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Fledglings

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Spiteful Murkrow, Mar 2, 2015.

  1. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hey everyone, the past two weeks have been kinda hectic, but even so there's still been a few pleasant surprises here and there. The biggest ones were in the results of this year's fanfic awards, where I discovered that this little sea yarn picked up the awards for Best Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Fic, and tied for Best Non-Human Villain (Lyn), Funniest Character (Elty), and the one that made me especially happy- tied with Time and Tide Best New Pokémon Chaptered Fic . (Which I would recommend in a heartbeat for those wanting to see a nautical-themed fic following a human perspective.) So yeah, thanks to everyone who voted and nominated my stuff for this awards cycle, it honestly brought a smile to my face to see things turn out the way they did.

    In administrivia-related matters, I went back and retconned in a few fluff details in a few chapters that occurred to me a while back but I had been struggling to figure out how to incorporate, including a worldbuilding detail with regard to writing that now gets touched on in Chapter 20. The more major one is that the Pokémon of the Dungeon Colony now refer to 'Pokémon' a bit differently than they originally did, which also shows up in today's chapter. The next update is currently slated to arrive in 3 weeks thanks to there being more grunt work required in the process of preparing the next chapter. I will see what I can do to try and still punt out two updates for the month of May, but don't be overly shocked if there's only one update next month.

    Special thanks for this week's chapter goes to Tangent128, Virgil134, and solovino. With additional thanks to all the reviewers and readers that peruse this thing.

    Now onto the real reason you're here... so it took me a lot more time and effort than I initially thought it would, but I've finally got the last chapter of this episode ready for publishing. So, let's get that rolling and send this block off.

    [​IMG]

    "We need to have a talk."

    The weakened form of a Yanmega hesitated as he took in the scene around him deep in Kenobi's Mystery Dungeon. To the left and right of Valatos' team were the mists of the Distortion- a careful examination of its churning suggesting the sudden drops of chasms not too far away, their bottom obscured by the haze. Behind them, a steep slope led up- perhaps to safety, though its top was likewise not visible in the fog. Blindly flying up the scarp would be a fool's errand, and climbing it would require all a Pokémon's limbs...

    "Well?"

    … which made it an unlikely escape route from the assembly of Cubone and Marowak just ahead. The mob from the Dungeon's colony had cut off the remaining exit, which- judging from their tight positioning- was the path from where they brought them to this place. As the dragonfly looked more carefully into the watching crowd, he saw the uneasy forms of a familiar white bird and his friends watching…

    "Keep your talk!" the dragonfly hissed. "It's not over until we get that bird- AGH!"

    The Yanmega felt a heavy swat against his back, crumpling against the ground as Tetsuzui pulled her metallic bone back. The Bug-Type twitched and fluttered his wings to try and take off, only to discover they hurt from every little movement he made. He could barely even hold his four wings up, robbed of any energy to carry him off to safety.

    "Oh no, it's over," Tetsuzui corrected. "And I'm more than ready to beat it into your head if you insist on being stubborn about it."

    The Bug-Type relented and resigned himself to remaining in place; not that the fog leading into the Distortion would have been a great environment to fly or scuttle around in.

    "You've committed a great transgression against our colony and against a god," she declared. "For that, I ought to have the lot of you subjected to a trial at our graveyard to receive the sentence the dead have pronounced on you."

    "A 'trial' at your what now?" the Manectric gulped.

    "H-Hey wait! L-Let's be reasonable here!" Nori stammered, clearly unnerved by the suggestion of holding a "trial". "The dead wouldn't know anything about the Pact!"

    "I'm aware of that, and the potential consequences of violating the Pact," Tetsuzui growled. "That's why I already conducted the trial while you were unconscious, and modified their sentence a little."

    The three lavender-scarved Pokémon looked around and noticed that there were some welts that looked unusually fresh on each other's bodies. Nori began to shiver as his companions traded blank looks with each other.

    "And just what does that mean?" Valatos demanded.

    "It means that we had you stripped of everything other than the scarves on your necks in order to make restitution," the Elder Marowak answered, as she twiddled with a little bauble in her free claw. The Yanmega chanced to catch a glint of light- wait a minute, that was one of their burner badges! Behind the Marowak were two other badges, Nori's club, and the contents of the trio's burlap satchel dumped out onto the ground.

    "W-Wait, that's my bone!" Nori cried. "I need that to defend myself!"

    "A-And our badges!" Alvise protested. "You can't take those! We need those to get out of here!"

    "I believe that it is custom among 'civilized' majū to send searchers after their own lost ones," Tetsuzui chastised. "It's completely within my rights under the Pact to rob you of your time, either from finding your way out of this maze, or waiting on others to help you."

    The three square-necks blanched. Having to get rescued would mean missing days of work at the docks- and worse still, having to explain why they had gotten stuck in the dungeon. There were only a few possible ways things could turn out afterwards, with one possibility particularly sticking out in their minds...

    "Th-That'll get us exiled!" the Manectric whined.

    "M-Matte!" the disarmed Marowak begged. "We weren't doing anything to disturb the dead's resting place or anything like that!"

    The Marowak with the metal bone gave a dismissive bat of her free claw and shook her head with an unamused glare.

    "Pah!" she scoffed. "You're in no position to be bargaining here."

    "D-Don't you get it?!" Valatos buzzed. "We don't have that kind of time to wait on getting out!"

    "They don't, actually," Nida explained, folding her ears back with a sigh.

    "How so?" Tetsuzui asked, tilting her head quizzically.

    "They're former pirates who were press-ganged into the Company," she answered. "Back home, pirates on Community Service would get into really deep trouble if they continued to cause mischief afterwards. I don't think their bosses would go any easier on them… isn't that right Elty?"

    The little Fire-Type rolled his eyes and grumbled loudly at the spike ball's verbal barbs. Tetsuzui looked back at the three lavender knot-necks before shutting her eyes and shaking her head. While she wasn't in any particular mood to care about their fates… perhaps their shortage of time could be worth something.

    "Well then, maybe it's best that you three do something to earn your prompt return home," the elder Marowak demanded, pointing her club at the Yanmega. "Answer this 'Team Traveller's' questions truthfully and earnestly, and I will give you enough of your belongings to ensure your safe return."

    The three Company Pokémon looked at each other uneasily, before the Bug-Type begrudgingly growled an affirmation.

    "Grr… fine. What do you brats want to know?"

    "Well first off, where did you hear about these bounties on us?" Nida demanded. "We didn't see anything of the sort when we were in town at all!"

    "That's because the bounties haven't been listed yet," Valatos spat back. "We overheard that they were going to be put up around Aisle Town, and we wanted to capture you before that happened and everyone in the ranks would start looking for you!"

    "Huh? Someone told you this?" Guardia asked. "But who?"

    The three Pokémon blinked and clamped their mouths shut. Finally, the Manectric shook his head and began to growl back.

    "That's not relevant to the-"

    Only to have his words die in his mouth upon seeing Tetsuzui take the badge in her claws and mime a throw off into the distance.

    "Ack! Okay! Okay! Just don't throw that away!" he yelped. "We overheard Administrators Farn and Elilan talking with some Commissioner 'Lyn' guy!"

    Elty twitched and froze at the mention of the names the dragonfly brought up, particularly 'Elilan' and 'Lyn'. The Fire-Type lowered his body and arched his back as an awful realization crept in amidst the tension. He had been so close to getting back into his old crew. If only that stupid bartender hadn't insisted on them paying a tab so soon! But, based off of the Manectric's words, there was only one logical conclusion to draw.

    "We can't go back to Aisle Town," the dog muttered, hanging his head dejectedly.

    "Eh?!" Pleo squawked. "What do you mean?!"

    "You heard them," the dog growled, shaking his head bitterly. "Lyn's in port and there's bounties about to be posted with our faces on it! There's no way Lyn and his crew aren't already looking for us!"

    Pleo beat out his wings with a start and jerked his head back. They couldn't go back? But- But-

    "What about our mission?!" Pleo protested. "We were supposed to get Team Taxonomy their field notes back!"

    "Oh, if you need to complete your mission, there shouldn't be a problem with that," the leader Marowak explained, gesturing at the lavender-scarved Pokémon ahead with her bone. "He'll deliver your notes to this 'Team Taxonomy'."

    Her words immediately drew derisive scorn from the Yanmega and Manectric.

    "What, me?" the wolf scoffed. "Dream on, jerk!"

    "Yeah, how do you plan on enforcing that, huh?" Valatos buzzed dismissively.

    "Not you two," Tetsuzui scowled, before prodding her club against the belly of the Marowak against the ledge. "You, the one who still has fear for the dead and their dealings with this world."

    "M-Me?" Nori squeaked.

    "Did I misspeak?" the wizened Ground-Type demanded. "Tell me, what Colony do you come from?"

    "Uh… the Green Hill Colony?" he answered.

    "Well, I don't know how the Green Hill Colony has been raising its young if it's been spawning disgraces like you," the elder Marowak said. "Given your offense, I don't see why our colony would be willing to have your blood spoil our grounds where better majū have earned their rest. Or that of any young you may have, for that matter."

    "G-Gih! Pl-Please don't do that!" the Company grunt pleaded. "A-All my ancestors are buried there!"

    "Wait, Nori. You actually believe in this mumbo jumbo?" Alvise demanded. The wolf opened his mouth to continue, only to bite his tongue and flinch after hearing a growl come from the Marowak with the metallic club, her grip visibly tightened around it. After the Electric-Type was suitably cowed into silence to her liking, she scowled and turned her attention back to her disarmed counterpart.

    "Well now, fortunately for you the dead do have a precedent for making things right," Tetsuzui continued. "Namely to come back to this colony with proof-in-claw that someone worthy can vouch for your right to be buried in the graveyard we defend."

    Tetsuzui gave a look over her shoulder back at Pleo, who was nervously preening some wing feathers. The aged Ground-Type paused for a moment before turning back to her disarmed counterpart with a gruff grunt.

    "Since we're on the topic," the elder Marowak pressed. "Need I remind you that there is a god who needs this book delivered? How many better opportunities to find that worthy soul do you think you'll get?"

    "R-Right, it's just delivering a book… I can do that!" Nori overeagerly answered, leaving his companions to shoot unimpressed glares at their companion.

    "My gods, you really are pathetic," Valatos buzzed. As the three continued to argue among each other, Nida suddenly broke the squabble with a cry.

    "Alto!"

    All eyes turned on the little spike ball who was hopping and waving for attention. After stopping for a moment, the Nidoran flicked her ears and cleared her throat.

    "If he's delivering the journal anyways," she began. "Could I add a couple instructions?"

    "Oh?" the elder Marowak asked. "By all means, go ahead. Though what were you going to request?"

    "Just to take care of some paperworks so my team actually gets credit for this mission," Nida explained. The Nidoran pulled out Team Taxonomy's journal from her satchel, along with a scrap of paper, and doodled out a message requesting that her mission's receipt be mailed to the Tromba Island Guild. When she was done, she passed the two articles along to Tetsuzui, as everyone turned their attention back to the lavender-scarved Pokémon.

    "There, we've told you everything we know," the Bug-Type growled. The Yanmega's wings were still too weak to support his weight in his winded state, leaving him to glower and scuttle about on the ground. "Can we get our stuff and go now?"

    "Fine," the Colony leader grunted. The Marowak kicked the three badges along with Nori's club over to the captive grunts, before slipping the book and the note into the Company lackeys' now-emptied satchel, and tossing it their way. The three eagerly scooped up and repinned their badges as the lavender-scarved Marowak returned his club back to the tight grip of his claws. Valatos poked his head into the satchel, and noticed something deeply amiss.

    "Hey! You just gave us this stupid book and our badges!" he buzzed angrily. "Where's our items and our money?!"

    "Bring it up with your 'teleporter' friends after your trip!" Tetsuzui growled.

    "Our tri-?"

    Tetsuzui gave a nod and charged forward with a pair of Marowak from the front. In a swift motion, the three Bone Keepers clubbed the Company Pokémon from the side and sent them tumbling along deeper into the mist. Quickly, the three forms fell from view as the sounds of falling screams rang out, growing fainter and fainter until they faded away entirely.

    "Er," Pleo murmured uneasily. "Were they supposed to go that way in the fog?"


    Guardia gave a troubled-sounding shudder as the racket seemed to stir up unwelcome memories, before shaking her head and giving a grunt.

    "They'll wind up scattered among the floors much as any majū that attempts to enter the Distortion off its set paths would," she explained. "They have their badges, so from there, it's merely a matter of them calling for help."

    Tetsuzui stopped to rap a series of beats onto a nearby stone, and was swiftly answered by the sound of a "Come on through!" from the voice of the elder of the two guards at the colony's entrance from up the unseen ledge. The assembly of Ground-Types began to gather up the pilfered belongings of the three square-necks and make their way up the ledge with their three guests.

    After heading down the entrance, Team Traveller was led through the main chamber en route for a short bedrest. Along the way, a few of the Colony's members passed Team Traveller some items left over from the loot. The Ground-Types parted with an Oran and a Pecha Berry, along with several other objects they had less use for. Some of the objects seemed to have obvious uses, such as the Poké and silver-colored Thalers Nori and his companions kept in the bag, and a small map depicting a patch of islands in the Cradle's sea. There were also objects whose purpose seemed a mystery to most of the team, which consisted of a wooden disc with an asymmetrical ellipse cut into it, and a wooden wheel with two cross-spokes and a rotating straight-edge at the center.

    "So now what?" Nida asked as they shuffled along tiredly towards the mouth of a familiar den. "We can't go back to town, but we can't just hang around here waiting for Lyn to find us!"

    Before Nida could trudge another step forward, she saw her front paw was blocked by a metal club being moved in her way. The Poison-Type looked up and saw that Tetsuzui had come to meet them before they slipped past the entrance to the den.

    "If you have someplace in mind to go, we have a way for you to leave," the elderly Marowak answered.

    "Wait," the Nidoran murmured. "You do?"




    As the team laid down for rest, Team Traveller had their wounds treated by the colony's healer. The berries were applied without bandages, and their pulp seemed thicker and more filling than normal- like the berry Margi had passed Pleo before leaving Boisocéan. Evidently, they healed a bit better as well, as Guardia's friends were able to stagger along tiredly after being treated.

    Team Traveller's rest proved to be more fleeting than any of them desired, as before they knew it, the lot of them were awake and waiting tensely in the main chamber for a time that felt like an eternity. Every so often, a scout would return with information, though barring a fleeting sighting of Valatos and his companions squabbling with some manner of distant Psychic, there were no square-necks to be found. Unfortunately, that changed around the time the central chamber's fire-pit was being cleared out, when the scout came back wide-eyed and nervously whispered a report into Tetsuzui's ear.

    "… I was hoping that we could wait until the sea fog was at its thickest, but it appears that we cannot wait any longer. One of our scouts spotted square-necks entering the dungeon, and it will not end well for anyone if they were to find you here," she told the fugitives. "Come along, I will show you the way I spoke of."

    "Eh?" Nida asked, flicking her ears curiously. "But where is it?"

    The elder Marowak made her way to the back end of the room where her chest throne sat, tugged at some bricks, and set them aside. As the stones came out, they revealed a passage behind with a thick fog swirling deeper within.

    "Ah!" Elty yelped. "That's a path-!"

    "... to our sacred observatory," Tetsuzui answered sternly. "Now come along, we don't have much time to waste."

    The three locked their limbs along with Tetsuzui in front of a sea of curiously watching eyes and slipped down the misty trail, Mojisenshi and Machitabi's patrol following closely behind in a chain of their own. The elderly Marowak guided the three along a tight stone corridor, which rapidly filled with fog as they progressed. Eventually, Team Traveller came to a tall cave with scattered skylights, where light shone murkily through a faint mist. There in the center was one particularly large skylight… large enough to let a creature about the size of a Marowak out, assuming it could get up there…

    An exit that was perfectly sized for the little Protector who now curiously stared up at it into the night sky.

    "This is where our tribe comes to watch the spirits of our departed make their customary approach to our world from the realm of the departed gods each month," Tetsuzui explained, casting a quick glance up at the night sky above. "For you, it's a way out of here."

    Elty looked instinctively up at the hole in the ceiling and gave a surprised yip. After following his gaze and straining her eyes a bit to account for the lack of light, Nida noticed that the lights cutting through the haze, were none other than the stars and a fattened crescent moon approaching its first quarter in the night sky!

    "Why didn't you all tell us about this earlier?" Nida wondered, turning back to Guardia with lowered ears.

    "Well, it is a special place for the tribe," Guardia answered. "Besides, you didn't ask."

    Elty briefly cast a wary glare over at the lined-skulled Cubone, before giving a skeptical look at Pleo as he preened one of his wings.

    "Er… will the mewa even be able to take a third Pokémon?" he muttered, flattening out his ears.

    "Oh?" Pleo replied, poking his head back up. "I don't think it should be a problem..."

    The little Lugia waddled over and lowered his body to the ground. One after the other, Nida, Elty, and Guardia clambered atop the creature. After some scooting, scrunching, and locking limbs around Pleo's back plates, the three managed to secure positions along his back.

    The bird flapped his wings, hopped up, and much to Guardia's squeaking surprise, circled around the room a couple times before coming back down to the ground. As the young Protector came to a flapping stop, the Cubone caught her breath and began to speak to her carrier.

    "T-That didn't seem so bad!" she insisted, a nervous smile cracking below her helmeted snout. "What about you, Pleo?"

    "I mean, it's a little heavier than normal," Pleo murmured, putting a wing to his mouth. "I think I can still fly everyone, but... where will we go?"

    "Eh?" Guardia asked. "Shouldn't you be more worried about how you're going to give the slip to those purple-necked yajū?"

    "That's the idea, bonehead," Elty growled. "We're not exactly planning on sticking around to wait for Lyn to find us!"

    "And what about the next island?" she retorted. "Even an incompetent hunter knows that prey can't run forever."

    Nida cringed. With their luck so far, they wouldn't be able to stay at the next island for long. As Guardia said, they'd have to move on to another... then another... then another.

    "... She's right," Nida sighed. "The only way this will end is when we can finally go home to Tromba."

    "B-But Nida! My power doesn't come out when I need it to!" Pleo squawked. "It didn't come out back at Boisocéan, and it didn't come out when we were fighting those mean Pokémon earlier-!"

    "So perhaps your escape route ought to be one that would give you enough time to try and find out how this Protector's powers work," Tetsuzui offered. "After all, once your god is able to tap his strength, surely even those lavender knot-necks would be no match for him."

    Nida paused and twitched her whiskers at the Marowak's words. She remembered her mamí's tale of how Pleo had drawn out his power with shining wings, sending Hess flying head over heels all the way from the fringes of town into his ship's mast. Her mind then projected Tromba's hated Commissioner into the scene, imagining Lyn flying further and further over the horizon… as an entire fleet of lavender ships and their lackeys scurried away in a panicked retreat from the warm glow of the island's Protector's plumes.

    She blinked and returned back to reality, as she realized… If Pleo could figure out how to bring out his powers when he really needed it, no force in all the Cradle would be able to pry him away from the home where he belonged.

    "Right, that settles it then! We'll just have to run somewhere where Pleo can practice his powers!" Nida cried, only to catch herself and let her ears droop sheepishly. "Except… where exactly do we go to do that?"

    "Hrm… let's take a look," Elty mulled. The Growlithe stuck his head in the satchel on Nida's back, pulled out a folded-up piece of cloth, and hopped down to the ground. There he unfolded and spread out the sheet to reveal a brown-colored cloth. On it, there was a map of the nearby islands of the Cradle with a compass in an empty patch at the very bottom, the top proudly labeled 'Anyilla' in runes. The cloth was flecked with colored islands set against the backdrop of an uncolored sea. In between the lonely patches of land, light and dark blue lines crisscrossed the undyed patches between islands, going in graceful straight and slightly curved routes in parts and twisting awkwardly around patches of fog in the sea in others.

    Each island had little flourishes of art to it- there was Tromba with some whirlpools offshore and fog hanging from the mountain, Boisocéan with its tree-village and the dungeon on its eastern coast, and Kenobi with its twin sets of peaks and a colorful town along the greener of the two. In the center of the map, there was a big, blood-red splotch labeled 'Dead Zone' with an island barely visible underneath a scratched-out 'X' in charcoal over it that obscured the label for the island's name.

    "We should avoid the sea routes if we can, but there's a star chart on the back of this map," Elty explained, gesturing at the unfurled map on the ground. "So as long as we know where we're going, we can use that to help us get around instead."

    Nida peered at the cloth map on the ground and saw that on the bottom by the compass were labels to faraway patches of sea such as 'Garanza' and 'Linglan'. Now that she was looking more carefully, it seemed there were many other islands with 'X' marks drawn over them in charcoal on the western side of the map, along with numbers scribbled by them. One labelled 'Giotto' seemed to have been crossed out particularly harshly, and was annotated with a 'Don't go back here' beside it. A few solitary islands towards the middle of the map were circled, including Boisocéan and one that seemed to be roughly north of Kenobi, as well as one labeled 'Orleigh' that had a star drawn on it. On the east side, most of the islands had squares about them, including Tromba and Kenobi.

    "If that's Kenobi there, then it looks like we have four places we can go," Nida said.

    "Three," the Growlithe corrected. "We're not seriously thinking of going back to Boisocéan, are we? If Lyn has told the Pokémon around here about us, he's probably told the Company Pokémon along the Spiral beacons back there as well."

    "Right... well what about this island there?" Nida answered, as her eyes shifted to a square-marked island. "'Vollezee'? I know that I've heard that name get brought up by the guards back home, so there has to be a settlement on it…"

    "That's because it's the Company's capital!" Elty growled exasperatedly. "That's not a place to lie low, that's a place to go and turn yourself in!"

    Nida blanched and folded her ears back. Yes, that would be a poor choice for a temporary shelter to test Pleo's powers. Now that she thought about it, all of the square islands seemed to be places run by the Company. A realization began to dawn on the minds of Team Traveller's members: if the square islands were Company ones...

    "So then… we just need to go to the islands without squares?" Pleo asked. "How about this one that looks like a donut with all the blue lines leading to it? It's about as far away as the other island…"

    "The one with all the Subway passages leading to it? Otvaga Island? Nie dzięki," Elty frowned. "The island's inhabited by ferals and all the Pokémon like us live underwater!"

    "Eh?! But what's wrong with water?" Pleo chirped. "I like water!"

    "Uhm, hello? The rest of us are Pokémon that are meant to live on land," the Growlithe fumed. "Even if the Subway has air in it, I'm not getting wet if I can help it!"

    "Isn't he the picky one?" Mojisenshi sighed. "I mean, it's not preferable but you did say it wasn't controlled by the Company."

    "Yeah, water's a bit uncomfortable, but considering the alternatives, why not just suck it up and just use a reed snorkel?" Machitabi added.

    "He might have a point, water aside," Nida replied, as she pointed at a number of blue lines crisscrossing the space between Kenobi and this 'Otvaga' that would need to be crossed. "It looks like we'd have to cut through several sea paths in order to get there. That's more opportunities to get spotted by Company ships."

    "Oi, Gardie," Guardia interrupted. "What about the last island towards the far end of the map?"

    "Eh? 'Mengir'? But it's all the way off near the edge of the Cradle!" Nida exclaimed. "And it's still controlled by the Company!"

    "Maybe so, but take a look at where it is compared to us and that 'Vollezee' island from earlier," she explained, gesturing with her club. "If news about Pleo's godhood is still travelling around, this 'Mengir' wouldn't hear about it until Vollezee does."

    "It's also close enough that you could fly to Otvaga afterwards without running into one of those 'sea paths' Nida was worried about," Tetsuzui added, inspecting the map from the side. "And it looks like if you know how to use the stars, you should be able to get to Mengir itself without crossing any of those paths either."

    "Eh… Mengir? As in 'the island where Fensedge Village is' Mengir?" Elty hesitantly answered. "I dunno about that…"

    "What's wrong with it?" Pleo asked.

    "I mean it's a small settlement," Elty muttered. "But I haven't heard anything good about getting captured there."

    "Elty, we're not pirates," Nida hissed. "And we'd be in danger of getting captured no matter where we went to!"

    "Well, based off your comments, it seems you really have two choices: Otvaga and Mengir," Tetsuzui explained. "These Company majū don't run things in Otvaga, but it sounds like they'll be hunting for you on the way over. On the other hand, they do run Mengir, but you won't be hunted if you're careful about how you get there."

    "I don't know how well we'd hold out if someone caught us at sea," Nida murmured. "I guess Mengir would have to be the better option."

    "Bah, talk about being in between a rock in a hard place," Elty spat, shaking his head. "But it does seem like the lesser evil."

    "I would be able to protect you all better if we weren't underwater, just saying," Guardia grunted.

    "I guess we're going to Mengir then," Pleo sighed. "But how are we supposed to get there if we can't follow the beacons like last time? How would stars help us?"

    "Well-" the elder Marowak began, only to be cut off by a yip from Elty.

    "Like this!" he cried. The Growlithe flipped the map over and revealed a black field with clusters of white dots linked together by thin lines. A ring around the edge was labeled with the solstices and equinoxes, in between repeating patterns of seven marks. The Marowak with the Lairon club glared, but shook her head and relented.

    "I suppose that would be faster than trying to teach you all the constellations in one night," she said. "Care to explain it to them, Gardie?"

    Elty nodded and grabbed the circular wooden frame with the ellipse cut into it, placing it atop the star chart. Now that the team had the time to inspect it, it seemed the different parts of the ellipse were labeled with the cardinal directions, along with a notch at the very bottom. The Growlithe set the frame down on the map and slid it in place over the chart, aligning the notch with one of the marks in the ring near some runes reading 'Spring Equinox' before clearing his throat to speak.

    "If you know the season and where the stars are in the sky, you can get an idea of where you're going," he explained. "The polestar is here at the end of the Little Bear, and if you turn to the northeast like we'd need to to fly to Mengir, you'd wind up following after the Hibernator."

    "Hibernator?" Pleo asked, tilting his head.

    "The Big Bear? The one that looks like an Ursaring? You know, big, brown and fuzzy like that one that chased us back at Boisocéan?" Elty replied. The mention of this 'Ursaring' drew an uncomfortable ruffle of feathers from Pleo and a blank look.

    "Just… follow my paw," Elty sighed, flattening out his ears. "I'll point it out."

    The Growlithe sat on his hindquarters and raised a paw up towards the sky. Pleo looked up, and followed the little dog's paw to a particularly bright star in the sky, and then a little to the right. After stopping and squinting at the place where Elty stopped his paws a bit, he could see that even if the fog seemed to dull the sun-colored tint their light normally had, there really were some stars that made the shape of a Ursaring when you squinted at them.

    "So as long as I fly after those stars," he murmured, gesturing at the constellation with a wing. "We'll get to Mengir?"

    "Assuming that spike ball or bonehead there can read that astrolabe, then we should at least get as far north as Mengir without any problems," Elty responded. "I'd do it myself, but it's not a stick-type that I can use."

    "'Astrolabe'?" Guardia asked. "What sort of hut-dweller nonsense are you going on about?"

    "I guess that's this thing?" Nida asked, as she pulled out the wooden wheel with the lever mounted at the center. Now that she was inspecting it, she noticed that the rim of it was labelled with numbers.

    "But how does that thing help at all?" the Cubone scoffed.

    "Simple, those Company sods already did the hard work for us and wrote down the islands' coordinates," Elty answered, before pulling the wooden panel off the star chart. The Fire-Type flipped the cloth back over to its map side, and pawed at the number scribbled beside the island labeled 'Mengir' before turning back to Nida. "Hold the astrolabe so its braces are straight with the horizon, and tilt the lever until it lines up with the polestar. When the number on the rim matches up with the number they wrote down, we've gone far enough north."

    Nida blinked and stared blankly at the Growlithe before looking back down at the mariner's astrolabe. How long did it take this pudgy little ex-thief to learn all of this?

    "That's… a lot more articulate than I expected you to be, Elty," she said.

    "Well, I do have experience sailing on ships," he reminded. "Though thanks for not being so patronizing for once."

    "But how do we tell how far we need to go to the right of the 'polestar', Elty?" Pleo asked.

    "Er… that… I don't know how to calculate. I remember hearing that you're supposed to be able to do it by tracking the Travellers in the sky, but I don't know how," Elty answered reluctantly. "But hey, as long as we get as far north as we need to, we should be able to just keep flying until we reach the island! And we can always follow someone else in afterwards to make up the difference."

    Team Traveller's members looked at each other uneasily. This sounded like a much easier way to get lost, but… if they had to be careful about not following the beacons this time, did they have any choice? Nida looked up, and chanced to see the Voice of Life's Traveller starting to slip behind the hazy crescent moon.

    "It'll have to do, come on," Nida sighed, shaking her head as she scooped up the simple astrolabe in her paws. "If we get going now, we should be able to slip out while the sea fog is still rolling in."

    With that, Elty folded the map back up and rejoined Nida and Guardia atop Pleo's back. The bird paced along and beat his wings to get blood flowing in them, chancing to pass by Tetsuzui, Mojisenshi, and the Cubone from Machitabi´s patrol, the smaller Pokemon trading uneasy looks with Guardia.

    "You're sure you'll be alright, Guardia?" Mojisenshi asked.

    "Yeah, so close to the realm of the departed and all," Machitabi murmured.

    "I'll be fine," Guardia overhastily answered. The Cubone stared up at the crescent moon in the sky long and uneasily, before looking down and shaking her head.

    "The dead are not yet fully smiling upon us, anyways," she added. "It's nothing that I can't handle."

    "Thank you again, for everything," Nida said, giving a grateful bow to Tetsuzui.

    "Our interests just happened to coincide, that is all," the leader Marowak grunted. "And you make sure to gather that lore, Shugodeshi!"

    "Mrph, right! I will!" the Cubone promised. As Pleo hunkered down for his hop, Guardia looked up, and then back down uneasily at Pleo's bobbed head. "So how does this 'flying to another island' thing wo-"

    The next sound heard was the sudden woosh of air as Pleo sailed up into the inky blackness, prompting a collective yelp as his passengers clung tight against the Lugia's body... followed shortly by the sound of a surprised, startled shriek.

    "A-AAAAAH!" Guardia's voice rang out. "Not so high! Not so high! I can't see the ground!"

    "That's the point!" a fainter Growlithe's voice snapped back. "It means that we won't be seen from there either!"

    The four Cubone traded uneasy looks with each other as Guardia's cries started to fade with the distance. It wasn't like the dead to make a decision like this… was it?

    "Well, at least she was quieter about it than I expected," Kamenkurai sighed.

    "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea…" Keikaiashi murmured.

    "Tetsuzui-sama?" Mojisenshi asked. "Will Shugodeshi really be alright out there?"

    "She'll be fine," the Marowak answered back. A faint, but still discernible "Y-You didn't mention flying being like this at all!" carried on with the winds, leaving the Marowak to blink and shake her head.

    "Though I suppose it wouldn't hurt to petition the departed for a little extra help. Just in case."




    Unbeknownst to Team Traveller, a few hours before their flight from Kenobi, events were stirring back across the sea at Boisocéan. As the night fell and the stars came out in the sky, the Siglo Swellow slipped out of Seahive's harbor for the open ocean. Unbeknownst to the lavender-scarved Pokémon aboard, the blue-shelled form of a Clawitzer was at the same time cutting along the waves to a waiting three-masted frigate with indigo sails lurking offshore. Each of the ship's sails were emblazoned with a trio of white rhombic designs, resembling three leaves fanning out about a stem. The shrimp slipped past a surprised looking Tentacruel and Sharpedo patrolling the water and sidled along the craft. The Clawitzer latched onto a rope ladder dangling over the side, pinching and pulling her way up to a deck full of Pokémon with similar indigo scarves, each bedecked with either one or two white rhombic leaves.

    "I'm back," she grunted. Right away, the hubbub aboard the craft died down, and a Sandslash turned and sounded the call.

    "Oi! Captain Nugget's ba- A-Aah!"

    The creature ducked, narrowly dodging a glowing orb of water that zipped over his head. When he looked back up he was met with a withering glare from the weathered crustacean as she unfurled and pulled off her white scarf. Underneath was an indigo scarf similar to the other Pokémon on the ship, except hers bore three white leaves on it.

    "For the thousandth time, Niilo. It's not 'Nugget'," she snapped. "It's 'Nagant!'"

    "T-Take it easy, Kapteeni!" the pangolin exclaimed. "It was just a slip!"

    One after the other, Pokemon on the deck, joined by those patrolling the sea and air surrounding the vessel, began to crowd around her. Their captain had been gone for quite a while, and now was the time to learn why.

    "What took you so long?!" the Beedrill first mate interjected, an anxious flit from his wings disturbing a scarf with two sets of leaves around his neck. "If we knew you'd be gone for almost two days, we'd have pulled into port after you!"

    "Yeah, we were starting to worry you got into trouble or something!" a Ponyta with a single-leaved scarf cried out.

    "If I were truly in trouble, I'd have sent word," the Water-Type scoffed. "Besides, how much do you think Boisocéan would let slip about what really happened if they saw a fregat pull into port with Imperial sails?"

    "We have spare sails and scarves, though!" a Tentacruel protested from the water. "We could have gone in disguised!"

    "With my ship?" she retorted. "How many ships this big come here on a regular basis? It would have shut up the locals before we so much as dropped anchor in port!"

    The gathered Pokémon murmured to themselves, thinking it over… the old sea bug did make some sense. The Clawitzer scuffled over to the bow, and gestured at a moving shape close to the horizon. Those with sharper eyesight could vaguely see the shape of a schooner, though the markings couldn't be made out at this hour.

    Fortunately, the captain could divulge its identity.

    "Besides… if the square-necks out there had figured it out while we were in port, we might've had to engage them," she said. "The customary headache from Boisocéan over collateral aside, we don't want them to get blown out of the water… yet."

    The crustacean's words drew frowns and puzzled stares as the gathered indigo-scarved sailors turned and murmured to each other.

    "Why do we want that again?" the Sandslash, apparently named 'Niilo', asked skeptically.

    "Yeah, who cares what happens to some Company sods?!" the Ponyta spat.

    "Because when I was on Boisocéan, I ran into some of those square-necks, and they're up to something," the Clawitzer answered. "Something big. And we're going to follow them to Kenobi to find out what."

    "What?!" the Tentacruel from the sea escorts exclaimed. "Into Company waters?!"

    Worried chattering began to float around the sailors on the frigate. Their captain couldn't seriously be suggesting that they sail into enemy waters, could she? On the other hand, a handful of Pokémon seemed to take the matter in stride, as the idea of a risky mission brought other concerns to mind.

    "Does this mean we're getting paid extra?" the Sandslash pressed.

    The Clawitzer screwed her eyes shut and shook her body irritably. Her worn shell testified that she had seen many things in her long life: A time when crews like hers didn't need their numbers padded out by thrill-seekers, glorified mercenaries, and conscripted ex-pirates. A time when pirates kept their trade to the remote seas. A time when there was privilege afforded by nobility in her own life…

    And of course, the season in which it all boiled away with the fall of empire, leaving her to claw what little of it she could back for herself. One constant remained between those two eras...

    "Captain Nugg-" a Cranidos began, only to see the Clawitzer level her big claw at him. The dome-headed dinosaur promptly cried out and hastily amended his words with a startled squeal. "Ack! Nagant! Nagant!"

    … even after the world she grew up in burned, Pokémon were still getting her name wrong.

    "Our mission's just supposed to be finding out wh-what happened at Boisocéan a few days ago!" the dinosaur stammered. "You already f-found that out, didn't you?"

    "Da," the Water-Type answered, bringing her claws back to rest as she continued on. "And I have a strong suspicion that a god was involved."

    A… god? The murmuring about the gathered Pokémon grew anxious. Did Captain Nagant seriously mean to suggest that the Company had woken a god? They couldn't possibly have done that! Could they?

    "Given that this matter could potentially determine the fate of each and every one of your hometowns, and whether they're forced to bow before those corporatist traitors," she gravely intoned. "Does anyone else want to raise any objections about flying false colors for a few days?"

    Not a single word of protest came as, one after the other, the gathering of indigo-scarved Pokémon shook their heads. A few of them shuddered at the thought of what those lavender-clad traitors might do to their precious little worlds back onshore if they had a god aligned with them…

    "Wonderful. Then send word out to the Admiralty and throw together a pattern for the spares. We'll change the sails when we near Kenobi," Nagant barked before turning for the ship's bridge. "Tell them that we'll be late coming into port, and that we found something that might be a potential casus belli."

    An Aipom fished out some paper and charcoal from a satchel slung over her shoulder, and hastily scrawled a message before passing it off to a Drifblim. The Ghost-Type lowered his tendrils and hastily scooped it up before floating off to the northwest. The sails were lowered and the stone anchor was raised as the deck returned to its normal, busy clamor. Soon after, the escorts in the air and water stirred up gusts in the sky and currents in the sea respectively, to help get the bulky craft up to speed. Nagant carefully clambered down the bow of her ship, lowering herself down the timbers of the frigate's hull towards the waterline.

    "And we'll be doing what we can to take care of the matter quietly," she said to herself, eying the dark shape on the horizon. "For the Empire."




    Author's Notes:

    - Matte! (待って!) - Japanese: "Wait!" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - (¡)Alto! - Spanish: "Hold it!"
    - Nie dzięki - Polish: "No thanks"
    - Kapteeni - Finnish: "Captain"
    - fregat (Фрeгат) - Russian: "frigate" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - Da (Да) - Russian: "Yes" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  2. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hello, everyone. So it took a bit longer than I expected to have everything hashed out, but after keeping you all waiting, I finally am ready to kick off the next block of chapters.

    One of the things that you might notice is that this chapter is a bit on the long side of things again. Things grew a bit beyond what I was expecting during the polishing phase, but there didn't seem to be a satisfying spot to divide up the chapter into pieces. That said, it's not too far past the current longest chapter in this fic, the prose will hopefully help for making things go down a bit smoother.

    Special thanks for this chapter goes to Virgil134, Tangent128, solovino, as well as to the readers and reviewers who help keep this thing trucking along. The next chapter is currently targeted to come in 2 weeks from this point, give or take a couple days.

    And without further ado, let's turn the page and kick off with...

    [​IMG]

    As the first rays of sunlight began to poke over the horizon, a Fearow with Company lavenders swooped down and latched onto a branch of a solitary, scraggly tree by the sand on the far end of Kenobi. From his perch, the creature beat out his wings to get his blood flowing, sore from a long night of searching flying about Kenobi's airspace. His Crobat superior had grown particularly cantankerous since that tumble into the sea the day prior, demonstrated in his assignment of search sectors.

    Rustle

    The Flying-Type jerked his head at the sound of nearby grass being disturbed. The bird ruffled his feathers at the sound of grumbling and shambling footsteps, along with an odor that managed to rankle even his less-sensitive avian sense of smell. The source of the sound and stench soon became clear, as a seasick-looking Krokorok wearing a lavender scarf pushed through some dried golden-brown grasses and scampered along the beach. He looked up and down the coastline, before shaking his head and sighing as he noticed his counterpart.

    "Blurgh… what a night to get food poisoning," the crocodile groaned. "Doesn't Administrator Farn have Pokémon that can search her own island?"

    "Yeah, I dunno either, Ken," the Fearow answered. "But at least you haven't been stuck with my group. Wing Commander Kane's been giving us an earful for not looking alive in 'a search at a sane hour for once'."

    The Dark-Type paused, furrowing his brow before launching into an exasperated response.

    "A sane hour?! Maurier, is he daft?! It's almost time for the sun to come over the horizon!" the Krokorok hissed. "Just how much longer is Captain Lyn going to keep us-?!"

    The Desert Croc noticed the Fearow's eyes widen, before the bird suddenly flew up into the air with a startled squawk. The Dark-Type turned around, and promptly dropped his jawed and went wide-eyed as he saw a large wave coming for him directly from the sea...

    Sploosh!

    ...and was promptly swept aside into a sand drift. The wave's culprit was revealed to be an irked Samurott, who marched up the the beach grumbling to himself while the hapless reptile spluttered and hacked up water and sand.

    "Bah, I don't believe this…"

    Clearly their captain had not had much luck searching the waters between the island and the atoll over the last few hours. The two Company Pokémon hastily pulled themselves to attention as Lyn shook himself dry and turned a scowling gaze on the pair.

    "Give me a status report," the otter barked. "If there's been so much as a feather from that bird floating around, I want to know about it!"

    The Samurott waited expectantly and twitched his whiskers impatiently, only to be answered by the sound of breaking waves and stammering from the two underlings before him. The Water-Type began to scowl, and repeated his question with a loud, growling emphaticness.

    "Well?" he demanded. "Has there been any sign at all?"

    The Fearow and the Krokorok traded reluctant looks before the bird shook his head and began to speak.

    "Apologies, Captain," Maurier finally answered. "But none of the flying teams have seen any sign of the Guardian or those kids with him. Or anything out of the ordinary for that matter."

    The Samurott seethed before shaking his head and pointing at the reptile with a paw.

    "And you?" Lyn pressed.

    Ken gulped and uneasily squirmed under his superior's glare. It wouldn't be wise to get on his bad side twice in just over a day, but... just what was he supposed to tell him?

    Actually… maybe there was something to bring up...

    "Eh… well, there was one thing," the crocodile murmured. "I heard one of Pokémon from the mountain sectors say they overheard screams that sounded like a Cubone's while patrolling a bluff."

    The Samurott blinked and paused as he mulled the Dark-Type's words. After a brief moment of rumination, the otter furrowed his brow and gave a shake of his head, realizing that the incident had a perfectly normal explanation.

    "Hrmph, it was probably just a feral getting caught up by the law of the wild," Lyn harrumphed. "I fail to see why you would find that strange."

    "Well, there weren't any ledges or anything overhead, so the screams had to be coming from the air," the reptile began. "I mean, I suppose now that you mention it there are flying Pokémon that could carry one off, but…"

    The Krokorok began to yawn, much to Lyn's displeasure. As he opened his mouth to begin to castigate the crocodile, he heard Maurier yawn as well. Looking to the east, Lyn noticed the sunlight poking over the horizon. Had the night already gone by so fast? Now that he thought about it, his swimming had become sluggish and jerky over the last couple of hours.

    "I think that we've searched enough for a night... enough to leave things in the paws of the relief teams," he sighed. "Go back and get them. If tonight was anything to go by, the Guardian and his cohorts are probably still hiding somewhere in town right now."

    "Aye, Captain," the pair replied. The Krokorok and Fearow set off, leaving Lyn behind with the rising sun. The Water-Type looked back at the sun, and gave a low growl off at the horizon.

    "You and your friends can't hide from me forever..."



    "Ow!"

    Nida's yelping voice carried over the water as she felt a stiff blow strike her back. Behind her was a rather startled-looking Cubone who was drawing her arm back to her side, trying her hardest not to look at the churning waves far below.

    "A-are we there yet?" Guardia weakly asked. The pitiful show made Elty fold his ears back aggravatedly. Did he really have to worry about this now- as the sun coming over the horizon rendered the star chart underpaw less and less useful? She'd stopped screaming and had only gotten sick once during the entire flight at least, but could she not pester them about getting out of the air?

    "For the hundredth time-" he growled, only to be cut off by a sudden hiss.

    "Hush, Elty!"

    Ferals really didn't take being put in strange situations well, did they? The Nidoran sighed and tiredly shook her head. After a little thinking, she answered softly to try and soothe the wide-eyed Cubone.

    "Sorry, not yet. It's probably still going to take a while," Nida answered. "There's nothing but water all around... see?"

    The mention of water drew a shudder from the Ground-Type, prompting her to claw deeper into Pleo's back. The Lugia felt the sudden pinch and shrieked, jolting his passengers midflight.

    "A-AAAAH!"

    "No no no, nothing too fancy, mewa!"

    "Sudden jolting hurts the Nidoran, Pleo!"

    As Pleo's flight stabilized, his three passengers caught themselves panting and trying to regain their nerves. Elty's were the first to return to him, as he turned and glared at Nida. This was all her fault. If she had just gone back to that angry bartender, he'd be back in the Iron Fleet and she and the mewa would be back on their quest to get home.

    But no, they just had to leave before Hess could come, and they just had to take this little bonehead with them.

    "I knew it wasn't a good idea to take the scaredy Skitty along," he grunted. The Growlithe yanked his snout back as the end of a bone slipped past it, just barely dodging the club before coming face to face with a now glaring Cubone

    "I-I'm not scared!" she spat angrily. "S-Say that again when we're not all a few seconds from falling to our deaths and see what happens then!"

    "Enough!" Nida cried. "Look, we're all in this pinch together, so let's just try to stay quiet for-"

    "Are we there yet?" Pleo's voice tirely chirped from the front.

    "No!" Elty barked. "And don't you get in on this too!"

    Pleo's flight wobbled a little noticing it, the Lugia sluggishly attempted to climb up higher in the air. He knew that Elty, Nida, and now Guardia were all counting on him to fly them and to be their Protector, but...

    "My wings are hurting again, though!" Pleo complained. "And I keep hearing something like a muffled song, I thought it would be from the island, and-"

    "It's alright, it's alright," Nida insisted, nuzzling "We will get there, I'm sure everything will be alright."

    "Uh-Uhm... you mean like that?" a wide-eyed Elty sputtered, gesturing with his paw up ahead. In the distance, heavy, jet-black clouds were churning, and worse…

    Bo-Boom

    Thundering. Much to the horror of Pleo's passengers, he was heading straight for the storm!

    "Um… Pleo? We need to turn around, now," Nida said, her barbs pricking up out of tension.

    "H-Huh?!" Pleo exclaimed. "B-But the song! I can hear it better now!"

    "Forget about your stupid song!" Elty shouted. "We need to not get blown out of the sky by that storm!"

    "You don't understand, the song's coming from the island!" Pleo squawked back. "Look!"

    Elty was about to argue back in his hurry to get far, far away from the the skies over the Cradle's sea, but he began to notice how not only not only the mewa was heading right for the storm, but Elty had a clearer view of it and the world around than before.

    In spite of the looming clouds ahead, Pleo's flight was calm and stable enough that Elty could easily make out some shapes in the distance, there was a narrow band of clours and right past them... a green-shrouded hillside!

    The three faltered and looked at each other, then at the clouds ahead, and realized that there was only one solution.

    "We're gonna have to go through it," Nida gulped. "It's the only way."

    "F-Fly us lower at least!" Guardia cried. "What if we fall?!"

    "You can't be serious, spike ball," Elty yipped. "It's already tough enough going through a storm on a ship, and you want the mewa to do it?!"

    But for some strange reason, Pleo didn't seem to be fazed. No, he kept flying on ahead, his wings beating with increasing firmness and his pace quickening as he sliced on ahead under the darkened clouds.

    Bo-Boom

    The rumblings of thunder came more frequently and the wind began to whistle. As the team slipped under the darkened clouds, they felt rain platter against their pelts. Winds whipping around them, the three screwed their eyes shut and clung on for dear life, expecting at any moment to be thrown loose.

    But that moment never came…

    "Pleo?"

    As Nida cracked an eye open against the whipping winds, she saw that Pleo was flying on completely unfazed, chirping cheerily along the howling wind and bobbing his head to and fro at the surrounding clouds. It was as if he were entranced- and the fatigue he had been struggling under for the last few hours had melted away. A short time after, the three felt the rain let up, the sun returned, and they passed the band of dark clouds as Mengir Island came into view.

    The island consisted of a collection of steep hills up ahead, with a forest of needle-like stone spires protruding from a thick fog at the center. Pleo stared at it, and then puzzledly back at the darkened clouds, before continuing on. As the team got further and further from the clouds behind them, the little Protector's flight began to grow sluggish and tired again. After a staggering and panting final stretch, Pleo came to a stumbling rest at a green-sanded beach surrounded by stony bluffs, flopping down against the sand and leaving his passengers to tumble off his back into an exhausted pile.

    "Urgh… let's not do that again for a while," Guardia groaned.

    "Seconded," Elty panted. "I smell like I fell into a river right now!"

    "Pleo?" Nida asked. "Are you alright?"

    The Lugia craned his neck up and shook out his plumage. He looked about his surroundings, but seemed disatisfied upon turning back to his teammates.

    "I was sure the song was coming from here," he crooned. "But it's faint again…"

    "Okay, what is this song you keep going on about?" Elty grumbled, lowering his eyes. The dog quickly shook himself dry from the trip through the rain, lowering his ears annoyedly.

    "It sounded familiar and it made me feel better while flying. I can still hear it, but..." he began. The young Lugia put a wing puzzledly to his beak, only to turn back to the dark clouds when a realization dawned upon him.

    "Oh! Those clouds!" he exclaimed. "They must be what was making that song!"

    As Pleo babbled on about the storm clouds and waved them off with a cheery "bye" (before pulling his wings back and noticing they felt rather sore), the rest of Team Traveller looked at each other speechless. Nida paused and wondered… Storms were things that Pokémon ran away and hid from… but then why would Pleo like their sound? Wasn't he a Protector? Protectors wouldn't like storms...

    Would they?

    "Oi!"

    The sound of Elty's voice snapped everyone back to attention. There, off in the distance, was a small settlement of light-colored huts bounded by a river. On the other end of the river, there were fields and a fort on a motte surrounded by wooden palisades that loomed over its surroundings. Curiously enough, the village seemed to be built among a collection of tall, craggy rocks, though there didn't seem to be an easy way to walk over…

    "Looks like you might have landed a little early," Elty sighed. "If you can get back into the air, we could always land at one of the out-"

    "NO!"

    Elty, Nida, and Pleo collectively flinched and turned to their wide-eyed Cubone teammate. The creature looked tired, obviously rattled, and clearly unenthusiastic about the prospect of further flying.

    "N-No more flying, please," she pleaded. "We're already at your 'Mengir' and everything!"

    "Well how else are we going to get there, huh?" Elty snapped. "You don't mean for us to climb these bluffs, do you? And we'd have to find our way over without a map afterwards!"

    "But Elty!" Pleo whined. "My wings are sore!"

    The three proceeded to begin to bicker tiredly with one another, leaving Nida to sigh and turn to the still-churning water offshore. As she watched the passing forms of Pokémon making their way to the settlement's harbor, the spike ball squeaked with excited realization.

    "Wait a minute, we do have another way over!" she cried.

    "We… do-?" Pleo asked, looking out at the water and its inviting, bobbing, wave. Suddenly, Nida's same realization dawned upon him.

    "Oh!" he cried, giving a triumphant trill. "I can swim all of us over!"

    Elty and Guardia both groaned and looked out at the stretch of sea to the settlement, before training skeptical looks at their Poison-Type teammate.

    "I mean, I suppose it's safer than flying," Guardia grumbled. "But going through all that water?"

    "We'd have to go through the harbor, too! That's the busiest part of any town!" Elty added. "We don't know if the village there's already been told about us, so just how would we be able to get in without being spotted?"

    Peck peck peck...

    The three turned, and saw Pleo pecking curiously at a battered and worn crate washed up among some rocks. Elty gave a sour frown, before shaking his head with a grumble.

    "Oi, mewa!"

    "Whuh?!" Pleo squawked, jerking his head up. "What's the matter?!"

    Nida eyed the crate, then the surprised-looking Lugia, and then the crate again. It was ridden with holes, and hardly a seaworthy craft, but it was big enough to hold Pleo in it.

    Though then again… what if they didn't get into the crate… but the crate got onto them?

    "Actually, Elty", she said. "I think there is a way we can sneak in while swimming."



    After hastily pulling themselves back aboard Pleo, Team Traveller found that the battered crate fit snugly over their heads, giving the appearance of a lost article of cargo bobbing along the waves. While far from perfect, with their impromptu camouflage, the four were emboldened bobbed along in the water towards the distant village's harbor.

    The plodding cruise took them past the harbor's ships, and dockworkers toiling away at shuffling cargo around. The group also passed Pokémon who traded curious looks at the box with a white tail trailing it, only to shrug the matter off as some children at play. Amazingly enough to Guardia, their disguise seemed to pass muster.

    Their journey finally ended as Pleo came ashore underneath a wooden set of docks built atop a soggy beach. Some rocks formed a crude retaining wall and wooden pilings behind them.

    Pushing their wooden cover off as they dismounted from the Lugia's back, Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia darted further under the piers, where muffled conversations from the local harbor Pokémon filtered down from the docks above.

    "Oh, the roses? They're for my baba," a passing voice said. "She's on bedrest after she got attacked by ferals out at those sacred stones on the outskirts."

    "She should have known better, the ferals have been surly around these parts for years" a deeper voice sighed. "I don't understand why the old generation makes such a big deal with that dump anyways…"

    The voices faded away into a sea of indistinct murmurs as the sound of footsteps carried on down the dock. After pausing and flicking his ears in the air for a moment, Elty noticed that the voices sounded louder on their left. Following the Growlithe's lead, the group found a hole punched into the docks' wooden planks near the edge, perhaps by a stray attack. After a few sniffs at the air and a careful listen for footfalls and movement above the background noise of lapping sea waves, the members of Team Traveller popped out of a hole behind a heap of wooden barrels. The four quickly darted out into a lane, where the buildings of the humble village came into view.

    The buildings along the shore were rough and simple wooden shacks of similar construction to the seaside structures back home. Like their counterparts back in Bluewhorl, the rude buildings teemed with activity as sailors and harbor residents went about their daily routines. Almost immediately, one feature stood out as very different from little Bluewhorl Town...

    "Wow, Nida, look at the big rocks!"

    Up ahead, there were two tall stones that had been planted into the ground on opposite sides of a path leading from the docks up a hill. The team followed after Pleo as he darted out to the stones and began to eye some vertical columns of footprint runes and a carving of a deer-shaped figure with branching antlers etched among clumps of moss. As Nida shifted her gaze around, paying mind to the guards who would surely be in a Company town, Guardia wandered around some of the stones on their own. The Growlithe of the group made sure he kept a safe distance from her, wondering if she would remember her comment from before.

    That was not much of an issue, for the newest addition to Team Traveller was mesmerized by the new sights. So these 'towns' really were like big colony grounds, if one full of Pokémon that were nothing like each other. There were walking Pokémon, swimming Pokémon, Pokémon that flew...

    But, how did they make all of these? Without caves or wands to burrow holes? And how did they get these giant boulders propped up? Machitabi never said anything about rocks like these being in the town along the shore back home...

    "They look so... firm, and heavy. There are creatures that can actually move stones like these?" the Cubone asked. After prodding at the base of one of the two standing stones, she turned to Nida and tilted her head curiously. "I never heard anything about this back home... is this how majū from towns start building their homes? Placing stones like these around?"

    "I- I think this must be something that only Pokémon on this island do," the Nidoran answered as she rubbed her arm, not knowing what else to offer. These structures were certainly something different from anything they'd seen so far, and Nida had the impression they were not really intended to be homes, or anything of that sort.

    Now that she noticed it, there were a number of other things that seemed to be particular to this town. There weren't as many shops down by the docks, and there were more stones off in the distance. A number of buildings further inland seemed to be built with whitewashed walls and wooden shingles on their roofs. There was a stream in the distance, but there didn't seem to be much of the town on the other end beyond a fort complex consisting of low-slung buildings ringed by wooden palisades and stern looking guards patrolling the perimeter...

    "Well how was I supposed to know we had a visiting Administrator?"

    And, as the group had feared, the town also had Pokémon in Company lavenders coming and going. Nida and Elty's fur stood up as they caught the sight of a Stantler and Sudowoodo passing by, the pair idly chattering as the reindeer carefully tugged along a cart loaded down with sturdy crates along, steadied by the false tree.

    "The only ironclad in port then was Zorn's!" the Normal-Type protested. "And it's not my fault that Dragonite wasn't watching where his tail was!"

    "Eh, don't worry about it," the Sudowoodo replied. "Of all the Admins to get on the bad side of, you could've done much worse than that tubby lizard."

    For a fleeting second, time froze and the team's blood ran cold as the two cast glances at the party by the stone pillars. Then, the pair shifted their attention back, seemingly unconcerned by Team Traveller's presence.

    So word hadn't reached this island yet! This meant that they'd be in the clear as long as-

    "Oi! Don't think that we're just gonna let you get away!"

    Nida, Pleo, and Elty grimaced as Guardia ran out into the path, bellowing and stamping her feet behind the two Company Pokémon. The startled Stantler stumbled forward and jolted the cart, making a crate towards the top shift and totter a panicked expression flash over the grunts' faces. After hastily throwing his arms out to steady the crate and push it back onto the cart, the Sudowoodo and its companion turned around, shooting venomous glares at the Cubone.

    "Hey, just what was that for, huh?!" the reindeer snarled. "Making Pokémon drop delicate cargo your idea of a fun time or something?!"

    "Yeah, are you trying to start something?" the faux tree growled.

    "That's right, I am!" Guardia shouted back, tightening her grip on her club. "I'm gonna-! Mrph!"

    Before the Cubone could finish her words, she was hastily cut off by a paw over her mouth and drug up the lane. As the Ground-Type stumbled along flailing and protesting, Elty yipped back at the two lavender-scarved Pokémon.

    "Sorry about that, she's new!" he apologized, before shooting a glare and growling at the Cubone. "And we were just going..."

    The group dragged their new teammate up the lane and into an alley as some distant grumbles between the two Company Pokémon of "what was her problem, anyways?" floated through the air. After the three fell behind the alley, the team's Pokémon relaxed their grip, and...

    Thwack

    "OW!"

    Came face-to-face with a glaring Guardia, her bone having freshly found its mark on Elty's head. The dog shook his head and flattened his ears back, snarling.

    "What is your problem?"

    "What is my problem?" Guardia shot back. "They were yajū that clearly had nothing good in mind for us! You should've known by their scarf colors and those nasty-looking horns the four-legged one had! If you don't fight 'em off, they'll come back for you!"

    Guardia's rebuttal drew a wave of paws and wings over faces.

    "Um… Nida? It doesn't work that way, does it?" Pleo asked, giving his head a puzzled tilt.

    After screwing her eyes shut and furrowing her brow, Nida muttered under her breath, and attempted to explain the situation to their new teammate.

    "Guardia… remember scarf-wearers aren't supposed to cause trouble with each other for no reason," she sighed. "The Company Pokémon here don't know that they're supposed to try and catch us, so if we fight them, we look like the bad Pokémon!"

    "Eh? But aren't these Company majū like predators?" she asked, pedaling her free claw. "Always causing trouble because that's what they are?"

    As Pleo began to open his beak to ask what 'predators' were, Elty hastily interrupted, shaking his head.

    "I told you taking her along was a bad idea, spike ball," he grumbled.

    "Hush!"

    The Nidoran shook her head and tried to think of how explain the matter. After a few mental false starts, she began to spell out an explanation.

    "That's… not how it works," she sighed. "Look, you saw how they didn't recognize us earlier, right?"

    "Yes…?"

    "Well, we don't have that much time to try and help Pleo learn how to use his powers here before they do recognize us," she explained. "And if we get into trouble, we'll only speed that up!"

    The Cubone paused and tilted her head. It sounded strange that a foe Pokémon wouldn't know when to be a foe, but it did seem to make sense under its own logic.

    "So if we don't have to fight with our enemies to help your Protector learn how to draw out his power," she began. "Then what do we need to do?"

    "Well, Guildmaster Hatteras had us take a mission to try and draw out Pleo's power," Nida replied. "So we could always try that again…"

    Nida looked at Elty and Pleo, and saw their eyes had dark, tired-looking circles underneath them. Perhaps the flight and sleep deprivation had taken more out of them than she initially thought…

    "Though on the other hand… we've been up all night and could use some rest," Nida murmured. "And there are a couple things we could use before accepting a mission anyways."

    Nida lifted the coin purse that had been liberated from Valatos, the Yanmega that had ambushed them yesterday. She gave it a stiff shake and heard the satisfying clink of metal inside, before dropping the satchel safely back into her bag and turning to Guardia.

    "Why don't we put the money from those jerks back in your dungeon to some good use?"

    The four Pokémon poked their heads back out of the alley and, after seeing the coast was clear, continued up the path from the docks, passing a collection of the town's stone pillars and little white-walled huts that stretched along the path. The scenery of huts and standing stones on the way was occasionally punctuated by larger structures. There were a few more built-up houses, a signaling platform for ships on a hilly outcropping, and a two-storied medic's hut with a stone base and shingled roof down the lane from a bustling juice bar that a passing Luxio chatting up a Chansey called a 'taverna'. To their pleasant surprise, the team discovered that one of the larger buildings the path passed was none other than one 'Mengir Island Guild'.

    The guild was completely housed in a multi-story building with white, rough-hewn stone walls and scruffy domed roofs covered in teal-painted shingles. In spite of its humble accommodations, the place seemed as lively as any other guild they had been to. There was a Kabutops with a sky-blue band with a prominent red dot worn as a choker reading over a mission listing pinned against one of his scythes. Over by a belled well near the entrance, a Mismagius and Charmeleon loitered in wait for some expected companions, the Ghost-Type wondering aloud what was taking the Fire-Type's teammates so long to arrive. And out of the teal-roofed guild building, a Swirlix hopped off in a huffy mood, grumbling about being banned from the mess hall for the day for trying to eat some extra food 'that was going to go to waste anyways'.

    The passing Fairy-Type's grumblings reminded Team Traveller that they had not had a bite all day… and that they had yet to do the customary first mission that would earn them food and shelter for the night at the local guild. Perhaps it was best to leave the guild behind for now, and search for food and shelter they could buy with the money 'given' to them by Valatos and his friends.

    Fortunately, now that the team had the means, they had other options to choose from. An arrow-shaped sign pointed out a square built around a stone pillar alongside the stream that bounded the town from the east. In it were a host of colorful shops trafficked by a surprisingly large number of Pokémon for such a small town. There was the local franchise of the 'Merchantry', whose scaly proprietor and Pumpkaboo partner traded rivalrous looks with a Noctowl and a smaller, leafier counterpart who ran a shingled hut advertising 'recycling'. A little ways off, there was a two-story thatch-roofed building that Pokémon lugged sacks full of parcels and letters in and out of. But despite the square's amenities, Team Traveller had other priorities on their mind...

    "Let's try and find a hostel to stay in," Nida yawned. "I'm bushed."

    "But, Nida," Pleo protested. "Didn't we give Guardia the broken scarf? And doesn't she need a badge?"

    "Nani?" the Cubone asked, as she pawed at her tattered and charred Company scarf. "What's wrong with this one?"

    Nida cast a glance at the damaged scarf on their new teammate. The badge could always be borrowed from the guild in the morning and returned after their mission, but the scarf would certainly raise questions.

    "You know, spike ball," Elty added. "If we got her scarf order taken care of now, we could always pick it up in the morning after some rest."

    Nida glanced at the wallet, and then at the shops. They had a fair amount of coin, and a scarf couldn't be that much, right? After scanning her surroundings, the Poison-Type spotted a shop that seemed promising- one in the shape of a Butterfree's head with scarves and cloth hanging from the eaves.

    "Fair enough, and I think I can see a tailor's shop right over there..."

    The team set off for the shop, weaving between passing Pokémon. As they drew closer, they saw a Butterfree behind the counter, handing an off-white scarf with a blue square in its center to a customer obscured by a Tangrowth busy puzzling over a map in his viney hands.

    "Incredible! It looks better than my old scarf before it got torn!" a high, raspy voice cawed. The Bug-Type chuckled bashfully, and dismissively waved a chitinous claw.

    "Well, it's the least I could do," she replied. "Especially after helping out my son in the Mystery Dungeon like that. Why, if it weren't for your help getting him out of that stony briar, who knows what would've happened to him?"

    Pleo began to grow curious and bob his head to try and get a view of who the energetic-sounding stranger might be. But as he paced forward, he noticed that Nida had stopped and grown wide-eyed.

    "Nida? What's wrong?" he asked.

    "Yeah," Guardia added. "You're shivering!"

    "Hey, wait a minute," Elty murmured. "That bird... I swear I've seen him before."

    Then, the lumbering, viney Grass-Type wandered off, revealing the butterfly tailor's customer to be a young-looking Skarmory who was inspecting the Butterfree's handiwork with unusual vigor and energy.

    "All in the line of duty. But this seamstressing… why it's on par with the best I saw back in my hometown!" the bird squawked. His cheery tone and tenor faltered as a wistful look spread over his eyes. "When it was around…"

    'When it was around?' So something had happened to it? Whatever the matter was, the metal bird didn't seem to dwell too long upon it. After donning his new scarf and a ruffle of his metal feathers, the creature roused his cheery demeanor and turned back to the Butterfree.

    "But there's no sense in dwelling upon the past," he cheered. "Mille grazie! Truly, I will cherish it!"

    As the Skarmory turned to fly off, he chanced to catch a glance of Team Traveller watching him from behind, and decided to flit over, coming to a rest in front of Nida.

    "Hark! A Rescue Team!" he greeted. "Good day, fellow hunters!"

    "Eh?" Guardia asked, warily shifting back and tightening her grasp on her bone. "Who are you supposed to be?"

    "Why, I'm the Warrior of Life and Paladin from the ashes of Blackmoon Village! Trizano, the Valiant Knight Skarmory!" the bird answered, revealing beaming eyes that had curious blotches over his pupils to form rough crossing bands. With that, the creature entered a bow, and fanned out his feathers with an audible swish, the light glinting off their edges. "At your service!"

    Guardia and Pleo traded puzzled glances as Elty's brow furrowed- he was increasingly sure that he had run across this character sometime in the past. Meanwhile, Nida remained still and pallid. All those moons ago, back in that fateful day in the Mystery Dungeon…

    She had run into sharp talons just like those. A cruel and sharp beak just like the one in front of her. Piercing eyes with yellow sclera, and sharp, cutting feathers. All of it was here again, and once again it had come for her.

    To devour her.

    "A-Ah- AAAAAAAH!"

    With a shriek, the Nidoran turned and sprinted madly away through the square. The spike lump weaved around the legs of startled passerbys for a nearby back alley as fast as her legs could carry her. As Nida forced her way down the alley, she blindly shoved aside some clutter with an audible crash, much to the stunned gaze of her teammates.

    "Nida?!" Pleo cried. "What's wrong?! Come back!"

    "What is her problem?!" Guardia added, turning incredulously to Elty. "How can you just let her take off on us like that?!"

    "Oi, how is this my fault?!" Elty spluttered.

    The little Lugia and the Cubone hurried off after the fleeing Nidoran. After shooting an askew look back at the Skarmory, the Growlithe turned and followed, leaving the bird to look after the party puzzledly and droop his feathers.

    "Did I overdo the introduction?" he wondered. As the square settled down, the Skarmory shook his head, gave an awkward thanks to the tailor for his new scarf and flew off from the scene. As a sense of normalcy returned to the little plaza around the standing stone, there was no sign of the encounter left, except for a silvery white-feather that blew along the ground...

    "Huh?!"

    Directly in front of a dumbfounded and startled Mothim with a Second-Rank scarf burdened with a brown, bloated satchel slung over a shoulder

    "This- This is one of the Guardian's feathers!" Ellsberg buzzed startledly. "He's here?!"

    The Mothim flew up onto the standing stone to try and see if there was any sign of the young Lugia nearby, but between the mass of Pokémon in the square, and the well-shaded alleys that fanned out from it, there wasn't a sign of the Protector or his companions to be found. The Bug-Type shook his head with a scowl, where by chance he saw an Ariados in Company garb happening to pass by the stone pillar's base. Immediately, Ellsberg flitted down and accosted the hapless creature.

    "You there!"

    "Wh-Whuh?" the spider stammered.

    "Bring me to Administrator Zorn at once!" the Mothim demanded. "A wanted Pokémon passed through this square, and it's of the utmost importance that he be caught at once!"

    "Eh?!" the arachnid cried. "But if you saw a troublemaker, just give us a description! We can handle the rest!"

    "You don't understand, this isn't just some common pirate!" the moth buzzed angrily, beating his wings with an angry huff.

    "This is a matter of the Company's future!"



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2016
  3. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    A little ways down the back alley, Nida took shelter under a battered, overturned wooden crate and curled up in a nervous ball in the darkness. There, her only companions were the sounds of her breaths coming in ragged pants, and the feeling of little droplets dripping off her barbs and onto her pelt.

    Thump thump

    To her horror, the crate suddenly jolted with the harsh sound of something big and strong pecking at it. She saw a corner leave the ground, and realized that there was nowhere to run. The Nidoran closed her eyes and curled up, expecting to be set upon any moment by the metal fiend from the square.

    "Nida?"

    When the spike ball opened her eyes up, she saw Pleo in front of her. The little Lugia had tipped the box over, and her back was now exposed to the sunlight.

    "What's wrong?" he murmured. "Why did you run away like that?"

    Nida folded her barbs back and folded her ears back as she realized that she had let her fears come out in front of her teammates. The Poison-Type shook her head, and cautiously crept out, weakly attempting to dissuade Pleo's concern.

    "It's- It's alright, Pleo," she replied. "I'm alr-"

    "Hey!"

    Before Nida could finish her reassurance, the sound of footfalls came from further down the alley. The Nidoran turned and peered ahead, where she saw the sight of an unimpressed-looking Cubone and Growlithe.

    "I thought you said town majū work differently!" Guardia huffed. "So what on earth was that?!"

    "I- I just lost my nerve a minute," Nida answered.

    "Why? Expecting some metal bird to take a bite out of you here too?" Elty grumbled, rolling his eyes. Immediately, Nida bristled and fanned her barbs out, her eyes growing livid at the mutt daring to drag that moment out into the open.

    "Shut up!" she hissed. "No one asked you!"

    "You could have been honest, you know!" Guardia growled. "How am I supposed to gather lore for my colony if I don't know what you're getting me into?!"

    "I didn't lead you into danger though!" the Poison-Type spat.

    "Tak jasne! Great job you're doing with that!" Elty huffed back. "You lead us into some Commissioner's ship and turn tail after running into some random feather duster? Talk about getting your priorities backwards!"

    The Nidoran fumed and dropped to her feet, fanning her barbs out and readying a tackle. Why couldn't that dumb dog just shut his yap? No matter, if he wouldn't do it on his own, she'd make him-

    "What's going on here?!"

    The argument abruptly broke off and all eyes turned the opposite end of the alley, before giving way to frozen grimaces. There, scampering up behind them was the form of a Grovyle… with a First-Rank scarf about her neck.

    The creature was glaring harshly, her blades drawn and ready to pounce. The four Pokémon froze, expecting the stranger to pounce on them at any moment, only to see her withdraw her blades and cross her arms.

    "Really now, aren't you four a bit young to be getting into trouble like this?" she demanded.

    "We… we weren't trying to get into trouble," Pleo answered shyly.

    "Yeah, it's the spike ball's fault!" Elty interjected.

    "It was not!" Nida shot back.

    "Oi, don't try and scapegoat your teammates like that, mutt!" Guardia growled.

    As the team devolved back into heated bickering, the Grovyle scanned the group. The spike lump with them had a simple satchel a little big for her size slung across her back, everyone except the Cubone seemed to have badges on their scarves (clearly she was a new recruit)… nothing that seemed too out of the ordinary, except…

    "I don't mean to butt in here, but what happened to your friend's scarf?" the Grass-Type interrupted.

    "Huh? What do you mean?" Guardia asked. "It's just a scarf, isn't it?"

    "Well, it seems like you burned it quite badly," the Grovyle answered. The creature walked up, and ran the fabric through her claws before letting it fall back against Guardia's chest. "The fabric and cloth aren't like the ones your friends have, either. If anything, it feels closer to mine."

    Nida, Elty, and Pleo blanched at the gecko's observations. The reason why Guardia's scarf felt closer to the grunt's was because before Elty charred it and ran it through the dirt, it was a First-Rank scarf like hers! The Grass-Type seemed to still have her doubts, but…

    Just what sort of excuse could they give her?

    "That's because… uh," Nida began. As the Nidoran fumbled for words to say, Elty suddenly interrupted with a barking exclamation.

    "We changed our scarf patterns recently!" he yipped. "Stars were the new 'in' thing, but we didn't have the money right away to replace hers!"

    "And- And Elty accidentally set it on fire!" Pleo added. The Grass-Type gave a skeptical glance at the group, she didn't seem particularly impressed with the argument, but at the same time seemed to be held back by something.

    "Uh huh… who are you, and where are you from again?" she asked. "I mean, I don't think I've ever seen a seabird quite like your friend there, and you could say I'm curious."

    "We're Team Traveller!" Pleo reflexively chirped. "From B-"

    Pleo clamped his beak shut as he noticed from the corner of his eye that Nida and Elty were shaking their heads in a panic. The little Protector tried to think of a town name he could make up.

    "Bluhh… Water… ship... Town!" he cried. The Grovyle blinked, paused, and then shook her head as she muttered something to herself.

    "Must be one of those newer 'periphery towns' on Vollezee, but I have to wonder what kind of rubes call a place Watership Town," she replied. "It's right up there with 'Pokémon Square' as an unimaginative place name-"

    Pleo paused and blinked blankly at the Grass-Type. She… believed that? While it was relieving, just what were 'rubes'? And what was wrong with 'Watership Town'-?

    "Anyhow, you four seem to be rather worn out," the Grovyle continued. "Your little spat earlier wouldn't be because you've been shorting yourselves on sleep, was it?"

    Yaaaaaaaaaah

    As the sound of Guardia yawning pricked the team's ears, the four looked around and realized that their eyes looked worn and bloodshot. The already tiring trek into town and up the hill was starting to catch up with them as aches returned and eyelids started to feel heavy. One after the other, Pleo, Elty, and Nida reluctantly began to reply back to the Company grunt.

    "Erm…"

    "Well…"

    "We were up all night…"

    The scowl on the lizard's face faded for a moment, before she shook her head and turned and pointed off at a long, low-slung, two-storied building with a stone ground floor, a white-timbered second floor and a weathered shingled roof.

    "If you've got the money for it, why don't you head off to the Cromlech Inn over there and lie down a bit?" the Grovyle offered. "They serve food in the lobby and the Kricketune there sews on the side. He'd probably be able to help you out with getting that last matching scarf you were looking for."

    Wait… did, this Company Pokémon just give them help? It took a few quiet pawings at their bodies to reassure the team's Pokémon that they weren't dreaming… But this was help, and the team would be wise to take it before the Grovyle changed her mind.

    "Right," Nida replied. "Thank you..."

    "One more thing before you go..."

    "Huh?"

    "Don't go raising up trouble like that again, you hear?" the Grass-Type sternly admonished. "This town's already has enough to deal with the weather and all the trouble that comes here from outside, and the Pokémon here don't need more headaches to deal with. Understood?"

    The four stopped and blinked at this strange creature. Was she really a Company grunt? She certainly didn't seem like the bullying type like Valatos and his friends… Did this place also have an 'arrangement' like Tromba did?

    "Well?" she prodded.

    "Understood," the team over-hastily replied.

    The Grovyle paused and gave a long, skeptical look at Team Traveller's members, before shaking her head and turning around. The Wood Gecko carried along down the alleyway, Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia watching intently until she slipped past a corner. The group looked back at the 'Cromlech Inn' that the Company grunt pointed out and gave a collective sigh of relief. Nida and her teammates lowered their heads and began to shuffle along towards it, eager to finally have some food and rest after a long and stormy day.



    Back on Tromba, the island's guild was abuzz with its typical bustle of activity as its members went here and there for their errands between missions. Lost amid the sound of chatter and plans for the day floating about was the patter of an Ampharos' footsteps as Hatteras walked around under the shade of the guild's main tent. The Guildmaster did his best to present his normal aloof and an amiable atmosphere, but the arcing of his tail betrayed his feelings of uneasiness and hesitation. At some point, already bored with himself, he stopped in front of the guild's main entrance and turned to the direction of the ánima.

    "What are we doing wrong?"

    The Ampharos let a moment pass to recover his focus and returned to his round, this time with a calmer demeanour revealed in softer steps. After the third pass past the Mission Board he saw a familiar party consisting of a Shiftry and her Loudred and Croconaw teammates.

    "Ah, Team Sawtooth!" Hatteras bleated. "Work going well for you, I trust?"

    "Er… not so hot," Cardellini sighed, shaking his head. "There's this one mission that we can't seem to make headway on."

    "Yeah, we've been looking largo y ancho, but for the life of us, we just can't seem to find that 'ahp-gredh' that Melissa wanted!" Alto cried.

    Hatteras bit his tongue as he winced in sympathy a bit at Sawtooth's plight. Finding the magical plates that Melissa and her kind read was already an erratic task, but searching out a specific kind in particular? Why it must be like spotting an Altaria in a cloudbank!

    Even so, there were still some advantages to the setup…

    "Well, surely long excursions are at least helpful for getting some of your other missions out of the way at the same time, no?" Hatteras offered.

    "I suppose that's true," Pitys murmured. "But knowing that our reputation for speedy completions is getting dinged by this request still makes me wilt inside a little."

    "Ah, well don't let it get to you too badly," the sheep cheered. "If there's one thing that I've learned in my years, it's that good things come to those who-"

    "Mail call!"

    The sound of a sudden squawk and the sound of beating wings drew the four Pokémon's attention to an Unfezant who swooped in before the group. After digging a little through a satchel slung over a wing, the Flying-Type pulled out a particularly large and heavy-looking envelope that seemed filled to the point of bursting.

    "Just making sure, but this sheep is 'Hatteras, Mayor of Bluewhorl Town' and not some look-alike right?" the Unfezant asked.

    "Yes," Pitys and her companions groaned.

    "Okay, great then!" the pheasant chirped. "The Siglo Swellow sends its regards!"

    As the bulging envelope changed hands and the mailmon took his leave for a short detour to visit his family in the outskirts, Team Sawtooth's eyes drifted curiously over the letter in their Guildmaster's paws.

    "Isn't that a bit bulky for a letter, Hatteras?" Pitys asked. "Just what exactly is in that thing?"

    "Yeah! I haven't seen you get an envelope this stuffed since that one last month from that investigator that's been looking for the missus and the kid!" Alto chortled in a cheery and booming voice- only to be met by awkward silence, everybody suddenly finding an interesting patch of dirt on the floor to look at.

    "Er… well, I was just curious," the Loudred offered apologetically.

    "Wait. Guildmaster Hatteras… Last month?" Cardellini interjected. "You're still looking for them? I mean, I know we all say 'las cosas buenas en la vida se hacen esperar', but by now, surely you of all Pokémon would have accepted that they're- Ow!"

    The Croconaw was cut off by a loud whap from one of Pitys' leaf fans along with a growling "leave the clueless, uncomfortable questions to Alto, Cardellini!" The Ampharos shook his head, and much to the three's amazement, seemed less perturbed than they thought he would be.

    "Never underestimate the power of hope, Cardellini," the sheep answered back. "Even if it doesn't get realized the way you'd want it to, it still gives strength to Pokémon to weather the fiercest storms."

    The Ampharos raised the letter with his paws up to his face, and squinted to read. For a short moment, the creature scanned the runes on the brownish paper, only to abruptly stop, nervously tense his tail, and bat it anxiously side-to-side, piquing Pitys' curiosity.

    "Eh? What's with the sudden excitement?" Pitys asked. "Just what exactly is in that thing, Guildmaster?"

    "I'm afraid that I can't quite say for now," the Guildmaster coyly retorted. "After all, you know the old saw about 'loose lips'..."

    "Right," she replied. "And we should be getting back to that 'ahp-gredh'."

    The Ampharos parted ways with the team and brought the overstuffed envelope all the way back to his office. There, after closing the door and throwing the shades closed, he tore the package open, and fished the a folded-up sheet of paper layered with messy runes that had so excited him.

    The letter gave a short summary of what had happened to the Siglo Swellow in Boisocéan. It spoke of an initially fraught and tense negotiation with Seahive's 'mairesse', during which they discovered that Lyn had beaten them to the island and chased Pleo away. Their search for leads turned up nothing for a day, until by a stroke of luck, they chanced to come across one 'Team Chasseur' and a Hydreigon named 'Margi' who helped them pick up Pleo's trail to Kenobi. The crew was sailing on, a little further from home, but if the fates and the stars aligned, perhaps they would be able to reunite with the Protector there, and bring him home after a short delay.

    "Good luck, everyone-" the Amphraos said to himself, only to cut himself off as he noticed a hastily-scrawled line at the end.

    "'P.S. Please forward the attached personal letters'..." he read. "Wait a minute. Personal le-?"

    Rrrrrip

    At that moment, the worn bottom of the enveloped gave way, and a flurry of smaller envelopes spilled out onto the floor below.

    "Ah," he murmured to himself. "I was wondering why that letter took up so much space!"



    "Lower the gangplank!"

    Beatrix's buzzing voice carried along the salty sea air as the Siglo Swellow bobbed along the docks at the Company compound on Kenobi's port. In spite of the strange and potentially hostile environment, the Illumise seemed as at ease as she pointed over at a Hitmontop by the railing.

    "Just one moment!" came the reply from the Fighting-Type as he double-checked the stone anchor and the lines that had been thrown down to the posts on the dock until he was sure the ship was properly docked. After seeing the ship firmly lashed to the pier's moorings, the Fighting-Type gave an "aye!" in response, leaving a few crewmates to start working on the bringing the gangplank over.

    The Handstand Pokémon paced around the place taking notice of some deck hands led by Natrix and Philips adding some finishing knots to the lines lashing the ship in place along the dock. The sound of the plank being lowered and clanging against the timbers of the piers sounded, which prompted the Hitmontop to turn and call his shipmates' attention...

    "Alright, come orderly and single file," he instructed. "No need to strain the poor gangplank more than it needs to-"

    "Yah!"

    … only for Crom to leap off the railing and glide down to the docks, his Fraxure father dashing down the gangplank with a hurried 'Crom! Wait for me!'.

    "Yeesh, would it kill you two to wait?" the fighter grumbled as he gestured for the rest of the crew to move down the dock. Crom and Pladur eagerly carried along the wharf, drifting down the shoreline past a host of docked ships all flying lavender and purple sails after reaching the end of the dock. The pair's eagerness however was quickly subdued as they took in the sights of the complex.

    There was the Rhydon at one of the docks further down bellowing at some hapless charges to 'put some backbone' into loading crates onto a waiting sloop, which prompted a hasty detour down an alley. There were the closely-packed warehouses and barracks on either end of their paths, along with little flecks of life such as a Snover, Vibrava, and Pansear in Company lavenders who were enraptured with a game of monster cards. All the while, the pair of Dragon-Types couldn't help but be on edge their eyes and movements betraying an unease with the place.

    Crom began to think about how they were deep in hostile territory. The last time the Company caught him sneaking into a place where he wasn't supposed to be, he got beaten up and thrown off a ship. If they were caught here… just what would happen to them?

    The Druddigon tried to distract himself by looking back at his surroundings, when he chanced to notice they passed the same card-playing grunts from earlier and stopped.

    … hadn't they just passed that a moment ago?"

    "Dad, we don't know where we are, right?" the Druddigon asked somewhat worriedly.

    "That shouldn't be too much of a problem!" Pladur replied. "Why we can see the Siglo Swellow's masts from-"

    The Fraxure pointed off back at the docks towards where the Siglo Swellow ought to be, only to discover that the lavender sails they had disguised the craft with made it blend in a little too well with the other Company ships at dock. The Fraxure and Druddigon tried to tease out the schooner from the crowd, but every time they were sure they saw one of the masts, they found that it belonged to a completely different ship.

    "Maybe we should've waited for Kiran before we headed off," Crom mumbled uneasily. At this point, Pladur's confidence was rapidly evaporating as he realized that he had lead himself and his son deep into a strange, and potentially unfriendly place.

    "Er, w-well… we could always try to trace our steps back to the ship…" the elder dragon nervously stammered. "I-If we're quick, then maybe we can avoid running into Lyn-"

    "Hey!"

    "MEEP!"

    The Fraxure leapt up with a yelp at the sound of a voice coming from behind. The two whirled around and saw a waiting Aerodactyl with a Company scarf about his neck, his maw opened and his teeth showing. Blanching, the Fraxure yanked his child behind him and the two shot wary glances at the new stranger.

    "Uh, er," Crom began uneasily. "Is… is something the matter?"

    "Eh? You aren't in trouble if that's what you're talking about, I'm just another First-Rank like you!" the pterosaur cheered back, giving a playful beat of his wings.

    "Just thought you two looked a little lost," he explained. "So who are you two? I don't think I've seen either of you on the beat before."

    "Well… I'm Pladur, Chief Cook of the the Siglo… er… Swanna!" the Fraxure offered. "And this is my son, Crom."

    "Ah, so I see you take after your dad in more way than one," the Aerodactyl chuckled, extending a claw to Crom. "The name's Kellner. So where'd you two come in from, anyways?"

    The two dragons froze for a moment, as Crom wondered what he should try and say back. He couldn't say they were from Tromba… and Boisocéan would be suspicious…but, where else could he claim to be from?

    "Uh… we're… from…" Crom fumbled, only to be swiftly cut off.

    "The Capital!" Pladur interjected. "We're here for an assignment!"

    The Fossil Pokémon tilted his head curiously, but after a little mulling and a shake, he was back to his prior congeniality, seemingly satisfied with the explanation. After all, even if it was a shadow of Middleguard City's former glory on Conntow, the cityscape of Canalhouse City on Vollezee, would surely be a world removed from Kenobi.

    "Ah, so that's why you're a bit lost," the Aerodactyl said. "Well, think of it this way… The lanes here in the compound and out in Aisle Town might be a little confusing, but at least it's a small place here. Looking for anything in particular?"

    "Mostly a place to hear the news," Crom answered. "We're a little out of the loop right now."

    "Well now, you can't go wrong with the fort!" Kellner replied, gesturing at a looming, stone-walled structure a little ways off in the distance. "The training grounds inside are as good of a place to get a feel for the pulse of what's going on!"

    "Oh? They wouldn't happen to have maps there, would they?" Pladur asked, shrinking his shoulders away a bit. "I mean, it would be nice not to get lost again."

    "Yep! Come on, I'll show you over!" the pterosaur offered. "There's an entrance just up ahead!"

    The Aerodactyl set off, leading the Druddigon and Fraxure plodding along a series of twisty paths that lead past various wood and stone buildings. As the three made their way alongside the tall imposing walls of the local sea fort, they eventually reached the lip of an entrance into the stone fortress.

    "I don't believe this!"

    Only for Kellner to stop in his tracks as an angry snarl echoed off the surrounding walls. Pladur and Crom froze, worried for a moment that their ruse might have been seen through, only to catch the sight of a bristling and sparking Luxray passing by with an Eelektross.

    "How could those sightings in town just conveniently stop right after my meeting with Elilan last night, Commander?" she demanded.

    "I know it sounds preposterous, Administrator, but that's what I've heard from the gossip in the lower ranks," the fish replied with guarded words. "For your own sake, perhaps we ought to shift the topic to Elilan's tin shipment? If you need to reclarify anything, he'll be leaving by-"

    "Don't change the subject, Utsumi! Pokémon don't just vanish like that! And if they had done a mission with one of the local guilds, they'd have turned up by now!" the Luxray growled, static dancing on her fur. "Why, if I didn't know better, I'd be convinced someone told them of what we were up to!"

    "Er, well," the lamprey offered. "Didn't you mention that during the proceedings you caught the repair crew slacking off against the wall?"

    Farn paused as a creeping realization swept over her face, and her ears folded back out of frustration.

    "That's… right. The crew was a Yanmega, a Manectric, and a Marowak and they were pressed up right against the wall," she admitted, before shaking her head and continuing on into the fort with the her fellow Electric-Type, her words echoing along back to a still-stunned pair of dragons and their guide.

    "Have those three brought before me!" the lion's voice bellowed. "I am going to get an explanation about what's going on from them, even if I have to tear it out of their hides!"

    Crom and Pladur looked warily off in the direction that the two Electric-Types had gone off to, grateful that they were now out of earshot. The Fraxure and Druddigon turned back to their Aerodactyl guide and noticed that his cheery demeanor had evaporated, with a look of visible unease

    "Um… actually... maybe you should take some time getting to know the neighborhood around here first. I think I might have an extra map on me," the Kellner muttered. The grunt blinked a few times and shook his head before digging through a sack, and pulled out a folded-up wad of brown cloth, which it extended over with a claw . "Administrator Farn's offices are also in the fort, and she's best avoided in a mood like this."

    "Point taken," Pladur gulped, quickly taking up the map. Crom inspected the map and found that it had a map of the lanes and trails of Kenobi's settlement and hinterlands sketched in thin, black lines, before casting a glance back at the Aerodactyl and the fort behind.

    "Thanks for the tip, Kellner," he said. "We'll be sure to stop by… er… later."

    With that, the two turned around, and eagerly put some distance between themselves and the fort. After all, there was a Siglo Swellow to find, and the fort would be there for eavesdropping on the local grunts when the island's leader was in a less stormy mood.



    Meanwhile, out at Mengir's fort, a Mothim fidgeted impatiently in front of a tall, double door. There, he was accompanied by the Ariados from the square, along with an unamused duo of guards consisting of a Breloom and a Gourgeist blocking the entrance. The doors had been closed since they had arrived a quarter hour ago, the muffled sounds of some meeting filtering out from behind it, much to Ellsberg's frustration.

    "Need I remind you that this is a matter of the Company's future?" the Bug-Type buzzed irkedly to the guards. "Open the door already!"

    "I understand that, but Administrator Zorn is in a meeting!" the Breloom replied, shaking her head. "You can't just barge in like that!"

    Almost as soon as the Mushroom Pokémon stopped talking, a large, yellow blur shot past them. The gust from the passing presence sent the gathered Pokémon bowled over yelping, followed by the sounds of the doors being thrown open.

    "Outta my way!"

    As Ellsberg picked himself up off the ground, he caught a fleeting glimpse of the gust's culprit. The distinct pudgy and small-winged form of a Dragonite passing through before swatting the doors back shut with his claws.

    "I thought you said that we couldn't barge in like that!" Ellsberg's exasperated voice cried. a steady stream of invective fading away behind the great dragon as he paced further from the door and his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light.

    The creature had stormed into a stone chamber ringing a square pond. The room had a grated tunnel under the waterline at the back of the room to admit aquatic visitors (if unfortunately too soggy for the contents of his bag), while a timbered bridge lead out to an islet in the middle of the pond for more landbound audiences.

    "There´s also the matter of the lack of blue Apricorns, Administrator. We need a certain quota of those nuts specifically for handling sea Pokémon and the current shipment is severely short on them."

    There, coiled around the islet, was the Pokémon the Dragonite was in such a hurry to find. A great serpentine fish with blue and cream scales, barbels trailing down from a mouth with razor like fangs, and an Administrator's scarf about his neck. The Gyarados was currently chattering with a Poliwrath about some "crates full of 'blues' up in the fields" that would head out for shipment in the imminent future.

    "Zorn!" the Dragon bellowed. The water stirred and churned as the sea serpent raised his head and glanced at the Dragonite's direction. A leering frown crept across the Water-Type's face before he turned back to the amphibian .

    "Take five," the Gyarados instructed the fellow Water-Type. "We'll continue this conversation in a bit."

    "Yes, Administrator," the Poliwrath replied. The sound of the grate being winched up echoed in the chamber as the Dragonite made his way out onto the islet. As the blue anuran dived under the surface and disappeared into the tunnel…

    Creeeeaak

    …the grate slipped into the water and landed against the bottom, closing off a room now shared between only the two Pokémon, each waiting for the other to speak. After a long, uncomfortable pause, the Gyarados broke the silence with a displeased grunt.

    "Darzin, why are you here?" he demanded. The Dragonite's antennae dropped and a scowl crept over his face.

    "What do you mean 'why am I here?' The updated revenue spreadsheets you requested!" he cried, fishing out a clawful of papers filled with orderly lines of runes "I flew it out directly from Vollezee!"

    "And? Didn't you notice I was in the middle of something?" the Gyarados answered dismissively. "It could've waited, you know."

    "You summoned me here just two days ago! If these spreadsheets were that important, you could have just let me send it through a notary and not wasted my time-!" the Dragonite bellowed in protest, only to be cut off with the sound of mocking laughter.

    "Ha ha ha! Wasting your time?" the fish chortled. "Oh, that's rich, Darzin. Since when did I or the rest of the Board care about where your delivery routes took you?"

    Such slights were not new to the Dragonite from his fellow Fourth-Ranks… Or more uppity Third-Ranks for that matter. Familiarity truly did breed contempt, which the Dragon-Type was all too eager to reciprocate.

    "Yeah, well what are you doing?" Darzin spat back sullenly. "Just sitting around, floating lazily in some po-"

    "Administrivia, Darzin," Zorn snarled. "Which you would be doing if you weren't such an incompetent at running a small settlement and forced the Board to strike an arrangement with a bunch of peasants!"

    "Well if the Board would have helped me pacify that island like I requested back then-!"

    "We'd be telegraphing our weakness to the Imps even moreso than your current 'absentee Administration' from the records department would. Exactly like what happened during that little prison riot that almost cost Elilan his island," the Gyarados interrupted with a growl. "The difference between Elilan's episode and yours was that he got things back in order, and you wound up flying off with your tail between your legs. You didn't honestly think that you're still wearing that Fourth-Rank scarf because Inler thinks you're an all-knowing repository of wisdom, right?"

    Yes, Darzin's predicament was all because of those fateful days all those moons ago. Where he had pushed too hard, too fast upon the residents of Bluewhorl Town, and stirred up a revolt among the peasants and some of the rank-and-file that forced him to slink away in ignominy.

    The exercise had left its share of scars on the Dragonite. Some deep claw and bite marks on his hide, an even deeper aversion of poisonous spike balls, but most of all...

    A wounded pride, which had only been further injured through many an exchange such as this one with his peers.

    "He seems to give me more leeway than the fish he left to watch over his hometown!" the Dragonite sneered back.

    "Grr…"

    Darzin blanched and backpedaled as he heard a fierce growl echo off of the stone walls. From the way that the serpent was glaring and baring sharp fangs at him that were starting to form a frosty film on their surface, it was evident that Zorn too was not a fan of having his pride dinged.

    "Alright, listen here, fat lump. It seems that you need a few delusions to be cleared up," the Gyarados growled. "Whatever fin-tying Inler puts me through, I have a future in this Company. You're on borrowed time."

    The fish circled about the dragon on the islet, shooting a piercing glare at his captive audience of one. Darzin turned warily to meet the Water-Type's gaze, the Gyarados began to smirk, smugly reminding his entrapped quarry of his raison d'etre in the Board.

    "The only reason why you haven't been thrown out on your butt yet is because we haven't found a substitute who can resolve the mess you made," he explained. "And once that changes, whether by one of the lower ranks showing some initiative, or us finding some way of neutralizing your 'understanding'... our use for you will end."

    SLAM

    "Ack! Wait what are you doing?!"

    Before the Water-Type had a chance go on, a commotion broke out from the back of the room. The doors flew open and a Mothim fluttered in, crying out to the fish.

    "Administrator Zorn!"

    The Gyarados lifted his head in a start, only to bumped against the side of the room's timber bridge. After a low, sullen growl, the creature swam out and surfaced directly in front of the Mothim, glaring.

    "Do you mind?" he snarled. "Administrator Darzin and I in the middle of something here!"

    Ellsberg went wide-eyed with a timid squeak, and flitted back reflexively from the displeased sea serpent. By now, the guards from behind the door had caught up, an Ariados apologizing profusely for the disturbance.

    "I-Izvinete, Administrator Zorn," he stammered. "I'll see him to the door right-"

    After shaking his head and attempting to recompose himself, the Mothim raised his voice to try and speak up.

    "A-Administrator!" he pleaded. "My name is Ellsberg from the Legal Department and the message I have is urgent! It's a matter of the Company's future!"

    Zorn paused and tilted his head curiously. If this lowly Second-Rank had come in such a hurry, he had to have something of importance…

    Or else was a glutton for punishment who would have his yearnings sated soon enough.

    Step out for a moment," the Water-Type instructed the Ariados. "It looks like 'Elmer' here thinks he has something that was worth disrupting my busy schedule."

    The spider gave a salute, and scuttled off for the door, pulling it shut with a strand of silk behind him. As the sound of the door closing rang out in the chamber, the Gyarados lowered his head and hardened his eyes into a piercing glare.

    "You have thirty seconds," the Gyarados glowered. "This had better be worth it!"

    The moth flitted anxiously and gulped before taking a deep breath…

    …and promptly shattering the tense silence in the room with a single, breathless exclamation.

    "The Guardian of the Seas is here on Mengir!"



    Author's Notes:

    - baba (баба) - Bulgarian: "Grandmother" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Nani? (何?) - Japanese: "What?" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Mille grazie! - Italian: "Thank you very much!", lit. "(A) thousand thanks!" Also rendered "Grazie mille!"
    - Tak jasne! - Polish: "Yeah, right!"
    - largo y ancho - Spanish: "far and wide"
    - las cosas buenas en la vida se hacen esperar - Spanish: "the good things in life make you wait", idiom analogous to "the best things in life take time"
    - Izvinete (Извинeтe) - Bulgarian: "Sorry", "Pardon me" (formal) (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  4. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Whelp, it's been two weeks, but I'm back with the next chapter. This update is a bit on the long side again, but I'm hoping that the amount of activity will disguise it a bit, so... yeah.

    I'd like to extend my thanks to Sugoitsu from ff.net, diamondpearl876, Virgil134, Tangent128, and solovino for helping me to bring this installment up to speed. And I'm grateful as usual to the readers and reviewers who have been following this yarn. There is presently only planned to be one further update in the month of June, since this month will be on the busier side for me. I'm currently planning to get things out 3 weeks down the line, but I may get things done sooner/later depending on how exactly things shake out over next couple weeks.

    And with that, let's get to the actual chapter.

    [​IMG]

    "What did you just say?!"

    A startled roar filled the stone chamber that served as Administrator Zorn's office. There, the Gyarados and the visiting Dragonite stared wide-eyed and shocked at an anxiously flitting Mothim.

    "The Lugia the Board sent Lyn after!" Ellsberg buzzed. "I found one of his feathers in the middle of the square by the guild earlier!"


    A dead silence filled the room as both Administrators in the room struggled to process the Bug-Type's words. The Gyarados attempted to coil his way out of a stunned, upright posture, the Water-Type's words coming hesitantly through gritted teeth.

    "This… is… unexpected," Zorn finally managed. The Gyarados then shook his head and after regathering a bit of his composure, turned to address the Dragonite in his presence.

    "Darzin, leave your records at the door, I'll look at them later," the Water-Type said. "It seems something more pressing has come up."

    The Dragonite beat his wings and jerked his head towards the sea serpent with a start. Was Zorn dismissing him?

    "What do you mean something more pressing?! This is potentially the most significant event of my career!" the Dragon-Type bellowed, his sentence punctuated by bouts of exasperated panting. "You can't just expect me to sit out of it!"


    "Yes, and this is a private matter," the Gyarados answered back, a leer forming over his face as his tone became increasingly growling and serious. "And so I would like have a chat with this notary. In private."


    The Dragonite hopped back reflexively and felt the blood drain from his face at the sight of a growling maw full of razor-sharp fangs hovering directly in front of his face. After faltering a moment, the full weight of Zorn's attempt to be rid of him weighed on Darzin's mind, followed by his pride. Before he knew it, his burning indignation returned, and his claws were dug firmly into the stone islet underfoot.

    "N-Now you listen here, you overgrown eel!" the Dragonite snarled back, flashing his claws at the Gyarados. "I'm an Administrator too, and I won't let you shut me out of-!"

    Zorn thrashed forward and cut Darzin off with a roar, the tumult kicking up a spray of water that drenched the islet and sent Ellsberg diving for cover. A dull crunch reverberated in the room, followed by a pained howl that became increasingly muffled and joined by the sound of faint crackling.

    When Ellsberg poked his head back up, he saw that the bulk of Darzin's body had been encased in a layer of ice still spreading from a bite at his left shoulder. The immobilized dragon was able to do little more than twitch the unfrozen tip of his tail and digits of his right claw. Zorn pulled his head back and spat up a few scales as the ice block began to give some stifled, angry growls of protest in the background.

    "Well, that went better than expected," the Gyarados harrumphed. "Guards!"

    At once, the doors flew open and the guards outside rushed into the room and up the wooden bridges. One after the other, the Gourgeist and Breloom followed closely after a flustered-looking Ariados. The lot slowed their pace and came to a stop on the islet, sizing up the now-frozen Dragonite.

    "Yes, Administrator!" the Bug-Type swiftly answered.

    "Kindly leave Administrator Darzin's records by the door and escort him out of my office before he thaws out," Zorn instructed. "I will need to have a word with Commander Briggs and Elmer here."

    A summary "Aye" came in response, and after a moment of uneasy hesitation from the spider, the three set off shoving the hefty Dragonite for the door in fits and spurts and complaints of "could he get any fatter?" Halfway to the door, Darzin melted a hole around his mouth with a gout of fire and was able to manage a "can't do this to me!" before being shut up by a clod of golden-brown Stun Spores from the Breloom.

    After the three finally pulled the frozen dragon through the doors, they were slammed shut, leaving Zorn and Ellsberg behind as the pre-existing quiet slowly returned...

    Only to be broken by the sound of a dissatisfied buzz.

    "Uhm… sir... I believe you're mistaken," the Mothim notary corrected. "My name's Ellsberg."

    "Let's not get too hung up on details," the Gyarados answered back dismissively. The creature circled around and craned his head and neck to accommodate the Bug-Type in his customary way for visitors...

    Namely, to loom over them, with eyes trained fixedly on the Pokémon in his presence.

    "First off, what is Tromba's Protector doing on my island?" Zorn demanded. "I was under the impression that Lyn had been sent there to handle the matter of extraction."

    "Erm, well," the moth began. "Commissioner Lyn underestimated said Protector's abilities a bit, and underestimated the degree and tenacity of the support that he'd have."

    "What exactly are you trying to imply there?"

    "I'm implying that he has help," Ellsberg answered. The Bug-Type rifled through his bag and pulled out a small stack of bounties, arraying the sheets of paper along the ground for the Administrator to see.

    "I found the Guardian's feathers in the square! Freshly molted, even!" he explained. "It means that he and the party he's been traveling with must be in this village!"

    Zorn scanned the papers in front of him and saw that they were a set of four, depicting a Nidoran, a Growlithe, a Nidorina, and a Hydreigon. The creature peered at the listings for a moment, before giving a skeptical frown and looking back at the Mothim.

    "Eh? Whose fin are you trying to pull here, Elmer?" the Gyarados pressed. "These bounties were issued by the Kenobi branch!"

    "Ellsb-!" the moth reflexively retorted, only to notice that the much larger fish with a much higher rank and much bigger teeth was glaring at him. The moth hastily caught his tongue, gulped down his pride, and amended his words to be more palatable to the Administrator.

    "Er… it's because at the time, we had reason to believe the Lugia and his companions were on Kenobi."


    Zorn shook his head and gave an exasperated scoff, muttering quiet frustrations under his breath.

    "Just what sort of extraction is Lyn running?" the Water-Type growled. "Losing his target first at Tromba, and then within spitting distance of one of our shipyards?"

    A deafening silence filled the room as Ellsberg stared blankly back at the Gyarados. The Mothim screwed his eyes shut and shook his head with a grunt.

    "I... don't have an answer to that-"

    "Administrator Zorn!"

    The sound of the doors being thrown open filled the room, revealing an Armaldo with a Third-Rank Company scarf hurrying in. As the Plate Pokémon came to a rest at the islet, the Gyarados turned, and addressed him with a tone of voice that approximated amity.

    "Ah, Briggs… Just in time."

    "I heard that you needed my presence immediately," the anomalocaris answered back. "Just what is going on here?"

    "The gods tread among us on this island," the Gyarados replied. At once, the Rock-Type hopped back with a start. Zorn didn't honestly mean…?

    "W-What?! But how can that be?!" he cried. "The Protector here on Mengir got shipped off-island before the Petrification of Conntow! And the only one you've told me of is that sea fairy that drifts among the ocean clans and hasn't come ashore in years!"

    "It's an unrelated specimen this time," Ellsberg explained. "The Guardian of the Seas."

    "I'll brief you on the details in a bit," the Gyarados added. "But my understanding is that it should look something akin to a long-necked Wingull."

    Ellsberg passed the four bounties over to the fossil Pokémon, setting them down beside the anomalocaris' feet. The Armaldo simply stood there for a minute scanning the papers, blinking at the odd description of their quarry before finally clearing his throat to speak.

    "I see," Briggs grunted back. "I'll send word to Captain Hertsog to seize them at o-"

    "Actually, Commander," Zorn interrupted. "I need you to arrange for something a bit different this time…"

    The two bugs whipped around to stare at the Gyarados puzzledly. It wasn’t like him to suddenly meddle in open-and-shut operations...

    "Administrator Zorn? What are you going on about?" Ellsberg asked. "The Protector is here now, we should grab him before he can get away!"

    "Well now, that strategy's been working out rather well for Commissioner Lyn, hasn't it?" the Administrator scoffed. "Chase around the Protector while he's healthy and capable, only for him to slip from your grasp again. No, I think that it's nigh time for a change of strategy."

    The Water-Type twitched his barbels and mulled for a moment, before turning a wary eye towards the Mothim notary in the room.

    "First off, have there been any particular habits this group has been getting into in each of their stops?" the Gyarados demanded.

    "Er… well, my understanding is that they were found near a guild the first time they slipped our grasp, so I presume they've done a mission or two while we've been chasing them?" Ellsberg replied.

    "Oh really now?" Zorn asked. "I think that I have a proposal for how to handle them in that case."

    "You… do?" the Mothim buzzed.

    "This island's ferals, particularly the ones in our Mystery Dungeon, have been unsettled ever since the local Protector's egg was transported all those years ago," the Water-Type said. "As you may already know, they have a habit of ambushing villagers travelling alone in the island's interior at night."

    "Not to mention the occasional team that gets forced into an early retirement by those ferals for straying into one of the more sensitive stable zones..." the Armaldo added, his words quickly drawing a grunt of affirmation from the Administrator.

    "That's right, and I think it's something we can use," Zorn remarked. "I suggest that we let Commander Briggs have a few of his subordinates lead these 'pirates' of yours into one of those less… accommodating stable zones through a bait mission."

    The Gyarados eased into the water, evidently content with the direction his thoughts were going in. After all, a weakened Guardian would be much simpler quarry to deal with...

    "Then, when the Protector limps back with whatever's left of his team, then we pounce and hold them until Commissioner Lyn can come to transport the Guardian."

    "I think that I can arrange for that, sir," the Armaldo answered back, before pausing as a troubled thought flickered over his mind. "But... are you sure Director Inler will-?"

    "What Director Inler doesn't know won't harm him," Zorn quickly answered back. "And if anything goes amiss, I will ensure that you don't bear the brunt of responsibility."


    Ellsberg began to sputter with a start at Zorn's words, twitching his antennae anxiously. This plan was much riskier than anything he had been expecting!

    "B-B-But this is madness!" the Mothim blurted out "What if the Protector gets hurt?! Or-?!"

    "Need I remind you, Elmer," the Gyarados interrupted, "that all this time, this wild-goose chase has been going on precisely because the Company has been underestimating this Protector?"

    The sea serpent paused and mulled, flopping his tail back and forth against the surface of the water as he waited intently for an answer from the still-stunned moth. After a few flops, the Gyarados grew impatient, and decided to humor the insect's reservations.

    "Look, I'm not pushing for any special favors or concessions here," the Water-Type said. "And for my own reasons, I am more than ready to sign off on Commissioner Lyn to fill Darzin's spot as an Administrator... even if my department has to do most of the work for him."


    Zorn dipped his head down, coming to eye level with the Mothim as he narrowed his glare with determination.

    "All I ask in return is that we follow my plan here."



    Later that night, the Grovyle Team Traveller encountered outside the Cromlech Inn made her way through the bowels of the fort on the outskirts of Fensedge Village. The palisades and the bulk of its structures were composed of roughly-hewn logs and timbers, with a few exceptions having sturdier stone walls. One of those exceptions was the central complex where Zorn's chamber lay, along with her destination in it- the central blockhouse which loomed over the entire fort.

    The Grovyle entered and paced up the winding, torchlit passages of the upper floors of the fort's central blockhouse. The gecko came across a waiting Ariados and Leafeon with a five-tailed blotch on her head waiting patiently outside the Captain of the Guard’s offices. From beyond the firmly-barred door, muffled voices filtered out, leaving the three to try and puzzle out their meaning.

    "Oh, hey, Salvini," the Bug-Type said. "Captain Hertsog wanted you to come too, huh?"

    "Yeah, I just got the summons, Payak," the gecko answered back. "Do you have any idea what's going on, though? Sure seems like a late hour to talk about something."

    "Well, at first I thought it was about what happened with Administrator Darzin earlier today," the spider chittered. "Though you're right, it wouldn't have been worth putting off to this hour."

    "Do you two think it has anything to do with that fuklyo going around who's been claiming to be an Immortal?" the Marked Grass-Type asked.

    "The Skarmory? I haven't really heard of him doing anything strange," the Ariados, evidently Payak, began, only to find himself facing a pair of unamused stares from his counterparts.

    "Strange in a bad way," the spider hastily corrected. "You know what I meant, Phyllis. It's hard to really find fault with a weirdo when he's actually helping Pokémon around town."

    "Well, it wouldn't matter," the lizard grunted. "Not like any of us would be able to tell an Immortal from an imposter with just a glance-"

    Clunk

    Just then, the sound of the door being unbarred from within resounded. The three whirled around towards the office's entrance, coming face to face with a Mienshao with a Second-Rank scarf.

    "Sorry for keeping you three so long," the weasel said. "Come on in, Commander Briggs is here to see us."


    The three grunts stopped and blinked uncertainly as soon as their Captain's words left his mouth.

    "Commander Briggs?" Payak asked. As the three poked their heads in, they saw that sure enough, there was a waiting Armaldo, Administrator Zorn's second-in-command. The trio made their way in, and took seats on simple cushions on stools about a low table opposite the Commander. One after the other, the three grunts straightened their scarves as the Plate Pokémon sized them up, clearly agitated about something.

    "The Commander informed me that there was an important mission involving some Pokémon that were seen in the square by the guild earlier today," the Fighting-Type explained, turning his head towards his subordinates. "He asked for me to pick a team of Pokémon that were around the area, and of the options, you three seemed to be the candidates for the job."

    "Now hold on here, Hertsog! The candidates that are best for the job aren't necessarily the ones you think are best for it!" the Armaldo interrupted, his gaze settling on Phyllis. "And offhand, I can see one that isn't suited to this mission at all."


    The other Pokémon cast glances over at the Leafeon with the blotched head, who had frozen and started to grow flustered as she realized that the fossil bug was referring to none other than...

    "Wh-Wha-?! M-Me?!" Phyllis exclaimed. "Wh-Why wouldn't I be suited for it?!"


    "What's the deal?!" Salvini interjected. "She works as hard as the rest of us!"

    "With all due respect, what's so wrong about letting a Marked do this assignment-?" the Ariados began, only to be silenced with by the Captain whipping a furry sleeve out to motion for silence. The weasel also appeared to be taken aback by his superior's objections and quickly turned his attention back to the Armaldo.

    "Commander, you asked me to pick from my subordinates that were around the square earlier today," the Fighting-Type reminded. "From a purely technical perspective, Phyllis is by far one of the most qualified choices I could have made!"


    In response, the Mienshao got an icy glare from the Armaldo across the table, who leaned in before snapping back in an agitated tone.

    "Don't get cocky just because you evolved early, Hertsog! There are some things that skulking about a Distortion longer than normal won't just give you, like operational experience," Briggs hissed. "I'm your superior in that department, and I say that fox isn't well-suited to this mission!"

    "B-But- I've worked as hard as anyone else on the force! A-And I care just about as much as Mengir and the Company as anyone else!" the Leafeon protested. The fox's voice carried a betrayed and helpless tone, clearly upset by Briggs' insistence on being rid of her. "Are the Pokémon Marked or something? You don't have to worry about me sticking up for them if they've been causing trouble!"

    "Commander, if Phyllis isn't suited for this mission, I think that I as her superior have a right to know why she's not suitable, no?" the Captain pressed. "Give me an explanation for your reservations, and I'll concede the point."

    The Armaldo turned and sized up the Leafeon with a frown. If a Marked was tasked to pursue a sea god, what could keep her from causing a panic among her peers on the island? If that happened it would surely defeat the secrecy that Zorn demanded!

    … on the other hand, there wasn't really an excuse he could give. He couldn't claim that terrain was an issue, as any team fielded by Hertsog would focus on the land anyways. And if he said that this quarry would frighten the blotch-head, what would keep that Mienshao from just going along and telling her?

    Bah… perhaps the best that could be done would be to play along, and make sure that that fox stayed out of the way.

    "I... was skeptical of potential conflicts of interest," the Armaldo reluctantly growled back, eying the Leafeon. "But I think that things can work out if her loyalty is as solid as she lets on."

    The leafy fox bristled and growled at Briggs' accusatory tone, only for Salvini to up beside her and pat at her shoulder.

    "Don't let it get to you," she whispered. "After all, you're still on the case right?"

    "… Right," the fellow Grass-Type answered, giving a glowering sigh as the Ariados of the group cleared his throat to attempt to steer the conversation in a less confrontational direction.

    "So then what's the assignment?" Payak asked.

    "Well, brass has had a bit of a pirate problem lately," Briggs answered as he moved a claw through some papers at his end of the table. "Do any of these Pokémon seem familiar?"

    The Commander pushed a set of pirate bounties out into the middle of a table. There was one for a Nidoran, another for a Growlithe, and another pair for a Nidorina and Hydreigon. One by one, the three First-Ranks began to inspect the notices.

    "Uhm… I can't say that I've seen any of them during my rounds today," Phyllis murmured to herself. "Payak? Salvini? What about you?"

    "Can't say that I've seen any of them myself," the Ariados began. "But-"


    There was a loud clatter as a chair was thrown back by an excited Grovyle springing up from her seat. The gathered Pokémon turned in surprise as their teammate suddenly sprung up from her seat, mystified at what had caused her outburst.

    "Salvini? Kavko ima?" Payak exclaimed.

    "These pirates of yours! I ran into them earlier today!" the gecko cried, eliciting a chorus of startled exclamations from her peers. "I thought something seemed fishy about them even though they looked a little young, so I steered them to the Cromlech Inn!"

    "That settles it then," the Mienshao declared. "I'll organize a raid on the place right away-!"

    "Not so fast, Captain," Briggs interrupted. "While these are obviously very serious characters, we can't afford to just barge in right away!"


    "What are you talking about, Commander?" the weasel protested. "We know where they are, why wouldn't we spring on them now?"

    "They really didn't seem that tough when I ran into them, Commander," the Wood Gecko explained. "And we could grill them for information about where their tougher friends are!"

    The sea bug shook his head in response before looking back at the underlings and carrying on with his explanation.

    "Bear me out... This group is much stronger than their rag-tag appearance would let on," the Armaldo explained. "And I believe you should know a thing or two about appearances being deceiving, Hertsog."

    "I'll concede your point…" the mustelid grumbled, shaking his head. "But where are you going with this?"

    "What I'm getting at is that this lot has already fought their way out of the Company's grasp three times already," Briggs answered. "So you'd be wise not to blindly rush your subordinates off to a stay with the medics."

    "Eh?!" Payak exclaimed. "But how are we supposed to wrangle them down if they're that dangerous?!"

    "You aren't," the fossil Pokémon corrected.

    "Come… again?" Phyllis asked, giving a puzzled frown. Payak and Salvini similarly thought the anomalocaris' words to be strange and traded curious looks with each other.

    "Why not?" Salvini wondered.

    "Yeah, you're not suggesting we just let them slip away, are you?" Payak added.

    "From the information I received, every place this group has gone to has reported that they front as a travelling team," the Bug-Type explained. "Most likely to scout hiding places in the interior and local Mystery Dungeon for future raids."

    The Armaldo paused for a second, his tail swishing as he processed the account.

    "Naturally, our local circumstances make things a bit more… treacherous," the Armaldo continued. "Which we can use to get this band of brigands in over their heads, and pounce on them while they're weak and wounded."

    "You mean what's left of them," Payak corrected.

    "Well, I wouldn't be so quick to assume, but a loss or two wouldn't be unexpected, no," Briggs answered as a small smirk spread over his mouth. "But does that clear things up, Hertsog?"

    The Mienshao moved a fur-sleeved arm to his muzzle and pondered a moment. The mustelid glanced over the bounties once more before returning his gaze to his superior.

    "It does, yes… And offhand, I see a few things that need to be done to get these pirates into that trap," the Fighting-Type answered back. "We'll need to work with the guild and medics to help set up a snare for these brigands without sucking any civilians in. We'll need to keep an eye for any potential contacts they might have from the docks or on the fringes, and of course, we'll need to actually reel them in."

    Hertsog looked down and pawed at his whiskers in thought for a moment, before looking back up and addressing his subordinates.

    "Payak, I want you to handle the guild details," the weasel instructed, casting a glance over to the Ariados. "Dangerous criminals or not, this will require bending the guild's rules a little, and it would be best if there were no discrepancies to show for it."

    "Consider it done," the Bug-Type grunted.

    "Oh? Not giving the duty to Phyllis there?" the Armaldo asked. "After all, it does seem like a simple enough task compared to the alternatives, especially that dock work..."

    Phyllis hissed in indignation, arching her back as she launched into a heated protest.

    "Captain, if I may, I'd like to receive the assignment for the docks," the blotched Leafeon replied adamantly. "I'm confident that I can handle it."


    A wicked smirk cracked across Briggs' face. Work at the docks would certainly do as a distraction for her...

    "It's yours, and I'll work with the Rangers to handle those fringes from my end," Hertsog said. "Salvini…"

    "Yes?" the Grass-Type asked.

    "You seem to have had the most contact with these scoundrels already," the weasel Captain instructed. "I think you're the most natural candidate for steering them towards the dummy mission."

    "Hrmph, got it."

    "I think that should be all then, get some rest," the Fighting-Type said. "We'll all need to be up in time to beat these scoundrels to the morning crush tomorrow."

    The three First-Ranks were dismissed and made their way to the door. Salvini and her companions traced their way down the halls, en route for the courtyard, where the three would go their separate ways for the night based on the lodgings the Company had assigned them.

    All the while, something about the whole exchange couldn't help but strike the lizard as strangely amiss...

    "Why was Briggs so hesitant to let Captain Hertsog bring Phyllis along for a simple pirate bust?"

    The Grovyle mulled the matter, but after thinking and not being able to come to any satisfactory explanation, she brushed it aside.

    "Eh, there's probably a good enough reason for it."

    Salvini shook her head and continued on as her mind drifted off to the instructions she had been given. If she wanted to give those ne'er-do-wells that mission all she had to do was wait outside the inn the next morning and follow them to the guild.



    Unbeknownst to the three, on the roof above the Captain's office, a Dragonite had been perched on the awning, fluttering up just high enough to keep his full weight from weighing down the shingled roof. From his perch, he had gathered the whole of the conversation that transpired in the office beneath him.

    "So, Zorn plans on making the Protector into a sitting Ducklett," he muttered. "Well that simplifies the matter greatly."

    The Dragonite turned over to Zorn's stone-walled chamber and glared. It was all that Gyarados' fault that he had to take matters into his own claws to get restitution… Him and the rest of those ingrates on the Board!

    But that was no matter, the opportunity was here, and with his time as an Administrator drawing to a close, one could be forgiven for resorting to desperate measures.

    "You won't be rid of me so easily, Zorn," the Dragonite growled. "I will get back what the Board and the Company took from me all those years ago, and if I have to get blunt about it, so be- a-ah-ACHOO!"

    The Dragon-Type sneezed, as a gout of dragonfire sailed off and into the side of a nearby barracks with a loud burst. As the Dragonite raised his head and inhaled some snot starting to dribble out his nose, he noticed the barracks now had a blackened scorch mark on the wall and the roof eave was smoldering, with startled cries coming from nearby.

    "A-Aaah! What was that?!"

    "I think it came from the Captain's office!"

    Darzin froze, his antennae drooping and eyes slowly widening in spite of his shrinking pupils as the sound of guards moving around reached his ears.

    "Urgh… lousy cold... Time to make myself scarce."

    The Dragonite flew off as fast as his tiny wings could carry him. A quick look back past his now tense and rigid tail revealed several guards approaching the blockhouse he was perched on just seconds ago.

    Now that he knew what Zorn's plan was all he had to do was wait for the team to come back from the bait mission, and snatch them away before his goons had a chance to capture them.




    "Crom! Ojo!"

    The Druddigon whirled about and froze as he saw a Vigoroth with a Company scarf charging him under the morning's light, his claws bared and swinging towards him. Crom attempted to bolt to the side, but it was too late to avoid a painful glance from the Slash on his arm.

    "Eyaaaah!"

    The ruddy dragon tumbled and fell along the dirt ground, panting. This fight was going much worse than planned. His foe was tougher, more experienced, and as the sound of rapidly approaching footfalls indicated, swifter.

    "Ha!" the Normal-Type taunted. "Nice try, kid!"

    Crom hastily dragged himself upright, anticipating another blow at any moment. Except, now the taunting voice and the footsteps were growing fainter and falling away. As the Druddigon looked back, he saw the reason why.

    "Your Substitute's mine!"

    The sloth was beelining straight for the form of a misshapen Nidorina slouched over, the helpless form of his now undefended Substitute!

    "Gaah!"

    The Vigoroth's momentum was arrested by a swift chop from a Fraxure's tusk, which was quickly followed by a second. The dragon's strike sent the grunt tumbling back along the ground with a yelp, a pair of raw, red marks forming along his side.

    The Nidorina Substitute was safe for now, and the axe-headed Dragon-Type called out an exhortation to try and invigorate his son.

    "Don't worry, Crom! I've got it!" Pladur cried. "I've got i-!"

    The Fraxure's eyes widened as a screeching Staraptor with cutting, white bands of air disturbed air tracing his body seemingly came for his head. The Dragon dove down and covered his head as the bird sailed on overhead.

    SPLUTCH!

    Any relief was abruptly squelched as the two dragons turned around and saw that their Substitute's flank had been torn open. The fake Nidorina was now melting into a bluish mist, starting around the wound.

    "Er," Pladur murmured. "Well, I had it…"

    "Gotta pay closer attention to your surroundings, Onondo!"

    The culprit of the Aerial Ace, a Staraptor, fluttered down and hopped over to offer a congratulations on a match well-fought.

    "That said, it was a decent attempt for a bunch of rookies," the hawk said. "Your kid's quite the scrapper!"

    "Yeah, and you're no slouch, either," the Vigoroth winced. "Why, with how you constantly duck and weave around like that, you're a real pain to nail!"

    Pladur shook his head flusteredly as he began to protest that he didn't "run away that much", only to notice that Crom was rubbing at his right arm. The Fraxure moved closer to inspect the arm and saw that there was a ruddy scrape on it. Nothing that couldn't be patched up, but even so...

    "Uhm… Crom?" the Fraxure prodded. "Maybe you should heal yourself a bit right now. You look a bit roughed up."

    "E-Eh?!" the Druddigon protested. "But dad, it's not that-!"

    Crom chanced to brush his scrape, which sent a sharp pain through his body and made him wince aloud. The Vigoroth had a flicker of worry pass over his eyes for a moment, only to dismiss his concern with a grunting shake of his head as Pladur drew near to his child.

    "Better safe than sorry, right?" the Fraxure insisted, pawing at Crom's arm. "There should be some Oran Berries in my bag. I'll ask some questions while you're getting patched up."


    Crom looked back at the scrape on his arm, and in between the sight of the reddish streak on it and the lingering pain it left... those Oran Berries didn't sound so bad.

    "I… guess that's a fair point," he replied. The Druddigon lumbered off towards the sidelines as curious prodding over "what sort of questions have you got?" distantly reached his ears from the background. All around him, the local grunts eagerly traded gossip with one another, just as Marley and Osmund had predicted. The young Dragon-Type picked up conversations about friends, family, tips for how to court a crush… along with chatter about a suspicious ship that pulled in overnight with "white sails with red saltires" from some passing grunts.

    Crom came to the retaining wall of the battlefield, where a number of bags from the Siglo Swellow's crewmates who had come to poke around for information at the fort were piled up against each other. After rooting around a little, the Druddigon came across his father's bag, and fished out an Oran Berry from inside. The fruit was peeled, pressed against his fresh scrape with a wince, and its pulp popped into the Druddigon's mouth and gulped down. Everything felt alright, except…

    It felt like there was less juice in the berry than normal that time. Crom initially thought nothing of it, until he saw that half the juice from the Oran Berry had dripped all over a bulky, coal-gray bag in front of him.

    "Ack! Oh no!"

    Crom hastily tried to brush the juice off the fabric, with little success. The Druddigon then hastily looked around, and after seeing that no one seemed to be looking, tried to lick up the sticky juice all over the bag. After a few licks and a healthy amount of leftover saliva, the faint bluish stains were perhaps the best that could be hoped for. The Druddigon sighed, and began to pick the bag up to hide it at the back of the pile…

    "Huh?"

    … only to realize that the bag felt like there was something strangely bulky and heavy inside. From the side, Crom could see a boxy shape through a gap in the cover. The dragon nosed at the cover, and after letting his curiosity get the better of him, moved a claw for the bag's opening.

    "Ack! What are you doing?! That's my bag!"

    Crom yelped and dropped the bag as he heard a startled buzz from behind. It was Ander, who had returned from target practice with Watmel-headed training Substitutes the next battlefield over. Almost as soon as the satchel hit the ground, a scythe slipped past the straps and pulled it back.

    "Er…"

    The Scyther brushed his bag with a blade, and drew it back with a disgusted grimace. Much to his unpleasant surprise, he discovered that it now had some fresh blue stains on it, along with some dabs of Druddigon saliva. The Bug-Type shot an exasperated expression at the young dragon, waiting for an explanation.

    "A-Aaaah! Sorry! Sorry! I accidentally got it dirty and I was trying to clean it-" Crom stammered. "I-I just thought that it seemed a little heavy! And-!"


    "What's going on?!"

    Pladur had scampered over in a hurry at the sound of the outburst, leaving Ander to shift his glance from the startled-looking Druddigon to the worried-looking Fraxure. After noticing that the bag didn't seem to have been opened, the Scyther began to grow calmer, if still unhappy about the new fluids on it.

    "It's fine. just…" Ander sighed. "Let me worry about my bag the next time something happens to it. Alright, Crom?"

    Crom gave an overhasty affirmation, though even so, his mind couldn't help but wonder… Why had Ander gotten so startled about him peeking into his bag? And what was the bulky object inside of it?

    "Hey guys!"

    The Druddigon's curiosity was quickly displaced as all eyes were drawn to a rapidly approaching party consisting of a Swellow, a Servine, and a Raichu. The lot of them came down a flight of steps along the retaining wall in a hurry, concern etched on their faces.

    "Uhm, we kinda found out something about the kids," Philips said. "And, well... it's not looking good at all."

    The Electric-Type passed a small tube of rolled-up papers to Crom's group. As Pladur unfurled the papers along the ground, their contents became clear and made the three go wide-eyed as they realized...

    These were bounty notices, with Nida and Elty on two of them, described as traveling with a "unnaturally gigantic Wingull".

    "Ack!" Crom yelped. "They have bounties on them?!"

    "That's not all!" Kiran squawked. "Look!"


    After looking through the collection of papers, the group noticed that one of them was for Margi. The group had barely been in port and Lyn had already gotten her in trouble! As for the other…

    "Wait a minute, Marley got a bounty too?" Pladur murmured, raising a skeptical brow.

    Sure enough, the remaining bounty was a listing for none other than 'la Cazadragones de Tromba', under pretenses of piracy.

    "Is that supposed to be a bounty? Or a way to get rid of Pokémon the Company doesn't like?" he asked. "Why, I'd almost feel sorry for anyone who tried to go after her!"

    "That does seem strange… Even if he obviously didn't like them, would Lyn lie about Pokémon being 'partners' with the kids?" Ander buzzed. "It's almost as if he added them to deliberately make them seem more danger-"

    "Hey! Fancy seeing you here!"

    The six Pokémon looked up and saw an cheerful-looking Aerodactyl with Company garb standing over the group. Kiran, Ander, Natrix, and Philips blanched and paled at the sight of the Company grunt beelining for them. To their surprise however, Crom and Pladur seemed to be unperturbed by the stranger approaching them.

    "Oh! Kellner!" Crom cried. "What are you doing here?"

    "Came here to hone my skills a bit," the Fossil Pokémon said. "So what do you think? I mean, we're not exactly Canalhouse City here, but pretty sweet digs, huh?"

    "It's… a bit unexpected," Pladur answered, rubbing a claw sheepishly against the back of his head.

    "Eh?" Philips asked, raising a brow skeptically. "You know him?"

    "Yeah, I thought you said you never really got around here, Pladur," Natrix interjected.

    "We met him yesterday, he was the Pokémon who showed us how to get here!" Crom explained. The conversation quickly turned to a congenial exchange of introductions, and the ice between the Aerodactyl and these 'strangers from the Capital' quickly began to thaw. The chatter among the lavender-scarved Pokémon carried on amiably, until Ander chanced to bring up a question...

    "Oh, out of curiosity, Kellner…" the Scyther began. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about these pirate bounties here, would you?"


    The look in the Aerodactyl's eyes grew cold and a sour expression spread over his maw, suffocating the Fossil Pokémon's prior congeniality.

    "Oh, so you're also getting in on this nonsense," he grunted.

    "Eh?" Pladur murmured. "Why are you looking at us like that?"

    "Yeah!" Crom interjected. "You were friendly with us just a bit earlier!"

    "... Sorry. I suppose it's not really your fault," Kellner sighed. "It's just that ever since those bounties went up, all of the skeevier Pokémon in the ranks have been getting worked up about them and prowling around Mossaisle."

    "Mossaisle?" Crom wondered. "You mean the town on the island?"

    "That's right. I don't know what's gotten into leadership since a lot of those Pokémon are trouble waiting to happen without tight leashes on them…" Kellner trailed off with a disappointed sigh.

    "But I guess that's not for me to decide right now," he answered. "Anyhow, luck with the training."

    The Aerodactyl paced off and gave his head a disheartened shake before hopping up and flying off past a retaining wall. After Kellner's sudden departure, Crom and Pladur looked off after him, wondering just what the Rock-Type meant by his parting words.

    "I think we should try our hand at looking around the town," Philips said.

    "Eh?" Ander asked. "Why's that?"

    "Yeah, we've barely looked around this place at all!" Crom interjected.

    "Well, think about it," Natrix added. "If these bounties are up, and the grunts are still looking for Elty and Nida, then they haven't found them already."


    Pladur paused and moved a claw under his chin thoughtfully. While it wasn't a good idea to underestimate the likes of the Company… he had to admit that it would be strange to keep up outdated bounties.

    "I suppose that's a fair point," Pladur murmured to himself.

    "And it would be more likely that they'd be in the town," Kiran added.

    "We should take teams," the Servine said, shaking his head. "With bounties like these, I don't think that those other grunts will be giving us any time to spare."

    "Oh?" Ander buzzed, flitting his wings anxiously. "How do we do this?"

    "Natrix and I got off a bit easier from training," Philips offered. "We'll grab some help from the Siglo Swellow and look around. The rest of you get ready to take over for us if we haven't found anything by evening."

    "Mrph. Right!" Crom grunted back.

    "I think that sounds fair," Pladur answered.

    The Raichu and Servine hastily snatched up their bags from the pile against the wall, darting off deeper into the complex. Kiran made his way over along to the bags to similarly pack up, only for a sudden worry to make him shake out his feathers and look off at the passing clouds in the sky.

    "I just hope he's doing alright out there…" he muttered.



    (Continued in next post.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016
  5. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Across the stream in Fensedge Village, Team Traveller slept soundly at the 'Cromlech Inn' after a hasty supper the night before. The hostel's rooms were spread out on the second floor, the cheap communal halls positioned closer to the stairs while the more private rooms were further towards the back.

    Flush with these silvery 'Thalers' from Valatos and his friends, Nida and the others decided to book one of the private rooms. The room was similar to Taxonomy's in its design, with straw bedding and a simple table, but this time of a squarish instead of rounded design. There was a crude cloth drape for the window, and little holes in the shingled roof that let in light from above. Each of the holes served as an unintended skylight, letting sunlight filter down on a room filled with nothing but the sounds of silent snoring...

    "Aaaaaah! We overslept!"

    Until the startled squeaks of a Nidoran who had roused herself and saw that the light from the gaps in the ceiling were coming down vertically... The way the sunlight did at high noon.

    The little Poison-Type quickly flew into a tizzy as she darted in front of the straw beds her teammates still laid upon, and loudly thumped her feet against the floor.

    "Come on you guys! Levántense!" Nida cried. "It's noon already!"

    "Wuzzat?!"

    Guardia was the first up, leaping up from her bed wide-eyed and with a claw tightly clamped on her bony club which she reflexively swung out, nearly conking Nida on her head. After looking around anxiously about the room, the Cubone saw that her only companions were a wide-eyed Nidoran and a groaning Growlithe and Lugia who were still struggling to raise themselves from their beds.

    "What's the big idea?" she huffed. "With the way you were running your yap off, you made me think we got ambushed!"

    Nida flicked her ears irkedly back at the bone lizard, just as her other teammates finally managed to drag themselves up to their feet and get their blood flowing with wingbeats and morning stretches.

    "Nrgh… 'afternoon'?" Pleo yawned. "But I thought we woke up in the 'morning', Nida…"

    "Urgh… couldn't this have waited five minutes?" Elty grumbled, before gesturing with his paw off the room's window. "If you didn't want us sleeping in, why'd you close the drapes?"

    "Huh?!" Nida shot back. "No I didn't-!"

    As the Nidoran turned to the window, she saw that sure enough, there was a pair of ratty green cloth curtains pulled down over the windows. So that was why the room was so dark! But... she couldn't remember when she pulled it down last night!

    "Oh, those things? That hole there was keeping me up when the sky started to become light hours ago," the Cubone answered with a proud grunt. "I found you could pull those cloth things down while trying to cover up that skylight in the wall."

    A wave of paws and wings quickly found themselves over the faces of Team Traveller's other members. Nida scrunched her brow and shook out her barbs, mumbling exasperated "why me"s under her breath.

    "We need that to wake up in the morning!" the Nidoran hissed. "That's when missions get listed!"

    "Wait, what?" Guardia asked. "You mean you don't have anyone come by to poke you awake for the start of the day?"

    "That's why Pokémon put windows in their walls," Nida grumbled. "So the sun can do that for you!"

    The Cubone paused and adjusted her helmet flusteredly as she noticed that the rest of her teammates were giving unamused scowls at her.

    "Uh… well it's certainly new lore to be mindful of," she replied, giving a mollifying wave with both her claws. "I mean, how was I supposed to know that skylight would be so important?"

    "Ugh… why did we take her along again?" Elty grumbled to himself.

    Nida groaned and shook her barbs, muttering under her breath about this rather… rocky start of the day. After picking up on his teammates' increasingly crabby demeanor, Pleo beat out his wings and tried to motion for calm.

    "It's alright," the little Lugia offered. "There should still be some missions for us on the board, right?"



    "How is there nothing left for us?"

    Elty scowled and shook his head as the team sized up the mission board for Mengir's guild. It had only taken a few minutes to pick up Guardia's new scarf from the receptionist and make it to the mission board underneath the guild buildings' central teal-roofed dome. And here they were, in a teeming guild hall, without a single mission they could take…

    Or at least that's what Elty said. Something seemed amiss about the Growlithe's description, and drew puzzled stares from the Ground-Type and the Flying-Type on the team.

    "What are you talking about? There's a bunch of papers still on the board!" Guardia protested, pointing at one of the board's listings with her club. "These are missions, aren't they? Why don't you just take one of them?"

    "Yeah!" Pleo chimed in. "What about this one with the picture of the swimming Pokémon there?"

    Pleo went over and pulled down a paper with a doodle of a Lapras with cargo on its shell off the board with his beak, setting the pamphlet down on the ground. Nida quickly darted up, and began to look over the contents of the listing...

    "It says that they're looking for a team to bring some berries down to the Subway on the bottom of the ocean…" she mumbled.

    Pleo's eyes brightened up and he bobbed his head excitedly. A mission with swimming?

    "Oh! We can do that!" he chirped. "I'm great at swim-"

    Before Pleo could finish his words, he heard a low growl and turned to see Elty bristling and glaring.

    "NO."

    "But-!"

    "NO," an equally unamused Cubone's voice shot in. Between the harsh glares from Elty and Guardia, and the head-shaking from Nida… much to Pleo's disappointment, it seemed like they wouldn't be taking a swimming mission today.

    "This is a clutter mission anyways, Pleo," she explained, sighing. "And this one and the remaining missions would be too tough for us."

    "Eh?" Guardia murmured. "How can you tell?"

    "Because the only shapes next to the rune that says 'Rank' are triangles, snake-curves, and stars?" Elty answered. After looking over the pieces of paper, the Cubone saw that sure enough, there were triangle-like, snake-like, and star runes on the places the Fire-Type pointed out. So even if there were missions available, there weren't any that would be reasonable to do!

    "I guess that's a reason for waking up on time," Nida sighed. "They say 'a quien madruga, los dioses se ayudan' for a reason back home…"

    "What does that mean?" Guardia asked.

    "It's a saying that more or less means that 'the gods help the early,'" the Nidoran explained. "Basically, if you're early, you'll get more advantages. If you're late… well, just look at ourselves."

    "But we have to do something, Nida!" Pleo squawked. "Don't we have to do a mission before the guild lets us eat here?"

    "We should have enough to get by another day, but… maybe it couldn't hurt to prepare a little."

    "Prepare how?" Guardia prodded.

    "Well, we need to pick up an Escape Orb before we hit that dungeon anyways since we can't risk getting our badges checked..." Nida answered. "We could always come by afterwards to see if any more missions got listed today."

    Grumble

    Team Traveller's four members looked down at their stomachs, and realized that they hadn't eaten since their small meal before heading to bed the evening before.

    "Getting something to eat is part of that getting by, right?" Elty asked.

    "Oh? How do Town Pokémon get food? Don't you all not hunt thanks to the Pact?" Guardia wondered. The question made Nida lower her ears and fidget uncomfortably, before shaking her head.

    "Uhm… I'll explain on the way, but we don't, and won't need to do that here for food," she said. "Come on, I'm starved already!"

    The Nidoran darted off, her teammates quickly following after her as they slipped off into the crowded hall. The four passed by a Kabutops hoping aloud that 'that berry mission to the Subway's still up' and disappeared amidst the mass of milling Pokémon just as some hurried footsteps rang out and came to an uneasy stop.

    "Shoot, I lost them!"

    Their owner, a Grovyle darting from hall to hall, looked around before pressing on through the crowd. Salvini ducked and weaved around passerbys, drawing cries of protest and surprise, only to find that neither hair nor hide of her targets was to be found there or down the nearby hallways.

    The Grass-Type blanched and shook her head to try and collect her thoughts. Perhaps it was best to take a step back here, after all it wasn't a particularly big town to hide in, so...

    "Hmm… let's think. Where would I go if I was a pirate stocking up for heading out into the interior?"

    With all the facilities around the square it would be the most logical place. If not there, they surely would have gone back to the inn to meet up with their other teammates. Salvini made one final sweep around the crowd and peered down the hallways, just in case her quarry was still around. After coming up empty, she gave a quick nod and turned to make her way out of the guild.



    About half an hour after she lost sight of Team Traveller at the guild, the lavender-scarved Grovyle continued her fruitless search for the team. She looked through the square, then to the inn that she had steered the group to the day before, only to find that her targets were nowhere to be found. After a similarly unfruitful attempt checking a few local eateries, the Grass-Type then doubled back to re-check the shop-lined square near the guild.

    "I only lost sight of them for a second!" she exclaimed, scanning the crowds in the bustling plaza. "Where could they ha- Well how about that…?"

    Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the forms of a Nidoran, a Growlithe, a Cubone and a large white bird at the Kecleon shop. They seemed to be... haggling?

    "But this apple is perfectly fresh!" Elty insisted. "It's certainly worth more than ten Poké."

    "You mean it was fresh," the Kecleon scoffed. "Just look at the color of that thing!"

    The Chameleon pointed a claw unamusedly at the the apple's skin, which had turned a dull shade since the team first picked it up, and grown flecked with specks of dirt. After a moment of uneasy blinking at the 'fresh' fruit, Guardia cleared her throat and hastily butted in.

    "It's just a little dust! It'll come off fine!" the Cubone interjected. "It's still good!"

    "Look, if my partner here says it's worth ten Poké, it's worth ten Poké," the Pumpkaboo at the counter grunted. "We didn't get into business yesterday, you know!"

    "But you're charging 150 Poké for that Escape Orb!" Pleo cried.

    "Guess you'd better sell a little extra, huh?" the Kecleon pressed, pointing at the bag on Nida's shoulder.

    "Nida's ears fell at the chameleon's stubborn insistence and the Poison-Type put a paw to her face with a sigh. Perhaps this wasn't a battle they could win.

    "Ugh, fine," Nida muttered. "Let's see what we can do."

    After conceding that the Apple would not be fresh enough to pass muster, Team Traveler turned away from the stand to sort their sadly lighter bag for goods to cover the difference. As they fished out their Cleanse Orb and the paltry few Poké left in Valatos' assortment of coins, they traded them over the counter for a dark, black orb with a light faintly glowing at its center. The group's wariness slipped as they were engrossed with their lost negotiation with the Kecleon and Pumpkaboo pair. Deciding to act before they could give her the slip again, Salvini walked over to accost the group of brigands as they pocketed their sphere. The gecko quickly dusted herself and mustered the cheeriest demeanor she could summon, before sidling up to the group.

    "Oh, it's you again! Just got through picking a mission, I take it?" she asked.

    The Pokémon turned out of surprise at the sudden voice beside them, but sighed out of relief as they saw it was none other than the Grovyle who had steered them to the hostel the night before. The tension in their faces fading, Nida eased into answering the gecko's inquiry.

    "Uh... not quite," the Poison-Type replied, sheepishly folding her ears back.

    "Hrm?" the Grass-Type wondered. "Something go wrong?"

    "We slept in," Pleo chirped back. "And by the time we got to the board, all the missions we could take were picked already!"

    Elty, Nida, and Guardia cringed a little. Pleo's admission was rather mortifying for the rest of them... but fortunately for their pride, the Grovyle declined to pry.

    "Ah, so basically just treading water until you get something up your alley?" she pressed.

    "Oi! We're not treading water, we're right here on land!" Guardia interjected. "And if we were able to get one of those missions, we wouldn't be treading anything around here!"

    So the team was actively looking for a mission... steering them to Hertsog's dummy mission might actually be easier than expected, Salvini mused.

    "Hrm… Well, it might be a little on the tough side," the Grass-Type offered. "But I was actually running over to re-list a request for a friend of mine…"

    The Grovyle dug through a satchel slung across her shoulder and pulled out the fake listing that Hertsog had prepared. As soon as she set the paper on the ground, the members of Team Traveller crowded around, eagerly scanning its details.

    "You need us to draw pictures for this village's shrine…?" Nida asked.

    "That's right. They're references for the shrine and the paintings have gotten a bit worse for wear," Salvini replied. "It's in a stable zone that was last sighted between the seventh and ninth floor."

    Guardia squinted carefully at the paper on the ground, eagerly examining every little scribble on it. She could only recognize a few scattered hut-dweller characters on the paper, the fruit of her studies under Tetsuzui. On the top of the paper was a doodle of what looked like a crude blue drawing of a Stantler on it… the local god, perhaps?

    Even so, there was one matter that troubled the Ground-Type...

    "Not that I'd be one to turn down a mission dealing with lore gathering about the gods," the Cubone murmured. "But how exactly are we supposed to know if we've found this chamber?"

    "Oh, that's easy," the gecko reassured. "There's murals on the passage leading into it from the Mystery Dungeon! If you find it, you'll know as soon as you make it through the thick of the fog!"

    Nida looked back down at the listing, and then back up at the Grass-Type. It was a bit of a peculiar request, but...

    Pleo needed a chance to practice… and who knows, perhaps the drawings might even have some sort of tip for how Protectors drew out their power!

    "Hrm… well, the description doesn't sound like anything we couldn't handle," the Poison-Type mused.

    As Nida mulled, Elty twitched his ears and glanced at the paper the spike ball was prodding at. The little dog gave it a skeptical sniff before casting a wary glance up at Salvini.

    "Eh, nie wiem," Elty mumbled. "Even if it was posted once before, it's technically unlisted now…"

    "I was actually in the middle of running a copy over to the guild myself," Salvini explained. The Grass-Type pulled a second sheet of paper, and dangled it in front of Team Traveller, prepared for this exact purpose to mollify her pirate quarry. The gecko put the second sheet back into her bag, and began to bend down to pick up the one she set on the ground. "I mean, it should be up on the board in just a couple hours if you'd rather wait…"

    "No, no, that's alright!" Nida interjected, quickly pulling away the listing. "We'll take it! We could use the mission!"

    The Grovyle cracked a satisfied smile as the Nidoran eagerly snatched up Hertsog's listing. While the spike ball stuffed it into her bag, the Grass-Type gave a few more words to attempt to pry into her targets' next move.

    "Well… glad we could both work something out with each other," Salvini chuckled. "So you'll be getting right to it, then?"

    "That's right!" Guardia grunted. "We'll be heading straight for-!"

    "Wait!" Pleo squawked.

    Elty and Nida folded their ears back at Pleo's outburst, taken aback by the sudden volume. The three turned with skeptical looks to see what the Lugia's issue was.

    "We've been running here and there for the last couple of days already!" the little Protector cried. "Before we go back into a dungeon, can't we play a little?"

    Nida paused and twitched her whiskers uncertainly, they had been through a lot… and…

    "A break would be nice after the past few days," she murmured. Elty and Guardia similarly paused, and much to Salvini's astonishment, the longer the two mulled, the more they seemed to agree with the little spike ball! Just what sort of criminals were these?!

    "W-Wait a minute!" Salvini interjected. "You're going off on a break now?!"

    "Er… this mission of your friend's," Nida said, drooping her ears sheepishly. "Does it have to be done today?"

    "I- I mean, it would be preferred," Salvini stammered. "But it would be understandable if-"

    "Then let's play first!" Pleo insisted. "Let's go to the beach!"

    The Nidoran looked at her Lugia companion, and then turned her head back at the Grovyle with a wavering glance.

    "We wouldn't be holding you up, would we?" the Nidoran asked. "Er…"

    "It's 'Salvini,' and…" the Grass-Type said before trailing off. She hesitated, then gave her head a dismissive shake.

    "Nah, forget it," she replied. "Go ahead, sometime's a 'mon's got to unwind a bit."

    "Woo hoo! Let's go! Let's go!" Pleo cheered. "Come on, let's go build a sand castle!"

    The four Pokémon ran off chattering and calling after one another, as they slipped away in the morning crowds. Salvini stared off after this band of most peculiar criminals, still blinking and blankly trying to make sense of the fact they were excited about a...

    "Sand... castle?"

    These were either, without a doubt, the worst pirates she had ever heard of, or Commander Briggs or someone further up the chain of command had made a mistake.

    Unless this was their cover…

    Or maybe they were some hooligans who needed to be scared straight…

    Or the Commander hadn't communicated properly to her... Could that be it?

    Well, Briggs would sort it out. He couldn't possibly go that hard on a bunch of kids, right?

    With that, the Grovyle shuffled off, tracking the path Team Traveller took off for the beaches west of the town.



    After making their way back on the route past the juice bar and medic's hut that they took on their first day in Fensedge, Team Traveller carried along to the shoreline and off to a green-sanded beach just outside of town. There, in the backdrop of Fensedge's stone spires, the team wiled away their time, dutifully scooping up handfuls of sand up from the wet band above the surf and carrying them up towards the high tide mark.

    "That's it," Nida called. "Just keep moving the sand over!"

    "You know," Elty grumbled. "This would go faster if we just kicked up the sand into a pile and shaped it there."

    The young Lugia squawked out of protest at the Growlithe's suggestion and beat his wings emphatically. They couldn't just kick up the sand like that! After all...

    "There'd be a big hole right in front of the sand castle then!" Pleo cried. "And you wouldn't ever get the waves to come up to you!"

    As the team continued their talk about how to make the sand castle, the little Protector noticed that one member seemed to be missing from the conversation.

    "Guardia? What's the matter?" Pleo wondered "Why aren't you playing along?"

    The Cubone all this time had been watching her teammates play with the sandcastle, doing nothing other than to occasionally poke at it with her club while lost in thought. The Ground-Type tilted her head skeptically at the little Guardian, before deciding that it was best to clear up the matter troubling her.

    "Well, something bothered me about earlier… why were you acting so strange during that storm?" Guardia asked. "We were all in danger but you were talking about some sort of song that wasn't even there!"

    "Now that the bonehead mentions it, that was kinda strange," Elty murmured. "What is it with you and storms?"

    Pleo paused and tilted his head puzzledly, giving a bat to his tail. The little Protector brought a wing to his beak and mulled a moment, before finally offering up what little of an answer he could think of.

    "I don't know, it just sang to me…" he replied. "And I thought it sounded really pretty."

    "Huh? But you're supposed to be the Guardian of the Seas!" Nida cried. "Why would a storm sound pretty to you?"

    The team traded blank looks with each other, as no simple answers seemed to come to mind to Nida's question. After scratching at her chin under her skull helmet, the Cubone in the group suddenly raised a proposal.

    "Well… It's said that Protectors are supposed to have 'domains'," Guardia said. "What if Pleo's 'domain' is storms?"

    Nida flinched at her teammate's words and hopped back with a start, twitching her whiskers uncomfortably. Guardia couldn't possibly be suggesting that Pleo had anything to do with it, could she?

    "Wh-Wha-?! That's preposterous!" the Poison-Type spluttered.

    "Not that I'd be one to look forward getting stuck with more rain, but…" Elty mused. "I think she might have a point."

    "She does?" Pleo asked, tilting his head.

    "Think about the times when your power came out before," Elty explained. "The day you blew the Captain across the island was just a few days after a storm. That night we crawled through Lyn's ship was the night of a storm…"

    Pleo fidgeted uncomfortably at the mention of Lyn's ship. The Growlithe's words rustled unwelcome memories of being taken away from home and chained up in that dark room below deck, which made the young Lugia rustle his feathers uneasily.

    "Then… if this island here gets a bunch of storms," Guardia mulled. "Maybe this is the right place for figuring out how to draw out your god's power."

    Nida lowered her ears and shook her spikes, unnerved at the Cubone's words. Pleo? A god of storms? The scary winds and rains that brought trouble to shore and to ships at sea? The spike ball turned, hoping her partner's normal cheer could help dispel some of the anxiety, only that Pleo still looked downcast.

    The little bird had lowered his head and pulled it in close to his body, uncomfortably shuffling his feet in the sand. The three wondered what could be troubling the young Protector until a simple pair of questions made his troubles known…

    "Nida…?" Pleo murmured. "When can we go back home?"

    The Nidoran blanched and looked down at the ground, the young Protector's words catching her off-guard. After a hasty shake of her head, a forced smile spread over her muzzle as she attempted to soothe the little Lugia with some encouraging words.

    "Don't worry Pleo," Nida reassured "We'll go home soon."

    "When is soon?" Pleo asked.

    Nida froze. When was soon? Every path home she could think of had a Samurott sitting in its way. Her family, her friends beyond her teammates, the rest of the town she took for granted just up until a few weeks ago… The more she thought of them, the more impossibly far they seemed, causing the poison-rabbit's ears to droop lower and lower.

    "I… don't know," she mumbled, shaking her head glumly. "If we could only draw out your power we could fight back against the Company…"

    Pleo's neck drooped ever so slightly, but Nida caught the signal. Think positive, think positive, find something for Pleo's sake... he liked the storms, right?

    "Though... if Guardia is right, then being someplace near storms might help," she said. "If there's any place where we can draw out your power, we sure can do it here!"

    The Nidoran noticed that the mention didn't seem to be very effective at cheering up her teammate. Perhaps it was best to set aside the worries of drawing out Pleo's power for now, and focus on something a bit more relaxed...

    "But… why don't we get back to that sand castle for now?" Nida asked, nosing at the team's still nascent sand castle. "We've only got one day off, so let's make the most of it!"

    The suggestion seemed to cheer the little Lugia up, as his spirits and energy quickly returned at the prospect of finishing the team's sand castle...

    "Sure!" he chirped, much to Guardia's long-faced displeasure.

    "Are we seriously putting off learning more about the lore of a god for sand castles?" she grumbled.

    "Aw, come on!" Pleo chirped. "You can learn this 'lore' thingy about sand castles!"

    The Ground-Type paused and blinked incredulously, tilting her head puzzledly at the white bird. Were the gods supposed to be this way? The Cubone felt a paw at her shoulder, and turned to see a bemused-looking Growlithe.

    "He's got you there, bonehead," Elty chuckled. "I mean, when was the last time you got to make one of these in that stuffy cave of yours?"

    The bone lizard turned to the pudgy Fire-Type, and then to her companions gathered around their sand heap. It wasn't lore about the Protectors, but…

    "Yokarō," she grunted. "This sand castle thing is more fun than I thought it would be anyways."

    With that, the former feral joined her peers, continuing the process of lugging up wet sand and molding it into a fort that with enough time and a little imagination, would outshine even the one looming over the town to the east. And so it was that the team whiled away their day, laughing and playing with each other with Fensedge Village off in the distance…

    Rustle

    And under the watch of a pair of sharp, yellow eyes of one of its guards lurking unseen in the nearby undergrowth.



    Author's Notes:

    - fuklyo (фукльо) - Bulgarian: "Show-off" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Kavko ima? (Какво има?) - Bulgarian: "What's the matter?" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Onondo (オノンド) - Japanese: "Fraxure" (Official Romanization)
    - (¡)Levántense! - Spanish: "Wake up!"
    - nie wiem - Polish: "I don't know”
    - Yokarō (良かろう) - Japanese: "Very well" (Hepburn Romanization)
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
  6. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Seems like a weird image to open the chapter with, given Claydol’s body structure. I’d change interlocking wording.

    Like the imagery here, makes the opening stronger.

    Them, not just her would sound better. Nida isn’t the type to typically just think about herself.

    I think you just meant “unlike”?

    Might switch the structure around and put “glaring daggers at the Dragon-Type along with an accompanying Galvantula.” A lot of your sentence structure is awkward like this, which I think can mostly be solved by not trying to cram so much information into one sentence. I’ll point out other overdescriptive parts as I go along.

    I think this would be more effective if we knew more about Margi and her child beforehand, if possible.

    Only quoting this part, but I loved this whole scene and how it emphasized that, well, Team Traveler is full of children, and I guess they’re seeing the real world now.

    And then the section ends perfectly with Pleo being his usual optimistic self.

    This doesn’t seem like Crom at all. The situation’s really taking its toll on him at this point.

    Sounds interesting… Kind of wondering if there’ll be an explanation for this at some point. I like all the mystery dungeon worldbuilding, to say the least. :p

    Adorable image. Damn it, Pleo, stop being so adorable. XD

    Way to almost blow your cover already and reveal you’re from Tromba, guys. XD

    Not sure this follows, if only because I don’t think the orb was mentioned beforehand and I have no idea what they’re specifically talking about until the word “orb” is mentioned. Maybe they should be brought up earlier? Basically, I think reorganizing order of dialogue might be effective.

    A lot of focus was put on this, so I wonder if this piece of worldbuilding will pop up again later. (And now that I’ve caught up since making this note, it sure was brought up. I didn’t think the human-less PMD world would be expanded on or focused on so much. I like it.)

    Nida’s being awfully pessimistic today, isn’t she?

    Not sure I really like this opening. I might just be tired, but I’m not understanding what the paragraph is trying to say. Might warrant some restructuring, maybe?

    Long sentence with lots of adjectives strewn together in the same structure. Aka, overdescription. I would try to work on what’s actually important to portray and what’s not. “Curious” might be okay, but I don’t see a reason for the patches to be “rectangular”. And when describing paths, not every bit has to be outlined in detail. Your reader can still envision things, believe me, and the overdescription may actually hinder their vision of things a bit (or at least, it does for me).

    Should be “led”. I’m not pointing out too many typos in this – there’s not too many anyway throughout my catch-up chapters, awesome! – but this one I see repeatedly, almost 2-3 times a chapter. XD “led/lead” must be one of your favorite verbs. But yeah, “lead” is pronounced like “leed” and is also like pencil lead. “led” is pronounced as you use it and is used for directions.

    Seems a bit unfair for them to underestimate Daraen for being blind, considering they underestimated Pleo and look what came of that – he’s got lots of strength no one knew about. :p

    Huh… Wonder what is considered a real substitute, then. Interesting training technique, to say the least.

    Daraen doesn’t burn easy, true, but Pleo is a seabird, so… neither does he. XD

    This is the beginning of a section. Not sure if I like the back and forth between Nida/Elty/Pleo training and Hatteras’s trying to figure out how to rescue them. The scenes don’t flow well together and end/start in awkward places.

    Well, this escalated quickly.

    I feel like Pleo’s already asked this question several times in this scene, just not in question form. Redundant and takes away emotional impact, though I do still feel for the guy ‘cause he’s my favorite, hands down.

    Lol… Sounds just like Nida. Cute.

    Not sure I understand what he’s asking here.

    Seems odd to add in dialogue when no one was said to be speaking beforehand, even if the dialogue was about the narration.

    It was a bit annoying with Elty constantly pressing by asking this same question. I would think he’d have something else to contribute, but he didn’t – unless he’ll have something to say about the story that was told later?

    Cute scene. I feel Margi’s turmoil a lot in this. And besides, who couldn’t like Pleo? Sigh.

    I can already imagine Crom’s disappointment and it breaks my heart.

    Interesting description... I wonder how it'll play out in this "special" chapter.

    A mega stone as a lucky charm? Absolutely adorable idea.

    For a special chapter, this part seems to be dragging on longer than it needs to be. I think it's because you're putting a lot of focus on characters that we rarely see and it's pretty much the same kind of banter you'd see in a normal chapter.

    Lol, I can't. Stop the cuteness.

    Good at "adapting" traditions indeed. Like Nida, she doesn't take a flat out "no" for an answer. :p

    Okay, I'm enjoying these characters taking a silly holiday raid so seriously now.

    They could see these things during the day, no? I don't suppose the concept of being more aware of your surroundings at night might be what you're getting at?

    I... really like Hatteras's dialogue here. Elegantly worded and a good balance of hope and sadness.

    Ohh, I love this use of attack moves and items.

    Heh, it says a lot about her character and parenting style if she remembered the same speech to tell her children as she grew up. I like the little bits of characterization you throw in for her in general, really.

    Not sure if it was intentional, but the special chapter was nicely timed, in my opinion. There's a lot of tension in the main story right now, but bringing readers back to pre-Fledglings scenes makes me love them and want to root for them even more. Team Traveller needs all the luck it can get right now. :p

    I lol'd.

    I feel they've been too distrusting of Elty in this town so far. The scenes keep having Nida and Pleo - mostly Nida - jump to conclusions immediately and then Elty has to spend time justifying himself. It's a bit repetitive, and the suggestions Elty makes aren't outlandish enough to warrant spending so much of the chapter questioning him. Nida isn't dumb at all... and Pleo, too, could probably come probably realize why Elty suggests what he does after some thought. EDIT: I still think this even though it's clear shortly after this passage that Elty's up to no good.

    Amusing dialogue this chapter, I must say... XD

    Lmao. In all seriousness, though, I like that Lyn actually has to appear vulnerable here. He knows trying to hide his mistakes won't help anything, which is something I can give him credit for if nothing else.

    Just the kind of nonchalant, sneaky attitude I'd expect from a zoroark. :)

    I can never really remember what a samurott looks like exactly... so the mentions of his "seamitar" and "sheath" always throw me off. XD Is there something in the anime that has a samurott using a seamitar/sheath in this way or...?

    Well. That's harsh. But nicely worded given the situation at hand. XD

    loool. This guy's an *******, but somehow I wish he was around more often. XD

    Quoted this whole thing because I thought the opening paragraph did a good job in particular portraying the anxiety they feel. It wasn't explicitly stated right away, but I could practically feel it with how well written it was. Nicely done.

    Pretty cool description of a shrine, though if Pleo is a bird and a guardian of the sea, footprints mightttt seem a bit weird as a representation. I'm sure the local Protector here is different, but then I'd consider capitalizing on the idea of Nida accepting that other places are not like Bluewhorl... which, correct me if I'm wrong, is something you've tried to teach her in past scenes and chapters. Alternatively, you could use this scene somehow to compare Pleo and the local Protector based on any lore surrounding said local Protector, since another big factor in the story is Pleo having to live up to certain expectations based on what other Protectors have succeeded/failed in in the past.

    I'd be kind of interested to see the perspective of different pokemon entering your distorted version of mystery dungeons for the first time... :p

    So how fun was/is it to come up with ways to describe items like the confuse wand and such? Heh.

    Couldn't they just mention a nidoran/growlithe team? I'm guessing they just wanted to be away from the interrogator ASAP so I guess that wouldn't work... Not sure.

    It's just like Elty to consider this idea when he probably already knows deep down that there's no way in hell Pleo or Nida would ever agree to that. XD

    But don't Mystery Dungeons in your 'verse change frequently?

    I feel like Pleo's naivety and curiosity actually goes way too far in this scene. He's been able to notice when they've been in trouble or in bad company every other time so far - or if it took some time, it didn't take THIS long - and now he's ignoring the marowak/cubone quite a bit, when the danger is obvious?

    Also think the naivety goes too far here. Maybe not for Crom, but definitely for Kiran.

    Would have been better served with a simple narration of "Kiran explained everything to them" rather than an answer that tells nothing and can easily be mistaken for sarcasm.

    Cute and well written emotional scene. I think these kinds of scenes with Crom are my favorite. :3

    Sorry, Nida, but this made me laugh.

    So... before this scene, Elty made such a bother about returning back to his ship and now that the night has passed, he doesn't even reflect on how there's no way he's going to make it now? I might be remembering wrong - and if I am, I have no complaints - but didn't Elty's old shipmates said to meet him at a certain time in a certain location the previous night?

    Writing "mumbled something about" implies that we're not going to read about everything that was said. You put this in your chapters alot, but you always tell the full sentence anyway and it's usually a decent length of dialogue though said dialogue relays nothing of importance. Might cut down on that or reword... This chapter does it a lot in particularly.

    Their custom is a bit skeptical, lol, but it makes enough sense given what species we're dealing with here. I always thought cubone/marowak were one of the most fascinating evolution lines that could be explored, really.

    It's just like Nida and the team to change the cubone's name like that without really thinking about it, lol... I also didn't expect the cubone/marowak species to name themselves different names throughout their lives based on their current job, so that was a nice addition there IMO.

    I can't get over how he actually CARES. I really kind of want a heartwrenching/heartwarming scene between Pleo/Nida/Elty, not gonna lie. A real, honest-to-goodness no-bickering scene that will rip out my heart. i'm weird, i know

    Another example of too much description.

    As an anime/manga fan, I've always wondered why characters tend to gloat so much and literally never acknowledge that they messed up by being cocky for a moment. Obviously this isn't an anime or a manga, but I enjoyed seeing her admit to this particular mistake, to say the least. XD

    Another example of redundancy. "at the Druddigon's mangling of their team name" is not needed - anyone who's been following the fic should know the team name and can infer what's going on in the scene by themselves.

    Does this mean my LaON trio will make an appearance again? Yes pleaseeeee.

    So basically he's a demigod and everyone seems to acknowledge and accept that. I'm jealous.

    Oh? I wonder if living in the mystery dungeon environment has been particularly difficult for her. Seems like she's got some bad memories she's repressing, at the very least.

    You know, I would expect Elty to butt in and say HE'S going for sure, and who cares who gets left behind? But no, he's more concerned about all of them getting out of there, even their new teammate. Loving the little bits of development for Elty in this arc, if I haven't mentioned it already.

    Nothing wrong with the logic here, but isn't this the same exact logic they used the last time they were trying to decide where to flee to?

    Amazing to me too, Guardia. I would expect ferals to be a wee bit more on guard.

    Example of way too much description. I wish I knew what advice to give for cutting down on sentences like this. Maybe asking yourself if each detail is really important/telling and then deciding from there whether to keep it or not. For example, does it really matter if a building is two-storied? Maybe, if a character's leg is broken and they can't get to the second floor when they need to for some reason. But here, I don't think it matters. Out of everything here, I might keep "weathered shingled roof" - I get the impression that the building is old/rundown, which seems perfect given the kind of town they're in right now.

    I'm not sure if I've ever said this, but Hatteras is also one of my favorite characters in this fic, even though he doesn't appear very often. I don't really tend to care for a lot of characters that don't show up often, but... Hatteras seems like a complicated character, and I wouldn't mind him having an even bigger role so we could learn more about him.

    Trying to find altaria amongst clouds sounds really fun, to be honest.

    Well, this can't be good. I guess Team Traveller's luck was about to run out sometime. Not that their luck was fantastic before, but now the thing they've feared most is happening. :(

    Fierce, giant gyarados doesn't have time for your sass, Elmer.

    Kind of a funny comparison, but I can see it.

    I get the feeling that this skarmory will be making a few more appearances soon. No complaints here.

    I like her already.

    Well, this took a bit of a surprising turn. This revelation could either help Pleo or hinder him from bringing out his powers, really. Given the obvious contrast between storms and being the guardian of the seas, I'm wondering if you'll have Pleo temporarily go down that dark path characters like Margi seem to be worrying about.

    Apparently not. Pleo is a special exception. :p

    Anddd with that, I'm 100% caught up, reading and review-wise. If you have any questions about what I commented on, you can always let me know on the chat. I imagine we'll be talking about the fic in length regardless, so I will look forward to that. :p
     
  7. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    Aha! I finally caught up! :D

    The title of this fic was what actually drew me into reading this. Well, that and the fact that it kept popping to the front of the fanfiction page. I’ve never played PMD before, so I wasn’t sure if reading this was going to be a good idea. Regardless, I plowed through the prologue and loved it, so I decided to keep on reading.

    I’m glad I did.

    You’ve put together a really good story here so far. And most of all, it’s fun. I am loving reading this. It’s got the perfect balance of calmer and more intense scenes, and I’ve never felt a dull moment in any of the chapters. The setting is very interesting, as well as the concept, so good job there too. Despite having never played PMD, I rarely (if ever) feel confused with how the world works. But IMO, the biggest strength of this story lies in its characters.

    First off, we have Nida! Adorable from the beginning. Especially the “[Doing x] hurts the Nidoran!” line. :p And her personality is beautifully executed. Impatient, even somewhat irritable, but still has the kindest heart ever. Even towards Elty. I want to hug that little spike ball even though I would probably end up poked with a bunch of poison barbs lol. xD

    And Pleo. He and Nida are probably my favorites. His innocence and kindness are so cute, yet you can see how far he’s come since Nida discovered him in the Mystery Dungeon. He’s going to be one great Protector, that’s for sure. Assuming they can evade Lyn’s clutches that is.

    Crom is great as well. I like the tiny little “romance” of sorts that he and Nida have going on. I know it was only hinted at twice, but I thought it was fun. c: A few teasings here and there without going overboard. And I like Kiran and Elty, too. So I’m definitely glad that Elty didn’t get to escape with his fellow pirates. :p Hopefully he stays with the group for a lot longer.

    Also, this is a bit random, but I love Marley’s character, too. She is almost as cute as Nida is. It’s hilarious how nonchalant she is about aggression. Like this quote here:

    Now, admittedly I am confused about why Crom is so afraid of her? I mean, I get that she is aggressive, but she is also friendly. Is this because she has something to do with the Cazadragones that was mentioned before? (I can’t remember if you already touched upon that.) They seem to have a bit of a conflict. While it’s a minor thing, I am curious as to what particular incident led to that.

    Oh, and our new teammate should be fun, too!
    I like her already. ^^
    This scene kinda threw me off, although it was pretty funny:
    So you are saying that she generally smacks people with a club when she’s nervous? o_o Just trying to clarify. I thought that it was only when she was angry haha.

    I know that you said you have a lot of conciseness errors, but I must disagree. While I admit I’m partial to longer fics as opposed to shorter ones, I honestly never felt like anything was unnecessary or too slow. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and I think you’ll be just fine.

    Now that I think about it - Does PMD have a Protector as part of the storyline, or is that something unique to just this fic? I’m curious about that, having had no experience with the game.

    Also caught an error in chapter 34. The foreign languages are a nice touch, and I’m a fan. But there is a small grammatical slip-up here.
    Levantarse should actually be Levántense. It’s an affirmative ustedes command. Using levantarse is actually using the infinitive form of the verb, so it’s not entirely incorrect; it just doesn’t make sense within the context of this sentence. Also, thanks for motivating me to start studying Spanish again. xD I didn't really stop, but I was letting it fall by the wayside a bit.

    Anyway, I hope to continue reading and reviewing future chapters. They might be a bit shorter than this review though. :) We'll see. ^^ I’ve been trying to work myself out of my reviewing slump for a while now, and this and the Angel of Reckoning both look like a good way to start.

    Thanks for reading this semi-long post, and hope you have a wonderful day. :D
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2016
  8. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    re: diamondpearl876

    Given that by the time of writing, we've actually gone through a few of these comments, I'll be focusing more on the ones without currently pending fixes in the wings already.

    Thanks, one of the things that I tend to be paranoid about in writing is that my prose is a bit too spartan, but glad that wasn't the case there.

    Yeah, out-of-characterness as a device for communicating strained times is a characterization device I'm a bit of a fan of.

    I think that any explanation that's given in the story will likely be a bit fuzzy and non-scientific, since the setting has a bit of a 'mystical' tone and it's often easier to understand what something does rather than why it does it. After all, they are called Mystery Dungeons and depicted as poorly-understood phenomena in the actual games.

    I've decided to let a little bird handle my response to this one. ^^

    Well hey, hiding and being sneaky is genuinely tough. If seasoned spies slip up, I think it's to be expected that amateurs will make a few amateur mistakes.

    I will see what I can do about bringing orbs up a bit earlier in the dialogue.

    The focus was actually several bits of worldbuilding interwoven together, but yes, we have not heard the last about aluminum in this series.

    Just a little bit.

    Hrm... The gist of it should be that 'The team went back to the medic's hut for sleep. Thankfully for them, extenuating circumstances allowed them to have an extra night without worrying about taking care of their own food and lodging'. I will have to play around with it a bit later on.

    Hrm... The intent was to try and make the scene a bit more visual, though I might try to play around and see if I can communicate the same scene in a few fewer words.

    Aha, I think I've been making that mistake a bit. I'll be sure to step through my earlier chapters to weed those out.

    In their defense, they know Pleo's a Protector and Daraen's not. :p

    A real Substitute would be the actual lump of fading whatchamacallit formed after using Substitute-the-move, and likely has a distinctive sleepy-eyed look to it.

    Shh... we need Pleo to figure out he's not a Water-Type on his own eventually. o3o

    This is one of those issues that I'm afraid that I don't have an easy answer to. I'll see if there's anything that I can do to make the back and forth less disjointed, though anything more structural than that will likely not come into effect for a while.

    In her defense, Margi basically sees Pleo as an ancient evil that's just awakened, so some escalation would likely be expected.

    Hrm... Will play around either with this part or the part before to make it a bit less redundant.

    To be fair, Nida has yet to rip off a starfish's arm... that we know of.

    Hrm, the ending phrasing is a bit awkward now that I look at it, but the gist should be "Wouldn't our disguise as a Company crew make us suspicious in this neutral port?"

    Will toy around with it to try and phrase it a bit more fluidly.

    Hrm. I might try to make Elty's line more fully narrative instead of as an embedded quote.

    Hrm, the idea was actually to deliberately make him focused on getting in and out with his priorities on food and shelter. Will have to consider if there's some less irritating ways of playing that.

    Yep, and that turmoil was highly deliberate in setting up the events of the next chapter.

    I'm doing my job, then. :3

    Well, I figured that Pokémon would naturally trend to having an affinity for their Mega Stones, so it just seemed to fit Hess.

    Hrm... I'll have to see what I can do to remedy that, since the focus on characters that are less-seen was actually pretty deliberate in Auld Lang Syne.

    I am forever indebted to Virgil134 for helping me to come up with that little ditty.

    What can I say? Persistence runs in the family.

    To be fair, it is their job. And no loot means no pay for fun stuff.

    It actually was what I was getting at, though it sounds that the current implementation is a bit awkward. I'll peck around at this sone a bit down the road to see if I can remedy that.

    It actually took me a few tries before I could land that 'holiday speech' satisfactorily well, though glad you liked it.

    Well, it is a world where Pokémon call the shots. It seemed only natural that even with crude technology and urbanization that Pokémon would still make use of their moves to get stuff done on a regular basis.

    I'm glad to hear that, since it's fun to flesh out the characters like that.

    It was actually a bit accidental, though timing it between episodes actually turned out pretty well. If I write another one-shot in ALS' vein, I will most likely schedule it similarly.

    Hey now, stoner comedy has a role even in lighter fics when played right. :p

    Hrm... This is something that I'll have to put some thought into how to tackle, since this is another one of those problems that I don't have a relatively easy fix for.

    Well, little flashes of levity here and there are important for keeping the tone up. And I do like to make wordplay when I can. ^^

    To be fair, he probably doesn't enjoy it at all, but he's clever enough to know when to not dig himself into a hole.

    That's stereotyping! ... but accurate.

    Samurott's blades are explicitly referred to as seamitars in the franchise, as for the 'sheath', it has to do with how the otters are depicted holstering their stabby bits when not being used.

    Well, it's not wrong.

    Your wish will be granted shortly.

    Once again, I'm glad you liked it.

    Hrm... I'll have to go back and see if I can flesh out that bit a tad further down the road. I would probably err towards the 'not like home' route, though.

    I'll keep it in mind. It would be a bit of an interesting thought exercise now that you mention it.

    It's a bit tricky sometimes, since there's a one extreme of description where you basically just handwave the matter that doesn't translate well to writing. On the other hand, some things, such as sticks that magically make things happen, don't really make sense to describe down to the last detail without delving into technobabble.

    My general rule of thumb is to use any official art when it exists, such as for the Slumber Orb all the way back in EP4, and to extrapolate and go my own way for things that haven't been explicitly depicted in the games. In the case of Wands, I basically decided to treat them as a related phenomenon to orbs, and applied similar overbroad rules of appearance to their business end.

    They wanted to get away from the Clawitzer, yes. I'll see what I can do to make that a bit more obvious.

    Hey, a 'mon can dream, can't he?

    Hrm, was more intended to be a 'childish' distraction. Will try and see if there's something that can be done to make it feel like less of a logical leap, though admittedly this will be one of the tougher issues to resolve.

    I might shift the questioning over to Crom's end, though in Kiran's defense, he probably doesn't deal with Marked too frequently, let alone ones that live in fortified enclaves.

    Hrm... I'm actually not sure how it is mistakable for sarcasm, though I'll play around with a narrated version of that bit.

    Given your feedback on this fic so far, I get the suspicion that those sections are your favorite in general. ^^

    It did its job, then. ^^

    The book is his ticket back without falling afoul of his teammates. Better late than never, after all.

    Will make a note of keeping a more attentive eye out for it.

    Done right, any Pokémon line could actually be pretty interesting to play around with. Though I did have a bit of fun in particular with Guardia's colony.

    Glad you liked it, though the 'named after a feat or a trait' actually strikes me as being fairly common outside of 'civilization', given that a lot of names and surnames have similar origins if you go back far enough.

    All in due time. ^^

    I'll see what I can do to rephrase that a bit to be smoother.

    Reality doesn't follow the rules of anime and manga, alas. As Guardia learned here.

    I think there's an argument to be made for keeping it on behalf of readers that have picked it up after a long while, though I'll see if there's less redundant ways of spinning the same yarn.

    It would likely sometime way down the road if/when it happens, but it would certainly be fun to show off when the time and setting is a bit more opportune.

    To be fair, it serves their interests for giving pretext to get back the obnoxious thugs who beat up their younger members, but yeah, the colony takes the "verdicts" of its dead very seriously.

    Her reaction has some significance, yes. Though it will be a while before it's laid out in full.

    I don't think he's fully candid enough to admit he cares about them, and there's a few situations that might get him willing to walk. But yes, he has been warming up to the team a bit during his time with them.

    The last one was a bit more 'any port in a storm', here they're being a wee bit more discriminating.

    Hrm. This will be a bit difficult, since these 'overdescriptive' bits in general come from attempts to be more explicitly visual. I'll see what I can do to make it a bit more fluid, though am loath to jump straight into cutting details.

    Hrm, I'll keep the character expansion in mind, though admittedly I'm a little low on avenues to bump him up from a support role offhand. ^^;

    I'm glad that you enjoy him, though, and it's always fun writing for his sense of liberated carefreeness.

    To be fair, it's probably less fun when on a tight timeline. o3o

    To be fair, they're not quite aware of it yet. But yes, things will be getting a bit rocky for the team this episode.

    No, he doesn't.

    Alas, it was the best comparison to a 'mundane' Pokémon that came to mind offhand.

    Ding ding ding.

    Glad to hear, you'll be seeing a lot more of her. ^^

    That's something that will become revealed in time.

    Well, to be fair, they don't exactly have anything to compare against yet. o3o

    And I'll be looking forward to that chat, and thanks again for going through everything so thoroughly.

    re: GastlyMan

    I'm glad that you like the characterization, since in my opinion the characters of a story do about 70% of the work in telling it. You can have the most avante-garde, detailed, and complicated plot, but without compelling characters to follow, it simply won't be enjoyable to read.

    Yeah, Marley has always been intended to have a bit of a scary side to her, if still be a (mostly) nice Pokémon to talk to. As for the Crom/Pladur thing, it's a bit of a gag that has to do with the Cazadragones-ness, yes.

    Glad to hear that, she'll be around for a long while. ^^

    It was more intended to be a 'poke' than a 'smack', though when your primary means of offense and defense is a little bone, you tend to use it both when you're raring to go and when you're trying to keep the world at bay.

    Ah, I'm glad to hear that. Hopefully the future installments stay enjoyable for you as well. ^^

    It's a concept unique to this fic since the backstory as defined is not quite the same as the (usually hazy) ones that you see in the games. The biggest offhand difference is that in the actual games, the Legendaries are much bigger.

    Aha, thanks for pointing that out. I went back and updated that term in the chapter it appeared and in the glossary.

    And thank you for the feedback. It's always a pleasure to hear back from someone new about this fic. ^^

    Hello everyone, it's been a bit of a crunch to get here thanks to other stuff going on, but I finally have that second update for the month of June, or at least it was June in Hawaii when I wrote this.

    As usual, I had a lot of help getting this chapter off the ground. I'd like to extend my thanks to Virgil134, solovino, and Tangent128, along with my customary thanks to the readers and reviewers who help to keep this fic going strong.

    The next update is currently targeting a 2-week release window. I am hoping to have 2 updates this month, but due to an end-of-month vacation overseas, there is a chance that there may only be one Fledglings update for July (not counting time slippage for most timezones for this update).

    And without further ado, let's get to the actual chapter:
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
  9. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    [​IMG]

    Beyond being surprised by the occasional wave, Team Traveller's lazy day at the beach went by without incident. The team whiled away the daylight hours laboring on little heaps of sand that their imaginations spun into grand castles. Eventually, the sun began to set over the west and the sky started to turn a vivid orange, prodding Team Traveller to begin their trek back to Fensedge. After returning to the village, the team grabbed a bite from the square near the local guild and retired back to the inn for the night. It had been a much needed day of rest and relaxation, though all the while Pleo, Nida, Elty, and Guardia couldn't help but shake the feeling that they had been watched...

    Pat-pat-pat

    And for good reason.

    As night broke and the stars came out, Salvini made her way up the stony chambers in the central blockhouse of Mengir's Company fort. Three Pokémon were already waiting for her inside at the Captain's office: a Marked Leafeon and an Ariados, both facing a tired-looking Mienshao with a Second-Rank's lavender scarf.

    "I was hoping that the guild would've fished them out by now," the Mienshao sighed. "I didn't see anything other than the expected plants and ferals while I was with the Rangers earlier, not exactly what I wanted to do while work piled up in my office."

    The weasel shook his head and stroked his whiskers before turning to his subordinates with an expectant look.

    "We can't afford to stay off their trails for too long," Hertsog murmured. "So let's try and make this status update quick. Any luck from your ends?"

    "I looked around the docks on the west side of the village as promised, but I didn't see them at all today," Phyllis said.

    "I 'convinced' the guild to allow the mission to be posted, sir," Payak chittered. "I didn't see any of the pirates, but Salvini told me that they passed through while I was in the back office."

    "What about you, Salvini?" the weasel pressed. "Were you were able to give them that mission?"

    "I successfully gave the mission to a couple of their younger members in front of that Merchantry shop…" the Grovyle began. "But they wound up spending the day at the beach to the east of town today before returning back to the inn."

    Salvini's answer was met with wide eyes and jaw drops from her teammatess. The pirates hadn't started their mission and left Fensedge on their own?

    "Wait, what?!" Phyllis cried. "But why would they do that?"

    "Captain, we should pounce on them now while they're at the inn," Payak interjected. "They've clearly caught onto us."

    "I'll admit, this is looking rather concerning," Hertsog murmured as he moved his fur-sleeved arm towards his muzzle. "But, let's not get worked up just yet."

    "Huh? But they already left the town once already!" the Marked fox exclaimed. "Shouldn't we not be pressing our luck with these characters?"

    "Why not hear from the source?" the weasel asked, before shifting a glance to the leafy gecko in his presence. "You saw them come and go today, Salvini. Did you see them do anything strange at the beach?"

    "Well, it was just the younger ones," she answered, moving a claw under her chin. "But they spent most of their time at the beach there making sand castles!"

    Payak and Phyllis blinked and traded puzzled looks with each other. As the two tried to figure out why their targets would behave in such a manner, the Mienshao shook his head and cleared his throat.

    "That's what makes me think they haven't caught onto us," the Fighting-Type replied. "If they knew we were onto them, why come back to town when they could have slipped away right there? And especially with the forecasted weather..."

    "Forecasted weather?" Salvini wondered.

    "Oh, that's right," the Ariados said. "The Castform who checks the barometers was saying that it's looking like the next storm from the Wastes will pass by Mengir tomorrow. I mean, she's not always right, but-"

    "Why would they take the chance unless they had something to do here still?" the weasel finished, giving a wave of a fur-sleeved paw. "I think we should make a point of keeping a closer eye on them from here on out at the guild and inn."

    "Oh? Who's taking what?" the Leafeon asked.

    "I want you and Payak on the guild. Salvini and I will watch the hostel," the Mienshao answered. "Throw a Luminous Orb to signal if you run into trouble. If these pirates are planning on slipping away from here, they'll most likely try something by tomorrow-"

    Grumble

    The four Pokémon hastily looked around and eased into battle stances, expecting to encounter a hidden eavesdropper… only to pause, and look down towards their bellies as they realized that the strange rumbling was coming from their stomachs! It was rather late in the night, and none of them had eaten yet…

    Then perhaps, there was something else to be done before heading straight back onto the beat.

    "But for now, we should probably grab a small vecherya before heading back out again," the weasel said. "Let's make it snappy, though!"

    "Right!" came the unanimous reply.

    Payak and Phyllis darted off past the door and down the halls with fading footsteps, though one exception remained. There in the now-quiet office, Salvini continued to stare at her superior, her eyes betraying a sense of obvious unease.

    "Captain…?" the Grass-Type asked. "Just what kind of pirates are these?! They went off to go play after I gave them the mission!"

    "It does seem a little strange, I'll admit," the mustelid answered. "But don't you remember that Commander Briggs said that this team has been able to slip away because others have been underestimating them?"

    "That's… true," the Grovyle murmured.

    "You have to know your opponent, Salvini," Hertsog reassured. "If you don't… well, if all goes according to plan, these pirates will wind up learning that for themselves the hard way."

    The Mienshao paused and shook his head, before turning back to his gecko subordinate and giving his sleeved arms a wave off to the distance.

    "Go and get that meal, I'll meet up with you at the Everbloom Taverna," the Captain said. "And that's an order!"

    "Hmm, right!" the gecko answered.

    Salvini turned for the door and darted down the blockhouse's flights of stairs, eager to treat herself to a well-deserved dinner. Even so, the thought of food and Hertsog's reassurance couldn't dislodge a lingering, nagging thought in her mind…

    Was Commander Briggs hiding something about the mission? Otherwise, just what were those supposed pirate kids up to?



    Back on Kenobi, Crom, Pladur, Kiran, and Ander set out in the late evening, riding a Mantine from among the ship's escorts across the short distance between the atoll compound and the waiting town ahead. During their search, the lot noticed the gate to Mossaisle's Guild, with the towering hall in the background, along with the town shrine and its glyph-studded murals depicting the Continent Tower. But most importantly…

    "Wow, it's so colorful!" Crom cried.

    …all the gaily-colored shacks the young Druddigon was eagerly inspecting as he darted to and fro. Kiran fluttered over to the young Dragon-Type, hoping to settle him down a bit.

    "To be fair, it's maybe 50% more colorful than the buildings at home," the Swellow scoffed. "I think we could match it if we wanted to!"

    "Eh… all this color makes things a little confusing to follow. And these buildings seem a little cramped and flimsy." Ander murmured, as he sized up a row of pastel-colored shacks that seemed to have uncharacteristically fortified windows and shutters.

    The little Dragon-Type had no mind for any of their criticism, as he bathed in the sights and sounds of the surrounding town before scampering back up to his shorter father.

    "Dad, this place looks nothing like home or Seahive at all!" Crom exclaimed. "Does every island's town look this different?"

    "Well, some are a bit less different than others," Pladur chuckled. "But every one I've run into seems to have its own flair to it, maybe it's because of where they came from back in the old wo-"

    "Out of my way!"

    Pladur's explanation was cut off with a collective yelp from the group as they were knocked down to the ground by a hastily passing presence. As the four shook their heads to get their bearings, they caught sight of a Yanmega passing by in a hurry with a Manectric and a Marowak.

    "How did Farn find out about us anyway?!" the Electric-Type whined.

    "It doesn´t matter, just keep going!" the dragonfly buzzed. "We just need to find a new crew and we´ll be fine!"

    The panicked trio of strangers were gone by the time the four staggered up, leaving them to wonder aloud about what the rushed Pokémon were up to as they dusted themselves off.

    "Well, someone was in a hurry, and 100% ruder than they had to be!" Kiran irkedly chirped as he ruffled his feathers. "Wonder what that was all about?"

    "Nothing we need to worry about, I'm sure," Ander mumbled. As Crom got up, he cast a look around, and the wonder in his eyes wore off in favor of a more sober and uncertain expression.

    "Erm… where do we even start searching for Pleo?" he asked. "This place looks as much of a maze as Seahive!"

    "If you're serious, you should check the Andaku Docks," a voice answered from from behind. Crom, Kiran, Ander, and Pladur whirled around and saw that further down the path, a grayish-purple pterodactyl was making his way towards the group...

    Wait a minute! This was-!

    "Kellner ?!" Crom cried. "What are you doing here?!"

    "Yeah, I thought you were the one giving us a hard time about messing around with these bounties to begin with!" Pladur added.

    "If you must know, I'm off-duty-"

    "You know, it's polite to give something extra to the Pokemon who keep you safe from Andaku's scum."

    Before the Fossil Pokémon could finish, the five Pokémon got distracted by a rough, stony voice in from a nearby alley. The group turned and looked, and saw a Golem in Company lavenders had cornered a wide-eyed Glameow, giving a threatening glare while holding out an expectant claw.

    "Come on, let's talk this over somewhere else," Kellner sighed, shaking his head bitterly. "I don't need to deal with this right now."

    Crom and his companions paused as Kellner faltered for a moment before setting off. The Aerodactyl had clearly seemed upset about the Golem's extortion, but… why didn't he do anything about it?

    Maybe, like them, he thought that he couldn't do anything about it?

    "Yeesh… rough crowd here," Kiran muttered as the group carried down the back alley. "So, what are the Andaku Docks anyways, and why do you say we should look there?"

    "It's the shifty walled district along the southern bluffs," the Aerodactyl answered. "And the place where miscreants like the pirates you're after like to hang out."

    "Eh? But then why isn't everyone already searching that district?" Ander asked.

    "Because it's tougher work and involves a tougher crowd," Kellner sighed. "And a lot of the Pokémon in the ranks seem to prefer to spend the time shaking down the locals for a berry or some extra Thalers."

    "But why would there be a part of town where you know pirates hang out to begin with?" Crom added. As the little Druddigon's words came out of his mouth, the group's journey chanced to pass into a small clearing at a crossroads of alleys with crates resting by the walls. Kellner paused for a long moment, seemingly unsure of what way to go, before sighing and turning back reluctantly to his new companions.

    "... It's because Administrator Farn lets them stay there," the Aerodactyl admitted. Shocked expressions flashed over Crom, Kiran, and Ander's eyes, though curiously enough, not Pladur's.

    "W-What?! But they're pirates!" Crom exclaimed. "You mean they're just being left alone to run the place?!"

    "We are not leaving them alone!" Kellner shot back, the Aerodactyl's words coming back with a frustrated roar. "We capture any that don't get lost after three days, and Administrator Farn recruits privateers from there!"

    "But you have that big fort out on the atoll!" the Druddigon protested. "And the shipyards-!"

    "And a choke point for trade routes for the south of Company territory that can't afford to be disrupted for too long," Pladur added. The Fraxure shook his head as the entire group grew deathly silent. "Isn't that right?"

    "That… is correct," Kellner replied reluctantly.

    "But- But that's awful!" Crom shouted. "Couldn't you just put more Pokémon to protect the town? Or what about those big walls? Why do you need to deal with those pirates at all?!"

    "The grub does have a point," Ander said. "It doesn't look like whatever's going on right now is working out that well with how uninviting this neighborhood looks."

    "The locals don't like the taxes that HQ puts on them already," the pterodactyl sighed, shaking his head. "How are they supposed to react when they get told that they need to pay even more for protection they don't even believe in?"

    Kiran's mind turned back towards those hazy days when he was younger, when the Guild Hall was the local fort that Administrator Darzin ran the island from. He remembered that it was harder to avoid tributes then, that the guards were bullies from off-island instead of trusted faces who could help deflect the burdens of Company rule.

    After mulling it over, he realized that if the Pokémon in Aisle Town were anything like the ones that used to be in Bluewhorl, then there was only one logical direction for Kenobi if things went as Kellner predicted...

    "Why, it would be 200% more likely they'd revolt!" Kiran squawked.

    "Exactly, and for what?" the Rock-Type demanded. "To let the Imperials set up shop here and give the Pokémon here more of the same treatment? To go independent and hang a giant 'raid here' sign over the harbor?"

    There was a long pause as nobody knew for sure how to answer Kellner. Having the island infested with pirates sure was bad... but would the alternatives really be any better?

    Scufffff… scufffff...

    The sound of sudden rustling broke the silence and drew the group's eyes to a small wooden crate. After turning their attention to the box and scrutinizing it a bit closer, the group noticed that it seemed to be inching along the ground.

    "H-Huh?! I-Is that box moving?!" Pladur yelped. At Fraxure's mention, some anxious whispers started up from within the crate.

    "Ack! We've been spotted!"

    Suddenly, the wooden container lifted up slightly, little scaly brown tails and feet peeking out through a gap at the bottom of a now hastily moving crate. Kellner darted over, cut the box off, and pinned it down to the sound of yelps from inside.

    "Alright, let's see just what we have here," he began, as he pulled the container off, revealing three startled-looking Cubone inside. Among them was a Cubone chewing slowly at a reed, a jittery and runty-looking specimen, and a wide-eyed Cubone with a grayer skull.

    "A-Ack! Th-They're huge!" the runt squeaked.

    "Brace yourselves!" the reed-chewer shouted, as she tightened her grip on her bone and eased into a battle stance. "It's time for bat-!"

    THWACK

    Only for the three to be unceremoniously swatted into a nearby wall by a tail swipe from Kellner.

    "Ow…"

    The four Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow rushed over and came upon the sight of three stunned Cubone attempting to regain their bearings. Upon closer inspection, it seemed like none of them had any scarves on their bodies.

    "Wait a minute- Those are ferals!" Kiran squawked. "What are you three doing in the middle of a town?!"

    The three gulped and looked at the bigger, lavender-scarved Pokemon surrounding them. The reed-chewer and the darker-skulled Cubone seemed to do a decent job at keeping their maws shut in spite of the intimidating audience, but the runty one...

    "We- We were making sure the defilers got back their book like Tetsuzui ordered!" he cried, drawing exasperated scowls from his companions.

    "Keikaiashi!" Kuraikamen growled. "You weren't supposed to tell them that!"

    "Eureka!"

    The group got interrupted by enthusiastic cries back out on the street, where a Tropius, an Archen, a Nidorino and a Marshtomp excitedly crowded around a small, red notebook in the Fossil Bird's claws. Several Pokémon passing by were giving the four awkward stares, but they seemed too distracted by the notebook to notice, and carried on giddily about 'a big lead on understanding those Unown Runes' with one another.

    "'Defilers'?" Ander asked. The Scyther glanced at the jubilant group of red-scarved Pokémon outside the alley, before turning back to face the three Cubone. "There's a long story behind this isn't there?"

    "Er… sorta," Machitabi explained. "But the important bit was that we saw them get their book back from those knot-necked jerks and mail off that 'receipt' thingy for those 'Team Traveller' majū."

    "Eh? We've actually been looking for some Pokémon in a team by that name," Ander said to the cornered Ground-Types. "You're telling us that you saw them earlier?"

    "That's right, they got into a fight with the purple-scarved majū Machitabi was talking about," the gray-skull answered. "We bailed them out before they left the dungeon to do… whatever it is that scarf-wearers do!"

    "But why exactly are you here?" Kellner demanded, giving a skeptical tilt of his head.

    "Well… someone had to make sure that book got back!" Kuraikamen exclaimed. "So…"

    "You planned to follow those Company Pokémon here, then?" Kellner sighed, shaking his head. "Was getting caught also part of your plan?"

    "You haven't caught us!" the reed-chewing Cubone protested. "We're just a little… exit-challenged!"

    The Cubone's declaration was met by a wave of groans and eye-rolls, including from her own teammates. After looking at her partners, and then back at the larger Pokémon in Company scarves, the Ground-Type blinked and finally conceded the obvious...

    "... Okay, you've caught us."

    "About this 'Team Traveller'…" Ander prodded. "They didn't happen to tell you where they were going, did they?"

    The Ground-Types froze for a moment and began to trade looks and nervous murmurs with each other, before the dark-skulled Cubone shook his head and turned back to the gathered Company Pokémon with a shrug.

    "How would we know? We're not hut-dwellers," Kuraikamen scoffed. "Why don't you ask your fellow purple knot-necks? Some Megayanma calling himself 'Valatos', along with a Livolt and a Garagara. They were the ones that tracked them down in the first place!"

    "Er… what does that mean again?" Crom asked.

    "I believe you they call them 'Yanmega', 'Manectric', and 'Marowak' back at the Capital," Kellner answered.

    "Wait a minute," the Druddigon suddenly said. "Didn't we run into some Pokémon just like that not too far from here?"

    "That's right! They were headed off towards those walls…" Pladur began, only to trail off uneasily as he realized they had gone...

    "Straight for the Andaku Docks."

    "Wait, Pladur, you've been in there once right?" Kiran chirped.

    "Eh?" Kellner asked, raising a brow. "You have?"

    The four Pokémon collectively bit their tongues for a moment, realizing that they had revealed something that might cause Kellner to question their cover. The Fraxure quickly fumbled for words to answer Kiran and Kellner, finally managing to stutter a response...

    "I-I… mean, this isn't the first assignment I've had here, no," he answered uneasily.

    The Aerodactyl raised a skeptical eye brow upon hearing Pladur´s answer, but before he had any chance to ask more about it, Ander hastily butted into the conversation with a question of his own

    "So then you'd be able to lead us around, right?" the Scyther pressed.

    The Dragon-Type visibly jolted and went wide-eyed, before shifting his gaze to the ground and starting to fidget his claws nervously.

    "U-Um… I mean, I could try, but…" the Fraxure stammered. "I got out of there as soon as I could last time…"

    "As you should," Kellner chimed in. "Andaku's not exactly a place to go day-tripping, even for Pokémon in the ranks like us."

    "But that 'Valatos' Pokémon and his friends are in there," Crom murmured. The four Pokémon peered over uneasily at the graffiti-covered palisades in the distance, before realizing there was only one way they'd find out where Team Traveller's missing members had gone off to.

    "We'll have be careful about it, but it looks like we're going in," Ander buzzed. He turned and began to make his way off for the palisades alongside Kiran and Pladur, only for the young Druddigon among them to falter, and look back

    "Look, Kellner, we need to get going, but… what's going to happen to those Cubone?"

    "Well, I'm not on the clock, and last I checked this wasn't your town. So it looks like there's no on-duty officer to deal with them," the Rock-Type answered, before turning his attention to the cornered bone lizards. "Or to object to being brought to the outskirts and left to continue from there, hmm?"

    "Oh, er… well, it would be nice," Keikaiashi said.

    "Yeah!" Machitabi added. "It would save us the trouble of fighting our way through you!"

    The Cubone's adamant belligerence drew a facepalm from the Aerodactyl, as the group of Company-scarved Pokémon rolled their eyes at the little creature's insistence.

    "I'm sure it would," he sighed, as he lowered his body and allowed the Ground-Types to clamber up his back. Now that things looked like they would work out, Crom turned and carried down the alley after his teammates, only for Kellner's voice to interrupt him.

    "Crom! One more thing!" he cried. The Druddigon looked over his shoulder, and saw that Kellner was fidgeting and visibly fumbling for words.

    "Good luck out there," the Aerodactyl finally managed.

    "Oh, er… thanks," the Druddigon replied. Kellner gave a quick nod back before he turned around and took off flying from the ground, three Cubone in tow. As the Aerodactyl began to fly off, the dark-skulled Cubone tugged at his reed-chewing counterpart's arm, a nagging uncertainty gnawing at his mind.

    "Psst, Machitabi," Kuraikamen whispered. "Shouldn't we have told them about that 'Team Traveller' flying off to that 'Mengir' place already?"

    "Yeah, they were looking for them!" Keikaiashi added. "And for purple-scarved majū, they didn't seem bad…"

    The reed-chewer looked back, and for a fleeting moment, saw Crom and his companions making their way down towards the palisades before they vanished among the maze of alleys and rooftops. The Ground-Type paused a bit, before shaking her head and turning back to Kuraikamen.

    "Mou ii, it would only have caused them trouble." Machitabi answered. "I mean, sure they seemed nice, but they're Company majū just like that bug and his buddies!"

    The dark-skulled and the runty Cubone looked at each other uneasily before shrugging the matter off. It would be a bit late now to tell those knot-necks about where Team Traveller had gone…

    Besides, the group had flown to a Company island anyways. It would just be a matter of time until the Crimgan and his friends would hear about a long-necked majū strutting around there… wouldn't it?



    It was said in folklore that in the distant past, the first ships built by Pokémon were constructed in order to ferry Protectors' eggs from the Eye of the Cradle to the islands where they currently reside. Back on the atoll ringing Kenobi Island, the craft continued to be honed and kept alive, as evidenced by the Company shipyards which remained busy as the hours went by in Crom's search and the stars came out for the night.

    The focus of the nighttime activity was a collection of drydocks nestled in between warehouses with lanterns and torches lighting up the site. At the sea's edge, flash locks formed by timbers with ice plugs between them kept the water out, with wind-powered pumps present to shift water in and out of the locks as needed. Inside one of the drained basins, Pokémon were finishing up the repairs of a three masted ship as orders barked out over a tiller repair in the basin just beside it. Lyn's hulking vessel was held in place by wooden blocks and a scaffolding, as its Samurott owner tensely paced past the busy scene.

    "Grr, where is he?"

    Lyn scanned his weary, dark-circled eyes irkedly around the crowd of Pokemon, stalking about the drydocks with blade in paw. There were Pokémon clambering up scaffolds made from bamboo and wood, a few workers scraping gunk off the hull… but the Pokémon the otter was looking for was nowhere to be found.

    "You looking for something, Captain?"

    Only for the Pokémon of interest, his Weavile First Mate, to casually approach the Samurott from behind. Lyn turned around and locked his gaze with the weasel, glaring back at the Dark-Type.

    "Ketu! Where have you been?!" Lyn growled. "I told you to oversee the repairs on the ship and meet up with me in front of the drydocks an hour before the Time Lord crosses the Moon! I've been wandering around looking for you for almost fifteen minutes now!"

    Lyn's presence in one of his more mercurial seasons was enough to reduce many of the Company's First and Second-Ranks into shivering, stammering messes. Even the nearby workers seemed to be keen to give the Samurott a berth. As for the First Mate in front of him...

    "Eh?" the Weavile nonchalantly answered, giving a skeptical brow raise. "Lighten up a little, Captain! I got pulled off for a surprise meeting. Some boring administrivia about the ship's repairs."

    "Ketu, this is serious!" Lyn bellowed. "I need to know when the ship will be ready! We need it if we're going to catch that bird!"

    "Well, why don't you take a look for yourself?" the Dark-Type asked as he pointed at the ship. The ships' sails and rigging were once again pristine, with all but a few errant gaps in the railings that were yet to be repaired. Why, there'd even been a fresh coat of paint thrown on, making the craft looked better than it had when it first pulled into Tromba.

    "All's left are a couple touch-ups, and she'll be ready to hit the water again by tomorrow," Ketu said. "You didn't think I would leave if the Argent Aviso was still a pockmarked wreck like when we came in, did you?"

    The Samurott paused as he sized up his ship. He had to admit, now that he'd stopped to look at it, it did seem to be in much better shape than when they limped into port. The Water-Type shook his head and sheathed his blade, before giving a scowl to the Dark-Type.

    "You should have told me about this advance," Lyn grunted. "But, I can't say that I can really argue with results, so it seems I was a little quick to judge."

    "Well now, I do aim to please," the First Mate smirked. The Dark-Type crossed his arms and gave a smug smile back at his superior… only for the weasel to sprout a disgusted expression upon noticing a fluttering form in the corner of his eye.

    "Lyn!"

    "Eh?"

    Lyn turned around just in time for Ellsberg to come to a fluttering rest in front of him, his breath still ragged as he brushed himself off.

    "Oh great, it's the notary again," Ketu snorted. "And here I was hoping we'd be able to leave port before you got back-"

    "Enough, Ketu," the Samurott growled. "Well, out with it, Ellsberg."

    "The- The Guardian-" the moth began. Only to be cut off with a roaring bellow.

    "Not out loud right here, you dunce!" Lyn shouted. "You're a notary aren't you? Give me a note or something!"

    The moth reflexively flew back in a start, leaving Ketu to snicker at the Bug-Type as he attempted to regain his nerves. After taking a moment to calm himself, the Mothim took out a small slip of paper from his satchel along with a lump of charcoal and sketched out a note that he slipped in front of the Samurott…

    "WHAT?!"

    …who promptly went wide-eyed. A number of nearby workers turned at the sound of Lyn's commotion, only to be turned around by a backing "Hey! Get back to work!" from his First Mate. The Samurott hastily disgorged a pulsing burst of water at the note, reducing it into an illegible collection of pulpy fragments before turning back to face the Bug-Type.

    "You know, if we had simply gone somewhere more private, you wouldn't have needed to do that," the Mothim huffed.

    "Priorities, Ellsberg!" Lyn demanded. "What do you mean he's at Mengir?!"

    "I mean exactly what I said, Lyn," the notary answered. "I saw one of his feathers there with my own eyes. Administrator Zorn even has a plan in place to find and restrain him, but you need to get over there quick!"

    The Samurott pawed at his whiskers at Ellsberg's words, mulling on what the best course of action was. After a noticeable pause, the otter shook his head with a grunt, having decided what path to choose.

    "... Ketu, make sure reprovisioning for the ship gets done by the time the drydock gets flooded tomorrow," Lyn commanded. "We're leaving for Mengir as soon as the locks open."

    The otter looked down at the shaking notary with hardened eyes, giving a gruff, growling command to his subordinate.

    "You too, Ellsberg," the Third-Rank barked. "I want you out on the water as soon as that tiller of yours is fixed!"

    After a quick nod from Ketu and a "R-Right" from Ellsberg, the two Pokémon quickly headed off to their respective ships. Lyn looked at his craft as the last touches were being made, and a smirk began to spread over his muzzle.

    "Let's see how much longer your luck holds, Guardian."



    The following day, the sun slowly rose above the horizon, covering Mengir island in its warm rays. It was a quiet day in Fensedge Village, as shopkeepers slowly opened up their stalls and shacks for business. The sleepy atmosphere also pervaded Team Traveller's room at the Cromlech Inn, where Nida, Elty, Guardia were sound asleep. The lot of them enjoyed a much-needed rest after a fun day of playing at the beach. Or at least up until…

    "Wake up everyone!"

    … the sound a young bird's loud squawking jolted them out of their sleep.

    "Eh? Pleo?" Nida asked drowsily.

    "Wha-?! Where are they?!" Guardia yelped, bolting upright to her feet and scanning the room with her club in hand.

    "Urgh, five more minutes," Elty groaned.

    "But the sun is up!" Pleo cheered. "And you need to wake up early for me to help you! Nida even said so yesterday!"

    One by one, the three creatures adjusted to their abrupt rousing and the morning light, groaning louder as they remembered Nida's fateful idiom from the day before.

    "Thanks for telling him about that, spike ball," Elty growled, the Growlithe trading a glare with a now huffing and defensive Nidoran.

    "Well, I didn't think Pleo would take it tan a pecho-!"

    "Enough. I don't like the fact that we were woken up for nothing, but we're up now, and we have lore to gather and pictures to find," Guardia grunted. "Might as well make the most of it."

    "That's right!" Pleo chirped. "Come on, let's go! Let's go!"

    Pleo flitted out of the door in a hurry, leaving his teammates to turn to each other and sigh. Guardia and Elty ran off, with cries of "wait up!" as Nida and grabbed the team bag from the corner table before setting off after her friends.

    Even if it wasn't quite the way she wanted it, maybe being early would pay off today. Maybe they would finally discover the secret they needed to evoke Pleo's power…

    Perhaps then they would finally be able to go home.



    About half an hour and a few complaints later, Team Traveller made their way through Fensedge Village and up the path to Mengir Island's Mystery Dungeon, the fields growing sparser and further between clumps of woods. As Pleo happily darted ahead of the group, the three other members of the team followed the Lugia in a slower pace, still grumpy about their rude awakening.

    "Buh, couldn't we have waited at least another hour?" Elty grunted.

    "Come on Elty, the sun and the morning breeze are great!" Pleo cheered.

    "I should have closed those 'drapes' things again…" Guardia groaned.

    Nida flattened her ears and sighed. As if waking up early wasn't bad enough, listening to her teammates bicker all the way to the Mystery Dungeon sure was.

    "Eh?!" Pleo cried "But then we would have woken up late again, and- Ooh, what kind of plant is that?"

    The three paused and stopped as Pleo waddled along to a stout, broadleaved bush by the side of the path. Nestled among the leaves were round, scaly, orange-ish seeds. Upon closer examination, Guardia instantly recognized them as a fixture of her old home.

    "Eh?!" the bone lizard cried. "You can grow seeds like those?!"

    "You didn't know that?" Nida replied, tilting her head curiously. "The seeds that the Distortion change can grow fine out here if you plant them."

    The Cubone curiously tilted her head as she took a step closer to inspect the bush. As Guardia carried on prodding and poking at the Blast Seed plant, Pleo gave a puzzled look at the shrub, before turning his head towards Nida.

    "But... then why are the rest of the plants here different, Nida?" Pleo asked.

    "Well, that's because- Hey!" the Nidoran began, only to trail off and stop herself. In the corner of her eye, she saw Guardia pulling at one of the branches, attempting to pry one of the seeds loose.

    "What are you doing?!" Nida squeaked, fanning her barbs out in surprise. "You can't just take them, you'll get us in trouble!"

    "Whuh?!" the Cubone yelped. Guardia pulled her claw back and let the branch free, sending it shooting back and dislodging the Blast Seed with an audible thwip. The orange seed sailed off into the air, arcing past the bushes on the other side of the lane, where a squeaky voice cried out startledly.

    "FIRE IN THE HOLE!"

    A loud blast rang out and forced the four Pokémon to the ground as something brown and fuzzy jumped out of the bushes and pratfell onto the ground. As the bushes behind continued to smolder and his ears still rang from the blast, Elty picked himself up and tried to shake some sense back into his head. As his hearing began to return to him, the Growlithe turned to the not-so-little mewa and began to spell out why exactly the other plants were different.

    "Urgh… well for one, when was the last time you heard of anyone wanting an entire field that would explode-?" the Growlithe said, only to look back in the direction of the brown creature picking himself up off the ground by the bushes. "Wait a minute…"

    The brown and cream fur and ringed tail... The squeaky and ever-sardonic voice... This was...

    "Scout?!"

    As Nida, Elty, and Pleo's voices still reverberated in the air, Guardia stared blankly at the flummoxed-looking Sentret that seemed every bit as startled to see her new teammates as they were to see him.

    "Wait, you know him?" she asked. "Who is this majū?"

    "Just when my mail run couldn't get any weirder," Scout muttered to himself, before turning to focus on the members of Team Traveller. "What are you three doing here?!"

    At once, Nida, Pleo, and Elty set off attempting to give explanations for their long ordeal out to Mengir, their words tripping over and conflicting with each other. The confused prattling continued on for a while, until a sudden shout pierced the air.

    "Aah! My cabbages!"

    All eyes turned back to the singed gap in the undergrowth, and grimaced as the sound of footsteps were now rapidly approaching.

    "Come on, we'll explain somewhere else," Elty barked.

    The group hastily continued up the path into the thickening woods, leaving the owner of the distraught voice and its likely now-crispy cabbages behind. After putting some distance between themselves and the Blast Seed bushes, and realizing that none of them could hear any pursuing footfalls, the five slackened their pace, panting...

    "Whew, that was close," Nida sighed. Scout, still unsure of what exactly was going on with these children, shook his head, and gave an exasperated roll of his eyes.

    "Okay, first things first. Who's the Cubone?" he barked. "And why aren't you still on Kenobi?"

    "They were judged by my colony, and I was tasked to go and defend them and this god they have with them!" Guardia answered, proudly slinging her club over her shoulder. Scout drew an ear back and shot a puzzled, incredulous look at the four youngsters, before Nida shook her head and tried to explain the matter to the Sentret.

    "Er… we kinda got into trouble with some Company Pokémon out on Kenobi and had to move on," Nida explained.

    "Well that much is obvious!" Scout exclaimed. "That dishwashing must not have taught you much if you've graduated onto arson!"

    "To nie nasza wina!" Elty barked irkedly. "It was the bone-head here that started that fire!"

    "'Arson'?" Pleo chirped, tilting his head puzzledly. "But we're doing a mission in the Mystery Dungeon!"

    "Yeah, we were just on our way!" Guardia added. Scout visibly paused, as the surprise faded from his face and gave way to an increasingly serious and grave expression. The Sentret cast a look over his shoulder and his surroundings, before leaning in and beginning to address Team Traveller in a low tone.

    "... I've got a place by the port if you need somewhere to stay after you're done," he murmured. "Meet me at the docks once you're finished with your mission. I'm planning on leaving this place as soon as my business is done, and I can take care of you until the next leg of my trip if you need a lift off this place."

    "Oh! Thanks!" Nida squeaked, only to catch herself and realize something was amiss about Scout's offer. "Er… wait a minute, why are you offering this to us?"

    "Yeah, weren't you the Pokémon that was too cheap to let us stay with you back on Boisocéan?" Elty demanded. "What gives?"

    A long, tense silence filled the wooded path, before Scout shook his head and turned back to face the curiously watching eyes of Team Traveller.

    "It's because this island isn't all that it seems to be," the Sentret answered. "I don't know if the Mystery Dungeon is anything like this village, but you should watch your step around here to be safe."

    After a few glances at the four Pokémon before him, Scout turned around and began to walk back towards the direction of the village before turning back at Nida and her companions.

    "Anyhow, I've got to get going, I'm running late dropping off this letter as is," Scout said. "Just keep what I said in mind and behave, alright?"

    The Sentret continued off down the hill slope, disappearing under the tree cover. After watching Scout fade away, the Pokémon of Team Traveller turned and continued up the path. All the while, a lingering question nagged at Nida's mind...

    "What did Scout mean by that?" she wondered.

    "Maybe it's because he knows that we're in trouble," Elty answered. "Mengir is supposed to be a bad place to get caught."

    "Huh? But we aren't pirates, Elty-!" Pleo began, only to notice a pile of large rocks up ahead. "Eh? What is that?"

    The four Pokémon hurried up the path and came to the site of the rock pile, only to discover that the rocks in the pile were bits and pieces of standing stones much like the ones seen in Fensedge Village. Among the stones still intact enough to make out features, was one with a carving of a creature with antlers that had been toppled and broken into three pieces. Along the ledge, there was dilapidated wooden pavilion covered in spotty flecks of paint, with a roof that had been caved in and its timbers worn by the elements.

    "Is this... a shrine?" Pleo murmured.

    "More like it was a shrine," Elty grunted. "It'll take a bit more than a fresh coat of paint to fix this place up, it looks like a total dump!"

    "But a shrine's supposed to be in honor a Protector, isn't it?" Guardia asked, as she inspected the site of the dilapidated ruins. "Why would the majū here just leave it all messy and broken like thi-?"

    "Guardia, watch out!" Nida's voice squeaked.

    "Huh?!"

    Guardia hopped back with a start and saw fragments of a shattered round, white seed by her feet. Elty crept over, and after a few sniffs and a nudge at the colorful nut, rolled his eyes and turned back to Nida and the others.

    "Again, spike ball? It's not even a complete Apricorn!" the Growlithe scoffed, only to pause and look around uneasily as he wondered aloud...

    "What's it doing here to begin with?"

    The four looked off at the direction of Fensedge and noticed that the fields downhill were verdant and thick, but suspiciously shorter than the patches of forest they intermingled with.

    Here or there, a tired-looking Pokémon in dirty and ratty lavenders of Company First-Ranks would pace down between rows of the shrubs and stop for a moment. There, one of the creatures would stop and carefully remove Apricorns from the shrubby trees with a thick guarding cloth, before moving on and repeating the process on another bush.

    A pall came over the team as they watched the figures pluck the dangerous nuts from the shrubs. After looking around, the team realized that as far as they could see from the ledge there was row after row of shrubs growing large, colorful nuts. Red ones, blue ones, yellows, pinks and greens, and even black and white.

    "Wait, are those fields- Are they all growing Apricorns?" Nida murmured.

    "Huh? But didn't you say Apricorns were dangerous, Nida?" Pleo asked. "Why would they grow them so close to the village?"

    As the team kept staring at the fields, they noticed that several of the Pokémon working there were bringing Apricorns to a large cart bearing a purple sigil. The sigil carried the same composition of squares like the marking on Lyn's scarf, though seemed to have many additional squares on it… did that mean that whoever owned the cart was even more powerful than Lyn?

    Why were all these Apricorns needed? Elty looked off and chanced to see the now hazy and distant form of Fensedge's harbor, when a shiver went down his back as he began to realize that there was a perfectly good reason for the Company to need so many Apricorns...

    These were probably the very same Apricorns that the Company used for their cannons' grapeshot!

    "Let's get going and get that mission done with," Elty grunted.

    "Eh?" Pleo asked.

    "Scout was onto something earlier," the Growlithe said. "This place gives me the creeps."

    The team reluctantly continued up the path, as they thought about what else Scout´s warning might entail. As the group moved on, Elty briefly stopped to look back the field, but shuddered at the sight and quickly moved along as they saw fog in the distance.

    As the team continued down the path, a pair of lithe figures emerged from the side of the path: a Grovyle hopping down from a branch and a Mienshao coming from the bushes. The two continued to watch as the forms of the team grew hazier and hazier.

    "I'm surprised that they figured out just how important this place is," the weasel murmured. "I suppose even pirates respect Protectors."

    "Captain?" Salvini questioned. "Why weren't the rest with them? Even back at the inn?"

    "Something's up," the Hertsog replied. "Perhaps the ringleaders are using them to scout out a hiding place for them."

    The Grovyle looked off doubtfully into the distance. It did seem to make sense… But why did this all feel so wrong right now?

    "… I mean, I suppose that makes sense…," she murmured. "But what do we do now when we don't know where the strongest members of their team are?"

    "We head back to the village and wait," the Mienshao said, giving a stroke of his whiskers. "We can find out where their buddies are after they come to the Medic's Hut for treatment."

    The Fighting-Type turned and began to make his way down the path back for the village, Salvini following after him. All the while, the lizard couldn't help but look back towards the fog and think over and over again...

    Something wasn't adding up.



    (Continued in next post.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  10. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Back on Tromba, Hatteras was making his usual morning rounds around town. As the Ampharos looked around, he could see the Persian from the Guild attempting to haggle with Calino over the price of a Trap Scarf, and Mirlia and Minia chattering with the neighboring glassblower as they tidied up the front of their Juice Bar.

    "Eyaaaah!"

    And of course the Nidorina with a lavender headband flicking a spike after a running Quilava, sailing inches away from the creature's ear…

    "Hanging out with your old friends behind Mirlia's bar is not running an errand for Hariti!" Marley yelled. "Stop slacking off and get back to watching the kits!"

    "Alright, alright! I'm going!"

    Hatteras gave a surprised look as he saw the stoat hastily dash off with a yelp back for the Day Care, leaving bystanders to murmur uneasily. As the commotion simmered down, the Nidorina stopped to adjust her lavender guard headband when she noticed the elderly sheep's presence.

    "Oh, hello there Hatteras," Marley cheerily greeted.

    "Uhm… how has the old position been treating you?" the sheep warily asked.

    "Oh, you know," the rabbit answered back, waving a paw dismissively. "Just the usual. Osmund's supposed to be going through the last steps of his recovery, so it shouldn't be long before I can hang this old headband back up and go back to the field again..."

    "I see, so you'll be a bit less busy soon enough," the Ampharos replied. "Speaking of which, I actually was looking for you…"

    "Hrm?" the Nidorina wondered, tilting an ear quizzically. "Did that Jigglypuff pick a fight with one of her old buddies again?"

    "No, no, nothing of that sort," Hatteras reassured, shaking his head. "It's just that I was about to send the return letters back to the Siglo Swellow, and I was wondering if you wanted to add anything to them."

    The Nidorina hardened her red eyes into a scowl and raised her barbs for a moment, before shaking her head and giving a dismissive wave.

    "I don't think I have any business with that group. It's not my children on that boat," the Nidorina grunted. "Just what is writing a letter for a daughter who is still lost supposed to accomplish?"

    "Er… well," the Ampharos began uneasily. "If they found her since the time they wrote the letter, they could always pass it along-"

    Thump thump

    The Nidorina cut off the sheep's words with a pair of forceful thumps against the ground with her hind legs, looking up with a glower at the Electric-Type as he took a couple steps back.

    "You know how I feel about getting my hopes up for nothing, Hatteras," the Poison-Type answered in a low tone. "And beyond myself, why should I work Teja and the kids up for something that may never come?"

    "Because it's not for nothing, Marley," Hatteras replied. "Surely you of all Pokémon would appreciate how even in grim times, hope can sometimes work miracles."

    "I don't see what you're getting at by waxing romantic on me like this," the Nidorina scoffed.

    "What about the way that we got rid of 'that cheating Dragonite'?" Hatteras questioned. "Would that have happened if we didn't have hope that we could somehow make things work in spite of the odds?"

    The mention of the town's victory over Darzin made Marley pause and look down to the ground for a moment. Contrary to the stories the townspeople told their young nowadays, the odds certainly weren't in Bluewhorl's favor back then. Yet, despite that, they never gave up hope of ejecting Darzin from the island, even when things seemed their most impossible.

    "Oh! There you are!" a chirping voice called.

    The pair turned and saw an Unfezant flitting down to a rest in front of them. The creature preened a few loose feathers, before turning his attention to the black banded Pokémon in the duo.

    "Eh? Pat?" Marley asked. "I thought you were still with your family down the lane from the burrow."

    "Nope, I've been looking all over for the Guildmaster here!" the Flying-Type squawked. "When I heard you wanted to send out those letters earlier, I thought you'd be waiting for me at your office..."

    "Ah, apologies, Pat," Hatteras said. "I got a little carried away earlier, but… I have the packet with me, all that's left is to seal-"

    "Wait!"

    The Ampharos felt a nip at his arm and looked behind him. There, he saw Marley staring at him, her expression noticeably softened from the harsh demeanor she had maintained earlier.

    "Give- Give me a couple of moments, Hatteras," Marley insisted. "I'll write something up."



    Mengir's Mystery Dungeon was a maze nestled between tall and jagged walls of rock that carried on beyond a thick curtain of fog overhead. Perhaps that was what the Pokémon outside built all those stone spires around the town?

    "You inkfoot defilers better run if you think you can still show your face around these parts!"

    Then again, considering the locals like the hissing Carnivine off in the distance downstairs, it made one wonder why they would do so. Team Traveller slowed from their hasty flight up the stairs from the previous floor and looked down at some fresh scuffs about their bodies from their scrap with the Grass-Type. As the team panted and caught their breath, they heard the ground shudder them as the stairs sealed shut and the sounds of the stalking flytrap faded away entirely.

    This mission was harder than Salvini had made them think it would be. The floors had been getting more and more treacherous, and that was already their second battle that had roughed them up. From the last floor alone, there had been the narrow escape from the ambushing Carnivine the team just had encountered, and a battle with a trio of Shroomish beforehand who had forced the team to use a Pecha Berry to cure Elty of poisoning.

    "Nida?" Pleo asked. "Are-? Are we there yet?"

    It had been seven floors into the dungeon, and the team still hadn't seen any sign of the mural chamber Salvini asked them to find. Nida saw that the white bird, much like the rest of her teammates, seemed to look rather worn. But the grounds were supposed to be somewhere between here and the next few floors, right?

    "It should be any floor now, Pleo," she said. "Just hang in there a little longer."

    Nida's reassurance was answered by a pair of groans at the back of the group, where Elty and Guardia gave back unamused looks as they intently scanned their prickly and uninviting surroundings.

    "Ugh... this place is nothing like home!" Guardia grumbled. "These yajū keep ambushing us!"

    "That's because you're an 'intruder' to them just like the rest of us," Elty scoffed. "Did you honestly think you were going to get a free pass?"

    "That's not what I meant, mutt!" the Cubone snapped back. "I mean, yeah, there's driving an intruder off territory, but…"

    The Cubone cast a wary glance at her surroundings, and after being satisfied that the four of them were truly alone, she turned back to the Fire-Type.

    "The way they were so angry with us… Calling us 'defilers' and the like…," she murmured. "It was almost like they were trying to get revenge for something."

    The team paused and traded uneasy looks with one another. Now that they thought about it, the last feral had mentioned something about them being 'defilers' as they ran off. But what did that mean? They hadn't messed up any graveyards or anything!

    "You don't think that it has something to do with that broken-down shrine, do you?" Pleo asked.

    "I... don't know, Pleo," Nida answered. "But let's try and be careful he-"

    Before the Nidoran could finish her thoughts, she was cut off by Pleo excitedly chirping and gesturing off up ahead.

    "Oh! Look! Look! It's another Wand!" he cried. There, up in a chamber down the corridor, was an a branch with the familiar whorl at the end and series of glassy layers. This time, underneath each layer, was the form of a vaguely spiral-shaped cone, pulsating softly with a faint silvery glow. After Guardia squinted her eyes and got a better look, she realized that she had seen such objects back in her old home before.

    "An eda, you mean," the Cubone corrected.

    "Eh?" Elty grunted. "Pretty sure that's just called a 'Tunnel Wand'."

    "I know what I said, Gardie! … but it certainly couldn't hurt to pick up something for cutting through a wall or two," she murmured. Pleo perked up, and with a beat of his wings, began to flutter over to the Tunnel Wand.

    "I've got it, I've got it!" he cried, coming to a waddling stop just before the Wand. He stepped forward, towards a patch of dirt that on closer observation seemed to have a faint design of a split circle with what looked roughly like a face. Upon noticing the shape, Nida's eyes went wide and she cried out after her teammate.

    "Ack!" the Nidoran squeaked. "Pleo, wai-"

    Only for the little Guardian to carry on ahead, and a faint click to reach his ears.

    "What was-?"

    BOOM

    A sudden blast rang out, forcing the team down to the ground to shield their eyes as clods of dirt and stony fragments flew at their heads. A cloud of dust and smoke hung in the air as Nida coughed and tried to make sense of what had happened.

    "Is- Is everyone alright?!" she cried. She was answered by the groaning affirmations of Elty and Guardia, who staggered back up, their ears still ringing from the explosion. Yes, everyone was here, except...

    "Oh, no… Pleo!"

    The Nidoran ran for the still-settling cloud of dust and dirt, where she found Pleo crumpled up in a shallowly-breathing pile against one of the floor's stony walls. The blast had singed his feathers on his right wing, and the impact against the barrier's sharp stones had left scrapes on Pleo's back. The sorry sight coming into Guardia and Elty's vision as they darted up.

    "A-Ack! The Protector!" Guardia cried.

    "Spike ball, is he alright?" Elty asked, pawing uneasily at the bird's prone body.

    Indeed, the little Lugia wasn't responding to their words or tugs at his feathers. Nida grew wide-eyed, and rummaged through her bag for a Reviver Seed, before prying Pleo's beak open and pushing it in and clamping his beak shut on it

    "Come on, please get up…"

    The little Lugia began to stir and twitch as Pleo coughed up a spittle-covered seed as he groaned a little about "No fire! No fire!" Suddenly, Pleo threw his eyes open and lurching up with a startled squawk, and latched onto Nida for dear life, his voice still thick with panic.

    "A-Aah! N-Nida?!" he cried. "Wh-What happened?!"

    "Oi! Don't rush yourself, mewa!" Elty barked. "You just got yourself blown up!"

    "Just stay calm and hang in there for a bit, Pleo," Nida said, trying to calm the white bird down with a nuzzle at his breast. "It takes a little bit for Reviver Seeds to kick in on wounds."

    The little Lugia bobbed his head from side to side, nervously looking around to try and detect any further dangers around him. After looking and finding nothing, the little Protector pulled his head and wings close to his body and turned back uneasily to his teammates.

    "Did- Did I do something wrong?" the Lugia murmured.

    "Don't worry about it, Pleo," Nida reassured, shaking her head as she shook off some spittle from the now-plain seed Pleo spat up. "It was just an accident..."

    "I wouldn't be so sure about that," Elty's voice grunted.

    "Elty?" Nida asked. "What are you going on about?"

    "He might be onto something, actually," Guardia said. "I mean, my colony got you into that ambush by putting items around."

    "Yeah, thanks for that by the way- OW!" the Growlithe yelped, cut off by an angry swat from his Cubone partner.

    "Let me finish!" she growled. "Anyway, if these majū in here really are mad about something... what would've kept them from purposefully putting that eda right next to the trap?"

    A tense silence fell throughout the group as they realized Guardia raised a good point. After all, the ferals in this dungeon did seem more hostile than the ones encountered on other islands... It really wouldn't have taken that much for them to set the Wand as a trap...

    And if they were willing to do that… just what else were they prepared to do?

    "I don't like where this is going at all," Elty grumbled.

    "Maybe we should pack it in," Nida said, shaking her head as she put away the Plain Seed in her paws. "I mean, I know we told Salvini we'd help her friend, but can we really handle this mission?"

    "E-Eh! B-But Nida!" Pleo protested. "I thought that we weren't going to give up! We promised each other!"

    The Nidoran blanched and began to look down at the ground. She didn't want to break her promise to Pleo, but... was it really wise to continue if things seemed be spinning beyond the team's control? As she weighed the matter over in her head, Guardia chimed in with an argument of her own.

    "We do still have plenty of supplies, including that Escape Orb," Guardia added. "And if this is the local Mystery Dungeon, most of the jobs are going to be here."

    "I mean, it wouldn't do ourselves any good wasting supplies if we just had to come back here later," Nida murmured. "And we'd have to worry about food and lodging again."

    Elty froze his tail and carefully mulled over the scenario that Nida had brought up. They had used up a lot of money since they arrived, and sleeping on the mats like they did in Boisocéan wasn´t exactly something he wanted to do again...

    "Well when you put it that way, it's kinda hard to argue against it," Elty sighed. "Let's be careful though, something really is off about this place-"

    The Growlithe flicked his ears as a noise caught his attention, and looked and sniffed around for a sign of the culprit. After a tense pause, the Fire-Type realized that it was the sound of not-so-distant footsteps passing nearby.

    "We should moving along," he whispered. "Something's coming this way."

    "Right, come on," Nida answered.

    The team reluctantly carried on deeper into the dungeon, continuing their mission's search for the mural chamber. The original optimism and eagerness had now largely ebbed, and in its place came an ever growing sense of uncertainty and dread…

    Just what would they find further ahead?



    Blip

    Back in Fensedge Village, the form of a Skarmory with wings interlocked with a Venomoth's appeared in an open, carefully cleared field next to the domed Guild Hall. After giving a ruffle of his metal feathers, the self-proclaimed 'Warrior of Life' gave his thanks to the teleporter and flitted off into the complex.

    The Steel-Type landed and paced down the halls, striding past a sagely-looking Sawsbuck congratulating a Rescue Team consisting of a Pidgey, a Fletchling, and a Pipipek over a recent graduation to Normal Rank. The bird carried along the hallway, before coming up to a desk staffed by a drowsy-looking Slakoth. Trizano rifled through his bag and passed over a paper with a still-fresh footprint over as the sloth slowly but surely reached out to take it. Another day, another mission successfully logged in his stint at this stone-spired island…

    "Hey!"

    … and from the looks of the cheery-eyed Kabutops coming up behind him, another fellow explorer who had caught attention of him. Such recognition was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, too much attention could be a burden, but in other cases, as with the horseshoe crab before him…

    "You're that Immortal… Trizano, right?" the crustacean asked. "Back from another mission so fast?"

    … it was a welcome chance for the Skarmory to take a bit of the edge off his circuitous travels.

    "The one and the same," the metal bird chirped back. "As for the mission… what can I say? When you're an Immortal, the rush of a job well done fills you with determination!"

    Trizano fanned out his wings and gave a theatrical bow to the watching Fossil Pokémon, before bringing his head back up to the crab, giving it a curious tilt.

    "And you are…?" the Steel-Type inquired. "I know that I've seen you around the past few days, but I don't believe I've ever heard you name."

    "It's Dimitri, Terranaut of the Khranitel Rod!" the crab answered, giving a proud nod of his head. "I've been stopping at islands in between my Rod's stops to bone up on becoming an explorer that neither sea nor land can hold back!"

    "Ah, so you're from one of those sea clans... Well, it does seem like an admirable goal," Trizano chuckled. "Keep at it with an attitude like that, I'm sure you'll go far!"

    The horseshoe crab paused before giving a wistful sigh and looking down at the ground, giving a shake of his head.

    "Yeah… I've got my claws crossed a bit there," the Kabutops murmured, before examining the metal bird and giving a curious tilt of his head.

    "Actually, since you're here… mind if I ask you for a few tips of the trade?" Dimitri asked.

    "Well, now… not everything has a simple answer, Dimitri," Trizano replied, giving a shake of his head. "But I'll bite. What did you want to know?"

    "What's your secret for how you always come out so unscathed in this Dungeon?" the Kabutops inquired. "You've been taking missions left and right over the last few days, but the one time I saw you come out with so much as a scratch afterwards, it was gone by the time I saw you again at the end of the day!"

    The Skarmory closed his eyes and shook his head, a small smile forming at the ends of his beak. The Steel-Type waved a wing to deflate the crab's inquisitiveness, and fed the Rock-Type an evasive answer.

    "That's something that only my patron can share, I'm afraid," Trizano said. "Though I'll say that if you can get the attitude down and take a crash course or two in evading attacks, you'll be halfway there-!"

    The Skarmory trailed off after hearing the young rescue team from earlier squawking in a panic followed by the sight of them darting over wide-eyed. Trizano followed the group's worried gazes, where he saw a number of other Pokémon with similarly unnerved expression further down the corridor he'd taken over to the Slakoth clerk. There, a Dragonite was looming over the Sawsbuck from earlier, the dragon all but cornering the hapless Grass-Type against a corridor wall.

    "A-Administrator Darzin, surely this could wait?" the buck stammered. "I was just in the middle of-!"

    "I don't care what you're in the middle of Guildmaster Stewart!" the rough, deep voice of an agitated Dragonite snarled back. "This is an urgent matter, and I need you to discuss it with me!"

    "Y-Yes, I understand," the stag gulped. "But- Perhaps we could continue this in my office?"

    "Hurry it up, then!" the Dragon-Type snapped.

    The reptile let the Grass-Type slip out, and then followed closely after him, lumbering down a passageway as worried murmurs floated around the gathered Pokémon. Trizano looked after the disappearing forms down the passageway, before turning his head to Dimitri, giving it a shake.

    "I'll catch up with you later, Dimitri," he said. "There was something that I just remembered I needed to take care of."

    The Kabutops paused and gave an uncertain tilt of his head, before casting a wary glance off in the direction that Darzin had disappeared to.

    "... That's fair enough," the Water-Type replied. "I think it would probably be better if I steered clear of surface politics myself…"

    Trizano waved a quick goodbye to Dimitri before darting for the outside of the guild. The Skarmory looked back towards the direction that Darzin and the Guildmaster had headed off to, and after spotting trees on the other side, realized that they must have gone to the opposite end of the complex, the furthest place from prying eyes.

    The Steel-Type flew over to one of the trees, and paused to try and overhear any sign of the Guildmaster or the Administrator who had spirited him off. After hearing nothing he hopped to another and tried again, and then another, before finally…

    "Stop beating around the bush, you old codger!" the voice of an angered Dragonite growled. "I'm not exactly asking you for a detailed assessment of my targets' battle potentials, I just need your teleporters to bring me into the Dungeon to intercept a few pirates!"

    Trizano came to a stop in a tree outside of an office on the second floor of the compound. The bird quickly pulled himself behind the tree's foliage, cutting away a small branch with his wings to open a hole just big enough to peer out from.

    "Pirates?" he murmured. The Skarmory peered through his camouflaging foliage and into a spartan office with rude wooden furniture. Inside, he saw that the Dragonite from earlier had cornered the Guildmaster within its confines, pinning him against a table and leaning over menacingly.

    "A-Administrator! I don't have the faintest idea of what you're talking about!" the Sawsbuck protested. "Yes, the local guards mentioned that they needed us to specially approve a mission for sketching the murals in the local dungeon, but they didn't mention anything about you being involved in it!"

    "Well, they did now! I'm the one in charge of wrangling them when they come out!" Darzin huffed, shoving an ink-stained claw clutching a slip of paper with runes that looked to be scribbled in a hurry with an ink pen into the stag's face. "So unless you'd like me to arrange for Administrator Zorn to review this guild's operations, you'll give me as much detail to work with as possible!"

    Stewart blanched at the Dragonite´s threats, and stamped his hooves insistently as he desperately tried to explain his genuine ignorance of Darzin's operation.

    "Administrator, I don't even know who you're looking for here!" the Grass-Type pleaded.

    "Don't play dumb with me! The team is headed for the mural chamber in the dungeon where that Beautifly nesting ground is. You should have been given a specific list of species to watch for!" Darzin snarled. "There was a long-necked white bird, a Nidoran, a Growlithe…"

    Trizano blanched as the Dragonite's rant continued on as he realized that the first few species sounded uncomfortably familiar. Wait a minute, it couldn't be that these pirates were-!

    "Those are those kids from a couple days ago!" Trizano whispered to himself. "There's no way they could possibly be ready to take a mission to go to those grounds!"

    Then, that meant that they were in serious danger right now! But what was an Immortal to do in this situation?!

    "Answer me!"

    As Darzin's interrogation inside grew more heated, the Skarmory realized he couldn't leave those kids alone for much longer. Trizano tore out of the tree, flying up and away from the guild compound with a loud rustle that made Darzin whirl his head in a panic.

    "Gah! Who's there?!"

    The reptile peered outside, only to see that there was no presence to be seen beyond signs of a Pokémon having been in the trees recently. The Dragonite twitched his antennae nervously and looked about, for any sign of the eavesdropper. Could it be a local Flying-Type passing by...? Or perhaps someone was watching...? Could it be that Zorn was growing wise to him?

    One thing was for sure, he was clearly on thin ice, and there was no point in risking his chance at capturing the Protector by not heeding warning signs.

    "Consider yourself fortunate," Darzin growled at the Grass-Type. "I have more pressing matters to tend to… far away from here."

    The Dragonite stormed out of the trashed office, leaving a still-shaken Sawsbuck behind to wonder...

    "W-What just happened?"

    By chance, he turned to look out the window, where in the rapidly fading distance, the form of a Skarmory could be seen. Tearing away for the spiny peaks that poked out of the fog of the Mystery Dungeon north of the town.



    Author's Notes:

    - vecherya (вeчeря) - Bulgarian: "dinner" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Megayanma (メガヤンマ) - Japanese: "Yanmega" (Official Romanization)
    - Livolt (ライボルト) - Japanese: "Manectric" (Official Romanization)
    - Mou ii (もういい) - Japanese: "enough" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - tan a pecho - Spanish: "so serious"
    - To nie nasza wina! - Polish: "It's not our fault!"
    - eda (えだ / 枝) - Japanese: "branch", Japanese localization name for 'Wand'. (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Khranitel Rod (Хранитeль Род) - Russian: "Keeper Clan" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  11. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Good. They needed it. Seriously. XD

    The overanalyzing of their actions is hilarious, I gotta say. You do a good job of not making it go over the top.

    Redundant - you don't need to put something about hitting the beat twice.

    Uncapitalize "It's"

    Delete "it"

    Really like this wording here.

    Now that you showed me a samurott's seamitar in action, this is really cool to read. I can't imagine Lyn being any other species, or being without the seamitar now. :p

    Poor Ellsberg. Someday you'll get revenge and/or get treated with respect.

    Haha, I love this team together. Guardia seems to feel relatively comfortable with everyone already, which is nice to see.

    Somehow Scout admonishing them is amusing given his terrible attitude toward everything...

    Pipipek... I see what you did there...

    Trizano to the rescue! Something tells me this "Immortal" character is going to cause even more trouble for Team Traveller somehow... Guess I'll find out next chapter, eh?
     
  12. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    Yeah, no problem! ^_^ Hopefully my reviews continue to be helpful. :) Anyway, here goes chapter 35~ It will be kind of short since it's late here and I need to get up early tomorrow.

    Aha, this is a nice touch. I wonder how long it will take them to find out that the “younger ones” are in actuality the only ones. x3


    I wonder if she’ll end up helping them once she finds out who they really are and what they’re up to. Just speculation. Salvini doesn’t seem like she has any intentions other than to do her job, so I could see it going either way.

    Moments like this are one of my favorite parts of this fic. The image of an Aerodactyl facepalming is beautiful. :D

    Aw. If only they knew the trap they were walking into. But hopefully, that day will come when they can go home, whether it be sooner or later.

    Great reference to the prior chapter. xD Also, you forgot a period. :p

    I loved this! I really felt the emotion in this particular scene. There is always hope, you know?

    Yep, this one will be difficult for Team Traveler.

    The image of Nida squeaking is quite cute. Good job there. Also, I love how they call Guardia “Guardie.” It’s like a nickname for a nickname. ^^

    Yes! Hopefully he will come to the rescue! Nida will hopefully have her phobia of Skarmory abated, if this is the case.

    And I wonder what exactly an Immortal is. This should be interesting!

    Overall, this was an excellent chapter. We got to check in with Team Traveler, Crom, Pladur, and the others, Lyn and the company Pokemon, etc. Also got some interesting backstory with Darzin which I liked - it was a nice touch that helped explain some of the Company’s past interactions with Tromba.

    Keep up the great work, and good luck with the next chapter!
     
  13. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Yeah. Considering the events in the recent past and the immediate future of the story, I figured that the team needed an opportunity to take things a little slow and build a couple sand heaps.

    She's the sort of Pokémon who's a bit serious and job-focused... sometimes a bit overly so. ^^

    Done, done, and done.

    Glad to hear that, Lyn's been a character that I've had sketched out for his role for a fairly long time.

    Shh! That's spoilers for the future! o3o

    Well, it helps that she's got some motivation to stick around and observe the childish "Wingull" demigod. :p

    Well, a Sentret can't exactly change his stripes, now can he? o3o

    Yeah, I've actually been slipping in little Sun/Moon references here and there into the story for a few chapters now, Virgil134 gave me the idea for that cameo in particular. You can count on seeing a face like this every now and then between now and November. ^^

    You're actually on the right track with that assessment, so you'll see how that starts playing out shortly.

    I shall leave you in suspense for now, with the note that all shall become clear fairly soon.

    Yeah, playing against type and expectations is a device that I've had a lot of fun with in this story. ^^

    Fixed.

    Indeed, and it's a motif that I plan on revisiting throughout the course of the story.

    Actually, that's Guardia referring to Elty as Gardie. Which would be kinda like Elty calling Guardia "Cubone". Though glad you like the nickname.

    She's not intended to be fully out of the woods just yet in the impending encounter, though it should help, yes.

    It's actually a bit of a tightrope walk between keeping it a mystery and revealing just enough to give an idea. Though ideally, by the end of this block, there should at least be strong hints as to what exactly an Immortal is in-setting.

    Glad you liked it. We'll be seeing a bit more of each of those strands in the near future in this story. ^^

    So publishing this chapter hit a few snags during the editing phase, but I've managed to get something that I think should be decently polished out the day before I'm out for a week. For obvious reasons, there will not be a second update this July, though I'm currently angling to get this current Episode closed out by the end of August.

    Special thanks for help this chapter goes to the usual roster of Tangent128, solovino, and Virgil134, along with Sugoitsu from ff.net .

    And with that, let's get to today's chapter:

    [​IMG]

    Back in Mengir Island's Mystery dungeon, Team Traveller continued their mission to search for the murals. starting from the seventh floor, The team kept their eyes peeled, remembering Salvini's words about how the stable zone that held the paintings was at most two floors from them. Guardia walked slightly ahead of everyone because of her past experience ferreting out such zones back in Kenobi- and surprisingly enough, Elty seemed to have a sharp nose for them himself...

    Except, the seventh floor only had a small stable zone while the eighth floor had no stable zone at all! They were now on the last floor, with not a hint of fog to be seen.

    "I think we've been had," Elty grumbled. "No stable zone is this hard to find!"

    "This is the last floor it could be on, Elty," Nida said. "Maybe we just aren't looking hard enough?"

    "Then… does that mean that we passed it?" Pleo nervously asked.

    Both Nida and Elty blanched for a moment as they realized that the little Protector might be onto something. If the stable zone was this hard to find, then it was entirely possible that they had passed it earlier! Then they'd be forced to choose between finding a way to backtrack, spending the Escape Orb they'd bought from the Kecleon shop, or clearing the whole dungeon and return later...

    "Hey! I found something over here!" Guardia's voice suddenly rang out.

    Or it could be right in front of them. After poking a bit at a mat of vines, Guardia swatted it down with her club, revealing a thick fog which swirled and ebbed out slightly.

    "Bah, knowing our luck, it'll be another dead end," Elty grunted.

    "Elty, think positive," Nida snapped. "The third time's the charm, right?"

    "Whatever, let's just get this over with," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "Pleo, you stay on my tail while I follow the bonehead."

    "But what about Nida-?" Pleo began, only to squawk with a start as he felt a weight land against his back.

    "Heh, being on top of you does give a better view, right?" the Nidoran chuckled. "It couldn't hurt once we come out the other end."

    "Oh!" Pleo murmured. "I… guess that makes sense."

    The four Pokémon formed a line and began to make their way into the fog. Guardia was first, followed by Elty, who had latched onto Guardia's club with his mouth (much to her growling displeasure). At the end of the line was Pleo with Nida on his shoulders, his beak gently grabbing Elty's tail for guidance as the team carried on. The group continued trudging along as the fog started to thicken, when Pleo noticed a stone spire in the distance that looked much like the ones back in Fensedge Village. The sight made Pleo's mind turn back to the day they arrived on Mengir Island…

    "Nida?" He asked muffledly.

    "Hrm?"

    "What does it mean to be 'dead'?"

    The Nidoran froze and twitched her whiskers uncomfortably. What on earth had lead Pleo to bring up such a morbid topic now of all times?

    "Er… why do you ask?" Nida replied.

    "Well, Guardia said that Fensedge reminded her of a graveyard. And a graveyard is supposed to have 'dead' Pokémon in it," he mumbled. "But Fensedge had a bunch of Pokémon and the 'graveyard' place didn't."

    The Lugia waited expectantly for Nida to give an explanation clearing the mystery up, only to be answered by a long and awkward silence, punctuated by the sounds of the team's footsteps.

    "Nida…? How come you aren't saying anything?"

    "It means that you aren't here anymore, but your body stays and won't move or breathe or talk again," Elty suddenly answered. Nida shook her head and shot a glare at the obscured Growlithe.

    "Elty!"

    "What, he was going to have to find out eventually anyways!"

    "Maybe that's how your dead work, Gardie," Guardia chimed in. "But for Karakara and Garagara like me, their spirits guide us, much like the Travellers-"

    The fog grew thick enough to muddle the sounds of their voices from that point, which caused Guardia's lecture to come in erratic snatches before fading entirely. As Pleo continued on, he thought and realized that being 'dead' sounded an awful lot like being a Substitute…

    It couldn't move… It couldn't breathe... It couldn't talk…

    And it couldn't keep itself from being broken apart…

    The sound of a flowing stream pricked Pleo's ears, followed by the sight of desiccated leaves and flowers on the ground. They must have gotten through the worst of the fog already, which brought another question to his mind…

    "How does a Pokémon become 'dead' then?" he asked.

    There was a deathly silence, and had it not been for the thinning fog, Pleo would have thought that Guardia had lead them back deeper into the fog. Finally, her voice answered from the front.

    "It can happen in many ways," the Cubone explained. "Sometimes it happens when a Pokémon lives long enough… Other times, it happens when a Pokémon gets really sick or hurt."

    Pleo trembled. He remembered the team's escape from Lyn's ship and the harrowing crawl through the Mystery Dungeon afterwards, and how everyone had gotten hurt. Could they have stopped moving... forever? And Nida had said the Crom was badly hurt... what if he-

    "Hey, I think I see it!" Elty barked.

    The Growlithe nosed off ahead, where there was a mural of a blackened, dead forest ringing a white, stone-like tree in the center. The four carried on a little, where there was another painting of a blue deerlike creature springing from the tree with a flash of light, followed by one where the stony tree in the center was absent and the deer roamed freely about a now lush and verdant forest.

    "What's this island's Protector supposed to be?" Guardia scoffed. "Aside from the color and the bigger horns, it looks just like that cart-pulling yajū we saw back in the village!"

    "Protectors are supposed to come in all sorts of shapes and sizes," Nida replied. "Maybe this one is just a little different."

    "Look," Pleo chirped. "There's more!"

    The team stopped to take rubbings of the murals and labeling the different sectors for colors before carrying along. Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia passed a few more murals with the blue Protector and repeated the process of taking rubbings as the fog started to thin. Eventually, the team came to a painting of a waterfall set against a burning sky. In it, there was a depiction of the deer being pierced with a pillar of burning light coming from a blood-red star in the sky. To the side, another mural showed the Protector falling dead to the ground in a burning forest.

    The fog grew thinner and thinner with the next few murals the team recorded, going from the Old World's death to scenes from the new one. There came paintings of figures flying and swimming alongside a ship for an island with needle-like peaks surrounded with mist, and of Pokémon beginning to settle among tender-looking trees. As the team came out of the last stretch of foggy trail, they came before a final mural depicting Pokémon with scarves and without scarves moving an egg into a fog-surrounded clearing filled with tender saplings.

    "Wait, this Protector…" Guardia murmured to herself. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that it has something to do with giving life."

    "It makes sense though," Nida said. "With the Wastes as dead as they are, wouldn't it be faster for them to be restored after the Protectors started to wake up if a few of them could give life?"

    As she pondered what a restoration of the Wastes might look like, her teammates pulled ahead of her. Pleo noticed her fall behind, and turned back to wave at her to move on.

    "Eh? Nida, there's still more paintings up ahead!" Pleo squawked.

    "Huh?"

    The team drew closer to the pillars, where they saw that the shapes were crude and forceful strokes of various scenes. One showed Pokémon with blue and purple scarves coming into a grove of tall trees and driving various moth and worm-like creatures away from an egg. There was another one showing the blue and purple-scarved Pokémon exiting a cave's maw with the egg, the bugs from the earlier scene lying in disarray on the ground.

    At the sight of the third pillar, Nida, Elty, and Guardia began to flush pale. In it were pictures of various Pokémon with scarves being attacked by the Bug-Types from the prior steles, some shown lying on the ground. One of the paintings was still fresh, of a Roserade being set upon in a crude depiction of Mengir's wrecked shrine.

    "Why are these pictures so different?" Pleo asked. "And why do you all look so scared? What's wrong?"

    "What's wrong is you having the nerve to come here, Inkfoot!"

    Team Traveller looked up and watched as three Beautifly and a Dustox swooped down from above and ringed the team. The four bugs were obviously agitated and erratic, their voices coming out in hateful chitters.

    "E-Esperen un momento!" Nida squeaked. "We didn't come here to cause trouble!"

    "Yeah, we just wanted to look at some pictures for Salvini's friend back in the town!" Pleo cried.

    "We've come to learn more about your Protector!" Guardia shot in.

    The young Pokémon's earnest pleas drew bitter and derisive laughter from the Bug-Types, who started to flutter around their trapped foes, glaring and sneering all the while.

    "'Come to learn about our Protector', huh?" one of the Beautifly, the apparent leader of the group, hissed. "Oh, that's rich coming from an Inkfoot like you."

    "Wh-Why's that?" Elty stammered.

    "You all stole our Protector from us!" the Bug-Type shouted. "Your vile village broke the Pact so you could take it all for yourselves!"

    "And you didn't just move it into town either!" a lighter-colored Beautifly angrily chittered. "You sent its egg over the sea to a faraway island that we couldn't find!"

    Wait- this island's Protector's egg had already been found?! Then- those paintings… they were of the Company? But then why hadn't anybody heard about-?

    "And now you've come to wreck our grounds again on top of all that!" the Dustox spat.

    "That's- That's not-" Elty stuttered, looking around desperately for some way to escape. "L-Look, th-this is all a big misunderstanding! Isn't there something we can do to show you that we don't mean you any trouble?"

    "There is," the last Beautifly, a grizzled individual with tattered wings, growled. "You can die!"



    The prior night, Crom, Kiran, Ander and Pladur were at the Andaku Docks, continuing a fruitless search for clues of where Team Traveller had flown off to. Somewhere in this wretched hive of scum and villainy, there were the Yanmega, Manectric, and Marowak who had last sighted their blue-scarved friends.

    After asking Pladur about the places he remembered of the district during the Siglo Swellow's last visit as free traders, the team figured this district's guild would be a good starting point for their search. Except… things did not go according to plan, with the night's search devolving into aimless wandering around in the shifty district. After a few hours of fruitless search and noticing that the locals were thinning out into ever more menacing-looking characters, the group chose to return to the Siglo Swellow to try their luck again after a safer rest.

    Their attempt to resume their search the following morning had thus far been just as fruitless. Unfortunately the Fraxure seemed to be less familiar with the neighborhood than his words let on, especially when entering the district from the bluffs and not the docks.

    "Pladur, what direction was that guild again? We couldn't find it last night, and we've been wandering around in this place for about an hour now!" Kiran squawked.

    The Fraxure hesitated with answering, before his son interrupted with a tug at his father's shoulder and a question of his own.

    "Dad… are we lost?" Crom prodded.

    "I- I know it's supposed to be around here somewhere… I know it's in a group of buildings right along the sea," Pladur murmured as he scanned his surroundings puzzledly.

    "Then why aren't we walking by the water?" Ander asked skeptically.

    "Because that's where all the pirate crews hang out! You don't want to get too close to any of them!" Pladur quickly countered before pointing a claw off down past some ramshackle shops. "Uh… pretty sure it was this way!"

    The three sighed and followed after the Fraxure down a lane lined with seedy-looking shops. Now that they walked through Andaku during the day, they noticed how much of a contrast the district was from the rest of Aisle Town. The buildings in this district were noticeably gaudier than the ones they had seen in the rest of the town, and their clientele was similarly more… 'colorful'. Even some of mundane shops had a noticeably rougher crowd, as a Ledian with a golden scarf ordering at a "sushi" stand was chatting up a rather gruff looking Pangoro with leaflets.

    The group continued on until the Scyther of the bunch noticed the scarf design of the Ledian looked awfully familiar… and then quickly pushed his teammates down a back alley.

    "Gwark! Ander?! What's the big idea?!" Kiran demanded. "This is 60% rougher than you need to be to get us to go someplace!"

    "Más bajo!" the mantis hissed. "You'll give us away!"

    The four Pokémon watched as the Ledian flicked out his elytra and flew off, the unmistakable Aggron-head pattern of the Iron Fleet on the scarf around his neck.

    "Those pirates who raided the town are here as well," the Scyther buzzed. "And the last thing we need is for one of them to recognize us."

    The young Druddigon paused, gears turning in his head as he realized how close they all had come to a nasty encounter.

    "Right, we'll be more careful-" Crom began, only to be cut off by a sudden chirp.

    "Pladur? Didn't you say that the guild was a group of buildings by the sea with a canvas-covered courtyard?" Kiran asked, before gesturing ahead and to the right. "Like that one over there?"

    The team poked their heads around a corner, where sure enough, there was a collection of stilted shacks by the sea with canvas roofing over a corner. Pladur's eyes lit up immediately at the sight of the sorry collection of shanties, as he recognized them from his prior time in port.

    "Ah!" He cried. "That's it, come on!"

    The four hurried along the lane and ducked down the entrance of the seaside guild into a courtyard that had been dimly lit by candles in jars. The courtyard was still mostly empty due to the early hour, but even so, a few scruffy and shifty-looking characters roamed about. There was a Zubat and Stunky who chattered about a team that had come back soaked after failed attempt to drill through a ship hull. Over in a corner, a Lucario audibly fumed about comrades who took the lack of enforcement of the three-day limit on locals as an excuse to leave him behind. Crom chanced to look down a gap in the wooden planks and into the water below, which revealed a Tentacruel with a white and red scarf passing by, muttering about 'what's taking the captain so long?'…

    "I'm telling you Eeden, we need to lay low for a while! Those square-necks have been coming around and asking questions ever since we got Valatos and his buddies out of the dungeon!"

    In addition, there was a Drowzee and Beheeyem by a mission board, who both looked unsettled and deeply agitated.

    "Yeah, well whose fault is that, Zamora? I say you'll look more suspicious if you bolt!" the Drowzee shot back. "Really, this wouldn't have been a problem in the first place if you didn't let that accursed dragonfly and the rest of those dweebs arm-twist you!"

    Wait a minute, dragonfly? 'Valatos'? Then...

    "Ack! Those two know the Pokémon that ran into Pleo earlier!" Crom exclaimed, pointing a claw off at Zamora and Eeden.

    The Druddigon's shout caused several Pokémon nearby to turn to see what the ruckus was all about, only to see a party of four Company grunts and two startled-looking Psychic-Types. The two teleporters blanched and then soon closed their eyes and started making the sweeping motions of a teleport…

    "Wait! Wait!" Pladur cried out. "You met a 'mon called 'Valatos,' right? Do you know where we can find him or the Pokémon with him?"

    The two Psychics abruptly froze and turned to each other, blinking incredulously. Their expressions notably relaxed, as if a great weight had been removed from both their shoulders before Zamora began to speak back.

    "Oh! You just wanted to know about them," the Beheeyem said, sighing out of relief. "And here I thought you were here to-"

    The Beheeyem was cut off with a yelp as an unseen force knocked him down against the ground. Crom and his companions whirled their heads just in time to see a glow fade from the Beheeyem and his Drowzee companion, clearly displeased at the Cerebral Pokémon's talkativeness.

    "Shut up, Zamora!" The Drowzee growled, before turning to the four lavender-scarved Pokémon. "Look, I don't know what your game is, but there's no way-"

    "We'll give you immunity for whatever you two have been up to if you tell us where to find these Pokémon," Ander cut in. Almost immediately, the Drowzee's demeanor became more amicable, as he hastily amended his words.

    "Er… that we wouldn't tell you where to find them!" he chuckled. As the tension thinned, the prying eyes of the other Pokémon in the courtyard shifted away and back to their various busywork, leaving the Drowzee to grunt and then pry a bit into his interrogators.

    "So, what is it you need from them?"

    Ander opened his mouth only to freeze and blanch. The mantis had been in such a hurry to find out where Valatos and his friends were that he hadn't thought through an excuse as to why they were looking for them! The Bug-Type stammered and fumbled with his words, only for Crom to come to his aid with a hasty interjection.

    "Uh, well," Crom began. "They're in big trouble because, er…"

    "They've been withholding evidence! Evidence about a witness for a trial!" Kiran interjected. "So we need them to cough it up!"

    "Wait, those three helped with legal proceedings?" Eeden asked. "I thought all they did was shove crates ar-"

    "Eeden, not now!" Zamora hissed. "Look, if you're looking for Valatos and his friends, you might as well try out that dump of a bar they like hanging out at. It's called 'bokuya or something like that."

    "Ryūbokuya," the Drowzee corrected. "It's a little ways inland and to the north from here. You'll know as soon as you see it, like its name it's pretty much a lump of driftwood."

    The two were answered by an agitated buzz, as Ander raised a scythe and pointed it accusingly at the two Pyschic-Types.

    "N-Now hold on here!" Ander interrupted. "What sort of lead is that?! What are we supposed to do if we head to the bar and Valatos and the Pokémon with him are already gone?"

    There was a noticeable pause as the two Psychic-Types traded looks with each other, before turning back to their questioners and quickly attempting to wave away their fears.

    "Well, that barkeep over there has a bit of an axe to grind against them," the Beheeyem explained. "And he is a bit of a neutral type, so if you wanted to say, pass on a bounty…"

    "A bounty?" Pladur murmured. "He wouldn't happen to be able to take in other ones, would he?"

    "I mean, if you make it worth his while, sure," Eeden said. "Though not sure who else you'd need to get at those backstabbing dimwits…"

    "That's confidential," Kiran replied. "But thanks for the tip, we'll make sure it's worth your while."

    The four turned and made their way out of the ramshackle guild complex. Crom briefly looked back and saw relieved expressions on the two teleporters' faces, which made the little dragon grow uneasy and turn a wary eye to his father.

    "Do you think we can trust them?" Crom asked.

    "We don't have any other leads right now," Pladur answered, shaking his head. "I think it's as good a shot as any."

    The four trudged on, vanishing down the winding alleys of Andaku in their search of this 'bokuya', looking here and there for the 'pile of driftwood' the teleporters spoke of.



    While a ray of hope finally dawned upon the four Pokémon of the Siglo Swellow, things were rapidly taking a turn for the worse in the dungeon. Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia had backed into each other, the four Bug-Types surrounding them flitting their wings more and more aggressively, leaving the little Protector to turn nervously to his Nidoran companion.

    "N-Nida?!" he cried. "Wh-What do we do?!"

    The Nidoran froze, her eyes widening and her mind running blank as she saw no way to escape. She attempted to stammer something back, only to notice that orange and purple powder was beginning to accumulate on their assailants' wings.

    "What are you waiting for?!" Guardia shouted. "Rush them before they dump that powder on us!"

    The Cubone leapt at one of the Beautifly and swung at him with her club. As the sound of a scuffle rang out, Nida, Pleo, and Elty likewise rushed ahead. Blindly sending spikes, gusts of wind, and cones of cinders at their assailants as they charged on.

    Pleo felt a chitinous body tumble against his, and swatted desperately at the presence with his wings, only to feel air.

    "A-Aaaah!"

    Pleo, Nida, and Elty heard a loud scream come from back towards the entrance, where Guardia had been covered in orange powder and then knocked to the ground by one of the Beautifly. Her assailant had jabbed her with a long proboscis, which retracted from an ugly-looking mark on her left shoulder dribbling ruddy fluid at the end. To everyone's horror, a Dustox and a second Beautifly were closing in on her position.

    "G-Guardia!" Pleo squawked.

    "Ack!" Elty yelped. "Trzymaj się!"

    Nida watched as the dog spat out a cone of cinders, which drove the Beautifly off Guardia with a pained screech and cleared the way for Elty to rush to the Cubone's side. Pleo disgorged a glowing ball of light which caught the other Beautifly and sent him tumbling to the ground with a yelp, as Nida ran for the Dustox to fend her off from the Ground-Type...

    "A-Aah!"

    Only to pratfall as a sticky thread shot out and enveloped her body. The Poison-Type hastily stumbled back to her feet, only for a cry to come from behind.

    "Where do you think you're going?!"

    Much to Nida's shock, a third Beautifly dove at her from behind.. The Nidoran hastily flicked a spike at the diving bug, only for him to blow it away with a cutting gust of wind, which carried on straight for her.

    "Augh!"

    The spike ball went tumbling head over heels, her satchel opening and spilling a pawful of items all over the ground. Before she could get up, Nida felt a heavy weight pin her down and chitinous claws grabbing at her pelt. The Poison-Type raised her barbs in a panic, drawing a pained yelp from the Bug-Type above her. Nida felt her attacker fall off of her and darted forward, where down at her feet, she saw a scaled, orange seed. She hastily picked it up with her mouth, turned back as the sound of angry wingbeats fluttered towards her…

    And bit down.

    BLAM!

    The sound of pained screeching rang out, followed by a dull thud as the Beautifly crashed into the earth, twitch and groaning. The Nidoran shook her head, panting, when the sound of Elty's cries came from further back.

    "Eyaaah!"

    Back at Elty and Guardia position, the Fire-Type reeled from a fresh spike in his flank still dribbling venom. His Ground-Type teammate was in similarly bad shape, struggling against unresponsive limbs to keep fighting while a Beautifly and Dustox circled and harried them with narrowly-missing cutting gusts of wind.

    "P-Pay more attention, Gardie!" the Cubone huffed tiredly. "You'll get us wiped out like that!"

    "Worry about yourself, alright!" the Growlithe snapped back. "I'm fighting for two of us here-!"

    "You're done for, lizard!"

    The Growlithe turned and watched as the Dustox dove for Guardia. Reflexively, Elty ran in between them, and spat out a cone of embers, only for them to get blown back by a gust of wind. As the Growlithe watched the sparks fall back to the ground, he charged on undeterred as they fell on his body and kicked up flames along his pelt. Without thinking, the little dog somersaulted forward and vaulted his flaming body feet-first directly towards the moth's face.

    Thwack

    The sound of a loud smack followed by chittering screams rang out, as the Dustox attempted to flee, only to stall in midair and flop to the ground, unconscious. Guardia stared wide-eyed at Elty as he came to a gasping, skidding stop along the ground, the fire on his pelt finally dying down.

    "Wh-What was that?!" she cried. "You never told me you knew how to do that!"

    "I didn't know that I did," he panted. "But it works great!"

    "N-Nida! H-Help!"

    Back towards the entrance, Pleo had managed to get himself chased and boxed in against the fog by one of the Beautifly. The Bug-Type fluttered here and there, his erratic flight thwarting many of the little Lugia's attempts to strike back at him. The Beautifly beat his wings together and sent a cutting gust along the top of Pleo's left wing, sending the young Protector tumbling out of the air with a squawking thud, landing hard on his wing against a sharp stone.

    "A-Aah!"

    The bird cried out and writhed as pain shot through his wing. He attempted to get back in the air, only for his wing to ache and grow unresponsive, leading him to pratfall as wingbeats approached him.

    "Pleo! Stay down!" Nida's voice suddenly called.

    The little Protector pulled his head low to the ground as an object sailed overhead and struck something with a thwip and a yelp. The white bird watched as the Beautifly pursuing him staggered up the ground, a spike lodged in between segments of his exoskeleton…

    "L-Leave us alone!"

    And spat up a glowing ball of light, which sent the butterfly tumbling out of the air and falling limply against the ground. As the dust settled around the fallen bug, Nida and Pleo panted tiredly, looking around frantically to try and place where their fourth assailant might be.

    "A-Aah!"

    Following the sound of a loud smack from the sound of Guardia's club swatting chitin, all became clear. The last Beautifly came to a pinwheeling, panting stop along the ground. The creature tried his best to get up, but staggered and flopped forward after discovering that his right wing was unresponsive and hurt to move.

    "Ha! And you said you were fighting for two!" Guardia jeered, tiredly poking a tongue out at Elty. "That was my hit there!"

    "Yeah, yeah, enough," the dog growled, shaking a weary head. Back closer to the entrance, Pleo raised his head warily, turning to Nida.

    "Is… is it over?" he asked.

    "Almost, Pleo," she sighed. Before raising her barbs and shouting over to the winded Bug-Type.

    "Before you slink off!" she hissed. "Why did you attack us like that?!"

    "I'm… I'm not slinking anywhere," the bug spluttered back. "This is our territory…"

    "Sure you aren't," Elty growled. "We're not the ones limping off with our tails between our legs here!"

    "A-All the better," the bug coughed.

    The four's breaths came out in ragged pants as they looked over at the felled Bug-Types, relieved that their ordeal was behind them. Just then, a humming sound began to roll in from the treeline.

    "Wh-What's that noise?!"

    "That's-"

    It got louder, and louder, and louder, and with the sight of yellow and purple bodies tearing through the canopy, it became clear that they were not dealing with a few reinforcements, but a massive swarm.

    "Run- AAUGH!"

    A cutting gust of wind suddenly flew out, sending Guardia sprawled out over the ground. Elty's fur bristled, his tail folded tight against his legs, and likewise pinned his ears along his head. The Growlithe turned and bolted blindly back for the fog, only to be caught by a dark purple blob from behind and flop forward limply.

    "A-Ah!" Pleo squawked. "Elty! Guardia!"

    "Pleo! Quick! My bag!" Nida squeaked. "There's an Esca-"

    The duo was interrupted by a cutting, cross-shaped gust striking the two and sending them tumbling along the ground. As Pleo struggled to get on his feet, he saw that Nida wasn't getting up, and worse still, the horde was nearly upon them.

    "A-Aah! Wait! Stop!" the Protector pleaded. "If my friends get hurt too much, they might become 'dead'!"

    "You should have run while you had the chance, Inkfoot!" the wounded Beautifly sneered. "It's over for all of you kirlivi paraziti!"

    In the midst of the din and Pleo's frenzied attempts to evade the Bug-Types, Pleo heard the sound of soft voices piercing through. There was a tired-sounding voice that wished for the olden days where the shrine was there to visit… Exhausted groans from haggard Pokémon wishing that the Apricorn fields didn't exist… And voice after voice that wished for a Protector to watch over them again…

    All of them wished for an end to the disturbed state of affairs that loomed over the island, the same state of affairs that was about to take his friends' lives. Unless, no matter how futile it seemed…

    He didn't give up.

    "St-Stop! You can't do this!" Pleo cried. "We didn't take your Protector! We came to look at pictures!"

    In spite of his pleas, the only answers the little Lugia received were ugly taunts. A number of the Bug-Types were preparing sickly-looking globs and cutting gusts of wind, ready to shut up their intruder for good. Their attacks zipped towards the stricken bird when all of a sudden, a forceful burst of air forced the charging creatures back with yelps and cries. As the swarm focused back at the entrance near the fog, they saw that the white-plumed bird's markings were now glowing bright, and his voice had become a feral shriek.

    "I won't let you make my friends 'dead'!" he shouted. The bird then brought his wings together, and a roaring column of air shot forth and swept up the Bug-Types. Their jeers and threats became panicked cries and screams, intermixed with the sounds of tree branches rending and bending. As Pleo drew back his wings, pain shot through his left wing, leaving him painting and flinching, expecting his assailants to swoop down upon him at any second.

    "M-Monster! Monster!"

    "F-Fly away! Fly away!"

    Only to see that the shapes in the trees were fleeing as fast as they could. From deeper on, Pleo could hear frightened crying from younger-sounding Pokémon. The leader Beautifly with the wounded right wing had been blown up against a tree trunk and curled up, and was whimpering and shuddering out of fright at the sight of the strange white bird.

    Did he... just really do that...? Was- Was that what evoking his true powers would do to other Pokémon?

    Whump

    Pleo craned his head, where he saw Nida groaning, stretched out before a glassy, black Escape Orb. The light was glowing bright, much brighter than it had when they bought it… Did- Did that mean it would work here? Then Nida must have been trying to use it to get them out! She, Elty, and Guardia weren't moving much. If they stopped moving… then- then they'd be dead!

    "Nida! Elty! Guardia!" he begged. "Pl-Please! Just hold on a moment!"

    The little Lugia limped over to the Escape Orb, picked it up with his beak... and then threw it against the ground with all his might as the sound of shattering glass rang out.

    A bright, white light exploded from the shards, and enveloped the young Protector and his teammates in an overpowering gleam. There was a faint blip as the horrid clearing faded in front of his eyes, followed by the sound of branches gently swaying in the wind...

    Joined with a long and pregnant absence of his friend's voices.



    Outside Mengir's Mystery Dungeon, the foggy approach was its normal, eerily quiet self with branches and leaves swaying in gentle breezes. This all changed when suddenly, a bright white flash appeared, depositing the forms of a Lugia, a Nidoran, a Growlithe, and a Cubone onto the ground. Once the burst of light faded, Pleo flopped forward against the ground, panting. As his senses began to attune to their surroundings, Pleo slowly began to piece together that the Escape Orb had deposited him in front of the misty entrance to the dungeon.

    The place was eerily silent, with the only companions being the mist, the jagged rock formations that formed the spires in between the dungeon... and of course the unconscious forms of a Nidoran, a Growlithe, and a Cubone up ahead.

    "A-Aah! Nida! Elty! Guardia!"

    The young Lugia tried to beat his wings and fly over, only to wince and gasp as he felt pain shoot through his left wing. The bird uneasily pulled his wounded wing back to his side, and darted along to the prone bodies ahead.

    "G-Guys? W-Wake up," he pleaded, nosing at the unconscious Pokémon. "We're out of the dungeon now, we can go back…"

    No matter how he pushed or pecked at them, there didn't seem to be any reaction from any of his friends. The Lugia began to grow uneasy as he started to realize that his friends were surely badly hurt- Wait a minute! He had something that could help them!

    "H-Hang on!" he chirped. "I'll- I'll heal you, and then you'll be all better!"

    The Lugia searched through Nida's bag, and came across an Oran Berry. After some clumsy attempts at peeling away the rind, the little Protector remembered that Crom had just eaten them in the past.

    The Lugia quickly stuffed the berry into Nida's mouth, waiting for her to bite down on the berry… except she never did. The berry just flopped out, with a faint coating of spittle attached. The bird tried moving the berry over to Elty's mouth, and then to Guardia's, but none of them seemed to get any better.

    Wh-Why hadn't it done anything?! Wh-Why hadn't the berry made any of them better like in the past times when the team was hurt?! The little Guardian then remembered that Guardia had said that Pokémon became 'dead' when they were hurt very badly… What had Elty said about being 'dead' again?

    Your body couldn't move, couldn't talk back...

    D-Did this mean that…? Nida… Elty… Guardia… They were all...

    "N-No! You can't be 'dead'! You can't!" Pleo cried. The little bird futilely tried rouse his teammates, as his fears began to mount and tears started to well in his eyes. "W-We were gonna go home together! We- We were-"

    The Lugia's voice hitched as he began to sob. He tried to save them! Why weren't they fine now? He was supposed to be a Protector... but he failed at protecting them… If he wasn't a Protector... what was he then? And what would he do without his friends?

    "Ahoy!"

    Pleo quickly turned around upon hearing a squawking voice behind him. In the distance he could see the shape of a large, metallic bird flying towards him, the light of the lowering sun reflecting of his metal feathers. This was a 'Skarmory', like the one Nida was afraid of the other day…

    Wait a minute, this was the Skarmory Nida was afraid of the other day! The one who was the 'Warrior of Life'!

    "Thank gods I ran into you before you-" the Skarmory began, only to clamp his beak shut as he noticed "Wait, what happened to your friends?"

    "T-Those bug thingies!" Pleo sniffled. "They attacked, and now Nida, Elty and Guardia t-they're d-d-dea..."

    "Calmo! Calmo!" The Steel-Type reassured, before gesturing at the fallen Pokémon. "Nobody's dead yet! Your friends are still breathing, don't you see their chests rising and falling?"


    Pleo turned and saw that true enough, his teammates' were still breathing, if barely. So- So they weren't dead! Then that meant…

    "Then- Then they can get better?!" he cried. Trizano nodded before giving the young Lugia a reassuring pat with one of his wings.

    "They should, but it looks like they've been hurt rather badly," the Skarmory answered. "Can you fly, little one?"

    Pleo looked uneasily at his left wing, and attempted to bat it out to take flight. The little Protector grimaced as his wing began to throb, but still stubbornly hopped up and beat his wings. The Lugia gave a few beats, before the pain overcame him and caused him to cry out, tumbling to the ground with a pained squawk as Trizano fluttered over.

    "It's alright! It's alright! Don't force a bad wing!" the Steel-Type squawked as he inspected Pleo's wounded wing. "Hopefully it's just a sprain, but I think it's probably safest to try and walk back."

    The Steel-Type looked at Pleo's unconscious teammates. "We'll have to carry them," he determined, before he set off for Nida and began to hoist her limp body onto his shoulders.

    "Looks like you're not in good shape yourself," Trizano muttered as he slung Elty and then Guardia one by one onto his back. "What happened earlier?"

    "We were doing our mission when we came to this stable zone full of trees and paintings," Pleo explained. "Then all these Pokémon came and hurt us like this!"

    Trizano paused as he stooped to grab Guardia's bone from the ground. So Administrator Darzin's trap had caught the children up...

    "Ah, I see… but then how did you all get away?" the Skarmory asked.

    "Well, I remember there being a glow, and then when I beat my wings, all of the mean bugs got blown back," Pleo answered. "Then I took the the Escape Orb from Nida's bag and-"

    Pleo noticed that the Skarmory had abruptly stopped in his tracks and beaten his wings out in surprise. The creature tilted his head, with a wide-eyed curiosity as if he had just heard Pleo say that the Travellers were falling from the sky.

    "Did- Did I say something wrong?" the little Lugia murmured, only to be answered with a wing spread over his right shoulder.

    "... Don't worry about it, little one," the Skarmory reassured. "Let's just get you and your friends patched up for now."

    As the two limped off down the path back to Fensedge, Trizano pondered what he had just observed. This Pokémon had to be something special...

    The kind of special that he knew, from personal experience, would need a guarding eye to see him out of this Pyroar's den.



    (Continued on next page)
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2016
  14. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Back on Kenobi, while Crom and his peers from the Siglo Swellow looked around for this 'bokuya, other ne'er-do-wells were busy going about their routines in port. One of those was the Ledian the group noticed earlier, still wearing the familiar gold and gray patterned scarf of the Iron Fleet. The beetle fluttered throughout Andaku, zipping here and there until he came near a stretch of sandy shoreline where some ships had been shoved ashore.

    The Bug-Type landed on the beach and folded his wings behind his elytra before making his way down the beach for a large, two masted caravel with golden sails surrounded by a flurry of activity. There were crewmates hard at work swabbing the deck and repainting some scuffed sections of the ships' trim, others set about examining the hull for any signs of damage or rotted timbers. The bulk of the activity however, focused around the stump of a mast that was being torn out, with a small crew of Pokémon waiting impatiently with a new mast that had been 'borrowed' on short order from a local shipyard.

    "Where have you been, Kichiro?!"

    And of course the ship's captain was also there right behind him, thumping his tail impatiently and glaring at the Ledian. A rough looking Aggron wearing the same kind of golden scarf as most of the other Pokémon currently tending to the stricken Mistral Marauder's repairs, and clearly in a less-than-chipper mood.

    "Captain, it's Keiichiro, and give this 'recruiting' thing a little time!" the Ledian buzzed back defensively. "I'm sure that something will turn up eventually once the rookies here forget about us pulling in with a missing mast… twice."

    The Aggron growled and fumed at the Bug-Type's response, and stamped his feet angrily against the sand, giving the same pawing motion that he did before a charge.

    "Don't give me that, Kichiro! My ship needs more recruits than a solitary Hoppip and we need them today!" Hess bellowed. "It's the third day and not all of us have residence papers for this island to hide behind like you!"

    The Aggron's shout drew the attention and quizzical stares of his laboring subordinates, including a Pawniard and a Voltorb who were hoisting several buckets of paint with ropes and pulleys up the ship.

    "Eh? But it's only the second day!" the Pawniard protested. "We've only been here two days since we came back after that ocean clan broke the front mast again!"

    "Wait, then why are we in such a rush?" the Voltorb added. "If we're allowed to stay here for three days in a row- Aaah!"

    The duo were swiftly cut off by a number of rocks flung from under the sand, sending the pair tumbling along the beach along with the contents of the paint buckets. As the pair staggered up groaning and dripping pigment, the Aggron captain gave an irked stamp of his feet and glared at the Pokémon.

    "Because we only get three days a month to work with, you morons!" Hess growled, before stomping back over in the direction of an increasingly-nervous-looking Ledian who was backpedaling along the sand.

    "N-Now hold on here! Just what am I supposed to do, huh?!" the bug buzzed. "I can't just magically make potential recruits change their minds, and the last time this crew tried press-ganging anyone, it was a total debacle!"

    "He does have a point there, captain," a Floatzel's voice added, its owner giving a sighing roll of his eyes at the whole exchange. Hess muttered under his breath, complaining about 'Couldn't you back me up this time, Rodion?' before turning back to the Bug-Type before him.

    "I don't care what you do, Kichiro, just get me something!" the Steel-Type demanded. "Or you can look forward to scraping the ship's hull! At sea!"

    Kichiro hastily darted off and took wing, buzzing up into the air and away from the beach. After losing his line of sight with the Aggron, the Bug-Type sighed, and came to a rest on a roof eave overlapping an alleyway.

    "'I don't care what you do, Kichiro, just get me something!' Bah, who does that useless debutcho think he is? He can't even get my name right!" the beetle angrily buzzed. "So what if I've been taking it a little easy? It's not like a recruit would just fall into my lap!"

    "I don't believe this, how did we get rejected by the Strongjaw Gang?!"

    The Ledian twitched his antennae and looked around after hearing a yipping voice from below. After a puzzled "Huh?" and failing to see any sign of Pokémon around him, Kichiro realized the conversation was coming from below. Down there he saw a Yanmega, a Manectric, and a Marowak in lavender scarves talking amongst each other in hushed tones

    "We're tough enough to hold our own on a crew like that!" Alvise whined. "What gives?!"

    "I told you we should've done something about these Company scarves," Nori muttered, shaking his head.

    "Well what are we supposed to do, huh?" Valatos snapped. "Administrator Farn's out for our heads, and the moment we get caught by another Company grunt, we're through!"

    Wasn't that the group that had been hogging the stools at Ryūbokuya a couple nights ago? What were they doing here? The Ledian paused and flicked his antennae as a devious smirk began to spread over his face with a dawning realization...

    Maybe he had gotten some recruits that had fallen into his lap. And the Garagara in particular would surely be just the sort that Hess needed after shoving him around like that earlier!

    "Oi, you three down there!" the Ledian cried.

    "G-Gih!" Alvise gulped. The three whirled their heads up to see the eavesdropping Bug-Type from above, who cheerily waved and carried on.

    "You're looking to join a crew, right?"

    The three blinked and began to shoot incredulous looks at one another, wondering all the while what this strange Pokémon wanted from them.

    "Er… yeah? Why?" Valatos asked.

    "Funny thing, because my crew's actually in need of some extra hands right now," Kichiro answered, before fluttering down into the alleyway. As soon as the Ledian landed, Valatos quickly pulled his friends aside to discuss what they should do here. After some hastily-whispered strategizing, the three decided to press further on Kichiro's offer, the Marowak of the group leading the charge.

    "Wait, what crew is that?" Nori asked.

    "The Iron Fleet," the beetle chittered back, adding a pair of emphatic punches with his right arms into the air. "The gold-threaded crew with fists of iron!"

    "Wait, the Iron Fleet?" Alvise muttered. "Weren't those the losers that pulled in with the missing ma- Ow!"

    Before the Manectric could continue he was cut off by a sharp gust from his Yanmega teammate. The dragonfly irkedly shook his head, and turned back to address Kichiro.

    "As Alvise here was saying, we'd be thrilled to come aboard," Valatos hastily interjected. "Really, it's quite the lucky draw for both of us, we were looking for a change of pace."

    "Oh, I know," Kichiro said. "And the Captain has been looking forward to getting a crewmate just like your friend there."

    The beetle adamantly pointed out the Marowak, a wide, somewhat unsettling grin starting to creep across his face. Valatos and his companions blinked and traded looks with each other, before Nori cleared his throat and tried to respond.

    "Er… like me? What do you mean by that?" Nori replied. "And what's with that grin on your face?"



    "Heave!"

    After shooing Kichiro off, the repairs of the Mistral Marauder had finally wrapped up, and the process of bringing the ship back into the water started. The Iron Fleet's more terrestrial members shoved the ship from the bow along with their captain, while the sea escorts tugged from the water. Except, as Hess' panting and labored breaths evidenced, something about today's pushoff seemed more tiring than normal...

    "Hah, hah… what are those swimmers doing?! It's never this much work pushing the ship back into the surf!"

    "I'm telling you, we need to put more backbone into this!" a Seadra's voice cried. The seahorse's call was answered with a snorting "some of us don't have backbones!" along an indistinct mass of squabbling.

    The muddy sound of the voices chattering off ahead reached the Aggron's ears, which prompted him to leave his place at the bow. The Steel-Type ignored the protesting grumbles from some nearby lackeys as he paced over towards the water.

    "Eh?"

    There, he saw the bulk of his sea escorts squabbling with one another. Their group was split into two camps: one who weren't tugging at their tow ropes… and another one that also was not tugging at their tow ropes and berating the others for not helping.

    "You know what I meant!" the Seadra huffed. "If the Captain finds out about this, we're in for a world of hurt!"

    "Relax, the ship is barely out of the water anyway!" an Octillery answered back, "No point in wearing ourselves out this early in the game!"

    Suddenly, the Seadra and the other Pokémon gathered around the octopus went wide-eyed, and began to dart off in the water in a hurry. The Octillery looked around, puzzled at his colleagues' sudden change of demeanor...

    "Uh... why are you all swimming aw- Argh!"

    A change that was quickly felt after the octopus was swept up in a sudden wave, which drew a few yelps from some other unfortunates that had not swum out of its path in time. One by one, the sea Pokémon turned and came face to face with the culprit, the glaring form of their captain, lurking in the water.

    "Get back to work!"

    The sea escorts hastily went back to their tow ropes, and even invertebrate Pokémon such as the now-bruised Octillery discovered that they indeed had a newfound backbone for their work. The ship tugged along a bit quicker now, as Hess left the water, still dripping along the beach sand as he made his way back to the ship's bow, growling all the while.

    "The things I have to put up with from this crew..."

    "Captain, I'm back! And I've got some recruits!"

    The Aggron paused after hearing a Ledian's chittering voice. That must be Kichiro, and it sounded like all he needed to do his job properly was a good kick in the rear.

    "Hrmph, about time!" he grunted. "Let's see who we've-"

    Hess turned back, and saw that waiting for him was the expected Bug-Type, another that appeared to be a Yanmega, a Manectric… and a Marowak. The Aggron and the three Company Pokémon went wide-eyed and stumbled back, recoiling from each other as a mutual cry filled the air.

    "A-AAAH! Y-You again!"

    The four Pokémon traded incredulous glances with each other, until finally, after gulping and shaking his head, Hess turned his attention to a bemused-looking Ledian. The Steel-Type attempted a bellowing roar, only for it to come out instead as a whining squeak.

    "Ki-Kichiro?!" he demanded. "Wh-What is the meaning of this?!"

    "Well, you said that you needed new recruits, right?" the Bug-Type answered, giving a cross of his arms and a smug, satisfied smile. "Whelp, I got us a better batch than we've seen in ages!"

    While the beetle and his captain began to argue heatedly with each other, Nori uneasily fidgeted around with his bone as the Aggron seemed all too familiar to him..

    "Valatos," the Marowak whispered. "This is that 'mon who was glaring at me the other-"

    "Nori, shut up!" the dragonfly hissed, before dusting his exoskeleton's segments off and flitting up to the golden-scarved Aggron. "Aherm, as your friend was saying… we've seen our share of action on the seas before."

    "Yeah, so you won't be going wrong taking us aboard!" the Manectric chimed in. Valatos gave a strong beat of his wings as his partners puffed their chests a bit, hoping to make a positive impression on this… unexpected potential employer.

    "N-No way! I don't need the likes of you on my crew! Take a hike!"

    Only for their confident expressions to melt into wide-eyed panic as the Aggron shot back with a stammering rejection.

    "Oh, but didn't you say you needed more recruits than just a Hoppip by today, Captain?" Kichiro demanded. "Are we really going to shut them out when the only other recruit we've gotten was that loser Wilhelm?"

    "Hey! I'm right here!" a Hoppip protested. Some other murmurs started going around the gathered crew such as "is he daft?" and "he can't be serious about turning away help, right?" The Aggron bit his tongue as he realized that no, he couldn't very well turn away help in front of his crew for no reason, but even so...

    "Rgh… I'll take the bug and the wolf," he conceded. "I'm not taking that lizard on board though-!"

    "Um, Hess? Need I remind you that we'd still be around ten heads short from our losses back on Tromba?" Rodion interrupted, tapping at the armored lizard's flank for attention. "I mean, the extra strength offsets that a bit, but still."

    The Aggron's eyes went wide and he gritted his teeth uneasily as he realized that these newcomers had put him into a bind with his crew. One which his Ledian subordinate was all too keen to spell out.

    "So, as you can see Captain," Kichiro continued, a smug, satisfied look creeping over the creature's face. "Like Rodion pointed out, it looks like we're not in any shape to be turning down any extra hands, doesn't it?"

    Hess shot a piercing glare at the Ledian, growling and grinding his teeth. That miserable bug knew that those awful bone lizards made him nervous, and had done this on purpose! How could he?! That ungrateful louse-!

    "G-Gih!"

    Hess recoiled as he felt a Marowak's bone prodding at him, which made him jump and backpedal against the side of his ship. After looking down, the Aggron saw Nori waiting, curiously tilting his head a short distance away.

    "So, uh… we're on, right?" The Ground-Type asked.

    Hess looked around, and became acutely aware that everyone around him was staring at him, with a few snickers starting to go about. There wasn't really a good excuse for rejecting the little monster in front of him… let alone one that wouldn't make him sound pathetic in front of his crew. The Aggron closed his eyes, shook his head, and resigned himself to the fact that he would be stuck with this Marowak until he could find a convenient raid to be rid of him.

    "Ugh… fine, you're on," Hess groaned, putting a claw over his face.

    Valatos, Alvise, and Nori collectively exhaled a sigh of relief. After all this digging and searching, they finally got a way off this accursed island... and even a way back into the old business! …

    Sort of. But those details could be sweated later, and any port in a storm would do for now...

    "Right, so… looks like we're pushing a ship out?" Valatos asked.

    "Yeah, we can do that!" Alvise added.

    "We'll finish that later, I need a break," the Aggron said, quickly making his way up the beach before turning back to his crew from a safely distant spot. "And a nice, stiff drink at Shuho's…"

    The mention of 'Shuho' instantly electrified the Steel-Type's crew, as cheers and whoops broke out among the gathered golden-scarved Pokémon.

    "Woo hoo! Break time!"

    "Dibs on the counter stool at 'bokuya!"

    "I call the corner booth!"

    Hess screwed his eyes shut and shook his head before shuffling off for the crew's haunt, most of the other members of the Iron Fleet eagerly following after their captain. Valatos and his friends stayed behind as Rodion passed the trio a set of new, golden-threaded scarves from his satchel. After a quick 'Welcome to the team' the first mate followed after his captain, leaving three newly-minted recruits behind on the beach to slip into more appropriate attire.

    As the three set to work replacing their Company garb, the crowd of crewmates thinned down to a handful of sea escorts who didn´t feel like making the trip on land. The beach settled down as the Aggron and his mob of cronies slipped off, emboldening the three to begin to chatter about their new superior.

    "I think the new boss doesn't like you, Nori," Alvise said.

    "Gee, you think?" the Marowak grumbled, putting a claw over his face.

    "Mrph, whatever," Valatos buzzed. "We've got our way out of here, let's just go get that drink."

    The three finished tying up their scarves, leaving Nori to grab and ball up the group's Company lavenders and stuff them into their bag. The Yanmega and his comrades then set off after the Iron Fleet. There would be safety in numbers if other guards came for them, and besides, after such a long day, the lot of them could stand for a well-deserved drink at 'bokuya.



    Back in Mengir, Pleo had managed to make his way to the medic's hut in Fensedge Village along with the Skarmory who had aided him. The little bird and his unconscious teammates were quickly whisked to a windowed room on the second floor where berries and bandages were applied, and a Luxio carefully examined each of the four members of Team Traveller, going on about "doesn't look like anything's broken".

    After a while, things began to die down as Nida, Elty, and Guardia's bandaged forms were moved into freshly prepared bedding, and the Electric-Type applied the last few bandages to Pleo's wounded wing.

    "You've all gotten roughed up a bit more than normal," the medic murmured. "But I don't see any wounds that can't be fixed by a few days of bed rest."


    The corners of Pleo's mouth lifted, and hope returned to his eyes at the lion's words… Then… did that mean?

    "Th-They'll be alright?" the Lugia pressed.

    "If they don't exert themselves. And that includes you, little bird," the Luxio instructed. "Your wounds might be less severe than your friends', but I don't want you stressing yourself if you can help it. Do you hear me?"

    Pleo looked at his now-bandaged left wing and reluctantly nodded, it wasn't like he wanted to make his wing hurt more…

    "Okay…"

    The lion made his way past the doorway, where after a few indistinct words outside, the metal-feathered form of a Skarmory came into the room. Trizano sidled up against the young Lugia's form and ruffled his feathers before speaking to the little bird.

    "You and your friends really ought to be more careful next time," Trizano sighed. "That mission of yours wasn't something that a band of rookies like you should've accepted."

    "It… wasn't?" Pleo asked.

    "No, and I'm not sure who put it in your heads it was a good idea to head into feral grounds on this island," the Skarmory squawked, shaking his head indignantly. "It was quite irresponsible of them!"

    It… was? But if this mission was that dangerous, why didn´t Salvini tell them? She just wanted to help her friend!

    ... didn't she?

    "But- But Salvini said that it was to help the town fix their shrine!" Pleo cried.

    The Lugia's outburst made the Steel-Type jerk his head back and ruffle his feathers uneasily. The little Protector nosed with his beak at a satchel that rested on the back of a softly breathing Nidoran, which made Trizano pause and blink uneasily as he realized there was another explanation for how Team Traveller could have been duped...

    Could it be that Darzin and the Company's scheming had exploited the goodwill of a bunch of unwitting pawns?

    "She said it meant a lot to her friend…" Pleo murmured, his head beginning to droop. "We even got all the pictures…"

    "What pictures?" Trizano pressed. Pleo paced over uneasily and stuck his beak into Nida's bag, fishing out the rubbings they had taken along with the team's mission listing and placed them on the floor.

    "These ones," he answered. "The ones we got for our mission…"

    Pleo's eyes widened and his expression sank as he realized that if he were to stay in bed like the Luxio wanted him to… then- then they'd never be able to get their mission done! Unless...

    "Er… could… could you help deliver it for us?" Pleo asked.

    Trizano gave a startled squawk and raised a wing in protest, only to see the white bird's pleading gaze. Now that he thought about it… if he were to have the listing delivered now it would be safer to do it in person…

    And the guild wasn't that far away...

    "It's not that much of a hassle. Just take it easy for now, okay?" the Skarmory reassured, giving a soft pat at Pleo's head. "I'll come back afterward to keep an eye on you and your friends until you get back on your wings."

    The young Protector's anxieties eased a bit, and he settled down into his bedding. While it was comforting to hear that Trizano would be there to help for a little while, something nagged at him about the matter...

    "But why?"

    Trizano paused a moment, and seemed to be ready to say something only to close his beak. After shaking his head, the creature sported a small, reassuring smile on the corners of his mouth, and gave a reassuring wave of his wings.

    "I suppose you could say it's because I sensed that you're a bit like me," the Skarmory said. "That we both have something a bit different than normal about ourselves."

    Pleo blinked and tilted his head curiously. Something… different about themselves? The little Lugia wondered if perhaps the Skarmory knew about his nature, but then if he did…

    What was different than normal about him? Was he also a Protector?

    "Er… thank you," Pleo replied. "But, I don't really understand-"

    "Ngh…"

    Pleo's words were cut off by a weak groan and the sound of stirring. The two birds turned, and saw that Nida was shifting, her little red eyes starting to open.

    "Ah! Nida! Nida! You're awake! You're awake!" Pleo chirped excitedly. Trizano for his part sized up the little Poison-Type, and after pausing in thought, turned to the little Protector.

    "I'll explain another time, but it looks like I should get going for now," the Skarmory answered, before shaking a feather loose onto the ground. "Ciao, little one. Though do explain the calling card before I come back, alright?"

    Before Pleo could squawk in protest, the Skarmory hopped along and quickly ducked out of the room just as Nida started to open her eyes. Trizano hastily slipped into the hallway, but not fast enough for the Nidoran to miss the glimpse of something metal passing by the door and go wide-eyed.

    "H-Huh?!" the Nidoran squeaked, jolting up with a start. "Pleo, who was that?!"

    "Oh? It was Trizano!" Pleo said. "The Skarmory that helped us all get here!"

    "The- The what?" Nida exclaimed. The Poison-Type looked ahead and saw that on the floor was the unmistakable, jagged plume of a Skarmory resting on the ground. A- A Skarmory helped them?

    "He was really nice and everything! He even said that he'd be keeping an eye on us!" Pleo replied. "But… I don't know why he left so suddenly…"

    Nida stared ahead blankly at the feather, trying to make sense of Pleo's words. Before she could think about the for too long, her train of thought was disrupted by the tired groans of a nearby Growlithe and Cubone.

    "Urgh, keep it down, you two…"

    "Yeah, the noise isn't helping this killer headache…"

    Their teammates had roused as well, making for a complete, if sorry-looking team of sore and battered Pokémon once more. As Elty and Guardia chattered on about idle nothings trying to piece together what had happened, the Nidoran shifted and turned to Pleo, folding her ears back uneasily.

    "Pleo, I don't know if that was a good idea," she said.

    "Huh?" Pleo asked. "Why not?"

    "B-Because you don't know if you can trust him!" she cried out. "What if he comes back to hurt us while we're still weak?!"

    "But he helped us, Nida!" Pleo squawked. "Why would he hurt us?!"

    A dead silence fell over the room as Nida and Pleo traded fixed, uneasy gazes with each other. Guardia and Elty looked at each other, before turning their attention to their teammates.

    "Eh? What are you two going on about?" the Cubone asked.

    "Yeah, I think I'm a little lost here-" Elty added, only to freeze and flare his ears as the sounds of heavy footsteps and a commotion in the hallway broke out.

    The sounds lead up to the entrance of the room, where a Leafeon with a Company scarf and the telltale blotch of a Marked burst in growling.

    "Alright, pirate scum!" the fox exclaimed. "You're under ar-ah-ahh-"

    The Grass-Type's eyes widened in terror and her fur bristled, her words coming out as incoherent stammers. The fox backpedaled a few steps at the sight of the white bird in the room, before turning and bolting for the door with a frightened whine, headlong into a group of three lavender-scarved Pokémon.

    "Ow!"

    The Leafeon bowled the Company Pokémon over, sending them tumbling over one another into the room in a rough pile, drawing a chorus of yelps and cries.

    "Phyllis, kakvo pravish?! You're supposed to run towards them!"

    "Agh… my nose…"

    "H-Huh?! What's-?!" Pleo squawked. As he sized up the groaning Company Pokémon who were getting back up from the floor, he noticed that among them was none other than Salvini.

    "S-Salvini?! Wh-What's going on here?!"

    The Protector noticed that Nida and Elty's fur was standing on end, and that Guardia was grabbing for her club. As the lot of them attempted to stumble out of their bedding, the sound of heavy, lumbering footsteps coming into the room made the four freeze and go wide-eyed.

    "Sit down!" a voice interrupted. After looking up, the four saw that the hulking form of an Armaldo entering the room. The anomalocaris made his way over to the increasingly pallid members of Team Traveller, before giving a satisfied smirk.

    "To answer your question, little bird. They're here to put an end to your little adventure."



    Author's Notes:

    - (¡)Esperen un momento! - Spanish: "Wait a moment!"
    - (¡)Más bajo! - Spanish: "Keep it down!", lit. "more low"
    - Trzymaj się! - Polish: "Hang in there!", can also be used as an expression analogous to "Take care"
    - kirlivi paraziti (кирливи паразити) - Bulgarian: "filthy parasites" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Calmo! - Italian: "Calm down!", "Take it easy!"
    - debutcho (でぶっちょ) - Japanese: "fatty" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - kakvo pravish?! (Какво правиш?!) - Bulgarian: "What are you doing?!" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  15. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    It took a while to put together, but in light of cresting 15k views, I decided to peel back the curtain a little more as to how different characters and features of this fic were developed in another trivia session. This session will be focusing primarily on things that happened over the last two episodes, with more focus on the current one.

    How Did You Come Up With Kellner?

    Kellner is based off of a recurring character concept that I have dabbled with of a well-intentioned Aerodactyl underling for a malevolent force, if with a bit of a more world-weary bent than past incarnations. Kellner’s premise as a character was to be a character that put on a cheery face to mask dissatisfaction with his job and the actions of his superiors, but also was unable to contemplate a viable alternative to the present order.

    Beta names that were considered for Kellner at different points of his creation included Dan, Buffetaut, Grigorescu, and Hatzeg all based of team that discovered the largest pterodactyl, the Hatzegopteryx. After growing dissatisfied with those routes, I then got to Alexander (Wilhelm Armin) Kellner, a leading expert on pterosaurs thanks to suggestions from Virgil134. After a debate between between Armin and Kellner for a while, Kellner won out and the rest is history.

    How Did You Come Up With Salvini?

    Salvini from the very beginning was designed that was meant to be a duty-focused Company Pokémon who could be relatable to readers. Salvini’s initial concept had her as a Pokémon “just doing her job” that had largely operated in a bubble, where the more questionable activities the Company was involved in could be filtered through the lens of her companions along with the needs of her host village. As such, a major portion of this episode in planning was interleaving how a Company Pokémon with well-meaning intentions responded to a moral dilemma that couldn’t be easily rationalized away.

    Salvini’s name owes its origins to Salvinaiales, the name of the taxonomic order of water ferns, which also informed her beta names “Salvi”, “Salvin”, and “Salvinia”.

    How Did You Come Up With Salvini´s Teammates?

    Salvini’s teammates were envisioned as a cross-section of Company types that would be more down-to-earth with the communities they were assigned to guard, with names and species owing influence to Virgil134.

    Hertsog was envisioned as a seasoned and more benevolent “head guard” archetype, akin to a more loyal and serious-minded Osmund. As for his species, the rationale behind that has to do with something hinted by Briggs in chapter 34. Originally there were plans to bring that concept more front-and-center in this episode, but due to rewriting, it will be something for another day. Hertsog’s name is Bulgarian for “Duke”, and was chosen due to a mix of being a valid (if rare) surname, and thanks to me watching Zootopia shortly before I started publishing the chapters in this episode.

    Payak was developed as a “by-the-book” character with a good deal of blind loyalty. Payak was chosen to be an Ariados thanks to its “intimidating” association, and its utility in making traps and restraints thanks to silk-spinning. Payak’s name owes itself to being the romanization of the Bulgarian term for ‘spider’, which coincidentally is a valid Polish surname. During character creation, a few beta names related to ‘Peter’ were floated around for Payak, including ‘Petar’ and ‘Penko’. If you’re wondering how that happened, well, there’s a simple explanation for that.

    Phyllis was envisioned as an example of the Company being an equal-opportunity shady employer, as her Marked heritage (theoretically) takes a backseat to her abilities as a guard. Phyllis due to a combination of being a Pokémon more associated with humans (which have been consciously overrepresented as Marked) and was chosen due to fitting the forest theme that Mengir had, considerations that influenced an initial beta direction of making her a Bayleef. Phyllis’ name was chosen due to having a literal meaning of ‘foliage’ in Greek, with ‘Kalina’ being a name that was left on the cutting room floor during character design.

    How Did You Come Up With Commander Briggs?

    Briggs was envisioned as the primary “conduit” between Salvini’s world on the beat and the backdoor intrigue of the Board. Briggs was developed as a very ruthless and results-oriented character, whose loyalties focus primarily on his abilities to advance up the hierarchy in the Company. Briggs’ name owes its origins to Anomalocaris briggsi, a species of an extinct crustacean that Armaldo is based off of.

    Why Aren’t the Grunts All Antagonistic this Episode?

    One of the objectives for this current episode was to show that within the Company, there were Pokémon with relatable and sympathetic motivations, and to explore how they reacted when some of the Company’s more questionable practices interfered with their judgment and decision making. After all, even grunts in villainous organizations have lives and yearnings of their own, which aren’t always in line with those of their employers.

    How Did You Come Up With Mengir?

    Mengir as an island is heavily based off of Geosenge and the Kalos Route 10 from Pokémon X/Y, due in no small part to the island’s role as the home of Xerneas’ egg. The name ‘Mengir’ is the Bulgarian rendering of ‘Menhir’, a type of historical stone pillar (which riddles Kalos Route 10) that influenced both the local customs in the island and also the local topography. As for why Bulgarian was chosen as the local language, there was a conscious choice to make Mengir’s language a departure from prior islands, which lead to examining languages that were spoken in and around the Balkans. One thing lead to another, and before I knew it, I had settled on Bulgarian.

    In the initial planning stages, Mengir was creatively dubbed “Killer Beautifly Island” and closer to publishing, “Stone Forest”, with the central premise of the island being a sleepy and seemingly-innocent location that was dangerous and dysfunctional on a closer examination. The placeholder names also influenced the design of the Mystery Dungeon, which was developed as a splice of monarch butterfly nesting grounds and the karst formation of the Malagasy Tsingy de Bemaraha.

    How Did You Come Up With Fensedge Village?

    Fensedge Village owes its name to being a veiled reference, specifically to one ‘Sawgrass Town’ from Knightfall’s PMD: Overthrown. In Knightfall’s writing, ‘Sawgrass Town’ is a town that is so synonymous with “sinisterness and danger” that it is literally blotted out on maps and Pokémon speak of it in shuddering tones. Since Fensedge from the earliest stages of planning was also envisioned as a “sinister and dangerous” location, the reference seemed to click, though in a more metaphorical sense thanks to Fensedge having an exterior meant to be superficially cheery and idyllic unlike its namesake.

    As with Mengir as a whole, Fensedge also carries heavy Geosenge/Route 10 theming, including the Cromlech Inn, a nod to Geosenge’s name in the French, German, Italian, and Spanish localizations. The Everbloom Taverna is similarly a nod to Geosenge, referring to one particularly plot-important flower associated with the town in-game. Much like other islands, Fensedge’s architecture and culture pulls from real-life influences to an extent, with the local architecture carrying traditional Bulgarian influences, if with more paleolithic-style monuments littered around.

    What Was With the Map Scene With the Stars?

    It is a simplified depiction of navigational techniques that historically used to be a mariner’s best friend. In the scene, Elty uses a simple astrolabe, along with a crude planisphere and star chart in order to determine latitude what direction the team should go at night. The stars that Elty uses as his guide are based off of the constellations that the anime depicts, which in turn are heavily based off of the constellations in our world.

    Unlike historical times, Elty and his companions also have the benefit of having a means of rudimentary timekeeping through the Travellers, which enables him and fellow mariners in the Cradle without assisting sensory perception to solve the historical problem of calculating longitude when charting courses.

    How Did You Come Up With Valatos and His Friends?

    Valatos and his companions owe their origins to a confluence of influences, due in no small part to my beta readers. Valatos owes his origins to a character concept of a cocky, bullying Yanmega character of the same name that solovino plays around with in some of his works, which formed the underpinnings of Valatos’ depiction in this story. His name owes its origins to a vowel swap of "veleta", the Spanish term for a weather vane.

    Alvise owes his origins to a concept of a character of (formerly) higher breeding floated by Virgil134, along with his name and his species. His name is a Venetian form of ‘Ludwig’, which can be interpreted as ‘famous’, ‘war’, ‘battle’, and influenced the decision to make him into the team area-of-effect attacker.

    Nori as a character that was drawn up from the very beginning as one that could interact with Guardia’s colony, and serves as the “simple bruiser” of the lot. Nori’s name is similarly tied to his character, meaning “ceremony” or “rites” in Japanese, which was the main means through which he is able to be manipulated by Tetsuzui in the prior episode.

    Where Did “Substitute Battling” Come From?

    “Substitute Battling” as a sport was envisioned as the outgrowth of Pokémon’s vague recollections of the experience of battling alongside trainers. In a Substitute Battle, two opposing sides attempt to protect a vulnerable target that stands in for a trainer from the opposing side, while destroying the target belonging to the other.

    The intention was to make a simple concept that was reflective of human influence upon Fledglings’ cultures, as well as to provide an easy platform for different variations (i.e. team sizes, substitution of the Substitute with a “team captain” Pokémon to be KOed). Substitute Battles are far from the only sport in the Cradle, though given the focus that Pokémon have upon battling, it looms particularly large in the local culture. Beta names that were floated for the sport included “Pro-Battling”, “Search and Destroy”, and “Trainer Defense”.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
  16. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hello everyone, I'm back with a new chapter, picking up from where we left off last time. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I can keep my commitment to finish this episode in August, so for now the deadline has been tentatively relaxed to "first week of September".

    My customary thanks for the help getting this chapter out the door goes to Tangent128, solovino, and Virgil134, along with Sugoitsu from ff.net . I'd also like to thank the various readers and reviewers for the time that they've spent following this story and helping to make it better bit by bit.

    But we should get to the part you've all been waiting for, hm?:

    [​IMG]

    "They're here to put an end to your little adventure."

    Pleo looked around in panic for some way the team could stand against the Armaldo, Mienshao, Grovyle, Ariados, and Leafeon that had cornered them in the medbay. Nida and Elty's fur bristled, their eyes widened, and their backs arched, while Guardia held on to her club for dear life. The air seemed to thicken around them as the four braced themselves for the oncoming attack.

    "N-Nida? What do we do?" the little Lugia stammered. Before the Poison-Type could respond, the sound of heavy, approaching footsteps drew Pleo's attention to the Armaldo. He locked eyes with the hulking sea bug, petrified.

    "Look, I'm a reasonable Pokémon, so let's be frank," the anomalocaris answered with a smirk. "The best course of action for you four is to surrender peacefully."

    "Commander?! Wh-What are you doing?!" a fox's yelp interjected. "W-We can't take them with us!"

    The sea bug's smirk abruptly faded, replaced with a frustrated grimace as Phyllis fearfully protested. Briggs whirled around to see the shaken-looking Leafeon ringed by her stunned-looking Mienshao, Ariados, and Grovyle counterparts.

    "Huh?!"

    "Phyllis?!"

    "What are you going on about?!"

    "That b-bird with them's a demon!" she insisted. The Armaldo's blood boiled, and the fossil Pokémon raised a claw to strike some sense into the Marked Leafeon when a cry came from the four Pokémon.

    "Pleo! Quick! The window!"


    The Company Pokémon turned just in time to see the young Lugia spit up a glowing ball at the window, splintering the wooden shutters as the rest of Team Traveller clumsily clambered onto his back.

    "Pin them down, now!" the Plate Pokémon bellowed. The Armaldo's right claw began trailing flickers of whitish light as he readied a slash at the white bird. However, as soon as Briggs raised his claw, his Mienshao subordinate pre-empted him by fishing out a Petrify Orb from a bag around his shoulder, and hurling it at the wall above the broken window.

    "A-Aah!"

    A shower of shards and sparks fell onto the team, sending them toppling over onto the floor, twitching as the orb's effects rendered their bodies unresponsive. As the four cried out and fought futilely against their paralysis, Briggs shot an ugly glare at Phyllis, before turning his attention to Hertsog while the hapless Leafeon shrank back.

    "I told you that she wasn't fit for this mission, Hertsog," he snarled. The Fighting-Type visibly paused and gave a disappointed look at the leafy fox, before hardening his gaze and turning back to his superior.

    "Commander, they're subdued," the weasel grunted, shaking his head. "Let's worry about tying them up before they can move again."

    "Fine," the Rock-Type scoffed. "Let's get to it, then."

    Pleo felt his friends get dragged from him one-by-one, as cries of protest rang out in the background. There was Nida's "W-Wait, stop!", Elty's defiant "Agh! Let go of me!", and a panicked "A-Aah! That's my bone!" from Guardia. Suddenly, he found himself tumbling to the floor, coming face to face with Salvini standing over him.

    There, in his numbed helplessness, one question burned over and over in his mind, until he could hold it in no longer.

    "S-Salvini!" he cried. "Wh-Why are you doing this to us?!"


    The gecko said nothing, looking away as she tied up the immobilized Lugia. As she finished tightening the last knots, the Grass-Type was suddenly interrupted by a stern growl from the Armaldo.

    "Make sure you cut his flight feathers."


    The tree lizard's claws slipped from the rope, and she uneasily got up and faced the stone-faced anomalocaris.

    "Come… again?" she murmured.

    "He's a bird, Salvini," Briggs snapped. "Birds fly when they're free unless something is done to prevent that."


    Salvani hesitated at the Bug-Type's words, shaking her head.

    "Commander, he's a wounded child!" the Grovyle protested. "Be reasonable!"


    "I am being reasonable! This is standard procedure for transporting scum of their lot to the cells back in the fort!" Briggs bellowed. The Armaldo opened his mouth to continue, only to suddenly be interrupted by a yelp from the back of the room.

    "T-Ti si lud! Y-You can't bring that thing back with us!"

    The Commander whirled and saw Phyllis wide-eyed, cowering in the corner. Briggs' nostrils flared and his tail batted impatiently against the ground as the seething Armaldo towered over the shaken Grass-Type.

    "I have had it with you!" Briggs roared. "This whole arrest you've been nothing but dead weight!"

    "That creature will destroy us! You can't just bring him into the fort!" Phyllis cried. "I w-won't stand for it! And neither will the others like me on the force!"

    Briggs froze at the Leafeon's words. It would be trivial to have the fox discharged from the ranks like she ought to be, but if the other Marked among the guards or in the town saw the Guardian, they would surely not react any better. And what if word leaked out from them to the rest of the villagers? Could the Company really keep things under control if they connected the dots to a Marked's "demon"? Worse still, what about the Imperials who would surely notice an unexplained disturbance…?

    "Commander, I don't know what's gotten into Phyllis. But you did say this was supposed to be discreet," Hertsog pressed. "If there's a reason to think that moving this group would draw attention, wouldn't it be better to keep them here?"


    "And surely it would be best to treat them like patients to preserve a cover, Commander?" the Grovyle added.

    The Armaldo paused, before hissing in frustration and giving a dismissive wave of his claws.

    "Fine. Bar the door and the window, and make sure every exit is watched around the clock," Briggs said. The creature shook his head, before casting a glance over at Pleo. "Commissioner Lyn should be in port before dawn to pick the bird up anyways."


    At the mention of the Samurott's name, Pleo, Elty, and Nida's irises shrank to pinpoints. Guardia, seeing her teammates' reaction, began to quiver in dread as her teammates cried out in one voice.

    "L-Lyn?!"

    "Ah, I see you're all familiar with him," the Armaldo answered. "Your bird friend here will be going on a little trip with him. As for the rest of you, you'll be treated like any pirate that shows their face on this island… You'll be collecting Apricorns for us, indefinitely."


    Nida gasped as a sudden realization came to her. Elty had said that Fensedge was a bad place to get caught, so those fields they saw on the way to the Mystery Dungeon earlier...

    "A-Ah! Then those Pokémon up the hill!" Nida cried. "They're-!"

    "Scum like you that we've put to use," the Commander sneered.

    Nida tried to summon an urge to fight, only to find that her limbs were still rigid and unresponsive, and her mind blank of any ideas on what to do. The Armaldo gave a satisfied smirk at the petrified Nidoran and her teammates, gesturing at the group with a claw.

    "Anyhow, this is the part where I should take my leave," Briggs said, before turning his attention to his subordinates. "The rest of you, I want you watching every way in and out of this room with reinforcements in shifts.

    The Armaldo left the room, leaving Hertsog to hastily hand down assignments as Team Traveller weakly fought against their bindings. It was decided that Payak would guard the door, while Salvini and Phyllis would tend to the exterior as Hertsog pulled other guards off for reinforcements.

    After that, the window was blocked with a table and gummed up with some silk from Payak; Hertsog and a still-shivering Phyllis then left the room, the Mienshao signaling for Salvani to follow him out. As the Grovyle began to make her way for the door, she heard a hurt-sounding squawk.

    "Salvini! Pl-Please!"

    The Grass-Type paused, and reluctantly looked back where Pleo stared at her, his eyes tearing up and beak quivering.

    "You're not a bad Pokémon like this!" the Lugia pleaded. "H-Help us!"

    The Grovyle froze and tensed up, her breaths coming softly and shallowly. The Grass-Type looked silently at the bound children, and then at her teammates, before turning back reluctantly to Pleo and his friends.

    "... You're right. I'm not," she replied, shaking her head. "And that's why I have to do this…"

    The tree lizard hurried out the door at the sound of Pleo's whine. She passed Payak settling down next to the door, and made her way down the hallway with a knot in her stomach.

    Outside the building, Trizano sat perched on a tree branch in a small grove at the far end of the hut, overlooking an alley downhill from the neighboring taverna. There, the Steel-Type stared at the now-blocked window in the side of the Medic's hut, shaking his head bitterly after watching the scene in the room unfold.

    "I should have known something like this would have happened," he said. He had to somehow set this right, and free the kids from the trap they had walked into. But... before he could do that, he had to learn more about his enemies.

    "Hang in there, Pleo," he murmured. "I'm not out of moves just yet."



    Back in Kenobi, Crom and his peers from the Siglo Swellow had finally found the "'bokuya" that Eeden and Zamora spoke of... a sorry-looking shack made of worn and pitted orange wood with a tiled roof.

    "Well the place is certainly at home with the rest of the district," Kiran murmured.

    Ander paused and poked skeptically at a few timbers, half-convinced that the rickety shack might collapse at any moment. After some unease and false hopes that the proprietor might come out to tend the shop's front, the team conceded that there would be no avoiding entering the uninviting bar.

    "Let's go inside," Pladur sighed.

    However, before the team could take another step forward, a Linoone flew through the door, followed by a gruff "And stay out!" from further inside. The ferret got up, shook some sense back into his head, and hastily darted off with his tail between his legs.

    The four Pokemon looked at each other and blanched for a moment before Crom spoke up

    "Are we really going in there…?"

    "Well… it should certainly be an… interesting visit," Ander added.

    The four Pokemon made their way into the bar past the clothing hanging by the door. The interior was revealed to be a dingy room that reeked of cheap spirits, filled with rough-hewn round tables and stools. The place was mostly abandoned, barring the exception of a Meowstic and a Cacturne with orange scarfs bearing white jaws talking about how much time they had left in port, and an obscured figure sitting alone in a corner. And finally, a Throh was making his way towards the other side of the counter.

    "I don't see this 'Valatos' anywhere" Crom muttered as he scanned the bar.

    "Maybe we should try chatting with that barkeeper," Ander said. "Those teleporters did say he had an axe to grind with them."

    Perhaps sensing he was being talked about, Shuho lifted his head from his work cleaning the bar and turned his eyes towards the group.

    "If you're here for something, either take a seat or make it quick," the Throh snapped. "I don't have all day."


    Crom and his companions faltered a second, but then approached the bar and sidled up against the counter. The four looked warily at the stone-faced Throh, before Pladur cleared his throat to try and start up some small talk.

    "Erm, well, what was that whole ruckus about earlier?" the Fraxure asked.

    "That's something between me and that Linoone," Shuho huffed. "Why don't you go and ask him yourself?"

    The Fraxure paused and traded uneasy looks with his fellow lavender-scarves. This bartender wouldn't even answer a little question like that?

    "Fair enough," Ander muttered, shaking his head. "Anyhow… we were hoping you'd have seen a group of fellow First-Ranks consisting of a Yanmega, a Manectric, and a Marowak?"

    "They're not here now if that's what you're after," the barkeep grunted.

    "Yes, I can see that," the mantis sighed. "I meant if you knew where they were right now."

    "Look, I don't talk stuff about Pokémon unless if someone from their group's in my establishment," the Throh spat.

    "Uhm, aren't they fellow Company Pokémon like us?" Crom asked. "Doesn't that count as being in the same group?"

    "Last I knew, they didn't hang out with punks like you, and their boss was a Sidon," the Fighting-Type retorted "So no, you're not."

    "So you really are a neutral type," Kiran said.

    "Around these parts, you'd be wise to not make many enemies," the Throh answered. "It's bad for business."

    "I see," the Swellow murmured. "Then perhaps we could come to a little understanding about something we needed taken care of…"

    "And what would that be?"

    Kiran rifled through his bag and pulled out a small collection of folded-up leaflets before sliding them across the bar. The Throh picked up the papers, unfolded them, and leafed over them one by one… Until he paused and suddenly went wide-eyed. The Fighting-Type vigorously shook his head and hardened his gaze before turning back to Kiran.

    "Is this a joke?" he demanded. "You're telling me that that group with the mutt who came in here without money to pay their bill had a god with them?"

    Crom put a claw over his face and shook his head at the mention of Elty attempting to get food without paying, before pausing, and realizing…

    "Wait, they were here?!" the young Druddigon cried.

    "Yeah? And?" Shuho scoffed. "That doesn't explain why you're passing this bounty around! Your employers put one out for two of those kids a few days ago, and now you're going out and saying the last one was a god?"

    "Look, I understand that this may be hard to swallow, but this is no joke," Kiran said. "That bounty might be the most important sheet of paper the Company has had to issue in its entire history. Top-secret and issued by orders of the Board."

    "Because we need to find someone to hold onto this until the time is right to make it public knowledge," Ander added. "Someone who would obviously be rewarded if they were found to have led to the Guardian's retrieval."

    Shuho paused, giving his chin a few idle strokes as he mulled over the claim of the Company strangers in front of him.

    "I see," the ruddy fighter answered. "And you chose to trust this with some guy running a hole in the wall why?"

    "Because you seem to know quite a few Pokémon around these parts, and you said that you weren't fond of making enemies," Ander retorted.

    "Make no mistake," Kiran added, shaking his head. "If you take this and the Company hears of you running your mouth off before the time is right, you'll have no shortage of those. This outfit doesn't suffer liars particularly well, especially with stakes like these."


    Shuho narrowed his eyes at Kiran, before glancing down at the paper again. The Fighting-Type paused a moment in contemplation, before giving a shake of his head.

    "Fine, I'll bite," the Throh grunted, before stuffing the bounties into a lockbox under the counter.

    "As for Valatos and the rest of his buddies, I still don't know where they are," he said. "I do know that they've been looking for a way out of here lately. Seems like they've crossed someone really high up in your organization."


    Crom drew a sharp breath. Pleo had angered Lyn alright, he knew… but had Valatos as well? How worse could things get?

    "Right, we'll keep that in mind," Pladur replied. The four quickly turned and filed out of the door and out of the sordid little shack, leaving the bar to return to its prior sleepy atmosphere.

    "What was that all about?"

    Only for a chittering voice to suddenly speak up, and a worn-shelled Clawitzer bearing a white scarf with a red saltire to hop out into the middle of the floor. The crustacean stood up on her tail and looked off in the direction of the doorway, before turning to give Shuho a stern, but curious look.

    "Nothing that I feel like talking about," the Throh snorted. "If it's something you're interested in, why don´t you ask them yourself? They can't have gotten far."

    The two Pokémon glared at each other, the Clawitzer up at the Throh, and the Throh back down to her. After a long, pregnant silence, the impasse broke as a small smile began to creep over the shrimp's face.

    ¨Maybe I will," the Water-Type answered, before hopping along on her tail. "I left the pay on my table. Do svidaniya."

    Nagant began to scuttle for the door and cast a glance back towards the counter, where Shuho had already made his way back to the bar while counting the money she had left on her table. The shrimp turned back and pushed her way past the white noren over the doorway, out into the streets of the teeming hive outside and after a most familiar-looking quarry.



    While Shuho and his most inquisitive client were chatting inside his establishment, Crom and his fellows from the Siglo Swellow had made their way towards an intersection a short way down from 'bokuya.

    "What do we do now?" Crom asked. "That 'Shuho' Pokémon barely gave us anything to work with!"

    "Well we managed to give out the bounties at least…" Pladur sighed. "But I really don't know how we're supposed to narrow down where this 'Valatos' went."


    The team made their way past the colorful, dingy shops on the lane over to the sea. They walked past a Shelgon-shaped Box Buster shop, its draconic proprietor hard at work bashing open a stack of pilfered crates. Afterwards came a shifty-looking store tended to by a grizzled Blastoise with metal-tipped harpoons displayed on a wall with some improperly hollowed logs lying in a discarded pile in an alleyway. Finally, the team came to an intersection with a small pagoda, where at the far end sat a Reuniclus' shop that was filled with maps and navigational tools, and surprisingly enough, a Kecleon market, if with a duo of extra and particularly surly-looking chameleons keeping a steely watch around the shop.

    For a second, the team thought they saw Valatos inside the map shop after seeing a flying, chitinous form. The four ran up to wave down the creature, only to discover to their disappointment that it was simply a teal beetle with long, jagged mandibles, and an abdomen that flickered with yellowish light.

    "Well, wherever they are, we don't have much time," Ander said. "That barkeeper did say they were trying to leave town."

    "But how would they do that? Given the neighborhood the only way of doing so would be by joining a pirate crew…" Kiran murmured. The Swellow suddenly froze as his eyes went wide, as an uncomfortable realization crept into his mind.


    "Wait a minute!" he squawked. "They were trying to join a pirate crew! They were even talking about it when we ran into them!"

    The four Pokémon abruptly blanched for a moment as they realized that if Valatos and his buddies had been looking for a crew for a full day, they might not even be in port by now! But even if they hadn't...

    "If they did join a pirate crew and they're still here," Crom began. "How would we even find the-?"

    "What's taking those new guys so long?" a heavy voice asked. The sound of footsteps approaching rang out, followed by a yapping sigh.

    "Don´t tell me they bailed already because of your outburst..."


    "Well hey, look on the bright side," a buzzing voice answered. "This way we get to pick seats before them!"

    "Huh?"

    Crom, Pladur, Kiran, and Ander turned and felt their blood run cold as an Aggron with a golden-yellow scarf followed by a host of like-scarved cohorts rounded the corner. Both the Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow, and the metal ruffian froze and widened their eyes in shock before a shared refrain filled the lane…

    "Ack! You again!"

    Kiran turned to Crom and then at the gathering of golden-scarved Pokémon right before him. The other Pokémon also staring at group in exchange, though many of them seemed far more puzzled than the Aggron.

    "Uh… Captain, who are these dorks again?" said a Floatzel in the group.

    "Yeah," a Ledian piped up. "I don´t remember seeing these guys before."

    At the pirate's remark, memories of the fateful encounter with the Aggron came flooding back to Crom's mind. The young Dragon-Type suddenly felt aches all over his body, unpleasant reminders of the wounds the captain had inflicted on him.

    "Y-You're that pirate captain that raided our home last month!"

    Pladur gulped and grimaced, such an outburst was hardly the thing to say to a lot of hardened criminals! Much to the group's horror, the band of pirates slowly and carefully spread away from their captain. The golden-scarved mob began to circle the party from the Siglo Swellow as the Aggron captain gave an audible crack to his neck.

    "That's right," Hess snorted, the hulking Steel-Type lumbering closer to his trapped quarry. "And it looks like things are finally going my way for once!"

    "Wait, they… are?" Crom asked, the Druddigon starting to grow increasingly unnerved as to what the brigand's answer might be.

    "Well now, thanks to your freaky gull friend, I'm short a few deck claws," Aggron explained as he pointed to the group accompanying him. "And here you go through all the trouble of coming out here! Just when I needed to find a few extra claws to swab the deck of my ship!"


    Some of members of the Iron Fleet caught on the commentary and started laughing at the trapped 'Company grunts', already understanding of what was coming next for the quailing square-necks before them.

    "H-Huh?! Us join you?!" Kiran squawked. "Y-You're dreaming!"

    "Oh really now? I seem to remember that it was because of your blasted town that I lost a mast and over a dozen deck claws!" the Aggron angrily snarled. "Sounds like you've got a debt to pay, and I'm in the perfect position to collect!"


    Crom and his companions flinched, expecting the hulking captain and his cronies to be upon them at any moment. There was a tense, breathless wait, followed by a realization that the Aggron was extending a claw, with a predatory smirk spreading on his maw.

    "But I'm a reasonable captain," he offered, giving a call forward with his outstretched claws. "Come peacefully and we'll hash out the details over some drinks."


    The four did not spend much time deliberating the matter. The situation clearly looked hopeless, the choices stark… with only one answer left to give.

    "N-No! We're not pirates!" Crom growled, beating his wings out in trembling defiance. "We- We'd never work with the likes of you!"

    The mood of the gathered pirates suddenly turned sour, as murmurs and a jeer of 'well this will be fun' floated around. Hess' mood darkened and he hastily drew his claw back to his side at the refusal, and shook his head, shooting an overpowering glare at the four Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow.

    "So be it. Looks like I'll get to show the crew why this job gets to be so enjoyable sometimes!" Hess roared. The Aggron snorted, eased into a battle position, and pawed his feet, ready to charge

    "Because every so often, I get to beat the tar out of pests like you!"



    Back in Fensedge Village, Trizano had dutifully circled the medic's hut from the shadows ever since watching the raid on Pleo's room, searching for possible ways that he could make his way in. A subtle, but noticeable presence of guards had taken up positions around the exterior of the hut along the of the guarded room. There were guards patrolling around the medic's hut perimeter, guards standing underneath Team Traveller's window, and a lone Marked Leafeon looking out anxiously from the roof...

    "Captain, about what happened earlier…"

    And of course the pair he was currently watching, a Grovyle and Mienshao who seemed to both be deep in uncomfortable thought.

    "Did we really do the right thing? Restraining those children like that?" the Grovyle asked. "And the way Phyllis reacted..."

    The mustelid shifted an uneasy glance at the ground, before shaking his head and facing his charge.

    "Look, Salvini… I understand that sometimes carrying out the letter of the law isn't pleasant," he offered. "But there's surely a reason why Commander Briggs thinks those children are more than what they seem to be-"

    "You there!"

    Salvini and Hertsog looked up in a start at the sound of a booming, interrupting voice. From the main lane up to the guild, they saw a Dragonite wearing a lavender Fourth-Rank scarf swoop in impatiently with an irked expression etched into his face. The two tensed their stance upon noticing the superior, as the Dragon-Type came lumbering along to them, in a clearly agitated mood.

    "Wait a minute," Trizano murmured from his perch in the trees behind the hut. "Wasn't this…?"

    "Administrator Darzin, sir. You still haven't flown back to Canalhouse?" Mienshao prodded. "Is something the matter?"

    "What exactly is going on here?" the Dragon-Type demanded. "No medic's hut has a detail this large posted to it!"

    "We have some Pokémon of interest detained inside, and we have reacted accordingly," the Captain answered.

    "What sort of answer is that?!" the Dragonite spat. "I need specifics! Who is in there, and why have they not been transported already?!"


    Hertsog and Salvini blinked and traded uneasy looks with each other. Here before them was an Administrator from the Company board demanding that they divulge the identity of the pirates they just captured, but...

    "Er… I'm afraid that we're not allowed to talk about that, sir," Salvini replied. "Direct orders from Commander Briggs."

    "I'm your superior here! I outrank Commander Briggs!" the dragon roared. "So either spit it out or let me in!"

    "Administrator Darzin! How can you demand that I endanger my subordinates like that?!" the Fighting-Type exclaimed. "Surely Administrator Zorn would have been notified of the matter! Can't you ask him for a debriefing?"

    The Skarmory realized that Darzin had to be talking about the Protector from Tromba- no other prisoner would warrant this fuss. But then...

    "I don't understand, don't you already have a lackey coming to pick him up?" Trizano murmured. "What's the point of rushing like this?"

    Focusing a little too intently, Trizano accidentally squeezed the branch tighter and tighter, until it fractured with an audible snap. The subject of his observation heard the noise, and spun his head around to check for the source. The Skarmory hastily braced his wings and fanned out his blade-like feathers, bracing for a sudden battle.

    After a tense, breathless pause, Trizano realized that the Dragonite seemed startled and apprehensive. Slowly, the creature turned back to the Mienshao and Grovyle, his adamance for getting a better picture of what was going on in the hut having evaporated.

    "I… remembered that I had other matters to tend to," the Dragonite answered. "But I will be back later, and don't you forget it!"

    Trizano watched as Darzin hastily turned and stormed off, exhaling with a sigh of relief that the fractured branch hadn't given him away. Even so, a realization began to creep up on him about the scale of the task before him...

    "This will go easier if I have help," the Skarmory grunted. "But posting a job would take too long, and alert the powers-that-be to what I'm up to..."

    Trizano jumped from his place in the treeline behind the building, before taking to the skies. The Armor Bird's mind swirling with possibilities for who to reach out to…

    "There has to be somebody there with the courage to stand with Trizano against injustice! I just have to find them myself!"

    And there was a place where someone would surely have the courage to stand up… The Mengir Island Guild. All the while on the route over, one detail bedeviled him…

    Where would they be able to hide the children?

    He thought of attempting to spirit them to Kenobi Island, but there were far too many grunts there. Leaving sleepy Fensedge for Canalhouse City was hardly an alternative, as it would just be leaping from the pan and into the fire. Otvaga Island was a better option since that atoll was neutral, but as a sudden stiff and gusty wind reminded, the waters en route would surely be patrolled, and there was a storm due to come in tonight.

    The Skarmory landed in front of the guild and went inside hoping he could find someone who would be up for an arduous task. But… did ferrying the childern to another island have to be one? Perhaps he just wasn't thinking far out enough? Though, if his suspicions about the one named 'Pleo' were right, he would surely not have rest on any island in Anyilla for long, and possibly not any others… Except for one place…

    Home. It would certainly be safe, and already shepherded its own secrets, but it was all the way on the other end of Anyilla! There would surely be a wall of obstacles just to get there even if he stayed with the children all that time…

    If only there was another way, a nearby place he could get them to where the Company wouldn't look for them…

    "Yeesh, this gummi chest is hefty… Good thing it's only a ten minute walk after I get into the Subway."

    Trizano turned, and saw a Kabutops pass by, pressing a red chest in between his scythes to dump into a netting bag. Wasn't that Dimitri from the other day?

    Wait a minute! There was a frontier to work with all this time quite literally under his beak! And Dimitri was a Pokémon who would be in the perfect position to take the kids there!

    "Oh, it's you again!" the horseshoe crab exclaimed as he took notice of the Skarmory.

    "That's right, but aren't you supposed to be back at your clan?" Trizano murmured.

    "Eh, being a little late never killed anyone. Besides, this mission will take me straight to them!"

    "Hm?" the Skarmory asked, tilting his head. "Mind explaining that to me?"

    "I was gonna meet up with my rod at Seaspear Station along the Subway passages to Otvaga," Dimitri explained. "It's where I have to deliver these Gummis for my current mission."

    The Subway... the maze of breathable passages and Mystery Dungeons that crisscrossed the Cradle's seafloor. It was only about fifty fathoms below the waves, but it may as well be another planet for most Pokémon. Wait...

    "Davvero?" the Steel-Type asked. "Would you like to make a little extra on the side?"

    The horseshoe crab gave a quizzical tilt of his head at Trizano, a curious demeanor coming over the creature as he began to wonder what sort of errand the Skarmory needed help with.

    "Eh? What do you need me to do?"

    "Well, first off, how good are you with stormy waters?" Trizano wondered.

    Dimitri crossed his scythes and gave a bemused chuckle back at the Steel-Type. Him? Have a problem with stormy waters?

    "Pfft, if I wasn't good, would I be taking a mission the day when one's set to blow in?"

    "... Touché," the bird cawed. A small smile began to form at the ends of Trizano's beak. If Dimitri was a strong enough swimmer, then that would mean that all would be needed to get the kids underwater was a place to dive...

    "And I take it you've been using the diving spot next to those rocks offshore to the west to get down into the Subway?"

    "Well, yeah. I don't need those purple-scarves getting involved in my rod's matters," the crustacean answered.

    Along with a little skill....

    "Do you know how to Dive with other Pokémon?"

    Dimitri paused and blinked at Trizano's question. It seemed like an odd detail for the bird to be prying into, but...

    "Er… da," the crab responded. "Why do you ask?"

    The Skarmory paused for a moment and went quiet, before looking up into the Kabutops' eyes with a surprisingly stern and serious expression.

    "It's the mission I need help with," Trizano explained. "It involves taking a party of four into the Subway."



    Meanwhile on the dingy streets of Andaku, Crom, Pladur, Kiran, and Ander circled in tighter and tighter as the Iron Fleet closed in on them. The four backpedaled until they felt their tails touch each other and realized there was nowhere left to retreat.

    "Err... what now?" Ander buzzed anxiously.

    The four desperately looked around for a way out, but couldn't seem to see anything that could help them. Suddenly Kiran noticed the Kecleon shop up across the intersection had a number of goods on display behind the counter, including what looked to be a few orange, scaled seeds.

    "Maybe we have something…" the Swellow murmured. The Flying-Type hopped up, and as the Pokémon around them began to charge, beat his wings and sent a slicing wind at the counter…


    "Close your eyes!"

    BOOM!

    … which set off a Blast Seed on display, followed up by a Blowback Orb that burst with a gust of air ejecting merchandise from the stall and into the nearby navigation shop. A Sandy Orb smashed against the ground whipping up a localized sandstorm, as one after the other orbs shattered and seeds flung out from the shop along with bits of signed timber and canvas.

    "Aargh!"

    The gathering quickly devolved into a chaotic cloud of sand and confusion, with disoriented cries, and the sound of angry shouts from Kecleon coming from further off. After sending a Liepard tumbling back into the dust with a swipe from his tusks, Pladur saw an opening, along with the muddled form of Shuho's bar in the background.


    "Th-This way, quick!" he yelped. The four quickly bolted through the confusion and exited the plume of dust kicked up by Kiran's distraction, fleeing as fast as their limbs could carry them. They sprinted back past the arms dealer and the box buster, and made it to 'bokuya when they heard a hacking voice bellow out behind them.

    "Don't let them get away!"

    Crom, Kiran, Ander, and Pladur looked back and saw Hess storming out of the sand cloud, calling up and flinging a hail of large rocks from the ground at the crewmates from the Siglo Swellow. With a yelp, the four ducked down the side, and into a narrow alleyway with broken down planks laying around as a barrage of bulky, heavy stones slammed into the side of the orange-wooded shack.


    As the four lavender-scarved Pokémon slipped out of view, Hess and a number of his cronies ran in, looking around restlessly for their foes. Towards the end of the pack, Valatos flew in from high up with his companions trailing him, the Yanmega catching the forms of creatures moving swiftly down a back alley.

    The dragonfly flew down and settled against the ground, just in time for Nori to give a questioning prod to his teammates with his bone.

    "Valatos, you see anything?" Nori asked.

    "Yeah," the Bug-Type buzzed back. "Those Pokémon the new Captain's after headed down our old shortcut for the big shopping street."

    "Then what are we waiting for?!" Alvise exclaimed. "Let's get a move on!"

    "Yeah!" Nori added. "Let's tell the others and get them!"

    The two turned to call out to their new teammates, only to be cut off by Valatos raising a foreleg and motioning for a stop.

    "Actually... I've got a better plan…" the dragonfly began.

    The sound of an angry "That's my shop!" from 'bokuya's Throh proprietor rang out, followed by yelps and running from the Pokémon up ahead, which drew a pair of gulps from Nori and Alvise.

    "I'll explain while we move!" Valatos cried. "The others will be catching up with us fast enough anyways!"



    ( Continued in next post )
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
  17. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    The confused shouts of the Pokémon behind them dulled and grew fainter as Crom and the others zipped through the alley. They turned left upon stumbling across an intersection, and hurried along past some upended timbers onto a large street lined with shops, panting out of exhaustion.

    "I… I think we lost them," Ander said. For a second, the four paused and sighed, starting to brush off some dust and sand from their bodies as the passerbys traded askew stares before continuing on.

    "There they are!"

    Until a shout rang out up ahead and the forms of several golden-scarved Pokémon darting out from a side street came into view. The four quickly turned and bolted down the lane, as yelps and the crash and clatter of disturbed merchandise rang out behind them, with more flightworthy members of the Iron Fleet pursued from the air.

    "Th-They're all over!" Pladur yelped.

    "Quick! Down that alley there!" Kiran exclaimed. "It'll give us cover!"

    The team ran past a modest shack watched by a Sawk bodyguard with a Cinccino handling a clay pot among bunches of spiky, reddish-orange berries dangling from the rafters. Up in front, the addled customers lazily turned as the sound of the four squarenecks rushing past reached their ears. Suddenly the sound of a crash and the clerk shrieking rang out as a jet of hot, steaming water sailed into the shop. The scream was soon followed by the Lansat pot smashing into syrupy pieces against a wall, which jolted the clients at the counter into a blind panic.

    "A-Ack! It's the fuzz!" a Lapras yelped. "They made me do it officer, I swear!"

    "I'm too pretty to do manual labor!" a Vanillish cried.

    "Let's resist arrest!" a Bastiodon shouted. "That'll show 'em!"

    The dazed Pokémon sprang up out of their seats as the crewmates of the Siglo Swellow ducked down the alley, the sounds of confused Pokémon tripping each other up and trading blows resounding in the background. At the head of the group, Kiran noticed that the cliffsides were looming up ahead, then that meant…

    "We just need to make it to the cliffs!" the Swellow squawked. "Once we get out of this district, the Iron Fleet won't be able t- AUGH!"

    Only to be cut off by a slicing burst of wind that sent the four into a tumbling stop tripping over each other. As the four stumbled up to their feet, they came face to face with a Yanmega flitting back and forth smugly with a golden scarf around his prothorax.

    "Aren't you in a hurry?" the Bug-Type sneered. Crom backpedaled at the sight of the great dragonfly, only to realize… the eyes… the wings… the voice… This was the same Yanmega from the other day!

    "E-Eh?!" Crom stammered. "You're-!"

    "Right where we want you!" a voice shouted from behind. The team looked back and saw a Manectric and a Marowak rushing up the alleyway. The three quickly boxed in Crom and his companions, shooting malicious sneers with the four all the while.

    "Heh, nice work, Valatos," Nori said. "And here I thought we'd have to chase 'em into a dead end to corner them like this."


    The assailants slowly closed in, flashing their natural weapons menacingly as they herded Crom, Kiran, Ander, and Pladur into an ever-tighter group.

    "Valatos, wait!" Crom cried. "You saw a white bird, didn't you?"


    Valatos scoffed, turning to trade a bemused glance with his companions.

    "What are you getting at?" The Bug-Type buzzed.

    "It was as big as me, and looked strange, and-"

    "Tch, how should we know?!" the dragonfly chittered, leaving Crom to drop his jaw agape in disbelief.

    "H-Huh?! But you saw him!" Crom protested. "Those Cubone said so!"

    "Yeah, we did, but we don't know where he went," Nori grunted, before tightening his grip on his club. "But that's not really relevant right now."

    "There will be plenty of time to get to know each other once you're down for the count!" Valatos sneered. "Alvise, finish them!"

    "On it!"


    Alvise hunched up and sparks began to fly along his coat and coalesce into a sparking mass. As the wolf prepared his Discharge, Ander noticed a stack of flour-dusted sacks against the wall of a wooden shack to his right and threw out a scythe in a panic. As he slashed open the sacks, a plume of white dust suddenly blinded the Manectric, causing him to send his Discharge forward and draw a litany of yelps.

    "Gah! You weren't supposed to shock me too, you dimwit!"


    Including one that wasn't supposed to happen.

    "Agh! It's not my fault!" the wolf protested. "I can't see- Yeow!"


    The Electric-Type slammed against an alley wall with a yelp after being struck by a claw swipe from Pladur, trailing jagged flecks of greenish energy. The attack on his teammate prompted the accompanying Marowak to charge forward with his club raised.

    "I've got 'em! I've-"


    Before Nori could retaliate against the Fraxure, he was cut off by a gust of wind from Kiran brushing past him. The burst of air struck a tall pile of flour bags, which promptly toppled onto Alvise and Nori below with a loud thud and a chorus of dazed groans.

    "Urgh…"

    "Ow… my back..."

    The Yanmega darted back as static still danced on his exoskeleton, falling back panting from the cloud of flour dust and hastily calling up some rocks ringed with purplish auras out of the ground.

    "Do I have to do everything around here?" he hissed, only for a young voice to suddenly cry out.

    "Hey! Look over here!"

    "Huh?"

    Valatos turned and instinctively fluttered backwards as white powder was thrown against his face, covering his eyes. The Bug-Type blindly launched his stony projectiles, only to feel the sensation of claws smacking him down out of the air. Valatos hit the ground hard, leaving him to hack and wheeze angrily after the fleeing presences.

    "A-Argh!" he cried. "G-Get back here where I can see you, you dweebs!"

    The demand came to no avail, as Crom, Kiran, Ander, and Pladur continued to hurry down the alleyway, if with labored and heavy movements. The running battle had taken its toll, leaving scrapes, bruises, and electrical burns over the increasingly ragged group.

    "I can't take much more of this," Kiran panted.

    "Just hang in there, Kiran," Ander pleaded. "I can see the cliffs getting closer! We must be getting near to-!"

    "Checkmate, chumps!"


    The team came to an abrupt stop as they ran square into a stony wall, knocking them back and onto the ground. The group rubbed at their heads and limbs until they realized that to their horror, the wall they had run into wasn't a wall at all…

    "A-Aah!"

    But the looming form of an Aggron in the middle of an intersection of alleyways. Behind him, various forms poked their heads here and there to try and get a view of their leader's trapped quarry.

    "Still running?" he taunted. "I think that my crew's colors on your necks would fix up that tired look of yours just fine!"

    Laughter and jeers came from the lackeys behind Hess, as the team slowly began to realize how dire a situation they were actually in. The Aggron prepared to call up stones from the ground with a Rock Slide, which froze the four in fear as their hopes sank along with Hess' stony form. Until suddenly, the jeers were pierced by a voice from behind.

    "I think not."

    "Huh?! Who said-?! Agh!"

    Before Hess had a chance to finish his attack, a pulsing burst of water zipped in and struck him in the face, knocking back into his mass of underlings. The sound of yelps and cries came out from the gathered lackeys behind the Steel-Type captain, as Crom and his companions looked back, and saw a Clawitzer jumping down from an overlooking rooftop.


    "A-Aah!" Crom cried. "You're that Clawitzer from-!"

    "Don't just stand there! Run before he gets up!" the crustacean hissed. "There's a warehouse you can cut through on the right!"

    "R-Right!"

    Crom, Pladur, Kiran, and Ander hastily followed their rescuer to the right alleyway, leaving Hess to stumble back up and rub at some fresh bruises and cuts on his side; meanwhile, right under him a Pawniard half-embedded in the ground dragged himself out of a Pawniard-shaped hole, groaning and muttering a half-curse along the way. A moment after, the mob of Pokémon stopped cold and looked around... to realize that his quarry was nowhere to be seen.

    The Aggron whirled around and after failing to catch any hint of where the fake Company grunts had gone, angrily stamped his feet and bellowed out in challenge.

    "Grr! Stand and fight you cowards!"

    "Oi, Hess!"

    The Aggron blanched for a moment and turned around to see an angry mob flecked with faces Hess had seen at the various shops, with Shuho at its head. Hess reflexively took a step back from the horde of shopkeepers, only for the Throh to lunge forward, grab the Steel-Type by his scarf, and yank his head down.

    "Agh!"

    "We need to have a little talk about that property damage you've been causing," the Fighting-Type snarled.


    "P-Property damage?" the Aggron nervously began. "I think you're- Hey!"

    From the corners of his eyes Hess noticed that his fellow golden-scarved Pokemon all began to quickly slipped away from the intersection, clearly not wanting to be a part of any 'aggressive negotiations' that the shopkeepers might have in mind.

    "Wait! Where do you think you're going! Stay here and help-!"

    A blow followed by a sudden pain shot through the Steel-Type's head as his jaw slammed hard against the ground. The creature gasped for air and hacked up spittle, and desperately pulled his head in to counter with a steely headbutt, only to feel his head get yanked back up by his scarf, and to come face-to-face with the Fighting-Type drawing an arm back for a punch…

    The Captain's fighting spirit quickly evaporated, and he hastily amended his words.

    "Okay! Okay! I give! I-I'll pay!" he squeaked. "I-I've got leftover Poké from my last raid!"

    "Glad to hear, "Shuho said. "There's the matter of my wall, the shop my brother watches over that you smashed up, and the lizard shop here isn't happy about all their merchandise going up in smoke..."


    As the Fighting-Type went through a list of damages that seemed to never end, Valatos, Alvise, Nori came around the corner dazed and in within sight of the crowd. Although the lot were still covered in flour, the golden scarves around their necks could clearly be seen, prompting a Sawk from the crowd to speak up.

    "Oi, bro!" the Sawk cried. "Aren't those the deadbeats you keep complaining about?"


    The Throh relaxed his stance for a brief moment as the Karate Pokemon called out to him, and shifted his attention from Hess to the flour covered 'deadbeats' as they traded back confused looks.

    "Oh, so you're their captain now? In that case, I'm going to need to call in the debts of some of your new recruits," Shuho grunted as he turned back towards Hess.

    The Aggron shot an angry glare at three, who in return gave back sheepish grins. Before the Steel-Type could focus on them for too long, Shuho tightened the grip around his scarf, prompting him to hastily turn back to him.

    "Now, are you gonna pay all of this up front, or do we need to talk about installments?"


    Gah… why hadn't he listened to that lippy bug about press-ganging earlier? Hess grimaced and closed his eyes, before giving a gulp and a muttering squeak back to the snickering group of shopkeepers

    "Ulp… Wh-Why me…?"



    After a hurried chat with Dimitri at the guild, Trizano found himself back staking out the medic's hut, alternately scanning the building and shuffling along to new vantage points whenever the guards seemed to get suspicious of him. So it was that he came to his current perch in a tree overlooking the roof of a bustling juice bar, the raucous noise inside providing cover for the sounds of his movements among the trees along the far side of the roof.

    "If I can just keep those guards outside a little busy, my wings should be able to make short work of that barricade," Trizano murmured to himself. "Then, it's just a matter of getting in and getting Pleo out to the water…"

    It was certainly an audacious enough plan, but there was still one part which he couldn't seem to square… Where exactly were the guards positioned inside? And even if he got to Pleo, would he even be able to fly out of there? Gah... if only he had some way of getting a better picture of what was inside that hut!

    The Skarmory shook his head frustratedly, before suddenly bolting upright after noticing movement coming from the lane. It was the form of a Grovyle, who made her way up the path with heavy and fatigued movements, before stopping at the door to the juice bar below.

    "… Isn't that one of the guards from the hut's security detail?"

    The gecko shook her head and muttered something inaudible before pressing on into the taverna underfoot, leaving Trizano to blink out of surprise.

    "Maybe if I talk to her…"

    The Steel-Type hopped down into an alley, and rounded the corner to the juice bar's entrance. After pushing aside the rude door at the entrance, he made his way into the taverna to discover a stone-walled space with simple wooden timbers for pillars and rafters bedecked with small bells. As the Skarmory made his way inside to search for Salvini, he found that the inside was every bit as busy as the noise from outside had hinted. He passed a Whimsicott and a Haunter playing a game of cards at a table together, and then a trio of Wormdam trading gossips over drinks of a "dorky Company Mothim" one of the three had run into several days ago. And finally, at a lonely bar stool in the corner of the juice bar, was a Grovyle with a lavender scarf and a dispirited expression. Trizano tilted his head, bounced a little in his steps, and paced over slowly, sidling next to the Grass-Type at the seat beside her as the Spinda barkeeper labored away in the background.

    "Don't you have a shift over at the medic's hut right now?" the Skarmory asked.

    "Whuh?"

    The Grovyle looked up in surprise, but upon seeing the metallic bird beside her, her face drifted back into its previously sullen expression.

    "Oh, it's you. That 'Warrior of Life' guy," she sighed. The Grass-Type shook her head, and returned her attention to the clear and strong-smelling liquid inside her clay cup. Trizano noted the cup's decidedly-not-water contents, and blinked before clearing his throat to speak.

    "Not that I'm one to pass up a drink, Salvini," he said. "But won't you fall afoul of your superior for doing this?"

    The Wood Gecko Pokémon gulped down some of her drink wrong at the Skarmory's question, and sent herself into a fit of coughing. After recovering, the Grass-Type whirled to face the prying bird, eyes widened.

    "How do you know that?!" she demanded. "And who told you my name?!"

    "I've seen you around since I came here," the Skarmory explained. "As for the name, it was just what I heard others call you. I assumed that that was what you'd be most comfortable with."

    The Grovyle grumbled a little and turned back to her drink, dismissively waving off the surprise of not being addressed by species name first as was the custom with strangers among the Cradle's residents.

    "Yeah, well, it's rude to address someone you don't know by their name," she growled. "So be a little more mindful of custom next time!"

    "Hm… fair enough, though it seems like you already know a bit about Trizano the Immortal," the Skarmory answered, shaking out his feathers. "Though since we're on the topic of customs, might I ask if it's also custom on this island to give guards drinking breaks during their shifts?"

    Salvini drew in her arms and sat up straight defensively, giving a glaring scowl back at the metal-feathered interloper.

    "My supervisor gave me a short break," she spat. "I've been having a headache."

    "Vollezeese Jenever sure seems like an interesting… 'cure' for a headache," Trizano replied, giving a skeptical tilt to his head. "Are you certain you're making the right diagnosis there?"

    The lizard gave a sour look back at the Armor Bird Pokémon, before grunting and returning to her drink.

    "Mrph, mind your business."

    "You know, a medic can't treat what ails you if you don't tell them about it," the Steel-Type insisted.

    "I'll pass," Salvini huffed. "Last I was aware, 'Valiant Knight Skarmory' weren't medics."

    "I wasn't aware that Pokémon who wore Company lavenders were either," Trizano retorted. "Or at least not until you stopped by that room on the south side of the medics' hut earlier today."

    TAK

    The Wood Gecko slammed her cup against the counter as she whirled and shot a fierce glare at the nosy bird beside her. The Grass-Type balled her claws into fists, as the reptile became determined to know...

    "Have you been spying on me?!"

    "I prefer to call it 'the observations of a concerned citizen,' but that is where your headache is from, isn't it?" Trizano asked. "The layout inside was a bit much to handle? Or did you see something in there that didn't quite sit right with you?"

    "Don't worry about it," the Grovyle snapped. "It's nothing that I haven't seen before in a day's work."

    "You sure don't sound like that right now," the metal bird insisted. "Why, if I didn't know better, I'd say you sounded more like you don't know what to do about-"

    At this, the Grass-Type lost her temper, and hopped atop her stool, extending the leafy blades along her arm and visibly seething. Why was this bird doing this to her? She didn't like what had happened in that hut, but it had happened for a reason...

    "I do know what to do about it!" she shouted, thrusting an angry and accusing claw at the Skarmory's face. "To follow the orders I was given and protect this town!"

    A dead silence filled the bar, which prompted Salvini to look around and notice that her outburst had caught the attention of everyone else in the room. Trizano shook his head and realized that prodding the Grovyle for more information would probably not deliver any further progress. After awkwardly shuffling his feathers, the Skarmory cleared his throat and turned back to his Grovyle neighbor.

    "Listen, Salvini," he began. "I might not be a doctor, but I think that if you really meant that, you wouldn't be here right now with that cup of jenever."

    "You're trying to get at something, aren't you?" the lizard grunted.

    "I was, actually," the Skarmory replied. "It's a question whose answer I think will clear that headache of yours better than that drink ever will."

    "Which is?"

    The metal bird deposited a small stack of papers containing charcoal rubbings of various scenes of a deer with branch-like antlers. The gecko's black eyes widened a moment, as she recognized that these must have been the pictures that the bait mission asked for. The Grass-Type looked up uneasily at the stern-faced Skarmory, who responded with a simple question.

    "What do you really want, Salvini?"

    The Grovyle went silent at the Trizano's words, and reluctantly drew her blades back against her arms and uneasily returned to her seat. The Steel-Type sighed, shook his head and turned to the still-staring patrons in the bar.

    "Apologies for the disruption," he said. "I'll take my leave now."

    Trizano hastily made his way over to a small side door at the end of the taverna, where he passed through and slipped out of the bar. Little by little, the chatter of the bar started to return to its normal, raucous atmosphere, if flecked with occasional blurbs 'What was that all about?' and 'Think that was over a tax dispute or something?'

    Salvini looked down at the drawings and thought of the other day when she gave Team Traveller their mission...

    Of how carefree and trusting they had been…

    Of their betrayed looks back in the medic’s hut...

    Why was she here drinking anyways? She had followed her brother's footsteps into the force to begin with to help other Pokémon, but… how was snookering a bunch of kids helping anyone, especially when the higher-ups couldn't keep their stories straight? From the moment this mission started she had a feeling something was wrong about it, a feeling that had only gotten stronger since.

    Her brother had mentioned that there were times when he had to go against the grain of his orders… Was this was he meant? But what was she supposed to do? He was all the way off on some podunk island and those kids would be taken care of in a matter of hours.

    … Actually, maybe she didn't need her brother's advice to make this decision. She had joined the Company in order to help Pokémon like the ones that lived in this town. So then if the Company was making that impossible, there was only one logical thing to do...

    The Grass-Type thrust the stack of drawings into her bag, and hopped off her stool. As soon as her feet hit the floor, the gecko turned and bolted for the side door after the so-called 'Immortal'.

    "Hey! You didn't pay for your jenever!" the Spinda barkeep cried.

    "Put it on my tab!" she shouted back. The Wood Gecko dashed into a cluttered alley uphill of the taverna, only to find no sign of Trizano. The Grass-Type looked around desperately, and bolted for the treeline to try and find a perch. The reptile dug her claws into a trunk, and scampered up it, vaulting over the limbs and onto a bough where she caught a glimpse of the so-called 'Immortal' on another tree preening at his metal feathers.

    "Hold it right there!" she exclaimed. The Skarmory raised his head and turned back in the direction of the Grass-Type, giving a quizzical tilt.

    "Hrm? Is something the matter?" the Armor Bird answered.

    "You're planning to do something with those kids, aren't you?" the Grovyle huffed.

    The Skarmory turned and beat his wings, before settling down and giving a firm, determined look back at his questioner.

    "I think you should already know the answer to that question, Salvini," he said.

    "Well, what is it?" she demanded. There was a long pause between the two as Trizano tensed his wings to be ready to strike at a moment's notice, before the tension suddenly evaporated with five simple words…

    "And what do you need?"

    The Skarmory blinked and lowered his razor-feathered wings at the gecko's words. Did… she just offer to help him? But this was no Elekid's play, and he couldn't in good conscience accept help from someone who had so much to lose.

    "Are you sure about this, Salvini?" he asked. "You're aware that it could get you in just a bit more trouble than that drink back there, aren't you?"

    "I think you should already know the answer to that question, Trizano," she replied. A smile began to creep over the Skarmory's beak, there were more brave souls in this town than he had expected to find on such short notice. The two volunteers he'd accrued so far would do just fine.

    "Well, then… why don't we start with a little privacy?" Trizano volunteered. "Time is short, and we've only got one shot at this."



    After a nerve-wracking shortcut through the warehouse, and a tense journey through Andaku's shadowy alleys, the four Pokémon of the Siglo Swellow and their Clawitzer defender made their way up to the cliffside path in fits and starts. The party carrying along haphazardly until they eventually made it to a panting stop just past the sturdy wooden gate.

    "Hah… hah… that was way too close," Crom gasped.

    "Why don't we pick a place with a little privacy, hm?" Nagant chittered, while gesturing at a nearby alley. "Sounds like you four could catch your breath a bit."

    The four Pokémon traded wary looks with each other, before looking back at their rescuer. While she had helped them greatly just a short time ago, something was…

    Amiss.

    "Weren't you that Clawitzer from the bar back in Seahive?" Kiran asked. "What are you doing here?"

    "Hmrph, could ask you the same thing," the Water-Type harrumphed. "Weren't you skulking around Boisocéan in white scarves just a couple-"

    Crom, Kiran, Pladur, and Ander's eyes went wide at the shrimp's words, which prompted the ever-jittery Fraxure to hastily interrupt with a startled cry.

    "A-Aah! Don't say that so loud!" he yelped. The four grimaced and hastily scanned their surroundings, and discovered that mercifully, no other Pokémon in lavender scarves seemed to overhear Nagant’s nonchalant accusations. After seeing the coast was clear, the group turned their attention back to the now-scowling Clawitzer.

    "Hrmph, aren't you high strung today?" Nagant grunted back. "So then we agree a little privacy is good, yes?"

    Pladur and Ander exchanged warily looks for a moment in a stunned silence. Kiran was quick to catch up with the situation while Crom, far less experienced in such things as machinations, blinked at his father. Pladur and Ander quickly reached a wordless agreement, and the insect turned to Kiran, who nodded and relaxed his posture.

    Crom stared at his father, and after a moment he managed to read his pleading expression to play along the Clawlitzer's words.

    "That's… fair enough, but do make this short," Kiran sighed. "Conversations when one's fatigued are 50% harder to get through!"

    "Well, then, I suppose we should get started," the Water-Type answered. The shrimp gestured at the alley, and after waving them on ahead with her smaller claw, Crom and his companions warily made their way down the secluded lane. The five came to a stop with Nagant a short distance from the entrance amidst some alley clutter. The shrimp balanced atop her tail to get a better view of her audience, and chanced to notice a dusty, tattered checkerboard lying in a heap of worn and disused litter.

    "So now that we agree that the matter of where we've personally been is irrelevant," Nagant said as she clamped onto the tattered board. "I notice your missing 'crewmate' gets around quite a bit."

    "Er… you could say that," Ander buzzed. "He's technically closer to a missing person."

    "Ah… I'm sorry to hear," the shrimp replied, as she dusted off the checkerboard and began to absent-mindedly move her little claw along the board manipulating imaginary pieces. "But what lead you out here?"

    "Well... we heard that another Company ship was looking for him," Pladur explained. "So we followed them here."

    "Yeah, Commissioner Lyn's!" Crom added. As soon as his words left his mouth, Crom bit his tongue and grimaced after realizing that he had spoken too much. The Clawitzer seemed to pick up on the Dragon-Type’s words as well, as she looked up abruptly from her tattered checkerboard.

    "Hrm? If a Commissioner's already looking into the matter," the shrimp murmured, giving a forced tilt of her head. "Then aren't you a bit out of your league?"

    A faint smirk flickered over the wizened crustacean's face and drew nervous glances from Crom and his companions. There wasn't anywhere to run if they needed to, or at least nothing that would shield them from the Clawitzer's Water Pulses…

    Then perhaps, it would be better to try and deflect with something that Company members would surely be all too familiar with...

    "Er… well, we were hoping that if we found him first, we'd be able to get something out of it," Ander buzzed back.

    The shrimp shot back a withering glare at the four square-necks, before giving an unimpressed grunt and shaking her head.

    "Hmph, I should have expected as much from your type," Nagant muttered. "Though I suppose if nothing else, the Company's taught you how to take risks."

    The four collectively let out a sigh of relief, grateful that their rescuer seemed satisfied with their deflection. Though, now that the Clawitzer's curiosity seemed to be sated for now… perhaps they could return the favor a bit.

    "So, since we're asking," Kiran said. "Why did you come here?"

    "Yeah, you kinda saved our hides back there earlier," Pladur added.

    The Clawitzer paused, and nudged quietly at the checkerboard a little. With a shake of her head, she turned her attention back to her questioners and began to speak.

    "I'm a 'mon who gets around here and there with some associates," she answered. "You could say it's our job to stay privy to current events here in Anyilla."

    Crom, Kiran, Ander, and Pladur traded flummoxed looks with each other at Nagant's response. That hardly seemed like a detailed answer! Ander shook his head, before attempting to press the Water-Type for a bit more information.

    "Er… what do you mean by that-?"

    "Oi! There they are!"

    Only to be interrupted by a shout coming from the direction of the barrier. The five Pokémon whirled around, and saw that much to their surprise, there was a glaring Ledian and Floatzel with golden scarves poking over the wooden palisades. The Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow grimaced at the sight, as Nagant hastily leveled her large claw at the two pirates.

    "Yeah, you'd better look scared!" Rodion snarled. "We're going to-!"

    "Is something going on here?" a gravelly voice interrupted. Suddenly, an Arbok and a Golem with Company scarves rushed in from the path along the palisades at the end of the alleyway. The pair came to a hasty stop, trading glares with the golden-scarved Pokémon at the top of the palisades.

    "Yeah, you know what happens if your little disputes leave the barrier," the Arbok hissed. Nervous murmurs started coming from other pirates behind the wall, as Rodion's face contorted into a scowl, begrudgingly accepting that this wasn't a battle the crew would do well to fight.


    "Urgh, fine," the Floatzel growled. "But you pests won't be so lucky next ti-!"

    "Chotto matte! I'm from here!" the Ledian fumed, flitting over the wall. "I have every right to leave Andaku whenever I wan- Gack!"

    "Get moving, Kichiro!" Rodion huffed, yanking the Bug-Type back over the palisade before the situation could escalate any further.


    The pair from the Iron Fleet hastily ducked back over the wall, and the sound of hastily fleeing footsteps could be heard as the pirates slinked back for safer territory.

    "Well, that was a speedy resolution," Nagant scoffed. "Shame, I could've used the target practice."

    "You guys alright?" the Arbok asked. "What was that all about?"

    "Um… just a little argument we got into in Andaku," Kiran explained. "Nothing major."

    As the Arbok and Golem traded skeptical looks with each other, the Clawitzer turned and sized up the two new Company guards… and decided that perhaps she had stuck around in the alley for long enough.

    "Well, it seems you have work to get to," the shrimp said, hopping and turning for the alley exit. "Looks like I'll have to explain the matter another time. I've got a feeling we'll cross paths again."

    "We will?" Crom answered. "What makes you say that?"

    "Call it a sailor's instinct," Nagant replied, before giving an unimpressed scowl back at the group. "Oh, by the way, you're welcome."

    The shrimp hastily scuttled off grumbling about "Courtesy these days," past the Golem and Arbok as they traded blank and incredulous with each other. Crom and his companions warily headed out, and came face-to-face with the skeptical-looking duo.

    "Friend of yours?" the cobra wondered.

    "Er, I'm not sure, actually…" the little Druddigon muttered.

    "Well, whatever you were up to in there, be a little smarter next time!" the Golem snapped. "And make yourself useful instead of just standing there!"

    "R-Right!" Pladur stammered.

    As the skeptics carried on past the wall, Crom and his shipmates let out a collective sigh, before looking down the lane where Nagant had disappeared off to.

    "She's up to something, isn't she?" Crom asked.

    "She almost certainly was," Ander sighed. "But let's not worry about it too much right now."

    "Yeah, we're not going to get anything else looking around in this state!" Kiran exclaimed. "Let's go back to the ship and patch ourselves up and try and figure out where we haven't looked yet."

    The four tiredly looked back at the gate for Andaku, before setting off down the hill back for Aisle Town's docks for a return trip to the atoll. Had… had all of the work, the running and searching for the past two days been for nothing? If it was, then how were they supposed to find Pleo, Nida, and Elty? And where could they be?



    The sun set early that day on Mengir Island, as the winds picked up and dark, ominous clouds rolled in over the horizon from the Cradle's edge. Night soon followed, the inky, churning sky blotting out the moon and stars, prompting shopkeepers to close their shops early, and chasing townsfolk home early as rains and the sounds of distant peals of thunder came.

    Rumble

    A flash of lightning lit up the halls of the medic's hut as the Continent Tower´s Traveller began coming over the horizon. There, Salvini made her way for the room Team Traveller was held in, recounting in her head the plan she and the alleged had talked through.

    It sounded simple enough: make up an excuse to take over the current guard's shift, and then enter the room. From there, she'd free the kids from their restraints and give back their belongings. Trizano would then distract the guards outside with some Blast Seeds to draw them away from the window, before coming back around and using it as an entrance. Finally, they'd exit via the third room from the right along the tree-lined back of the hut, and fly to a diver who would take them to the Subway before the storm outside grew too strong.

    Rumble

    A plan that was so simple, and yet so risky, with its first major test right in front of her. Directly in front of the room she needed to get to was the current guard on shift: Payak, who was dangling from a silk strand from the ceiling and keeping a sharp watch over the door.

    "Well… here goes nothing," the Grovyle quietly murmured. Salvini approached her teammate, who upon seeing her, tilted his head and gave her a surprised look.

    "Salvini?" the Ariados asked. "What are you doing here? Are you here to keep me company or something?"

    "Captain Hertsog told me to take over your shift," the Grovyle said. "We've apparently needed to shift some positions around thanks to the storm picking up outside."

    "Huh? Veche? But my shift doesn't end for another hour," the spider protested. The Ariados gave the Grass-Type a puzzled look, which made Salvini uneasy for a moment, before she cleared her throat and doubled down on her ruse.

    "That's just what he told me," the reptile shrugged. "I don't make the rules any more than you do, I just pass them along and enforce them."

    "Well you don't have to tell me twice," Payak chittered. "This wouldn't exactly be the most fun job even without the storm, and I could use a drink if Everbloom hasn't closed down already."

    The spider shook himself loose of a silk mooring he had attached to the ceiling and scuttled away from the door, turning to the Grass-Type.

    "Take care of yourself, alright?" he said. "I've had a bad feeling about this mission all night, as if something was about to happen."


    The Grovyle faltered momentarily, before shaking her head and attempting to deflect her partner's misgivings.

    "Don't worry about it," Salvini responded. "You know me, if something comes my way, I won't be going anywhere without a fight."

    The answer seemed to satisfy the Bug-Type, who after a quick nod carried along, and disappeared down a rough staircase at the end of the hall. The Wood Gecko waited until the sounds of her companion faded away, and only the sound of faint snores, movements by other guards downstairs, and the storm were left behind.

    Salvini drew her right blade and slipped its tip into the keyhole of a padlock placed over the door. The Grass-Type whispered the instructions Trizano had given her earlier, feel for the pins, push them up, and...

    Click

    The gecko felt the padlock open, and instinctively yanked it off before pushing the door open, the wood creaking faintly as it moved. The Grass-Type quietly returned the door to its place minus its padlock, and crept forward towards the forms of four Pokémon who seemed to be uneasily dozing as the door closed behind her.

    Creeeeak

    The once-proud team had clearly been run ragged, their bodies still weak from their wounds earlier in the day. On a few of their faces, there were trails left behind from dried tears, and some of their bindings had shown stretch marks and streaks from fruitless attempts to wear through the ropes. The Grovyle began to extend the blades along her arms and made her way forward as...

    "Ah! S-Someone's in here!"

    A squeak from the Nidoran stopped Salvini in her tracks, the group evidently being less asleep than she assumed. A flash of lightning lit up the room, and cast the shadow of a figure with sharp blades jutting from its arms against the back wall, which raised a chorus of frightened squeals from the bound children. The Grass-Type’s eyes widened at the sudden racket, which prompted the reptile to hastily attempt to shush Team Traveller.

    "It's alright! It's alright! It's me, Salvini," she reassured.

    "Wh-What are you doing here?" Pleo asked.

    "If you're here, then that means Lyn-" Elty began, only to be cut off by a whisper from the Wood Gecko.

    "Will be too late to pick you up," she said, as she bent down, grabbed Nida, and pinned her down. The Nidoran went wide-eyed as she saw a blade towards her flank and froze out of fear.

    Snip

    The Nidoran flinched at the noise and instinctively bolted up and clutched at her flank, only to realize that she was unharmed, and… Wait a minute!

    "I can move again!"

    The Grass-Type quickly made her way to each of the remaining members of Team Traveller and with a few swift motions and snipping sounds, similarly cut them loose. Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia traded blank stares with each other, before looking back at this most peculiar Company grunt.

    "E-Eh? You're that Juptile from earlier," Guardia pressed. "What are you doing here?"

    "Getting you out of here, what's it look like?" she snapped. The gecko hastily dumped out some items from her bag, which on closer inspection were a stained, folded up bag; a bony club; a map and astrolabe; and three glinting, misshapen badges.

    "A-Aah! That's our stuff!" Nida cried. The four instantly set upon their belongings: Nida shook out the bag and slung it over her shoulder, Guardia latched back onto her club, and the lot of them began to repin each other's badges, only to notice that something was amiss with the sparse pile…

    "Where's the rest, though?" the Poison-Type asked.

    "I wasn't able to get it back in time," the Grovyle answered, shaking her head. "And, you there. Pleo, right? Can you fly right now? It'll be important for figuring out how to get you guys out of here."

    Pleo tried to get up and started beating his wings to lift himself above ground; it took a couple of tries to even get that straight, and managed a short impulse onward. Suddenly, Pleo’s expression turned to one of blunt pain and he forced himself to land, unceremoniously but at least not crashing hard on anything.

    "Nrgh!"

    "Ack!" Nida exclaimed. "Pleo, estás bien?!"

    "I- I mean, I flew," he murmured. "But when I stopped thinking about the singing outside, then my wing started to hurt again."

    "Singing?" Salvini wondered.

    "It's what he calls thunder and the sound of storms," Elty said. "Don't ask."

    "It'll have to do," the reptile sighed. The four members of Team Traveller skeptically looked at each other, as one burning question was on their mind...

    "Why are you helping us like this?" Guardia prodded. "Didn't you say earlier that you had to hurt us?"

    "Well… I happened to run into an old friend of yours," the gecko began. "And while I do want to protect this town… I realized that I didn't want to have to destroy the lives of some kids like you in order to do it."

    "An old friend of ours-?" Nida asked.

    SLAM

    The five Pokémon flinched at the sound of the door being thrown open, and watched with horror as a pair of glowing yellow eyes appeared high off the ground with strong, sharp claws embedded into the wood of the door. A large, lumbering draconic creature with stubby wings entered the room, as Team Traveller and Salvini started to turn pale.

    "I said I'd be back before returning to Vollezee," a rough, draconic voice voice growled. "I didn't expect that I'd encounter a common First-Rank like you in the middle of active treason."

    "A-Administrator Darzin?" the Grass-Type gulped. "What are you doing here?"

    "I'm here to take care of a few loose ends before setting off for the Capital," Darzin answered, shooting a steely glare at the five Pokémon before him.

    "And I'll be taking that bird with me."



    Author's Notes:

    - Ti si lud! (Ти си луд!) - Bulgarian: "You're mad!" / "You're crazy!" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Sidon (サイドン) - Japanese: "Rhydon" (Official Romanization)
    - Do svidaniya (До свидания) - Russian: "Goodbye" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Davvero? - Italian: "Really?"
    - Chotto matte! (ちょっと待って!) - Japanese: "Wait a minute!" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Veche? (Вeчe) - Bulgarian: "Already?" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Juptile (ジュプトル) - Japanese: "Grovyle" (Official Romanization)
    - (¿)estás bien? - Spanish: "are you alright?"
     
  18. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    Wow! Great cliffhanger there.

    I want to say first that I enjoy reading the little posts you have about how you came up with certain ideas and characters. It's something that I haven't seen in other fics around here, and it's a cool insight to your individual writing and research process.

    Over the last few chapters, Team Traveler has certainly managed some narrow escapes! Same with Crom and Pladur's group. It's the sort of intensity that keeps you riveted to the story, and I really like that.

    Missed a period on the first paragraph.

    Also, Pleo's snippet of dialogue here stands out. It's both endearing and sad at the same time. He cares so much about his friends, which is one of the strongest points of his character. Great job with that.

    And at the same time, it's so sad when they have to explain death to him. But it has to happen for everyone, at some point or another. The line overall exhibits a very good juxtaposition of two different emotive responses, IMO. ^^

    Aw.
    It will be interesting to see what Salvini does! Hopefully she is able to help them.

    Ooh, yes! All hope isn't lost for Team Traveler! Now let's just hope that they can get that far...

    xD That was funny. And also genius. Way to go, Kiran. :)

    :D Another part that made me laugh. If Vanillish are considered pretty, then I'm a Miltank. I do like their concept though. ^^

    Awesome! I'm glad that Salvini decided to help them. Definitely a good example of doing what's right, even if it differs from what you're "supposed" to do.

    Nooooo! D: So close! But yep, great cliffhanger. They were so close. Only time will tell if Team Traveler is able to get out of this one...And if so, how the dive underwater into the subway will go...

    Overall, these last two chapters have been great! :) I didn't notice any spelling or grammatical errors that weren't mentioned earlier in my post, and the story as a whole has been going quite nicely. Plot, characterization, setting, alternating between different viewpoints and scenes...all have been very consistent and well executed. If I notice anything amiss in the future, I'll let you know, but at this point, there's nothing! ^_^

    And thanks for not giving up on your story, either. This is a bit hypocritical of me lol, but...Too often in the fanfiction world, stories - often very good ones - are left abandoned! I guess it's different when you're posting one chapter at a time instead of writing the entire thing and submitting to a publisher. I'm only mentioning this because I've been reading a few really good stories on ff.net that haven't been updated in years, and I think they both ended with cliffhangers.

    So keep up the excellent work! I will be here for the next chapter!
     
  19. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    I'm glad you've been enjoying the trivia posts, and I'm also glad to hear that the cliffhangers have been doing their job in keeping the audience anticipated for what's coming next. Well, so far anyways.

    Fixed the period issue you pointed out. As for Pleo's lines, it just seemed like the sort of thing that would come naturally to a child who has a vague idea of what 'death' is, but hasn't really grasped its full enormity.

    Well, there's more than one way to use an orb. That said, I wouldn't want to try buying anything from that shop in a long while if I were Kiran. o3o;

    Yeah, I owe the thanks for the species of that line to an offhand conversation that I had with Virgil134. Glad it made you laugh, though.

    You'll find out how that will turn out this chapter.

    I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying the story so far, and I appreciate the thanks for sticking to my story. While things have been going a bit slower for me than normal, I plan on sticking out Fledglings until I can get to a point where I can satisfactorily wrap everything up for our favorite Rescue Team.

    On the topic of cliffhangers, I guess it's time that we moved on to resolving the current one. This chapter took a bit longer than planned to get out the door, and as the close to the current episode, it will be the last one that we'll see in-story with the familiar triple-menhir design you've been seeing over the last few chapters.

    My special thanks goes to Virgil134, Tangent128, solovino, and sugoitsu from ff.net, all of whom provided invaluable insight and guidance into helping to shape this chapter into what it is today. I'd also like to thank the people who have been reading and reviewing this story, since it both helps to keep the story alive and gives me an idea of what I need to do to polish a few rough edges.

    And with that, let's get back into the thick of things and see where that cliffhanger from last chapter goes:

    [​IMG]

    "I'm here to take care of a few loose ends before setting off for the Capital, and I'll be taking that bird with me."


    As the growling words of Administrator Darzin reverberated in the small room in the medic's hut, the blood in Team Traveller's veins went cold. The only thing standing in the way of the towering Dragonite was the much shorter and similarly startled-looking form of a Grovyle.

    Salvini hesitated as she cast a quick glance at the nervous faces of the kids behind her, and back at the glowering face of the Administrator in front of her. She knew she was both outranked and outmatched by the Dragonite, and that she wouldn't last long in a fight. But if she didn't do something, he'd walk out of the room with one of Team Traveller's charges before Trizano could rescue them!

    "I-I was just moving the prisoners," Salvini hastily answered. "They were direct orders from Administrator Zorn himself!"

    "So that's why you unbound them?" Darzin sneered. "Even if your little tale was true, it wouldn't matter."

    "Wh-Why is that?" the Wood Gecko stammered.

    "Because what Zorn doesn't know, Zorn doesn't worry about," the Dragon-Type huffed. "And last I was aware, he wasn't worried about anyone coming here."

    Salvini and Team Traveller blanched as the Dragonite started moving towards them and blue sparks of electricity started crackling along the antennae on his head.

    "If you want your little secret to stay just that, you'll hold that bird still as I- Graah!"

    Darzin felt a sharp pain at the base of his neck, and jerked backwards by reflex. After running a claw along his neck, he felt a long, fresh scrape with lukewarm, sticky liquid oozing out of it. The dragon growled and looked up to see Salvini had positioned herself in between him and Team Traveller, the three leaves on her right forearm now extended into a long blade.

    "I'm sorry, Administrator," she said. "I'm afraid that I can't be party to that."

    "Then I'll have you rewarded as a traitor deserves!" Darzin snarled. Flecks of a fiery, bluish aura began to sprout among his scales as the Dragonite charged at the Grovyle, only to come to a skidding stop as the gecko rolled and clambered up a wall. The Grass-Type planted her claws into the timbers and vaulted up, attempting to bring a blow with her blades down on the dragon's head in between two antennae that were starting to spark-

    "Ack!"

    Before the Wood Gecko could react, she felt a hot, numbing flow of electricity run through her body, which sent her pratfalling to the floor with a loud thud. As the Grass-Type desperately fought against her unresponsive and wobbly limbs to get up off the floor, she saw a claw balled up into a fist trailing bright-orange fire…

    THWAM

    Nida and the others watched as Darzin's flaming punch caught Salvini in her snout and sent her flying into a side wall with a sickening crash. The hapless Grass-Type fell against the ground, and slumped over, her burned and bruised body breathing weakly as the hulking dragon prowled closer and closer for the children. The still-shaken members of Team Traveller hastily dug their feet in and prepared for battle, the futility of the gesture from the worn and battered children eliciting derisive laughter from Darzin.

    "I see that that Tromban defiance is strong with your team, spike lump," he sneered. "Well unfortunately for you, it looks like your little rebellion here is short on both numbers and strength!"

    The Dragon-Type balled up his right fist, which began to smolder with orange embers. Darzin drew his fist back for a forceful punch, only to jump with a start at the sound of explosions outside to rock the room, intermingled with a commotion from the guards outside.

    "Ack! What was that?!"

    "It was coming from behind Everbloom!"

    "What on ear-?"

    Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia flinched as the sound of a great crash and wood splintering came from overhead. The table Payak had propped up along the window was forced in and flung forward in splintered pieces intermingled with silk tatters. As the dust settled, Team Traveller's members blinked incredulously as it became apparent that there was a presence with glinting, jagged feathers on the floor in front of them.

    "'Numbers and strength?' Your accounting is rather sloppy for an Administrator, Darzin!"

    "A-Aah!"

    Nida froze and her limbs went rigid as she saw that the creature in front of them was none other than the Skarmory they had run into at the square! Darzin quickly regained his footing, and charged his unwelcome intruder with a fierce howl and a flaming punch.

    "Get out of my way!"

    The reptile bore down on the Armor Bird, his balled-up claw connecting with a satisfying thwack against Trizano's left wing. The Steel-Type rolled along the ground, only to right himself, and lob a cutting gust of air back at the Dragon-Type's face.

    "Perhaps you should change your direction instead!" the Skarmory retorted.

    "ARGH!"

    Darzin lost his balance in a daze, and after a further cone of cinders from Elty, the Dragonite veered headlong into one of the side walls with a loud thud. As the dust settled, Trizano was left behind panting to inspect the room, along with a left wing whose metal feathers had become scorched and whose blades had melted and bubbled.

    "Seguimi! This way!" the Skarmory squawked. "Before he gets back onto his feet!"

    The Steel-Type darted for the opened door, Nida watching as Elty and Guardia charged ahead as best as their still-dull wounds would allow them. The Nidoran was snapped out of her petrified state by a squawking shove from behind.

    "Nida! Come on!" Pleo cried. The little spike ball shook her head and without thinking ran after Pleo's fleeing form, the two having made it to the doorframe when a crash and the noise of wooden planks snapping sounded out from behind.

    "No! I won't have victory snatched from my claws like this!"

    The Nidoran and Lugia whirled around and saw charging with a fiery, bluish aura starting to wreath Darzin's body. Nida went wide-eyed in panic and flicked a barb at the Dragonite, while Pleo shrieked and desperately brought a churning wind together between his wings.

    "A-Aah!"

    Crash

    The two looked ahead and saw Darzin embedded in the smashed window frame. The Dragonite seethed, and attempted to pull himself free only for the wall to suddenly creak and the timbers to give way and snap. At once, the wall came down with a loud crash, sending the Dragon-Type falling backwards into the alleyway outside with a bellowing yelp. Pained cries of "I've been hit!" and "My leg!" came from outside intermingled with the storm's howling winds and rains, leaving Nida and Pleo to stare, still shaken by the close call.

    "Oi! Hurry it up, you two!" Guardia called from behind. The Nidoran and the Lugia hurried along after her, ducking out into the hallway as the room's door slammed behind them. The now-trashed room in the medic's hut went back to its silence punctuated by confused cries outside...

    "Nrgh…"

    … along with the weakly stirring form of Salvini. As the Grovyle fought to parse the contours of the still spinning room with her distorted sense, she heard voices and hasty footsteps coming from the hallway.

    "Down there, that room on the right!" a harsh, elder voice barked.

    "Ack, it's been ransacked already!" a yipping, vulpine voice exclaimed.

    By the time she was able to lift herself up from the floor, a pair of guards had already burst into the room, and swooped down upon her. The Grass-Type felt a pair of paws with long wisps of fur drag her up, as Hertsog and Phyllis' faces filled her vision, worry etched on their visages...

    "Salvini!" Hertsog cried. "Dobre li si?!"

    "What happened here?!" Phyllis added.

    The Grovyle wearily raised her head up to meet her teammates, only to shift her gaze away from their eyes. She had gone against them in order to help Team Traveller escape, and what with Darzin still around, she would be hard-pressed to maintain her cover. If they found out… When they found out... would they understand?

    "It's alright," Salvini answered, giving a tired smile. "I was just doing my best to do the right thing."



    The four members of Team Traveller quickly followed Trizano into an empty room further down the hall. Nida hastily closed the door behind them and helped her teammates barricade the door with the room's furniture, as Trizano hopped over to inspect the window at the other end of the room. Having a small moment of peace, Nida took the chance to ask their rescuer a question that surfaced to her mind now that her breaths were coming slower and more controlled.

    "W-Why did you come back?" she demanded. "And what do you want from us?"

    "Because I promised your friend I would keep an eye out for all of you," the Skarmory answered "And-"

    Before Trizano could finish, he and the other Pokémon in the room could hear sounds coming from down the hallway. Trizano reluctantly shook his head, and turned towards Pleo

    ¨Pleo, can you fly again?¨

    "I… I think I can," Pleo stammered as he beat his wings.

    "Good, that will make this easier," Trizano murmured as he turned back towards the window.

    He took a step back and beat out his wings, sending several sharp gusts of wind towards the window. After a series of cracks and snaps, the Skarmory's attacks reduced the cross-bracing and the shutters into splintered fragments, intermingled with the tatters of drapes dangling in the front.

    "At least he handles those drapes better than you do, bonehea-" Elty whispered, only to be cut off by a swat from Guardia's bone.

    "Shut your trap, mutt!" she hissed. "If I wasn't injured right now, I'd give you worse!"

    "Enough!" Trizano squawked. "We can worry about that after we get into the-!"

    "L-Leave us out of this!" a squeaking voice suddenly cried. All eyes turned to Nida, who had her back arched and her barbs fanned out. The little rabbit staring wide-eyed at the Armor Bird all the while.

    "N-Nida?!" Pleo exclaimed. "I don't-"

    "Pleo, this Pokémon betrayed us!" she squeaked. "He's the reason why we got brought here in the first place!"

    Nida's teammates paused for a moment. He brought them to the medic's hut… where the Company was waiting for them… but...

    If he really did betray them… Why did he come back?

    "I didn't know about the ambush!" Trizano squawked. "And we can still get out of here if we hurry!"

    "A-And he seemed nice when we were coming to the hut!" Pleo added. "He couldn't be bad, could-?"

    CRASH!

    The team flinched as noises from the hallway were now much louder and closer, with muffled shouts of "check the next one" now intelligible from the outside. They turned to look at Trizano again, who was wide-eyed and breathing faster.

    "Look, I can't help Pokémon that don't want to be helped," Trizano pleaded. "Please, don't just throw everything away here!"

    "N-Nida," Pleo stammered "Y-you said we wouldn´t give up until we're home... right?"

    Nida paused and hesitated… She didn't really trust Trizano, especially because of what had happened with the last Skarmory she crossed paths with… But there really wasn't any other way out of this situation.

    Staying here in the medic's hut would mean they would get caught for sure. So then it was a choice between trusting a shifty and scary Pokémon, and giving up…

    Wait- Giving up? Nida's mind turned back to the fateful first night the team spent in Boisocéan, of the promise that she and Pleo made to each other to not give up on going home even if things looked impossible. Then... maybe she had to put her fears aside... for Pleo's sake.

    For everyone's sake.

    "No, we won't," Nida finally admitted, giving a hesitant nod. The Nidoran hastily hopped up the white bird and helped pull Elty and Guardia aboard. "Venga, vamos!"

    "Alright, then hurry then!" Trizano cried, as he lept onto the shattered window and hopped out. Pleo followed and took his place at the windowsill. There, in the midst of the sound of Pokémon just outside the room and Guardia's low whimpering, there was the harsh rain and the fierce winds of the storm...

    And that beautiful, soothing song carried along by the winds. The little Protector crouched, spread his wings, and leapt out into the raging storm ahead of him.

    CRASH!

    Back in the room, a Sudowoodo and a Stantler had forced their way into the room. At once, they noticed the sound of the winds howling from outside and saw the rain puddled on the floor under the smashed window.

    "Ack! They came through here!" the Stantler exclaimed. As the alarm was sounded and their compatriots in the hall bolted to call for aerial support, the reindeer and his partner went to the window as a flash of lightning lit up the sky.

    There, off in the air ahead, were the forms of two birds, charging ahead into the stormy night.



    Out in the skies over Fensedge Village, Trizano tore along with Pleo and his passengers in the pouring rain. The winds were growing strong, and flashes of lightning in the churning sky lit up drenched lanes that had been abandoned by townsfolk seeking shelter from the inclement weather. The flightless members of Team Traveller clung tightly to their perilous perches atop Pleo's back, breathing fast and shallow as the wind and rain whipped against them.

    "What do we do now?!" Nida cried.

    "Just follow me!" Trizano shouted back, doing his best to overcome the sound of the heavy wind and rainfall. "Once we´re a few knots offshore, we'll see the diving spot to get you-"

    Before the Skarmory could finish his explanation, a Hyper Beam sliced through the air, narrowly clipping his wings. Pleo squawked with a start, and the group of five Pokemon looked back to see the burning column had come from the Medic's hut. There, a few dark figures were dashing down the lanes, with several fliers who were alerted by the beam giving chase in the air.

    "Hang on!" Trizano exclaimed. "We're gonna have to outrun them!"

    Pleo weaved to dodge a fiery bluish beam from an Altaria. Then came a near-miss from a slashing gust of air, followed by a crackling bolt of electricity. Despite their best efforts, the airborne pursuers were catching up fast and the attacks were growing tighter and tighter.

    "Agh!"

    Including the Flamethrower from a Fletchinder that scorched Trizano's tail feathers. The Skarmory lurched forward and fought to maintain his momentum, he couldn't let the kids down, not when they were all so close here!

    Woosh!

    A sudden gust of turbulent air ripped through the sky and sent Trizano jerking up as muddled cries rang out from behind. The Steel-Type fought with the whistling winds and the torrential rains and was finally able to work his way out of a stall. A seed of panic grew in Trizano's gut as he whipped his head around wildly to try and catch a glimpse of Pleo below. An inexperienced flier like the kid would surely not have held his altitude-

    "Eh?!"

    Only to see that the white bird was sailing along every bit as smoothly as when he'd first taken flight from the medic's hut!


    "Since when did you learn to fly like that?!" the Skarmory squawked. The Lugia drew his good wing up to his beak and chirped back a response that, although muddled by the howling winds, still managed to reach Trizano's ears.

    "The song in the air makes it easier to fly!" he cried. The Skarmory blinked incredulously, a 'song'? As in this racket the storm was kicking up?

    "Whatever you meant by that, just keep it up!" he called. The Steel-Type redoubled his efforts and with a bit of work was able to pull ahead of Pleo again… only to fall behind shortly after thanks to having to fight the weather to regain his position over and over again.

    The 'song' of the storm was hardly 'invigorating' to Pleo's passengers either. Between furtive glances at her teammates, Nida saw Guardia was fixed to Pleo's plumes with her eyes screwed firmly shut to block out the ordeal. Elty similarly wasn't taking the storm well, as Nida saw the Growlithe was balled up and shivering from the drenching rains.

    But… there weren't any more attacks coming their way coming. Yes, the wind was howling and the rain was pouring buckets, but their airborne pursuers weren't attacking them for some reason… After the Nidoran looked behind, she gave a surprised squeak when she discovered that their pursuers were nowhere to be seen. The storm must have driven them off! As scary as flying through the tumultuous cloud was, it did have quite the silver lining...

    "Ah! Pleo you- you did it!" she cried. "We're free! We're really-!"

    The festive atmosphere was suddenly cut off by a loud peal and a bright flash from above, sending Pleo jolting downwards. Nida shrieked and Elty yelped, the two of them instinctively jerking from the light and din, and almost rolling off of Pleo. The young Lugia hastily corrected himself, as a concerned squawk came from the Skarmory ahead.

    "Ack! Are you alright?!"

    Which prompted the two to look behind them wide-eyed to see a warily peeking Cubone with static dancing on her hide and helmet, clinging tightly to her club and Pleo's back.

    "Wh-What was that?! I-Is it over?!"

    "... B-Bądź tu mądry. I had forgotten about you being one of those living lightning rods," Elty spat. "Next storm, you're swimming on your own."

    "F-Fine! You can take the hit next time!" Guardia snapped back.

    Nida breathed a sigh of relief. Pleo was soaring with ease now, and even the storm seemed to be letting up, the parting clouds revealing a cluster of sea rocks just ahead in the choppy waters. Maybe they weren't quite home free yet, but the bickering was a sign that things were starting to return to normal...

    … until Pleo suddenly gave a pained cry. The young Lugia's left wing froze and stiffened mid flap, causing the white bird to pitch, roll, and fall out of the sky alongside his passengers.

    "AAAAAAAAAH!"

    Nida tumbled head over heels through the sky, her shrieks along with those of her teammates piercing the din of the fading storm in the background. Suddenly, the Poison-Type felt a heavy metallic claw trying to grab her, one that reminded her of that fateful trauma in the Mystery Dungeon back home. The spike ball screamed and instinctively flailed to try and escape it, breaking the claw's grip. The Nidoran then attempted to sprint away for cover, only for her feet to find empty air...

    SPLOOSH

    And to feel the wet smack of seawater as she was swallowed by the churning waves. The Nidoran felt the seawater seep into her ears as she sank deeper, but soon felt her body rise again and her head break the surface of the water. Nida gasped for air, only to get hit in the face by a wave and sent back under the surface.

    As the Nidoran drifted back under the waves thoughts of Bluewhorl, Crom, and her family flickered across her mind. All of the worries they had about her, all the prayers they had surely said… and here she was, drowning in the sea far away from home as the fates deigned to sneer at their hopes and dreams.

    Sploosh!

    Nida heard something slicing into the water and felt her body get pulled upwards. Her head left the water, then her back, and even her legs. As Nida coughed and spluttered, she realized that she was airborne, and that metallic claws were clamped tightly around her shoulders.

    "Don't worry, I've got you now!"

    As Nida blinked away the seawater from her eyes, she felt wet, stony ground underfoot and rolled to a stop after the claws let her go. The Nidoran looked down and saw she was on an outcropping of worn, wet stones. The Poison-Type weakly raised her head and saw the form of a Skarmory heading away from her and back out into the ocean, when she realized…

    She was completely alone. Pleo... Elty... Guardia… not one of them was with her on that rock.

    Nida jerked herself up and looked around, her only company being the churning waves and the departing storm in the distance. The Nidoran thought of Elty, of Guardia, of the promise she had given to go home with Pleo… would she be able to keep any of those now?

    Tears began to well up in the Poison-Type's eyes and she curled her ears and body in into a pathetic ball as the awful enormity of what had just happened came upon her. Just as she felt a sob rising from her throat, Nida felt a gust of wind blow by her. Glancing up, she found Trizano skidding to a stop on the slick rocky shore.

    "Never fear, fellow hunter!" he called, over the din of the storm.. "It's under control!"

    Trizano pointed a wing offshore with a grin. Squinting, the Poison-Type realized she could see Pleo timidly paddling back to shore. A second later she also resolved the forms of Elty and Guardia... but they weren't on Pleo's back. There was a brown, fast-moving creature with a chitinous shell, a light blue band with a red dot worn as a choker, a small chest in a bag made of twine netting slung along his back, and scythe like arms swimming aside Pleo, carrying their other two teammates coughing and shivering from being abruptly dropped into the sea.

    "You- You saved us…" Nida murmured.

    "All in a day's work for a Warrior of Life," the Skarmory chirped. "And I did have a dutiful sidekick."

    The Skarmory gestured over to Dimitri as he drew near along with Pleo to soggy sea rocks. The creature scrabbled up the stony outcropping with his scythe-like claws, and left Elty and Guardia to tumble off his back onto solid ground panting as Pleo uneasily waddled up the rocks with his left wing hanging awkwardly at his side.

    "You didn't tell me that I'd have to fish your team out of the sea too, Trizano!" the horseshoe crab chittered. "Make your mission details a bit clearer next time!"

    The Nidoran paused and stared at the large creature with the sharp claws, before blinking and turning uneasily towards Trizano.

    "Trizano?" Nida asked. "Who is this?"

    "An ally, but there will be time to explain later," the Steel-Type answered. "You've had a rough landing, and we should get you dried off a bit first."



    Back at Mengir's medic hut, a Luxio medic was inspecting Salvini's wounds as she laid down on a disturbed, but still functional bed of straw. There, her Mienshao, Leafeon, and Ariados teammates ringed around her anxiously, attempting to get a better understanding of just what happened earlier.

    "All I remember is feeling something burning, and after I took a swing with my blades, I got slammed against the wall," the Grovyle said.

    "And you're sure you didn't see anything at all?" Hertsog asked skeptically. "If those pirates slipped past our defenses, we'll be back to square one if we don't know who rescued them."

    "And if we don't put that demon away, just think of all the chaos it could cause!" Phyllis cried. "And what if it comes back here?!"

    "I'm sorry, that's really all that I know," the Grass-Type sighed.

    "But you were right there with them in the same room!" Payak chittered. "I mean look at these ropes! They were cut through with something sharp! Didn't you hear anything spiky coming down the hallway or anything?"

    The gecko looked down at the ground. Lying to her friends was far from favorable, but after what she had done it was necessary if she wanted to save herself. She looked back up to her teammates and reluctantly spoke up.

    "Well-"

    "There she is!" a bellowing voice suddenly interrupted. The four Pokémon flinched as a livid Dragonite barged into the room with an Amoonguss and Magnemite in Company garb at the door's entrance. As Hertsog and his charges sized up the new arrival, they noticed that the Dragon-Type bore an Administrator's scarf and a fresh laceration along the side of his neck.

    "That's the traitor!" the dragon roared. "Arrest her!"

    "Eh…?" the Magnemite asked. "But it looks like the Captain has this under control."

    "Yeah, if you knew he was already here, what was the point of dragging us along?" the Amoongus pressed.

    "Tr-Treason?" the Mienshao spluttered. "Administrator Darzin, I'm not sure if I under-"

    "I found your subordinate cutting your prisoners loose!" the Dragon-Type snarled. "And this is how she repaid me!"

    The Dragonite gestured at a ruddy laceration on the side of his neck, and after looking back at the cut bindings, Phyllis and Payak turned their attention to their Grovyle teammate…

    And noticed that the ends of the leaves along her right arm were stained a deep red.

    "A-Aah!" the Marked Leafeon cried "You really did let them go!"

    "Salvini, what is wrong with you?!" the Ariados hissed. "How could you just betray this town like that?! How could you betray us like that?!"

    Salvini faltered and shifted her gaze to the ground. She had hoped that she would have been able to get an understanding audience from her companions. That they would understand why she let the kids go if she explained what was happening, but... perhaps it just wasn't possible.

    "Stiga!"

    The sound of a Mienshao's sleeve whipping through the air rang out, as Hertsog bared his teeth and glared at the Pokémon in the room, before turning his attention back to the Administrator.

    "Administrator Darzin, even for someone with your rank, these aren't accusations to be making lightly!" the weasel piped. "Charges of treason can end someone in our ranks!"

    "They're not accusations, they're the truth!" the Dragonite snarled back. "And if I don't see her leaving this room in binds in the next thirty seconds, I'll have you reported for abetting her!"

    The Fighting-Type paused, and turned reluctantly back to his Grass-Type subordinate. After an uneasy pause, Hertsog finally spoke.

    "Salvini, you don't have anything to hide from the rest of us..." he prodded. "Do you?"

    The Grovyle froze upon hearing her captain´s words. She didn´t want to lie into the same face of someone who has been such an inspiration to her, but... she probably couldn´t deny Darzin´s accusations forever, meaning she had to come clean at some point.

    In that case... maybe she technically didn´t have anything to hide after all.

    "No, I don't," she replied.

    "Then I apologize if this proves to be premature," the weasel sighed, before turning to Payak and Phyllis.

    "Restrain her," he ordered. "I'll see if Administrator Zorn is available for a spot judgement tonight, hopefully we can get to the bottom of this."

    Hertsog pulled Salvini's arms behind her as Phyllis guarded her from the front, still wide-eyed with betrayed incredulity. She felt Payak spin silk around her wrists, and then around her snout, clamping them firmly shut against sticky bindings.

    "Hrmph, good riddance," Darzin harrumphed. "And I'll be-"

    "Getting that wound of yours treated so you can testify, I presume," Hertsog finished. The Dragonite huffed and pulled his antennae back against his head as he gave a displeased snarl.

    "I'm running late!" he fumed. "I would think that a mere Second-Rank as yourself would know better than to try and tell me what I ought to prioritize my time on!"

    "Administrator Darzin, you're the lead witness in this case," the Fighting-Type insisted. "If it's really such an open-and-shut matter, what would Administrator Zorn think about some complication that came up because of your absence?"

    Darzin froze and gritted his teeth. If the traitor were to single him out for being in the room, it could splash unwanted suspicion from Zorn on him. On the other claw, suddenly backing out now would be even more unseemly in appearance...

    "Rrgh, fine," the dragon spat. "But you can rest assured that you will regret wasting my time like this!"

    The Dragonite stormed out of the room, as the Magnemite and Amoonguss who had accompanied him continued to poke their heads into the room along with a growing cohort of uneasy-looking guards.

    "What are you all doing just standing there?!" the Fighting-Type snapped. "Get out there and search for those pirates!"

    The guards flinched at their captain's rebuke, and hurried down the hall as Hertsog shook his head with a sigh, prompting Phyllis and Payak to turn to Salvini and shove her along.

    "Come on, we're going," the Ariados hissed. "And we are getting an explanation for this!"

    As Salvini marched alongside her teammates, she looked back where the storm continued to churn outside the shattered wall. She had done her part, now the rest would be up to the kids and that 'Immortal'. She shook her head, and under the bonds of her muzzled snout, mouthed the little support she could still give.

    "Good luck out there..."



    After a tired, limping walk down to the less seedy piers of Mossaisle Town and a ride on the Siglo Swellow's Mantine sea escort, Crom, Kiran, Pladur and Ander found themselves back at the Company's shipyards on the ringing atoll. There, they made their way back to the Siglo Swellow, where they patched up their wounds, and gathered tiredly at the docks beside their craft.

    "Spending the entire day in a district full of pirates just to hit a dead end. Just our luck," Ander sighed. "Where exactly do we try looking now?"

    The team looked down at the ground, clearly at a loss on what to do next now their trail had run cold. The lead that they'd gotten from the Cubone seemed to be so promising, and they had even found the Pokémon that tried to ambush Team Traveller… only to discover that Valatos and the others were just as clueless as the bone lizards about where Nida, Pleo, and Elty had gone off to!

    Wait a minute… Were they really so clueless? Suddenly, the Swellow of the group ruffled his feathers uncomfortably, as a dawning realization crept upon him.

    "Wait a minute," Kiran said "Those three Cubone we spoke to earlier…"

    "Eh? Those ferals we ran into sneaking around town?" Pladur asked "But they're the ones who sent us on this fool's errand in the first place!"

    "That's the point, Pladur. They knew about Pleo but pointed us towards someone who didn't know where he went," Kiran insisted. "If I were to make an educated guess, I'd say that they know 100% more about where he really is than what they told us."

    "Wait, does this mean we have to go look for them in the Mystery Dungeon?" Crom asked. The young dragon's words drew a collective blanch from the four Pokémon. Traversing Mystery Dungeons was already an ordeal in itself, but having to find three specific ferals who knew the dungeon better than they did on top of that? Why, even tracking down outlaws and pirates at least had the benefit of a scarf to help identify them!

    Before the four could dwell on the daunting task ahead of them for too long, a voice called out to them from above.

    "Oh, there you are!"

    A whooshing sound caught the four Pokémon's ears and prompted them to look up. There, coming in for a flapping stop was the lavender, leathery-winged form of none other than...

    "Oh! Kellner!" Crom cried. "What are you doing here?"

    "Your day's been better than ours, I hope?" Pladur sighed.

    "I've been looking all over for you!" the Rock-Type exclaimed. "I heard that some of our own got chased all around Andaku earlier."


    The group shifted uneasily and traded sheepish looks with one another at the Flying-Type's question. After a few false starts, a deflated sigh came out before the Marked Scyther among them finally responded to the Aerodactyl guard.

    "Yeah, that was us," Ander finally sighed. "That lead that we got didn't quite pan out."

    "Ah, I see…"

    The Aerodactyl gave a tired shake of his head, and now that Crom and the others noticed it, he seemed to have a grim look on his face. Kiran bobbed his head quizzically and decided to try and press the matter.

    "You never did answer us about how your day went," he said.

    "It was… fine, really," the Rock-Type answered reluctantly.

    "That hardly sounded like a convincing answer," the Swellow grunted. "You're sure everything went alright?"

    "... I don't think it really matters," Kellner sighed. "At the least it didn't involve getting chased around by a bunch of brigands."

    The Aerodactyl attempted to put on a brave face and wave the matter off, only for his burdened and tired movements to betray him. Kiran thought about what might be gnawing at the creature before them, and after thinking back to their time in Aisle Town, realized that there was something that could explain Kellner's mood.

    "Does this have anything to do with that talk we had earlier in town?" the bird pressed.

    "It… might have something to do with that, yes," Kellner admitted. The pterosaur shook his head bitterly and stamped his feet against the wooden dock before turning back to his questioners.

    "It never ceases to amaze me that in a town with literal 'mons of fortune on our shores, that our own ranks would be so completely lacking in backbones to actively extort the townsfolk that go out of the way to stay innocent of those brigands' dealings," the Aerodactyl fumed. "Honestly, if I didn't know any better, I'd think they were but a bunch of fellow pirates running our lavenders through the mud!"

    "Er… but aren't some of the Company Pokémon here actually pirates though?" Crom asked. "I mean, they're former ones, but still."

    "Also, do be mindful that some of us literally don't have backbones here," Ander retorted with an unimpressed buzz.

    "... You know what I meant," Kellner sighed. "I don't know, I know that there's other Pokémon like me on the force who are trying their hardest to actually protect this town… but in between all the petty extortion and bullying going on, I sometimes wonder if our efforts really matter."

    "Huh?" Pladur said. "But why wouldn't they matter?"

    "... What do you mean by that?" the pterosaur replied, blinking a few times in uneasy surprise.

    "If Pokémon like you didn't try to help others out, then it would just be letting awful Pokémon fill the void in your place!" the Fraxure cried. "Does Aisle Town really need more bullies?"

    "No, it doesn't," the Aerodactyl growled emphatically. "This order keeps the town from falling into an abyss of lawlessness and the Empire's caprices, but there's so many things that just sit here and fester… and nothing ever seems to change."

    "That didn't seem to stop you from helping those ferals earlier, did it?" Kiran chirped. The Aerodactyl paused, taken aback at the Swellow's question. After giving a puzzled tilt of his head, Kellner gave a gruff-sounding grunt in response.


    "I'm not sure if I see what you're getting at," the Rock-Type answered. "I was being a good 'mon there, and having Company lavenders doesn't preclude me from that."

    "That's my point. I don't really know about everything that goes on here in this town, but maybe the best thing to do for now is to just do what you can along with those Pokémon like you," Kiran explained. "To show by example to the Pokémon in this town that there are souls in the ranks who aren't just out to squeeze them for berries and Thalers, and cut deals with pirates for short-term peace."

    "Is that what they've been doing where you're stationed?" Kellner asked.

    "Er… well, we try..." Crom began, only to pause and remember a promise they had made to Margi and Daraen. A promise to clear their names, and to do the right thing while in Company lavenders.

    "Uh… actually," he murmured "There was kinda something about the 'doing what we could' that we needed a little help with."

    "Care to elaborate?" the Rock-Type pressed.

    "Well, before we pulled into port here, we made a stop at Boisocéan," the little Druddigon answered. "When we were there, we ran into a Marked Hydreigon who was packing up to leave because of a Commissioner who falsely accused her of piracy."

    "Wait a minute, but I've seen this bounty before," the pterosaur replied, giving a skeptical raise of his brow. "You're telling me that it's a false accusation?"

    "I know it sounds ridiculous, but that's really what happened!" Crom insisted. "And that Hydreigon said that she got a bounty issued against her as revenge and that she was having to fly away with her child-"

    "I will see what I can do about it," Kellner interrupted.

    "Huh?"


    Crom and the others noticed then that a serious look had swept over the Aerodactyl's face. The pterosaur grit his teeth in indignation, and his eyes burned with a fiery determination at the young dragon's words.

    "The Hydreigon. Even if she's guilty as charged, her child shouldn't be brought into this at all," he growled. "I might not be that high up in the ranks, but I can still point out a flawed bounty when I see one!"

    "It really would mean a lot," Pladur said.

    "Well, then don't worry about it," the Aerodactyl insisted. "It's something that I can handle."

    The Rock-Type turned and spread his wings for take-off, only to pause and falter. The creature had gave a skeptical, hesitant glance, but after a moment, the creature shook his head and turned back to face the four Pokémon of the Siglo Swellow.

    "Actually… since you seem to be trying to doing your own part to try and do what's right in those lavenders…" Kellner began. "There was one other thing that I might be able to help with."

    "How so?" Ander asked.

    "I overheard the Cubone chattering among themselves on the way back to the Mystery Dungeon. One of them mentioned that that 'Pleo' Pokémon you were looking for earlier moved on to Mengir," Kellner explained. "I was actually about to update the bounties at the main hall with that information so the wannabe bounty hunters on the force would get back to work and leave the townsfolk be."


    As soon as the words left Kellner's maw, the four members of the Siglo Swellow jumped with a start. Crom, Kiran, Ander, and Pladur all chattered wildly and incredulously at the implications of the Aerodactyl's discovery.

    "Ah! Those Cubone were hiding something!" Kiran squawked. To the side, Crom sidled up against his father and tugged at his arm curiously.

    "Wait, Mengir?" Crom whispered.

    "It's a sleepy island that lies closer to Cradle's edge than most others," Pladur explained. "A lot of storms blow in there from the Wastes."

    "I'll admit, it's not the most solid of leads," the Aerodactyl replied. "But I figured that if anyone needed the advance notice, it would be you."

    "There's supposed to be a morning fog tonight," Ander said. "If we start loading now, we might be able to beat it out of port."

    "Right!" Pladur cried. "I'll go tell Captain Beatrix!"

    As the Fraxure hurried off, Kiran turned back to give his thanks to the Aerodactyl, who now seemed unburdened of his earlier gloom.

    "Thank you so much for that, Kellner," the Swellow chirped. "You don't know how important this i-"

    "Hey!"

    Before the Swallow Pokémon could finish with his thanks, he was cut off by the sudden arrival of Natrix and Philips. The Servine and Raichu duo casually carried along the docks waving to Crom and his companions up ahead, and turned to notice that their acquaintance from the grounds had come by again.

    "What's all the fuss here about?" Natrix asked.

    "Yeah, and where's Pladur? Philips added.

    "Kellner here just told us where Pleo and the others are!" Crom exclaimed. "He's out at Mengir Island!"

    At once, the color began to drain from the pair's faces and the two went rigid and wide-eyed, as if they had seen a ghost.

    "He's… out on Mengir?" Philips murmured.

    "What's with that look? It's great news, isn't it?" Crom said. "Now we know where they are!"

    "Well, we heard around the docks that there was a suspicious ship spotted offshore, until it set off eastward around sundown!" the Servine exclaimed.

    "Wait, but why is that an issue for us?" Ander asked.

    "Because when Natrix and I thought that maybe the ship would be a lead, we asked around ships who had come and gone recently," the Raichu answered. "And we found out that Lyn's ship left just before that shady ship did, and going the same route!"

    Crom, Kiran and Ander blanched as an awful realization began to dawn on them. Pleo was out on Mengir Island, which was east of Kenobi, but if Lyn was also heading eastward...

    Then he too had discovered where Team Traveller fled to.

    "We need to get moving," Kiran murmured. "We need to tell the rest of the crew about Lyn. Pat should be back by now, so we can push the ship off and-"

    "Why are you in such a rush?"

    The team froze and stared blankly for a moment, realizing that in their rush to get moving they had just blurted out everything in front of Kellner. Crom turned to the Aerodactyl with an expression that betrayed his discomfort with further questioning, and attempted to stammer a response to deflect his curiosity.

    "Uhm… er… that's because..." Crom began. The little dragon tried to come up with some excuse, only to keep fumbling over his words, lacking the gift of gab that Guildmaster Hatteras might have had.

    "Because…"

    "It has to do with those bounties, doesn't it? Is there something wrong with what's written?"

    "Huh?!"

    "Were the others also falsely accused?" the Aerodactyl demanded.

    "Yeah, they were," Kiran answered. "And if we don't catch them first, their lives are going to get ruined over stuff they never did!"

    "And you're off to go and try to do something about it?"

    At that, Kiran and the others remained there in silence, trading anxious, intent looks with the Aerodactyl. The fossil Pokémon looked at one and another for a moment, then craned his head and gazed away from them.

    "Well, I'll let you get to it. After all, I'm going to need all the help doing the right thing from inside the service that I can get, aren't I?"

    The team let out a collective sigh of relief, giving their thanks to the Travellers above that Kellner took them at their word in spite of how outlandish it must have seemed to him.

    "Thanks Kellner," Crom nodded. "We won´t let you down! We promise!"

    Kellner watched as the Pokemon from the Siglo Swellow waved him off and ran down the docks. As the group faded into the busy masses, the Aerodactyl turned to go back to his same old post, to the same old job, on the same old schedule...

    Except, for the first time in ages, he went back with hopeful spirits and the wind under his wings.



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
  20. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    "Ow! That hurts!"

    The sound of a startled cry came from the lonely sea rocks offshore Mengir, as Pleo sat on the worn sea stone catching his breath with the rest of Team Traveler as they recovered from their splashdown. The young Lugia hastily jerked his left wing back against his body and gave a fussy glare at Trizano before nudging at it with his beak as his teammates watched under the light of a waxing moon, Guardia taking particular care to shift her gaze from it. The Skarmory guide tilted his head and gave a final inspection at the injured wing before shaking his head with a sigh.

    "It looks like our little escape might have worsened your sprain," he said. "It's nothing that won't get better with a little time, but you really do need to stay off your wings for a few days."

    "Eh?" Guardia asked. "But if his wings were really so bad, how come he was able to fly us all this time? How come he didn't crash as soon as he jumped from the wall-hole?"

    "Well, I didn't really notice how much it hurt until I couldn't hear the song anymore," Pleo answered, casting a glance back at the storm continuing to recede in the background. Nida flicked her ears puzzledly and cast a glance over at the dark clouds in the distance, when a realization caught her.

    "Pleo didn't seem to have any trouble up until the storm started to let up," she murmured. "I mean, it sounds kinda crazy, but what if there really is some sort of 'song of storms' that he can hear?"

    "So then he really is a god of storms," Guardia murmured. As the Cubone gaped and prodded awedly at the young Lugia before her, Elty's expression started to turn sour. The Growlithe realized that there was a huge complication for the team's efforts to leave Mengir for a safer place, one to which there didn't seem to be any immediate solutions...

    "Well that's just great," Elty huffed. "But how exactly does that help us get away when the mewa can't fly?"

    "That's where I come in," Dimitri said. "Trizano told me you four needed a dive down to the Subway."

    Elty's ears instantly flattened out along with a disgusted "Ugh, are we really doing this?" at the mention of the Subway, as his teammates gave puzzled glances at the horseshoe crab. Guardia in particular seemed to be a bit unnerved at the idea of diving, which prompted her to press a bit more about this 'dive'.

    "Dive? As in in the water?" she demanded accusingly. "Just where are you taking us?"

    "Hm? Don't you know what the Subway is, yashcherka?" the Kabutops asked. "It's a network of air tunnels on the seafloor for airbreathers like you. After accounting for changes in air pressure, I should be able to get you there in seven to eight minutes."

    "S-Seven to eight minutes?!" she cried, hoisting her bone defensively. "M-Masaka! We'll drown before you get us down there!"

    "Don't be so sure about that," Trizano answered. "Any diver who would be willing to take passengers knows how to use Dive and form an air bubble. Care to give them them a demonstration, Dimitri?"

    "With pleasure," the Water-Type chittered.

    Dimitri leapt into the water and began to swim in a circling arc around the sea rocks as his bag clung to his back plates. After the seas calmed for a moment, the Kabutops began to cut through the water faster, leaving a growing bubbly trail in his wake.

    Elty and Guardia traded puzzled stares with each other, only for Dimitri to swing around and suddenly throw his scythes out in a spreading motion. The bubbly wake suddenly opened up into a large trough that the crab swam down, which with a great crash closed over him.

    "Oh yeah, that's real confidence inspiring," Elty snorted, only to be cut off by an excited chirp.

    "Wait! Elty, look!"

    The little Lugia gestured with his healthy wing at a small trail of bubbles reaching the surface. Below them swam the form of Dimitri, bobbing along with a much bigger bubble attached to his back.

    The four stared mesmerized, as the shape came back up from the depths, and the bubble burst as the horseshoe crab reached the surface.

    "See, nothing to fear," he insisted, before moving a scythe under his mouth and giving his head a puzzled tilt. "Er… once I figure out how to fit all of you on my back."

    Team Traveller looked at each other hesitantly, unsure what to do. Undaunted, Trizano ruffled his feathers and cleared his throat.

    "Hrm… Well... I remember that in my past travels, I occasionally ran into Pokémon who would form towers atop each other so they could pool their strengths when exploring," he said. "If you did that, you'd easily fit on Dimitri's back!"

    "Sounds more like a great way for someone to drown," Elty spat. "If we all made a tower, we wouldn't be able to fit inside some dinky bubble!"

    "Eh?" Pleo asked. "But wouldn't you just be riding me like always?"

    Elty blinked before folding his ears back out of embarrassment. How had the mewa thought of that on the spot but not him?

    "Oh, so that's what you meant," the Growlithe sheepishly replied. "Well, I guess it could work …"

    Dimitri lowered himself against the rocks to allow Pleo to latch onto him. The little Lugia pushed Dimitri's bag up along his shoulders to provide a resting place for his head, and struggled for a moment to put his left wing in place. Afterward, Nida, Elty, and Guardia made their way onto Pleo's back and hunkered down, just in case Dimitri's bubble was smaller than expected. As the vampire crab flattened out and pushed off into the choppy waters to circle the rock, Pleo looked back at Trizano on the stone outcropping… and shifted uncomfortably as a nagging worry surfaced back up to his mind.

    "What about Salvini...?" he murmured.

    Pleo and his companions listened for some reassurance from Trizano, only for the Steel-Type to remain speechless, a serious look coming over his eyes. Nida and the others were quick to see this as a signal that, in the end, something had gone wrong. They traded concerned looks with each other, until Pleo turned his attention back to the Immortal.

    "Trizano?" Pleo pressed.

    "She took a risk to help you all escape…" he finally admitted.

    "Eh?!" the Lugia cried. "You mean she's in trouble?!"

    "But we can't just leave her like that!" Nida exclaimed.

    "Fear not. The Immortal Trizano doesn't forget a Pokémon in need," the Skarmory reassured. "If I can help her, I will. But if I can't…"

    The Skarmory shook his head and ruffled his feathers uncomfortably, evidently thinking of all the same what-ifs that were troubling Team Traveller.

    "You need to honor her wishes," he said. "And make the most of the risk that she took for you."

    Nida and the rest of the team lowered their heads and assumed the certainty of the situation, ones more than the others. Pleo shifted uneasily, reminded of how others had put themselves on the line for him.

    "I don't know what we can really do anymore," Elty answered. "But we'll try."

    "Yeah, for the Juptile's sake…" Guardia began. The Cubone trailed off until, all of a sudden she noticed something amiss with Trizano's left wing. Hadn't that Darzin majū hit it with a burning punch earlier? But the wing looked flawless, with nary a sign of any scorching or melting to be seen!

    "Eh?! Your wing!" the Ground-Type cried. "I thought that it got burned earlier!"

    "Now that she mentions it," Dimitri said, giving a puzzled tilt of his head. "I could've sworn that your tail feathers were messed up, too."

    The Skarmory looked down at his mysteriously healed wing and tail and gave a bemused, knowing shake of his head.

    "An Immortal can't divulge all of his secrets. I will say though, that you four have already seen a glimpse of the truth back in that Mystery Dungeon," he replied. "I'll explain when our paths cross again, and knowing your friend, they will cross again. But until then…"

    Trizano turned to glance back at the island they had escaped, the silhouettes of its needle-like peaks coming into view with the moonlight as the storm began to slowly recede.

    "I have a partner to try and help," he said. "Farewell, fellow Hunters."

    "Goodbye, and thank you," Pleo replied.

    The Skarmory gave one last wave, before turning around and flying off back towards Mengir and the storm. Dimitri began his journey away from the rocks, weaving here and there in search for stiller waters. During the journey, the Kabutops noticed that his passengers had grown quiet, prompting him to look over his shoulder in concern. There, he saw Guardia fixing her gaze on the churning sea below as Nida, Elty, and Pleo looked back and watching intently as their metal rescuer flew back against the moonlight for the stone-spired island in the distance.

    "What exactly did he mean by that bit about you 'seeing a glimpse of the truth' anyways?" the Kabutops asked.

    "Err... well..." Nida began.

    "Ah, don't sweat it," the fossil crab sighed. "I'll have plenty of time to ask once we get you out of here."

    Dimitri's pace suddenly picked up in the water and the team began to notice a trail of bubbles in his wake. The Kabutops swung around and spread out his scythes, causing the four to hunker down as they suddenly felt their carrier's body drop.


    SPLOOSH

    The four flinched as they heard a watery crash overhead, only for the expected cold, wet seawater to never come. They looked up and saw that a translucent, ebbing bubble had formed overhead, just large enough to accommodate the group. Guardia hunkered down uneasily against Pleo's plumes as her teammates peered on above, the three gazing as the moon and stars faded away as they went further into the deep.



    Around midnight, the sea fog started to form in wisps offshore Kenobi, and the lavender sails of the Siglo Swellow were raised and the craft set off. The shipyards on the atoll grew smaller and smaller until they were but a few flecks of grey and brown against the backdrop of a pair of green and golden-brown mounds. The deck hummed with activity as lavender-scared Pokémon moved back and fro, and the craft bobbed along the sea current that would take them to Mengir.

    Unbeknownst to the merry crew, off on the horizon, a two-masted caravel with golden sails was lurking in wait behind them. Its captain: a glowering Aggron peering through a scope at the edge of a railing as some of his underlings traded traded skeptical looks and unenthusiastic grumbles.

    "Captain, why are we still here?" Rodion said. "Wasn't our port call in Andaku enough humiliation?"

    Hess' memories of the debacle that 'press ganging' turned into unwelcomely returned to his mind, as that Druddigon brat from earlier flickered across the lens of his scope. Even before that fateful visit to Tromba, life had been precarious and lurching from one debacle to another, but the repeated encounters with those Pokémon had just made things much worse.

    As if losing a dozen underlings wasn't enough, Hess was now indebted to the shopkeepers of Andaku, and he had had to part with all the extra loot that hadn't been split with the crew... in what was merely the first of a long schedule of future payments.

    Hess followed Crom on his scope... just for a little longer, letting out a growl. That haul he had taken from Tromba could have been his breakthrough to moving on up in Orleigh… Probably. Maybe. But thanks to those meddling kids, he would never know!

    They had to pay. Life had to pay. But now, he could do something about it, and he felt like being the one doing the collecting this time.

    "That's exactly why we're following them," the Aggron growled. "We're getting even!"

    "With a Company ship?!" a Hoppip with a fresh Iron Fleet scarf cried.

    "Captain, you can't possibly think that's a good idea," a Seadra insisted from the water. "Company ships are tough prey even for better crews than us!"

    The Steel-Type gave an irked snarl which rapidly shut up the chorus of protests. After winning a reprieve, the Aggron shook his head and began to address his crew.

    "That's not a Company ship!" he huffed. "It's a fake run by those twerps that got us into trouble earlier!"

    To his dismay, the Aggron's insistence was met by disinterested groans and unamused stares. Even the new dragonfly, wolf, and the little bone-headed monster didn't seem to be enthused by the suggestion. Then… maybe they all just needed a little motivation to get whipped into shape...

    "Don't you get it? This is our chance to show that we won't just take getting humiliated like that!" Hess bellowed. "That the Iron Fleet doesn't take getting made to look like a bunch of fools by a crew of nobodies!"

    Chirp chirp chirp


    The intended rousing speech seemed to miss its mark, an awkward silence filling the air instead. The sole disruption to the quiet was a lone Kricketot obliviously humming in the corner until a Pawniard prodded the Bug-Type for silence.

    "Psst, Chirpy!" the Pawniard hissed. "Knock it off, you're making the boss look bad!"

    The cricket hissed back at the Dark-Type before bringing his chirping to a halt, throwing the gathering back into silence. Hess's smile froze on his face, as the Aggron slowly sucked in a breath through gritted teeth. He dropped the expression, shaking his head as he tried to connect with them a different way.

    "... also, we'll split the loot we grab from them on the way back to Orleigh over rum," the Aggron sighed.

    "Now that's more like it!"

    "Yeah, can't go wrong with some extra pay on the way back to Rosequartz Town!"

    "And we can clear out their rum for some refreshments after our work's done!"

    The Aggron buried his face in a palm at how easily his crew got persuaded over a promise of a few bottles of rum. Well, it was one way of getting them motivated… Though he would have to do something about his crew's misplaced priorities.

    But that could wait. The Steel-Type felt his Mistral Marauder lurch forward, and gusts of wind fill his sails as they shadowed the lavender-sailed ship ahead. The Captain pawed at his silvery lucky charm under his scarf, looking out to sea with newfound determination. All that was left was to follow those chumps, and keep an eye open. Eventually the conditions would be right- they would grow groggy, they would become too tired, or too dumbfounded by what lied ahead of them to remember to check their backs.

    "It's payback time, twerps."



    Author's Notes:

    - Seguimi! - Italian: "Follow me!"
    - Dobre li si? (Добрe ли си?) - Bulgarian: "Are you alright?" / "Are you okay?" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - (¡)Venga, vamos! - Spanish: "Come on, let's go!"
    - Bądź tu mądry - Polish: Expression roughly analogous to "Go figure", lit. "Be smart"
    - Stiga! (Стига!) - Bulgarian: "Enough!" Interjection. (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - yashcherka (ящeрка) - Russian: "lizard" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - Masaka (まさか) - Japanese: Interjection communicating disbelief. Used here to roughly mean "No way!" (Hepburn Romanization)
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016

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