case with that Salamence, who hailed from a land far away from Unova. Or I suppose in her own words…

"'Bohmander'?" James murmured. "What sort of Pokémon is that? Since at first I thought this was a Salamence."

"Marl is a Salamence," an older voice replied. "She just speaks a bit differently from how the ones from around this region do."

A young man with a face that was puzzlingly hard to place stepped out from behind the dragon, and gave a bemused smile over at the Doe children. The three traded puzzled looks between the man and his Pokémon for a moment, before Jane cocked a brow and gave a puzzled tilt of her head.

"Where did she come from to speak like that?" the daughter asked.

"Hoenn!" the man cheerfully answered. "The Salamence from there and the nearby regions all talk the same way she does."

Carol sized up the strange-speaking Salamence in a quiet awe, her Axew shrinking back reflexively from the larger dragon's imposing stature, while the other Pokémon present seemed to be on-edge from the Dragon-type presence. While the Salamence was impressive in her own right, the idea that she'd come here from such a faraway land couldn't help but fascinate Carol.

"I didn't realize there were trainers who came to this convention from so far out," Carol said. "I thought that this was a more of a local event."

"It's a small world these days," the man smiled back. "Why, Marl here was just chumming it up with a 'Drattak' from Kalos a bit earlier. That name certainly doesn't roll off the tongue as smoothly as 'Salamence', now does it?"

The young man noticed that the children's Pokémon appeared to be on-edge from his Salamence, and after a moment's thought, brought up a hand to stroke the Salamence's neck.

"Though don't sweat it too much. Some things carry over in translation no matter where your Pokémon comes from," the man insisted. "Go ahead and give her a pet! She's a good sport, even if she doesn't smile much."

Er… well, there was probably a good reason why that Salamence didn't smile much. A dragon's smile tends to be more frightening than endearing to most others, since it looks about the same as the expression one would have right after finding lunch.

Though true to the trainer's word, the Salamence was indeed a good sport. After watching the Salamence trainer pat his Pokémon, Jane stuck her hand up cautiously under the dragon's chin. After a moment's hesitation, she gave the Pokémon a soft scratch, and drew a content growl from her. The other Doe children drew forward to pat at the Dragon-type, which relaxed their Pokémon, barring a sour frown of minorly annoyed envy from the Druddigon in their presence.

"It still seems weird to me that Pokémon that are otherwise the same can be so different just from living in another region," James murmured, prompting the Salamence trainer to shake his head with a bemused smile.

"Heh, just wait until you start running into regional variants, kid."

"But can your Salamence understand other Pokémon?" the younger boy insisted. "If she sounds this different to us, how different does she sound to other Pokémon?"

It wasn't that bad of a question, to be honest. Even if you can understand someone speaking with a different language or with a strange accent, things have a way of getting lost in translation when you don't answer back in the same way. Still, it can be remarkable as to what does manage to get read through the lines.

"She's picked up a few things while visiting other regions. Just like I'm sure you've been doing with your own Pokémon," the trainer replied. "After all, some things don't require you to understand everything to pick up on their meanings, right?"


Like the Does' Druddigon jealously nuzzling up against her human charges and shooting back an annoyed scowl at the Salamence. Even with a language barrier, the message was clear: it was time to move along, just like we will for this story.

Another life lesson the kids and their Pokémon picked up during their visit to Opelucid was that there's some really annoying jerks out there in the world. Bullies and mean-spirited types who will make fun of you and try to drag you down for the dumbest reasons.

They had the misfortune of learning that lesson not too long after they bumped into the foreign Salamence. The Does plus Carol, made their way over to the local Pokécenter after passing through the plaza, as those "tickets" of theirs were apparently good for redeeming lodging that had been reserved overnight there for their holders.

It should've been a quick and easy matter. Duck in, get your room, and leave your stuff there before going back out to see the sights again. And for the most part it was, except…

"Tch. You call those dragons? No. This is a dragon."

The lot had the misfortune to run into this really obnoxious trainer. A man in middle age who was old enough to have settled down in life, but gave off the sort of impression that he'd just left his parents' home for the first time the day before. Apparently, he was into tournaments for Pokémon organized on some 'internet' thing, at a 'Dogars' place or something like that.

I don't know what the story is behind it, but places like those seem to have a way of attracting really abrasive types among humans, and that trainer was no exception. I distinctly remember that he was accompanied by a Dragonite… and didn't look that different from his Pokémon either. The Dragonite at least was fairly good-natured… and oblivious, and spent the entire time happily gawking at his surroundings, too distracted to really notice or care about his trainer's rude and inhospitable behavior.

"600 pounds, 7 feet tall, and able to fly around the world in 16 hou-"

John and Carol rolled their eyes at the stranger's showboating, before they attempted to swiftly put a pin in the conversation. They hadn't come all the way out to Opelucid City to get hectored by some guy chasing past glories on the internet, much less by one bragging over a bunch of urban myths.

"That whole flying around the world in sixteen hours thing is literally an urban legend," Carol snorted.

"Yeah, there was literally a show on cable that disproved it!" John scoffed. "The show's hosts literally flew on one from one end of Unova to the other and showed it was mathematically impossible!"

The Dragonite's trainer hesitated silently for a moment, before scowling back in annoyance. His Dragonite turned and blinked at him with a puzzled tilt of his head, unsure about what had soured his trainer's demeanor. But the man had no intention of letting himself be made to look like a fool by a pair of children, and let out a sharp scoff before steering some barbs towards their Pokémon.

"… Hrmph, so I got one detail wrong. So what?" he scoffed. "He's still a better Pokémon than that bread slicer and that blue and red speed bump of yours!"

Remember how earlier on I'd mentioned that Salamence trainer said that some things don't require you to fully understand to pick up? Well, tone and body language help Pokémon quite a bit with filling those gaps in from humans. And the blatant hostility and condescension from the Dragonite's trainer didn't fly over anyone's heads that day, least of all over the Druddigon and Axew's.



The two Dragon-types shot fierce glares back at the trainer, with the Dragonite quickly picking up on their demeanor and defensively stepping in front of his trainer. Sensing that things weren't going anywhere good fast, Carol pinched her brow, before turning to the rest of the party with a low sigh.

"… Come on, let's just get back to the convention."

Thankfully, even if it took a while for the kids and their Pokémon to shake off the crummy mood, they still had fun in and around their 'convention' in the square afterwards. Though I suppose it didn't hurt that the kids and their friends got a chance to learn a bit of a nicer life lesson in the process:

That some of the nicest people you'll ever meet come in the packages you least expect them in.

Alright, in retrospect, everyone probably would've preferred that said lesson was learned a bit
differently than how it happened: with the Druddigon and Axew getting lost after wandering off in Opelucid's central square. Their separation had come from only a moment's distraction, after the pair had been distracted by a game of marbles on the sidewalk between a boy and a strange drake from a distant island region with hardened, gray scales and a heart-shaped head crest. The Druddigon and Axew watched the unlikely pair zip the little baubles about, with large glassy beads that had swirls and patterns like a Liepard's eye, and a shiny metal one that I believe humans call a 'steelie'.


But before they knew it, the pair were lost amid a colorful sea of bodies, both human and Pokémon. And no matter what direction the Druddigon looked around in, she could not make out the familiar faces of the Doe children.

Now, wandering off from one's trainer isn't the end of the world most of the time for a Pokémon. If they're in a safe place and familiar with their surroundings, it's usually not that hard for them to make their way back home, or else to someplace safe where they can wait to be found again.

Unfortunately, for a Druddigon that had spent the bulk of her life in and around Icirrus City, a sea of bodies somewhere deep in Opelucid's historical districts wasn't exactly 'familiar' to her. And she found herself casting worried glances about it in search of the Doe children to no avail.

"A… Axew?"

The Axew for his part hadn't fared much better at finding Carol even with a hometown advantage, not that coming up to the knees of most of the surrounding crowd helped. Whatever familiarity he had with the chunk of Opelucid City the two were in was made moot by the throngs of much bigger people and Pokémon about him.

I suppose it would be hard to fault a 'mon as small as him at the time for finding it an intimidating experience, since being surrounded by creatures bigger and stronger than oneself can be scary for any Pokémon, even for a dragon. Had it not been for the presence of the Druddigon, he likely would have shrunk away into a corner to hide from the noisy crowds. But with his larger neighbor's presence, he was able to summon the courage to timidly lead the Druddigon around and try to retrace their steps back to their trainers from vague memories he had of the square from before his trainer's move out to Icirrus.


In the middle of his search, the Axew bumped into a blue leg dangling in the air and stumbled forward face-first onto the pavestones. The Dragon-type cradled his snout, the Druddigon stooping down to help her shorter companion up as he nursed feeling into his limbs. As he got back up onto his feet, the Axew quickly noticed that the blue leg belonged to a fierce-looking creature with six wings and a back coated in black, feather-like quills, with three heads on almost serpentine necks that each craned over towards the little Dragon-type. The Axew froze, as the flying creature lowered her main neck down, meeting the Tusk Pokémon eye-to-eye with a pair of blood-red eyes, and a mouth full of razor teeth.


Yeah, the Axew had the luck to stumble upon a Hydreigon. Now, running into a Pokémon that's commonly said to attack and eat just about everything it comes across can already be a scary experience; having one abruptly shove one of her mouths close enough to you to feel her breath when you're shorter than most front door mail slots can be outright terrifying.

And for the Axew, it was just the sight that he needed to make the little boldness and courage he was able to muster abruptly evaporate.

"A… A-Axew!"

The Axew sharply beelined behind his Druddigon companion and shivered out of fright. The Druddigon for her part did what most Pokémon in her position would've done and braced herself, giving a low growl back at the Hydreigon and telegraphing that she was ready to defend herself and her companion with tooth and claw.

The Hydreigon flew back briefly, and after noticing that she was getting dirty looks from passersby, shot a trio of glares back at the two Pokémon. The Hydreigon turned to leave, only to falter for a moment after seeing the Druddigon and Axew ease up, and then look around confusedly. It must've occurred to her somehow that the two had gotten themselves lost, and despite their reaction and those of the surrounding passersby…



The Hydreigon inquired further in her own tongue. And even if the Druddigon could not read her intentions well at first, it quickly became apparent that she and her companion had misjudged her.

"… Hydrei?"

"… Druddigon?"

It was thanks to the Hydreigon's further questions, each in a slightly more relaxed and laid-back tone, along with her lack of overt aggression, that the Druddigon finally understood what the Hydreigon was asking about:

She was offering them her assistance.

The Druddigon and Axew both blinked in reply, and traded sheepish looks with each other, before apologetically bowing back at the Brutal Pokémon. The three conversed in their own tongue for a little while, which went unnoticed by the passing humans, but little by little, the Druddigon and Axew managed to communicate that they'd gotten themselves separated from their trainers in the midst of the convention and hadn't the foggiest clue of where to find them. The Hydreigon tilted her heads briefly, before noticing something off in the distance and motioning off with her right head.


The Druddigon and Axew followed the direction of the Hydreigon's lesser head. There, much to their astonishment, were their trainers! Carol had taken the lead of the group, and the bespectacled girl was frantically scouring every nook and cranny she came across for any sign of their missing Pokémon.

"Agh! Where could those two have gone?!"

The Axew let out a sharp cry and ran over, latching onto Carol's leg sniffling and dribbling a few tears. The neighbor girl blinked as she and the Does looked down at her freshly-returned Pokémon in astonishment.

"Huh?! Chopper?! Where have you been all this time?!" the girl exclaimed. "And where's-?"

Carol trailed off after she looked up, and she made out the form of an approaching Hydreigon accompanied by a rather embarrassed-looking Druddigon. The Cave Pokémon offered a sheepish wave of her claw, as the Hydreigon flew up and attempted to offer up an explanation in her tongue. When none of the kids understood it, the Hydreigon paused a moment, before gently pushing the Druddigon forth with one of her heads.

Between their Pokémon having come back, their behavior, and the Hydreigon taking a moment to "hand them back" there… it wasn't hard for the children to put two and two together.

"Er… Uh… Thank you," Carol said.

None of the kids were sure whether or not the Hydreigon would understand their words. But in the end, their fears proved to be for naught. Carol stepped forward afterwards and rewarded the red-eyed dragon with a pat, drawing a content growl in reply, with the Doe children following suit afterwards. The Druddigon didn't contest the kids' affection towards the stranger that time, and instead murmured a quiet sigh of relief, still somewhat incredulous from the turn of events.

The rest of the convention went by in a colorful, raucous blur amid the sea of stands in the ancient square. Humans and Pokémon alike gathered together to trade items such as shiny baubles that commanded the attention of many of the attending Pokémon, the Druddigon and Axew themselves included. There were tips and learned wisdom that were passed along from one trainer to another, and though most of them didn't realize it, from one Pokémon to another from among their companions. There were tales shared of past journeys, of fierce battles fought, of faraway lands that some had visited and ones that still others called home, with accompanying life stories that were as varied as the myriad creatures in attendance.

And of course, there were the exhibition battles, some good-natured, others bitter with fierce competition. Barring an informal spar here or there, the Does and their companions found the competition that day to be a bit too stiff to be worth getting invested in. John and Jane both had vivid memories of their struggles with the city's local Gym, and even if it disappointed their Druddigon companion at times, they figured she'd be more appreciative of an evening not spent licking her wounds and grumbling at the local Pokécenter.

In the end, it was probably a wise decision. As before they knew it, the Does, their Pokémon, and their neighbors found themselves gathered in front of a stage that night in the thick of a large crowd. All the while, the lot stared off raptly at the stage, with Carol's Axew perched on the head of the Does' Druddigon and looking on with an excited cheer.

"Axew! Axew!"

On it, strong creatures massed, breathing gouts of fire up into the night sky to display their might, in a living, breathing display of fireworks. There were the brilliant blues of their kind's signature dragonfire through the likes of Dragon Breath, fiery oranges of the likes of Flamethrower, and occasional beams of other colors such as the blinding white of a Hyper Beam. The current Pokémon who'd come up for their turns in the performance hailed from the local Gym, with the Druddigon's eye settling on a Haxorus at the fore who gave out a bellowing cry, before lighting the sky up with a brilliant Dragon Pulse that drew cheers from the crowd, intermixed with roars of approval.


Her own among them. The Druddigon glanced up at her smaller companion, who brought his claws together in cheerful applause, a habit he'd picked up from his trainer and the humans she'd lived around. The lights in the air died down, the Haxorus and the other Pokémon onstage taking bows beside their trainers, an older man with white hair and a thick beard that struck the Does as looking much like a Tyrantrum's jaw stood at the fore beside the Haxorus, before the lot took their leave.

The crowds began to thin out behind them afterward, with the Doe children chattering with Carol about the quite literal fireworks, and John and Jane's Pokémon did much the same in their own tongue. Jane's Cubone was particularly taken by the display, and happily gabbed about it with John's Whirlipede. All the while, the Druddigon stared after the stage wistfully, waiting expectantly for the Pokémon to come back out to continue to wow them with their show of strength and prowess…

Except they never came, and the stage's lights abruptly went dark. The Druddigon blinked a moment, when she felt a tug at her arm, and looked over to see James in his shirt gifted by Carol. Pulling at her and looking up with an insistent stare.

"I think the show's over, Neela," James said. "We should get going."

The Druddigon hesitated before letting out a low sigh in reply. Her Axew companion similarly seemed to gather that there would be no more displays of might and light that night, as he let out a disappointed whine. The larger of the two Dragon-types stooped down, allowing her smaller counterpart to slip off to the ground and trudge back over towards his trainer. Carol knelt down and pat at her Pokémon's head, before shooting a small grin back at her neighbors and their companions.

"Heh, I knew you all would have fun with it," she insisted. "Though this is the first year I didn't have to leave early from Chopper not handling the crowds well."

The neighbor girl pushed her glasses back onto her nose, before turning over to the Druddigon in their midst with a warm smile.

"Of course, I guess it doesn't hurt that he had such good friends looking out for him this time either," she said. "Who knows? Maybe that Pokécenter room won't feel so cramped with you two around!"

Much to Carol's surprise, the Druddigon gave no reply other than to turn her glance away and paw at her shoulder with a sulking growl. The Doe children blinked, wondering what Carol or they could've done to deflate her mood in such a fashion, when Jane noticed the Druddigon eying the darkened stage, and that the crowds in the plaza having largely drifted away.

Perhaps it was her intuition, perhaps it was just a lucky guess, but Jane gathered that the family Druddigon's sullen mood had come about precisely because she had had fun, and yet it had come to an end. The girl stuck her hand below the Druddigon's chin, and gave it a small scratch that turned the Dragon-type's attention towards her. And with the dragon's attention now on her, the Doe girl gave a small tilt of her head and a reassuring smile.

"Hey, don't be sad, Neela," Jane insisted. "It's a convention. There's one of these every year. I'm sure this won't be the last time we see it."

"Yup!" Carol added. "Next year, maybe we ought to try attending all four days of it!"

John, Jane, and James abruptly stiffened up, their Pokémon giving puzzled glances at their trainers' startled reactions. The Druddigon herself was taken aback by the turn in the mood, as she batted her wings and puzzledly tilted her head as John spluttered incredulously to the neighbor girl.

"Wait, what?" John asked. "I thought that the convention was just today!"

Carol looked up from tending her Axew, whose expression had suddenly brightened up. The girl cracked a knowing smile and shook her head in reply.

"Oh no, we just came on the last day. Mom and dad said I could only go for as many days as I could get tickets with bundled lodging from the Pokécenter, and I didn't pay attention to the days of the tickets I'd bought when reservations opened," the neighbor girl said, waving in reply. "When I used to lived here, I would get tickets for the full convention and visit every day with Chopper."

"Ah! That sounds great!"

James was already over the moon over the suggestion, as was Carol's Axew, who lit up from the explanation. And after a brief moment to relay things to the Druddigon, he passed his excitement onto her.

The Druddigon's mood suddenly came alive, as she perked up and gave an eager bat of her wings, looking towards her trainers to see what would surely be joyous reactions to knowing that there would be another great gathering of dragons to look forward to. And in a mere year, no less! Much to her surprise, John and Jane traded exasperated looks with one another, a couple of their Pokémon let out tired groans, the lot evidently having had their fill of excitement for one day.

"I think we're better off waiting a bit before we start planning that out," John insisted. "I mean, it's like, a whole year away!"

The Druddigon didn't know it right then and there, but many humans apparently aren't of the mind to already begin looking forward to cyclic events immediately after their passage. After all, the Does did indeed make good on Jane's insistence that they would return to the 'convention' in the future.

Though not all things in life repeat like the seasons, and oftentimes those events are the ones that shape one's life the most. And so it was with the Does and the Pokémon that lived with them. As the couple of years after that happy late summer night proved to be a season of great change for them… and one of upheaval.

… But that's a story to cover another time, since I'd need a while to think through how to do that particular tale justice.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 5: Truths and Ideals

As time goes by, a Pokémon’s body changes. Sometimes those changes happen gradually, like when a hatchling grows larger and fuller in size during its first few years. Sometimes those changes come all at once, occasionally in not even a season or two. The end result of having had a chance to grow strong in a short time.

You see those same patterns happen in all sorts of things in life. In the milestones that pass as one comes of age, in the wisdom that one learns, and even in the very bodies of humans and Pokémon.

Some of the changes a Pokémon can go through can be quite sudden and noticeable. The Doe family got to see this sort of change, together with those they called their companions, from up close as the kids grew in the couple of years after the Verne family moved in.

Some of it was unavoidable in the Does’ own lives. The children grew taller, John’s voice deepened and lost more and more of its childish tenor and grew lower and throatier not wholly unlike a drake’s, while Jane similarly lost more and more of her girlish features as she grew into those of a human maiden’s. Those transformations came little by little, much like the ebb of the seasons where one can sometimes lose track of time until one sees the leaves drifting off of trees in the autumn and heralding the biting cold of winter, much as they did on one particular fall day that comes to my mind.

It was one of those ‘weekend’ days where human youngsters aren’t preoccupied with school and are left to pass their time away with petty amusements between their schoolwork, or in John and Jane’s case, to bury themselves in further studies—in their case, dealing with something called ‘exam prep’.

None of that affected the family Druddigon, for whom the day was just another normal, if somewhat chilly autumn day. Being the stubborn type who wasn’t quite ready to yield to the seasons, she made a point of going out on walks about the property line and passing by the low fence separating the Does' yard from the Vernes'. As was normal for her in warmer months.

She was no longer an inexperienced stranger to the Does’ world as she was on that fateful winter morning when she first joined their family, and the rhythms and quirks of their life had become normal to her as well. And in the process, she picked up an eye and ear for things that deviated from it. It just so happened that, she had noticed one missing piece of that normalcy that day: the normal sounds of the neighbors' Axew taking his own normal daily patrol of the Vernes’ property, assuming that the cold hadn’t chased him indoors.


Instead, that day, she heard the deeper voice of a larger and unfamiliar creature pass by. The Druddigon stopped and blinked warily, when a hard knock against the fence rang out, followed by a sharp yelp.


The Druddigon quickly peeked over the edge and spotted a gray and green Pokémon nursing the base of a long, red-tipped tusk that had inadvertently knocked against the fence. The creature ran his claws along them with a nervous whine, dutifully feeling them for any sign of a chip or other damage. Clearly the knock against the fence’s plank had been more forceful than he’d expected, especially given the visible gash it left on some of them.

The Druddigon gave a puzzled tilt of her head down at the strange Pokémon and blinked. Was… this Carol’s Axew? The little neighbor drake who she’d come to know over the past couple of years? His red eyes were now ringed with black sclera, as opposed to the white ones she’d remembered him having. On top of it, his body now sported segments of green, armor-like plates on his head and torso, and bright red claws.

After a moment fussing over his tusks, the shorter Dragon-type looked up and happened to spot his Druddigon neighbor staring at him.

“Fraxure? Fraxure!”

The drake hastily composed himself, and puffed out his chest as he attempted to proudly flaunt his larger and stronger body just as his trainer arrived behind him. The Druddigon gaped as Carol gave a pat to her Pokémon’s head, who was now tall enough for her to do so without having to stoop beside him. So it really was the neighbor Axew after all.

The sound of approaching footsteps on the grass drew the three’s attention, where they saw Mr. Doe with a now-grayed and thinned head of hair walking up. The man gaped down at the Fraxure and after a moment’s blinking surprise, gave a congratulatory smile back to the neighbor girl.

“Heh... so Chopper’s finally evolved,” Mr. Doe remarked, prompting Carol to nod her head back.

“Yeah, the Pokémon Center told me that he was close to evolving, and I happened to try making some curry the other night,” the girl explained. “Guess it really does help Pokémon grow stronger.”

The neighbor girl looked down at her Pokémon, who was standing on his tiptoes to try and look over the fence at the Druddigon, only to find himself thwarted by his lack of height. The Fraxure let out a huffing grunt, before attempting to clamber onto the fence line and latch onto it with his claws, only to slip and fall flat onto his back with a yelp.

The Fraxure got up and flushed red from embarrassment as the Druddigon snickered from the other end of the fence. Carol looked on, before giving a quiet sigh.

“I kinda wish he’d grown a bit taller though,” she said. “Since Chopper’s always been a bit shy around bigger Pokémon.”

“Well, he doesn’t seem too shy around Neela,” Mr. Doe chuckled. “Just give him some time to enjoy his new form. After all, you still haven’t taken Trainer’s Leave yet, have you? With a chance to grow like that, I’m sure he’ll catch up soon enough.”

The Druddigon cocked her head briefly at Mr. Doe’s statement, as the Fraxure popped around the fence and approached her. The Axe Jaw Pokémon attempted to recompose himself after his earlier embarrassment, as the Druddigon reached out a set of claws and gave a scratch under the Fraxure’s chin much to his growling delight as he wagged his tail contentedly. All the while, the Druddigon couldn't help but be fascinated with how much her still-shorter counterpart had changed... and also couldn't help but feel a tad bemused at his newfound sense of bravado.

Pokémon also undergo change in more subtle ways beyond evolving into new forms. A couple years after Carol’s Axew evolved into a Fraxure, even after she’d taken her much-delayed Trainer’s Leave, even after a later attempt at continuing her Gym Challenge that came to a halt around her fifth badge... even after that, autumn came around again.

Once again, the Axew had undergone a surprising transformation. He had grown still taller and still stronger, with a yellow and gray hide with armor-like scales that ran from head to tail and prominent spikes along his back. His tusks, his pride both as an Axew and a Fraxure, had become larger still and transformed into what looked almost like prominent scythes about his mouth, with red pigments running along their edges.

“Hax... Haxorus?”

Not that it was particularly hard to miss, especially since evolution had given him a long neck that gave him a commanding view of his surroundings. One which was now more than sufficient to allow him to poke his head over the fence to peer at his Druddigon neighbor.

“Haxorus! Haxorus!”

And like he had been on the day of his evolution into a Fraxure, the neighbor drake was all too eager to show off his new form, and with a confident swagger that the Druddigon never would’ve imagined coming from the meek little Axew she’d once met. Some of the change surely came from age and experience, as it does for many a dragon with newfound strength seeking to assert his place in the world. Some of it was probably an artifact of that same world the Haxorus grew up in then seeming smaller and less intimidating than it had as a little Axew. Even the fence between the Does’ and Vernes’ houses had ceased to be the hurdle it once was for him, as Carol’s now-Haxorus quickly discovered that his newfound height made it trivial to peer over and interact across the fenceline.


The change had been startling to the Does’ Druddigon at first, but after that surprise wore off, she found herself rather content with her neighbor’s changes. After all, it also allowed her to more easily share intimate moments with the Haxorus in return.


Such as the nuzzle from snout to snout the two traded with each other after he first poked his head over the fence the day after his final evolution. Carol and John both happened to be present at the time, with the neighbor girl being thankful for her Pokémon’s evolution herself, if for reasons of her own...

“Aww... they’re so cute together like that!”

John cocked a brow back at Carol, glancing off at their Dragon-types for a moment, before turning back to her. Those two? Cute? With their fierce claws and their jaws lined with sharp teeth? Tough, perhaps, but...

“I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself, Carol,” the boy insisted. “Chopper literally has an axe on his face now, so I don’t know how you’d ever call that cute-”


John trailed off as he watched the Haxorus slip his arms over the fence line and pull the Doe family’s Druddigon into an embrace. The Cave Pokémon stood there flustered for a moment, before reciprocating and letting out a contented growl. The two had grown closer to each other after Carol’s Pokémon first evolved, and discovered feelings for one another that they’d never expected to have when they first met.

And in spite of them being separated by a tongue, those feelings were clear as day for the world to see, and even John couldn’t miss it back then. The boy stood wordlessly for a moment, before turning back to his neighbor across the fence line and seeing that she was sporting a knowing smirk.

After a moment’s hesitation, he sighed, and let a small smile creep over his face.

“... Okay, fine. That’s actually pretty cute of them,” he admitted. “Neela and Chopper really have taken a liking to each other, haven’t they?”

Those sorts of changes tend to just wind up fading into the background as their initial shock and novelty wear off and they become normal... or at least until something happens that makes you stop and look back to appreciate them.

Like living through an event that shakes you and your ideals, and makes you stop to question the truth of your life and your world.

For the Does, and for most of Unova, one such moment like that came later that fall. The air was crisp, the leaves were turning red and falling from the trees. It had all the ingredients for a beautiful and mostly-enjoyable day, if one that would’ve made the Druddigon start to eye the warmth of the Does’ house to retreat to. One that as humans less affected by such chills, John, Jane, and James would’ve eagerly soaked up along with their Pokémon...

Except, instead of enjoying the autumn scenery outside, the three children were huddled around the living room television along with their and their parents’ Pokémon. The lot watched the images playing on the screen in rapt attention, with the children and their Pokémon growing a bit unsettled by how the Druddigon and the Mienshao with them were reacting to the broadcast as awful, unsettling images flickered across the screen.

Images of ancient pillars and walls in Dragonspiral Tower cavalierly razed, with a hole punched into its side at ground level and its roof blown outwards and strewn across the surrounding ground and moat below. If you happened to be watching television that day in Unova, or for a few days afterwards, you might have seen some of them for yourself on the nightly news.

One didn’t need to be human either to find them upsetting, least of all if one was a Pokémon who had grown up in that tower’s shadow like the Does’ Druddigon and Mienshao had. The whole broadcast, the Druddigon simply couldn't stop growling at the images on the television. Her lavender mentor, for all his outward restraint and quiet, carried an obvious, seething tension that would make one think he was on the verge of throwing a fur-covered fist through the screen at any moment.

The children themselves were deeply taken aback by such a beloved fixture of their community being damaged in such a fashion, and watched on in quiet shock. John and Jane, normally quick with their tongues to comment and bicker amongst themselves both found themselves at a loss for words, as their younger brother quietly murmured to himself.

“... I just don’t understand. Who would do this to Dragonspiral Tower?”

It was a sight that struck very close to home for everyone in the family, especially for the two Pokémon that had hailed from the tower's surroundings. John had grown a bit unnerved by the Druddigon’s still-growling tone, and put out a hand to pat her and offer reassurance.

“I know you don’t like this, Neela. But I’m sure things will work out.”

As noble and sincere as the gesture was, it was flat out ineffectual at making the family Druddigon feel any better, and the rumbling and growling continued.

The humans that did that to Dragonspiral Tower were little more than a bunch of vandals. Bulldozing history they could never have understood and upending the lives of the Pokémon who stood in their way to try and guard it. My understanding is that all the while, they tried to excuse their trail of destruction in the name of the wellbeing and freedom of Pokémon like the very ones they wronged. Words and deeds of frauds trying to couch their own selfish desires from behind a veneer of morality and truth.

But none of the kids or their Pokémon knew about any of that at the time. One of the few things they did know then was that something didn’t add up about it. Not about why the tower had been damaged, but...

“What could have done that to the tower’s top though?” Jane asked. “I mean, the news said that Team Plasma was there, and I guess there being a hole to breach at the bottom makes sense… but why would they want to damage the walls at the top floor, too?”

None of the others had a ready answer to the question. One would need to enter and exit Dragonspiral Tower from the ground, so what was the point of blasting out a skyward exit? James stopped and thought the matter over, when a potential answer occurred to him; one that surely sounded fantastical and absurd at the beginning, but must’ve seemed to be the only explanation that made any sense the more he thought about the damage.

“... What about the Pokémon that the legends say sleeps in the tower?” James asked. “I know it sounds crazy, but… what if it woke up and it was the one who damaged the tower’s top?”

John, still on-edge from the images playing out on the screen, shot a harsh glare back at his younger brother. Unova was said to have been molded in the shadow of a dragon of Vast White that once roosted in Dragonspiral Tower in the north, and a dragon of Deep Black who once roosted to the south amongst the region’s central sands.

At the time, much of Unova’s humans had started to harbor doubts of those stories of the great dragons who were said to have once dwelt in their midst, and John was among them.

“Can it with the fairy tales, James,” the elder brother snapped. “I’m not in the mood for make-believe right now.”

Now, among the Pokémon of Unova, those tales were and still are very much remembered and respected. Or at least among some of them, the Does’ Mienshao and Druddigon included. And with a pair of sharp glares and a low growl from the Druddigon, the two quickly made John realize he’d been a bit too loose with his tongue.


The Druddigon probably could’ve been more patient and reserved like her mentor, but that day, her passions got the better of her. John quickly bit his tongue afterwards and fell silent, as the Druddigon curled up on the carpet and sulked back at the television. Just one more low note that helped sour an already crummy evening for the lot of them.

After the night of the fated newscast came and went and the shock of events and their surrounding passions wore off, the Doe family attempted to move on with their lives. Mr. and Mrs. Doe still had work to report to, the children still had school to attend, and their Pokémon had rhythms of their own to spend with their companions and to dodge the increasing chill of the seasons. To a large extent, it worked, since while the Does’ and their Pokémon’s lives had played out in Dragonspiral Tower’s shadow, it didn’t revolve around it ...

I suppose it would be remiss of me to imply that everybody in the household was quick to put those events behind them. The Druddigon and Mienshao weren’t so quick to get over it, and spent much time afterwards on-edge and anxious over the scenes on the television. After some time, the Does noticed and started to worry about them. Still, it was the children who took initiative to go and survey the damage left behind to Dragonspiral Tower for themselves, to try and reassure the pair that as unsettling as things were, the Pokémon that lived in the place they once called home would endure and bounce back.

A few days after the fated broadcast, John, Jane, and James made a point of all setting out northwards of Icirrus right after school along with their Pokémon. They had hoped to bring both their parents’ Mienshao and Druddigon for the occasion, though the Fighting-type was spoken for in accompanying their father, who was running late from returning from a shorter business trip at the time. As such, they were forced to make do with the family’s Druddigon as their sole guide northward, and opted to come back again a second time in the future.

John and Jane were both in high school at the time, and their teams had grown with them since their first trek northward with their Dragon-type guide. John’s Whirlipede had since become a Scoliipede and he’d added a Herdier to give him company, while Jane’s Cubone had grown into a Marowak, and her little Deerling had become a graceful Sawsbuck. James was the last of the Doe children to get his own Pokémon, and at the time he still had none. And so that day, he stayed firmly at the family Druddigon’s side, his eyes darting about anxiously as he quietly worried to himself about what they would find in the approach to Dragonspiral Tower.

The children retraced the same path they’d taken many times before since the Druddigon had come into their family and into their lives. This time, they took care to stay on the path their guide gave them, and didn’t disturb any artifacts they came across… not that she was in the mood to point them out. The whole time, the Druddigon had been on pins and needles, her gait betraying a palpable dread over the state she’d find her once-home in. James seemed to pick up on the Dragon-type’s unease, as he fought back his nerves and forced a smile over his face before giving a reassuring pat at her.

“Don’t be nervous, Neela. I know that the tower got messed up, but the Pokémon here are tough,” he insisted. “I’m sure that they’ve already come around and gone straight back to-”

James’ words died in his mouth as a shrill cry came from a bush and a Mienfoo burst out of the brush with a sharp glare. In swift order, the Mienfoo was joined by two others, along with a pair of Druddigon, who drew forward snarling and growling.


Jane recoiled with a start, as her Marowak tightened the grip on her club and her Sawsbuck shrunk back uneasily. John’s Whirlipede and Herdier tensed up, bracing themselves for battle with the tower’s denizens who’d emerged from the forest.

None of the Does or their Pokémon were strangers to the local etiquette for approaching and dealing with the Pokémon that dwelled there by that point. Which made seeing their angry, smoldering eyes all the more unsettling: unwelcoming, hurt and betrayed, looking at the children much as they would have at the Team Plasma vandals from earlier that week.

The elder children took a closer look over the Pokémon and got a few ideas on why they’d be so angered. They first noticed a still-ruddy scrape on the wing of the leftmost of the Druddigon from the brush, along with others that had been cut into his flank and belly. Then they noticed that the other held her right claw oddly, occasionally wincing as she moved a badly bruised arm with visibly damaged scales that it was attached to. Even the Mienfoo sported wounds of their own: missing whiskers, lingering burns, and bite and scratch marks where bare flesh could be seen from under damaged hide.

The Does and their Pokémon froze for a moment when it dawned on them. Dragonspiral Tower’s Pokémon were famous for how jealousy they guarded the tower they lived in. Of course they wouldn’t have just yielded to a bunch of strange humans in ridiculous costumes who came barging through. They had fought back, and from the looks of it, paid a price for their resistance.

John raised his hands and motioned for calm, shrinking back slightly as the Pokémon from the forest continued to advance on him. The elder boy gave a tense grimace back and attempted to reassure the guarding creatures, ones they in all likelihood had personally encountered before in happier times, that they meant no harm in their visit.

“Easy! Easy!” John cried. “We’re not here to hurt anyone! We just wanted to look around!”

Unfortunately for him, his reassurance went lost in translation and was met with a loud and angry roar from the wild Druddigon with the injured wing, who spread his wings out and flashed the fangs in his craggy maw back. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to stare down an angry dragon approaching you in such a fashion, it can be… an intimidating experience to say the least. It was especially so for Jane’s Sawsbuck, who nervously backpedaled on the off chance that the irate Dragon-type might opt to try and take a bite out of her.

James, without Pokémon of his own, was particularly unnerved, and clung to the family Druddigon who stepped out in front of him with a defensive glare. The younger brother wavered and started to visibly lose heart over the whole turn of events, as he desperately appealed to the creatures’ memories.

“Don’t you remember us?!” he cried. “We’ve come here before! Some of our own Pokémon used to live with you!”

But no luck... even if the Pokémon on the path had understood the boy’s plea in full, they had their trust in visitors of their sort badly shaken. And at that moment, the five Pokémon from the forest wanted nothing more than to be rid of their unwanted intruders.

The local guardians continued to advance on the group, glaring and growling... only to be interrupted by an abrupt cry from the children’s guide.


The Druddigon with the children stepped forward and waved her claws, making the locals pause for a moment. She’d once dwelt in their same ranks, ate from their same meals, and slept in their same catacombs and clearings. And so help her, she was not going to idly stand by as they came to blows with her companions.

The Druddigon made an appeal in her tongue, which while not understood by her human charges, still had snippets that could be gleaned here and there. Firm. Insistent. Neither groveling nor overbearing. An attempt to speak as one who shared heritage and history with these guardians that she and her companions posed no harm. That the five’s wounds affected the visitors much as if they’d personally suffered them for themselves, and that they wouldn’t dream of so much disturbing a sacred pebble while here, let alone with her to offer guidance.

There was a short moment of silence as the creatures from the brush traded looks with each other. For a moment, the five shuffled back and seemed to waver over how they should respond. After a brief silence, one of the wild Druddigon broke the quiet with a low growl.

Not one of challenge or a threat, but of warning: that the guardians would not yield to visitors, strangers or otherwise, prowling their lands that day, and that they would not be persuaded to change their minds. That if the humans with her were really respectful unlike the intruders who had thrown their territory into disarray, that they would not challenge their wishes on this particular occasion, but would yield to them and accept them as they were.

The Druddigon’s head and wings drooped as she began to grow visibly downcast from her counterpart’s answer. And while the warning wasn't understood in their own words, Jane and John’s Pokémon were quick to attempt to nudge their trainers back up the path, and between that and the wild Druddigon and his companions’ piercing glares, the pair seemed to glean the broad strokes of his warning.

“... I think we should just back off for a while,” Jane said. “I don’t think the Pokémon here are ready for more visitors just yet.”

John paused, before joining in with a sighing shake of his head and tugging at his younger brother.

“Come on, James. We’ll come back sometime later. Maybe they’ll calm down a bit after they’ve had some time for things to settle down.”

With that, the Doe children hesitantly turned around and slunk off back for their home alongside their Pokémon, their Druddigon lingering uneasily and looking off back at the Pokémon in the brush before she followed along from the rear. Of the children, James was particularly shaken from their ordeal, and the entire walk home he murmured to himself over if they’d done something wrong.

Nobody was in a particularly good mood during the trek back, least of all their guide. The entire way back out of the forest, she could not help but cast hurt-looking glances back in the direction of the damaged tower poking over the trees. Wondering all the while if she had been there, whether or not she could have done anything that could’ve made a difference.

Life in the Doe family took another awkward turn a few days afterwards, when all of Unova discovered that the region’s legends had more truth to them than most, including John himself, had initially assumed. The Doe children once again huddled around the television watching the evening news, the newsfeed this time coming from Opelucid City, focusing on a young man with a black and white cap and long green hair on the screen.

A young man who used his time before the watching eyes of an entire region to tell them strange things. Unsettling things. To tell them that the bond between Pokémon and humans was a sham, a thin veneer for the creatures’ exploitation and enslavement by those who would call themselves their trainers.

On a normal day, one would dismiss such musings as the ramblings of some crank. Even more if the speaker openly fancied himself as holding a title such as a ‘Hero of Truth', as was found sometimes in legends.

But something important was different today, the green-haired man claimed to be in the good graces with a local deity who had found favor with his cause and merit to his message. A blessing from the gods that could be proven to all of Unova.

He lifted a hand up as the sound of a fierce, alien roar came from the television and the camera panned up to reveal something that made the children watching fall silent and the color drain from John’s face.

“... That’s. It- It can’t be.”

It was the form of a towering white dragon with piercing blue eyes and wispy fur. The same dragon whose image graced the shirt that John had received from Carol all those years ago. Reshiram, Lord of Truth and Dragon of Vast White. The one and the same that according to legend rains fiery judgment on lands consumed with greed that spurn the truth. Lands that if the man’s charges held true, included Unova itself.

There, standing in the flesh for all of Unova to see.

The room sat in stunned silence at the images on the television. Jane was only marginally less stunned than her elder brother, but was still coherent enough to break the quiet by murmuring out in stunned awe.

“It’s- It’s the dragon...” she said. “It really was real all this time.”

The family’s Druddigon happened to be watching the newscast alongside the children that evening, and stared at the screen with a dumbstruck awe. She went up, pawing at the image of the white dragon as the camera panned back and the green-haired man continued to speak. All the while, James had turned away from the television, and cast his glance towards the floor visibly troubled.

“M-Maybe... Maybe we’ve also been wrong about other things too,” he murmured.

Even under more normal circumstances, John wasn’t the type to take pressure well. So when he saw the green-haired man on the television with the dragon of legend harp on about how the way people like him lived with their Pokémon was morally reprehensible and heard his own brother start to echo him... he just couldn’t keep himself from lashing out.

“Don’t listen to that garbage from the television, James!” he snapped. “What on earth does that bozo know?!”

Jane had always been the most level-headed of the Doe children, and after a moment’s pause, she shook her head and turned back to her younger sibling. No matter what the man felt about how people lived alongside Pokémon, the horrid vision he was describing surely didn’t describe them. And maybe James just needed a reminder of that.

“Anyone can make such bold statements with strong friends at their back,” the sister insisted. “How do you know that he’s even telling the truth? Let alone that the Pokémon with him understands what he’s saying?”

Jane’s attempt at reassuring her younger brother failed to soothe his doubts. The entire time, James sat in gloomy silence, occasionally casting guilty-looking glances at the Pokémon in the room with him. John and Jane opted to turn the television off not long afterwards, quietly grateful that the family Mienshao hadn’t been in the room for the broadcast that night. The children tried to get their minds off on other things, but the whole evening afterwards, James just remained in an unsettled, haunted state from the newscast.

I’ll admit, I can understand why that moment was so conflicting for him. It’s not every day that a being of legend said to be a deity suddenly comes back and takes the side of someone who claims that everything about your way of life is wrong. Any good-natured person would stop and hesitate after a moment like that.

And when you’re young and rash, those are exactly the sorts of moments that leave you with jumbled-up feelings that make you prone to doing stupid things that you’ll come to regret.

That night, after everyone fell asleep, James snuck out of his family’s house and made the trek up north towards Dragonspiral Tower along with two Pokéballs belonging to his father. From what I’ve heard afterwards, he apparently originally had planned to try and take his siblings' along as well, but lost his nerve at the last moment and opted to go back for them some other time.

The boy made his way north of the town, hugging the more commonly traveled paths in order to avoid encountering Pokémon in the brush. After making his way far enough on one of the paths, he stopped, and tapped the center of the two Pokéballs to let the Pokémon inside them out.

I don’t know if anyone else was there to see him, but if there were, they would have seen the forms of a Druddigon and Mienshao materializing afterwards. The pair groggily stirred and stretched when they realized they weren't in the Doe family’s house, but under the light of the moon and stars with trees and tall grass about them.

“... Mien?”


The pair looked back at James and saw he was wide-eyed and panting, evidently tense and anxious from a long journey. The Druddigon felt a chill in the air, and gave a frustrated scowl. She wondered what would’ve compelled the boy to seek their guidance at this hour in such intolerable weather, only to realize the three of them were at the edge of the forest that ringed Dragonspiral Tower.

The Drudiggon hesitated and glanced off at the Mienshao, wondering if he knew something about why James had dragged them off to go back to the forests around their old home at that unholy hour. She immediately sensed something wrong from her mentor’s reaction.

The Mienshao seemed every bit as confused as her, and for some reason he was strangely worried. Stranger still, John and Jane weren’t present as they normally were for such outings. The Druddigon looked all around but it was just them and James alone on that path that night.

“... You’re home again,” James muttered. “Go back.”

The Druddigon blinked, unsure what to make of the boy’s words. Even if James had grown quite a bit in the past four years, he didn't seem to want to head into the forests at this hour, and even seemed a bit frightened to be on his own in the dark. So then why had he come? Especially all by himself?

“Druddi... Gon?”

James lowered his head and looked away, visibly gulping back a lump in his throat as he raised his voice again.

“Why are you two just standing here still?!” the boy insisted. “This is where you belong! Where you’re meant to be! So go back and be happy without us already!”

The Mienshao, sensing that something was very, very amiss with the boy and his behavior, reached out to attempt to reassure him by patting him with his wispy-furred paws. It was a gesture that had brought James comfort in the past, the very reassurance the Fighting-type had used after the boy fell off his bike when he was younger, and on days when he came home upset from school.

Except, this time, it didn’t bring the reassurance the Mienshao expected. Instead, James flinched and shoved the creature's paw away, much to the Mienshao’s shock and the Druddigon’s alarm. The boy rubbed at his eyes, before spitting up frustrated words in a choking voice.

“Why are you doing this to me?! Don’t you understand?! I don’t want to push you around anymore! And you shouldn’t want me or anyone else to do it either!” the boy cried. “We really don’t have any right to use you like this! We can’t even understand each other! How could you ever be happy with us when we can’t even manage that?!”

The Druddigon watched her mentor backpedal, the Fighting-Type unnerved by how his attempt at reassuring James had seemingly only served to worsen his mood. The Druddigon was bewildered by why the boy could be so upset, and she couldn't help but feel as if the tone of his voice sounded familiar. It reminded her of the same worry and anger in the voices of the local Pokémon just a few days before, with the same confused and bewildered sense of hurt lingering in it.

The Mienshao and Druddigon exchanged a brief glance. Had the two of them wronged him somehow? Had they done something to betray him?

The Druddigon couldn't think of anything they’d done that would upset him to this extent. And judging from her mentor’s startled expression, the Mienshao couldn’t think of anything himself.

She reflexively tried to speak to the boy only to freeze after realizing that her words were flying over his head. If only there was something she could do to tell him that if something was wrong, that she'd never have done it deliberately. That whatever had put him in such a mood, that she was there to help him with it. That she was still the same Pokémon that had grown up alongside him since that first Christmas they spent together...

When it suddenly occurred to her… that maybe there was a way to let him know. In a way that he would be sure to understand.


The Dragon-type leaned in towards the boy, and suddenly pulled him into a tight embrace. James yelped and squirmed frightenedly against the Dragon-type’s grip, only to pause after noticing that she was nuzzling at his chest. The Druddigon continued on for a few moments, before stopping and looking up at him, giving a worried glance with her yellow eyes up at the young boy staring blankly back at her.

A light seemed to go off in James’ eyes as he took in the Druddigon’s gesture. At last, he realized that contrary to his initial fears of her being angry… that she was worried about him.

Memories of their life together from the prior years came flooding back. The first winter playing together in the house, the first trips about the neighborhood, the first treks towards Dragonspiral Tower… The first days after the Vernes moved in next door, and the years that had passed as they and the world around them grew up together.

The Druddigon had been there for all of that. It was then that James began to realize that in spite of what the man on the television offered up as truth, he’d overlooked the simpler one in front of his eyes the entire time. The two Pokémon could’ve genuinely wanted to be with him and share their lives, and that maybe… just maybe, he wasn’t as powerless to understand the two as he had thought.

“S-Sorry, Neela... I’ve- I’ve been such an idiot.”

A few tears began to dribble from James' eyes, prompting the Mienshao to warily come up and pat at the boy’s shoulder and whisper reassurances in his tongue. With a low sniffle, the boy finally reciprocated the Druddigon's embrace, just in time for the first rays of the coming morning sun to come peeking over the horizon and shine their light onto a brand-new day.

I suppose other storytellers might cut things off here. It’s a nice, if kinda sappy ending, after all. Especially since there was a whole clash of Truth and Ideals that came not long afterwards that brought things to a relatively nice resolution. But I’m sure you’ve already heard versions of that story told to death by now, and it’s not exactly the story of the family that I knew anyways.

Besides, a life story usually doesn’t end right at a big climax. Well, not unless yours is a tragedy, anyways. There’s a bit more to the Doe family’s story that happened after that whole business with the ‘Hero of Truth’ all blew over and the shock of everything that happened began to fade in Unova. But it probably makes sense to save that for another time. After all, I think I’ve done enough to make you misty-eyed for now.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 6: All Grown Up

When I tell these stories to others, I sometimes get asked why there are more to tell after the last one I told you. Perhaps it’s my own experiences biasing me, but I just never have understood where that question comes from.

After all, life's a continuous journey about learning things even after big standout moments, and the Doe family didn’t exactly stop growing and changing after that tumultuous autumn. Even after coming of age, there were still a few awkward phases of life that awaited the Does and the companions they shared their little house on the outskirts of Icirrus with.

One of those times came when they had to see the nest empty a bit. John and Jane were both coming of age at the time the whole flap with the “reawakening Pokémon of legend” episode happened. Or the first one, anyways. And so the summer afterwards, when the shock of the events largely faded from everyone’s minds, it came time for the Does’ eldest son to set out on a journey away from home again.

Not to try his luck with the League, he’d given up on that dream well before then. Instead, John’s journey would take him out into another type of school called a ‘college’. I… admittedly don’t fully understand what the big deal with them is for humans. It’s apparently some sort of place where humans learn skills that normal schools don’t teach them, and a space for them to make brash, hardheaded mistakes to look back on and laugh about for the rest of their lives.

Whatever the story, it seems that the skills they teach are required for some of those ‘jobs’ that humans have, with John setting up to learn the skills of ‘Materials Engineering’, a study that is apparently similar to the ancient wisdom that helped the ancients put together Dragonspiral Tower in their day. The only catch to this training was that it would be long and away from home, so John would have to depart to a place far away enough from home that he wouldn’t be able to come home and sleep under the same roof as the rest of the family at night.

The Druddigon had only belatedly come to the realization, so she had been caught off-guard when it came time for the Doe family to gather and see John off at Mistralton City's airport. When the fated day came, everyone had gathered in the terminal’s entrance hall as a cloud of lingering tension hung in the air...

“Take care out there, John.”

Mrs. Doe, with her head now full of gray hair pulled her son into an embrace. John’s Pokémon, now a Scolipede and Stoutland stooped down for Jane and James to give parting pats, and traded chatter and idle jokes with Jane’s Marowak and Sawsbuck in front of the security gate. The last portion of the airport in which Pokémon could be kept out alongside their trainers.

The whole family had gathered for the occasion, since it would be months, if not longer until John and his Pokémon would return. The Druddigon watched as Mr. Doe pulled his elder son into an embrace, and then his Meinshao walked up as John patted his head, now old and tall enough to loom over the Fighting-type.

All the while, the Druddigon hung back and held an uneasy stare at the elder son.

She and the other Pokémon of the household had pieced together that the elder brother would not be around anywhere near as frequently as they’d been used to. They were no strangers to the idea of young leaving the nest… mostly, anyways. The Druddigon for her part had grown up in a world where ‘leaving the nest’ for young of her kind merely meant staking out a den of one’s own somewhere else in the tower or the forests and hills about it.

But even without the surprise of discovering that human young drifted away from their dens like Pokémon, the Druddigon couldn’t help but worry a bit at the sight of Mrs. Doe’s eyes misting up a bit, and found herself pawing at her own. Sudden changes of temperature from going from outdoors to indoors and all that. Mr. Doe kept his composure a bit better as he joined his spouse, patting at his elder son’s shoulder and giving a knowing smile.

“Good luck, John. Just don’t go too crazy out there, alright? We’re expecting you home in one piece for the holidays!”

Mr. and Mrs. Doe let go of their son, stepping aside for Jane to come up and bid her elder brother farewell on her own terms. For all her past squabbles with John, she seemed hesitant to be so suddenly parted from him. She had a more amicable tone to her voice that day, if one that still carried a teasing hint to it.

“Yeah John, we’ll find out if you run scaring off girls with that Scolipede of yours!”

John rolled his eyes and smiled back, pulling his sister into a hug of her own. The pair lingered briefly before Jane stepped aside, and James made his way forward, now wearing a somewhat worn shirt with a white dragon design on it that had been handed down and looked up at his older brother.

“You’ll give me tips for challenging the League next time, right?” James asked. “I’ll have a starter by then, and I’d like to have something to show off to you from Trainer’s Leave.”

John’s Pokémon traded dubious frowns with one another at the younger brother’s remark. John for his part, couldn’t help but give a bemused smile before shaking his head back to his younger sibling.

“Might want to bug Jane about that first,” he said. “I’ll see what I can do, though she’ll be around more often to talk your ear off than I will for the next few years.

John gave a playful nudge at James’ shoulder, before reaching for a pair of Pokéballs and recalling his Scolipede and Stoutland. The Druddigon watched as the pair vanished into red light and were sucked into the orbs, as John grabbed onto a small suitcase and glanced off deeper into the terminal before looking back at his younger brother.

“I can’t wait to see what sort of Pokémon you’ll pick as a partner, James,” he said. “Though I guess I should get going. After all, I’ve barely got an hour to make it to my gate-”


Before the elder son could leave, he was cut off by the family Druddigon darting up to him and pulling the boy into a tight embrace. The Druddigon made an appeal in her own tongue, that a creature as young as John surely didn’t need to go off so far away from a perfectly fine den. Not this soon! There was warmth and precious baubles waiting for him back at his family’s home.

Couldn’t he wait a year or two? Maybe more?

The Dragon-type was cut off by her Mienshao mentor tugging at her, and quietly admonishing that they needed to leave the young man alone. The Dragon-type hesitated a moment, before flattening her wings and drooping. John blinked surprisedly for a moment, and then cupped his hand under the Dragon-type’s chin and gave it a small scratch, along with a small smile.

“Yeah, I’m gonna miss you too, Neela,” he said.

The Dragon-type remained wordless for a moment, before she let out a quiet growl in reply and shuffled into the elder son’s arms. The same son she’d helped win his hometown Gym’s Freeze Badge for, who was now a grown man and hugging her back, patting softly at her crest.

“Just look out for James while I’m gone, alright?” he insisted. “We’ll meet each other again sooner than you know it, I promise.

Now time is like the sun in the sky, always moving forward in one direction. Sometimes it comes and goes in ways that feel eerily familiar to a prior occasion, but it never reverses. The same held true for James the following year. As seasons in his life that in years past felt like they were always just another year off, just another season away, finally arrived.

The spring after John left for college, the snow once again melted away for the first buds of spring and the air began to warm, enough so that the outside weather became tolerably crisp and cool for the Druddigon.

I suppose it shouldn’t be so surprising that such weather marks the spring of Pokémon training for many a human child in Unova. After all, if we Pokémon find it a good season to begin new lives, it would make sense that humans would find it a fitting season to start new endeavors of their own, too.

And that year, it was finally James’ turn to get a starter of his own. Much like James and Jane, James’ first instinct upon obtaining his first Pokémon was to show it off to his parents. And the first of them he happened to come across that day was his mother tending a houseplant in the living room. Much as John and Jane had done many years before him, he sauntered forward beaming with pride, passing the family’s Druddigon as she sunned herself and waved at his mother, still grasping onto a device in his hand.

“Mom! Mom! I finally got my starter!”

Mrs. Doe hesitated a moment and reluctantly turned from the houseplant towards her son. She quietly sucked in a breath, bracing herself for whatever dreadful choice for a starter James could’ve opted for. After how much of a handful John and Jane’s starters had been in the house at first, she had all but resigned herself to the idea that her children just had a habit of biting off more than they could chew for their first Pokémon. The woman let out a quiet sigh and opened her mouth to speak up. After all, it wouldn’t do any good to just delay the inevitable forever.

“So what sort of Pokémon did you ge-?”


Much to her surprise, she was answered by the green, serpentine form of a Snivy tugging at her leg with a pair of stubby arms. Mrs. Doe glanced off at James’ Pokéball and noticed that his was still mounted on a belt around his waist—a gift he’d gotten from the prior Christmas. It was a subtle detail, but it wasn’t something he would’ve have done if he were ready to let a Pokémon out from inside it to surprise her. It then dawned on her that there was a simple enough explanation for the apparent discrepancy: James had opted to let his Pokémon follow him home to familiarize himself with the surroundings.

I can’t speak for if the idea worked as well for James as he was expecting, but the Grass-type certainly wasn’t wanting for curiosity. The little snake nosed about, glancing at the surrounding furniture and carpeting in the living room, before tugging at Mrs. Doe some more and looking up curiously into her eyes. The serpent was unsure what to make of the elder human, who similarly glanced back down at him with a puzzled gaze.

Snivy weren’t a common sight around the hinterlands surrounding Icirrus City, and James hadn’t spent much time searching for a Pokémon. How did he get such a creature as his first companion, then? It was then that Mrs. Doe noticed that unlike John and Jane’s introductions of their Pokémon, there was something different about James’: the young man had something else with him that day, a small black and orange contraption that he held in his hand that almost resembled a music player.

“I signed up for a Pokédex!” he exclaimed. “Isn’t it awesome? And they gave me this Snivy to help me go around to see Pokémon and fill it with entries!”

Mrs. Doe looked back down at the Snivy, and back at her child. The Grass-type was one of those regional starters distributed by the likes of Professor Juniper. Creatures that had been bred and raised for the express purpose of accompanying novice trainers on their journeys through life. All that had been asked for in return was to help gather information and observations about the Pokémon that dwelt around Unova as a region, which given that I’m pretty sure most kids James’ age just fill in with things that they make up or else look up online from that ‘internet’ thing humans have, was probably an easy trade to make.

As for Mrs. Doe, she found herself sighing out of relief at James’ choice of starter. Even if part of her wished that her son hadn’t chosen the one that would grow into a serpent the size of her husband one day, he surely would not be any more of a handful than a Venipede or a Cubone to take care of...

The Snivy tugged at her some more, now more lightly, as if unsure of her response.

He had to be easier to live with. Hopefully.

“I think you chose a wonderful Pokémon, James,” she said. “I’m sure he’ll fit in right at home alongside the rest of our others.”

Mrs. Doe stooped down and patted the Snivy’s head, the Grass-type giving a flustered shift back. Apparently content with the gesture, the Snivy then went off to inspect the various pieces of furniture around the living room.

From over by the window, the family’s Druddigon got up from sunning herself and stopped to stare at the new arrival clambering and poking about. She gave a tilt of her head, unsure what to make of the creature. With James now having a starter of his own, a part of her wondered if her purpose as a den guardian to grow up alongside the Doe children had been completed now that they all had companions of their own.


If so, what was she to do now? She morosely tracked the wanderings of the Snivy, much as she had once tracked the wandering of a younger James in past years. She knew well that some Pokémon travel with humans for but a period of time, before returning to the lives they once lived. Was it time for her to return to the environs in and around Dragonspiral Tower that she hailed from?

She didn’t know if the idea sat well with her or not. But if she didn’t go back, what was she to do? Should she stay to continue helping Mr. and Mrs. Doe alongside her Mienshao mentor? They certainly weren’t getting any younger with time. But… the Mienshao didn’t seem like he particularly struggled with the task.

The Dragon-type had no answer to those questions; perhaps there simply wasn’t one that would satisfy her. After all, your purpose for being around isn’t always obvious, and it is often only with the benefit of hindsight that things eventually are made clear.

A lot of Pokémon find the way that humans change as they age to be a bit jarring. There are no sudden evolutions, just gradual changes that add up little by little, until one day you wake up and the human you know is now somebody completely different from how you first remembered them.

I guess that makes those changes all the more unsettling sometimes once you stop and notice them. It certainly was the case for Carol and her Haxorus.

The flow of time goes by for everybody, human and Pokémon alike. For some, a year is an eternity, and for others, it’s but the twinkling of an eye. But everyone experiences the twists and turns of life all the same, along with the ones of the lives of the others you know in the interim.

Unfortunately, sometimes those twists involve others you’ve gotten close to drifting away from you. The Does already lived through that together with John’s departure for college, and the following year they lived through it a second time when it came time for Carol to do much the same. She set off from their home across the fence line at the tail end of that summer, just a few months after James got his Snivy.

I suppose that it wouldn’t occur to a lot of others that an episode like that could stick out so much, especially coming on the heels just a couple of months after Opelucid City was caked over in ice by yet another dragon of legend. But sometimes, you manage to dodge the effects of one big upheaval, only to be blindsided by something smaller that hits closer at your heart.

The last few days before Carol first left have always particularly stuck out in my mind. The Does’ Druddigon had pieced together that she too would be departing much like John had, from her companions’ chatter and a bit of deduction.

She had tried to not let things get to her too much, but in spite of the seasonal warmth, she found herself short of will to do much other than just wile away the time gathering the sun in her wings in places like the porch’s front steps. In prior years, there might have been time spent playing with her teammates or with Carol's Haxorus. And in prior months, there had been many an afternoon spent lifting the Haxorus’ spirits in those unsettled days after the Boundary Pokémon powers threw his and his trainer’s old hometown into frigid upheaval.

And yet, that evening, there was nothing. The Druddigon lay there, staring off wistfully at the street Jane and James played with the data entries of James’ Pokédex.

"Wow... I had no idea that you'd be able to see this many Pokémon just by meeting other people around town," Jane murmured.

"Yeah... Still, I kinda wish I had more complete entries in here,” James sighed. “Why, if it weren't for you, dad, and the neighbors helping, I don't think I'd even have ten height and weight measurements in here!"

It was another one of those days where the wet heat in the air would suck away the drive to do anything out of anyone. Though then again, perhaps it was not just the weather's fault. After over a month’s separation from the tension and excitement of the region’s latest crisis, the region had returned to an equilibrium of sorts. John had left for his faraway college once again, and the house had grown quiet without the additional life that an extra person and two Pokémon added.

… And then there was the looming quiet that would come across the Vernes’ house next door in a few days. Carol would be moving out, and the Does’ family would only encounter them in brief snatches much like they now did with John. While the Druddigon had put up a brave face in front of her trainers, she couldn’t help but feel increasingly uneasy as the date of Carol’s departure neared:

For that would be the day where she’d surely take her Pokémon along with her. The axe-headed drake that the Druddigon had seen evolve from a once-timorous Axew into a proud and tall Haxorus. The same one who was always there to greet her on those morning trips about the yard, when it wasn’t too cold of course. Who had showed off his precious baubles to her, even if he’d grown more bashful about it with the years. Who she regaled with tales of the tower she once called home and the Pokémon of legend that once slept within in their tongue. Who had tried to lift her spirits when she was feeling down, and she in kind, including through much of the earlier part of that summer…

There was a lot of him in the Druddigon’s head and she wasn’t sure how she would react to no longer having him as a fixture of her neighborhood. Of her life. The way he had withdrawn as the time to leave approached hadn’t helped make things seem any less lonely.

“Jane! James!”

I suppose, in retrospect, nobody really knew how he’d react either, at least until that moment when Carol came hurrying up to the Does’ front porch. Jane and James looked up, thinking at first that Carol had come over for idle chatter much as she normally did. Even after growing into a young woman on the eve of leaving her family’s home much as John had, she remained a close friend. As had her Haxorus.

Except, from the nervous expression on her face and the absence of Carol’s Dragon-type, it was quickly apparent that something was wrong.

“Chopper didn’t happen to come by earlier to play with Neela, did he?”

Jane tilted her head, traded wary glances with James at the Verne girl’s question. James' Snivy had been amusing himself with a rock, when he stopped and looked up warily, sensing that something was amiss with both his trainer and his trainer’s sister. Even their Druddigon perked her head up, as she began to worry if something had happened to the neighbor drake..

“No? We haven’t seen Chopper at all today,” she said. “We figured that he was resting in his Pokéball since you said he’d been doing that a lot recently”

The Druddigon got up from sunning herself and anxiously glanced over at Carol, suddenly realizing that the whole day, she really hadn’t seen Carol’s Haxorus companion around. It was then that it dawned on the trainers as to a possible reason why Carol had come to them in such tense spirits.

“That’s the thing! I can’t find his Pokéball!” Carol exclaimed. “Mom and dad said that the last they saw of him was him sunbathing around noon, but I haven’t found any sign of him aside from a few tracks in the front yard!”

The Druddigon stiffened up and nervously beat her wings, turning a worried stare back at Carol after her mention of the Haxorus’ Pokéball being missing. Had someone snatched him? The Does and their companion watched as Carol hung her head and brought a hand up to her brow, looking down with a murmuring shake as she wondered aloud to herself.

“I just don’t understand. This isn’t like Chopper,” she said. “Did he run off? If he did, where could he have gone?”

The Druddigon gave a worried tilt of her head back at the young Dragon Tamer and walked over to the Vernes’ front lawn. Carol’s parents were readying their car, evidently ready to go and search the town for their daughter’s Pokémon. The Dragon-type gaped briefly at the sight, before looking down at the grass and spotting a few claw impressions.

He surely couldn’t have hidden that well with a pair of giant tusks on his face, and yet there was no sign of him anywhere nearby beyond those impressions. Sight alone wouldn’t be enough to find him, prompting her to crouch and sniff at the ground.

The Druddigon caught a faint hint of the Haxorus’ scent, and followed it along briefly as Jane, James, and Carol stared and followed after her. She went ahead a ways when she realized that the Haxorus had gone on a southern course and looked up, where she saw one of the city’s windmills in the distance, and at once shot up and tugged at Carol’s sleeve to draw her attention.

“Gon! Druddigon!”

Carol blinked at the sight of the windmill, before realizing that it was the very same one she’d first visited together with the Does and their companions all those years ago. It was a long shot to be trusting the hunch of a Pokémon without fully understanding her words, but somehow, she didn’t feel disinclined to disagree with her.

“Eh? You think Chopper’s there?” she asked. “I mean, I suppose we can try it, at least…”

One of the things that everyone learned that day was that it's not so much drifting away that is the most difficult part of growing apart from friends. It's having to say goodbye to them.

Much as they had years earlier, Jane and James once again led Carol back into the noisy interior of the southern windmill they’d first introduced her to when she moved to Icirrus City. This time, it was the guidance of the Doe’s Druddigon which brought the three to the place, as she led the way forward, stopping every now and then to check for some sign of the Haxorus’ presence before continuing on.

Jane had brought her own Pokémon along to help search on that occasion, and after entering the windmill, her Marowak quickly discovered a small red-and-white Pokéball thrown in a corner. They found it marred with fresh scratches and dings, with a quick check at the bottom where it had been marked with Carol’s initials evidencing that it was…

“Ah! That’s Chopper’s Pokéball!” Carol exclaimed.

“Yeah, but what’s it doing here?” James asked.

The sound of a muffled voice coming from above turned their gaze upwards as the Does’ Druddigon hurriedly darted ahead. A few moments later, she led them back to the same stairs up to the loft overlooking the city that she and the Haxorus once snuck up to, which went silent as they approached.

The Druddigon stopped and called out at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for a reply that didn’t come. She hesitated briefly, only for the sound of a faint sniffle to prick the party’s ears, and prompt them to trade worried glances.

“Sounds like that’s him,” Jane remarked. “I hope Chopper didn’t hurt himself while running off.”

Jane and James recalled their Pokémon to climb the ladder, and were about to do the same with the Druddigon only for her to pre-empt them and hurry up on her own, much to James’ spluttering protest.

“Hey! Neela! Wait up!”

One after the other, the three youngsters made their way up the familiar stairs after their Druddigon companion. She reached the top first, and then the rest of them followed, where there they saw him. Carol’s Haxorus, no longer small or timid, looking out over a panorama of Icirrus City.


“There you are!” Carol exclaimed. “What do you think you’re doing running off like that, Chopper? You had me worried sick! Mom and dad are looking for you around town right now-!”

The Haxorus quaked slightly and sniffled. He turned his head back and shrank away, his voice hitching and cracking. Seeing this reaction, the young woman trailed off. Much to her and her companions’ concern, as they drew nearer, they began to notice large drops leaking from his eyes and down his face and tusks.

“... Chopper? What’s wrong?”

I’m still not sure what exactly his plan was back then. My guess is that the Haxorus had thought about wrecking his Pokéball so as to release himself, but didn’t have the heart to go through with it. That’d explain the damage on it, as well as why the kids found it near him.

Perhaps he didn’t have all that much of a plan. After all, Pokémon, like humans, can do some rash things when they’re emotional.


The Haxorus certainly wasn’t lacking on that front that day.

Jane and James hung back and watched as Carol stepped forward to try and console her Pokémon to no avail. After a moment’s hesitation, James watched his family’s Druddigon draw near and approach as Carol attempted to soothe her Haxorus.

“Chopper, please don’t cry...”

Carol began to wipe away some tears from the Dragon-type’s eyes, and was taken aback along with the Does at his reaction. The Haxorus shrank back, his eyes filled with a timidity and pitiful lack of self-confidence that the three had not seen from him for years, not even in the wake of Team Plasma’s attack on Opelucid earlier in the summer. The neighbor girl hesitated before leaning in and patting her now fully-grown Pokémon, attempting to reassure him with a reassuring stroke at his neck:

“I… I know that it’s hard parting ways,” she said. “But I’m sure we’ll meet Jane and James again.”


The Haxorus wrenched himself away from his trainer and ran over to the Druddigon. The Druddigon flinched for a moment before she felt the Dragon-type pull her into an embrace and cling tight, bringing his head in over her shoulder as he let out bitter sobs.

The Druddigon stood there for a moment, her own eyes turning damp as she nuzzled his chest and wrapped her own arms around him in return. The Haxorus began to calm and quietly sniffle as the pair stood there in front of their trainers. The three youngsters looked on dumbly for a moment, as Carol, beginning to realize that her Pokémon’s feelings were going beyond mere jitters over leaving home, stepped forward with a quiet shake of her head.

“You… You don’t want to be apart from her, do you?”

The Haxorus nodded back plaintively, leaving Carol to pause for what seemed like an eternity. She too must have wished for a way to give everyone what they wanted, as impossible as it was. She then offered what little she could as compensation.

“... If it's okay with Mr. and Mrs. Doe, we can arrange for you to come over for an evening here or there,” she offered. “I mean, the PC system should allow for that, right? But you know that I’m not able to just leave you at home… or at least not right now.”

Carol displayed the Haxorus’ Pokéball back at him and held it out. The Haxorus stared at it briefly, before turning his head away with a vaguely ashamed hang of his head.

“After all, if you really didn’t still want me to be your trainer, you would have done more than just scratch this up a bit, wouldn’t you?” she asked. “It wouldn’t have been hard for a Pokémon like you to crush it.”

The Haxorus let out a low whine and closed his eyes, the neighbor girl going up and stroking his armored neck with a low sigh.

“I… I know it’s a lot for me to ask of you as your trainer. To make you choose between friends like this,” she murmured. “If it would help, though… Maybe I can do something to try and make things easier? Maybe you could spend the next few days together with Neela? If Jane and James are okay with it, that is.”

The Haxorus still sniffled, though he began to calm down as a faint glimmer of self-confidence returned to his eyes. The Druddigon peered over at the two children from her household. Jane and James blinked for a moment, before one after the other they shook their heads back and spoke up.

“I think mom and dad would understand,” Jane said. “Come and stay over a while before you leave if that’s what you want.”

“Yeah, we’d always be happy to have you over, Chopper...” James added.

The Haxorus let go of the Druddigon, finally coaxed from his despair enough to give a thankful, if still sniffling, bow back. Jane looked on between the two Dragon-types for a moment, before pausing and speaking up to them.

“Just make the most of this time you have together alright?” Jane insisted. “Don’t leave anything behind to regret. Do whatever it is you two want to before it’s time to say goodbye.”

It was a bittersweet time, with both happy and mirthful moments mixing side-by-side. And yet, in the midst of painful changes, little bundles of joy are sometimes seeded in their wake. Not that that would be apparent until a few weeks after Carol and her Haxorus headed off from home.

Though I think I’ll save that story for another time. I’ve been rambling for a while already, and the story of how those aforementioned bundles of joy came along is quite a tale in and of itself.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 7: New Life

Little did Jane and James know it, but during the final few days before Carol and her Haxorus left for college, their family’s Druddigon and the neighbor’s drake followed through on their advice to make the most of their time together. The two would abscond with each other, vanishing away into quiet places for long stretches of time, with the seldom-used basement of their house being a particularly favored haunt.

The day Carol came to collect her Haxorus and leave was a fraught one, as even with a few days to steel and prepare themselves, the two dragons still found that their parting hurt. The Druddigon slunk back to the basement after the farewell in low spirits, and after hearing the sound of low, mournful cries, the Does opted to leave her to sort out her feelings instead of recalling her to her Pokéball.

Which little did they know it, were the harbinger of an end of one chapter of life in the little house on the outskirts of Icirrus City, and a beginning to new ones yet to come.

The Does grew worried after the Druddigon passed the entire day in the darkened space, and when they came to check on her, they saw nothing but her curled up and looking away on the floor next to a set of cardboard boxes opposite the washer and dryer. By the following day, it immediately became apparent that something was amiss.

Deep into the morning, around the time when the household’s Druddigon would be deep in her normal fall routine of sponging warmth from around the house, she still had not emerged from the basement. Stranger still, a number of blankets and towels from the house’s closets had mysteriously gone missing. They had disappeared with signs of being seized hurriedly and clumsily, with all trails leading Jane and James down into the basement.

“Neela? Are you there?”

Jane’s voice sailed out into the basement, which was dimly lit aside from a few windows near the space’s wall that faced the backyard. The girl made her way down a set of creaking steps and reached for an exposed lightbulb, tugging a string to bathe the room in light. At once, she and her brother spotted their Druddigon, perched on the missing blankets and towels and curling her body around a pair of strange blue and red objects with banded patterns much like the ruff of her head crest.

James blinked as he approached the Dragon-type. It took him a bit longer to realize than he’d probably have cared to admit afterwards, but as he drew near and had a chance to observe the objects more closely, the Drudiggon's strange behavior suddenly began to make more sense to him.

“She’s got... eggs?” he asked.

Jane blinked at the sight of the eggs, as her mind turned back to the final days the Haxorus and Druddigon had spent together before Carol’s departure. The two had largely spent the time to themselves and away from others. She’d wondered back then what exactly the two had been up to, though the eggs left little room for doubt...

“... Oh... So that's why they kept avoiding us right before Carol and Chopper left,” she murmured.

James cocked a brow as he put two and two together about what the family Druddigon had gotten up to with Carol’s Haxorus, and shook his head as he stooped down to examine the Druddigon’s eggs.

“Er… well you can’t say they didn’t make the most of their time together-”


Much to James' shock, the Druddigon sharply slapped his hand away and rebuffed him with a loud roar. The boy instinctively recoiled and tumbled back, staring in wide-eyed shock as he stammered back at the Dragon-type in protest.

“Gah! Neela! Wh-What’s gotten into you?!”

Jane stepped forward as the Druddigon continued to growl and sharply glared, dead set on not letting the space about her eggs be violated. The girl wasn’t fully sure, but the behavior reminded her of ones she’d read about in books that dealt with other Pokémon. Was this their Druddigon’s way of telling them she needed privacy at the moment?

Jane paused briefly, before helping her brother up and tugging at his shoulder. There was no sense in trying to antagonize a close companion like this. And she was reasonably sure she already knew what had “gotten into” their Druddigon.

“James, I think she’s brooding,” she said. “Pokémon that do that don’t like being imposed on.”

James blinked and eyed the Druddigon, who had calmed from her earlier outburst, but still shot a stern scowl back up at him. The brother sighed and shook his head, before turning to his sister with a quiet frown.

“So what are we supposed to do then?” he asked. “Just leave her like this until her eggs hatch?”

“Well, yeah,” Jane replied. “It’s Neela’s instinct to try and protect them. There’s no sense in getting on the wrong side of it.”

The mother Druddigon looked up, before curling around tighter about her clutch. Jane sighed, before slipping off from the room. James looked after his sister with a puzzled tilt of her head, as she came back with a spare blanket and approached the mother Druddigon.

The Dragon-type tensed up as Jane drew near, only for the girl to drape the blanket over her and her eggs. The Druddigon blinked for a moment, before letting out a low rumble and adjusting it over her body. James raised a brow at his sister, prompting her to shake her head back.

“Just let Neela take things at her own pace, James,” Jane insisted. “Whenever she’s ready, I’m sure she’ll share those eggs with us.”

And she would in due time. Though that coming to that ‘whenever she’s ready’ proved to be quite the saga in its own right.

The period in which life is seeded but not yet formed can be a strange and disorienting time. One in which those who experience motherhood find themselves tugged in conflicting directions by desires and urges from deep inside of themselves. Including by ones that they never knew they had.

At the same time, some things in life simply can’t be rushed, and the hatching cycle of a Pokémon’s egg is one of them. There are tools that humans have that can help it along, such as those ‘incubators’ can keep an egg constantly warm. Supposedly some of them are even built in mind for moving eggs around safely.


Though even if the Doe family had had one back then, I’m not sure the Druddigon would’ve accepted her eggs being parted from her. Or at least not at the time. After all, Pokémon are in many ways creatures of instinct, and a dragon in particular can be quite stubborn about them.

That stubbornness was certainly reflected in the Druddigon’s choices. She had chosen to take sanctuary in the basement in the first place precisely because it appealed to her instincts: it was a dark and secluded place where her eggs would be sheltered from the elements, and her eyes would be advantaged over any who would bring them harm. Much like they would have been the case in a cave in the mountains, or in the dens that her kind fashioned in and around Dragonspiral Tower.

Like her counterparts, she dutifully curled around her little blue and red treasures, parting grudgingly from them only for brief snatches to tend to herself or to hurriedly fetch a few items to make her vigil more comfortable: a marble here or there from her treasure hoard, or an unwatched towel or blanket to line her nest. As the days became weeks, the basement gradually became a place that was hers, and everyone in the Doe household—both human and Pokémon came to acknowledge it.


And yet, it wasn’t quite a natural den, as the hum of the washer and dryer in the background reminded her, along with the faint, damp chill she felt in the air. The Doe family had helped with the racket of their metal box contraptions for their laundry, as a few loud protests from her quickly tipped them off to run them during the day when their humming and rumbling wouldn’t disturb her rest. As for the chill… she wasn’t sure there was anything that could be done. From the squat windows facing the backyard near the basement’s ceiling, she’d been able to see the leaves drift off the trees all through the fall.

Except they’d stopped doing so for about a week. Given the season, it was almost certainly because there simply weren’t any more of them left to fall off the trees. The sight made a few doubts flicker over the Druddigon’s mind over her choice of nest, only for cursory thoughts to steer her away from them.

It couldn’t have been too bad a call, in her eyes: even though the living room by the fireplace would’ve been the warmest place to nest, it was far too exposed. John’s room was too bright, and even if it was unused right then, he would surely be back to claim it as his den when he returned in mid-winter. One simply did not steal the den of an ally one made cause with like the burrow of some Excadrill, and in the world she was born in, doing so was a quick way to mark oneself as undependable and untrustworthy. She could only imagine how much more of a black mark it would be on her to do the same to a close companion. Surely there was no need for things to come to that, especially when the others had all but yielded the basement to her…


Mostly, anyways. They and their Pokémon still popped down in brief snatches here and there, and today it was James’ Snivy who came before her. The Grass-type had always been the curious sort, nosing about his surroundings to see what he could discover in various nooks and crannies.

“Snivy! Snivy-!”

And being a younger Pokémon, he was all too eager to try and drag others along into his adventures. The Grass Snake Pokémon proudly sauntered in front of the nesting Druddigon and bade her to rise, asking in his tongue if she would play with him. After all, being cooped up in the basement for most of the past few weeks was surely growing tedious for her.


As good-natured as the Snivy’s offer was, it went wholly undesired, and the Druddigon fanned her wings and bared her fangs with an emphatic roar of rejection. The Snivy recoiled and squirmed for a moment, before motioning at the marbles about the nest and raising a voice in protest which seemed to do little more than to deepen the Dragon-type’s glare at him.


The Snivy trailed off after a lock of lavender fur brushed up against him, when he looked up and spotted Mr. Doe’s Mienshao. The Fighting-type tugged the Snivy along, explaining in his own words that now wasn’t the time to be badgering the brooding Druddigon over playtimes. That with a bit of patience, she’d be in the mood to go on adventures again before he knew it, along with new playmates more his size.

The Druddigon watched and scowled after the Snivy as he wavered briefly, before he grudgingly slunk back up the steps. The Mienshao stopped and lingered over the Druddigon for a moment, only to shake his head and follow along, quietly closing the basement door after him, and returning it to silence beyond the sounds of the washer and dryer.


Which was just fine by the Druddigon, as she shifted about her nest and spread a wing over her eggs, poking her head and claws out to idly nudge at her marbles in her newfound solitude.

Now Druddigon are no strangers to lingering in a place for a long time. Such patience helps them quietly lay in wait while hunting for prey, and perhaps it was that nature that encouraged the ancients to entrust them with watching over a shrine to great ones revered as gods in the first place.

At the same time, even the most faithful guardians eventually become worn down. Mere monotony is enough for some, which had begun to wear on the Druddigon after weeks of watching over her eggs in the basement. The entire time, her periods of separation from them were measured in minutes: ones that were usually tense and anxious with worry for their well-being.

But what really started to grind her down was the season.

As fall drug on into winter, the chill in the air became harder and harder for the Druddigon to ignore, as her body grew stiffer and more lethargic. Her eggs still remained warm to the touch, but with every passing day, it grew harder and harder just for her to get up and stretch her limbs, or to claim food from the upper levels of the house.


Worst of all, from the windows, she began to see the dreaded first flakes of snow of the season, which came early that winter. The Druddigon winced at the sight and let out a low whine, before pulling a blanket from her bedding over herself.

Perhaps it was the chill in the air weighing upon her, but she began to think that perhaps she should’ve claimed John’s room to nest in after all. Even if it wasn’t as dark as her present den, it would’ve been warmer, and she could’ve fashioned a nest there all the same. As for when John returned to claim it… surely he’d yield with a suitable show of determination, or after parting with some of her treasure as an offering.

A part of her felt ashamed for even considering the idea.

The sound of the basement door opening and footsteps coming down the steps hung in the air. The Druddigon wearily looked over to see a now much taller and older James approaching, alongside his older and grayer-headed father. She watched as they rooted through a stack of boxes in a corner, where they pulled out a tatty box with a picture of a worn pine tree on it.

It was the same fake tree made of plastic and wire they took out for Christmas every year and decorated with their own little hoard of baubles and treasures. In prior years, she’d even help the Does and her friends put some of those baubles onto it…

The Druddigon curled her head in against her eggs with a disappointed sigh. The tree and its treasures would still be there for her in the future. It was only just another year away…

“Do you think Neela’s doing alright, dad?”

The Druddigon blinked and raised her head at James’ voice, when she saw him stopped with one half of the Christmas tree box in his hands, looking over worriedly. Mr. Doe followed his gaze and lingered uneasily for a moment, before noticing the Druddigon was still stubbornly curled about her eggs.

“Neela knows her body better than we do, James,” he reassured, shaking his head. “If she needs help from us, she’ll ask for it on her own timing.”

The boy didn’t look fully convinced, and a part of the Druddigon hoped at the time that he would come and make a fuss over her. But with his earlier hostile encounter with her in mind, James decided against it, and made his way up the steps along with his father as the door creaked shut behind him.

And left the Druddigon behind. Alone.

She felt a shiver run through her body and pulled one of the blankets tighter over herself. It hadn’t occurred to her when she first began brooding, but as the winter crept in, she gradually realized that the most unnatural thing of all about her den wasn’t its materials, or its location, or even how her eggs were so deeply out of season…

It was how lonely it was.

Back in Dragonspiral Tower, her fellow Druddigon would begin to huddle together around this time of year when resting in their dens in and around its ruins. Their bodies would share warmth, and during particularly frigid spells, a more experienced den mate might warm the ground underneath by breathing a gout of dragonfire onto it.

Even if she didn’t have the confidence to watch over her eggs in such a crowded place, there would always be other eyes and claws to mind them in her absence. It was said that even the Druddigon that dwelt far away from Dragonspiral Tower would do such things. As their females would share their dens with their mates while brooding on eggs.

That way, they would be there to help guard them, and to be there for the hatchlings to see and recognize their parents during that time when Pokémon come to form their first bonds. The ones that in nature, are often the deepest in their early lives. ‘Imprinting’ is what humans call it, I think.

Except… her mate wasn’t there for her nest either.


The Druddigon looked over at a small heap of bedding set out beside her shoulder, still mussed and laden with her mate’s scent. The scent of Carol’s Haxorus. He’d come over a few times since Carol had gone to college, while Mr. Doe’s Mienshao would go off in his stead through those ‘PC’ machines. Usually it was just for an evening, sometimes it would be for as long as a couple days. Those visits had helped keep her spirits high, as having someone she could share her hopes and dreams with together in her own tongue had done wonders for taking her mind off the encroaching chill.

Except, during the past visit, her mate had glumly explained that he didn’t expect there would be another chance to come again until the spring. Carol would be spending her winter leave from college with her family, which that year, would be spent far away from their home across the fenceline. On top of it all, the strain of his trainer’s studies was wearing her down more than expected, and he and Carol’s family were growing worried for how she’d fare without someone looking out for her.

I suppose it would be hard to fault him for coming to such conclusions, and the Druddigon felt much the same, if grudgingly. After all, it was hardly right to demand the Haxorus to not be at his trainer’s side at a time of need. Not when she herself had been there to help the Does through their own troubled seasons.

But the Druddigon kept finding herself wondering why everything had to happen right then. During such an awful time of the year at that? Why if the Haxorus were there, surely his mere presence would help keep the basement a bit warmer…

Or even if it wouldn’t, at least it’d be a bit less lonely.


The Druddigon raised her head again as she heard a tapping noise against the concrete floor, and looked over to see that Jane’s Marowak had come down the steps and was batting her club against it for attention. The Ground-type kept a respectful berth, and eyed the Druddigon carefully, before pulling her arms in against her shoulders.


The Marowak shivered briefly and shot an exasperated look over, asking in her tongue how on earth the Druddigon could tolerate such temperatures. To which, she was answered in much the same fashion as when the Dragon-type first claimed her nest.


The Druddigon nosed at her eggs, and explained that it was for the sake of her young. The Marowak hesitated briefly, before motioning off at the stairs and the door beyond it. She insisted that she empathized with the Druddigon’s sense of sacrifice, that her own kind did much the same for their own eggs, sometimes even at the cost of their lives.

But that at the same time, part of that sacrifice meant knowing when to change course. That it would surely not get any warmer in the basement as winter set in, and that even if the prospect was frightening, it was for the best for the Druddigon to move her nest to a warmer corner of the house-


But the Dragon-type refused to hear it. She was the one who knew what her young needed for a den, and even if she hadn’t expected the basement to get so chilly, this was still the best place for her eggs to hatch. A point that she loudly emphasized back to the Marowak.

The bone lizard hesitated afterwards, before she sighed and made her way to the stairs. The Druddigon’s stubborn nature had won out in that argument and she keenly watched the Marowak make her way back up the steps and pull the door shut afterwards. The dragon then glanced off at the empty bedding set out for her mate and let out a low, sulking growl.

I’m not sure what it is that gives people and Pokémon the impulse to have the last word in an argument. But often, it proves unsatisfying even in victory. Much as it was back then for the Druddigon.

And much as it was once the winter snows came down in earnest and began to pile up outside the basement windows not even a week later.

“Drud… Druddigon…”

The Druddigon stared blankly at the snow drifts up against the windows that day and stiffened up as she felt one of her eggs rock against her stomach. A sign that her efforts hadn’t been in vain, even if she didn’t know how much longer they would suffice.

The chill in the basement had grown stronger in the past week, to the point where the Dragon-type had skipped a few meals because of how arduous the trek up and down the steps had become… along a few baths, as a casual sniff at the air evidenced. She was pretty sure that Druddigon weren’t normally supposed to smell as musky as she did that day. The Does had become increasingly worried for her during their journeys downstairs, and one time, James had even brought her Pokéball along. Whatever thoughts he had of recalling her were swiftly dispelled by a sharp growl of warning, but…


The Dragon-type looked at the door at the top of the steps longingly. She had expected the snows to come later in the month, when she would’ve had to endure these conditions for just a few days before hatching. A week at most. But faced with the prospect of multiple weeks of this chill, she found herself regretting that she hadn’t nested in a different part of the house.

Even the living room, as open and exposed as it was, would’ve been a more pleasant place than this. The Christmas tree would be set out at this time of year and decorated with its treasures for her to gaze at during her vigil. The fireplace would also be stoked, and its warmth would surely be healthier for her eggs.

The Druddigon gaped about her bedding and sank into it with a low whine. If only she had thought of that a few weeks earlier, when the air was warmer and she still had her strength…


The Druddigon craned her head up and saw the basement door was open and heard creaking footsteps. A glance over revealed her Mienshao mentor approaching and looking over her, before the Fighting-type leaned in with a worried twitch of his whiskers.

Mien… shao?

The Mienshao minded his distance from the Dragon-type’s eggs, before he explained in his own tongue to the Druddigon that as her mentor… as her friend, that he was worried for her. He could see as clear as day that she was wearing herself out with her vigil, and seemed to be picking a fight with things beyond her control. One she was increasingly losing.

While the Druddigon in the past might have raised her voice in protest, that day, she had little fight left in her to do much other than whine and curl up tighter. It was hard to admit the weasel didn’t have a point, but… what was she to do? She couldn’t move her nest. Not now. Not in her present state.

What was she to do on her own like this?

“Boy, you really let yourself go since I was last home, Neela…”

The steps down into the basement creaked again, as the Druddigon peeked past the Mienshao’s shoulder and spotted John and Jane making their way down, along with a tan bundle with a trailing white cord in the young woman’s hands.

The pair walked up to her, closer than she’d normally have allowed, and closer than a part of her still was comfortable with. The Druddigon moved a wing over her eggs and curled around them tighter. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them, but… those eggs were her treasures, more precious than a thousand of her marbles and other baubles from her collection. Even if there’d been some awkwardness since they came along, surely the children understood her caution by now, didn’t they?

The way that John and Jane hesitated seemed to indicate that they did. Jane stooped down in front of the Druddigon’s head, running a hand along her crest with a small smile.

“Sorry if we’re intruding on you, Neela,” Jane said. “Duke was worried about you, and honestly… so were we.”

Jane unfurled her bundle to reveal a thin-looking blanket with a cord that snaked off of it almost like a Patrat’s tail. Much like the one at the back of the television in the living room.

“I know you don’t want others bothering you, but we’re here for you,” the girl said. “Won’t you let us help?”

The Druddigon blinked and sniffed at the blanket warily. Was it safe? She remembered that back when James’ Scolipede was still a Venipede, he’d chewed through a set of cords that looked much like that one and gotten a nasty shock from it.

The Mienshao started to translate Jane’s words over, only for the Druddigon to growl for him to stop. She understood the girl well enough, she insisted, she just didn’t understand what the thin little rag was supposed to accomplish.

Jane leaned in and draped the blanket over the Druddigon’s body, stopping it just at the base of her wings. The dragon hesitated a moment and looked warily at her eggs, before reminding herself that as uncomfortable as the girl’s close presence was, Jane surely didn’t mean any harm.

John tugged the cord and snaked it out into the middle of the room, plugging it into another one that he repeated the process with until he reached a set of plugs along the far wall and slipped it in. The Druddigon stared for a moment, when after a brief pause, she felt a tingling sensation from the blanket.


The Druddigon lay there as she began to feel growing warmth flow along her hide from the blanket, and after a few minutes, increasingly through her body. It occurred to the Dragon-type that the blanket, despite how thin it looked, was the source of that warm feeling. Was the cord that plugged into the wall what gave it that strange power?

The Druddigon lay there and let out a content rumble from her throat. She gave a few curious sniffs at the blanket when her nose caught the scent of fresh bread. Her ears then picked up the sound of another set of footsteps entering the basement just afterwards. She looked over, and there was James, coming with a small plate laden with golden loaves.

“It’s been a while since I made these, but I figured it’d help keep your mind off the weather.”

James set the plate down, where the Druddigon saw that the loaves were shaped roughly like her head. Much like the ones the younger Doe brother used to make when he was younger, if looking closer to her likeness than she remembered. An adventurous bite revealed that the taste hadn’t changed much either: just like the taste they had in those simpler days when James was but a small little whelp with eyes full of wonder.

Then it dawned on her. Her nest didn’t have others of her kind to share it with, or a mate to help stand guard. But it was never as lonely as she thought it was.

The children must’ve thought she was a fool for so stubbornly pushing them away. Perhaps they were even upset with her right now. The Druddigon couldn’t help but feel her eyes mist up and sniffled a bit. She wished that they could understand her words, that she could explain that she never meant to come off as ungrateful and was just trying to watch over her young as best as she could.

Those doubts suddenly melted away after John cupped his fingers under the Druddigon’s chin and she felt a firm scratch through her scales. The dragon looked up, into the elder brother’s eyes, and saw he was smiling warmly down at her.

“You don’t have to face this alone, Neela. We’re here to look out for you just like you’ve done for us,” John insisted. “If you need a better place for your eggs, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

The Druddigon hesitated, before curling up with a low growl. She spoke up and gestured at the blanket, explaining in her tongue that such a big decision wasn’t one to be made while she was still regaining her bearings from the cold. She needed time to think things over, ideally a while after the corded blanket had warmed her up a bit.

As usual, most of her explanation went over the Does’ heads. But even without the tugging prod of Mr. Doe’s Mienshao, they seemed to gather that she wasn’t quite ready to accept their offer. And so, they made their way up the stairs and back into the house, this time leaving the door from the basement open behind them.

And the Druddigon lay there, eating from the small plate of loaves as she would occasionally glance up at the top of the steps, and then back at her eggs.

Moving a nest this late in year, this close to hatching was no small feat. One that most of her kind would hesitate to trust even their mates with…

And yet, about half a week later, after feeling the surrounding air grow increasingly chilly without her electric blanket, the Druddigon opted to take the leap of faith. James came down that day with a pair of cardboard boxes with cutout handles that had been lined with blankets and towels. The Dragon-type was dubious of the idea at first, and initially protested for the boy to let her carry her young in the safety of her arms.

Naturally, James understood little of her appeal. But between feeling the chilly air after removing the electric blanket and the softness of the boxes’ linings after an exploratory poke, the Druddigon quickly concluded that it was safer to leave her eggs in them. Just in case the unthinkable happened and one of them was dropped. After all, after seeing the way James slipped his hands into the cutouts along the sides of the box and how he lifted it, it seemed like a simple enough process.

“Drud… Drud…”

Even so, it took every ounce of the Druddigon’s willpower to make the climb up the steps and out of the basement. Every faltering step forward, every rock from the egg, every creak and groan of the wood underfoot made her stiffen up and wince internally. By the time she made it up the stairs and into the hallway, she hurriedly ducked aside and set the box down with a nervous whine as she softly ran a claw over her little treasure.

There were no cracks, and it still felt warm to the touch. It still rocked slightly from time to time, too. A sign that the little one within was almost ready to enter the world. She at once felt vulnerable and crouched over the box as a thousand doubts suddenly came over her.

Doubts of whether or not moving nests so close to hatching was good for her eggs. Doubts of whether or not she had unwittingly hurt them in the process. In the wilds, having young so far out of season risked stillbirth or a life cut short from elements that were harsh on young bodies. What if the same fate befell her own children?


The Druddigon felt a prod at her shoulder and glanced up. James looked down at her with his box by his feet and gave a reassuring pat, pointing off down the hallway.

“The new nest’s this way,” the boy insisted. “You were worried about the eggs staying warm, weren’t you? The sooner we get them moved, the sooner you can go back to watching over them.”

The dragon took a moment to steel herself. There was no sense in trusting James and his family this far only to turn back and retreat into that cold, damp basement. And so the Druddigon shook her head and picked up her box as she carefully inched her way down the hall and around the corner, through the kitchen, and into the living room where she abruptly froze.


There was the Christmas tree with its tinsel and ornaments as was normal for the season, along with the fireplace stoked and running in the background. But she could also see on the left side of the room, that the couch had been moved aside. In the empty space left behind, close enough to bask in the fireplace’s warmth and with a direct line of sight to the Christmas tree, was a cut-down box: one lined with blankets and with a few cushions thrown in for good measure. John and Jane were both there, all grown up and come of age, as were Mr. and Mrs. Doe, both now noticeably grayer than when they’d first entered the Druddigon’s life.

The Druddigon stood there in stunned silence for a moment, before the old man went up to her, and gave a reassuring pat at her crest

“I know that it’s not the sort of nest Druddigon normally like, Neela. But it’s still better than that basement, right?” the man asked, smiling at her. “If it’s not your cup of tea, we’ll move the box and try another room.”

The Druddigon stood there for a moment, before she noticed that James was no longer behind her. She stiffened up to attention, only to see the boy had already made his way over to the nest with her other egg and was waiting for her. The dragon shook her head and made her way over, still in a sense of unreality over the turn of events as she climbed into the gutted box and sat down on her new bedding…

Warm and soft. She couldn’t do much about how bright the room was, but with the Christmas tree and the soothing gleam of its treasures just across it, she was sure that she’d manage. The Does watched as she took the egg from her box, and carefully pulled it up against her belly, Mrs. Doe looking back to her husband with a knowing smile.

“I don’t think you’ll need to worry about that, dear,” she chuckled. “It looks like Neela’s taken a shine to things already.”

James set the other box down for Neela to claim it, as she shifted around and began to curl up about her unborn young. She attempted to pull a blanket from underneath to pull over her, having grown used to the feeling from her time in the basement, when she heard a voice call out from above.


There was her Mienshao mentor, holding the bundled-up electric blanket from the basement. He passed it over to John, who spread it over the resting Dragon-type and hurriedly plugged it in beside the Christmas lights as the Mienshao followed him and watched carefully, giving a small tug at it afterwards to make sure it was properly seated. The Druddigon blinked a few times as the Fighting-type sat at attention, and John walked up and patted the weasel’s head with a small chuckle.

“Heh, it’s been a while since Duke got a chance to be put to work as a guard,” John remarked. “He’ll be here to help keep an eye on things… if you want him to, anyways.”

The dragon hesitated a moment, before nosing at her eggs with a low growl. Even if it was a bit strange, she was hardly of the mind to refuse help right now. It wasn’t that alien of an experience to have Pokémon of the Mienshao’s sort linger near nests in her old home, and she wouldn’t mind his attention… so long as he kept his distance.


The Mienshao gave a bowing nod, before turning away as he stood guard. Much as he might have once done over a forest path or a corridor of Dragonspiral Tower when he was younger. The Druddigon settled in, as she watched the Does drift off one-by-one from over the rim of the box… with the exception of Mrs. Doe, who curiously was drawing nearer to her. The woman peeked over at the resting dragon, before she stooped down and ran a hand over the Druddigon’s scaly flank.

“I see it’s not just humans who find kids a handful,” the woman chuckled. “Just wait until they’re actually there alongside you.”

The Druddigon stiffened up and grimaced slightly. She didn’t consider her knowledge of human language strong, but she knew enough to know that Mrs. Doe implied that things would become more difficult after her children hatched. More difficult than her ordeal trying to fend off winter for the past few weeks?

Surely things wouldn’t be that bad, would they?

The Druddigon snapped back to attention after feeling Mrs. Doe adjust the electric blanket, before she gave a soft pet at her crest.

“Just take things one step at a time,” the woman insisted. “And remember, we’re there if you need help.”

Mrs. Doe got up and took her leave afterwards following her husband and children, and left the Druddigon behind with the Mienshao keeping watch. The dragon gaped over at the Christmas tree at the room’s other end, and felt her eyes begin to grow bleary.

Even if she knew that most of them wouldn’t understand it. Even if a part of her was still too proud to say it openly. She couldn’t help but breathe out a low thanks just as Mrs. Doe’s footsteps left the room.

“Druddi… gon…”

And yet, as painful and awkward as that season of life can be, it’s one that helps usher in wonderful things at its passing.

Now I’d love to say that the Druddigon’s eggs hatched on Christmas, since it’d be one of those sappy turns of events that brought things full circle and all that. But the day came and went, the presents under the tree were opened and the family spent its time together, but her eggs were not quite ready to enter the world.

And so the days began to drift by towards the end of the year, with the holidays’ ordeals having sapped the vitality of the household’s members, the Druddigon included. Enough so that after Christmas she’d ceased trying to shoo away the family’s prodding hands so long as they left her eggs be.

Perhaps she wouldn’t have done so even if it weren’t the holidays. She’d grown quietly thankful for the affection from the other members of the household, as well as being in a place away from the basement’s damp chill, where she could see the stars at night through the window much like she could on that one. And when Mr. Doe stooped down and ran his hand along her flank that evening, it made her give a tired, contented growl in reply.

“Heh. It’s amazing how much things change and yet stay the same, isn’t it, Neela?”

The Druddigon raised her head and gave a puzzled tilt along with a question in her tongue. She wasn’t sure how something could change and yet be the same, and was about to ask for an explanation when a faint crack and a soft cry rang out.

“Gon! Gon!”

Mr. Doe and his Druddigon companion glanced down at the egg, where at once they saw that one of them had a chunk of eggshell punched out that was now lying on the blankets underneath. The other was similarly beginning to give way, as the pair could see a small claw trying to poke its way through. James had heard the feeble cry from the other room, and hurriedly rushed in. There, he saw the eggs rocking and sprouting growing cracks, prompting him to hurry off and call up the stairs to his siblings.

“John! Jane! Come quick!” the boy cried. “Neela’s eggs are hatching!”

His elder siblings hurried down not long after, and arrived not a moment too soon. Right as John and Jane entered the room, small-but-pointed claws began to force their way through two sets of blue-and-red eggshells. A limb here, a small wing there, a tired and disoriented yellow eye poking through a hole...

Before long, the two hatchlings freed themselves from their confines and stumbled out. One after the other, they tumbled over onto the blanket underneath their eggs, damp and still sticky with amniotic fluid. And like any newborn creature, their first instincts were to cry out feebly for their mother.

“Drud! Druddigon!”

The mother Druddigon dutifully shifted over and drew her two children close to her. Much to her relief, they were both healthy, if tired, young males, as a proper sexing later would determine. Diminutive shadows of herself about the size of James’ Snivy that shared her red head, her blue hide, and her thorny wings. The Dragon-type moved her muzzle close to her children and stuck her tongue out to lick the two clean of the residue from their eggs, when Jane interrupted with a wave of her hand to stop.

“Hold on...”

The mother Druddigon tilted her head quizzically, unsure of just what the girl wished to offer when she watched her produce a pair of small white hand towels. The daughter reflexively reached for one of the hatchlings, but held back, looking back at the larger Dragon-type and waiting for her blessing.

“Won’t you let us help, Neela?” she asked. “We can dry them off a bit faster this way.”

The mother Druddigon tilted her head, and jealously curled around her children only to hesitate. After a brief pause where she studied the Doe children carefully, she relented and gave a quiet, but happy growl in reply. And so it was that she nudged her elder child towards the waiting girl’s arms.

Jane quickly enveloped the young Druddigon with the towel, the dragonlet squirming and protesting as the strange human caressed him and wiped the fluid off his scales.


After Jane finished up and set her towel aside to replace it with a fresh one, the hatchling hurriedly scampered back to his mother once freed from the strange white cloth and hid between her arms for safety. The mother gave her child a reassuring pat, before nudging her other child to be similarly cleaned. The second hatchling was a more of an impish type, and as Jane stooped down to clean him off, took the opportunity to jump up and latch onto a corner of the towel with his mouth. The young drake pulled and tugged against it, fussing with Jane as she tried to wrestle it back.

“Hey! Come on, you don’t want to eat a rag like that!”

But the bemused little Dragon-type was having none of it, enthralled with his white cotton and polyester quarry. He dug his claws into the carpet and tugged back with a muffled cry of challenge in reply.

“Gahn! Gahn!”

His mother couldn’t help but let out a growl of delight at the sight, happy that in his own way, her child had already gone for his first prey. While Jane continued with her struggles to clean the second hatchling, John and James had remained focused on the Druddigon and her first child. James walked up to the box, holding his hand out as he warily asked the tired Dragon-type...

“... Can... Can we pet him?”

The Dragon-type pulled her child close to her for a moment, only to stop and hesitate. She herself didn’t know whether it was because of the trust that had grown between her and the Does through the years, or if she had simply been worn down from brooding, but after a brief pause, she reasoned that there was surely no harm in allowing them to give her child a friendly pat...

“Druddi... Druddigon.”

She nodded back and tiredly nudged the small dragonlet between her arms towards James. The young Druddigon looked up at the bigger human staring down at him, and took in the sight with a shy, curious awe.

“Dru... Di… Gon?”

The young Dragon-type inched forward and sniffed tentatively at the boy, who let out a small smile stooped down. The little Druddigon let out an excited cry , pawing at James' shirt, and prompting him to reach out to reciprocate by heartily petting the young drake’s head from the back towards his snout.

“... Heh... Never thought that Druddigon would hatch so sm- OW!”

James sharply jerked his hand back, and discovered that one of his fingers was dribbling blood from a fresh scrape where his skin had been cut by abrasive scales. John glanced between his brother and the young Druddigon, who tilted his head curiously after James suddenly recoiled, making the elder brother blink and let out a low sigh in realization.

“... Ah... Right. Looks like that Druddigon is one of those rougher-skinned ones,” he remarked. “Pat slower and along the direction of his scales next time.”

And thus, before they knew it, the Does found themselves watching over new life in their household. Now caring for children is a saga in and of itself, enough so that I could probably spend years telling of the stories that came from those two dragonlets.

But most types don’t have that sort of time, and I’ve kept you for quite a while already. Let me think over the stories I’d like to tell you about those new lives, and I’ll share them with you when we meet again.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Part 8: It’s a Magical World

When a new life enters the world, it marks the beginning of a new story, one with its own twists and turns, and its own triumphs and tragedies. At the same time, that new life also marks the beginning of new chapters in the lives and stories of the others that it intersects. Considering how the Druddigon that I knew had two hatchlings, it would probably make sense to stay focused on hers in order to avoid getting too lost in the weeds.

Now, the Druddigon’s younglings had hatched deep in winter, when the world outside was still frosted in snow that made the mother dragon wince in discomfort every time she peered out at it through the window. Fortunately, the bitter cold was kept at bay by glass panes and insulated walls, while the fire stoked in the living room’s hearth gave warmth in place of the sun’s rays to curl up by and get her blood flowing.

“Gon! Gon!”

Not that any of winter’s discomforts seemed to stop her children. Not even two weeks into life, right when John was set to return back to college for his spring semester, the pair were already going out and about and exploring the house around them. With its warmth keeping the hatchlings lively and active, one could’ve been forgiven for thinking that it was the middle of summer from the way they scampered about and poked around the nooks and crannies of the living room. The mother Druddigon couldn’t help but ask herself that same question at times, as she raised her head that day and gaped bewilderedly at her children. Some way, somehow, in defiance of nature and all common sense, they remained little bundles of energy in such a draining season.

Even so, there were discernible differences between the two. The younger of the hatchlings—if one could really call hatching a minute later younger—would every so often return to his mother to nuzzle up against her, and try to nudge her along to come and play with him.


Meanwhile, her elder child had more of an adventurous spirit. He still does, actually. And that day, it led him to climb up onto the back of the couch of the living room. The young dragonlet raised his ruddy head and bat his wings out as he crouched at the edge, springing off it with them spread wide for a glide.


And then flopped onto his belly on the carpet below with a sharp thud. It takes some time before a Druddigon’s wings develop enough to support gliding, which comes well after the first weeks of life in which a young Druddigon, like most other Pokémon, learns to form words in the tongue of their kind.


Even so, there were some things about the younglings that were immediately understandable, and for his mother, the pained hitching and whining of the elder youngling’s voice was one of them. At once, the elder Druddigon jolted up from her perch beside the fireplace and hurried over to her child as he started to audibly sniffle. She scooped him up, nuzzling and cooing at him as he slowly began to calm down. After the shock of his fall fully passed, she set him down just in time for his younger brother to waddle up and nudge his mother for attention.

“Hey, we’re back!”

right as the door to the house clattered open from someone entering in from outside. At once, a gust of icy air blew in and the mother Druddigon recoiled from the sudden drop in temperature. The mother dragon felt her children press up against her and heard them whine in discomfort. She looked over and quickly discovered the culprit behind the abrupt chill was John, entering in bundled up in winter wear alongside his Stoutland as he stopped to take off his boots just past the still-open door.

“Well, guess we won’t have to worry about a snowy start to the new year,” the boy remarked. “It really came down out there last night!”

Now humans are generally creatures that aren’t fond of the cold themselves, but they have a curious tolerance for it at times. One few dragons share. Least of all, Druddigon.


And it was a tolerance the mother Druddigon was sorely lacking on that day. She let out a sharp bellow, before stomping up with her tail raised, and wings flared in display. She lowered her head, flashing her fangs as her yellow eyes glared daggers into the young man. John flinched as his Stoutland glared back, before easing a moment, and nosing at his trainer. The dog motioned off at the still-open door behind them… along with the two Druddigon hatchlings shivering a short ways behind their mother.

And not long after that, John put two and two together, as a sheepish grimace came over his face.

“... Right, Rufus and Rudd don’t take the cold well,” he said. “Sorry about that, Neela.”

John hurriedly closed the door behind him and made his way off with his Stoutland as the chill faded from the living room from continued warmth radiating from the fireplace. The mother Druddigon stopped to scowl after the young man briefly when the quiet clatter of pattering feet turned her attention over to the fireplace.

There, her younger child was already curling up, eager to return to let the fire’s warmth wash away his brush with the winter cold. The mother Druddigon then nosed at her elder child, who’d calmed from his earlier fall and followed along. Before long, he too was settled in near the fireplace, laying against his mother’s belly.

And he was content to just lay there a while. After all, the couch and the other curiosities of the living room would be waiting there for him and his brother after they were warmed up a bit.


As the weeks ticked by in the new year, the winter grew later and milder and its dreaded snow began to melt away. All the while, the hatchlings’ grasp of their tongue grew stronger along with the strength of their bodies. As they grew more and more used to the Does' house and as navigating its nooks and crannies became second nature to them, their curiosity would grow further and further, pulling them increasingly away from their mother and their den by the fireplace.

… Perhaps a bit too far too fast for their mother’s liking. One day a little under two months under their hatching, she found herself nosing about the nooks and crannies of the Does’ living room in search of them. She had no luck there and then moved on to searching the kitchen, then the neighboring rooms and closets. She would stop to sniff at the air to try and catch their scent, she would nudge a few pieces of furniture aside that seemed like they might disguise hiding places, and she would make throaty calls to try and reach their ears.

“Druddigon! Druddigon!”

But none of it was working that day, not even after the Druddigon retraced her way up from the steps to the basement. Her mouth hung open briefly in fright after worries of whether her children had somehow stumbled out of the house entirely and into the winter cold crossed her mind, and low whines came from the back of her throat.


All of which eventually drew the attention of the others in the house, with Mr. Doe and his Meinshao companion being the first to notice. They came across the mother Druddigon in the hallway outside the basement’s entrance and hesitated briefly. The old man noted that the Dragon-type was visibly on edge: squirming and looking around worriedly, before he warily leaned in and patted at her crest.

“What’s going on? You sound really wound up.”

The man was answered by the Mienshao in his tongue, who pointed off at the sides of the anxious Druddigon with a wispy-furred paw. It took Mr. Doe a moment, but after realizing that the Druddigon was all on her lonesome with neither of her children with her, he put two and two together.

“Oh, Rufus and Rudd snuck off, huh?” Mr. Doe mused. “Well, Jane and James don’t have them since I’ve got their Pokéballs right now.”

The Druddigon tensed up as the man reached for a pocket and pulled out a pair of shrunken red-and-white balls. They’d been paired to her children a few days after their births, just in case they were ever badly hurt and needed to be taken to receive help, as her Meinshao mentor explained to her.

Even so, the process was a startling ordeal for the Druddigon’s children. One that she spent much of an afternoon calming them down after the world around them abruptly disappeared for a short time and was replaced with a simulated one that they didn’t recognize. One without their mother at their sides.

For a brief moment, the Druddigon scowled at the old man. The Does and their Pokémon insisted in their respective languages after the hatchlings’ pairings that they wouldn’t be brought back into their Pokéballs until they were older. When they were more prepared to face the world without their mother. The only exceptions to it until then would be matters of life and limb.

She lingered for a moment, when the Mienshao pressed the center buttons on each of the Pokéballs, and they cracked open to reveal they were empty. The dragon’s scowl abruptly faded and was replaced with a bewildered stare, before she turned worriedly to Mr. Doe as he shook his head back.

“As you can see, they’re not in there,” the man explained. “So they must be somewhere inside the house. Where did you already try looking?”

The Druddigon motioned with her claw and after a brief and grudging return to the basement, led the pair through the rooms on the ground floor. The kitchen, the bathroom, the living room. All of which had neither hide nor scale to show of her children.


Mr. Doe and the Mienshao turned at the sound of James’ Snivy passing nearby. The sound of a small dragonlet’s voice giving a pouting whine reached their ears just afterwards, and turned the Druddigon’s attention towards the steps to the second floor. There, James’ starter was making his way up them, followed by Druddigon’s younger hatchling, who trudged along grumbling to himself in uneven words about the serpent discovering a hiding place of his by sheer luck.

Both the Druddigon and Mienshao blinked as the youngsters drifted up the stairs, before glancing at the Doe patriarch. While the dragonlet’s words had eluded the old man, he realized that half of the solution to his Dragon-type companion’s dilemma had quite literally just walked past them.

“Well, that’s one of the kids,” Mr. Doe said. “Come on, let’s see what they’re up to.”

The Druddigon was the first of the three to make her way off, hurriedly darting up the stairs and into the hallway of the second floor. There, she saw her younger child in front of the door to John’s room along with James’ Snivy, pawing at its wood. At once, the mother Druddigon let out a sharp cry, and hurried over with her arms lowered.


The elder Druddigon stooped down and scooped up her child, pulling him into a tight, squirming embrace. The hatchling briefly squealed in protest as Mr. Doe and his Mienshao caught up, and his mother gave a content rumble.

Her moment of contentment lasted for a few brief moments before she narrowed her eyes, and scolded her child for worrying her in such a fashion. Did he have any idea of how frightened she was? What on earth would make him think it was a good idea to scare her by constantly moving about and into places where she couldn’t find him?

“Drud! Drud!”

The elder Druddigon trailed off after her child motioned at the door with a protesting cry. She set the hatchling down and sniffed at the carpet leading into the room, where she caught a scent that was much like hers. Before Mr. Doe could ask further, she wrapped her claws around the door’s handle, and mimicked times she’d remembered her trainer dealing with it with a firm twist and push. At once, the door opened, revealing John’s room left empty and unused from his recent departure back to college.

“Drud… digon?”

Well, almost, anyways. There, curled up on John’s bed, was her missing child, sleeping and stirring from the sudden noise. The young Dragon-type snorted and cracked his eyes open tiredly, when James’ Snivy entered and gestured with a teasing cry.


The Grass-type and his young playmate bounded onto the bed, jostling the elder hatchling awake as his younger brother poked and prodded at him. The elder dragonlet groaned and whined, as teasing cries went about the three. From their conversation, the Druddigon quickly gathered that the lot had been playing a game with each other. “Hide and seek”, as humans like to call it.

The mother dragon sighed and drooped her wings, when she felt a hand paw at her shoulder. She looked up, where she saw Mr. Doe giving a knowing smile down to her.

“Heh, kids and their games, right?”

“Ack! Rudd! What are you doing?!”

And of course, along with new life comes new mistakes and new misunderstandings, just like when the Druddigon’s younger child came across James’ old childhood dolls a few weeks after the fateful bout of hide-and-seek. Now, it had been some years since the Doe boy had played with his dolls, and at the time they sat unused guarding his nightstand. Little treasures of a bygone age that the boy set out to remain seen and not touched much like the baubles of the family’s dragoness companion.

Except, he’d underestimated how well her children would be able to climb about. It’s an adaptation for life in and among craggy mountains that lets Druddigon make short work of the ruined walls around Dragonspiral Tower, and also allowed her younger child to do much the same with James’ nightstand. Before James knew it, he was in a tug of war with the hatchling over his old Druddigon doll in front of the living room couch, tugging at one end of his stuffed Pokémon while the younger hatchling kept his mouth stubbornly clamped onto the other.

“Let that go! That’s not a chew toy!”

“Gahn! Gahn!”

James’ grip slackened briefly and the hatchling tumbled over onto his back. The boy attempted to snatch his doll, only for the young drake to hastily roll over, scurry off, and retreat behind the couch with a stubborn growl. The Doe boy made much the same sound in reply as the drake had worn his patience thin. And with a low grumble, he stooped down and glared down at the youngling as he moved his hand for his pocket.

“I mean it, Rudd! Give it back or I’ll recall you to your Pokéball!”

The boy had snatched the hatchling’s Pokéball off his dresser as soon as he saw the Druddigon going about with his doll. It’d been entrusted to him by his parents earlier that week, while the elder hatchling’s had been entrusted to Jane. Perhaps it had been a bit too soon, and it was a bit foolhardy for James to think the whelp he was tasked to watch over would already understand him, but the matter was far from his mind at that moment.

The boy’s tone of voice did little more than to encourage the dragonlet to retreat deeper behind the shelter of the couch with a stubborn growl. At that point, James decided he’d had quite enough of little dragon’s obstinance and pulled the red-and-white sphere out of his pocket.


He was interrupted by a rough set of claws grasping his wrist, along with a sharp glare and low growl from the house’s elder Druddigon. Much of her chiding went unspoken, but the meaning quickly came together even in spite of the language barrier as she glanced over at her child:

The Does had promised her that her young wouldn’t be made to go into their Pokéballs until they were ready for it. Not unless it was a matter of life and limb, which it was not at the moment. The mother Druddigon raised her other claw, which was curled tightly around a few objects that clacked and clattered in its grasp, and made James blink and eye his old companion with a puzzled stare.

“Huh? Neela? What are you-?”


The elder dragon let go of the boy and nudged him aside, before stooping down by the couch. She spoke soothing words in her tongue to her child, assuring him that he wasn’t in any trouble, and to come out and let her see the treasure he’d found.

Her child hesitated, before he crawled forward and stood up. He warily took James’ Druddigon doll out of his mouth and lifted it up, before tightening his grasp and crouching protectively over it when he saw James began to move his hand towards him.

A light swat from his mother promptly ended that, as she held out her enclosed claw and revealed it to have a few marbles from her treasure hoard. Her child stared up mesmerized, as she explained in her tongue that it was treasure given to her by a friend long ago, in exchange for treasure she’d taken for herself. Every dragon needed something precious to call his own, and surely such splendid baubles were a fair trade for a dusty and unwieldy doll like the stuffed Druddigon he had.

The dragonlet hesitated a moment, before nudging the stuffed doll over and all but pouncing on his mother’s marbles as she set them on the floor. At once, the young Druddigon began to nudge and nose at them with excited cries, as his mother turned and returned James’ doll back to him. It was a bit damp from spittle and now sported a couple small holes near their hems that’d need stitching to close up, but much to the boy’s relief, it was still intact.

“I suppose it could’ve been worse,” James sighed. “At least Rufus didn’t get to it, otherwise his scales probably would have torn it up.”

The Doe boy tucked his doll under his arm, before holding out his hand and patting the elder dragon’s head with a small smile.

“Thanks for the help there, Neela.”

The dragonness glanced over at the Druddigon doll herself, and at once had fond memories come over her of when the human was but a little whelp himself. When he still regularly played with it. She let out a low rumble, and even if he didn’t understand it, she thanked him for his patience. Even if it wasn’t a shiny bauble, the doll clearly was a prized treasure of his own, and she understood if he was worried about it getting damaged.

“Gon! Gon!”

James then spotted something from the corner of his eye and sharply raised his doll as a blur of blue and red shot up, before falling back down to the ground. The Druddigon turned her head, where she spotted her elder child pawing at James’ leg, opening his mouth from having bit down on empty air. All the while, he looked up excitedly at the doll in James’ hands, as the boy stared down at the rougher-hided dragonlet. The boy grimaced briefly, before turning over to the dragonlet’s mother with a nervous, flustered expression.

“Uh… Neela? I don’t suppose you have more of those marbles to share, do you?”

She sighed and chuckled after that. Clearly James, even after he’d come of age as a human, still needed to learn a thing or two from her. Particularly about how to keep his treasures safe and well-hidden.

Now time in any season has a way of slipping away from oneself. And before anyone in the Doe household knew it, the winter snows melted away, and the chill in the air gave way to spring showers and a growing warmth that beckoned new leaves and blades of grass to sprout.

And so it was, that just a couple weeks after those first sprouts, when the last straggling nips of winter’s chill had sufficiently faded, that it came time for the Does’ Druddigon to introduce her children to the world outside the house’s walls. She stood at the front door that day, holding it open and peering in at her spitting images lingering inside.

“Gon! Druddigon!”

One after the other, her children came out onto the porch. They stopped for a moment, letting their eyes adjust to the sunlight’s brightness. The younger of the two dragonlets stooped and pawed at the wood underfoot, cooing in wonder as he heard the points of his claws clatter against it. His elder brother found the porch’s support beams made much the same noise, and made his way down the steps and out onto the concrete walkup, which he found pleasingly warm to the touch.

“Druddigon! Druddigon!”

The younger drake perked up after seeing his brother paw at the pavement and came over, similarly poking and prodding at the warmed, strange stone underfoot. His claws drifted off to the grass, which was still damp from rains from the night before. He put one foot out onto it, and then pulled it back, the stark difference reminding him of the way the bricks about the fireplace would feel chilly when not stoked, while the carpet would keep the house’s warmth regardless of if a fire was burning or not.

He stooped down and sniffed at the grass, noticing that it didn’t smell like the carpet, and it felt a bit different from it too. The younger drake nosed at the lawn briefly, before opening his mouth and clamping onto a mouthful of green blades when his eyes abruptly widened.


The young drake shot up and spat up chewed blades of grass, coughing and closing his eyes with a disgusted whine. His mother hurried over to his side, gently chiding him in her tongue that he was a Druddigon and not some grazing Deerling, and that he should know better than to think that he’d find grass filling or tasty.

She then trailed off and froze. It occurred to her then that her child wouldn’t know that. This was his first time ever encountering grass, and he’d been born and raised in a human den instead of one filled with fellow Druddigon. She and his elder brother were the only other Druddigon he’d known in the few weeks of his life—the only dragons he’d known, with their father, Carol’s Haxorus, still not due to return for a few weeks.

The mother Druddigon grimaced briefly and then noticed her elder child was no longer at her side. She turned around and saw him happily waddling off into the street, eyeing a drink can that had been left behind in it. At once, her eyes shrank to pins, and her voice came out in a shrill, startled cry.


The Druddigon hurriedly ran over and scooped up her child, dragging him out of the street and back onto the lawn with a startled yelp. Her elder child stared up at her wide-eyed as she panted briefly, before glaring down at her child with a scolding growl and chastising him in her tongue. What on earth was he thinking? Such streets weren’t places to go poking about willy-nilly! It was where humans and their rolling boxes came through! Even in the wilds, many Pokémon knew better than to linger in their path! He could’ve gotten hurt! Or worse!


And from his blank, unnerved stare back up at her, along his brother’s confused tilt of his head as he approached, the mother Druddigon was reminded that this too was wisdom that her children didn’t know yet. She drooped her wings and let out a low whine, as she suddenly felt much more alone and overwhelmed.

Had she been raising her children right? And if she wasn’t, how would she ever know? There were no other Druddigon they could spar with to prove their strength, and life in and around humans was confusing for Pokémon to navigate at times even as adults.

It was then that her ears picked up the sound of rolling tires, as a van sped through the street. It was pushed along in the same way that humans and the rest of their “cars” are: by those humming contraptions inside them. “Engines”, I believe they’re called, with the van’s running particularly loud as it drove past. Its driver was more thoughtless and reckless than most normally are, and flew down the street far faster than what even other humans are comfortable with.

A sharp crunch rang out as the drink can vanished under the van’s wheels, before it flew off to the side and tumbled up against the curb in front of them. The dragonlets blinked, the elder of the pair creeping forward and taking up the can’s mangled remains into his claws as he and his brother looked down blankly at the once-bauble that was now a crushed pile of scrap.


Their mother let out a sharp harrumph, telling her children that that was the fate of objects that were run over by the wheels of such “cars”, and that from the tales she’d heard in the wilds, that Pokémon who met the same fate usually fared little better. Her elder child shivered briefly after his mother’s words sank in, before she shook her head and motioned at her children to follow.

Even if she didn’t know if she was raising them properly, she could certainly teach them to stay safe. And that started by pointing out the various boundaries about the Doe family’s house.

She started by walking along the street, reiterating that it was a place to be crossed quickly, only when one was sure it was empty lest one meet the same fate as the drink can. She then pointed out the doors to the house and the garage, explaining that they too needed to be passed through quickly, lest the door pinch one’s tail or wings on the way in or out. And of course, there were the fences, which were the territories of other human dens, and only to be traversed with the blessing of those who claimed them.

She stopped and lingered at the fence to the Vernes’ house, explaining that that was the safest such territory to roam in aside from the Does’, since it belonged to their father, his human, and her family.


The Druddigon trailed off and turned around to see her children visibly shivering and whining, as the pair cast glances off for the house. They asked in their tongue if they could go back. That she’d made her point that the world outside of the Does’ den was frightening and dangerous, and that they were ready to go back to its safety.

Their mother bat her wings and stiffened up. She wasn’t bothered so much by her children preferring the comforts of being inside a den. Why it was a part of their nature, humans did call her kind the ‘Cave Pokémon’ for a reason! But at the same time, she didn’t mean to frighten them of the world outside!

“Druddigon! Druddigon!”

She waved her claws in vigorous protest, insisting that it wasn’t like a dragon to just cower in his den all the time. The world outside was where one found food to nourish oneself, baubles to hold onto as mementos and treasures, and challenges to toughen one’s body up and make one stronger.

The mother Druddigon bade her younglings near to her, as they pressed up against her uneasily. She gaped around at her surroundings, trying to think of ways to restore her children’s earlier sense of wonder about the outside world. She pointed out the sky with its blue tint and its fluffy clouds. There were the trees whose leaves rustled with the winds and gave soothing shade when one was too hot. And then there were the flowers of spring whose beauty and fragrance rewarded dragons for their patience and endurance for tolerating the bitter cold of winter. Little treasures that sprang up from nature itself, just like the ones that were just beginning to bloom by the side of the house.

The elder dragon looked down at her children expectantly, hoping to see a spark of excitement in their eyes again, only to droop after noticing they were still on-edge. Her elder child scanned his surroundings warily, much as a Deerling might after being spooked an unexpected noise from the brush.

“Drud… digon?”

His younger brother was more vocal, protesting in his tongue that he didn’t understand why his mother found any of those things so interesting when it was surrounded by lurking dangers and other frightening hazards.

“Gon! Gon!”

Their mother blanched and grimaced briefly, wondering what she could do to get her point across when most of the wonders of the world they lived in remained out of her grasp right then and only visible at a distance. What hope did she have of showing them Dragonspiral Tower if they were too frightened to leave the front lawn?

She gave a nervous beat of her wings when she realized her shoulders felt warm. She glanced up, and saw the sun along its course from the east heading towards its noontime place in the middle of the sky.

It was then that she realized there was something good about the world outside she could share with them. Something they’d feel in their bones which they would never be able to enjoy while staying hidden away all day in a den, human or not.


The elder dragon stooped down and sprawled out onto her belly in the grass, laying down and spreading her wings to bask under the sun’s warmth. Her children traded puzzled glances with one another, only for their mother to prod and insist that they join her and do the same.

Hesitantly, they followed suit, one after the other, the younger of the two making a point to raise his head slightly lest more of the foul-tasting grass end up in his mouth again. The pair squirmed briefly against the grass’ dampness against their scales, when they suddenly noticed the sun’s warmth prick their wings.


The elder of the two younglings waggled his wings briefly, while the younger rolled over onto his belly to try and see if the warm feeling would also move there. Their mother laughed, explaining that they were free to try and capture the sun’s warmth however they pleased, but that it was their wings that caught it the best. Such knowledge had passed from one Druddigon to the next since time immemorial to the point where it’d become second nature, and that they’d enjoy the sun’s warmth quicker if they heeded it.

The pair righted themselves and mimicked their mother afterward. Sure enough, within a matter of minutes, they felt the sun fill their bodies with warmth. Warmth like the Does’ fireplace gave off, but more evenly spread. Before they knew it, they were contently basking, letting out happy growls and nuzzling up against their mother. She glanced back with a knowing smile, happy that even if it’d taken a few faltering attempts, that she’d at least convinced her children that there were things in the world they called home that were worth facing their fears for.

She was content to just lay there for a while, when she heard the sound of approaching footsteps. The elder Druddigon raised her head and saw Jane and James making their way down the walkway. The Doe girl was accompanied by her faithful Marowak, while James was followed along by his Snivy. The Grass-type stopped and waved at the young dragons with a playful cry, as the Doe girl looked down at their still-sunbathing mother.

"Hey, Neela. Felt like seeing the neighborhood a bit?" Jane asked.

“Yeah, we were just about to go on a walk,” James chimed in. “If you and the kids are already out, maybe we could make a family outing out of it!”

The mother Druddigon gave a low, happy rumble, and stretched briefly as she rose to her feet. A walk about the neighborhood was just what she needed to get her blood flowing after a long winter hiding away in the house, and being able to see Icirrus City’s windmills and Dragonspiral Tower off in the distance would surely make her children eager to see even more of the world around them.

“Gon! Gon!”

The dragoness was cut off by protesting cries and felt claws tugging at her. She looked down at her children, who stared back up at her with widened pupils and low whines. She blinked and glanced up at the sun, noticing that it was still beaming down warmly on them, before sheepishly pawing at the back of her head to the Doe children.

The walk sounded fun, she explained. But it’d need to wait for a few more minutes of basking with her children first.

The hatchlings’ initial unease of the world around them faded with sucessive trips outside the house. A jaunt around the block here, a sighting of Pidove or other flying Pokémon passing from treetop to treetop there, the smell of the flowers on the bushes and trees entering into bloom… why they even squeezed in a visit to a local windmill! All of it helped to breed a sense of adventure among the Druddigon’s children that made them ever eager to nose about, especially with their mother’s presence at their backs.


And of course the spring warmth didn’t hurt either. As the weeks since their first outing passed, the children coming out to sun themselves alongside their mother increasingly became a fixture around the Doe house. Her children had grown so accustomed to it that they even began to bring some of their treasures along with them to watch the sun glint off their surfaces, as her younger child did on that day. Such occasions too, had become rote enough that the new routine began to blur into normalcy, as it did on the spring weeks when the schools began to let out for seasonal breaks.


That day, the Does’ Druddigon was roused by a familiar voice coming across from the fenceline with the Vernes’ house. She got up after a brief sighting of yellow scales and red-tipped tusks, her children shifting from their resting places with curious blinks.


The hatchlings remained on the grass and asked their mother in their tongue if something was amiss, only for Carol’s Haxorus to poke his head and arms over the fence and call out in greeting. The mother Druddigon’s eyes lit up at the sound of his voice. After a long winter, her mate was finally home! And right then, she couldn’t help but give in to her excitement and run up to the fenceline.


The mother Druddigon pulled her Haxorus mate into a warm embrace and nuzzled snout to snout. She’d missed him so much and there was so much to share with him since they’d last met. The Haxorus’ eyes lit up, as he excitedly rounded the fence, head raised high along with his spirits…


Only for him to come face to face with a pair of small Druddigon that stood little taller than a Snivy’s height. The two dragonlets froze with a shared squeak and stiffened up in surprise. Their father was similarly taken aback, as the Haxorus’ jaw flopped open and his eyes shrank to pins, all as a confused stammer came from the back of his throat.


His mate gave a flustered bat of her wings and sheepishly smiled back, before explaining in her tongue that these were the eggs he’d seen the last time they met. Or more properly, the Pokémon that those eggs became. They had all been eagerly awaiting this day, and she was looking forward to sharing her children’s lives with him.

“G-Gon! Gon!”

Except, her children had minds of their own that day. The pair let out frightened squeals at the sight of the imposing, axe-headed drake that towered above the both of them and ducked behind the safety of their mother’s scaly body with frightened whines.

The Druddigon froze and grimaced. This was the first time that her young had seen their father, or any Pokémon of his sort at all. Worse still, it was well past the time when they would be imprinting. That window where they might have once had open curiosity towards him. Instead, they now saw a hulking creature with strong claws and axe-like tusks, who to her children probably seemed more like the sort of creature who might gobble them up rather than a loving parent.

Their mother let her eyes drift towards the lawn with a blank stare and a low whine of her own. She had been dreading that a moment like this would happen and now it had come to pass. Just what was she to do now?


The Druddigon blinked as she felt a nuzzle at her snout and looked up to see her mate leaning in and nosing at her with a smile. Things would work out, he assured. He insisted that even if his kind was fierce in appearance and in battle, that with a little coaxing, their children would see the same gentle spirit she fell in love with.

The Haxorus stooped and sat down on the grass, lowering his head as he tried to make his body seem smaller and bring himself more to the younglings’ level. He explained that surely showing off a treasure would lower the children’s guard, only to catch himself and cast a glance back off at the house, then back at the dragonlets peeking out nervously from behind their mother.

None of his treasure was with him at the moment, and if he left his children with such a startling first impression, who knew how long it would take to coax them into being comfortable afterwards? The Haxorus sucked in a sharp breath and opted to try and make do with something from the yard. He gaped about the lawn, searching for a pebble or some other curiosity, when he chanced to notice a clover in bloom near his side.


The Axe Jaw Pokémon plucked the flower and brought it up to his face to inspect it briefly. After seeing his children poke their heads out warily, the Haxorus held it out in front of him. It was a lovely flower, and its smell was pleasing, he insisted. Even if it was a less permanent treasure than the likes of a marble or a glass bead, he was willing to share it if they would just come and take it.

Their mother nudged her children out from behind her. Her younger child stubbornly retreated to her side, unable to work up the boldness to venture forward. Her elder child faltered briefly, before slowly and warily pacing forward, approaching with step after faltering step until he made it up to the Haxorus’ claw and waveringly reached out for it.


The Haxorus obliged and the young drake peered down at the flower. Sure enough, it was pretty, and it did smell good… even if he doubted its taste would also be similarly pleasing. The young Druddigon lingered for a moment, when he suddenly felt something scratch at his chin, and stiffened up with a startled cry.


The elder dragonlet squirmed and looked down to see a set of red claws cupped and scratching gently at his chin. He blinked briefly, before looking back up at his father smiling down on him. At once, he began to giggle from his father’s affection, and sat down with a happy wag of his tail and a rumble from his throat.

“Gon! Gon!”

A sharp cry and the sound of pattering feet rang out, as the younger dragonlet, fresh from a brief dart over to the porch, returned with a few of his marbles and an overeager smile. He held up his treasures to try and gather his father’s attention, insisting that he had treasures of his own that he wanted to share if he would just give him attention and perhaps a chin scratch like his brother. The Haxorus paused and pat at his younger child with a rumbling chuckle, their mother watching as little by little, her children drifted closer to their father. The younger hatchling began to paw at his father’s armored scales and climb up his legs, while the elder one nuzzled up against his chest, now at ease with the Haxorus who wasn’t anywhere near as scary as he thought he was.

The Haxorus smiled and began to paw at his elder child’s head crest, giving it an affectionate rub, only to abruptly freeze and pull his claw back with a quiet yelp.


The Haxorus lifted his claw to his face and inspected it to see a small scrape where droplets of blood were beginning to dribble out from between some damaged scales. He looked down at his child, and at his claw bewilderedly, as his mate sidled up beside him with a nudge and a teasing smile.

It was a quirk of her kind, she reassured. Next time, he just needed to pet along his child’s scales.

He couldn’t help but laugh in reply.

A couple years have passed since that day, and if there’s one lesson to be learned from having children cross your life, it’s that you quickly gain an appreciation for the little joys and treasures you encounter every day around them.

For all the pain and awkwardness in it at times, it’s a magical world. Sometimes you just need to stop and be reminded of it.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

Epilogue: Let’s Go Exploring

It’s been a few years since that last story that I told you about happened. While there’s been some others involving the Does’ Druddigon and her children since then, I wouldn’t really be able to get too in-depth about them here and now since my claws are a bit full at the moment.

Though what became of that Druddigon I knew, you ask?

Oh, she’s still around. Her younglings and her mate, too. Why, I saw her sunning herself on the porch of the Does’ house just earlier today. It’s still the same unremarkable place on the outskirts of Icirrus City that it’s always been, still with the same hot and muggy weather like summer’s always been.

“Hey! I’m back!”

Her mate and her kids are all in town at the moment, or I guess more accurately, all near it. Same for the Doe children themselves. John’s grown up a bit and he’s moved on from his life in college, but he still found the time to visit today along with his Scolipede and Stoutland. He doesn’t come by as much as he used to, especially since he’s apparently been searching for a mate of his own lately. But it still puts a smile on the faces of the household’s Pokémon whenever he’s around, and his presence was enough to rouse the family Druddigon from a midday basking to glance at him.

“About time, John!” Jane’s voice piped. “We were starting to worry you’d be late!”

Jane was there as well, along with her Marowak and Sawsbuck. They usually aren’t around the house often outside of summer months, since Jane’s gone off to college herself. If I remember correctly, she’s training to be a healer of some sort. But as much as she’s grown, in some respects, she’s still the same girl as she used to be, especially with the way that she was badgering her older brother to hurry along at that moment.

And John, being the sardonic type he was, couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of that.

“Tch, you haven’t changed a bit have you, Jane?” he asked. “Though how come you were harping on me for being late when James isn’t anywhere to be seen right now-?”

“I’m right here, John!”

And of course, James was there to round out the Doe children’s numbers. His Snivy’s grown and evolved into a Servine in the time since my last story, and the Druddigon hatchling he took under his wing has really shot up himself. He’s about as big as Jane’s Marowak these days. Still pretty small and young for Druddigon standards, but he’s definitely not as little as he used to be. Enough so that his first instinct when passing by his mother on the porch was still to stop and tug at her for attention.

“Gon! Druddigon!”

He was quite the brimming ball of excitement, though he had his reasons. In his own words, the day was a big occasion: the lot of them had been invited to a party at the Vernes’ house just across the fence. So naturally, he wanted to know when his mother would come along.

She hesitated briefly as her child wagged his tail in front of her and stared expectantly, as the dragoness traded glances between him and James as he walked up and pat at her child’s crest. She’s been a bit uneasy in recent months about life going past her, and often worries about whether or not she’s missing out on moments from it by just sitting around the house.

“Heh, I don’t know what I’m going to do without you, Rudd,” James said. “You grow up nice and strong while I’m gone, you hear? I don’t want you to miss all of college with me!”

Though it probably doesn’t help that it’s James’ last year in school before he goes off to college himself. I’m not sure if the Druddigon’s children completely understand that. From the puzzled look her younger child turned back to his trainer, he probably doesn’t fully realize that James won’t be around as much as he normally is in just a couple months.

Even if her kids have grown quite a bit in the past couple years, and her younger one has already put up an admirable showing by helping James with picking up where he left off from his Trainers’ Leave last summer… neither of them are quite ready to leave the nest for long periods of time. Especially after how homesick the younger hatchling got just during parts of his travels with James to different Gyms about Unova.

The Does’ Druddigon has been wondering about how he is going to react. When her elder child went through this same song and dance with Jane, at first, he took being separated from her and her other Pokémon pretty hard. Enough so that he spent the first week afterwards in low spirits hiding and pining about the house… not wholly unlike his parents, really. I’d like to think that his brother will have an easier time thanks to past experiences dulling those feelings, but we won’t know for sure until the end of this summer.

The Druddigon told herself that it was probably for the best. James’ partner would still be there for him when they were both a bit older. And with how hard their father had initially taken initially separated from her when following his human to college… neither her nor anybody else in the Doe household were ready to gamble that her children would be able to handle that sort of separation any easier.

Though such worries were far from James’ mind at the time, as he stooped down and patted at the family’s elder Druddigon with a warm smile.

“Aren’t you coming along, Neela? Everyone’s going to be there at the birthday party,” he insisted. “Carol and Chopper are already there helping to set things up.”

Yeah, that’s why everyone was so busy earlier that day. Even if I didn’t exactly talk about him much, Carol did have a little brother. And today is his birthday. The Does and the Vernes have grown particularly close to each other over the years, so there was a big point about trying to get both families together for the occasion.

Except, the mother Druddigon wasn’t quite ready to join in. She curled up tighter in her resting place on the porch and let out a quiet grunt before looking away. James and his Pokémon blinked puzzledly afterwards, before Jane patted his shoulder and spoke to him.

“Give Neela a bit of time to rest, James,” she reassured. “The party’s just across the fenceline. It won’t be easy for her to miss it.”

James sighed and relented, before beckoning his Pokémon to follow along. His Servine drifted off and after a moment to press his mother not to forget, the younger drake followed suit after his trainer.

The Druddigon watched as the Doe children and their Pokémon made their way off. From her place on the porch, she watched as they slipped past the fenceline with the Vernes and off for their house’s backyard. She turned her head and caught glimpses of the rest of the Verne family just past the wooden planks, including a glimpse of her mate’s long neck and tusked head.

Even so, she decided not to get up just then. There was still a bit of time before the important part of the birthday party started, and with its location so close by, she could afford to wait and bask a little longer.


A poke at the Druddigon’s side turned her attention upwards, where she saw her Mienshao mentor squatting down beside her Mr. Doe followed closely behind him, both human and Pokémon more aged than they’d been when she’d first come into the family’s life. In particular Mr. Doe, with the human patriarch sporting a head of hair so thinned and grayed, the Druddigon would sometimes forget that only a little over a decade had passed since their first Christmas together. The elder man stooped down beside his Druddigon companion, giving a reassuring pat at her shoulders.

“I heard the kids wanted to take you along as a guide up to Dragonspiral Tower after the birthday party,” the man said. “Did you need any help from Duke holding the fort down?”

The Druddigon’s grasp of human tongue has grown over the years, enough so that she could catch the gist of Mr. Doe’s question at the time… and also get a little annoyed by it. She gave a testy bat of her wings and an adamant growl in reply, insisting that even if she’d be watching over a bigger party than in the past, it was a task she was perfectly capable of.

The Mienshao shook his head back to his trainer and tried to pass along her remarks in simpler terms. Much of it went lost in translation like it always did, but the old man gathered enough to pause and smile back at the Druddigon with a low chuckle.

“Guess it wouldn’t be right to intrude on your family time, huh? But fair enough, I know you’ll do great out there, Neela.”

As he should’ve, really. In the Druddigon’s words, she knew the area well enough and the local Pokémon had calmed to the presence of outsiders again in the last few years. After all, from the moment when the idea was first suggested earlier in the week up until right then, nobody from either the Doe or Verne family had thought twice about their children going off together to see the tower under her guidance. So it’d surely be fine…

Probably, anyways. It would depend on what her own children got up to when they arrived there. But she’d insisted that her mate come along with his trainer for the occasion. Just in case something happened where they would need his strength.

And… well, because she also wanted him to be there to share her old home along with their children.


The Mienshao prodded at the Druddigon again, and she turned her head as cheers and laughter came from beyond the fence. The dragoness blinked a brief moment, as Mr. Doe leaned in and patted her with a small smile.

“Sounds like the kids are just getting to the presents,” he said. “I don’t think you want to miss out on it.”

The Druddigon lingered a moment, before she got up and stretched. She decided then that she’d waited long enough and then made her way down the porch. After all, she, the Doe children, and her own children had all worked together to prepare a particularly special gift for the Vernes’ younger child, and she intended to be there to see him receive it.

She made her way past the fence, and pushed her way past a gate that had been left ajar for her, where she could already see a table set out with a colorful cloth and cake. The Vernes’ boy was a dark-haired little squirt not much older than John was when the Druddigon first left her Pokéball under their Christmas tree.

His mannerisms reminded her of John’s from those days, too. He’d just gotten through unwrapping a box alongside his parents. A pocket-sized machine with two screens that played video games, one which reminded the mother Druddigon of similar ones the Does would play with when they were younger.


The Druddigon blinked and stiffened up as she was abruptly pulled into a warm embrace, and looked up to see her mate resting his head on her. He let out a content rumble, telling her in their tongue that he was happy that she’d made it when he was starting to worry about whether or not he’d have to go and fetch her.


The Haxorus trailed off and looked down beside his mate, noticing that she’d come alone. He shifted uneasily for a moment, before pressing the Druddigon as to where her elder child had gotten off to. It was an important occasion and it wasn’t like him to be absent when his little brother was off doing something fun. Her younger child perked up at the explanation and opened his mouth to speak, prompting his mother to grunt for silence and turn back to the Haxorus with a shake of her head.


The dragoness pawed at her mate and gave a reassuring nose at his chest as she began to speak up. In her own words, her elder child was feeling tired and needed a chance to rest, not least of all since they had a big day of exploring ahead of them after the Verne boy’s party. She assured the Haxorus that her elder child would show up for it to join in the festivities, just on his own time. To just be patient and trust a mother’s judgment.

The Haxorus faltered a moment, before giving a disappointed sigh and nodding back. Even if he was starting to get a bit worried, he decided he’d trust her on this. A tug and excited cry from their younger child turned their attention over to the Verne boy, who’d set aside his earlier toy after discovering a red-and-white sphere resting at the bottom of his pile of gifts. He at once snatched it up in his hands and raised it for everyone to see, his eyes gleaming with excitement.

“Oh wow, a Pokéball!”

The Vernes’ Haxorus blinked at the sight of the Pokéball, as he turned to his mate and remarked that he hadn’t expected that the Verne boy would be partnering with a Pokémon that day. Curiously, Mr. and Mrs. Verne didn’t seem to react the same way to seeing the ball. Mr. Verne seemed unfazed while Mrs. Verne seemed surprised, a scenario that felt curiously familiar…

The Haxorus briefly wondered aloud what sort of Pokémon it could be inside, when the Doe children traded knowing smiles and Jane made her way over to the Verne boy, placing her hand on the Pokéball with a light squeeze as she helped bring it up to his eyes.

“It’s a bit more than that. The Pokémon in there’s someone we felt would make a good friend for you to grow up with,” Jane explained. “He’s someone you already know, actually.”

The gathering fell quiet and tense with anticipation as the boy blinked puzzledly, before he aimed the Pokéball for a patch of grass in the backyard and tapped the button at its center. In a flash of light, a spiky, winged form about the size of Jane’s Marowak materialized, the dust clearing to reveal the elder Druddigon hatchling donning a ribbon about his neck.

The young drake struck a pose, batting his wings out to make himself look impressive as he crouched and wagged his tail with an excited cry.

“Gon! Gon!”

Mrs. Verne let out an audible gasp as the young Druddigon scampered up in front of the Verne boy, giving an affectionate nose at his hand. The boy looked down at the young Druddigon, and then over at Jane, as he slowly put two and two together and a beaming grin came over his face.

“Oh wow! You’re letting me train Rufus?!” the boy exclaimed. “Thanks, everybody! This is the best birthday present ever!”

The Haxorus stiffened up as a startled look mirroring Carol’s came over his face, watching slack-jawed as his elder child pulled his trainer’s brother into an embrace. Right as John hastily cut in with a reminder to “pat along his scales and not against them”. After a moment of blinking disbelief, the Haxorus turned his head back towards his mate with a flustered stammer.


The dragoness nudged him back with an impish grin. She’d put in quite a bit of work raising the two over the past few years, and it was only fair that he take a bigger part in her children’s lives. Besides, she’d shared a good chunk of her own treasure hoard since then, and it was about time the Haxorus similarly put his to good use.

The Haxorus blinked a moment, before his elder child darted over and embraced him. The Axe Jaw Pokémon paused, still visibly flummoxed, before giving a small pat at his child’s ruddy crest and letting out a small chuckle.

Even if it was unexpected, he was looking forward to his elder child being still closer to home. He wasn’t fully sure how everything would work in taking a bigger role in his child’s life, but they’d figure things out. He was sure of it.

“Dear! I thought we were getting another Axew!”

The two dragons and their children looked past the table and the cake set out on it to see Mrs. Verne shooting an unamused scowl over at her husband. Just in time to see Mr. Verne look back and give a teasing shrug in reply. The Haxorus gave a worried glance down at his mate as she shook her head with a knowing chuckle.

She told him not to worry about things. With a little time, her child would be as at home with his human’s family as he was.

After all, she could speak from personal experience on that front.

And since you’re still here with me… I suppose that story takes us to the present day. Right here, right now, in the forests around Dragonspiral Tower with the Doe and the Verne children. The birthday party wrapped up a couple hours ago, and now they’re in the middle of exploring along with their companions. Much like how John’s currently with his Scolipede further up the trail by those trees there, looking off at the tower in the distance.

“Tch, I don’t know how good that restoration job on the tower could’ve been when I can still see a hole in the roof from here.”

So you’ve probably already gathered by now, but there’s a reason why I know so much about this family and their Druddigon. And well… that’s because I'm a part of it myself and gotten to see all the things they’ve been up to first-hand over the years.

So who am I, then? Who’s the Pokémon that’s been telling you this story? I mean, you probably already have an idea by now, but I suppose we’ll go by process of elimination.

I’m not Mr. and Mrs. Doe’s Mienshao, since he’s not here to tell you this story in the forest at the moment. And there’s a few things that I’ve told you about the Does that John’s Scolipede and Stoutland wouldn’t know about. Or at least not in as much detail as me.

So then what about Jane and her Pokémon, you ask? The young woman currently following after her older brother with her Marowak and Sawsbuck that’s currently trying to catch glimpses of the tower’s moat?

“The local Pokémon got used to some of the changes Team Plasma left behind to the tower, John,” she remarked. “Even if it’s not exactly the way it used to be, it’d hardly be fair to force more changes on them if they didn’t want them.”

Like the bridge across the moat that goes into the hole that Team Plasma punched in at the bottom. I’ve heard from Pokémon that live here that it’s become a popular sunning spot in recent years.

But I suppose I’m getting a bit off topic. Me being one of Jane’s Pokémon would be an admirable guess, but it wouldn’t be quite right either. After all, even if that bone lizard of hers has more of a mind for looking out for others, I wouldn’t expect
her to know things about the Does’ lives that John’s Pokémon wouldn’t. She’s been part of this family for less time than his Scolipede.

I suppose you would think that would also rule out me from being one of James’ Pokémon. But they’re admittedly a bit of a strange case. Just like how that Servine of his and that little Druddigon beside him gawking and pointing off at the forest along with him are an unlikely do themselves.

“I still think it shouldn’t have taken anywhere near as long,” James sighed. “I’m just surprised that the Pokémon here were okay with things dragging on like that.”

Hrmph, not sure if that remark of his is really accurate. Nobody, human or Pokémon, likes repairs to their homes taking forever and a day. But it definitely didn’t hurt and the trust it rebuilt with the humans of Icirrus City is part of the reason why we’re even able to visit it again right now.

But anyhow, about my identity… it’d be correct to say that the young Druddigon with Jame would have an advantage at knowing about things from before his time. After all, he’s got parents to pass along stories to him. As so does his brother, who’s going alongside his new trainer right now and waddling up to his father and the Verne kids.

“Gon! Gon!”

… Who just picked up a sacred pebble from beside the trail and is currently showing it off to him. Oh boy, he really should know better than to do that by now. Though I guess I can’t really fault his father for not realizing why this is a bad idea, since from that puzzled look on his face, it probably just looks like a colorful rock to him.


… Great, now the Vernes noticed it too. I’d better go over and explain to them to put it back before things get out of hand-


Er… too late. A patrol of two Druddigon and three Mienshao just found us. Based on some of the scars I see on them, I think that we might’ve met them before in the past.

From the way that they’re growling and glaring, it looks like they saw the pebble too. The elder hatchling’s yelping and beelining behind the Haxorus along with the Vernes right now. Guess the local guards still don’t cut kids breaks…


Not that I would’ve expected them to get really far with the way Carol’s Haxorus is stomping up to them right now. He’s definitely not the timid little squirt he used to be, or at least not when someone’s threatening his kids. And I’m pretty sure he just challenged the local patrol to go ahead and make his day. John and Jane’s Pokémon look they’re in much a similar mood right now.

From the way that those wild Pokémon aside from the bigger of the two Druddigon are currently stammering and cringing and trying to make themselves look smaller, I don’t think they’re terribly eager for a fight right now. Not that I blame them. Aside from being outnumbered, staring down an angry Haxorus definitely requires a strong set of nerves. Even so, those Pokémon won’t just roll over when their fellows are counting on them to do their duty watching over this place, so I should probably step in and try to de-escalate things.

Especially when I’ve got a bit of an advantage at doing so.

“Drud. Druddigon.”

Namely because that Druddigon from the Doe family I was telling you about earlier… Well, she’s me. Born and raised among the Pokémon that stand guard over this forest and shrine on behalf of the great ones, and the Pokémon who’s currently putting that sacred pebble back by the pathside.

It looks like my mate and my older child realized their mistake from those sheepish looks on their faces. And it doesn’t take me long to turn back to the local patrol and give them a piece of my mind. I know how just much those pebbles mean as they do, but there’s no need to be so harsh towards a youngling when there’s a peaceful solution.

The patrol’s Pokémon are all too eager to let things go and they’re already making their way back for the brush… mostly. The bigger of the two Druddigon is still standing his ground with a scowl. He’s telling us to remember where we are and not to act like we own the forest. That the rightful lord of this place has returned and that he and those who live here won’t be bullied around as easily as in the past.

He turns and leaves afterwards and peace returns to the path as my mate busies himself trying to calm his humans and our elder child. I should probably be helping him right now, but something about what that last Druddigon told me feels a bit weird.

‘The rightful lord of this place has returned’? I wonder what he meant by that?

My younger child’s pointing something out right now, something about a fast-moving cloud in the sky-

… Oh.


So that’s what that other Druddigon meant. I can see it for just a few moments. A shock of white, flowing fur passing through the sky, before dipping out of view into the top levels of Dragonspiral Tower. The Dragon of Vast White. The Lord of Truth.

I don’t know what the story is behind why or how the dragon’s come back, but my counterpart from the brush certainly wasn’t kidding. It’ll be a long time before anyone bullies the Pokémon of this place around again the same way Team Plasma did with someone like
that having their backs.

“Did you see something, Neela?”

That’s James prodding at me along with his Servine right now. It crosses my mind briefly to try and explain to him what I just saw, except I know it’ll go over his head. From the looks of it, only me and my younger child noticed the dragon. Even if they could understand everything I had to say, would anyone else believe what I had to say?

It probably doesn’t matter. After all, we’re just going up to the approach to the tower, not inside it. We’ve got a ways to go to get there still and my story with my family and the ones we’ve come to know and love is still being written.

And that’s the end of my tale. I haven’t exactly gone off and saved any regions, or won any tournaments. I’ll probably never have anyone depicting me in any movies from Pokéstar Studios anytime soon. I’m just a normal Pokémon in a normal family for this part of Unova. One who’s done her part to look out for them the same way they’ve looked out for me in return.

But I’m okay with that. This story’s still mine. And whenever John, Jane, James, or my children need someone to share a new chapter of it with or go off exploring someplace around that little house on the outskirts of Icirrus, I’ll be there for them.

For moments just like these.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Yeah, I know that this story's supposed to be completed, but there was that Halloween One-Shot Contest from Bulbagarden Forums going on, and screw it, I wanted a reason to depict Chopper as a wizard lizard and it was a good enough excuse to write a holiday special / one-shot where I could do just that.

I attempted to write this extra to be enjoyable at any time while reading Dragonspiral's Children, though it is chronologically set between the Parts 4 and 5 of the main story and makes some according assumptions accordingly which may or may not minorly spoil a couple earlier parts of the story if you're jumping in blind.

Though hey, if you don't mind skipping ahead a bit, that's fine too, since this extra was written in mind to be self-contained, and there's literally no better time of the year than the day of posting to sink your teeth into it. I'd also like to take a moment to extend a special thanks to @Venia Silente for beta reading this extra and for providing feedback to help tighten up things into the update that you're seeing in front of you today.

Extra: Trick or Treat

Hm? Asking for another story about that family that I knew from when I was younger tonight of all nights? I’ll admit, you caught me at a bit of an unexpected time, but I suppose I do have a few more about them I can tell.

You probably already remember them from prior stories, but if it slipped your mind, that family was the Doe family. A mother, a father, and three children who grew up in a tract home on the outskirts of Icirrus City. They lived alongside a number of Pokémon, but chief among them were the parents’ Mienshao and the Druddigon who I know my tales about them from.

As luck would have it, there’s a story about them from the fall just after the neighbor girl that used to live next door first moved in. One that happened on a night just like this one.

Now at the time, the elder Doe children were just entering the years where they would start to train Pokémon of their own. John had a Whirlipede at the time of my story, and Jane a Cubone and Deerling. The youngest, James, was on the verge of rounding out his first years under the care of his parents. He was not quite old enough to train his own Pokémon, but still old enough to be able to play and go around under the watchful eyes of the family’s Druddigon or Mienshao.

But that’s getting on a bit of a tangent. To understand the story, I suppose I ought to tell you about why that night in particular stood out from every other chilly autumn night.

Now to a Pokémon’s sensibilities, humans can be strange and mystifying creatures sometimes. Their dens usually aren’t fashioned with the rhythms of nature in mind, and they can be as finicky about the rain as a Darumaka or as unfazed by the snow as a Beartic depending upon the clothes they wear. As such, they’re creatures whose habits can seem stubborn and unyielding against what would be common sense to creatures like you and me. Especially since for some reason, they celebrate a good chunk of their festival days during cold seasons.

Some of their festivals make some sense. Times when humans will gather together with their family and companions to share meals or gifts. To bond together over a full belly and the warmth of a stoked hearth…

“Well? What do you think, James?”

And then there are those festivals that can seem downright silly at first, like the one they have towards the middle of autumn that they call ‘Halloween’. It’s a time when humans, especially young ones, like going about in silly costumes to play make-believe and go about gathering sweets from other human dens in the evening. ‘Trick or treating’ is what they call it, I think.

And being a youngster himself at the time, James was more than eager to get into the festive spirit too… with his parents’ help. They’d pieced together a strange outfit with a maroon trench coat, some strangely frilly clothes with a prominent belt over their waistline, and a black three-cornered hat with a skull and crossed bone design on it. Mr. and Mrs. Doe even dug out an old Chatot doll for the occasion and helped fashion a curved cardboard sword as part of the boy’s costume, as Mrs. Doe put on the finishing touches in the living room and let her son behold the final product.

“I like it!” James cheered. “Thanks, mom!”

The boy beamed back to his mother and gave a few playful swings of his toy sword. He went dressed up as a ‘pirate captain’ that evening. It’s a bit of a common costume for humans, especially for younger ones, which meant that there were bound to be others that found it a bit cliché.

“Well, I guess it beats you going out in that Hydreigon onesie for another year in a row. But I told you that you should’ve saved up if you wanted a good costume.”

Including his older brother, John. Now for whatever reason, humans have a tendency to don costumes of things they consider fearsome beings on Halloween. Even James’ costume had been made with similar considerations, since pirates were apparently fierce bandits among humans from bygone ages, and used to fill human that lived near the sea with dread… even if James’ looked a bit too cute and childish with that stuffed Chatot of his to really be frightening to most others.

And as youngsters themselves at the time, John and Jane also got swept up in Halloween and its make-believe, and they were both old enough to seek out costumes that would be a bit more intimidating… if by degrees. John that year had gotten a costume with a fancier black and white shirt and vest and black pants, which he paired with a black cowl with a blood-red underside. He had a set of fangs that he popped into his mouth that day, and a spot of fake blood that dabbled out of its corner.

“Oh, you’re one to talk, John,” Jane scoffed. “Three months’ worth of allowance and yard work and all you’ve got to show for it is a vampire costume?”

It’s supposed to be scarier than it sounds, even if ‘vampires’ in human stories sound suspiciously less frightening and more annoying like Zubat and other Pokémon of their ilk; if that’s true, one couldn’t fault Jane too much for not being impressed. She’d opted for a more lighthearted costume that year, dressed up as a Mienfoo. Unlike her brother’s store-bought costume, hers was fashioned from parts of an old hoodie and sweatpants, dyed appropriate colors with cloth ears and a tail sewn to it. Much of it had been made on her own along with her parents’ help, and honestly it was probably a bit more impressive than John’s.

Not that the elder boy would’ve been one to hear the argument. He rolled his eyes, briefly flashing his fake fangs as he pulled his cape over his shoulder with a sharp harrumph.

“Oi, I had to leave some money behind for my Pokémon too!” the elder boy huffed. “How else was I supposed to get a costume for him?”

Now, one of the things that others find strange whenever I tell this story is that the Pokémon that partner with humans also commonly take part of this dress-up on Halloween. That time, John’s Whirlipede rolled out for the occasion, with a set of black-and-green plates and a dab of red paint. He hailed Jane’s Cubone and Herdier who had already been waiting alongside her. The Ground-type dressed up with a black, pointed hat with a brim and frayed black cape and some reeds taped around the bottom of her club to make it look like a broom, while the Grass-type sported a paper crown with a dash of purple cloth draped around his shoulder. A Dusk Ball, alongside what humans call a ‘witch’ and a ‘prince’, who neared each other to have some fun pointing out how silly they all looked right then.

Though Jane had quite obviously already made up her mind over whose costumes she found more impressive as she glanced off at John’s Pokémon and rolled her eyes.

“Hrmph, doesn’t look like you got your money’s worth, John,” she remarked.

“Well I think my costume’s the best,” James piped up. “After all, mine’s the one that’s got a matching partner!”


And in the Does’ house, it was also a tradition for the couple’s Mienshao to join their children for trick-or-treating—dressed up for the occasion himself. That year, his costume was a simpler one: a blue-and-white banded shirt, a red bandanna, and a clip-on earring made of gold-colored plastic that had been slipped over his right ear. The Fighting-type took his side beside the youngest Doe child with a bow in greeting as James cracked a grin and raised his mock sword with a triumphant pose.

“No treasure is safe from Captain James and his trusty First Mate Duke!”

Their roles arguably ought to have been reversed given that the Mienshao was a bit too big and strong to seriously be James’ underling, even if human stories have a strange fondness for such pairings, but the Fighting-type had no complaints about the role he was playing that night.

Mr. or Mrs. Doe would join in alongside him in their younger years, but they had since entrusted the Fighting-type with keeping watch over their children on Halloween. The elder children were getting old enough to be trusted with wandering off further from their nest without prying eyes constantly on them, and the Mienshao had proven to be a capable caretaker—both in and out of a costume.

Enough so that Mrs. Doe was ready to see them off… provided she got some reassurances from her children first.

“Have fun out there, you three,” Mrs. Doe said. “Though don’t go off getting into trouble, you hear?”

The Doe children cheerfully insisted that they wouldn’t, especially with the Mienshao there to keep watch. And so they got up, grabbing little plastic buckets that had been fashioned in the shape of pumpkins with faces and set their eyes towards the door, only for Mr. Doe to cut in by clearing his throat.

“Just a minute, kids,” he said. “Aren’t you all forgetting someone?”

The Doe children traded looks with one another, when a low, grumbling growl came from the kitchen. There, the family’s Druddigon trudged out into the living room with her wings held flat and her eyes narrowed as she too had been dressed up for the occasion—as an armored warrior that humans call a “knight”. Her “armor” that night was fashioned from an old sweatshirt and some cut-up windshield shades, with its chest piece decorated with a white circle ringed by four black triangles. One that, color aside, was a spitting image for the same sigil that pops up in and around the floors and friezes of Dragonspiral Tower. Mr. and Mrs. Doe had even gone through the trouble of fashioning a cardboard helmet for her that slipped around the back of her head crest with ruddy feathers plucked from a worn-out duster.

“Wow! Neela’s costume really turned out great!” Jane cheered. “She looks great as a knight!”

“I still say that she’d have looked better in that costume I found at the store of that armor from that ‘Rotor’ kingdom,” John insisted. “But hey, you can’t say it’s not a good runner-up!”

“It’s a shame that she didn’t like getting her scales painted,” James murmured. “I thought she’d look really good going as that one red computer dragon for her costume, but she looks good this way too!”

Which was all fun-and-games for everyone involved… except the Druddigon herself at the time thought it looked downright ridiculous. She gave a grumbling tug at a shoulder pad when her Mienshao mentor came over and pawed at her, grinning and reminding her that she was the one who insisted on not being left out of trick-or-treating this year. That if she was going to come along, that it was only proper she take part in all of it.

The Druddigon sighed and followed along. She supposed that she had said something to that effect. In the few years since she joined the Does, she at first didn’t pay any attention to this ‘Halloween’. It was some foolishness on a chilly autumn night that her mentor’s kind was more prepared for with his fur and warm blood.

But seeing him go out and come back every year merry and full of cheer had made her increasingly worried that she’d been missing out. Perhaps there was a bit of petty envy involved in her decision-making, but as a fellow guardian over the Doe children, it didn’t seem right to be wholly absent from such a time in her companions’ lives.

Or at least, she thought that until the said children opened the front door and let the mid-autumn chill into the house.


The dragon brought her arms over each other and turned away with a disgusted growl. She raised her voice in protest, insisting that surely whatever festivities the Does had in mind could be done indoors, and if not, perhaps she was just better off standing guard at home with their parents another year. Somebody had to defend the house against the likes of those dreaded “tee-pee”ers that were supposed to go about making mischief on this night, and it was surely more enjoyable than trudging around in the cold all evening.

“Axew! Axew!”

The Druddigon immediately stiffened up and paused at the sound of a young drake’s voice calling from the doorway. The dragoness blinked and turned to see an Axew darting up to her, dressed in a blue cape and pointed hat with stars who greeted her with a cheery wag of his tail. Her next-door neighbor from the Verne household, and right behind him, the dark-haired neighbor girl who was his trainer—Carol, who came dressed that night in a top hat and cape like her Pokémon’s with a magician’s wand in her grasp.

“Hey! Ready for trick-or-treating, Neela?” the neighbor girl asked. “I see you decided to play against type, but it’s not a bad thing. I think your costume looks great on you!”

The Druddigon blinked after the Axew pawed at her and beamed up, saying that he was a little jealous of her costume since it made her look big and strong, and when the light was right, it even shined a little bit like treasure would. That he was eagerly looking forward to passing the night together and was sure they’d have fun that Halloween.

The larger dragon wasn’t sure what to make of that. She turned her head out towards the evening weather through the doorway, and down at the excited little drake by her. He was actually looking forward to going out into the autumn chill like this?

“Druddi… gon?”

The Mienshao shook his head and chuckled, pulling the Druddigon aside as he told her in their tongue that it wasn’t for the sake of the weather that humans went on this ‘Halloween’. It was an occasion to make merry and be a bit silly in good company, and for more daring souls, to make tests of one’s bravery. Even if a few of the particulars struck himself as strange during his own first Halloween, he’d grown used to them and was sure that she would too.

The Druddigon blinked and looked over towards the other Pokémon gathered in the living room. John’s Whirlipede. Jane’s Cubone and Deerling. Carol’s Axew… even if they looked a bit silly right now in their costumes, she supposed that they did look like they were enjoying themselves.

The Dragon-type turned back and took her place alongside the Doe children, though Mr. and Mrs. Doe noticed her initial hesitation. They eyed the lot skeptically for a moment, before Mr. Doe tilted his head down and spoke back sternly to his children.

“Remember kids, if you’re going out for Halloween, everyone needs to have fun with it,” Mr. Doe reminded. “Make sure you’re not putting your Pokémon up to anything they won’t enjoy.”

The children all nodded back dutifully in reply, as John gave a wave of a hand and pulled his cape up tightly against himself with a smirk. This wasn’t his first Halloween alongside his Pokémon, and he was all too eager to remind his parents of that.

“Oh don’t worry, dad. We’ve got just the place in mind for that.”

Now most human settlements aren’t particularly spread out. Even if it’s a bit bigger than the likes of rural hamlets such as Nuvema Town, Icirrus City was compact enough that the Does and their neighbor were able to make their way to its center on foot fairly easily. Along the way, they spotted other children and Pokémon similarly costumed for the night, including a few humans and Pokémon who were visibly bigger and stronger than the Druddigon expected to be wearing such silly costumes. Clearly this ‘Halloween’ was more than just a night for human whelps like she’d initially assumed.

And most surprising of all, the neighborhoods they passed through had been decorated for the occasion. Almost like it was a spookier Christmas with somewhat better weather. There were the carved pumpkins that were lit up with candles inside and set out on porches and on lawns, toy silk webs draped from awnings—with a few real ones made by the likes of Sewaddle thrown in the mix to boot. Other houses had Woobat and Zubat decorations hung up on eaves and in windows, and a few had more elaborate decorations with skeletons and mock ghosts and ghouls of various sorts.

Carol’s Axew would sidle up tight against the Druddigon or his trainer when passing by a few of the eerier decorations, but the Druddigon made a point of keeping a straight face. After all, her kind’s eyes could pierce through the night and darkened places almost as comfortably as they could spot things in broad daylight. And even if she’d been inexperienced, she was a Pokémon that had once stood guard about Dragonspiral Tower.

What were these ghosts and ghouls compared to the Golett and Golurk that helped watch over that ancient place?

The Druddigon initially assumed that they’d all surely be headed to one of the city’s windmills, since it would’ve been a good vantage point to behold all these decorations. Except, much to her surprise, the children’s course took the dragoness and the others to a most unexpected destination…

“Brycen’s Gym? Really?

The local gym, much to Carol and her Axew’s visible displeasure.

Now to be fair on John, the idea that the local Gym would have some sort of event going on during a holiday wasn’t that unreasonable. In Unova and other regions, they apparently trace their roots from organized bands of humans and partnering Pokémon who would stand guard under the direction of a local champion. Bodies of guards who would come to the town’s aid and test those among them who wished to join their ranks. Not wholly unlike the way that the Pokémon in and around Dragonspiral Tower stand guard over their own home.

But that’s a story in and of itself, a story of settlements growing closer to each other, and to the Pokémon around them over time. Though right then and there, Brycen’s frigid gym was hardly what came to mind for the Druddigon as a logical place to hold festivities of any sort.

After all, it was colder inside than it was outdoors for most seasons of the year. And for the Does’ Druddigon in particular, it carried many memories of repeated, icy losses in battle to various opponents inside its walls. Losses that even after a few turns of the seasons, still stung her pride.


The Druddigon mirrored the expression of her fellow Dragon-type and his trainer, except her attention was trained on the pirate-garbed Mienshao in their midst. The weasel chuckled and shook his head back, insisting to the Druddigon in his own tongue to not be so hasty to judge from appearances.

The Druddigon raised a brow at that, only to be cut off by John piping up and waving in reassurance to Carol.

“Hey, don’t knock it until you see it!” John insisted. “There’s all sorts of fun to be had here!”

The neighbor girl frowned, only for her to turn the corner and abruptly pause along with her Axew. The Druddigon blinked and followed their gaze, where her wings at once bat wide with surprise at the sight of the entrance to Brycen’s Gym.


There, the entire street in front of its cavernous entrance was awash with stalls and festival lights. With food and humans and Pokémon in various costumes milling about from stand to stand. There was the Excadrill in a hard hat trading cheery laughter with a Palpitoad with a toy crown and robe blowing out bubbles. A Beheeyem and his trainer, donning tuxedos with sunglasses and toy guns that chirped like Cricketot milling in front of a photo booth. Why, even Brycen himself was present, signing autographs dressed up in some sort of ridiculous masked purple and green outfit with a flowing cape—some sort of supervillain character he’d always taken a fancy to that he’s played a lot since going back into film.


Even his Beartic had dressed up for the occasion himself, approaching the group in a costume that looked much like his trainer’s normal Gym garb. The Ice-type gave a nod in greeting, wishing the group to enjoy themselves at the festival’s attractions that night before moving along to mingle with other visitors.

The Beartic’s well-wishes went over the heads of the present children, but even so, they seemed to piece together his intent. And after a little bit of looking around, Carol realized that the festival all seemed more familiar to her than she assumed, and gave a sheepish paw at the back of her head.

“Oh, so the Gym here also throws Halloween parties,” Carol said. “I… guess I should’ve seen that one coming.”

Her Axew let out a dismissive snort, grumbling in his tongue about how fairs of the sort back home in Opelucid City were better since they had the familiar faces of fellow dragons and didn’t have such intolerable cold right next to it. But his protest went unheard, including by his Druddigon companion, who gaped around her surroundings with a sense of quiet wonder.

Why it was almost like that summer gathering of dragons the children had gone to in Opelucid! There were fewer Pokémon of her kind and of course the weather was still chillier than she’d have liked… but she supposed she could see why
some Pokémon might take a shine to this ‘Halloween’.

“Looks fun, don’t you think, Neela?” James asked. “What do you want to do first?”

The Druddigon blinked and tilted her head in reply at James in his pirate garb, when her Mienshao mentor nudged her and cracked a grin from the corner of his mouth. Even if it was a human holiday, there was plenty of fun to still be had for Pokémon like them, he reassured. And if she’d just brave the cold for a night, she’d find herself well-rewarded.

The Druddigon looked about at the surrounding fair and nodded her head back. The Mienshao
was more experienced with the ways of humans than her, and she supposed that even if it seemed strange that there would be a fair at this late season, she could give it a chance.

The youngsters’ visit to the local Gym’s fair took them from stall to stall, as they and their Pokémon whiled away their time with treats and delights. As a festive occasion, there were games and amusements for the attendees, both humans and Pokémon alike. Exhibition battles for trainers and their partners to prove their strength, others doing much the same with imagined ones on paper cards. There was a performer’s stage for music and displays of costumes, and even carnival games that’d been set out for the human and Pokémon present…

One of the more memorable ones involved dunking one’s head into a tub of water filled with apples, warmed enough to keep the fall weather at bay. Its goal
sounded simple enough: to put one’s head in, clamp down on one of the ruddy fruits, and then display it proudly with one’s teeth like one might with hunted prey.


Except when the Does’ Druddigon tried her claw at it, she quickly discovered the little fruits were devilishly evasive, always just slipping past the teeth and crags of her maw as she pulled her dripping head out from her most recent attempt with a spluttering whine. To add insult to injury, her competitors made it look all too easy, as her mentor to her left did, his face fur and bandana soaked, and the prize fruit dangling from his muzzle.

“Akthew! Akthew!”

And then there was Carol’s Axew, who’d just pulled his head out of his own tub to the right, with his jaws still clamped around one of the fruits in triumph. The third he’d snagged while playing. The Druddigon blinked with an incredulous scowl, before the Does led her off along with their companions and left others to take their places at the tubs. The Druddigon looked back at them and folded her arms with a pouting grunt. Of course a game with fruits would advantage a berry-eater like the Axew while a hunter like her would struggle with it.

The Druddigon felt soft fabric pat at her head, looking up to see Jane with her cardboard helmet, wiping away water off her scales. And just past her, there was Carol approaching with a pat at her shoulder as her Axew came along with his latest prize in tow.

“Aw, don’t be upset, Neela. Bobbing for apples is harder than it looks,” the neighbor girl insisted. “It took Chopper a few Halloweens to get good at it himself.”

The Axew fiddled around with the apple in his claws and pawed his foot against the ground uneasily, before raising it before his Druddigon companion.

“Ax… ew?”

He explained that he understood how upsetting coming up short in spite of one’s best efforts was, and that he didn’t want to fill himself up too much before it was time to gather treats. He held up the fruit in offering, insisting that he was sure that in due time, she too would snag an apple of her own.

Perhaps all she needed to do was to take a step back and use her head a bit.

The Druddigon blinked, before taking the apple and taking a bite from it. It was a bit tart, but not bad. She then eyed the apples in the tubs and peeked up at her head. She supposed the ridges of her crest did look like they could trap an apple decently well. Perhaps she’d have to try and take up the Axew’s advice and snatch one of the fruits that way.

The thought abruptly slipped from mind though, after a stiff, chilly wind blew in and the Druddigon froze in place. She shivered briefly at that persistent bother that had seemingly been ever-ready to smother her snatches of enjoyment with the fair.

The Dragon-type glanced over at Jane’s waist, where a holster for Pokéballs sat on top of her Mienfoo costume, with her own resting on it. The Druddigon lowered her head and reflexively reached out, only for the girl to suddenly pull away and the Druddigon to feel a tug at her arm.

“Hey! Don’t just go back in there!”

The dragoness blinked and glanced over her shoulder, where there was James at her side, Chatot doll tucked under an arm as he looked at her with a protesting frown.

“If your costume doesn’t go in with you, it’ll be a mess to put it back on you again!” James insisted. “Didn’t you want to go trick-or-treating later?”

The Druddigon hesitated and slunk back with a low grumble. She supposed she did commit to going along with the Does, but she didn’t understand how anyone was supposed to have fun with this blasted chill in the air. Carol’s Axew and Jane’s Cubone, both creatures sensitive to the cold themselves, were with her yet they seemed to be managing fine. She blinked and turned to them puzzledly, asking in their tongue how it was that they weren’t bothered by the weather.



The pair motioned to the capes on their costumes and gave sheepish shrugs back. It was a bit chilly, but their costumes had been made with that in mind and helped keep the weather at bay. The Druddigon screwed her eyes shut and shivered briefly with a sour grumble. Sure, that was fine for them, but it was cold comfort for her and her own costume that only covered her shoulders and chest.

By then, the Doe children had clearly noticed the dragon’s plight, as Jane turned her head over towards her and shook it with a low sigh.

“... I guess we should’ve stuck with the idea of making a costume for her that matched Chopper’s,” she sighed. “Even that idea of having her go around under a cardboard box probably would’ve shielded her from the cold better.”

Her brothers glanced over their Dragon-type companion as their parents’ Mienshao sidled up beside her and pressed up against her to pass along some warmth. John murmured under his breath about how ‘this wouldn’t have happened if we’d gotten the costume I wanted for her’, while James traded glances between the family’s Druddigon and his fellow youngsters.

“So what are we supposed to do now?” the younger boy asked.

“Maybe it’d make sense to try and find something to do indoors?” Carol suggested. “It’s what I do whenever the weather on Halloween gets too cold for Chopper to have fun.”

“... You do realize that this is Brycen’s Gym, right?” Jane replied. “Going inside isn’t a guarantee it’ll be warmer.

The Does’ dragon stiffened up and beat her wings with a start. She’d understood enough to gather that the children were talking about heading into that glorified freezer of a Gym behind them. Surely that wasn’t what they meant to suggest they do now, was it?

“Shao! Shao!”

The Druddigon turned her head after her Mienshao mentor called out and tugged at John’s cape, motioning off with a paw. She followed it along, and saw he was pointing at some sort of little cottage styled like an older, larger house. The sort that humans like showing off in movies meant to scare them.

The specifics of the Fighting-type’s words went over the elder boy’s head, but even so, he quickly put two and two together from the Mienshao’s suggestion.

“... Well, I suppose there is the Haunted House,” John suggested. “It was heated last year, so it’d definitely be warmer than outside right now.”

The children’s Pokémon turned towards the cottage, John and Jane’s companions lighting up excitedly much to the Druddigon’s curiosity. In sharp contrast, Carol’s Axew cringed with an audible gulp, hurrying over to his trainer and pawing at her with a low whine. The Druddigon blinked at his reaction, noting that Carol herself seemed to hesitate as she traded glances between her Pokémon and the eldest Doe child.

“Egh… I don’t know if that’s a good idea, John,” the neighbor girl murmured. “Chopper hasn’t done well with Haunted Houses in the past.”

And he still doesn’t to this day. Though at the time, his reaction was mystifying to the Druddigon, and she turned over to her mentor and wondered aloud why a dingy-looking house would worry Carol’s Axew so.


The Mienshao explained that it was a place where humans went to test their bravery, even if he found it a bit underwhelming himself. Inside, there’d be darkened rooms, sudden noises, and a couple decorations of various ghouls scattered about to try and give those passing through a start. Why, with the way her eyes could pick through dimly-lit places, surely being in Dragonspiral Tower during a thunderstorm would be a more intimidating experience for her.

The dragoness beat her wings and hesitated. Being in Dragonspiral Tower during inclement weather could be nerve-wracking indeed, but she thought of herself as a Pokémon that’d outgrown the frights of a young whelp. This supposed ‘test of bravery’ didn’t sound that bad, and like as good an opportunity as any to get out of the autumn chill.


Except, something about the way Carol’s Axew protested and whined about the idea gave her pause. He’d always been a bit timid in nature, but his insistence worried her that things weren’t as black and white as her mentor said. And then there was James, who’d noticed her and the Axew’s hesitance and turned to his siblings.

“... Wait, but are we sure that’s a good idea?” James asked. “Mom and dad did say to make sure our Pokémon were also having fun with whatever we were doing.”

The Druddigon faltered a moment, when John and Jane’s Pokémon gathered around and urged her to come.


John’s Whirlipede was the most aggressive of the lot as he chimed in with a chittering smirk. Surely a Druddigon of stock that watched over ancient shrines wouldn’t be afraid of such a place, would she? The Does’ Mienshao noticed the Bug-type’s behavior and sharply frowned, opening his mouth to scold him…


Only for the charge to make up the Druddigon’s mind up for her. She stomped over beside John, lowering her head and flaring her wings out with a sharp grunt. Her kind watched over shrines to Unova’s gods, of course she wouldn’t fear a few jump scares.

John, Jane, James, and Carol blinked at her display, when the elder Doe boy smiled and shook his head.

“Looks like Neela wants to go. And Chopper has always been bolder with someone looking out for him,” John insisted.

Carol and her Axew both wavered a moment, her Pokémon letting out a low whine before the Druddigon gave a determined grunt and motioned over towards herself. She was strong and fierce, and could surely keep whatever lay inside this ‘Haunted House’ at bay.

There was a moment of lingering silence, before the Axew warily trudged over alongside his larger counterpart. He was willing to give things a chance with her as his defender, a turn of events which prompted John to look over to Carol with a sly grin.

“Come on, Neela and Chopper are dragons,” he insisted. “I’m sure they’ll handle it fine.”

True to the Mienshao’s words, the inside of the ‘Haunted House’ was as he described. A darkened, abandoned-looking place, adorned with fake cobwebs and various ghouls lurking in the dark, and what looked like glowing eyes shining back at them.

Ah ha ha ha…

And sure enough, every now and then, there would be a loud sound that would suddenly come from parts that even the Druddigon had trouble following with her ears. A ghoulish laugh, a creak, a thunderclap…


All of which had worn down on her Axew companion’s nerves, and while she’d have never admitted it, her own as well. The interiors of the little cottage weren’t hard for her to see, but nonetheless, she’d gotten the distinct sense that they weren’t alone. Every now and then, she’d hear ghostly murmurs or see movement from the corner of her eyes that would make her freeze.

“Hey, Neela! What’s the holdup?”

Enough so that it made her wonder how John and the others seemed so unfazed. The only ones who appeared bothered at all were James, who remained firmly at her mentor’s side and tightly grasped his paw, and Carol, who looked back worriedly just as the childrens’ Druddigon and Axew companions caught up with them in a tall room decorated with a black chandelier.

“... Maybe it’s a good idea to turn back,” the Verne girl said. “I really don’t think Chopper and Neela are enjoying this.”

The Druddigon abruptly stiffened up after the chandelier seemed to rock briefly, before dismissing it as a trick of her eyes. John hadn’t noticed anything himself, and he was too busy facing Carol, frowning and rolling his eyes in reply.

“Oh come on, they barely change this thing every year,” he scoffed. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

The Mienshao turned over to his Druddigon counterpart with a worried frown, noting she was visibly stiff and tense.


He brushed at her shoulder, asking if she was doing alright. The dragoness sputtered back in protest that she was fine, that the sounds she was hearing were probably just the cottage settling.

Until she noticed Carol’s Axew flush pale and point off at the ceiling.


The Axew whimpered that the chandelier was floating down, which prompted the Druddigon to look up and her blood to run cold. The chandelier was floating down, straight at them. Even the children and their Pokémon had noticed it and stiffened up, as the Druddigon’s eyes shrank and her breaths came tight and quick.

“Drud… D-Drud…”

And then the chandelier suddenly came alive with a flash of violet fire and burning, yellow eyes staring at her. And the dragon’s nerves came undone entirely with a shrill scream.


A few minutes later, the Does and their Pokémon were safely back outside in the autumn air. Carol was busy patting her Axew as he shivered and whined in her arms, burying his face in her magician’s outfit. She looked up between murmuring reassurances, sharply scowling up at John as he tugged flusteredly at the hem of his shirt.

“... Sorry, I didn’t see the part about one of the Elite Four helping run the local Haunted House this year,” he sighed. “Guess I should’ve expected Shauntal would’ve had some of her Pokémon chip in for the experience.”

He should’ve known better, honestly. It’s apparently a tradition of Haunted Houses to enlist the help of Pokémon to give their attendees their scares, and when the star performer that year was Shauntal’s Chandelure…

Well, it’d be hard to fault any Pokémon for getting a start.

“Whirl! Whirl!”

Not that it was any comfort for the Does’ Druddigon as she pinned her wings back and screwed her eyes shut with a mortified grimace, as snickers from John and Jane’s Pokémon reached her ears. The dragoness cracked her eyes open briefly and turned her head over to the family Mienshao, seeing him pawing sheepishly at the back of his scarved head.


She let out a sour huff and turned away, as he bit his lip and sidled up against her, giving an apology in his own tongue. Clearly humans’ Haunted Houses did still have a few surprises, since the Chandelure had given him a start as well.

It did little to lift her mood, as the Druddigon sulked and brushed his paw away. A moment after, Carol stood up with her Axew in her arms, turning to her neighbors with a low sigh.

“... I think that it’s time to go home,” she said. “Chopper’s had enough excitement for one day.”

“Huh?!” James started. “But we haven’t even been here an hour—!”


The boy was cut off with a low growl as the family Druddigon folded her arms with a sharp scowl. Even if the specifics of the outburst weren’t understood, her intent was clear enough.

Her pride had been wounded enough for one night, and she was ready to put this blasted festival behind her. The Doe children traded grudging looks with one another, when Jane sighed and lowered her head.

“... We did promise mom and dad that we’d make sure our Pokémon were having fun too,” she said. “I guess we ought to at least drop you and Neela off home if you’re really not having fun anymore…”

The walk back from the Gym’s fair was markedly less enthusiastic, as John, Jane, James, and Carol drifted into the residential quarters of Icirrus along with their Pokémon. The whole time, John and Jane’s Pokémon grumbled to themselves in their tongues about how their fun had been cut short, and wondered aloud why the Druddigon couldn’t have just gone back to her Pokéball so they could continue enjoying their time at the fair.


Time and again she would cut their grumblings short with a low growl and overpowering glare from her position alongside James and the Does’ Mienshao at the rear of the group. She didn’t bother paying attention to the decorations on the way back as they began to pop up again with the surrounding houses. The carved pumpkins and decorative ghosts and ghouls now did little more than to remind her of the incident in the Haunted House and her still-smarting pride.


The dragoness raised her head and glanced out the side of her eye at her Mienshao mentor, who’d pinned his ears back and lowered his head with an apologetic murmur. He insisted he’d genuinely thought that she’d have enjoyed the company with the children as always, and would not have suggested she’d come along if he had known she was going to have such an unenjoyable experience.

A stiff wind kicked up and made the Druddigon shiver, pulling her arms over herself with a low yelp. Just what was the point of a night that was dead set on trying to make a Pokémon quiver, if not from cold, then from fright?

The Druddigon felt fabric brush her wing’s scales and stiffened up, looking to see John coming over, his costume’s cape taken off and now in his hands.

“Here, Neela. Try wearing this,” he offered. “It can’t possibly make you feel any colder right now.”

The Dragon-type blinked as John slipped his cape over her back, running the pins into her costume’s shoulder pads. The Druddigon blinked and beat her wings, looking back to see the costume’s cowl turned inside-out with its red interior facing outwards as the boy cracked a small smile, fake fangs and all.

“Even a human knight would probably need a cape in this weather,” he said. “Sorry for not thinking of doing this sooner.”

The Druddigon pawed at the cloth and pulled it around her body, discovering much to her surprise that it really did help keep the wind at bay. She supposed that she could understand how her Axew friend had been so eager to go out when his costume had a cape of his own, even if the earlier fright had surely sapped his appetite for further play.

“Axew! Axew!”

The Druddigon looked up and noticed the children turn their heads, as said Axew veered off and scampered off towards a door at a porch lit up with bright lights. His trainer paused and started after him as he made his way for a bowl by the frame, giving curious sniffs as his trainer frowned puzzledly at him.

“... Chopper? What are you doing?”

The others made their way up, both human and Pokémon alike. Just then, the Axew poked his head in, lingering before pulling it away with a disappointed whine. The Druddigon shuffled her way up and spotted the bowl, noting that it looked much like the ones the Does kept in their kitchen, just empty.

For a moment, she thought it was surely another human practice, only to catch a lingering smell of sugar from it. And with the way the children were trading looks with one another themselves, something clearly wasn’t quite right.

The door’s lock abruptly clicked and it creaked, making the Druddigon and Axew alike jump back with a start. The Druddigon stiffened up, expecting another ambush to try and make a fool of herself, only to see an older woman with grayed hair at the doorway.

“Oh! You’re that family from up the street! The ‘Does’, right?” the woman asked. “You’ve certainly brought some new faces along with you this year.”

The Druddigon blinked briefly, before Jane’s Cubone explained that this was one of their neighbors from further afar. A familiar face for her and the others who’d gone off for fun and games on Halloweens past.

“It’s ‘Carol’, I’m their new neighbor. And the Axew’s my Pokémon, ‘Chopper’,” the Verne magician said. “Though how come you set a bowl outside if you’re home for trick-or-treating?”

A nudge from the Mienshao turned the Druddigon’s attention to her right. He explained that she and her Axew companion were quite fortunate! This particular neighbor wasn’t around to answer the door every Halloween night. The dragoness turned her head with a quizzical tilt, her Axew companion following suit with a puzzled blink.

They’d been fortunate? But how?

“Wasn’t sure if I’d make it home in time to hand out candy, really,” the elder woman replied. “But since you’re here, I’ve actually got something for you and your Pokémon. Consider it a belated housewarming gift.”

The woman slipped past the door, as faint footsteps drifted off. A few moments later, the woman was back with a small bowl, stooping and holding it out in front of Carol’s Axew with a warm smile.

“After all, these should interest a Pokémon like yours, right?”

The woman briefly revealed that the bowl was full of candy coins in shiny foil wrapping. Gleaming treasures that made the Axew’s eyes glisten and the young drake squeal with delight. The Axew perked up, proudly flaring his cape and puffing his chest out and even mimicking his trainer’s cry of “Trick or Treat!” in his tongue.

For which he was richly rewarded alongside his trainer with a handful of the treats, the woman stooping down and patting at his head with a small smile.

“Hah, you’ve trained the little one well for him to get into the holiday spirit like this.”

“Druddigon! Druddigon!”

And not to be outdone, the Druddigon hurried up herself, batting her own wings out and spreading her recently acquired cape with similar flair. She too had come in a costume that night, and with a wag of her tail and a “Trick or Treat!” of her own… surely giving her treasure too would only be right.

The rest of her companions turned and stared briefly, but the Druddigon’s instincts proved on the mark, as after a chuckle she too was rewarded by the pensioner with a clawful of sweets with glistening wrappers and a beaming grin on her maw. A turn of events which made the Mienshao chuckle as he couldn’t help but smile at the sight.

A couple minutes later, the children and their Pokémon were off, their plastic tubs filled with treasured delights. Along the way, James looked back, toy sword in hand, giving a smiling cheer to the old woman at the door.

“Thank you!” James cheered. “Happy Halloween!”

The lot made their way along, the Druddigon glimpsing and prodding at the treasures in James’ bucket. A shared holding place for the clawfuls she, the boy, and their Mienshao companion had secured. The other children did much the same, and for a while, one could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps they’d have a dragon’s mind themselves from the way they pawed over their newfound hoards.

“Well, I’m glad that Halloween wasn’t a total bust, at least,” John said. “Though I guess that’s our cue to get going home—”

“Druddigon! Druddigon!”

The boy was cut off by a tug at his shoulder as they saw a trainer draped in a white cloth with holes cut for eyes with a Pignite similarly dressed as a bedsheet ghost drifting off from a lit house just up ahead. The Dragon-type turned with a tilt of her head and a wag of her tail.

That house was also giving out treasure too. Surely they’d have time to gather more from a second one… wouldn’t they?

The Doe children traded puzzled glances with one another, as Jane gave a bemused quirk of her brow.

“... You getting into trick or treating, Neela?” she asked. “I can’t say I was expecting that, but I guess we can make a few stops on the way home.”

“Trick or treat!”

“A few stops” proved closer to “a dozen”. As the Does’ Druddigon regained her festive mood with her appetite whetted for baubles and glistening treasures that were just being given away. And in due time, the Does and their Pokémon had amassed quite a set of hoards, with the young couple at their present house topping things off with another helping of candies in shiny and colorful wrappers.

The children and their Pokémon gave their thanks and moved along for the next house. The Does’ Mienshao gave a cheerful smile as they reached the sidewalk, taking a pair of loose gumdrops from James’ bucket and popping one into his mouth before passing the other along to his Druddigon companion with an open paw.


A small taste of things to come after their treasure-gathering came to an end, he explained. The Druddigon popped the candy into her own mouth and gave a content rumble. It was a bit sweeter than she’d like, but free treasures and treats? Why if she’d known this was what ‘Halloween’ was all about, she’d have braved the autumn chill years ago!

“Looks like the house next door’s trick or treating, too,” John remarked. “Come on, let’s see what they’re giving out.”

That was all the encouragement everyone needed, as human and Pokémon made their way along up a front walk lined with pumpkins with a skeleton hanging from the eave of the porch. The Druddigon wondered to herself briefly why humans would be so unfazed by hanging out the bones of their own kind, and raised a claw to give a curious poke.


And suddenly jolted back after the skeleton’s eyes flashed red and its chest came alive with a blue, fiery glow and a malicious laugh from above. The children and their Pokémon collectively froze, their eyes shrinking to pins with a start.


And as for Carol’s poor Axew, the encounter was almost enough to stop the poor dragon’s heart. He dove behind his Druddigon companion, hiding away from the skeleton with a frightened squeal. The Druddigon trembled a bit, before catching herself after recognizing the fire’s color and realizing it reminded her of another kind.

She wasn’t sure what lay ahead of her, but she grit her teeth, digging in her claws and spreading her wings wide. She’d been made to look a fool
once that night, and there she resolved that she would suffer the same fate a second time.


The Dragon-type flashed her fangs and bellowed with all of her might, when the light in the skeleton abruptly went dark and a creature fell out crying out in fright.

“W-Wick! Litwick!

The Druddigon looked down, seeing a little candle-like creature hurriedly slink for the door. The little wraith phased through and the porch dimmed in his wake.

As expected, another prank, but this time she had seen through it. Behind her, John sighed and narrowed his eyes with a frown.

“Hrmph, looks like Old Man Monroe’s Litwick bit off more than he could chew this year,” John scoffed. “Didn’t think it’d be Neela of all Pokémon who’d give him a scare.”

Carol’s Axew poked his head out and tried to process the sight, with the culprit of his scare gone, things would surely be safe…



The Axew flinched again at the sound and shrank back, only to notice the skeleton’s eyes would light up and then fade after its spooky laugh. The Druddigon tugged at the bones hanging and discovered they felt strangely light. Plastic, with the decoration coming alive with so much as a wave of a claw or a soft touch.

Carol’s Axew blinked and let out a sheepish laugh as he pawed at the hem of his wizard’s hat. After seeing the skeleton up close, it wasn’t as scary as he thought, and… he couldn’t help but feel a bit silly he’d been afraid of

Carol stepped in. “I never liked those sorts of decorations even without Pokémon taking advantage of them to prank others,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. “They always seemed mean to kids and Pokémon that startle easily.”

The Does and their Pokémon made their way off to solicit treats once again. This time, their Druddigon companion hung back, glimpsing over their shoulder to see an older man approaching with a bowl, and the Litwick from earlier safely hiding behind his legs.

The Dragon-type couldn’t help but smile a bit, satisfied that her own scare had taken the Ghost-type down a peg.

Even so, there was one piece of the puzzle she didn’t understand just yet.


She called out for her Mienshao mentor motioning at the skeleton, watching it come alive with a cackle upon his approach. Just how had the skeleton been laughing on its own all this time?


The Fighting-type raised a paw and motioned off at the skull’s mouth. There were little holes present, signs of a speaker, no doubt. The Druddigon floated her theory to her mentor who replied with a nod.

Such hidden noisemakers were popular among humans looking to give others a start, including at the Haunted House back at Brycen’s Gym. Ones that Ghost-types like the Litwick would take advantage of to ply their startling arts. They’d also frightened him once when he was younger, but after a few Halloweens it was difficult for such contraptions to surprise him anymore.

The Druddigon fell silent and pawed at her crest with a sheepish grin. Why, after hearing it explained, it definitely did make the Haunted House seem less frightening than a stormy day at Dragonspiral Tower, much to her chagrin. She almost had half a mind to ask the Does to go back to the fair and give her another chance to make her way through it, thinking that if Carol’s Axew were tipped off to its workings himself, perhaps even he would find it hard to give him a fright.

“Duke! Neela! Aren’t you two going to come and show off your costumes?”

A glance back up revealed James waving at them from the door. That train of thought could wait for later. There was still treasure left for them to secure.

Time seemed to fly by afterwards along with the houses, and before they knew it, the Druddigon found herself with John, Jane, James, and Carol dividing their spoils amongst themselves and their Pokémon on the Does’ front porch. With their plastic buckets filled to bursting, there wasn’t any need for squabbling with how plentiful their hoards were. Far too much for anyone to eat in a night.

But even so, the children made a point of setting aside certain candies for their Pokémon, ones they’d taken particular likings to in previous years.

“Axew! Axew!”

Or in the case of Carol’s Axew, ones whose coverings he’d taken a shine to, much like the peppermint he unwrapped, adding the glinting wrapper to a small pile by his feet. After each covering he undid, he’d greedily eat up some of his candies while others he’d pass over to his trainer after parting it with the precious covering over it.

The Does’ Druddigon learned quickly from her smaller counterpart, happily trading off her own drabber sweets in favor of ones that gleamed under the moonlight above. Except, she couldn’t help but raise a brow at her tusked companion’s behavior. Why was he so willing to be parted from the treats his treasure hid inside?


A bite into a red tube-like candy with sugar crystals on the outside provided a swift answer, the larger dragon sticking her tongue out and screwing her eyes shut with a disgusted groan. Much to her unpleasant surprise, the precious wrapping hid a sour flavor within, one that reminded her of unripened berries from the brush.

The Mienshao took the rest of the sour straw from her claw and popped it into his mouth. One couldn’t be too hasty with such sweets, he chuckled, and as she just learned, judging candies by their wrappers was a recipe for an unpleasant surprise. The Druddigon frowned back with a low grunt, only for him to reach into James’ bucket and pull out a little ball on a stick, a “lollipop” as humans call them, and insisted she lick it and try it on for size.

The dragon looked down at the ball and stick, before warily running her tongue over it, and discovering that it was a sweet, fruity delight. So that was why Carol’s Axew had been so willing to part with pieces of his hoard. Clearly she had much to learn from him and her mentor about the workings of this Halloween on some other night.

She let her eyes drift down towards a small mound of wrappers between her legs and let out a disappointed whine. If only they didn’t have to be taken off to get at the candies within! Why, without their shape and physical volume, her new treasure hoard felt a bit flat to her. Literally, even.

“Xew! Axew!”

The Druddigon was answered with a cheerful grin from her Axew companion, beaming at her from under his pointed hat. Why, it wasn’t a problem if the treasures were a bit flat! As long as she held onto these treasures stubbornly for a few days, she could surely convince her humans to trade other ones like marbles in exchange. And they’d even repeat the trade for wrapping paper after Christmas to boot!

Sound advice really, since for humans, some of the things a dragon would consider treasure are mere trash to them. Though the dragons’ hoarding and trading was a story for another time, and right then, the Druddigon was content to make a note of the advice and focus on her treats at hand.

Clearly she’d missed out on quite a bit from skipping Halloween all these years, and even if it could be a bit silly, it really was a great night to spend with company.

“Looks like you all had a busy night. Did you have fun?”

The front door creaked open, where Mrs. Doe came out and greeted the children as they picked through their treat piles. They and their Pokémon looked up and traded glances with each other as Carol piped up, shooting back a warm smile.

“Yeah, we did,” the neighbor girl said. “Thanks for inviting me to come along, Mrs. Doe.”

The Druddigon gave a content bat of her wings, putting aside the stick of her lollipop after the attached sweets were eaten up with a crunch of her jaws. She shook her head and yawned briefly, when she felt a soft poke under her mock armor, and looked over to see James looking up with a curious tilt of his head.

“... Think you’ll come trick or treating again next time, Neela?” the young pirate asked.

The Druddigon nodded her head back, giving an eager growl in reply. Of course she’d come again, she wouldn’t dream of missing a night full of such cheer!


The dragoness flinched as a chilly wind kicked up, billowing her cape out as she hastily caught it and pulled it tight against her sides. After a brief shiver, she gave a sheepish smile, making a slight clarification in her tongue:

She was looking forward to going trick-or-treating again… just as long as there’d be a warmer costume to wear next year.

And she made good on that promise, with some of those later Halloweens being quite the stories of their own. Though I’m afraid that this is where this one and my storytelling for the night ends.

After all, I’ll be going trick or treating myself shortly. So I’ll be a bit busy with my family and friends.
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