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Fledglings

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

  1. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Yeah, she’s the sort of Pokémon who doesn’t take running headaches well, no matter who it’s from.

    It did, yeah. Went back and dropped the ‘the’.

    Yeah, carrying as much of your weight as Pleo does probably limits your ability to get really high up. But yeah, he tends to have bad luck with low-altitude flights.

    Hrm, the ‘repetitive’ part is a bit concerning, though things will certainly be going in a different direction than normal over the course of this arc. I hope that the final product will help dislodge some of those more conventional expectations.

    I’m glad to hear that. One of the things that I’ve spent a lot of time and thought about is how to keep all of the plot threads feeling integrated to the cat and mouse between Team Traveller and their various foes as they search for a way home.

    Aha, you have a sharp eye. But seeing how Nagant’s always been a hotheaded shooter since her initial development, it seemed like a fitting enough homage to make.

    Am glad to hear that, and I hope the future installments will be similarly gripping for you.

    Let’s just hope his normal wares taste a bit better than that. o3o;

    So this installment took a bit longer to get out the door than I’d hoped due to a busier-than-normal June meta, but I’m back with the second chapter from this arc. I will be gunning for 2 chapter releases in July, with the first currently shooting for an early July release.

    My special thanks goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net for helping to sand off some rougher edges off of today’s chapter, along with the feedback and support that you all have been providing during this story. And with that, let’s end that wait I’ve been leaving you on and continue on with Team Traveller’s saga.

    [​IMG]

    The sun beat down over Sormus' desert as a Grumpig in a white scarf with a blue sun pattern hopped along on the sea of sand dunes. He went along the ridge of a dune, scanning his surroundings near the fog of the local Mystery Dungeon in the distance. As the pig carried on, he put more and more distance between himself and the forms of a Hitmonchan and Nuzleaf at the base of the dune, carrying on alone in his search. The Psychic-Type panted, finding himself wishing for a nice cool mud puddle or even just a plain old pool of tidewater to plop into and stave off the sweltering heat.

    "Grah… how's anyone supposed to search in this weather?" the Grumpig whined.

    The pig's ears twitched at the sound of rustling sand nearby. The Manipulate Pokémon looked around uneasily, only to be startled by a cloud of sand being thrown up. The Grumpig jumped back with a start as the upper half of a Krokorok donning a scarf of the porker's same color and design poked out of the ground.

    "Eh? What are you talking about, Hooke?" the Krokorok asked. "This weather's fine!"

    "Well of course you find this okay, Ken!" the Psychic-Type huffed. "You're like a fish in the water right now!"

    Ken pulled himself out of the sand and dusted himself off. The Dark-Type sneered at his Grumpig companion and snorted in response.

    "I'm not sure if I see your poi- Huh?"

    The Krokorok trailed off as he noticed a small depression in the next dune over. The Desert Croc squinted, and noticed that the small crater continued into a trail, dotted with little silver objects that swirled here and there with the wind

    "There's something up ahead over there," the Krokorok murmured.

    The pair made their way over to the disturbed sand, the mysterious objects revealed to be dropped feathers as they neared. Could it be...? Hooke hopped over to the edge of the trail, where some hasty footprints had crowded around. Bending over to investigate, he sniffed out the familiar musk of a Nidoran, joined by the distinct sooty scent of Growlithe fur.

    "That's them alright," the Grumpig murmured. "But just where would those brats run off to in a place like this?"

    Humming in thought, Hooke followed the footprints along with his eyes, scanning the horizon for any little crevices the brats could've hidden themselves in. He spotted a rocky outcropping in the distance that seemed like a likely spot, or perhaps they went to that valley between some of the larger dunes... or, he realized, perhaps they went within the foggy veil of the Mystery Dungeon which loomed in the distance. Wait a minute... if he had to shake off some pursuers in a hurry, what better way was there to do so than to go there? If they went for the Dungeon, they'd be cutting through a place where the ground would shift away any tracks that would be left behind. The pig opened his mouth to speak, only for his watching Krokorok companion to complete his thought.

    "I think that we've got our answer with that Dungeon," Ken said, before turning off and calling at a pair of figures in the distance. "Oi, Jan! Locke! Get over here! We've found a lead!"

    In the distance, the fuzzy forms of a Hitmonchan and a Nuzleaf glanced over as the Ground-Type summoned them and they hurried to regroup, walking over as briskly as the loose desert sands would allow. The pair crested the ridge of the sand dune and clambered down, impatiently pressing the two for details.

    "Eh?" the Fighting-Type asked. "What did you find?"

    "Yeah, let's hurry it up!" the Grass-Type fumed. "I think my leaf's starting to wilt!"

    "We found the twerps' tracks!" the Grumpig exclaimed. "If we follow them, it'll take us straight to-!"

    "Hey!"

    A call rang out from above, interrupting Hooke's briefing. The four Pokemon turned their eyes skyward, where a familiar Fearow looked down at them as he circled around to land. Settling awkwardly in the unsteady sand, he beat his wings impatiently, kicking up a light cloud of dust from the ground.

    "Eh?! Maurier?!" Ken cried. "What are you doing here?"

    "Captain Lyn wants all of us at the beach!" the Fearow squawked. "He says he found out where those kids went to."

    His message delivered, the bird flapped his wings for takeoff before the others could begin to respond, and hurried away back towards the coast. As Maurier disappeared into the heat-hazed horizon, Jan traded glances with his Nuzleaf partner, before shooting an unamused scowl at the Grumpig.

    "You called us all the way out here for something the Captain already figured out?" the Hitmonchan fumed, only to be answered with a disgusted snort from Hooke.

    "Oh shut up. Let's just get back to the beach."

    The Grumpig set off, hopping across the dunes as the other three Company Pokémon followed along. The group carefully went forth, retracing their footsteps through a circuitous set of dunes and over to a ruddy-sanded beach where a number of Pokémon in Lyn's adopted Blue Sun pattern had gathered. The four crept along, hoping to slip into the back of the crowd, only for a loud Samurott's growl to reach their ears.

    "Hmrph, about time you four got back."

    The four laggards shifted uncomfortably, giving sheepish smiles at their counterparts that quickly dissipated under a harsh glare from Lyn. The Samurott twitched his whiskers and cleared his throat to speak, still in a surly mood from the whole episode.

    "Now that everyone's here, I'll start my debriefing," Lyn said. "Listen up, because I'm not going to repeat myself."

    Lyn's glare lingered on the four a moment longer before he broke away, taking a deep breath and straightening his posture as he prepared to more formally address his crew.

    "While we were searching for the Sea Guardian's crash site earlier, I found his and his friends' tracks heading for the Mystery Dungeon," the Samurott explained. "Needless to say, it's a safe assumption that they've moved in there to try and elude us."

    An uneasy pause flecked with awkward 'uhm's and 'er's followed the Samurott's words. The crew hadn't been expecting to go into a Mystery Dungeon en masse, and they didn't have a friendly port to give them support like they had in Kenobi… Just how were they supposed to square this circle?

    "The Board and I anticipated something like this might happen after our meeting on Mengir," the Samurott continued. "So we prepared a contingency plan."

    Lyn motioned with his seamitar to a Xatu to the side of him, who opened a container filled with glinting metal badges. The Samurott pulled his blade back and sheathed it, giving a stern scowl at the gathered Pokémon.

    "Everyone who isn't here watching the ship or physically unable to move inland is heading in. I want all of you in groups of two so we'll cover more ground," the Samurott captain barked. "The sooner we get those Pokémon, the sooner you'll all be rewarded for this mission."

    The crew's murmuring rose to an excited chatter as they dreamt up the size of the bounty on the Protector's head. Lyn motioned for silence, and harrumphed with a satisfied nod as the commotion died down.

    "Glad to hear we're all on the same page, then," he grumbled. "Come and get your equipment and get out there."

    Lyn eyed his grunts closely, making sure each of them grabbed a badge for him or herself before leaving. His attention was drawn away by the approach of Ketu and Ellsberg, the two shooting each other a brief glare as they came closer. The Samurott shrugged the matter off as the duo came to a stop before him, Ellsberg turning his attention back to Lyn and clearing his throat to speak.

    "I presume you needed me to stay aboard, Lyn?" Ellsberg asked.

    "No, Ketu can handle that," the Samurott answered. "I need a flier who can cover my bases in the dungeon, and I want you for that."

    "Eh?!" the Bug-Type exclaimed. "But-!"

    "You heard him, Elmer," Ketu sneered. "Leave the ship-watching to an actual first mate."

    Ellsberg balled up his tarsi and beat his wings forcefully, shooting a burning glare at the flippant Dark-Type.

    "Why you-"

    The Mothim flinched as a low growl rumbled through the air. Lyn peered down and glared at them, wordlessly demanding silence, and brought the dispute to an abrupt halt.

    "Now that you two are done, is there anything left to be said before Ellsberg and I take our leave?" the Samurott demanded.

    "Good luck out there," Ketu cheered. "I'll be looking forward to you bringing back that bird."

    "... Save the well-wishing for after that bird's bound and below deck," the Water-Type snorted.

    Ketu scoffed dismissively and responded only with a casual shrug of his shoulders, more than accustomed to dealing with his captain's overbearing adamance. The Dark-Type brushed away some sand out of his head feathers, before giving a languid glance up at his otter superior.

    "Well, when he is, he'll be in good claws," the Weavile replied.

    Lyn and Ellsberg turned around and started their trek towards the Mystery Dungeon, leaving Ketu behind alone on the beach. As the two drifted away and comfortably out of earshot, a small smirk began to creep over the Weavile's face.

    "Just not necessarily in the ones you want him to be."




    Team Traveller tore along into the dungeon for cover and, after double-checking everyone was present, began the long and arduous process of climbing up its floors. The lower levels were covered in a thick layer of sand just like the desert terrain outside, while further up the sandy floors grew riddled with stones that forced a slower pace to avoid injuries. They found themselves now on a floor which impressively managed to feel intensely claustrophobic despite its tall walls. Even though gargantuan pillars of orange-red stone arced out from the massive walls, the passages of this floor proved rather a tight fit even for the quartet of diminutively-sized adventurers.

    On top of the gloomy cloud which hung over the group, the small solace in being able to explore a dungeon together again was stifled by a palpable tension between the four. Their moods were far from bright, but each of them trudged on without complaint, dutifully checking each branching path they encountered for any lurking ferals. However, their measured procedure was suddenly interrupted as they reached a spacious chamber, with three paths stemming from the room and carrying on beyond their line of sight. Pleo's pace slowed and he paused in the middle of the room, unsure of which path to take first. He glanced behind him, looking back to his friends for guidance, only for his heart to sink as he realized they all seemed more focused on glaring at one another than solving their conundrum. After one moment of tense silence too many, the young Lugia couldn't help but to break it by piping up with a question.

    "Uh… where do we go next?" Pleo asked. His teammates paused and looked at him, before offering up their suggested routes.

    "Left," Nida said.

    "Right," Guardia insisted.

    "Straight ahead," Elty yipped.

    A tense, angry silence fell over the room as the three blurted out their preferred paths in unison. Nidoran, Cubone and Growlithe alike once more glared at one another, each of them sure that their way was the best and having little patience to humor alternatives.

    "Spike ball, you don't have to be contrarian just because you're mad at me," Elty huffed. "Checking what's ahead of us is the easiest place to start and you know it!"

    "Go ahead and look for yourself then," Nida hissed. "The left is opposite of the side where the stairs took us and that's where I'm going."

    "Ugh… you know what? Let's just split up," Guardia muttered. "We'll go down our respective paths just far enough to see if they lead anywhere, and then come back. Nothing can go too wrong in that little bit of time, right?"

    "Eh? But-" Pleo began, only to be cut off by a simultaneous answer from his other teammates.

    "Fine."

    The three Pokémon each harrumphed and turned their backs on one another to leave down their chosen paths. Pleo stammered for a moment as they each walked away, threatening even to leave him behind completely. With no time to think, he simply stumbled after Nida, rushing to catch up to her as she stormed towards her path.

    Click

    Nida froze as she felt a pressure plate give way under her feet, and a sharp hiss rang in her ears as a sweet-smelling cloud of pink mist billowed out around her. Coughing, Pleo began to beat his wings in an attempt to disperse the fog, but it seemed it had already done its work; Nida's ears twitched and she felt her heart rate pick up as she looked around for any sign of trouble approaching.

    "Spike ball, what did you do?!" Elty snapped.

    "I stepped on a trap, alright ?" Nida huffed. "Just brace yourself!"

    Wrapped up in a heated squabble regarding the trap Nida had sprung, the trio didn't seem to notice that the strange pink mist had already cleared up. Pleo blinked a couple times, peering around the room for any sign of a change... He hadn't felt any weaker, and Nida didn't look hurt, so why were they still so worried about the trap?

    "Huh?" the young Lugia murmured. "But nothing happened."

    Guardia turned up her nose and took a deep whiff of the area. Then she seemed to catch scent of something, her eyes snapping open as she tightened her grip on her club and took a fighting stance.

    "Don't be so sure about that, Guardian."

    Nida and Elty seemed to smell whatever it was too, but all Pleo could smell was the faint sweetness that lingered from the mist. However, whatever they smelled that he didn't, it put them on edge just as much, each of them similarly bracing themselves for battle and glancing around the room warily.

    "Why?" Pleo stammered. "Wh-What's happening-?"

    Rumble Rumble

    Team Traveller looked around uneasily as the ground's shaking continued, before being interrupted by a trio of plumes of sand and dirt. The four shielded their eyes and coughed up some sand, seeing the forms of a lost-looking Drillbur, Diglett, and Bunnelby before them.

    "Aha! That's where that smell is coming from!" a Drillbur cried.

    "Eh?! What are these hut-dwellers doing here?!" a Diglett yelped.

    "What they're doing here is unimportant," Bunnelby growled. "Let's get them out!"

    The three ferals assumed tense and combative stances, Team Traveller hastily bracing themselves to for battle. Before any of the four could move, the Drilbur honed its claws for a series of furious swipes and lunged for Pleo as his Digglet partner began building up a glob of mud in his mouth and zipped behind Nida.

    "Take this!" the Drillbur snarled.

    "Yeah, eat mud!" the Diglett spat.

    Pleo hastily flew up with a startled squawk, shedding feathers as he darted out of the way of the Drilbur's swipes. Nida rolled as the glob of mud sailed towards her, ducking just in time for it to pass overhead, only to feel a crushing blow on the side of her head.

    "AAAAAGH!"

    From above, Pleo heard Nida's shrieks, seeing her flop forward stunned with Guardia's bone lying beside her. A startled whine from behind prompted Pleo to crane his neck around, just in time to see Elty hastily turning tail from the Bunnelby after a kick in his gut and Diglett harrying a now-defenseless Guardia. The young Protector stopped in the air, struggling to determine who to aid, only to feel a sharp pain shoot through his wing.

    "A-Aah!"

    Pleo yanked his wing back, knocking a blue and black blur down to the ground. Pleo watched as the mole got up and reared up for another slash, prompting the bird to dive down, bluish light gathering on his feathers as he bore down on the Ground-Type. The mole yelped and went sliding back, panting from the sudden blow, trying to regain his bearings.

    "Argh!"

    The Drilbur dug his claws into the sand and staggered up as the cry of a beleaguered Diglett rang out. The mole looked over, and saw both the Nidoran was pinning him down with blows, the Cubone making a swift dash for her club before joining in. The Ground-Type panted and struggled to maintain his footing, his presumptions of an easy fight thoroughly dashed and filled with a strong desire to be anywhere but there at that moment.

    "Gah! Vetäytykää! Vetäytykää!"

    Unnerved, the mole hastily dove under the sand and burrowed away, followed closely by the Diglett. Back above the surface, Elty yelped and tripped after being knocked over by the Bunnelby, blowing Embers at the rabbit's face to buy precious seconds to slip away yet again, much to the Normal-Type's frustration.

    "Why won't you go down-?! Huh?"

    The Bunnelby paused and looked over his shoulder, hopping up with a start after discovering his teammates were missing. The Normal-Type bolted along for the hole, calling out after his unseen companions.

    "Hey! Wait up! Don't run off without me!"

    The rabbit bolted off in a hasty exit, leaving behind Team Traveller to flop down and lick their wounds from the surprise encounter. Disquieted grumbles filtered through the air, Nida in particular giving a scowl at her Cubone teammate in between runs at her throbbing head.

    "Argh…" the Nidoran groaned. "Thanks a lot for hitting my head with that bone, Guardia."

    "Why are you complaining? Accidents happen," Guardia fumed. "And you're the one who tripped the trap in the first place!"

    Nida and Guardia scowled at one another, seething wordlessly, their furious silence broken only by an equally-irate yip from Elty.

    "Way to abandon me, you jerks!" Elty growled.

    "Oh, you're one to whine about abandonment!" Nida hissed.

    Pleo looked on disheartened as his friends sank back into their infighting, further complicated now with the latest dispute between Nida and Guardia. The young legendary began to droop as a sense of crushing failure set in. How could it be that he'd failed so much at being a Protector? He'd hurt others with his powers, and he was unable to keep even the Pokémon he cherished the most from going at each other's throats. The Lugia began to sulk, only to flinch at the sound of approaching footsteps and jolt up with a start.

    "Wait!" Pleo squawked. "Someone's coming!"

    The others abruptly silenced themselves and turned their ears to the corridors beyond. Sure enough, each of them was able to clearly hear footsteps echoing from down the hall to the left, coupled with distant conversation about the sounds of a scuffle and that syrupy-sweet smell that the wind carried through the dungeon.

    "Let's get out of here before they find this place," Guardia whispered.

    The team obliged Guardia, quickly shuffling off into the winding maze ahead of them on Elty's chosen path. Although their temperaments were hardly calmed, their arguments would mean precious little if they were overpowered in the dungeon. For now, the best plan of action would simply be to focus on getting through this maze.




    Back on Tromba, Osmund's condition had improved to the point where he was ready to resume his duties as the captain of the guard. The only sign of his encounter with Lyn's blade two weeks prior being a faint scar on his stomach that had yet to fade away.

    The Sceptile made his way down the paths of Bluewhorl's southern end, meandering past domiciles and shops, and the sounds of sparring emanating of a freshly-busy Dojo for the familiar earthen lodge that served as the guards' headquarters. There at the front were a group of Pokémon in lavender headbands; a Mawile, a Granbull, and a purple Nidoran parted ways, the littlest of the bunch staying behind to slick his whiskers. The gecko gave a bemused shake of his head and walked up, eager to strike a conversation

    "Heh, been learning those ropes well while I was out, Orino?" the Sceptile cheered.

    "Eh? Captain Osmund?" the Nidoran asked. "I thought you were still recovering."

    "Nah, we Sceptile bounce back from a little cut faster than your average tree in the forest," Osmund chuckled. "I was actually just on my way to pass your mom the news."

    "Ah, she's been looking forward to getting back to the field," Orino murmured. "But did everything go alright while you were out? Dealing with mamí on the force was… well, it wasn't nearly as easy as with you."

    "Meh, it was a chance to take things a little slower," the gecko insisted. "Spent some time brushing up on my card skills, spent a few nights helping Hatteras out with his lighthouse duties, and I spent some time catching up with my sister."

    The Nidoran blinked, taken somewhat aback by his captain's casual mention of a new family member.

    "Wait, you have a sister?" the Poison-Type asked.

    "Younger, yeah," the Grass-Type replied. "We got assignments to different islands a few years back from the capital, though it sounds like she's going through some sort of shake-up on her end."

    Osmund trailed off, his gaze drifting to nothing in particular as he stared off into space for a moment. He brought a claw to his chin as his mind turned to his days watching over his sister back at the Academy. She'd been rather vague in her last letter, was she still doing alright? The Sceptile caught himself and shook his head as he brought his thoughts back to the Nidoran before him.

    "But that can wait," he insisted. "What did I miss on the job?"

    "Oh not much. There were a couple bar fights when the pirates got too much to drink, a Meowth got stuck in a tree the other day, Mildrew asked a few of us to help stake out whatever feral's been stealing his apples..." the spike ball answered. "Also, mamí got a bounty issued on her."

    Osmund's eyes widened, and his jaw fell slack in shock at his subordinate's offhanded remark. Marley had a bounty issued against her?!

    "Wait, what?!"

    "Yeah, take a look," the Nidoran prodded. The purple spike lump dug into his bag and fished out a stack of papers, unfurling them to reveal a collection of bounty posters with crude depictions of Pokémon. Osmund saw that one of the bounties was for a Hydreigon, thinking nothing of it until he noticed the other posters. There was Marley in her swirl-patterned scarf, and a Growlithe and a Nidoran in blue scarves with star patterns.

    "Guess that's one way of telling that chiquita is still kicking around out there," he murmured.

    "… Aren't you more worried about your mother and this bounty?" Osmund asked. "She's leaving the force, and there's no shortage of hunters out there who'd take a shot at this bounty."

    Crash!

    Osmund and Orino turned as a Donphan sailed through a shuttered window on the guard hut's first floor, faceplanting on the ground with splintered pieces of wood. A distressed Honchkrow quickly flew out and took off in a hurry, prompting the elephant to hastily right himself and roll off away from the guards' hut. Osmund stared, flummoxed at what had just happened, only for a Nidorina's head to poke out of the now-destroyed frame.

    "… Shoot. Lost them," Marley grumbled.

    After turning her head, the forms of a slack-jawed Osmund and nonchalant Orino came into the Nidorina's view. The Poison-Type shook her head, giving a cheerful afternoon wave as if nothing had happened.

    "Oh, buenas tardes, Osmund," the Nidorina cheered. "Here to take your old job back?"

    Osmund blinked and stared ahead speechless at the Nidorina's nonchalance. Bemused at his superior's flummoxed demeanor, Orino shook his head and gave a dismissive wave of his paw.

    "Nah, she'll be fine," the Nidoran insisted.




    "Er… I can explain?"

    Once again, Hess' words echoed about the darkened chamber that the Council gathered to meet in, fidgeting anxiously before an audience of four sour-faced observers. A quick glance evidenced that even the Council's members had not eluded the chaos surrounding Team Traveller's exit. Ingela was covered in welts from Jellicent stings, while Dirk and Tarquin were sporting fresh scrapes on their body. Of course, there was Sibich, who was battered and bruised from his impact, and all the more agitated for it.

    "Explain? Explain? What is there to explain?!" the Ghost-Type spluttered. "You destroyed half the town chasing after that bird!"

    "B-But it was that Imp and those jellyfish that did most of the damage!" the Steel-Type whined. "And I didn't know that that Lugia would be in town!"

    "Then why didn't you come to us?!" Ingela demanded.

    "I… er… uh…" Hess stammered. "I didn't think you'd believe me?"

    "Well, that wouldn't have been an issue for me," Sibich sighed. "My suspicions were confirmed with this little episode."

    "Ugh… I suppose miracles do happen after all. Of a sort," Dirk growled. The Bisharp sprang up and thrust the tip of his blade at Hess' neck, stopping a hair's breadth from the hide as the Steel-Type squeaked and his eyes dilated.

    "E-Eek!"

    "Unfortunately for you, that doesn't get you off the hook," the Bisharp snarled, moving his blade-tip up against the throat of his petrified audience. "And there will be consequences for this debacle."

    The Aggron quailed, tucking his tail in as he felt his blood turn to ice. Hess desperately tried to raise a protest, only for his words to come out as a panicked stammer.

    "I- I- N-Noooo…"

    The Bisharp pulled his arm back, raising it in the air for a downward blow. Hess froze, whimpering as light glinted off the edge of Dirk's blade.

    "On account of your complete and utter incompetence , we sentence you to…"

    The Steel-Type screwed his eyes shut, bracing himself for a piercing stab into his neck. In its place, he felt a stiff slap on the side of his maw, sending him falling down onto his rump with a yelp. Hess moved a claw up to paw at his now-numbed cheek, opening his eyes uneasily to see Dirk walking back for his seat.

    "Forced labor," the Dark-Type growled. "Namely, you'll be hunting down and bringing that bird back here."

    Jaws dropped around the rest of the table, all eyes trained incredulously on Dirk at the leniency of his punishment. Most expected Hess to be lying stone dead on the floor by now, or at least thrown to the Imps or Square-necks for them to have their way with him. Yet here he was, let off with a slap and reassigned to the job they all coveted?! What sort of madness was this?

    "Wh-Wha?" the Aggron stammered. Before Hess could receive his answer, Ingela gave the floor a stiff slap with her tail, shooting a hardened scowl at her Bisharp compatriot as he retook his seat.

    "Um… Dirk, could we have a word together?" the Primarina demanded.

    "H-Huh?" Hess asked. "What are you going to talk abou-?"

    "Not you!" Tarquin snarled. "Get out and wait outside outside the room!"

    "Meep!"

    Hess hastily stumbled back to his feet and bolted past the doors at the front. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, the lizard loudly slammed the doors shut, leaving Ingela, Sibich, and Tarquin to trade furious scowls with their first among equals.

    "Dirk, what sort of punishment is that?!" Ingela exclaimed.

    "Yeah, hunting down that bird's something that we should be doing!" Sibich huffed. "Not that metal-jacketed buffoon!"

    "Because, whenever crews from this town do something to majorly disturb order in Anyilla, it always draws the full attention of the Company and the Empire," Dirk explained.

    "Tch, so we'd have to deal with some more heat than normal," Tarquin scoffed. "Nothing that wouldn't blow over eventually."

    "Just like it did for Beatrice?" Dirk countered. The Tyrantrum paused and shifted uneasily before giving a dismissive snort and attempting to wave the matter off.


    "Okay, that Garchomp wasn't a normal case and you know it-"

    "Or for Amaro after that raid on Nagrobek, or what happened to the town after Charles kidnapped an Imperial Governor's kid?" the Dark-Type interrupted, shooting a piercing glare up at the Tyrantrum. "Or how about when Kafavian stole sea fire recipes from the Company and got his crew and half the harbor burned up after the Square-necks tracked him back here? And do I even need to get into how Jack got his ship dragged to the bottom of the sea?"

    The others paused and traded glances with each other. Each of the Pokémon the Bisharp mentioned had met… inglorious ends, to say the least, but all of them had taken needless risks. How was that related to the topic at hand?

    "… What are you getting at, Dirk?" Tarquin harrumphed.

    "Tch… I shouldn't have to explain this to you, Tarquin. You used to be part of the Company for crying out loud!" the Bisharp spat. "This mission is bound to rile up the Company and the Empire, and it's in our interest that whoever brings that Protector back takes a quick bow off the stage afterwards to keep our base of operations from being razed to the ground."

    Tarquin and Ingela paused, mulling over Dirk's plan. The two entertained thoughts of scenarios where they, or perhaps some other agent would chase around the Protector, only to begrudgingly realize that the Bisharp was onto something.

    "… I'll admit, I think I can see your point there," Ingela sighed.

    "But you're trusting the Iron Fleet to bring the Protector back?!" Sibich exclaimed. "Surely you of all 'mons must realize that-"

    "That even though they're clearly bottom percentage material, the Iron Fleet is also the only crew in port that has any idea of what to expect from that Protector," the Bisharp countered. "Or do you know of any others, Sibich?"

    The Ghost-Type gritted his teeth as smoky shadows billowed around him. That was his bird for the taking and here Dirk was just giving him away? Even so, the Cofagrigus knew better than to challenge a peer with an advantage, and there were surely other ways to get what he wanted. So for now, at least, the best option seemed to be to relent.

    "Urgh… fine," the Cofagrigus sulked.

    "C-Can I come back in yet?"

    The Council members looked back at the doors, which had opened conspicuously wide to allow Hess to poke his huge head back inside. Dirk groaned with a shake of his head and beckoned the Steel-Type over.

    "Yeah, yeah," Dirk growled. "Hurry up already."

    Hesitantly, Hess pushed the doors open the rest of the way and paced back into the room. He glanced this way and that, staying wary that perhaps Dirk had been joking when he spared his life, but thankfully that didn't seem to be the case. The Bisharp eyed him amusedly before clearing his throat to speak again.

    "As I was saying, it will be on you to bring that Protector back," Dirk barked. "And starting after sundown tomorrow, you will be persona non grata in port until you come back with him."

    "E-Eh?!" the Steel-Type whined. "But-!"

    "Besides, you have the most experience out of all of us with regard to that bird," the Bisharp pressed. "So you would be best-suited to track it down."

    Hess blanched as Dirk's words echoed in the room, realizing that the Dark-Type had left him with two deeply unpalatable decisions. On the one claw, if he accepted - with Rodion and a chunk of the crew gone - it would be next to impossible just to get out of port, much less keep the remaining Pokémon from mutinying. On the other, if he refused... it would be hard to see any outcome where he didn't leave the room in pieces.

    "I- I mean, I don't have much of a choice-"

    "Hoy!"

    The gathered Pokémon looked back at the doors as a black-and-white figure with a large bill pushed them open and flitted over to the Council members' table. As the bird slowed and settled to a stop, he took the clearer shape of a Toucannon wearing Tarquin's colors. The Council members narrowed their eyes and scowled, none the more pleased by the Flying-Type's interruption.

    Do you mind?" Ingela snarled. "We're in the middle of something here!"

    "Er… apologies, but it's urgent!" the toucan insisted. "It's from the Imp who trashed the port! She wants to do a prisoner exchange!"

    A chorus of disdainful groans followed the bird's words. That Imperial lackey had the temerity to assume that she could get her lost underlings back so easily?

    "A prisoner exchange? Pah!" Tarquin spat. "I wouldn't give them so much as a scale unless I got those Imp sods' weight in alumi-"

    "We'll do it!" Hess cried. The Aggron paused, realizing that he had spoken out of turn and growing acutely aware of the harsh glares boring through his hide from the Council members. Even so, this was his opportunity to patch up his crippled crew… perhaps he should just be candid about it?

    "Uh… er… I… would kinda need the members of my crew who were captured back to have the best odds at getting that Lugia?" Hess offered, forcing a smile over his metal maw. Dirk glared harshly, only to see that the Armor Pokémon, while visibly unnerved, wasn't budging on his demand. It would be easy enough to kill him here on the spot… but then again, how else would the Council get another patsy this well-suited to the job?

    "Ugh… fine," the Dark-Type sighed. "Where and when does she want the exchange?"




    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
  2. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    An hour's journey to the west of Orleigh, the Vasilek had laid down anchor at sea, far from unscathed from her daring entrance into Rosequartz. The sails had been shot through full of holes and the hull was being kept seaworthy through copious amounts of ice plugging breaks in the wood. The bow was blackened from fire damage, and a long and hostile pursuit from Spirit Trench's ferals had broken off parts of the stern. On top of it all, the ship had left port 13 claws short, and without the Protector that the whole mission had sought out.

    Indeed, the only sign that the mission had been anything other than a complete debacle were the forms of a motley selection of hogtied pirates thrown together on the ship's deck. For some, the shock of capture and the stench of seawater and sweat had done much to instill a submissive stupor. A few like the Hoppip in the group had been busy being simpering and sniffling wrecks, some like the Floatzel had put on a brave face to try and tamp down the palpable dread and unease by trading supportive words and glances.

    As for the others, including a certain Zangoose and his companions, the ordeal had done little to take off their edge...

    "This is so demeaning…" Scian groaned. "Would it kill you guys to give us some more water?"

    "Yeah, the sun's baking us alive here!" Cerny whined.

    "Oh for crying out loud, we're captured and about to be shipped off to gods knows where!" Kai fumed. "And you choose to whine about us being thirsty?!"

    The Banette cocked his head before turning back to the Flareon. Much to Kai's exasperation, the Ghost-Type did nothing but raise an eyebrow indignantly at his outburst.

    "Yeah?" the Banette asked. "What's your point? Just because I'm tied up doesn't mean I'm not thirsty."

    Scian rolled his eyes at his teammates' argument, before his mind drifting back to his present indignities of being tied up and ignored. The Cat Ferret Pokémon scowled and furrowed his brow, fidgeting against his bindings before he turned back to Nagant, growling after her.

    "I know you can hear me, portán!" the Zangoose yelled. "Give me some wate-!"

    The Normal-Type was abruptly cut off by a stream of water striking his face, prompting a startled blurble as Scian toppled backwards and coughed up the unwelcome "drink". The Cat Ferret rolled over onto his stomach before feeling his upper body lifted by the scruff of his neck, coming face-to-face with a glaring shrimp looking down at him.

    "There. You've asked for a drink ten times now in the last fifteen minutes," Nagant hissed. "Now shut up about wanting water."

    Jun watched as the sopping Zangoose spluttered and coughed water onto the deck, and gave a sigh as he shook his head. The Vasilek had made a daring raid and paid a considerable price for it, with only that hacking furball and the rest of the pirate scum they'd drug aboard were all they had to show for it.

    "Well, this could have gone better," Jun muttered.

    "Eh? What are you talking about?" Cyanea bubbled. "I nabbed five pirates during that raid!"

    The Tentacruel happily prattled along as Nagant pivoted on her tail, shooting a deepening glare at the jellyfish. Noticing her captain's increasingly stormy mood, Katyusha prodded her partner with a fin, speaking out of the side of her mouth.

    "Er... probably shouldn't ring your bell too much when some of us didn't make it off the island. Or when we didn't get that bird," her Sharpedo partner whispered. "Besides, you only got three of those without my help."

    "But I managed to capture more pirates than any-"

    "Molchi!" the Clawitzer hissed. "That furball's whining is already enough of a headache and I don't need you making it worse by your constant bragging, Cyanea!"

    "Hey!" Scian spat. "I can still hear you, you old-"

    The Zangoose once again was silenced with a Water Gun to his face, drawing eye rolls from the nearby captives. Among those was a more experienced-looking Floatzel, who gave a shake of his head and called out to the incensed crustacean.

    "Not to tell you how to run your own ship, shrimp, but what are you up to?" Rodion demanded. "You've been anchored here for almost an hour and haven't moved us into the brig yet. I would think that even in hard times, the Empire would still build them into their ships."

    The Clawitzer frowned and narrowed her eyes, shooting a disdainful scowl at the otter from the corner of her vision as she perched herself against the railing.

    "That's because I'm planning on making you someone else's problem," the shrimp answered.

    "And just what is that supposed to mean?" the Floatzel scoffed.

    "Captain Nugget, there's a ship coming!" a Drifblim's voice cried.

    The gathered Pokémon turned their attention to the form of an approaching ship with lightly-colored sails in the distance. Nagant's indigo-scarved crew crowded around the railing to make out the ship, squinting as a few of the more high-strung creatures braced themselves for battle.

    The craft had a pair of masts decked with golden sails, groans breaking out as the brigands realized whose ship was approaching. The grumbling intensified as the caravel neared, the silver spiked teardrop designs only serving to add insult to injury for much of the group.

    "Seriously?" a black-scarved Furfrou groaned. "The Iron Fleet?"

    "That bunch is gonna try and rescue us?" Kai scoffed.

    "Well I guess we'll have more company here on deck really soon," an orange-scarved Cacturne grumbled.

    "Tch. Hardly," Jun chided.

    As the gold-sailed ship neared, its occupants came into clearer view. An Aggron leered over the railing, watching over a group of hogtied Pokemon in indigo scarves which lay on the deck behind him.

    "Her majesty's forces don't just leave their own behind." the Beedrill explained. "And like the Captain said, we're aiming to make you someone else's problem. Specifically the problem of these gold-scarved louts."

    The Mistral Marauder pulled up beside the Vasilek, and at Hess's cry, a pair of gangplanks were lowered across the space between the two ships. At each end, the ships' captains made their way to their respective ends, glaring at each other from across the gap.

    "Was there really no one else from Orleigh to negotiate?" Nagant growled.

    "Hrmph, I don't want to deal with you again either, but I don't have much of a choice right now," the Aggron harrumphed. "Do you have the 30 prisoners? You're not getting so much as a scale without them!"

    "Do you have all of my subordinates?" the shrimp retorted. "I counted 13 missing, and you'll be lucky to swim home if you stand me up here."

    "Ugh... yes."

    "Then let's get this over with already," the crustacean snapped.

    At their respective captains' calls, the crews of each ship roughly escorted their captives across the two gangplanks. The indigo-scarved captives were returned to the Vasilek, while Hess welcomed the captured pirates back aboard his own Mistral Marauder. On each ship's deck, some happy reunions took place as crewmembers were reunited with their friends.

    "K-Kichiro!"

    Wilhelm made a beeline for Kichiro and blubbered happily for his consternated Ledian friend, prompting the beetle to give an annoyed buzz and shake the living hayseed off.

    "Give it a rest, you big baby!"

    Further towards the stern, Scian and his partners tried their best to make a show of looking at home even on this foreign ship. Hess' attention was captured by Rodion, who approached his home ship while futilely tugging at the ropes which bound his wrists together.

    "Rodion!"

    The Aggron stomped over as quickly as his massive body would allow, the ship's deck creaking under his heavy footfalls, and scooped the Floatzel up into an embrace tight enough to make a Pinsir cringe. The otter Pokemon flailed against the sudden, crushing hug, pushing against the Steel-type's bulky frame in a vain attempt to escape the brazen show of affection.

    "Gack! Hess, do that after I've been unbound!" the Floatzel protested. "You're strangling me!"

    Hess cracked his eyes open and noticed that the gathering was silent other than the sound of waves and breaking wood. The Steel-Type looked around and saw that the other Pokémon, even the Clawitzer captain, were staring and blinking at his overly enthusiastic affection. The Armor Pokémon hastily set his first mate down, batted his tail against the deck, and hardened his face into a scowl before gruffly turning back to his Indigo-scarved foe.

    "Well, that's it," he muttered. "I don't have any more business here with you-"

    The Aggron trailed off and looked about the freshly-boarded pirates, quickly doing a headcount. There were definitely 30 present… but where was Eltenios? He’d vanished in the chaos surrounding his battle with the old sea bug, so where was he now?

    “Oi. Your letter said there were 30 prisoners,” the Steel-Type grunted. “There’s supposed to be a Growlithe with them.”

    Nagant looked at Jun before looking back, rolling her eyes in aggravation at the pirate taking up her time. The yappy mutt she soaked? He hadn’t turned up when the riff-raff had been dragged in, so how would she know?

    “What you see is what you get,” she snapped. “No one who made it back to my ship brought a Growlithe with them, and I’d suggest that you don’t try to do anything cute with our deal right now.”

    Hess glared back across the gangplank at the Clawitzer. He knew that Eltenios was still missing, so what’d the shrimp do to him? Was she pulling a fast one? Did one of her cronies drop him while carrying him off?

    … Though either way, with her crew visibly raring and ready for battle, the crustacean in her native element, and his ship visibly more pockmarked with holes than hers… With such long odds, writing a mon he’d lost once already off as ‘missing in action’ seemed to be the smarter move than getting sunk over a fight.

    “... Fine,” Hess growled. “I had stuff to do in port anyways.”

    "You and me both. I've got places to be, pirate," the Clawitzer snapped. "If you know what's good for you, you'll keep your thieving face far, far away from me."

    "Grr... the same to you," Hess growled. "And have fun dealing with the Company."

    Nagant's blanched, taken aback at the implications of Hess' threat. Her shocked expression faded to a sharp glare, and she pounded her firing claw on the deck angrily.

    "Just what are you implying there?" the shrimp demanded.

    "You trashed our hangout to get at a Protector," Hess chided. "Do you think word won't get out and the Company isn't going to find out about this?"

    Nagant clenched her mandibles and tensed her claws, coming to the begrudging conclusion that the metal-hided buffoon had a point. The shrimp began to mull over the potential consequences the whole debacle might mean for her mission, only to be brought back to reality by feeling her ship abruptly lurch. Hess gave a belligerent snort, before turning back to his crew and stomping the deck for attention, making his sloop rock underfoot.

    "Come on, we're getting out of here!" the Aggron bellowed "And you other dweebs better pull your weight, or I'll have you swim back to Orleigh!"

    The gangplanks were pulled up and the Mistral Marauder's escorts whipped up currents in the sea and air which pushed the caravel forward and the frigate back. The Vasilek's crew fought to steady their ship as Hess' ship slipped over the horizon. All the while, Nagant remained silent, grimly staring off into the distance, drawing a concerned buzz from her first mate.

    "Captain," Jun asked. "Is something wrong?"

    The Clawitzer remained pensive, the pirate captain's words sticking with her. As much as she hated to admit it, the Aggron had a point. It really would be just a matter of time before the Company learned she and the Empire were also searching for the Lugia... but would she be able to still get the Protector in the face of their escalation?

    Nagant scowled and shook her head. It was too late to turn back now. The die had already been cast and she was still going to fight to restore those days gone by even if it was the end of her. All that was left to do was to keep pressing on and let the future bring what it may.

    "... Nothing that we can't prepare for," she sighed. "Just get those 'mons untied and let's get moving."




    Team Traveller carried on climbing up the Mystery Dungeon, trudging through floor after floor and run-in after run-in with the Dungeon's hazards up to their current floor. The place was a space covered in sand and stony fragments, hemmed in by a maze of sandstone bluffs. Above, inverted arches hung from a suspended slab of ground high above, as the group followed the contours of the walls to a straight, unusually tall bluff, most likely a barrier the Distortion generated to enclose the floor's boundaries.

    All the while, the darkness outside grew darker and darker, with only Elty's embers and the muddled light of stars and what the four presumed to be the moon giving any illumination at all. From the increasing fatigue the four felt, it was obvious that the night was not getting any younger, though even so, the team had a strangely hard time finding a stable zone to spend the night in.

    "Nida?" Pleo yawned. "When are we going to sleep?"

    "… I dunno, Pleo," the Nidoran admitted. "We haven't found a suitable place in any of the last floors we checked. Just keep looking a little longer."

    The Lugia slowly dropped his head in disappointment, at a loss for what the team could do now. The bird shuffled uneasily and blinked, before a dawning realization lifted his spirits. Elty literally had a nose for finding islands of calm amidst the tumult of the Distortion, which had helped the team before on islands like Boisocéan. He gave the Growlithe a pleading look, who upon noticing gave Pleo an unamused stare.

    "What's with that look?" Elty snapped. "I can't magically do anything that you can't to find a stable zone! This dungeon keeps blowing away the sand that would carry scents!"

    Much to Pleo's dismay, the two quickly fell into a heated argument, first talking and then shouting over one another back and forth and all but drowning out any other attempts at conversation. As Nida and Elty continued bickering in the background, Guardia looked over at the floor's sandstone wall, where she noticed some cracks in the stone. She backed away from her bickering teammates and noticed the sound of moving air coming through, glancing down at her bone as a sudden realization dawned on her.

    "Wait," Guardia interrupted. "Maybe there is something that you wouldn't be able to do, Gardie."

    "Eh? And just what is that supposed to mean?" the Growlithe demanded.

    The Cubone walked over to the sandstone wall, and gave a forceful tap against it with her club. She heard a hollow tap, prompting her to strike the stone harder, and harder...

    Crack!

    With one final strike, the wall gave way and fell to pieces, a cloud of dust billowing out from the debris as it settled. The Pokémon coughed as the dust blew into their faces, backing away to allow the area to clear. Once everything had settled, they peered ahead into the newly-opened passage. There they saw that the stone had been hiding a tunnel, and not far inside they could see the fog of the Distortion swirling around.

    "Ah! That's it!" Pleo chirped .

    "Hrmph," Elty grumbled. "You just got lucky."

    "Enough," Nida sighed. "Let's just head in and get some rest."

    The group filed into the passage, by now more than used to the process of safely navigating the Distortion and dealing with the tricks it played on their senses. As they emerged from the foggy tunnel, they were met with a gentle, whispering breeze and the dusty scent of swirling sands it carried. After regathering their composure, they pressed on, noting the ground changed underneath them from loose sand to a ruddy-red sandstone. The stable zone they came to after the fog cleared away took the shape of a sandy clearing ringed by ledges of sandstone, and a ruined arch in the center, seemingly once hewn from a single, impossibly long and thin chunk of stone with rusted bits of metal wire poking out of the edges.

    "… I guess it's as much as we can hope for right now," the Poison-Type sighed. "Let's make camp here for the night and carry on in the morning."

    "Right. I guess we should start picking out our spots," Guardia murmured. "I'll take the other side of this ruin."

    Elty shot the Cubone a sour frown, taking a bit of offense to her apparent enthusiasm to be rid of the others. Even if they hadn't been getting along so well, was it really necessary to split the team up like that? He puffed out his chest angrily, and decided that two could play at that game.

    "Alright then," he huffed. "Since we're playing that game."

    The Growlithe dragged a forepaw along through the sand, drawing an uneven line that marked off a berth around his resting place.

    "This is my spot," he snapped. "So butt out of it."

    "Fine, I'll sleep in front of the entrance then," Nida retorted. "You're coming, right, Pleo?"

    "I… er… um…"

    Caught in the middle of the little territorial dispute, Pleo found himself unsure of how to answer. He glanced around the room uneasily and the crude lines drawn in the sand. He didn't really want to have to pick sides with his friends, but was there even anywhere to pick that everyone would be okay with? The young Protector glanced at the lines and noticed that they met just in front of the sizable arch in the middle of the room, noting that no one had claimed that spot yet, and it was plenty big for him to curl up in comfortably enough. Maybe that would be worth a shot?

    "Actually, why don't I take the middle?" Pleo offered. "There's enough space around for you to come over and rest there…"

    The Lugia attempted a small smile as he made his suggestion, but it quickly deflated as the others frowned at him, seeming to already be set in their selected alcoves.

    "Hrmph, you do that then," Elty harrumphed .

    "I'm not changing my spot," Guardia insisted. "Not tonight."

    "… I would rather keep my own myself, Pleo," Nida sighed.

    "But…"

    Pleo's whole body sagged, the young Protector seemingly running out of energy to protest his teammates' negatory responses. He raised one wing in an attempt to get them to reconsider, but he had little faith that his friends would listen at this point; his fears being realized as Elty waved a paw back dismissively

    "Look, just get some rest," Elty interrupted. "The sooner dawn breaks, the sooner we can get going, get out of here, and get on with our lives."

    Pleo watched as each of his teammates curled themselves up and screwed their eyes shut to sleep, equal parts irritated to have their rest delayed and thankful to finally be able to indulge in it. The young Protector fidgeted in place, his mind racing as he tried desperately to think of some way to help his friends become... friendly again. Try as he might, though, after a short time spent wracking his brain, the realization came over him that he simply couldn't think of anything.

    With that, the dejected Lugia tucked his head under his wing, drifting off unhappily into the realm of dreams.




    Out on the sea, the Vasilek had carried on in its westward course, prowling the waters as the sun gave way to the moon and stars. Even the dark of night was not enough to deter the searching crew, prompting them to break out candles and lanterns of glowing algae in a so-far fruitless bid to find the Protector.

    On the deck, Nagant shook her head, eying her cabin and having half a mind to bury her gills and her frustration in a nice, stiff bowl of vodka. The Clawitzer suppressed her urges and hopped over to her first mate who looked out at sea and was in a similarly deflated mood.

    "Nothing at all?" the Clawitzer sighed. A few reluctant looks went around the nearby crewmates, before Jun gave an exasperated shake of his head.

    "Nothing," the Beedrill buzzed. "If the Protector did make his way for the Subway, we've seen no trace of him or his companions."

    "Pah… I should have known this would've been a moon shot in the first place," Nagant grumbled. "But how are we supposed to narrow things down at all when all we have to work with is him being sighted flying westward?"

    "Gwark! Bogey inbound from port!" a Pidgeotto's voice squawked. "It's huge and closing in fast!"

    "What the-?"

    A fiery flash tore through the air, followed by a loud thump as the deck was driven down and the ship listed dangerously to one side. A chorus of yelps and cries filled the air as crew members tried to keep their footing and others staggered up from untimely falls. There, in front of them was a glaring Dragonite crouching against a ring of scorch marks on the deck, smoke curling from his mouth, and a lavender scarf with an intricate pattern of violet squares on his neck.

    "I-It's a Square-neck!" a Vespiquen buzzed.

    "Quick!" a Salandit shouted. "Get hi-!"

    "Hold your fire!"

    The gathered crew paused, passing uneasy murmurs to one another as they watched the Dragonite tensely. Nagant twitched her barbels, none too terribly eager to deal with Administrator Darzin on such short notice, and hopped over, scowling.

    "What are you doing here, Administrator Darzin?"

    "You were fairly hard to miss with all the light," the Dragonite snorted. "And we need to have a talk."

    "Talk about what?" the Clawitzer demanded.

    "You can start by telling me why a report reached my desk of an Imperial frigate leading a swarm of ferals from Spirit Trench to raid Orleigh, and why you specifically were there for it!" the Dragon-Type snarled. "I didn't make our little arrangement just so you could sail around chasing whatever adventure struck your fancy!"

    "If you must know, we tracked the Protector there," the Water-Type hissed back. "I saw him with my own eyes on that miserable rock and were it not for some bumbling pirate's interference, he'd be in my brig right now!"

    "Tch, a likely story," Darzin harrumphed. "That's why Commissioner Lyn was conspicuously absent from Orleigh, right?"

    The Clawitzer caught herself and twitched her barbels uneasily. She hadn't the foggiest clue where Commissioner Lyn was right now, but she at least knew he wasn't there with her.

    "… Ya ne znayu. I can't speak for why he's not present," Nagant murmured. "Perhaps he received poor intel."

    "Well then, where does your 'intel' suggest he'd head to next, hrm?" Darzin demanded.

    "We saw him flying westward," the Water-Type explained. "There's only so many places he could have gone to from there, and the first island en route is Sormus."

    "So in other words, you're sailing blind and entirely based off a hunch right now."

    "Well, is it any worse than whatever Lyn has right now?" the shrimp demanded.

    The Dragonite paused and glared at the Clawitzer, before relenting with a snort. Much to Nagant's relief, that seemed to be enough to convince him, evidently Lyn really hadn't had a breakthrough as she had feared… or at least not one that either of them knew of. The Dragonite turned and paced over to the railing, giving a sharp scowl over his shoulder.

    "… So be it. I'll let you get back to your search, though do be aware that our arrangement will stop being valuable as soon your options for capturing the Protector are exhausted," the dragon growled. "Don't screw this opportunity up."

    Darzin leapt off the deck, whipping up a gale-like wind with his wings that made the sails billow out the sea dragon vaulted into the air and flew off into the deep night. On the deck of the Vasilek, the crew watched as the orange blur melted into the blackened sky, uneasy whispers filtering through the air as Jun shook his head over the whole episode.

    "How on earth did you ever get yourself into this situation, Captain?" the Beedrill sighed.

    "… I did what I had to to get off Mengir," Nagant muttered. "But we have bigger worries right now."

    The Clawitzer looked at the deck and shook her head, before turning to her first mate with a hardened gaze.

    "Let's get going for Sormus and renew our search from there," she chittered. "We need to get a more solid lead for the Sea Guardian's whereabouts, and fast."

    Nagant raised a cry, drawing the attention of the escorts in the sea and air. The shrimp hopped overboard, and swam ahead of the Vasilek as the air and water began to churn, pushing the frigate on westward in its search. All the while, the crustacean couldn't help but shake the nagging sensation as if she was just a small hurdle away from a breakthrough...

    But just what could that hurdle be? And did she have what was needed to surmount it?




    A distant, moaning cry roused Elty from his sleep. Grumbling as he blinked the sleep from his eyes, he rose to his feet and looked around blearily, spotting Neo and Pleo stir awake as well. A sense of dread fell over the sleepy trio as they realized it was the same crying that had kept them awake in Rasp's hostel.

    "Nrgh… No…"

    "Eh?!" Nida cried. "That crying's going on even here?!"

    "Wha- How?" Pleo squawked. "We left Rosequartz, and we didn't take any Pokémon with us!"

    How could this blasted crying have followed them here? Whoever had been crying at Rasp's place had surely been left behind... right? Elty mulled it over for a moment, before an interesting thought occurred to him... He remembered Guardia being suspiciously quiet during those sleepless nights. Could it be that it was her making that racket all along?

    "Eh?" the little Protector asked. "What's with that look, Elty?"

    "It's nothing," the dog insisted. "Let's just find whoever's making this racket, shut them up, and go back to bed."

    "Something we can finally agree on," Nida scoffed. "I'll take the left with Pleo, you take the right."

    The Pokémon went their separate ways; Elty heading off to the right and passing the edge of the ruined wall as he clambered up the dune and back down again. The Growlithe sniffed around for a trail, turning his nose skyward now and again until he came to a small alcove dug into ledges of sandstone. The Fire-Type frowned, giving a frustrated growl at his lead taking him to a dead end. Every sense in his body told him that crying had to be coming from around here, but all he'd found were some stupid rocks!

    … Right?

    "Wait a minute," he murmured. "That crying's coming from..."

    Elty looked up and noticed that the ledge seemed just high enough to jump onto. He took a few paces back and planted his feet into the sand before launching himself skyward with all his might, just barely catching the edge of the stony plateau with his front paws. With some effort, he dragged himself up onto the ledge and looked around once more, the ruined wall at the center poking out from behind an obscuring dune. As he caught his breath from the exertion of the jump, he scanned the area, and spotted a lone, broken pillar nearby.

    "Uwaaa-"

    Elty made his way around the ruin and came face to face with a sniffling Guardia. The Cubone jumped up with a start at the Growlithe's presence and scooped her club up, stopping her crying with a hitched breath.

    "A-Ah!" the Ground-Type yelped. "What are you doing here?!"

    "So it was you keeping us up all those nights!" the Growlithe exclaimed.

    As Guardia began to realize her intruder was merely her yappy Gardie teammate, she eased her grip on her bones, and pointed it at Elty accusingly.

    "W-Why would you care?!" the lizard fumed in between sniffles. "B-Butt out and go back to your own end of the zone!"

    "Well excuse me for worrying, księżniczko!" Elty spat. "It's not as if there's a giant sign that lets me know what's going on with you-"

    The Growlithe looked up and noticed that through the misty haze above, the familiar shape of the moon was shining down on them. The Fire-Type paused, and remembered a few passing yarns he had heard filter around on such nights of Cubone crying at the full moon… Gah, he should have realized this sooner! Why, the reason the bonehead was so upset had to be because...

    "… Oh," he murmured. "It's because of your mother, isn't it?"

    "Nice stereotyping there," the Cubone growled. "She was already gone before I even hatched, but…"

    The lizard's voice trailed off, prompting her to wipe away some fresh tears from her eyes. She looked up blearily into the sky, where through the fog, a full moon just entering its waning phase hung in the sky.

    "She's not the only departed staring down from me up there…"

    "Eh? So you are crying over someone?" Elty asked. "But… who?"

    "… It was my father. He was the one who watched over me when I was growing up ," she explained, prodding weakly at the sand with her bone. "Up until the big accident."

    The Growlithe uneasily looked at the ground and shifted his paws at Guardia's words. He knew from the Ground-Type's bereavement that the story surely had an unhappy ending, but even so...

    "Er… what happened?" Elty asked.

    "He was out with a scavenging party from our colony in the mountains," Guardia murmured. "They were going along a high ridge when the earth woke up…"

    The Cubone prodded at a pebble with her foot before kicking it away. The pair watched as the stone fell upon some jagged crags, an audible crack ringing out as it landed split into two. Elty looked looked down at the fragments of the rock, and his eyes widened as the implications of Guardia's display flashed through his mind. For once in his life, he seemed lost for words, despite his best efforts to splutter something out. He took a moment to compose himself as he struggled to come up with the right words to respond with.

    "… So he went out like that?" the Growlithe muttered. "Is that why you react like a stuck Spoink every time we get up high?"

    "If you're trying to be comforting, you're not doing it right," the Ground-Type huffed. "But yes… And it's why when I see him looking down to me from the moon like this, I just- wish he could be-"

    Guardia's voice hitched, as she began to dissolve back into tears. The Growlithe's tail and ears drooped, as the Fire-Type couldn't help but empathize with the bone lizard. He would have thought it improbable at first, but he shared a good in common with the Ground-Type. They both were fish out of water making their way through a strange world of scarves and badges and overpowered abstractions like the Company, and they'd both entered it with a loss that cut close to their hearts…

    It sounded daft, but… maybe if he shared his story, it would help the bonehead out? She'd at least feel less alone, right?

    "Hey… I get it, alright?" the Fire-Type murmured. "I've gone through something like that myself…"

    "What- What's that supposed to mean?" the lizard demanded.

    Elty froze and his gaze drifted back downward as Guardia continued to sniffle. For a long moment, the Growlithe avoided eye contact, appearing to struggle against some unseen weight over whether or not to speak up.

    "Er… well…"

    "Guardia?!"

    Elty and Guardia jolted and looked behind them just as the forms of a Nidoran and a young Lugia rounded the ruin's corner. The two froze at the sight of Guardia sniffling, a deepening concern etching itself onto their faces.

    "You're crying!" Pleo squawked. "What's wrong?"

    "What's going on here?" Nida asked, folding her ears back worriedly.

    The Cubone hitched and stumbled for her words, drawing a silence from her teammates. Pleo and Nida shifted uncomfortably, realizing that it had been Guardia crying in the dark at Orleigh all that time. Pleo wondered to himself, was she crying because she felt alone? Just as he had in that dark room aboard Lyn's ship. But... then why...?

    "... How come you didn't let us know you were feeling like this?" Pleo prodded.

    "Huh?"

    "Yeah, you're obviously not doing well right now," Nida added. "But we can't exactly help you if you hide stuff from us."

    Guardia sniffled a little, before hardening her eyes into a scowl and turning away. It was bad enough that Elty had to intrude on her in the middle of her pining, but now the others too?

    "H-Hrmph," the lizard retorted. "I don't need help with this."

    "Oh... but was there really nothing at all that you needed?" the young Lugia murmured. "I mean, we're a team and supposed to look out for each other, right?"

    "... I guess it's been a little cold out at my spot…" Guardia admitted. "And since you know now..."

    "I can do that!" Pleo chirped. "It would be just like the nights we spent the guild!"

    Pleo craned his head down and gave a reassuring nudge at Guardia's belly. The bone lizard hesitated a moment, before heading off with the young Protector, becalmed as the late hour took its toll on her. As Nida and Elty were left behind, a question lingered on the Nidoran´s mind, prompting her to give a curious look at her teammate.

    "What was it that you were going to say back there?" Nida asked.

    "Nothing you need to worry about spike ball," Elty harrumphed. "We should get back to sleep along with those two."

    Nida blinked and stared blankly at the Growlithe. What was with the sudden change in attitude? The Poison-Type looked after the fire dog as he began to pace off, expecting an explanation, only to be answered with a pause followed by a gruff grunt.

    "Don't get any ideas here. It's just because it's colder than I expected tonight," Elty murmured. "When we get out of here, I'm still going my own way."

    "Whatever," Nida grunted. "Let's just get some sleep."

    The pair made their way back across the sand for the ruin in the clearing. There, waiting for them were Pleo and Guardia, the pair already starting to drift off to sleep. The Nidoran and Growlithe stood there for a moment, before sighing and curling up alongside their teammates.

    There would be time to try and sort things out tomorrow. And who knew, perhaps things would work out for the better with a little rest. Until then, they'd be better off sleeping, reunited under the foggy skies for the first time in what had felt like ages.




    Author's Notes:

    - Vetäytykää! - Finnish: "Retreat!" / "Pull back!" (given as a command in 2nd person plural)
    - chiquita - Spanish: Term of endearment meaning "little girl" / "little child", used here in context roughly equivalent to "sissy"
    - buenas tardes - Spanish: "good afternoon"
    - portán - Irish: "crab"
    - Molchi! (Молчи!) - Russian: "Silence!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - Ya ne znayu (Я нe знаю) - Russian: "I don't know" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - księżniczko - Polish: "princess"
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
  3. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    Once again, an excellent chapter! :3 So we see that Guardia was indeed the one who was crying. :c But on the bright side, it seems to have helped Team Traveller reunite somewhat.

    Oh, and Hess! It's cool how when we first saw him and his crew, from the perspective of everybody on Tromba, they seemed so threatening. Now it turns out that they're actually in the "lower percentile" of pirates! It just shows how much greater the threats are that Pleo and his friends face.

    It's also nice to see the Tromba group again, and hey, Salvini is Osmund's sister? This should be interesting! Anyway, great job on the chapter, and keep the good work coming. ^^
     
  4. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    PFF. Yeah he really just marched right into that, didn't he.

    Both their silences speak volumes.


    I am becoming more and more of a fan of Hess lately. He's such a dork when it all comes down to it. Big scaredy-cat dweeb who can't seem to catch a break. I can't help but find that endearing... or at least funny. :B

    Meanwhile, I feel you, Pleo. Having friends at odds with each other sucks huge ones. Here's hoping this is the start of them patching things up!
     
  5. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Yeah, I figured it got kinda obvious meta-wise after the second time, but revealing that Guardia tries (and obviously fails sometime) to keep her vulnerable moments to herself I think is something very important to her character. Basically showing that underneath that belligerent exterior is someone who really just wants to put on a brave face.

    To be fair, it comes with the territory when your Rescue Team's junior member has geopolitical implications. But yes, while Hess won't be leaving the story anytime soon, there will be a few foes higher on the threat matrix to menace Team Traveller.

    That's correct, actually. Didn't say it directly, but given that it had been hinted at way back in Mengir's EP, I figured that an indirect reveal made the most sense. And glad that you enjoyed the past chapter. ^^

    Yeah, Scian's a bit of a glutton for punishment.

    Well, you know what they say about a picture being worth a thousand words. A suitably well-crafted mental picture has about the same effect.

    I think that there's something about ineffectual villains in general that tends to make them easier to find endearing. Granted, Hess actually manages to get a lucky haul every now and then, but he drops the ball enough and lacks a certain degree of ruthlessness to him that helps to take the edge off of him a bit.

    Well, hopefully this chapter will give an answer to those hopes you had.

    So it's a bit later than "early July" than I'd hoped since there were quite a few kinks to iron out, but I'm back for the third installment from this arc. I still fully plan on attempting to make the next update arrive in time for the end of the month, but if things overshoot by a few days, you'll have an idea why.

    Special thanks for helping to get this particular chapter into shape goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net. As always, I'm ever grateful for the feedback and support that both helps to zero in on issues that I missed, and to get a breath of fresh air by seeing my work through others' eyes.

    And with that, let's cut to the chase and pick up where we left off last time:

    [​IMG]

    Through the foggy sky above, the sun's rays poked through in muted and soft hues. Late in the morning, they grew bright enough to rouse Team Traveller, the four stirring and rising to their feet beside the ruined arch with yawns and stretches. After a brief moment to check their surroundings, the group retraced their steps back through the fog of the Distortion, making their way for a hazy exit back out into the dungeon.

    Upon exiting the fog, the group looked around and saw the floor transformed into a maze of stony ledges and cactus thickets filled with darkened sand. The four looked about, trying to make sense of where to best start amidst the narrow passages, the thorny plants, and similarly unwelcome-looking stone bluffs.

    "… Where do we start here?" Pleo asked.

    "Well, I guess the way to start would be to figure out how the Distortion's shifted the floor," Nida answered. "Let's start by checking out what's around here?"

    "And just how are we supposed to decide that?" Guardia demanded.

    Elty looked ahead and saw that the path split into two forks around a stony formation. On the left was a narrow path that carried along into a deepening gully, to the right was another path that ran through a cactus thicket. The Growlithe peered down each path, and saw that neither of the two had an easily visible end… Two shots in the dark, with no scents or tracks to help determine which was the better option. In moments like these, perhaps it was best to let fate have its say in the matter.

    "Let's flip a coin," the dog offered. "Heads we go left, tails we go right."

    Elty nosed into the bag over Nida's shoulder and dug out a coin with his muzzle. Merchantry coins didn't have the heads of kings on their fronts like Imperial Bezants did per se, but the mint marker and value inscription did a good enough job indicating the tail. The Growlithe sat down and took the metal disc awkwardly in between his paws before setting it on his snout. As he struggled to keep the coin in place long enough to flip it, Guardia looked on, amused.

    "You know Gardie, I could probably-"

    "Quiet, bonehead," he snapped. "I've got this."

    Finally, he positioned the Poké to rest steadily on his snout, and he flicked his nose skyward, sending the coin spinning upward through the air. The coin landed neatly in the sand and the sun glinted off of its surface, the number denoting its value and the stamped Merchantry design indicating its originating mint highlighted that the flip had come up 'tails.'

    "Guess that means we'll start with the right," Elty said.

    The four went down the right corridor, and cautiously inched along through halls and chambers crowded by dense clumps of spiky plants. The group carried along through the cactus thicket, stumbling across a Totter Seed, some stray coins, and a chipped Gravelerock during their journeys, passing into a shaded corridor when a faint melody carried along the air.

    "Bum bah de dum bum bum bah de dum~"

    The team paused, their ears perking up as they glanced around for the source of the mysterious melody. Nida tapped her foot thoughtfully at the sound of the tune, which upon closer listening sounded somewhat familiar... but who could be making all that noise in a place like this?

    "Eh?" Pleo murmured. "Is that someone humming?"

    "Should we assume that it's hostile?" Guardia whispered.

    "I'm not sure, but…" Nida muttered. "I could've sworn that I heard Calino hum something just like that at his shop back home..."

    The Nidoran carried on as she and her teammates entered the chamber ahead. There, the entire clearing had been covered in red carpeting with golden designs of swirls circumscribed by overlapping squares. All around, items of every conceivable shape and color were carefully laid out. On it, a Kecleon cheerily idled with a hum as a bulkier counterpart and a grizzled-looking Kecleon with a stomach scar sat in the background playing cards, occasionally looking up and eying the rest of the carpet.

    "Welcome! Welcome! ♪" the shopkeeper Kecleon cheered.

    "Eh?! What's a Kecleon doing down here?" Pleo asked. "Is he lost?"

    "Nope! I'm here for business!" the chameleon insisted. "Selling to explorers like you in towns might be our bread and butter now, but we still ply our wares where they're most needed, just like in the days of Taloon the Great!"

    "Egh…" Guardia muttered. "How do we know that we're really getting a good price here?"

    "I mean, it can't hurt to look around at least," her Nidoran teammate offered.

    The four youngsters stepped onto the ruddy carpet, sniffing and prodding at the Kecleon's wares. There was a plump Sitrus Berry, its overripe scent and faint glimmer indicating it had been touched by a dungeon's distortion. A little further away was a wand with an orb of light inside that moved to track some unseen point when the wand was shifted…

    "Oh!"

    And there, beside Pleo's wing was the black, glassy form of an Escape Orb. The Protector craned his neck down and nosed at the orb, its bright light evidencing that it was primed and ready for use. The seabird's thoughts turned back to their last excursion with an Escape Orb, remembering how it instantly pulled the team out of the Distortion on Mengir. As long as the lizard shopkeeper came in through the right place, if they got this orb, they'd be able to get out of the dungeon! The rest of the merchant's wares could always be bought in town, and wouldn't it leave money over for a proper room at a hostel?

    "We'll take that one," Pleo chirped, pointing proudly at the Escape Orb with his wing.

    "That will be 300 Poké," the shopkeeper Kecleon said.

    Team Traveller blanched and felt their jaws drop at the chameleon's words. 3- 300 Poké?! That was more than quarter of the money that they had with them right now!

    "E-Eh?!" Nida exclaimed. "But we'd be able to get it for half of that back in town!"

    "Yes, and we need to bump the prices up in here to cover a little service fee," the bulkier Kecleon explained. "We don't exactly have any town guards to cover our security here!"

    "I mean, if you're startling the spike ball here, it has to be an unfair price," Guardia insisted. "Can't you lower it at all?"

    "No," the scarred Kecleon snapped.

    "But you hiked it for no reason!" the Cubone fumed.

    The Cubone's argument with the shopkeeper carried on, the Ground-Type fruitlessly attempting to haggle the chameleon down to a fair price. The bodyguards traded exasperated looks with one another as the bulky Kecleon's eye caught movement from its corner. The lizard turned and saw that at the edge of the mat, while his superior had been distracted with his unruly customer, the Growlithe in their group was nosing at a Perfect Apple and eyeing it hungrily…

    Too hungrily.

    "Oi, mutt!" the bulky Kecleon shouted. "Get your mouth away from that!"

    "Eh?!"

    The Growlithe clamped down on the apple reflexively and jumped back in a panic off the mat. After looking down and seeing that he was no longer on the red-and-gold carpet, he went wide-eyed, and spat out the apple, pulling his ears and tail back with an apologetic whine.

    "Er… sorry about the misunderstanding?" the Growlithe gulped.

    "You bit it, you bought it," the scarred Kecleon seethed. "So cough up the money."

    "Uh… how much will that be?" Pleo stammered.

    "1200 Poké."

    "Wh-What?!" Nida cried. "Eso es una locura! We don't even have that kind of money!"

    The three Kecleon's moods visibly darkened and the shopkeeper among them began to growl. His bulky and scarred companions began drawing forward, their claws flashing out for swipes as Team Traveller backpedaled more and more from the mat.

    "Er… what she meant to say was… uh…" Elty stammered. The Growlithe hastily fished around in his mind for a suitable excuse, but with the lizards visibly honing their claws to slash them, the Fire-Type's instincts to flee swiftly overwhelmed his more sober thoughts.

    "Run!"

    The dog spat up a column of cinders at the bulky Kecleon, prompting the group to break in a blind panic as the three chameleons hastily stamped out fires on the carpet.

    "Don't let them get away!" the shopkeep shouted. Team Traveller tore along through the passages in the cacti thicket, the sound of the bodyguards' pursuit nipping at their heels. Guardia made it to an intersection, where a sudden claw swipe prompted her to veer leftward and charge on blindly. Much to her horror, the Cubone quickly discovered that she'd separated from the group, and tried to double back, only to see an orange Kecleon charging her. The bone lizard turned to bolt, only for her foot to get caught on a loose pebble and send her falling face-first onto the ground.

    "A-Aagh!"

    "Gotcha!" the bulky Kecleon shouted.

    The fiery-orange Kecleon lunged for Guardia with a claw swipe, prompting the Cubone to throw her club at her pursuer's face in a blind panic. A loud smack rang out and the chameleon bowled back with a pained yelp as he stumbled back into a prickly pear plant. As the lizard winced and inched away from the thorny bush, the Cubone hastily drug herself up to her feet, running past the Kecleon and after her team as they charged blindly down the corridor.

    "Gah!" Nida cried. "We can't shake 'em!"

    Elty charged on ahead, when he chanced to notice a small spray of sand in the air being carried down to the ground at an unnaturally fast pace. For it to do that, it had to be blown down from above…

    And for that to happen, the odds were as good as any that it was coming from the floor above them.

    "Ah! That way!" the Growlithe yipped. "That's our exit!"

    As the group followed Elty's direction, they spotted a set of stony steps in a chamber at the end of the hallway. One by one, they bolted for the exit as fast as they could, bursting into the chamber when a sharp shout rang out.

    "Going somewhere?!"

    Team Traveller looked up in time to see a pair of scaly presences blocking their way and skidded to a stop. There in front of them were the bodyguards from the dungeon shop, the scarred Kecleon to the left, and the bulk Kecleon, now a tawny brown, to the right. The pair glared and hissed at the four youngsters, readying their claws for a strike as Pleo shrank back uneasily.

    "Uh… Wh-What do we do now?" the young Legendary stammered.

    As the two lizards slowly closed in on the team, a sudden realization came to Guardia. She noticed that the Kecleon she struck earlier had turned into an earthy brown color. In addition, the other lizard had turned orange after Elty had breathed fire on it, and had seemed to be particularly hurt by her subsequent bone throw…

    Who was to say that they couldn't do the same again?

    "Wait! They become like whatever attack hit them last!" Guardia cried. "Gardie, light that one on the right up!"

    "Coming up!" Elty cried.

    The Growlithe spat up a gout of fire onto the bulkier of the two chameleons, the lizard's scales melting from their tawny color into a vivid orange as he recoiled from the fire. The bodyguard dug his feet in and growled, regaining his balance to charge ahead and tackle the Fire-Type back with a yelp. Seeing that Guardia was keenly eying his partner and sweeping her bone out for a running smash, the scarred Kecleon quickly put two and two together, and dashed over to try and intercept her attack.

    "Oh no you don- Ack!" the scarred Kecleon began, only to abruptly cry out in pain. A forceful kick caught him in the stomach, followed by a second that swept him off his feet and knocked him over with a yelp. The culprit, a blue-furred Nidoran panted, and turned to her other teammates, crying out as loud as she could manage.

    "Pleo! Guardia!" Nida shouted. "Now!"

    Not letting a moment go to waste, Pleo hastily brought his wings together and sent a cutting gust of wind at the reddening Kecleon that Nida attacked. Guardia followed suit and bolted for the bulky, orange Kecleon, springing up and bringing an overhead smash with her bone onto the current Fire-Type's head. The two chameleons bowled over in pain, and groped about in a stunned stupor, slow to rise back to their feet. Sensing that they'd been given precious moments to get a head start over their pursuers, Guardia whirled to her teammates and motioned to them with her club.

    "Hurry!" Guardia exclaimed. "Before they get back up!"

    The group bolted up the stairs in a multicolored blur, Elty limping along afterwards gasping for air. The group staggered up and flopped down, the stairs pulling itself into the floor just in time to thwart the shouting approach of the Kecleon bodyguards, filling the air with the sound of stone grinding against stone. Together in a tired heap, Team Traveller laid in the sand panting as the grinding noise ceased and they were left listening to the quiet shifting of sands in the dungeon as they caught their breath and nosed at a set of fresh wounds. After they had a moment to recuperate, they separated from their pile, and Nida wasted no time in pointing blame for their unfortunate encounter.

    "Nice going there, Elty," Nida huffed.

    "Yeah, way to almost get us knocked into next week thanks to stealing," Guardia glowered.

    "Oi, I didn't do it on purpose this time!" Elty snapped. "And if you had covered for me half as well as you fought back there, we might have been able to get away without being chased by a bunch of angry lizards!"

    Pleo balked somewhat at Elty's unintentional, backhanded compliment. Although his sour attitude didn't help things now any more than it had been recently, Pleo thought that perhaps he was onto something after all. Maybe if they had been working together a little better from the start, those Kecleon wouldn't have taken them to be such a rough crowd so quickly...?

    "… Actually, I think he's right," Pleo murmured.

    "Eh? What are you going on about?" Guardia demanded.

    "Well, we did get through that fight because we worked together," he explained. "If we had also done the same back at the Kecleon shop, then…"

    Nida flicked her ears back and shook her head begrudgingly. Her dour mood made her want to disagree, but she couldn't in good conscience say that Pleo was wrong. Throughout their history as a team, they had definitely been at their strongest while working more closely together.

    "Let's not read too much into a fluke Pleo. What's done is done," Nida sighed. "Let's just keep a sharper eye out this time and stick closer together."

    Guardia gave a small, tired nod in agreement, while Elty shot a sour frown at the spike ball before opting to let the matter be. The team hastily divided up an Oran Berry and devoured it before gathering up their belongings and starting to set off. First Nida, followed closely behind by Guardia. Pleo paused a moment before ruffling his feathers and starting off, only to feel a presence nose him from behind.

    "Hey, Pleo."

    The young Lugia turned around, and saw Elty looking at him, giving a grateful nod and wag of his tail. He was… happy? It had felt so long since the last time he'd seen him like this.

    "Thanks for backing me up back there."

    The Fire-Type carried on, leaving Pleo to blink and stare after before following after himself. In spite of his wounds and his tired gait, he'd felt in higher spirits than any time since the day on the beach in Mengir. Maybe… Just maybe, they'd get through this.



    Out on the sea, the Vasilek continued on its course for Sormus, the island announcing its presence as the air grew hotter knot after knot as they drew nearer. The heat began to take its toll on the laboring crew, as the Pokémon were driven towards exhaustion by the sweltering heat, and Nagant's trips into the sea to stay hydrated grew ever more frequent. At the bow, the form of sand dunes and stony hills surrounding a column of fog poked over the horizon, prompting the lookout to announce the sight of the land. The lookout's cry drew the attention of the crew, who gathered on the railing to stare off at the approaching island in the distance.

    "… Where do we even start?" Berecien murmured.

    "Yeah, would those kersat have gone in town?" Niilo mulled. "Or in the Mystery Dungeon?"

    "Let's start by looking for anything that seems out of place," Nagant grunted. "We know that that Protector brings trouble wherever he goes, so if he's here, we'll surely see some sort of sign."

    "Uh…" Cabot murmured. "Would that count as something out of the ordinary?"

    The Cranidos gestured with his claw off at a white object in the distance. Nagant - failing to make out the object with a squint - fished out a scope from her bag and peered through it to see that the white belonged to the sails of a small Brigantine. The vessel had an unusually skeletal crew, and seemed to be anchored out at sea on the far side of Sormus for no particular reason: both matters which dredged up a sense of suspicion from the wizened shrimp.

    "… It does, actually. If I didn't know better, I'd have sworn I saw a ship like that that in port at Mengir," she chittered. "Take us in a bit closer."

    The frigate changed its heading and the escorts in the air whipped up a headwind to slow the craft down to a crawl as it drifted along past the waiting twin-master. It was a craft with a blue sun design on it, the meager white-scarved crew having become suspiciously tense at the sight of their craft. Among them, there was one, very visible exception, consisting of a Weavile perched on a small mound of large ice blocks lying down basking in the sun's rays as his throne slowly melted away at the bottom.

    "Hoy!" Jun buzzed. "Whose ship is this!"

    "Ketu, acting captain of the Nektar… Whatever here," the Weavile lazily answered from his icy perch. The Dark-Type shuffled off his icy perch and dropped down to the deck, making his way over to the railing with a stretch before coming to a stop in front of the Clawitzer captain resting his chin on his claws.

    "Are you Imps all this nosy? I was just catching some rays here."

    The demeanor aboard the Vasilek quickly darkened at the mention of 'Imps', a few growls and glares breaking out at the smaller ship and its crew. Nagant was similarly displeased by the Weavile's flippant attitude, giving a dismissive twitch of her mandibles.

    "Uh… huh…" the shrimp scoffed, shifting her big claw towards the Dark-Type with a fierce scowl. "And just what are you doing here anchored in the middle of nowhere like this?"

    "We're a ship full of Company spies performing surveillance," Ketu snarked back. "Can't you tell?"

    A wave of shock crested over both crews, stunned surprise from the Vasilek's, and nervous, startled expressions from the white-scarved crew. Even Nagant and Jun weren't immune to the surprise: the Clawitzer captain dropped her firing claw to the deck out of astonishment and her Beedrill first mate flitted up with a start and buzzed out of shock.

    "WHAT?!"

    The Weavile shifted a claw over his mouth, trying and largely failing to stifle a snickering laugh at the expense of his interrogators. Nagant, sensing that she was being mocked, clicked her mandibles and hopped up and down on the deck of her frigate irately.

    "Take this seriously and give us a straight answer, Weavile!" the Clawitzer hissed.

    "Tch. I'm sunbathing on an anchored ship here!" Ketu retorted. "What do you think I'm up to?"

    A wave of exasperated sighs and scowls settled over the watching crew at the furball's response. Chief among them was Nagant's who peered off into the sky with an audibly irked grunt, before directing her attention back to the apparent captain of the white sailed ship.

    "Hrmph. Did you happen to see any Pokémon fly by at least?" the shrimp demanded. "A bird with white plumes and a long neck?"

    "Nope."

    A skeptical frown began to spread over Nagant's face, the Clawitzer none too pleased with the short and dismissive answer the Weavile gave her.

    "Are you sure?" she pressed.

    "Yup."

    The Clawitzer gave the Weavile a sour look, only for him to lean on the railing and pick his claws, completely indifferent to the Imperial Captain's displeasure. Nagant chittered under her breath and rolled her eyes, before pivoting on her tail and turning back to her crew, eager to leave behind the furry slacker and his ship.

    "Let's get moving!"

    At their captain's command, the crew of the Vasilek set into a hurried daze; the escorts whipping up wind and sea currents to move the frigate along on its route for land. As Nagant's ship departed, the Clawitzer looked back in time to see the Weavile from the white ship give a mocking wave, prompting her to turn away with a frustrated chitter.

    The ship carried on, the sand dunes and bluffs of Sormus growing larger and more visible, along with glimpses of the gaping pit mines in the distance, and the dusty adobe huts of a small-ish village by the seaside. All the while, Nagant still seethed from her prior encounter, and how the run-in with the ship and its furball captain had done little but waste her time and raise the pressure of her blue blood from his obnoxious demeanor. Sensing that it would be best for everyone involved if Nagant wasn't in one of her tempestuous moods before higher nobles, her First Mate settled down beside his superior, and gave a buzzing beat of his wings for attention.

    "Talk about making much ado about nothing…" Jun sighed. "But I'm honestly at a bit of a loss of where we can go from here. After all, we just know that the Guardian headed west… but there's precious little else we know that isn't conjecture."

    The Clawitzer paused and thought the matter over. They truly were short on leads, but they were already here at Sormus, and they knew that the Protector had flown off in a course headed for it… Perhaps this was the right time to get a feel for what the Pokémon on the ground had been hearing lately.

    "… Have word sent to the Duke in Copperband Village" Nagant ordered. "We might not be able to narrow things down on our own, but he can certainly help."

    "Right," the Beedrill buzzed. "I'll see to it that it's done once we-"

    "Now, Jun."

    "Ex-Excuse me?" the Bug-Type stammered.

    A tense silence hung in the air as the detailing on Copperband's buildings started coming into view, Jun uneasily shifted his drills waiting for further explanation from his superior. He was met with a firm glare from the captain Clawitzer, the old shrimp's patience clearly thinner than normal.

    "The fate of the Empire rests in that bird's wings," the crustacean said. "If the Duke has any idea at all of where we could look for him, I want to hit the water swimming."



    "Eh? What is this place?"

    Nida's words floated through the air as Team Traveller made their up the steps to a small, open chamber consisting of a long, spindly crevasse ringed by sandstone walls. The four carried on, passing sand mounds and stones, but not a single passage or turn, a night-and-day difference from the maze-like levels that they had encountered before.

    "It's nothing like the last floors we've been on!" she exclaimed. "Are we even still in the dungeon right now?"

    "Not exactly, we're at the midpoint right now," Elty scoffed.

    "Midpoint?" Pleo murmured.

    "It's a stable zone that occurs in a lot of dungeons," the Growlithe explained. "If a dungeon branches into multiple ones, it usually happens in places like these."

    "But how can you tell this is a midpoint, Elty?" the young Protector insisted.

    "That's how I can tell."

    The Fire-Type pointed off ahead at a stony lump with his claw. The stone clump looked vaguely familiar to the young Lugia… Two legs, two arms, a strong tail, and a pouch up at the front. Why, that looked just like a Pokémon he had seen back on Tromba!

    "… Why is there a statue here of that one juice shop owner from back in Bluewhorl Town?" Pleo asked.

    "Because it's not a statue," the dog insisted. "Look."

    Elty noticed a small pebble by his paws and bent down to pick it up with his mouth. The dog stretched up, and dropped the pebble down the pouch with a hollow-sounding clunk as it struck the inside of the rock, immediately making Guardia's eyes light up in realization.

    "Ah! It's a hut-dweller's Storage Rock!" she exclaimed. "Though this is the first I've seen in this shape…"

    "I've heard that they tend to be made in the shape of the Pokémon who hold onto your items," Elty explained. "So I guess the Storage Shop that handles this rock must be run by a Kangaskhan."

    "Oh? But what's in here?" Pleo wondered. Curious at the mention of the stone being a Storage Rock, the young Lugia craned his head in and began to poke around with his beak in the darkness.

    "Ugh, how much further do we need to go in this sandbox anyway?" a snorting voice added.

    "Come on, Hooke. It ain't that bad, and we're almost at the midpoint anyway," a low, raspy voice murmured.

    "Huh?"

    The bird looked around inside the rock for a moment, before realizing that the voices were coming from outside. He pulled his head back out, and saw his teammates staring at a Krokorok and a Grumpig in white scarves further down the room, sniffing at the ground.

    "Hey!" he chirped. "Are you another rescue team?"

    The white-scarved duo jolted upright in a startled shock. The Krokorok bared his teeth and gave a belligerent, throaty hiss, only for some chatter from his companion to seemingly put the creature at ease as the two began to make their way over.

    "Do you know how we can get out of here?" the bird asked. "We're kinda lost."

    "Er… well, we've got a teleporter if that's what you're talking about," the Grumpig answered, drawing a skeptical head tilt from Nida. Something about these two felt familiar to her, as if she had seen them somewhere before… but where?

    The Psychic-Type began to make his way over, his Krokorok companion pausing to press his badge and speak into it, appearing as if a weight had been taken off his shoulders.

    "Hey, Maria," the reptile said into his badge. "I think we just got our lucky break."

    The pair walked up, revealing their white scarves to be sporting blue sun-like designs that caught Elty's eye. The Growlithe shifted uncomfortably, starting to look unnerved, and leaned in to Pleo's side to gain his attention.

    "Uhm… mewa, not that I'm one to look a gift horse in the mouth," Elty whispered uneasily. "But doesn't that design look familiar at all to you?"

    "Eh? Where's it from?" Pleo asked.

    "I haven't seen anything like it since I joined you," Guardia scoffed. "Between all the patterns you hut-dwellers put around your neck, it's no surprise everything would start looking the same to you."

    "… It's probably just the desert sun playing tricks on you," the Grumpig reassured. "Come on, we'll get you taken care of once we're out."

    "Yeah. Just come along and we'll get you out of this dive," the Krokorok added. "Sure beats crate work any day."

    Nida's barbs stood on end at the mention of "crate work", prompting her to tense up and go wide-eyed. This was that same Krokorok and Grumpig that had discovered Crom from his crate aboard Lyn's ship! The same ones that had helped those horrid cretins beat him and throw him off that lousy boat in the first place!

    "A-Aah! You!" she squeaked. "Don't touch him!"

    The Poison-Type fanned her barbs out and flicked one at the Krokorok, catching him in his wrist and drawing a pained bellow from the Desert Croc Pokémon.

    "ARGH!"

    "Spike ball, what are you doing?!" Guardia exclaimed.

    "These guys were some of the Pokémon who beat up Crom when we entered Lyn´s ship!" Nida cried.

    Team Traveller went rigid and felt the blood in their veins run cold at the realization that their company's mood had decisively soured. Both Ken and Hooke were now sporting glares, and pawing at the ground ready to lunge.

    "Grr… so you figured us out after all, Nidoran," Ken spat.

    "Not that it´s gonna make a difference!" the pig snorted. "Get 'em!"

    The Psychic-Type sent a ray of light sparkling like a column of gems from the pearls on his head towards Elty, only for Guardia to shove him out of the way and be sent flopping back along the floor with a yelp. At the same time, Pleo flapped up and began to form a Weather Ball in his mouth, disgorging the glowing orb at his Krokorok assailant, only for him to drop to the ground and vanish in a plume of sand and dirt.

    "E-Eh?! Where'd he go?!" Pleo squawked.

    Nida looked around frantically, as all sign of Ken's presence had vanished barring a hole in the ground that he'd left behind. The Poison-Type's ears pricked up at the sound of rumbling, which drew her attention to a snaking streak of disturbed sand beelining straight for her. The Nidoran hastily tried to hop away in a panic, only to hear the crash of dirt flying up from the ground, and a sharp shout.

    "Gotcha!"

    The Nidoran shrieked as she felt a heavy blow on her belly from below, sending her flopping back on the ground. The Poison-Type woozily stumbled back up to her feet, just in time to see Pleo disgorge another Weather Ball at the Krokorok, who much to his horror, largely shrugged the blow off and proceeded to chase after the bird with snapping jaws.

    "A-Aah! H-How are we supposed to fight these guys?!" Pleo exclaimed.

    As Nida paused to catch her breath, she saw Guardia and Elty being herded by the Grumpig towards the Krokorok with a series of beams. Grah! How were they supposed to beat these two when they were so much stronger?! It wasn't as if they could just make them beat each other up!

    … Wait a minute, maybe they could! They'd picked up a Totter Seed just a few floors ago, and now was the time to use it!

    "Pleo!" Nida cried. "Come this way!"

    The Lugia flew along the ground in a panicked hurry, followed closely by Ken, who swiped at the seabird, ruffling his feathers with near-missed bites and claw swipes from just out of his reach. Nida waited for the pair to come by as she readied a swirl-patterned seed in her paws for a throw.

    "Take this!"

    Nida hurled the Totter Seed with all her might, the projectile sailing along into the Krokorok's mouth. The crocodile gulped the seed down with a choking gag, and for a second, Nida grimaced, thinking the Totter Seed had failed to do anything other than fatten her attacker up… only to notice that the Krokorok's gait had grown dazed and erratic.

    "Nrgh…" Ken groaned. "Room spinning… Oi! Stop right there, bird!"

    -The Desert Croc dug his heels into the earth and launched himself with his jaws opened… at none other than his Grumpig partner. The crocodile knocked the Psychic-Type down with a startled yelp, followed by a pained squeal as he bit down onto the pig's rump.

    "AUGH! What is wrong with you, you stupid clod?!" Hooke shouted. "Do I look like a bird here?!"

    The Krokorok blinked in confusion before his partner hastily shoved him off to the ground, visibly wobbling and struggling to keep his balance as he nursed his injured rump. Guardia's eyes lit up at the sight of her tottering foe, this could be just the break that they all needed!

    "Get the pig!" she cried. "If we can defeat him, we can narrow things down to that Waruvile!"

    The Cubone charged the Psychic-Type, only to lose her footing and tumble after being struck by a glowing beam of light. Before Hooke could follow up with a further blow, he felt a burning pain on his back, followed by a sharp jab on his flank. In a wide-eyed panic, the pig sprang off his tail just as a glowing orb narrowly missed his head, prompting him to reach for his badge after losing his nerve.

    "Hey! A little help he- AUGH!"

    Only to feel a heavy blow against his head and for his vision to run muddy. The Grumpig's grip on his badge slackened and he tottered forward and backward a moment, attempting to spring away off his tail only to faceplant and lose consciousness. Unbeknownst to the Company underling, the culprit of the blow planted her foot on the Psychic-Type's groaning head, giving a triumphant bat of her club against her free claw.

    "Hah, they really do fall harder when they're bigger," she jeered. "I'd have expected more of a fight out of him!"

    "Grah… Stop multiplying, you lousy brats!" Ken fumed.

    The four youngsters' attention quickly turned to the Krokorok as he stomped the ground, setting the area around him shaking with enough force to flatten the surrounding sandy terrain. Ultimately though, the attack hit far off from its intended target, the Krokorok accomplishing little more than to kick up a cloud of dust from the stamped sand. Team Traveller looked on nervously as the Krokorok stomped the ground flat around him, whirling around in a desperate attempt to land a hit. Although he wasn't accomplishing much at present, it was clear to them that they were on borrowed time against the disoriented Desert Croc. If they were to have any chance of coming out on top here, they'd need to act quickly and decisively to overpower him.

    "Quick! Take him out too before he snaps out of it!" Elty yipped.

    "Right behind you!" Guardia cried.

    Elty landed the first blow by somersaulting into the reptile as flames danced on his pelt, followed by Guardia lobbing her bone at the Ground-Type and striking him in his stomach. As the Desert Croc reached around for the Cubone's club, he felt a spike lodge in his flank and bellowed out in pain after being knocked back by a forceful, burning tackle.

    Ken looked up, his vision starting to sharpen and settle as he saw that the tackle had come from none other than Pleo, filaments of fiery blue light still dancing on his plumes. The Krokorok lunged ahead at the Lugia, the seabird noticing his attacker at the last moment with a terrified squawk.

    "A-AAH!"

    Pleo desperately tried to fly off, only to flop forward as a heavy weight pinned him against the ground. He felt a crushing bite along his back and shrieked in pain, desperately beating his wings and kicking until a loud blow rang out and knocked the weight off his back, allowing him to break free. His rescuer was none other than Guardia, the Cubone staring down the Company Krokorok as he rose back to his feet, seething.

    "Oi, you overgrown mogura!" Guardia spat. "You've got the rest of us to deal with!"

    "Grr! Let's see how tough you're talking after I've got my jaws around you!" the crocodile bellowed.

    The Krokorok ran for the Cubone with his jaws opened, biting down as he got near. Instead of feeling his jaws clamp down on something, he felt a weight latch onto his upper snout. Ken tried to open his mouth to throw the unwelcome weight up and into his maw, only to find that his jaws refused to budge at all.

    "Mrrph?!"

    There, directly in front of his eyes, was the form of the Cubone, clinging onto his snout and holding his mouth shut by pulling her bone against his lower jaw! The Krokorok thrashed his head this way and that, trying to throw the lizard off of him. After a few fruitless thrashes, Guardia's left grip slipped, prompting the Desert Croc to wrench his head right and finally shake his unwelcome passenger loose. The crocodile turned to pounce on his attacker, only for his victory to be short-lived as a burning pain erupted on his flank. Ken whirled in time to see embers dance on his hide, and yelp as he felt a pair of forceful kicks hit his stomach.

    The Krokorok gagged and clutched at his stomach, as the world started to grow fuzzy and faint as he struggled to stay on his feet. The sound of a harsh wind kicked up, and the Desert Croc felt himself lifted off the ground and sailing just above it, the form of the Storage Rock fast approaching.

    SMACK!

    Pleo brought his wings back to his sides after his Whirlwind, watching Ken strike the Storage Rock headfirst. The crocodile bounced off of the Pokémon-shaped stone, and flopped sprawled-out against the ground, groaning incoherently out of pain.

    "Ur-Urgh…"

    Team Traveller stared and winced against their wounds, their breaths coming ragged and short. The four braced themselves for further blows, only for none to come. A quick check of their surroundings revealed Hooke and Ken slumped over in the sand, both unresponsive and with nary a sign of life other than the quiet rise and fall of their chests. Still half-disbelieving the turn of events, Nida walked up and prodded at Ken's leg, giving a forceful kick after she was satisfied the crocodile wouldn't be getting up soon.

    "That- That was for Crom!" Nida panted. "And don't you forget it, you Company scum!"

    "Save the theatrics for later," Guardia grunted. "They almost certainly weren't alone, and their friends can't be far behind."

    "Then let's get ourselves a little apology from them before we have to leave," Elty said. The Fire-Type made his way over to the unconscious form of Hooke, pulling the Grumpig's bag off of his shoulders as Nida gave a disgusted shake of her head.

    "Elty, are we seriously getting into banditry here?" the Nidoran sighed.

    "Eh?" Guardia protested. "But you didn't have any problem when my Colony did it to that giant tonbo and his buddies."

    "Besides, when they get back up, who would you prefer to have this stuff?" Elty countered. "Them or us?"

    "Uh... that's a pretty good point, actually," Pleo replied.

    The Growlithe stuck his head in the bag and began throwing out its contents. A few berries, a few Heal Seeds and a Reviver Seed, some orbs and wands that he couldn't make out yet...

    The team quickly divided up the healing items among them and set to work patching up their bruises and scrapes and began to dump the pilfered items into the ratty bag on Nida's shoulder. The group quickly discovered that there was too much to take, and the Grumpig's bag was too bulky for any of them to carry off. Not knowing what to do with the remainder, but deciding that it was best to not let Ken and Hooke have it, Nida opted to dump the bag and its contents down the Kangaskhan-shaped rock. As the Poison-Type handled the rest of the bag's contents, Elty and Guardia traded quiet glances with each other, each waiting for the other to speak first.

    "Hey... about that fight there…" Guardia murmured. "Thanks for pulling in for me."

    "Well, it's just what was needed then," Elty said. "It's no big deal-"

    "Hey Ken, you there? You and Hooke went dark all of a sudden.

    The four froze at the sound of the voice filling the room, and they turned to see that Ken had shifted onto his badge, unwittingly calling out to the teleporter on the other end. The Krokorok was dazed and far from ready for another battle, but even so, he was starting to stir, and his lucidity was clearly starting to return to him.

    "Grnk... Wha...?" the Krokorok groaned. "Who is this?"

    "That's our cue to get out of here," Nida said. "Come on, let's go!"

    The group hastily fled, continuing off into the distance where a fresh set of stairs awaited them at the end of the chamber. All the while, their hearts pounded and their breaths grew light from knowing that Lyn and his underlings were catching up with them. And yet, in spite of it all, they knew that they were nearing the end. Just a little further, they'd finally have a safe harbor to pull into.



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
  6. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    As with the more seaside portions of Rosequartz Town, the local market had been similarly damaged by the arrival of Nagant and her pursuing horde of ferals. Roofs were caved in, walls toppled, but in spite of it all, the entrepreneurial spirit carried. Merchants shifted the undamaged remnants of their stock out for sale in their shop, or in the case of some such as Laurens and his amulets, in the midst of battered shops. Other shopkeepers such as his immediate neighbors were less fortunate, and carried on their trade on hastily spread mats in front of obliterated storefronts.

    There amid the chaotic hubub, Kichiro sized up a trio of hastily-patched buckets filled with blackish pitch set out by a Mr. Mime. The Psychic-Type did his best to study the reactions of his customer, the Bug-Type evidently noticing the sorry state of his wares a bit more than he would have liked. Even so, this was what he had to work with right now, and the shopkeep crossed his fingers that his Ledian customer would need the pitch more than he needed the money to rebuild his store.

    "Sorry about the condition," the Barrier Pokémon sighed. "But it's the best we've got considering the circumstances."

    "Guess I can't complain too much there…" Kichiro sighed. "This is actually the third place we've had to pick up stray supplies from like this."

    The Ledian picked up two of the pitch buckets and began to hand off the last to Wilhelm, only for the Hoppip to never take it. The Bug-Type looked behind him, where there on the other side of the street was his partner loitering at a battered shop managed by a Feraligatr, mesmerized with his reflection in the pink baubles hanging from the eaves of his battered shop.

    "Oi, hayseed!" the Ledian snapped. "Get your leaves in gear and help me carry these buckets of pitch!"

    "Oh! Er.. coming!"

    The Hoppip flitted over and grabbed onto the handle of his bucket and flew up after his Ledian teammate, struggling under the weight of the pitch-laden container. The pair flew along in a course tracing the docks of Rosequartz Town, passing a Gurdurr overseeing a repair on a trashed pier. Further out in the harbor, a large group of harbor Pokémon directed by a Starmie helped to raise a freshly-sunken hulk off the harbor floor, the ship leaking water out of its port holes. Kichiro's attention was drawn to the sound of a nearby yelp, as a Zangoose, a Banette, and a Flareon were chased off from the Torrent Tsars' dock with a loud, contemptuous "and don't come back!" from Ingela's underlings. The beetle turned his attention to follow Scian and his partners' flight, only to be distracted by Wilhelm suddenly piping up from behind.

    "Heh! A 'mon sure learns a lot hanging around the likes of you!" the Hoppip cheered.

    Wilhelm's enthusiasm was not shared with his partner, who stared ahead with a sour look on his face. The Ledian grumbled loudly under his breath, fighting with his buckets of pitch to stay balanced and airborne.

    "I'm starting to think that Captain Hess stuck you with me on purpose because of that bone lizard," Kichiro growled.

    "Huh?" Wilhelm asked. "What do you mean by tha-?"

    "W-Wait! What do you mean we're going after that demon?!"

    The Ledian flitted to a stop, almost dropping his buckets out of surprise at the sudden voices. The beetle hastily scanned his surroundings, where on the docks down by the sea nestled among a small stack of crates he spotted a Combusken, a Grotle, and a Scraggy in the black scarves of the Shadow Brigade.

    "… Hey wait a moment, that's our job they're talking about," the bug murmured.

    Kichiro looked around and spotted a flat roof nearby, flitting down and coming to a stop atop it. The Bug-Type set down his pitch buckets and lined them up to provide cover before peering over at the group of Shadow Brigade Pokémon. The Ledian turned to motion for his partner to follow, only to see Wilhelm flit past… and keep going. The beetle hastily dragged the Grass-Type into his perch before he could get spotted, stifling the pink Pokémon's yelp as he shushed and motioned for silence.

    "Ugh… this again?" the Combusken grumbled. "I thought we concluded that it was just hearsay!"

    "I dunno, Sela. I've been hearing it too," Hanuna murmured. "And Sibich did try to go after the demon while he was in town…"

    "All the more reason why he wouldn't!" Sela insisted. "He's seen how dangerous that thing is for himself, there's no way he'd risk scaring us and a third of his crew off with some goose chase!"

    "Oh come on, you can't admit that something doesn't smell about this," Eric countered. "Going off to do an operation on Giotto with all three of his ships? Just a day after the port got trashed?"

    Back from their place behind the pitch buckets, Kichiro shifted uneasily. Sibich had stopped going out with his full force a few years ago after a failed raid on an Imperial copper shipment that cost him a ship that he'd only recently replaced. So just what would motivate him to be so bold again?

    "We're just like spies right now! Like the Company and Empire and their cloak and dag-" Wilhelm whispered, only to be cut off with a shushing hiss from his Ledian teammate.

    "Can you can it right now?!"

    "Oi! I'm not giving you a cut of my take to loaf around!"

    The trio of Marked pirates below them gulped and turned around reluctantly to see a red-eyed Cofagrigus looming over them. The Ghost-Type was in a visibly foul mood, which served to quickly quell the disagreement among the three and draw a more apologetic tone.

    "Er… sorry, Captain Sibich," Eric said. "It's just that we were a little worn down and thought a break might help us work better."

    "Yes, and there will be plenty of time to do that on the water," the Cofagrigus insisted. "With everything that I've done for you, I'd have thought that you'd return the favor with your work!"

    Kichiro and Wilhelm blinked at the Ghost-Type's words, the pair casting blank glances at each other. Just what could Captain Sibich have meant by...

    "'Everything he's done for them'?" Wilhelm asked.

    "Don't ask me," Kichiro answered. "Maybe they're some of those Marked his crew apprentices."

    "Right, we'll get back to work," Hanuna replied. "The sooner these crates get onboard, the sooner we can get moving."

    "But… why are we heading out so soon? What exactly are we chasing after?" Eric prodded.

    "My source from within the Imperial Admiralty told me to expect the haul of a lifetime out there," the Ghost-Type explained. "Setback or none, it's not a matter to dismiss lightly."

    The three Marked traded uneasy looks with each other, turning their attention back to their captain hoping for reassurance. The Ghost-Type, sensing that the conversation wasn't going where he wanted it to, narrowed his eyes and gave a dissuading wave of his hands.

    "It's nothing that you all need to worry about," the Cofagrigus huffed. "Just do your part aboard this crew, and the job will go smoothly."

    "… If you say so," Sela murmured.

    The three Pokémon paused and uneasily turned to their work, shuffling off and leaving Sibich behind among the crates. After a quick glance about his surroundings, the Ghost-Type lazily floated above the ground and brought a left hand up to his face, where a silvery feather emerged from his palm. The Cofagrigus cradled it with a knowing sneer, before tightening his hand around it and drawing it back into his wraith-like body, leaving Kichiro and Wilhelm staring stunned and slack-jawed.

    "… We need to tell the captain about this," Kichiro muttered.

    "Yeah! Captain Sibich can hide stuff in his body!" Wilhelm exclaimed. "Who knows what else he's keeping in there-"

    "No, you dunce!" the Bug-Type hissed. "About Sibich going to Giotto!"

    "Er… right. That too."

    The pair cast some glances about their surroundings, and after being suitably satisfied they weren't being watched, they scooped up their buckets and lept off the far side of the roof. The two Pokémon took wing, zipping along as quickly as their wings and burdens would allow as they wondered just who Sibich's lead could've been… and what else did he know that they didn't?




    After the ambush and a hasty healing, Team Traveller hurried on lower and lower into the shifting floors of the Mystery Dungeon. Their travails took them past one floor to the next, brushing up with feral and trap alike. The scenery in the dungeon's second half had similarly changed, as was the case of their current floor riddled with stony spires, and curiously enough, an admixture of smooth ruined walls and pillars. The search for the stairs had gone slowly, with the four making their way through the labyrinth, searching here and there for the exit only to continuously come up short of leads.

    "See anything, Guardia?"

    "... Nothing," the Cubone murmured. "Just the normal sand and rocks."

    "That's strange… floors aren't normally this empty right?" Pleo asked. "We haven't seen any ferals or items down here yet."

    Elty blinked and flicked his ears uneasily. Now that the mewa had mentioned it, they really hadn't seen any other Pokémon down here. It couldn't have been that late into the day, could it? But even if it were, that wouldn't explain the lack of items...

    "... You're right," Elty murmured. "Somethings up."

    "Eh?" Pleo asked. "What do you-?"

    "Hey, Locke. Did you hear that?" a gruff voice murmured.

    "Yeah, sounded like it was coming from over there ," a small, nasly voice added. "You think it's our targets?"

    Team Traveller froze at the sound of the familiar-sounding voices, as they saw the shadows of a short, pointy-snouted nymph, and a tall, gangly humanoid with prominent fists spread on the walls ahead. Nida's fur stood on end at the mention of "targets", realizing that they belonged to none other than…

    "Ah! It's more of Lyn's lackeys!" Nida yelped.

    "Wh-What do we do?!" Pleo exclaimed.

    The four watched as the forms of a Nuzleaf and Hitmonchan passed the end of the hallway, prompting the two dart ahead into a large chamber riddled with large stone clumps and a broken pillar. Guardia wheeled her club back, ready to strike at any pursuers coming into the room... but nobody came. She carefully peeked around the corner and down the hallway, discovering that it was empty and their pursuers not visible beyond the faint sound of distant footsteps.

    "I don't think they saw us," Guardia whispered.

    "... They're close," the Hitmonchan murmured. "These tracks are fresh."

    "You take the far corridor, Jan. I'll take this one," the Nuzleaf grunted. Team Traveller froze as approaching footfalls rang down the corridors ahead, the movement periodically paused to give way to loud thumps against the walls as the distant Pokemon checked for stable zones. Elty pulled his tail in between his legs, whining anxiously to his teammates as he glanced back and forth at his surroundings.

    "If we stay here, they'll find us!" Elty whispered.

    "I know that!" Guardia hissed. "But what are we supposed to do?"

    Scanning across the room, the Nidoran's thoughts turned to the pillar in the center of the chamber. It would hardly make a reliable hiding place in the long-term, but it would at least provide cover to block the sight from wherever the Pokemon in the corridors emerged.

    "There!" the Nidoran said. "We'll go behind that pillar, and we'll move on when they're not looking."

    The four Pokémon bunched up behind the pillar, scooting along to the other side as they heard their pursuers approach from behind it. The four carefully inched along the pillar as the Company Pokémon passed by, and began retracing the tracks the pair had followed into the chamber. The four managed slip along the length of the long chamber as Jan and Locke searched the rear, the form of a rock cluster coming into view, with a corridor behind that provided a glimpse of stairs to the next floor.

    "Alright, we're clear," Nida murmured. "Let's go to those rocks next."

    Team Traveller crept along, making it to the rock cluster just in time as the Company Pokémon turned around and tried to puzzle out where their targets had gone off to. The four waited for the voices to grow distant, evidently trying out the other corridors before setting off. Pleo took the lead, the young Protector waddling on into the corridor ahead... and directly onto a small tile with a swirly design set in the stony floor underfoot.

    Click!

    The young Lugia squawked as a the ground under his feet abruptly spun around, sending the bird whirling in place and stumbling forward. Pleo lurched forward, groaning in a daze and the shapes of the surrounding stones running muddy as the racket drew the attention of the Company Pokémon from further down the chamber.

    "Hey! Someone's here!" Locke exclaimed.

    The team froze and blanched as the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps sounded out, putting Nida, Elty, and Guardia into a blind panic. Nida and Guardia hastily latched onto Pleo's wings, guiding the dazed seabird along as Elty hung back, much to their consternation.

    "Gardie, hurry up!" Guardia snapped. "They're coming!"

    "I know that! Just go on ahead for a moment!" the Growlithe insisted.

    The three others hurried along as Elty walked in front of the trap, and waited patiently. The Fire-Type didn't brace himself, or do anything that seemed to indicate he was preparing for a battle at all. He watched as the Hitmonchan and the Nuzleaf rounded the corner, and then bellowed out to draw their attention.

    "Oi, you Company clods!"

    The pair of Company Pokémon looked ahead just in time to see the dog waiting for them, giving a taunting shake of his rump in their direction.

    "Want a piece of this, come and get it!" he jeered.

    The Hitmonchan and Nuzleaf blinked a moment, and then glowered at the portly mutt, neither particularly amused with his taunting first impression.

    "Grr… Aren't you a pleasant one," Locke growled.

    "Oi, just hurry up and tan his hide already!" Jan shouted. The Hitmonchan hurried along, dashing straight for the waiting Fire-Type. As the pair neared, he suddenly leapt behind, leaving Jan to run off into a patch of disturbed sand where a loud click rang out in the chamber.

    "Hey, what the- ARGH!"

    The floor underneath abruptly spun the Fighting-Type around with a yelp. The Punching Pokémon reached out to try and grab onto his taunter, only to latch onto his partner and drag him onto the trap. Elty snickered as the two staggered off the trap trading loud recriminations, bolting off, but not without calling back to his would-be attackers.

    "Have fun seeing things!" he barked. The Fire-Type ran ahead, following the tracks of his teammates around the bend, and towards a set of stairs, where the three waited uneasily at the lip of the steps.

    "What's the deal with that?!" Nida cried. "You could've gotten yourself hurt!"

    "Yeah, yeah, chew me out later," the Growlithe yipped. "Let's just get out of here before they get back to their senses!"

    The group darted up the stairs, coming to a stop on a sandy floor. The familiar sounds of the staircase grinding back into the floor rang out, the racket of stone on stone filling the air before fading away and finally stopping. The four Pokémon breathed sighs of relief before settling down into the sand, grateful for their reprieve.

    "Elty, what you did back there was reckless, childish, and stupid..." Nida growled. The Nidoran scowled a moment at the Growlithe, before easing up and giving a small smile.

    "And it saved our hides," the Poison-Type said. "So thanks for that."

    "Heh… well, I might have had an idea it would work from past experience," the Growlithe answered. "But hey, what works, works, right?"

    The three quickly turned to amicable smalltalk, trading exhortations and cheers with one another. From his place to the side of his teammates, Pleo watched as the mood took on a happier and more upbeat atmosphere for what felt like the first time in an eternity, prompting a small, relieved smile to settle onto his face.

    "Pleo?"

    "Huh?"

    "Why are you just standing there?" Guardia asked. "We should get going before a new set of stairs opens up on the floor below and those Company Pokémon can get up here."

    "Ah, right!" the bird chirped.

    The four hastily staggered to their feet, gathering up their items before they hurried off into the twisting corridors of the floor. In the midst of it all, the group's spirits were lifted as a strange feeling of reassurance came over them, the four finally feeling like a team once more.



    While Team Traveller carried on in their search for the next floor, the crew of the Siglo Swellow was hard at work at sea. Captain Beatrix had called for the sails to be switched back to Company colors en route to Orleigh, which prompted the crew to set about switching out the current white sails they'd prepared in anticipation of Otvaga.

    The air and rigging hummed with activity as Pokémon detached and pulled down the white sails and pulled up lavender ones to take their place. Down on the deck, the Pokémon in charge of packing away the spare sails were similarly kept busy. Among them were the familiar forms of Crom, Pladur, and their acquaintances from Bluewhorl who seemed at a loss over their task.

    "Er… why are we doing this again?" Ander asked.

    "Well, we don't have much in the way of defenses beyond our own strength," Pladur said. "So we'll need anything that can help us keep as many pirates as possible second-guessing how strong we are."

    "That's… 50% less assuring than I was hoping for from your explanation, Pladur," Kiran sighed.

    Pladur's misgivings settled down on Crom and the others, the lingering worries about being in proximity to Orleigh of all places weighing down their work stashing away the sail in their claws. Seeing their unease, Beatrix flitted over and settled on the deck, hoping to reassure them.

    "Well, we're not exactly planning on storming the beaches," their captain replied. "I think that it should be more than enough for our needs."

    "Are we sure that this is a good idea, Beatrix?" Pladur asked. "I mean, it is a pirate hangout…"

    The Fraxure waited expectantly for an answer from the Illumise captain, only to be met with silence. Evidently, the gravity of the matter hadn't escaped her, and even she seemed to hesitate over what the best course of action was.

    "… We don't have much other choice, I'm afraid."

    "But what will we do if we get to Orleigh and find out they're there?" Crom asked, only to be answered by a snarling, burbling voice.

    "Oh, I wouldn't worry about that."

    The Dragon-Type and his companions froze and jolted upright at the sound of the voice, whirling around in an attempt to see just who the surprise speaker was.

    "H-Huh?!" the Druddigon cried.

    All around the ship, the sea escorts had flown into frenzy looking around for the culprit. Off of starboard, a Mantine on the team went wide-eyed after seeing a horde of approaching shapes, turning back to the ship in a panic.

    "Agh!" the Mantine lookout yelped. "Bogeys surfacing under u-"

    The ray was cut off by a sudden jet of water, knocking the Water-Type back against the hull. A wave flecked by the bodies of sea Pokémon crested and broke over the deck of the railing, sending Crom and his partners tumbling back with the rest of the crew coughing and gagging up water. The wave had knocked out a few sea escorts who were unceremoniously strewn groaning on the deck, their counterparts being driven back against the ship by a hail of attacks from darting Pokémon further out in the water.

    "Protivnik sleva!" a Kingdra cried. "Keep your eyes on those Company rats!"

    "Someone jam their rudder!" a Relicanth shouted.

    The crew of the Siglo Swellow looked around and saw that the seafaring marauders had hemmed in their escorts, the lot shrinking back out of intimidated pallor. There, directly behind Crom and his companions, the brown and violet form of a Dragalge sliced through the water, coming to a growling stop next to the hull.

    "You're not going anywhere fast," Viktor snarled.



    Team Traveller's search on the floors above their run-in with the Nuzleaf and Hitmonchan proved to be profitable for the quartet, with the four discovering a foggy shortcut hidden in a wall during their search for the stairs. Nida led the group along, pacing through the foggy passage as the feelings of desert heat and the smell of swirling sand wafted through the air. The four emerged into a chamber filled with sand dunes hemmed between tall stone ledges, looking at their surroundings and rocky pillars hanging like stalactites from an inverted floor overhead.

    "Hm, looks like it's another sandy floor…" the Nidoran murmured.

    "Well at least it sounds quiet enough," Elty remarked. "Nothing we can't handle."

    Team Traveller carried down a series of corridors, stopping and inspecting their surroundings at each chamber. The group would hurry along after hearing a grunt or footsteps of an approaching feral, repeating the process a few times until...

    "Eh? Aren't those the stairs?" Pleo chirped.

    Sure enough, directly ahead of them was a flight of stony stairs heading up from the sandy floor. Guardia blinked, prodding incredulously at the steps before giving a shake of her head.

    "Huh. Seems like the dead's fortune is smiling down on us," Guardia said.

    "Fortune, schmortune," Elty scoffed. "I'm not celebrating until we're out of this place.

    One by one, Team Traveller filed up the stairs, the creaking and groaning of the floor behind them sealing off the stairs rang out, as the took in their new surroundings. They had come to a wide-open grassy expanse nestled among unusually tall dunes. At its center was a sandy patch bordering a pool of water, with tall and leafy palms towering overhead of them.

    "Eh? I've never seen a floor this open before…" Nida murmured.

    "If it wasn't for the stairs, I'd think we went into another stable zone!" Pleo chirped.

    "That's because we are in one!" Guardia exclaimed "Look!"

    The Cubone pointed off ahead of the group beyond the oasis in front of them. There in the distance, there was a craggy, stony tunnel with the haze of the Distortion visibly filling up its mouth.

    "This place must be one of the exits to the dungeon," the Ground-Type explained. "If we go through there, we should be in the clear here."

    "Heh, about time we got a lucky break," Elty sighed.

    Breathing a sigh of relief, Elty trotted along towards the exit, counting his lucky stars that the worst this accursed leg of their journey had to offer was finally over with.

    "Who dares tread on our territory?!"

    As if on cue to disprove the Growlithe, a cry rang out and a torrent of grit exploded from the ground, obscuring the vision for each member of Team Traveller as they screwed their eyes shut against the stream of sand. After the initial plume of dust, the quartet of youngsters were able to crack open their eyes, now able to see the source of the disruption: a massive, tawny Hippowdon leered them down through the sandstorm, flanked by three equally irritable-looking Hippopotas.

    "A-Aah!" Guardia cried.

    "N-Nida?!" Pleo squawked. "What do we do?"

    "I- I-" the Nidoran began, only to be interrupted by a low, rumbling growl from the Hippowdon.

    "Yes, you'd better be scared, kakarat!" the hulking hippo snarled. "This is our space, and by time we're through with you, you won't forget it for the rest of your lives!"



    Author's Notes:

    - Eso es una locura! - Spanish: "That's crazy!", lit: "That's (a) madness!"
    - kersat - Finnish: "kids", "children"
    - Waruvile (ワルビル) - Japanese: "Krokorok" (Official Romanization)
    - mogura (土竜 / 鼹鼠 / 鼴 / モグラ) - Japanese: "mole" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - tonbo (蜻蛉 / とんぼ / トンボ) - Japanese: "dragonfly" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Protivnik sleva! (Противник слeва!) - Russian: "Hostiles on left!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - kakarat - Finnish: "brats"
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
  7. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    You just HAD to go and tempt fate, didn't you, Elty. :p

    Though it's awesome that Team Traveller's on good terms with itself again, I sure as heck don't envy them in this position. (Well, okay. Technically I don't envy them, period. They have been Through some Stuff.) But yeah, right now, with HIPPOS in the way? Don't envy that at all. Hippos in general do not eff around.
     
  8. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Into the sand dungeon! And with a lot of eventful stuff happening too. Some backstory from Guardia, and dangit, we almost got a confession from Elty! Why did Nida have to show up right then! D:< But even stranger… some of his narration seemed to imply that he’s a former feral as well? Curious if I misread that, but either way, I’m looking forward to finding out more.

    Glad that they didn’t raise too much of a fuss about stealing supplies from downed opponents. They need every edge they can get in this situation! And their enemies are merciless!

    Honestly, I still think Lyn and his crew are the biggest threat at the moment. Hess is obviously just a fall guy and his crew is not the most terrifying around. And while Nagant is formidable, she’s kinda out of her sphere of influence and has to constantly dance around causing a political drama. Nope, I think Lyn is still the biggest thorn in their side by far. (But I actually really hope we get to see Nagant in her element with full Imperial support eventually, because I do think she has the potential to be a great antagonist. She just hasn't gotten near as many chances to attack the heroes as Lyn has.)

    Also Ketu heckling the Imperial ship was friggin hilarious.

    Aaaand, the Siglo Swellow changed into their Company colors too soon. :p Interesting to see the Khranitel Rod attacking them! Wonder how long it’ll take them to figure out they’re on the same side...

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  9. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Ohhh, Scout's finally met up with 'mons on Tromba again. Maybe he'll be the one to finally help them reunite with Team Traveler. :p

    That doesn't ring too true for poor old Team Traveler. D: Is their bad luck ever going to run out?

    You know, I'm starting to think that maybe the pillaging life just isn't for Hess... Part of me wonders if any of these Company/Empire guys rae going to end up on Team Traveler's side eventually. The most likely candidates for that are Hess or Ellsberg, I think. Hmm...

    I loved this line of dialogue, especially coming from a Weavile. XD

    I'd run if I were him, to be honest. Though I'm sure he'd be caught up to rather easily... He knew his life was on the line, so I'm surprised he didn't at least try to run, no matter how futile. Well, it worked out for him in the end, so. XD

    It's just like Elty to figure out who was crying so quickly, but still act like he doesn't care at all.

    I enjoyed the heartfelt moment between Guardia and Elty quite a bit. Elty's dialogue and the description of his body language perfectly portrayed just how nervous and awkward he was. You can tell he doesn't try to be sympathetic very often, heh.

    I'm glad all the members got to settle the anger between them by the end of these chapters, really. Their anger toward each other was clearly wearing down on Pleo, and poor little Pleo doesn't deserve to blame himself for not being able to help them just because he thinks his Protector title means he should be able to. D:

    I'm a terrible person for laughing at this bit of dialogue. Sorry, Guardia.

    Perfectly worded line that packs a powerful punch. I like it!

    Glad I caught up! I think my only complaint in this set of chapters is the fight with the Krokorok. There were quite a few instances were "The Ground-Type" was mentioned, and I couldn't tell if you were referring to Krokorok or Guardia sometimes, since they're both Ground-Types and Guardia was present just as much as Krokorok.

    Hope the next chapter's coming along well!
     
  10. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    He did, yeah. Wouldn't make for dramatic irony without it. o3o

    Yeah, when running through the list of "huge, sandy pains to deal with", Hippopotas and Hippowdon quickly came to the top thanks to it being one of those creatures that in reality are really bad to be on the wrong side of while still being nonintuitive enough to not be an immediate association. Glad that you liked the cliffhanger, though.

    No, you missed nothing there. But it will take a little while before the full story and implications of that blurb are laid out in-narrative.

    Getting bitten and being hit by Power Gems tends to make you care a bit less about property rights, yes.

    Well, the overall assessment isn't wrong, though I'm curious as to how your opinions will evolve over the next few chapters. There are a few curveballs inbound with regard to Team Traveller and their status quo.

    Glad you enjoyed it. o3o

    Yup, the timing was a little off for them there. As for your question, I believe today's installment will clear things up.


    The honor won't quite be his, alas. Though Team Traveller and the Siglo Swellow won't be rid of him so easily here. :p

    To be fair on them, they've had some good luck mixed in. But they still have a little further to fall narratively before their run of misfortune takes a breather.

    Never say never, though I see the barriers to entry for alliances of convenience being much lower than one formed of genuine trust and respect.

    Yup, Ketu can be delightfully shifty sometimes.

    I'm gonna say 'fear paralysis' for 500. ^^;

    Well I'm glad you enjoyed the inter-character dynamics during the past chapter, they were actually the main crux of this arc (and to a smaller extent, the subsequent one) where Team Traveller will be put through the forge and either come together or fall apart trying.

    Hey, there's no shame at liking a dab or two of black humor. o3o


    And I'm glad to hear it! ^^

    Went back to tweak those. Hopefully it's a bit less ambiguous now in that chapter.

    Well, it came further into August than I'd have hoped, but I've actually got it here to show off. The past chapter took a bit longer to cobble together thanks to cutting into a vacation and having a lot of action sequences in it, and thanks to a week-long visit to a friend's, the next chapter will similarly be delayed to an extent. Tentative publishing date is the end of August, though if I miss it by a few days, don't be shocked, since there's a bit more action in the next chapter as the closing chapter to the Sormus arc and a lot of plot strands will come together in it. Given current pace of viewcounts, I expect that there will be another trivia section to go live with the next chapter, so hopefully that will help make the wait a bit more bearable. o3o;

    Special thanks for helping with this chapter goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net, along with my continued thanks to the readers and reviewers for helping to keep me on-point for this story. And without further ado, let's pick up where we left off last time and resolve that cliffhanger that's been taunting you for 3 weeks by now. ^^;

    [​IMG]

    Lyn and Ellsberg's search through the Mystery Dungeon had proven to be a long, largely uneventful affair… or at least as much as a draining trek through a desert could be. Most of the local ferals shrunk back at the sight of the large, imposing mustelid, with the more strong-headed easily routed with a seamitar slash or a jet of water to cut them off. All the while, the pair had come up with no meaningful lead on the Protector's whereabouts beyond some Merchantry lackey claiming his dungeon mat had almost been robbed by them earlier in the morning… Far too long in the past to help get a good bead on where the youngsters were now as they exited a foggy passage into a smaller chamber lacking interior walls and corridors.

    "Urgh... all this sand and ferals but still no sign of the Protector or his friends…" Ellsberg buzzed.

    "Pipe down, Ellsberg," Lyn snapped. "We don't have much time before word of our presence filters out to Copperband Village, and the last thing we need is to lose the Protector because we failed to check some irrelevant corner."

    "I know that, Lyn!" the Mothim insisted. "But aren't I allowed to make some commen-"

    "Oh come on, it's gotta be around here somewhere."

    "Gah, who knew those lousy half-pints would hit so hard."

    Lyn paused and sniffed at the air, catching the scent of Pokémon ahead in the haze. The Samurott looked around, sensing that the voices were familiar from his crew but unable to put a bead on whose they were.

    "Eh?"

    Lyn flicked his ears at the sound of movement down the chamber and paced ahead, where before him he saw the forms of a Grumpig and a Krokorok kneeling and pawing at a Kangaskhan-shaped storage rock. There was a small pile of objects, evidently fished from inside, though the two's attention had been turned outside of it.

    "Oh come on," Hooke whined. "My badge was just right here-"

    "What are you two doing?" the Samurott demanded.

    The duo jolted upright and turned around, flushing pale at the sight of their captain scowling behind them. In spite of their obvious unease, the two feebly tried to force a pair of smiles, hoping to put the mercurial Water-Type back at ease.

    "Uh… j-just dropped a badge, that's all!" the Grumpig insisted.

    "Y-Yeah, everything else is going great, Captain!" the Krokorok added.

    Ka-chick!

    The forced smiles abruptly melted into terrified grimaces as the pair watched as Lyn pulled his left blade slightly from its keratinous sheath. The Samurott lowered his head and shot a piercing glare, clearly finding the explanations the pair had offered to be woefully inadequate.

    "I know when I'm being lied to," Lyn growled. "Spit out what really happened, or I'll beat it out of you."

    Ulp

    "Uh… well, you see, the matter is…" Ken stammered. "We kinda ran into the Guardian and his buddies earlier."

    "And, uh… they overpowered us," Hooke added sheepishly, anxiously squirming while looking up at his superior's eyes. The Grumpig's remark visibly darkened his captain's mood, the Samurott glaring daggers at his subordinates as a low, seething growl rumbled out of his throat with each heavy breath he took.

    "You what?" the Samurott seethed.

    "Ugh… of course," Ellsberg sighed.

    "N-Now hold on here! It wasn't our fault!" Ken insisted. "That bird- uh… He used his powers! Yeah, blew us clear across the room without brea-AAAAAGH!"

    A sudden scream of pain filled the air as the Krokorok was cut off by a sharp slash at his belly. The creature whimpered in pain and bowled over weakly only for a paw to grab the back of his head and stomp it into the sand, the creature going limp and groaning muffledly.

    "There's no sign of wind damage to any of the walls or the Storage Rock!" Lyn bellowed. "Do you expect me to believe that crap?!"

    Hooke went wide-eyed and whirled away in a panic. The Psychic-Type sprang onto his tail, ready to bounce away, only to feel a heavy stomp on its end. He squealed and jerked up, his newfound tether sending him crashing down to earth facefirst. The pig coughed and spat up a mouthful of sand, just in time to see a keratinous blade come to a stop between his eyes

    "A-AAH!"

    "So, are you going to give me a straight answer?" Lyn snarled. "Or do I need to pull it out of you the hard way?"

    The Grumpig quailed and clutched his stomach, his innards in obvious disagreement with himself over his terrifying circumstances. All the while, Ellsberg fluttered along, basking in his much despised seat thief's plight, coming to a stop in front of the Psychic-Type to give a taunting flit of his wings before the pig's face.

    "You know Hooker, none of this would have happened if you learned to respect your superiors," the Mothim sneered. "Alas, I suppose that some lessons in life just aren't learned until you have the scars to show it."

    "Oh no no no- Please! They threw a Totter Seed at Ken and mobbed us!" the pig squealed. "That's what's really happened, I swear!"

    The pig felt a weight lift off his tail, prompting him to reflexively nurse his tail and hastily curl up, expecting the piercing pain of a seamitar slash only to be left waiting. Shivering, the Psychic-Type warily cracked an eye open, looking up just in time to see Lyn pull his blade back to his side before giving a disgusted shake of his head.

    "Well, I suppose that clears that mystery up-" Ellsberg began, only to be cut off by an incensed bellow.

    "Enough!"

    The Samurott swung his seamitar and brought it to a stop in front of the Grumpig's throat. The Psychic-Type froze and paled with widened eyes, as a low growl from his superior filled the air.

    "You, use your partner's badge and go back to base camp," the captain demanded. "Get your wounds treated, and when you're both able to move, I want the two of you scrubbing decks until further notice."

    "B-But-" Hooke began.

    "No buts!" the otter barked. "I've tolerated enough failure on this mission already! If I hear of you shirking work, I'll throw you from the ship so you two can swim back to port!"

    "Y-Yes Captain!"

    The still-quailing Grumpig set off to grab and drag his downed Krokorok teammate away. Lyn watched as the Psychic-Type made a grab for his partner's badge, and began to speak into it, leaving the Samurott to turn away in disgust. The otter began to trod off, only to come face-to-face with a contented-looking moth fluttering before him.

    "Well that went well, didn't it?" the moth buzzed. The chipper smile slid off of Ellsberg's face, the moth freezing motionless but for the beating of his wings as he noticed Lyn glaring right at him, obviously displeased with his unusually bright demeanor.

    "Er… aside from losing the Protector, of course," the Bug-Type hastily added.

    "Shut up, Ellsberg," Lyn spat. "The Protector and his friends had to have made their way into the second half of the dungeon by now. At this rate, we'll have to wind up searching Copperband itself for him."

    "Eh?" Ellsberg asked. "But surely your subordinates would be able to handle the matter with just a little regrouping to prevent embarrassments like that back there."

    Lyn gave a dissatisfied grunt before sheathing his blade and began to walk off ahead. The Water-Type paused, and gave an exasperated scowl back at the Bug-Type, clearly eager to move on.

    "… We'll see," the Samurott sighed. "Though I'm starting to suspect from this mission that if I want anything done, I'm going to need to do it myself."



    "This is our space, and by time we're through with you, you won't forget it for the rest of your lives!"

    Back in the exit chamber to Sormus' Mystery Dungeon, Team Traveller backpedaled further and further back from the center of the room as the snarling Hippowdon and his three Hippopotas underlings kept advancing. The three watched as the Hippowdon expelled sand from the pores of his body, whipping up a sandstorm in the room that forced the quartet to struggle to keep their eyes open. Sensing that things were going nowhere good, Elty hastily cried out, hoping to try and get a reprieve from the Ground-Types.

    "Z-Zaczekaj chwilę!" Elty protested. "We don't need to fight, we just want t-"

    "Eat sand!"

    The Growlithe pitched back with a yelp as the Hippowdon expelled a clod of sand into the dog's face, making him grope around blindly. Seeing the other Hippopotas coming to pounce, Nida, Guardia, and Pleo hastily eased into battle stances, darting ahead to intercept Elty's attackers.

    "Hang on, Elty! We're coming!" Pleo cried. The bird and his other two companions charged forth, grabbing the Growlithe and turning to retreat. Before the group could make any progress, the Hippopotas charged into Team Traveller's path.

    "Oh no you don't!" a dark-nosed Hippopotas shouted.

    The Hippopotas lunged forward, gnashing her teeth and scattering the team as she snapped fiercely at the empty air. Pleo made to take flight to avoid their aggressors, only to be forced into a hasty retreat back to his friends as a clump of sand struck him from behind. A sense of dread fell over them as they realized that their foes had shepherded them with their backs against the wall, hemmed in in a semicircle by the angry ferals. The Hippowdon at the front took a menacing step forward, wearing a fierce, cocky smirk.

    "Now!" the Hippowdon exclaimed. "Our scouring sandstorm combo!"

    The hippo sent a whirling vortex of sand forward, scattering the team as it sucked up Guardia with a yelp. Not to be outdone, one of the Hippopotas flung a clod of sand into the vortex while the others skirted the edges to throw some of their own at the other members of Team Traveller. Nida and Elty were swiftly struck, being knocked to the ground by the sandy projectiles, staggering up just in time to see Pleo gusting away the vortex and Guardia stumbling out…

    "Get them!"

    Followed by the sight of the four hippos charging ahead, gnashing their teeth and kicking up clouds of sand to herald their thundering approach.

    "Agh!" Nida squeaked. "Fall back! Fall back!"

    The four hastily fled back, ducking clods of sand and dirt all the while. Every now and then, one of the four would attempt to throw a counterattack back, only to be driven backward by another Sand Attack or a lunging bite.

    "Gah! There's too many heavy hitters on their side!" Elty cried. "We'll never be able to make it past them with them hogging the ground like this!"

    Guardia blinked, and a proud grin spread across her face as a solution occurred to her. She made a mental note to thank the Fire-Type for his inspiration when they found themselves in less dire straits.

    "Then let's get off it!" Guardia exclaimed.

    Guardia hastily clambered onto Pleo's back, much to the surprise of the wide-eyed seabird. The young Protector craned his head back, eyeing his passenger with a confused look.

    "Huh?!"

    "If we ride you, we can get out of their reach!" the bone lizard explained. "Come on, everybody!"

    Nida and Elty followed suit, vaulting atop Pleo just as he took off for a flapping run at the sight of the Hippopotas burrowing under the ground. The young Protector took off just in time to dodge a series of sand plumes as the smaller hippos burst from the ground, taking to the air above the chamber.

    "It- It worked!" Pleo chirped. "They can't reach us!"

    "Gah!"

    Nida spotted a milky-white bubble floating for Pleo, spewed out by one of the Hippopotas with a loud yawn. The Nidoran flicked a spike at the bubble, lancing it and sending the fluid of its membrane dripping into the sand, hastily turning her attention back to the young Legendary.

    "Pay attention!" the Nidoran cried. "They can do things other than fling dirt around!"

    "Okay! Okay!" the bird insisted. "I'll be more care- GWARK!"

    Pleo jerked back, jostling his passengers unexpectedly, and let out a startled squawk as a Hippopotas sailed by, mouth open and snapping for any bit of him on which it would find purchase. Having missed his initial attack, the hippo kicked its feet to stall in the air and angled itself towards Pleo's tailfeathers as he began to fall. On reflex, Guardia swatted the Hippopotas away as it passed her, clocking the feral across the side of his head and sending it tumbling in freefall towards the ground.

    "Gack!"

    Before the recoiling hippo could hit the ground, Pleo sent a glowing orb of light at the feral, striking him and sending him pinwheeling into the oasis with a loud splash. The water churned and oscillated until it settled around the dazed form of the Ground-Type weakly staggering up, only to squeal out of pain as a spiky barb and a gout of fire struck him, sending him slumping over in the shallow water.

    "We got one!" Elty cried. As her teammate barked excitedly, Nida peered down at the felled Hippopotas below, and then at his very much lucid teammates. All this time, the Ground-Types had proven to be particularly ineffective at hitting Pleo when he was high off the ground like this… So then all they had to do was just to keep it up and potshot the lot from above!

    "Wait, if they're this bad at attacking Pleo from here," she murmured. "Then we can-"

    "ENOUGH!"

    Pleo squawked out of terror as he saw a gaping Hippowdon maw come at him from underneath. He lurched up and pulled up, just as Nida was rooting through the bag. The Nidoran lost her grip, fell backwards into her Growlithe teammate and tumbled off their Lugia mount with a frightened cry before hitting the sand with dull thuds. Nida weakly twitched and stumbled to her feet, seeing Elty lying on his back stunned and the contents of the bag strewn about a trail behind her.

    "N-Nrgh…" she groaned. "Talk about your hard landings…"

    "Grr…"

    The pair blanched as they heard the sounds of the approaching growls and stamping feet, turning around to see two Hippopotas running for them. The youngsters went wide-eyed, and hastily dragged themselves up into a limping run, desperately trying to stay ahead of their pursuers.

    "A-Agh! Seriously, can't we catch a break here?!" Elty whined.

    Nida bounced back after the Hippopotas lobbed another clod of sand at her, prompting her to. whirl and see the slender shape of a seed lying in the sand. The Nidoran hastily scooped it up and whigged it at the closer of the two Hippopotas, causing a faint crack to ring out, followed by the sound of bodies tripping over one another and startled yelps.

    "Hey!" the dark-nosed Hippopotas cried. "Herätä! You can't just fall asleep on me like that!"

    The female Hippopotas nosed and pawed at her partner, trying to shake him awake only to catch an orange glare from the corner of her eye. The Ground-Type whirled around just in time to see Elty somersaulting towards her with fire dancing on his pelt, and striking her with a burning blow. The hippo recoiled, and struggled against the burning pain to open her mouth and clamp down on his hindquarters to intercept.

    The Growlithe howled out of pain, and thrashed around in an attempt to desperately pull away. The Fire-Type wildly tried to spit up embers and bite back, only to be dragged along in the sand by his attacker, unable to get a clear shot at her.

    "Hey, tubby! Over here!"

    The Hippopotas' ears perked up before feeling a stiff kick at her rump. The Ground-Type yelped and let go of the fire dog in her jaws to whirl around, only to see a spinning kick come at her from below. The second kick caught the hippo in her chin, sending her flying back facefirst into the sand, out cold as Elty panted and licked at some ruddy streaks in his leg's fur.

    "N-Nice save there!" the Growlithe panted, only for his words to be joined by a dazed-sounding yawn.

    "Ngh… Wha?"

    The pair looked over to see the last Hippopotas stirring and rising to his feet. Nida's barbs stood on end and she dug her feet into the sand, bracing herself for a hasty rush of attacks.

    "We're not out of the woods just yet, Elty," she grunted. "Come on!"

    On cue, the Growlithe spat up a clump of cinders at the dozing hippo, prompting Nida to follow up with a pair of spinning kicks at the Ground-Type's heavy head. The second kick knocked the Hippopotas back and stirred it awake, tottering and dazed from his blows. The Ground-Type went wide-eyed out of abrupt realization of his predicament, and dug his feet in, opening his jaws for a sharp, crushing bite. The hippo lunged forward, only for Elty to barrel into him with a flaming somersault. A pained yelp rang out, followed by a dull thud against the sand as the hippo tumbled to a groaning stop, unconscious and weakly twitching. The dog looked on, panting, and upon the realization of his victory sinking in, he began to puff his chest out in satisfaction.

    "Heh," Elty chuckled . "I'm on fire today-"

    "GYAAAAH!"

    Nida and Elty's blood curdled at the sound of Pleo's screams, prompting them to look behind just as the Hippowdon pulled the bird out of the air with an electrified bite to his wing. Guardia lost her balance and fell from her place on Pleo's back, the Cubone dropping down to the ground with a thud and a plume of sand. The sand swirled in the air for a moment, only for Guardia to burst out of the sand plume in a panic, the Hippowdon pinning Pleo down against the ground and biting at his back with an audible crunch.

    "PLEO! Hang in there!" Nida cried. "We're coming!"

    Nida and Elty flung forward a venomous spike and a cone of embers respectively at the Hippowdon's rump, prompting him to open his mouth to growl out of pain and whirl around. The Ground-Type stormed along at the two backbiting pests, leaving Pleo to flop forward feebly in the sand, panting and shaken from his ordeal.

    "N-Nrgh…"

    Pleo shifted, twitching his wings when he felt a claw tugging at it. The Lugia craned his head, turning to see Guardia pawing at his wing, pulling at the little Protector with wide, anxious eyes

    "Kamome, can you stand?" she asked. Pleo stumbled up, tottering and struggling to stay on his feet.

    "Everything hurts…"

    "I know that," the Ground-Type insisted. "But if you can fight at all, we really need you-"

    The Cubone was cut off by the sound of a rabbit's squeal and a frightened yelp coming from the distance. Guardia turned and much to her shock, saw Nida swept up in a sandy vortex, with Elty being chased off in a panicked haste by the Hippowdon stomping along after him.

    "Gah! Look, find a safe place to hide if you can't fight!" Guardia insisted. "Just don't stand here like this!"

    Guardia bolted after the Hippowdon that hounded Elty, feet pounding on the ground carrying her as fast as they could manage. She tightened her grip on her club, winding one arm back for a crushing blow, only to realize that Elty was losing ground fast and that the Hippowdon would soon be upon him. Try as she might, there was just no way she could make that distance in time. Finding little other option in her situation, Guardia lifted the club above her head and - against her better judgement - took aim to throw the bone instead.

    "Hey, yajū! Heads up!"

    Guardia sent her bone into a flying spin, the club twirling along until it struck the side of the Hippowdon's head. The feral gave a loud bellow out of pain, and much to the Cubone's astonishment, her projectile bounced off of his head and remained airborne, starting to follow an arc coming back to her...

    "Ah! It's coming back!" she cried. "It's-!"

    Only to plant into the sand a little ways away. The Cubone, jolting up out of alarm, took off in a mad dash for her club, only to feel heavy vibrations in the ground. Guardia turned to her right, and much to her horror, spotted the Hippowdon lumbering for her, the hulking Ground-Type knocking her back into a rolling tumble on the ground. The lizard staggered up panting, pawing at deepening bruises and trying to regain her bearings. Just then, the earth rocked under her feet a second time, making the Lonely Pokémon freeze out of terror. There, charging directly for her was the Hippowdon once again, his cavernous maw swung open wide and ready for a crushing bite.

    "Leave her alone!"

    A blur of vibrant blue in the vague shape of a dragon tore through the air towards the Hippowdon, slamming into him with a massive impact and sending the beast tumbling back with a pained roar. Guardia panted, wide-eyed and white-knuckled, scanning the room frantically for a place to hide away.

    "Tutaj!" a yipping voice cried.

    The Ground-Type turned to see Elty standing beside her, the team's tattered bag on his shoulder and her bone in his mouth. The Cubone spluttered a moment, torn between surprised relief and an overwhelming urge to yank her bone out of the Fire-Type's maw.

    "E-Eh?! Gardie?!" the Cubone exclaimed. "What are you doing?!"

    "Giving you a Helping Hand!" the dog barked back, muffled somewhat by the bone locked between his teeth. "My paws are gonna be full with the spike ball, so make the most of it!"

    Elty sidled up against Guardia with her club firmly locked in his maw, a charge of blue sparks building on his pelt as he ran. He dropped the bone into her waiting hand and tagged her on the back with one paw, sending the sparks of energy flowing into her in turn, and bounded back to pull Nida from her sandy vortex. The Cubone jolted upright as she felt the invigorating current of energy course through her and gripped her club tight, grimacing somewhat at the feeling of dog slobber on her precious club, but shook the worry out of her head for now. Instead, she focused on the battle at hand. Glowering at the Hippowdon rising back to his feet, she pulled her helmet snugly against her snout and lowered her head to charge like a raging Tauros.

    "Right!" she grunted. "Come on Pleo! Let's make this count!"

    The Cubone darted for the Hippowdon as Pleo arced around above the ground, the Lonely Pokémon jumping down with a lunging overhead smash against the hippo's rear leg. She felt her club land with a thud and brought it up for another blow, and another. The Hippowdon snarled and reared up to counter the little pest, only to be sent tumbling back by a stiff whirling wind from Pleo's wings.

    "Grnk?!"

    For a fleeting moment, the Hippowdon flailed as he felt his body leave the ground and sail through the air, followed by a headfirst splash into the water. The Ground-Type tumbled under the surface before finding his footing and staggering up. The hippo panted from exhaustion, coughing up water and blowing out globs of wet sand from his pores disgustedly. The feral paced back to shore seething when he felt a sharp kick on his chin, seeing a blue blur weave back by his feet. Instinctively, the hippo lifted his legs and stomped down, feeling spikes lodge into his feet amidst the wet sand and hearing a loud, terrified squeal of pain. There, underfoot was the culprit of the blow, a wide-eyed and thrashing Nidoran desperately trying to pull herself free.

    "You!" the Hippowdon snarled. "You're going to pay for thi-"

    The Hippowdon was cut off by a burning kick across his face, crying out with a pained shout. The Ground-Type tottered back into the oasis, his strength rapidly leaving him as his vision ran muddy and black, collapsing into the water. Back onshore, Elty pulled himself and Nida out of the oasis, shaking off some water off his pelt as Pleo and Guardia rushed over, the Nidoran shifting weakly before looking up at her teammates.

    "U-Urgh…" she groaned. "Did… Did we make it?"

    "Yeah… we won," Guardia panted. A tired smile crept over the Cubone's muzzle as she slung her club over her shoulder, her face marked with the satisfaction that followed a hard-won battle.

    "Heh… looks like it's finally over."

    "Not just yet," Elty grunted.

    "Huh?!" Pleo squawked. "What do you mean-?"

    The Lugia opened his beak to protest, only to see Elty point off tiredly with his paw. The little Protector turned and followed it and saw that it was pointing at the foggy passage from earlier, the paw's owner giving an impatient snort and shake of his head.

    "We weren't just planning on staying down in this dungeon, were we?"

    "… No, come on," Nida sighed. "Let's hurry up and get out of here."

    The four Pokémon set off, trudging tiredly against their fresh wounds for the exit ahead of them. One by one, the youngsters slipped off into the fog, leaving behind the grueling gauntlet of the dungeon behind, and off to unknown environs outside.



    Back on the waters south of Orleigh, the Siglo Swellow remained under an oppressive atmosphere of shock from the Khranitel Rod's sudden invasion. The sea nomads held the ship hostage under threat of a volley of powerful Water attacks, the captors glaring out at the crew as they waited for the command to open fire. With every movement one of their would-be assailants made, the ship's crew squeaked and whispered amongst themselves, a few braver or perhaps more desperate types trying their luck at pleading their case with their accosters.

    "H-Hold on here," Philips stammered. "You've got the wrong idea-!"

    "Shut up, Company scum!" a Kingdra from the water snarled. "You're gonna do exactly what we say, and you're gonna like it!"

    The crew aboard the Siglo Swellow shrank back and traded nervous glances with each other at the sea Pokémon's snarls. A few crewmembers here and there attempted to maintain a battle stance, but there was no disguising the predicament the ship was in, which didn't elude Crom. They were all surrounded and at the mercy of hostile faces, ones which were undoubtedly up to no good.

    "D-Dad?" the Druddigon stuttered. "What do we do now?"

    "Maybe- Maybe we could calm them down?" Pladur gulped.

    The Fraxure inched along waving his claws to try and motion for calm, but all the while betraying a deep anxiety over his current predicament.

    "Lo siento! Lo siento! We really don't mean any harm or want to start a fight!"

    In the midst of the sea of glares, a slight change stirred. It was only a few faces here and there, whose hardened scowls began to show signs of unease. The most obvious of them was a Kabutops towards the front, who blinked at the foreign tongue, and swam up warily to press for more information.

    "Huh? What's with that accent?" Dimitri murmured. "Why you're talking just like that Nidoran did when she passed through with her friends-"

    "Dimitri!"

    The Kabutops flinched and sheepishly turned back to his Dragalge superior, sinking a little at the sight of the seahorse's scowl. All the while, the crew of the Siglo Swellow had been listening and growing increasingly wide-eyed at the realization that this Nidoran was...

    "Eh?! You saw Nida?!" Crom exclaimed. "Was Pleo with her?!"

    "And how would you know about them?" Viktor demanded. "You're with the Company!"

    "They probably just overheard their names, this means nothing," a Relicanth close to him spat.

    "You're wrong!" the Druddigon exclaimed. "We're their teammates!"

    Crom's protests elicited nothing but a dismissive scoff from the bulk of the gathered crowd of nomads. The Kingdra in front seemer particularly unimpressed, as he rolled his eyes and glared back at the Dragon-type before growling out a response.

    "Sure you are," Kuda snorted. "And I fly around in the sky in my spare time."

    "I'm serious!" the young dragon insisted.

    Hurriedly, Crom dug through his father's bag until he felt his claws make contact with soft cloth. He tugged out a corner to check and, upon catching sight of the familiar blue and white-starred scarf, he pulled the cloth out of the bag and presented it for everyone to see.

    "Look, was this the scarf she and her friends were wearing?"

    A dead silence fell over the gathered sea Pokémon, as uneasy murmurs and puzzled glances flittered here and there among their number. Their Dragalge leader seemed less persuaded, though still was unable to find a convincing way to reconcile why the Druddigon ought to have one of Team Traveller's scarves, prompting him to slap the water for attention.

    "What is the meaning of this?!" Viktor demanded.

    "Like we said, we're their teammates," Kiran answered.

    "We're from Tromba looking for our Protector after the Company took him away," Beatrix said.

    As soon as the Illumise's words left her mouth, the demeanor of the nomads took a skeptical turn. The story seemed far too implausible, especially to the Kingdra bobbing impatiently in the churning waves. After all, if they really weren't with the Company...

    "Then why on earth are you sailing around in Company sails, huh?!" Kuda prodded.

    "We did it so we could sail into Company ports and ask questions without attracting too much attention," the Hitmontop first mate explained. "How else were we supposed to find leads on where they might have taken our Protector?"

    "And the Company told you to go here...?" a Dewgong pressed.

    "Er… I know it sounds fantastical," Ander murmured. "But we ran into some escapees from Orleigh earlier, and they said that they saw him on that island."

    "Hrmph," Scout harrumphed. "You could have just said it was me, you know."

    Some blinks and idle splashes filled the air, as the Siglo Swellow's crew watched the surrounding nomads eased their expressions. Even so, there was still not the expected sheepish hospitality that comes from discovering a friend in strange places, but rather some sort of solemn and overpowering somberness, which a Relicanth towards the front put into words:

    "Well you're a bit late," the fish sighed. "Our own scouts couldn't find any sign of them on that rock when we looked for them."

    Crom's heart sank, and his wings drooped as the sea Pokemon's explanation sunk in. He'd hoped perhaps these nomads could finally point them towards a reunion with Nida, Pleo and Elty, and yet... they hardly had any better leads than he did regarding their whereabouts.

    "Do… Do we really have no other idea of where they could have gone?" Crom asked.

    "Well… I don't know for certain," Dimitri murmured. "But I think I might have an idea of where they tried to go."

    "Eh?" Kiran chirped. "Where would that be?"

    "Before we got separated, the kids and I were making our way to Sormus to try and get to some island they were after," the Kabutops explained. "It's close enough to Orleigh to make it there if they knew which way to go."

    "But what would keep them from just going back into the Subway?" Kuda countered.

    Dimitri opened his mouth to retort, raising one scythe in protest, but his words failed him as he realized that Kuda had a point. Pleo did seem to take naturally to the water, so it wasn't unreasonable that he could get down there on his own once his wing had healed...

    "Er… I hadn't thought about that," the Kabutops admitted.

    "It's nothing that our rod can't handle," Viktor grunted. "We'll take the Subway tunnels around here, and the ship can handle going to Sormus. We can always meet up there later on to regroup."

    "Er… right," Dimitri answered. "So then we should get-"

    "You're staying with the ship," the Dragalge ordered.

    "H-Huh?!"

    "Someone's gotta keep an eye on that crew and keep them focused on their task," the Poison-Type insisted. "And you're the one who's the most chatty with airbreathers anyways."

    Viktor sighed and shook his head, sinking lower into the water before rising up. Much to his puzzlement, Dimitri noticed that the Dragalge's expression had softened, with the faintest outlines of a smile visible on his snout.

    "Besides," the seahorse continued. "I thought you were the one who always wanted to see more of what was up here on the surface."

    Dimitri floated stunned for a moment, his eyes lighting up and his mouth forming an ever-widening smile at the Dragalge's words. The Kabutops gave a salute with his scythe, and cheerfully bubbled back a thankful answer to his superior.

    "Right!" Dimitri replied. "I won't let you down Ataman."

    The nomads ducked under the waves and began to swim off into the deep, leaving Dimitri behind in the care of the Siglo Swellow's crew. A rope ladder was thrown over, prompting the Fossil Pokémon to clamber up it and onto the deck where a crowd of curious sailors had gathered.

    "Er… thanks for sticking up for us back there," Crom said.

    "Yeah, if you didn't, who knows where we'd be right now," Pladur murmured.

    "What name do you go by?" Ander asked.

    "It's Dimitri, and I was just pointing out an observation," the Kabutops insisted. "You guys handled the rest fine on your own."

    "Well, handling it or not, we're going to need all the help here we can get," Beatrix buzzed. "So let's get going, and we'll talk the details over as we sail."

    The Kabutops gave a small wag of his tail and a smiling nod back to the Illumise. Perhaps he could've had it in better circumstances, but this felt like the sort of mission on the surface he'd been looking for for years, and a ray of enthusiasm cracked through his face's exoskeleton.

    "Heh, sounds good to me."

    The escorts stirred up a moving current in the sky and sea, pushing the Siglo Swellow westward. All the while, the crew's spirits lifted again, having gotten a bead on their Protector's whereabouts, and gotten the aid of some new friends.



    (Continued in next post)
     
  11. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Copperband Village was a sleepy village of adobe buildings, characterized by a mix of flat and gabled roofs. Every so often, a building here or there made entirely of timbers would stand out, including a shrine that glistened with the shine of metal rings. At the seaside, the port was busy much as it always was, if packed with carts and crates laden down ores and a few with glinting bars of tawny metal; the normal rhythm carrying on as Nagant and her Vasilek neared the piers.

    The frigate slowed and began to pull to the dock, prompting the shrimp to hop from the deck into the water and swimming the distance over to the pier, pulling herself out in front of a waiting Mudsdale with a white scarf with six orange crystals radiating outwards. Bobbing along in the air to the horse's side was Faraday, the Drifblim messenger who'd notified the official of the ship's approach.

    "Welcome to Sormus, Captain Nagant," the Mudsdale said. "I trust your journey went well?"

    "My journey isn't done just yet," Nagant grunted. "I believe you two had somewhere to be taking me?"

    "… Right, the Duke and Duchess have been waiting for you," the Drifblim murmured. "Clyde here will show you the way."

    The Mudsdale gave a swish of his tail and set off down the narrow and dusty streets, leading the visiting captain along. The village was a meager settlement, lacking the flash of the capital and as meager as the desert itself. Even so, there were signs of life to be had: there were the Gible and Numel youngsters playing cards with each other, shifting pebbles onto their cards as imaginary volleys of attacks rang out between the Pokémon depicted on them. Further ahead, there was a lively bar, with a Camerupt regaling listeners with obviously exaggerated tales of his time as a "soldier of fortune".

    As the journey wore on, scenery began thinning out after Clyde led Nagant towards an oasis on the southern outskirts, where a stone bridge snaked over the water towards the local bastion, a simple fortification made of adobe that ringed the manor of the Duke of Sormus. The pair were waved through the spartan front, and whisked along a series of courtyards to the fortified entrance to the manor where a Nosepass let them in. Inside, the dusty and simple exterior melted away and was replaced with sumptuous corridors lined with red carpeting and portraits of nobles from bygone ages.

    Clyde's guidance ultimately led Nagant to a rock garden with a few fire pits for warmth at night. At the center, a male and female duo of Volcarona waited along with an attending Blaziken: Duke Atlas, Duchess Agila, and Governor Orloff respectively if her memory served her right. The Mudsdale stopped at the door and bade Nagant to go ahead of him, the male Volcarona giving a buzz and flitting his wings at the sight of the shrimp as she drew near.

    "Ah, Captain Nugget!" the Bug-Type greeted. "We've been expecting you!"

    Atlas' cheery buzzing carried on as the Blaziken beside him quietly noted the barely stifled agitation on the Clawitzer's face. Sensing it would be better to start the meeting with their guest on a less grating note, the Fire-Type cleared his throat and hastily corrected his superior.

    "Eh... your Grace," the Blaziken whispered. "I believe it was 'Nagant'."

    "Ah right… Nagant," the Duke slowly corrected himself. "So, what brings you to our fair island?"

    "Some recent developments," she answered. "During my assignment to Boisocéan, I discovered that Tromba Island's Protector has awakened."

    "Eh? But Tromba's halfway across Anyilla from here!" the Duchess exclaimed. "How does that involve us?"

    "Because the Company's pursued it into our waters, and my tracking has led me to conclude that he's come here for shelter," Nagant insisted.

    The gathered Pokémon traded dubious looks with one another. Were they truly to believe that an esteemed Protector had come to their island, with them none the wiser of his presence? The four simply found that too hard to believe, as evidenced by the Blaziken Governor who stepped forth with a skeptical look etched on his face.

    "… I believe some validation is in order, Captain," Orloff scoffed.

    "We already do have quite a bit on our plates keeping the town and the mines humming as they should," the female Volcarona insisted. "We can't tend to every little matter on a whim."

    "Tell me," the crustacean demanded. "What do you know of the Sea Guardian Lugia?"

    Atlas, Agila, Orloff, and Clyde glanced to one another once again, Orloff and Clyde seeming to have racked their brains in thought while the Duke and Duchess had already come up blank. Nevertheless, no one seemed really knowledgeable about this 'Lugia'. Even the ones who didn't seem totally lost looked as if they could hazard a guess at best. A few uncertain murmurs floated throughout the gathering before the Volcarona Duke fluttered his wings uneasily.

    "Er… admittedly I haven't really done much research into the Protectors of foreign islands," the Bug-Type said. "But I do remember it is supposed to be some manner of bird with silver feathers."

    "You mean like one of these?" the Water-Type asked.

    Nagant fished out a silver feather from underneath her scarf and held it up high for her audience to see. The sight was met with audible gasps, the small audience stammering and tripping over their words in stunned surprise as they attempted to press the Clawitzer for more details.

    "Uskomatonta!" Atlas exclaimed.

    "Where did you find that?" the Governor questioned.

    "I encountered the Protector back on Orleigh yesterday," the shrimp explained. "While there, I learned a bit about his habits and tendencies, which may be valuable in capturing him."

    "… What do you have in mind and what do you need from us?" the Duke asked.

    "I propose that we post the guards at places the Protector and his entourage are likely to pass through if they're here. The entrances to the town, the guild, and the local hostels," Nagant said. "My crew will be ready to assist the local guards. From there, just pen them up and my crew will handle the rest."

    "… I think that that can be arranged," the male Volcarona mulled, before turning to the Blaziken beside him. "Governor Orloff, send word to the Captain of the Guard to meet Captain Nu- Ah… Nagant on her ship for further debriefing."

    "So be it," Orloff grunted. "I think that this meeting can be adjourned."

    Nagant gave a respectful bow and made her way hopping for the door. All the while, thoughts and fantasies of finally restoring her house swirled in her mind... along with a nagging exasperation over how much longer she'd have to put up with hearing others butcher her name on the job. Whenever this settled down, she'd have to find some land to retire and unwind. Someplace along a coast with plenty of stones for target practice, perhaps…

    But those plans could wait for later. For now, the fate of the Empire was still undecided, and in the wings of the Protector lurking somewhere out there under the big blue sky.



    "Oi! Be careful with those!"

    At the seaside, the Mistral Marauder had been pulled into a drydock for repairs, so much so that the space behind the iced wall had yet to be fully drained. In spite of that, the sloop was aflutter with activity, with Pokémon darting between repairs and loading cargo. Hess didn't know if it was the haste, or else just the crew being... the crew more than usual, but the process of overseeing his ship's preparations had been one headache after another for himself and his first mate. The latest of such headaches were a Kricketot and a Pawniard he'd caught dragging barrels aboard by their flats.

    "Well, I suppose you can't fault them for keeping busy..." Rodion sighed. The Aggron captain, wholly unpleased with how the state of affairs were going, turned and barked at the two deckhands.

    "If I see another broken barrel, I'm taking it out of your share of the loot!"

    "Oi, Captain!"

    "Hrm?"

    Hess lifted his head up at the sound of the buzzing voice and turned around as the noise of wooshing air caught his ears. There, behind him were Kichiro and Wilhelm, coming to a rest on the dock with the buckets of pitch he'd sent for, visibly tired from having flown over in a hurry.

    "Eh, Kichiro?" the Aggron asked. "What are you doing here? I thought you were back and tarring the hull already!"

    "It's Keiichiro..." the bug corrected irkedly, before shaking his head and shifting the conversation. "Anyway, while we were gathering supplies, we overheard some goons from the Shadow Brigade talk about that Lugia, so we followed them and found something big."

    "Yeah, Captain Sibich can hide stuff in his body!" Wilhelm chimed in, much to his Ledian partner's exasperation.

    "Anta baka?!" the Bug-Type snapped. "What did I say about that?!"


    Hess and Rodion gave skeptical tilts of their head at the pair, watching as Wilhelm flitted back with a start. The Ledian gave an exasperated sigh and shook his head before continuing on with his explanation.

    "Captain Sibich is looking for that bird too, and he was talking about 'the haul of a lifetime' on Giotto," Kichiro explained. "My guess is that that's where that Lugia must have gone off to, he even hold out one of his feathers!"

    "Huh?" Hess murmured. "But Eltenios said that they were originally headed for Sormus and then Pioppo."

    The Ledian gave an irritated buzz and glared up at the Aggron, grumbling under his breath. Hess could remember the name of some tubby mutt who fell off the face of the planet, but not his?

    "Oh, so you get his name right…"

    "Hrm… that means that the Imps must have already brought him back?" Wilhelm suggested.

    "Eh? What are you talking about? You were tied up on deck with me out there!" Rodion exclaimed. "That sea bug's ship was the only one who came into port, so who else would capture that Protector?"

    The Aggron captain blinked as a dawning realization came over him. If the Empire really had another crew capture the Lugia and the brats, it would've logically been to cover the shrimp's bases. For the bird to be found so soon, the ship couldn't have possibly been apart from that Clawitzer, and would have accompanied her into port during the raid. On top of that, the very fact that the Empire sent only one ship to Orleigh would mean that someone wanted to keep the matter under wraps, even among other Imps. Based off that, there was only one possible conclusion the report about Pleo being on Giotto right now...

    "… They wouldn't," Hess muttered, "meaning he's not there."

    "What- What do you mean he's not there!" Kichiro spluttered. "It's Sibich! He must have some intel we don't have! Since when has he ever gotten anything wrong?"

    "I don't know, but it just doesn't match up, alright?" the Steel-Type insisted. "And as long as I'm captain, I say we stick to my original plan!"

    A long, tense silence followed the Aggron's words. In spite of his advantage in strength and size, Hess' scolding had failed to erase the scowl on the Bug-Type's face, who still glared up at his taller superior.

    "… Just be careful," the Bug-Type murmured. "Keep pushing like that, and you won't be captain for very long."

    Kichiro's words drew a low, deep growl, prompting the Bug-Type to dig his feet into the dock. There in front, Hess was glaring, the Aggron captain opening his maw menacingly. Rodion seemed little better, with a fierce scowl entrenched on his face.

    "What was that, Kichiro?" Rodion growled.

    "He was saying that you wouldn't be captain for-" Wilhelm started, only for Kichiro to clamp his mouth shut and hiss at him under his breath.

    "Shut up, you stupid hayseed!"

    Rodion glowered at the exchange, only to pause as he noticed a shift in the demeanor of the neighboring crew members. A number of them had begun to glare during the whole exchange, and not at Kichiro as the Sea Weasel Pokémon would have hoped. Instead, their frustration was trained firmly on the hulking captain of the ship, prompting the Water-Type to clear his throat and make an attempt at de-escalating the matter.

    "Look, we've all obviously been through a lot," the Floatzel offered. "But at least make yourself useful around here so we can get out of port already."

    "Alright, alright!" the beetle snapped.

    The Bug-Type hurried off with his pitch buckets, dragging the Hoppip with him by his leafy wings, leaving the dock and waters to return to their normal business as the crew's expressions grudgingly softened. After seeing the two get a suitable distance out of earshot, Rodion sighed and shook his head, before turning to his superior.

    "Are you sure about this, Hess?" Rodion asked. "I mean, you saw how all those Pokémon reacted at first, and it's not any less common behind your back…"

    Hess faltered a moment at the mustelid's question and racked his brain. It was true that Sibich was part of the Council and privy to things that he wouldn't know… but he'd heard Eltenios' words come from his own mouth before anyone else knew the importance of that mutant Wingull being on the island. It sounded implausible, yes… but Sibich had to be in the wrong here, and checking Sormus was still their best bet. It just didn't add up otherwise!

    "… I'm sure, Rodion," Hess insisted. "You heard Eltenios too that night, they didn't have any plans of going to Giotto."

    "… Then let's stick with it then, and hope for the best," the Floatzel muttered. "We've only got until sundown to get everything together anyways."

    The two carried on chattering as the work preparing the ship carried on. Meanwhile, at the base of the drydock, Wilhelm and Kichiro set their pitch buckets down on a floating raft, sizing up the work to be done caulking the hull.

    "Hey Keiichiro...?" Wilhelm piped.

    "For the thousandth time, it's Keiichi-!" the Ledian snapped, only to catch himself as his eyes adopted a surprised sheen.

    "Oh wait, that's what you said."

    The Hoppip had shrunk back and uneasily fluttered in place, waiting expectantly on the beetle. Kichiro huffed and his expression gradually melted into a grumbling, unamused stare. He'd probably regret asking, but...

    "Hrmph, what is it?" Kichiro grunted.

    "Uhm… I was going to say, maybe it doesn't really matter where that Protector is…" the Grass-Type said. "Won't we have a great adventure no matter where we go?"

    The Ledian stared blankly as the Hoppip flitted expectantly in place, prompting him to bury his head in a hand and pinch his brow.

    "… What did I ever do to deserve this?" the Bug-Type groaned.



    Team Traveller followed the path through the dungeon fog, eventually exiting out the other end in a burnt-orange desert filled with rolling dunes. The four limped along the sandy waste, passing the occasional large stone and clump of cacti as they tried to make sense of where they were.

    "We- We made it," Nida panted.

    "Yeah," Elty huffed. "But to where?"

    "I'm not sure… but I see lights," Guardia said. "Here, mite!"

    The Cubone bade the three to follow with a wave of her club, leading them along to a tall ledge over a large, expansive pit. There in the distance was a smattering of lights, in the mix of warm oranges of fires and cool blues of glow-moss against the twilight hues of the setting sun, sure signs of a nearby town.

    "So then we must be getting close to a tow-"

    The Ground-Type's breath hitched as the earth heaved underneath her and the ledge crumbled away, sending the whole of Team Traveller into freefall down towards the inky blackness. Pleo beat his wings furiously as the screams of his teammates rang out, only to connect with a gravelly surface on his side and fall into a roll, tumbling down a slope before finally coming to a rest flat on his back in a pile of loose, rough earth. Dazed, the young Protector laid there with his eyes screwed shut in pain. The sound of his friends groaning and staggering to their feet nearby hit his ears, and Pleo shifted his body as he weakly followed suit.

    "Eh?! What was that?!" a startled-sounding exclaimed .

    "Another debris slide?" a deep voice fumed. "What on earth are those Water-Types doing with stabilizing those slopes?"

    "No it sounded too small for that," a feline voice countered. "Like it was someone falling."

    Pleo opened his eyes and craned his neck up to discover a trio of watching eyes. The young Lugia flapped back with a start, seeing that the Pokémon were a dusty-looking Golem, Meowstic, and Excadrill, the lot sporting hardened scowls.

    "Oi, these aren't work scarves!" the Golem exclaimed.

    "They must be some kids from town trespassing," the Meowstic growled.

    "T-Trespassing?!" Nida cried.

    "But that's not what we were-" Elty began, only to be cut off with a snap from the Excadrill.

    "Hope your trip taught you a nice lesson about sticking your craw where it don't belong-"

    "Hey! No one said that you could take a break, you lazy bums!"

    The gathered Pokémon staggered and struggled to keep their balance as the ground shook underfoot, prompting them to look back and see a towering green lizard with a stony hide and a mouth full of sharp fangs. Team Traveller watched as the three strangers visibly flushed pale, prompting them to shrink back at the sight of the visibly irate Tyranitar.

    "Just because it's half an hour until closing hour doesn't mean that you're allowed to slack off on the job!" the Armor Pokémon snarled.

    "A-Aah! Anteeksi! Anteeksi!" the Excadrill squealed. "We didn't plan this, boss!"

    "Yeah, we caught some trespassers here!" the Golem insisted.

    "Eh?"

    Team Traveller paled as the hulking lizard made his way to the front and stopped before them. The Tyranitar growled irkedly, peering down at the little intruders with a harsh glare.

    "… Who are you, and what do you think you're doing in my dig site?" the Rock-Type demanded.

    The four gulped in sequence, keenly aware of the stony-faced, powerful-looking lizard's presence as he hovered over them threateningly. As if that weren't enough, would he really take their word for the situation even if they explained everything? One after the other, the young Pokemon blurted out a hasty explanation, each of their attempts delivered in a stammered, squeaky tone.

    "Ah… we're… we're Team Traveller," Nida stuttered. "And we just got out of a Mystery Dungeon up this ledge."

    "C-Chotto matte! We weren't trying to trespass here!" Guardia protested. "Our ledge gave way underfoot!"

    "Yeah," Pleo added. "We were just look for a place to- Nrgh!"

    The Armor Pokémon sneered down at the strange white bird and noticed that he was holding his foot up awkwardly, as if he'd sprained it. On further examination, the other youngsters seemed similarly bruised and battered, far more than should have been the case from their fall Although the rocky reptile's stony-faced demeanor didn't budge an inch, Team Traveller noted his silence as he almost seemed to be mulling the situation over in their favor.

    "I take it that's where all those scuffs of yours came from?" the Tyranitar asked. "You do look a little more beat up than I'd expect from rolling down the hill here."

    "Uh… yes?" Elty answered.

    "… Then so be it."

    The Tyranitar shook his head and turned to the other Pokémon, giving an impatient stomp of the ground. The earth shook and the three miners jolted upright and wide-eyed, grimacing as the Rock-Type shot them an impatient glare.

    "Get back to work," the Rock-Type barked. "I'll handle the rest from here."

    The trio each shot their boss a hasty affirmative before bolting away as instructed. As the Tyranitar turned his attention to Team Traveller, the four froze in place and grimaced up at him, bracing themselves for the heavy blows their captor was certainly capable of. Team Traveller watched and waited uneasily as the lizard glowering down at them as his tail swaying to and fro dangerously, waiting and waiting for the first strike to try and bolt away.

    "Are you just going to sit there?" the Tyranitar demanded. "I'll let your trespassing slide this time. Joutukaa, you're going to need a guide anyways. I'll take you into town to get patched up."

    "Oh!" Pleo exclaimed. "Er, thanks… Uh…"

    "It's Aulis," the Rock-Type answered. "But let's worry about life stories after you're patched up."

    The Tyranitar motioned for Team Traveller to follow and set off, making his way for a winding path up the pit overlooked by scattered adobe buildings. The four looked at each other warily before following along. They were on a strange island, following a strange Pokémon to a strange adobe town... but in the midst of it all, a reassuring sense of calm asserted itself. For now, they were safe... hopefully.

    "Welcome to Copperband, kids."



    Author's Notes:

    - Herätä! - Finnish: "Wake up!"
    - Tutaj! - Polish: "Here!"
    - Lo siento! Lo siento! - Spanish: "Sorry! Sorry!"
    - Uskomatonta! - Finnish: "Incredible!" / "Unbelieveable!" (interjection)
    - Anta baka?! (あんたバカ?! / あんた馬鹿?! ) - Japanese: "Are you stupid?!" / "Are you an idiot?!" (Hepburn romanization)
    - mite! - Japanese: "Look!" (Hepburn romanization)
    - Anteeksi! Anteeksi! - Finnish: "Sorry! Sorry!"
    - Joutukaa - Finnish: "(You all) Hurry up"
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
  12. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    What a distinctly icky way for a yawn to manifest. I like it.

    That said I would not want that stuff touching me, no matter how much trouble I was having falling asleep. :p

    Another nice, nasty detail.

    SOMEONE GOT HIS NAME RIGHT. (And Wilhelm, of all people.) This calls for a celebration!
     
  13. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    Great chapter. I thought it was a fun mix of rising action, character development, and funny moments.

    You've done an excellent job thus far of balancing the different viewpoint groups. I really enjoy the dynamic between Ellsberg and Lyn, especially in this particular scene. You can absolutely sympathize with Ellsberg's frustration, even though he's an antagonist. Lyn's character is also very consistent. He's an interesting villain for sure.

    xD I love running gags like this. I just think of chicken nuggets every time they mess up her name. I can relate, considering that people pronounce my last name incorrectly so often that I gave up correcting them a few years ago.

    The Tyranitar seems like a good guy, if a bit gruff. Hopefully Team Traveller will be able to get patched up when they get into town!
     
  14. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Okay, I have to admit that Team Traveler actually working together and saving each other's butts during that battle made my day. They've all been through so much, and they could very well have continued down that path of anger because of Elty's betrayal, or even just because they're clearly under a ton of stress. But no, they pulled it together and it was great.

    The different POVs in this chapter balanced out nicely - none felt like they dragged on too much, none felt redundant, and I have to say I'm developing a soft spot for Hess still. I like how he's trusting Elty's word, even though Elty isn't quite the guy to trust anything to ever. Something about that growlithe just makes it seem like you can tell him anything, huh? I kind of want Elty to realize that. I think his reaction would be priceless - adorable and awkward. :3
     
  15. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Okay, that Hippowdon battle was both awesome and well-fitting as the boss of this dungeon. Where to start? First of all, lots of move variety. You utilized the full of the hippos’ movesets, and it kept the battle engaging throughout its entire duration. Second, great fight choreography. They weren’t just trading attacks back and forth—there was constant movement, both in the air and in the sand, enemies disappearing only to reappear at the worst time, using status conditions, taking advantage of the terrain, and I liked how the central fountain came into play with the water and the mud. Finally, we got to see Team Traveller actually pulling together! Hippowdon is such a ludicrously bulky Pokémon, difficult to take down even for a competent, fully evolved team. This encounter just plain felt impossible from the start. But with all four of them tag-teaming and comboing like that? They actually came through in the end!

    Glad that Aulis was willing to listen to them when they fell into that dig site. This might turn out to be a good thing for them, since if they’d just walked straight into town, they’d almost certainly have run into the guards that are looking out for them now. Of course, he’s leading them into town now, but it’s better than if they were going alone (although that’s not saying much—I still expect things to go badly for them!)

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  16. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    I’m glad to hear, though yeah, I wouldn’t want to touch that either.

    Maybe just a little one. ^^

    Am glad to hear you’re liking how things are turning out so far. And there’s a few more layers to the onion that have yet to be peeled for the Company’s side of things.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and Nagant won’t be freed from her name confusion anytime soon.

    All shall be revealed in this chapter.

    Yup. That’s actually the crux of this episode’s reason d’etre, to put the team through a nadir so that they put in a situation where they must grow closer or fall standing apart, which will come more into play in the next episode.

    Never say never for that realization. :3

    Yeah. That battle actually took quite a while to iron out. I’m glad to hear that it turned out so well. ^^

    Whelp, you’re probably on the right track, though as for how things go awry, I’ll let you see as things play out in today’s installment. And as mentioned last time, I’m back with a fresh batch of trivia. Starting after this installment, they will be coming in blocks of 10,000 views so as to be a bit less character heavy in the future.

    How did you come up with Sormus?

    From its initial conception, Sormus was envisioned as a desert-like island with the oh-so-creative working name of “Desert Island”, primarily in order to add climate and topographical variety to the Cradle. When mulling over potential reasons why the island would still be valued enough to settle on, one possibility that I quickly took a liking to was to make the island valuable for mining, which would give it strategic importance in-setting.

    The character of the island gradually evolved in the background as the series progressed. From Pyry and Pekka’s introduction on, it was decided that the island would have Finnish as its local tongue as a dash of cosmic irony. The desert environment led to the eventual decision to make the local Protector Hoopa, who was thematically appropriate both for a desert and a location with the materials to make shiny rings, which in turn informed the name Sormus, which carries the literal meaning of “Ring” in Finnish. There was some uncertainty originally as to whether to depict Sormus as a rockier or sandier desert, though in light of craggier islands earlier in the story such as Mengir and Kenobi, the decision was made to tilt the general topography to something dune-filled, with relatively small stony areas. Names that ultimately didn’t make the cut for Sormus included Kierre, Kierukka, and Vanne.

    How did you come up with Copperband Village?

    Copperband Village was envisioned as a relatively sleepy mining town, reflecting the realities of life in a desert with a few occasional flourishes of more Nordic architecture, hence the occasional expensive wooden structure admixed into the sea of adobe. The town by design was intended to also carry the attendant strains of mining life that pushed more adventurous types out into high-risk/high-reward jobs, which although somewhat compressed in depiction, would be relevant in any depictions later down the road.

    The town’s name owes its origin primarily to the metal that is primarily mined on the island, the copper that the Empire uses for its coinage, with ‘band’ being added in reference to the banded appearance of rock layers. Names that were considered but left on the cutting board included “Coppertop”, “Copperpit”, and “Copperloop”.

    How did you come up with Aulis?

    Aulis mechanically was intended to fill two roles in-story. The first was to help guide the team into Copperband for a short stint, and the other was to help act as a miner viewpoint character for better gauging the character of the town and its residents. That of a gruff, no-nonsense, and somewhat belligerent character with good intentions. The choice of Tyranitar of a species primarily revolves around being an homage to Pokédex entries dealing with Tyranitar destroying mountains, which mining is capable of given sufficient time and energy. Aulis’ name was chosen primarily to echo his role, being a Finnish name meaning “helpful” or “willing” . Names that were considered but ultimately not selected included “Jyri”, “Markus”, “Otto”, “Urho”, and “Vieno”.

    How did you come up with Sormus' nobility?

    Sormus’ nobility is the local branch of the Empire’s ruling crown, and hereditary rulers of the island, a premise which was developed after a few back and forth conversations with Virgil134. Atlas and Agila in particular were developed primarily to help show off a baseline setup for nobles within the Empire, consisting of a family administering a “fief” along with a Governor operating alongside of them to act as an intermediary (and enforcer of loyalty) on behalf of the central crown, as represented by Orloff. Atlas and Agila in particular were chosen due to Volcarona’s association with deserts in the mainline game series, with their names being drawn from moth species. As for their confidants, Orloff was chosen to be a Blaziken partly as a throwaway reference to a minor internet meme, and in order to match the Duke and Dutchess type-wise and owes his name to a Russian chicken breed, with working name of “Proofster”. On the other hand, Clyde owes his name to Mudsdale’s inspiring horse breed, the Clydesdale. Originally Clyde’s role was going to be filled entirely by Orloff, until it was decided to have a distinct messenger play a role in-story.

    What motivated you to depict Mystery Dungeons the way you do in-story?

    The Mystery Dungeons in Fledglings basically are built around a structure of being as faithful as reasonably possible to the games’ mechanics while still coming off as a believable place. For that reason, the field tilted heavily early on to depicting Dungeons as regions of distorted dimensional activity, or as is sometimes referred to in-setting, a place where worlds meet. The formal explanation will be due for sometime down the road in-story, though the fundamental premise is of Dungeons being a space where Fledglings’ world intermixes with that of other dimensions.

    Eh? But the games' Mystery Dungeons didn't have fog surrounding them or stable zones. Why did you add them?

    Again, the Mystery Dungeons were built to be as faithful as reasonably possible, and as such, there are a few additions added in order to keep things believable and consistent with the setting’s logic outside of Mystery Dungeons. The fog was added primarily as a means of keeping Mystery Dungeons from being reliably predictable from outside, as well as to act as a distinct ‘separator’ from the more normal world. The notion of “shortcuts” and “stable zones” was a much-expanded depiction of non-randomly generated areas in Mystery Dungeons such as final floors or floors with save points. This particular expansion owes its existence to the nature of “feral” Pokémon in Fledglings fundamentally being the same as their “civilized” counterparts beyond culture. As such, that required the setting to give Pokémon that lived in Mystery Dungeons a means for them to navigate and live around a place that occasionally clears floors with strong winds, while preserving the volatile “cartographer’s nightmare” aspect of dungeons.

    Why is law enforcement so different from the canon games?

    This has to do primarily with a combination of canon PMD being extremely vague about the civilian/military divide in its law enforcement, and tweaking things to suit a setting where the fundamental level of social organization extends higher than what is directly shown in the games. As such, the primary reason why things are different is because things have been defined in a much more definitive direction, with the overall function of a guard trending closer to that of a gendarme in real life, hence accompanying changes from in the local lingo in Anyilla from the canonical “Sheriff”.

    Why do characters in Fledglings never seem to have issues moving around buildings and ships in-story? Wouldn’t some be too small or too big?

    This is in part plot-related necessity to not slow things down, as well as buildings and structures being structured around their users. As such, a place that has to accommodate a wide variety of Pokémon will be built to be accessible to both large and small Pokémon with adaptations in favor of different body styles, implying ceilings and doors that are proportioned relative to roughly 2 meter tall entities, which is sufficient to accommodate the vast majority of Pokémon species barring the occasional outlier such as Wailord. The trend is not necessarily true of more private spaces such as residences (such as Nida’s burrow back on Tromba).

    As for the aforementioned adaptations, you’ve seen a number in-story already. The most omnipresent of these adaptations consists of chair designs that are designed to accommodate tails and non-bipedal bodystyles, which makes stools particularly common form factors. Door handles are also a commonly divergent architectural feature, with the default form factor being a push pad to allow quadrupeds and armless Pokémon to open doors along with more bipedal counterparts.

    What’s with the escorts for ships in setting?

    They are there for more or less the same purpose as the Protect users around battlefields in-story, to help keep rickety wooden ships from getting their hulls shot full of holes and sinking. Sea escorts in particular focus on defending against threats from the sea and the waves, whereas their counterparts in the air focus more on engaging flying threats. Beyond passive defense, escorts are valuable for engaging attackers that are beyond the reach of Pokémon on the hull, and play an important role in helping to boost ships along to reach top speeds and change directions faster.

    What’s with the alcohol that shows up in-story?

    Because what’s a sea yarn without some bottles of rum to go around? More seriously, it’s there because it’s a particularly ingrained meme from the human cultures that the Cradle’s cultures attempt to emulate, as well as to play into the setting’s atmosphere. Thanks to being made for a non-human audience, alcohol in the Cradle differs primarily through strength to accommodate for lower alcohol tolerances (namely by being watered down) and in the ingredients it is made off of (with berries playing a larger role than more common real-life ingredients such as hops and barley).

    And while it’s a little on the late side, I’m here with the last chapter of this current episode. There was a minor retcon to Chapter 51 made where Hess is more aware of Elty’s absence, though it should not do much beyond a few subtle changes to the story. Thanks to a combination of it being a chapter transition, and having a move at the end of the month, the next episode is currently slated to kick off in the beginning of October with usual caveats about timing. It is my firm opinion that the new batch of chapters will be worth the wait, though if you can’t wait for more Fledglings content in between releases, there is currently a surprise in the pipeline courtesy of Virgil134. You might wanna play close attention to the fan fiction forum this time around.

    This chapter was made possible through the help of Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net, along with the feedback and support of reviewers and readers like you. And with that, let’s close this episode off, and open the door to a new turn in this story.
     
  17. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    [​IMG]

    By the time Aulis led Team Traveller to the top of the winding path up the slopes of the mine, the sun had begun to retreat beyond the horizon, coloring the sky with the day's final rays before slipping over the edge of the Cradle entirely. The group made their way through Copperband Village, a sleepy abode of simple adobe buildings flecked with the occasional well-built wooden stalwart. The town had begun winding down for the night, with shopkeepers starting to shutter shops, and a few taverns catering to night owls lighting their lanterns to tempt Pokémon with the smell of fresh food as they drifted home. All the while, the four shivered slightly, finding that the sweltering heat had given way to an unexpected chilliness as the skies darkened.

    "Blergh… I'll never understand how the days here can be so hot and the nights freezing like this," Guardia groaned.

    "That's the way life is in a desert," Aulis grunted. "Hot days, cold nights, and dry enough for most plants to struggle just to sprout on their own."

    "Huh? Was that why we didn't see that many fields coming here?" Pleo wondered. "Then where does all the food come from? And where do all the Pokémon who live in the outskirts work?"

    "We're a bit more dependent on Gummi Fabs to get our grub around here," the Tyranitar explained. "As for work, they work under the likes of yours truly, digging up copper and whatever else we can get for the Empire's treasury."

    Nida blinked and twitched her whiskers at the Rock-Type's explanation. For such a sleepy and dusty-looking town, it sounded as if the place was rather important to this Empire. But even so, how could everyone here make their living from this mine?

    "Eh? But what about the Pokémon that don't dig so well?" Nida asked.

    "Well, there's always selling to the miners in town, and some of them take up work as mercenaries," the Rock-Type responded. "Usually on behalf of the Empire, though there always seems to be some body of idiots that drifts into a pirate crew in search of fast riches."

    Elty blinked at the mention of "body of idiots", his mind turning back to the crew of the Mistral Marauder. After taking Aulis' explanation into mind, a realization suddenly began to dawn on him about who some Pokémon from said body might be...

    "Oh, so that's how Pyry and Pekka got into the business…" Elty muttered under his breath.

    "… It sounds like a bit of a harsh town," Pleo murmured.

    "Well it is at times, but we do our best to make the most of it," the Tyranitar replied. "And that includes paying our dues to the Pokémon watching over us."

    Aulis gestured off with a claw off at a glint on a hill in the distance. Guardia squinted through the dimming light and saw that the glint came from a pink-and-black pavilion with shining metallic rings threaded through spires. At the front was a gleaming copper statue of a small horned figure holding a ring in front of a taller six-limbed being with a hollow chest… Was the smaller of the two a hero associated with the Protector? Whatever the case was, the sight seemed to impart a degree of pride to Aulis, the rock lizard giving a satisfied grunt at his guests' reactions.

    "When our Protector comes, he will be able to help smooth things over," the Rock-Type explained. "But until then, we've gotta start by helping ourselves."

    Each member of Team Traveller silently admired the Tyranitar's steadfast determination... but at the same time, they wondered whether the Protector of this island would manage to live up to his expectations. After all, for all the lore surrounding Pleo back home, he hadn't turned out to be quite as big and powerful as expected, at least not yet. Could the same kind of thing wind up holding true for the Protector of Sormus?

    They had little time to mull over the situation in detail, as the team were snapped out of their reverie by the sound of chatter echoing by from around a nearby corner.

    "A white bird with a long neck…" a squeaky voice murmured. "What sort of a description is that to work with?"

    "I dunno, isn't that basically a Swanna?" a high, ghostly voice asked. "Shouldn't be too hard to spot, right?"

    "So why would the Captain be so obtuse about it and not just tell us that the 'mon Duke Atlas wanted brought in was a Swanna!" the first voice exclaimed. "What's with all the cloak and dagger all of a sudden? Do you think it has something to do with that fregatti that pulled in?"

    The four slowed and grimaced at the sound of the voices, watching as a Maractus and Sandygast in Imperial scarves rounded the corner. Nida froze as Aulis carried on ahead, looking around in a panic for someplace to hide or slip off to.

    "Ah... oh, look over there!" Nida squeaked.

    The spike ball hastily tugged at Pleo's wing, bidding him to waddle off after her, Guardia and Elty following close behind at a brisk pace. Aulis paused and looked back confusedly just as the four slipped down an alleyway before breaking into a sprint, bounding down the narrow corridor until they reached another lane, panting and glancing around their surroundings nervously to see if there was any sign of the guards.

    "Do- Do you think they saw us?" Pleo stammered.

    "I… I dunno," Nida panted. "But whatever happened, they're not chasing after us-"

    "What are you doing?"

    Team Traveller froze and blanched at the harsh voice, looking up uneasily to see Aulis staring down at them. The Tyranitar's face was hardened into an unamused scowl, clearly not enthusiastic over having to abruptly chase after the group.

    "What's the big idea of running off on me, huh?" the Rock-Type growled.

    "Uh… er…" Guardia stammered.

    "We were just…" Nida began.

    The Nidoran faltered, glancing around the adobe-paved street grasping for any excuse she could find to satisfy the Tyranitar's questioning. After a half-moment too long, her eyes settled on a long, low-slung building nestled against a hillside, a lantern-shaped sign hanging welcomingly above the entrance. 'Lamplight Inn,' read the sign...

    It would have to do. Nida turned back to Aulis, straightening up and forcing her mouth into the biggest smile she could muster to reassure him.

    "We spotted a hostel!" the Poison-Type exclaimed. "It seemed like someplace we could get some rest."

    Aulis frowned and raised a brow skeptically at the youngster's word. The kids had obviously been through a lot, but even so the Tyranitar seemed visibly unsatisfied with their explanation.

    "… Eh? But why wouldn't you go to a medic's hut first?" Aulis demanded. "You're rather scuffed up."

    "Well… I don't think that our condition is anything we can't handle with the stuff in our bag," Elty insisted. "And we need to get going bright and early in the morning anyways."

    The Tyranitar furrowed his brow, clearly not buying the Growlithe's explanation. His gaze lingered on the group a bit longer as he observed their wounds again, and noted their poorly-forced smiles despite their obvious beaten-up state, and a low hum rumbled from his throat. Finally, after another moment's scrutiny, he relented and shrugged off his misgivings. These kids had clearly been through a lot; could be they were still a bit cagey from being thrown around the dungeon. Nothing to worry about after all, he decided.

    "Suit yourself, then," their guide grunted.

    Aulis pressed on ahead, pushing the door open to the inn. A mass of warm air filtered out, beckoning the youngsters in, where they discovered a simple room with low tables bearing candles and ringed by cushioned seats. At the end was a flight of stairs up, and to the left, a rudimentary counter with a bucket of water on it with a finned tail poking out. After feeling the ground thump from Aulis' approach, the tail shifted, as the flattened, tawny form of a Stunfisk poked his head out of his container to greet his customers.

    "Hyvää iltaa, and welcome to Lamplight Inn," the Stunfisk greeted. "How many places can we put you down for today?"

    "A room for four," Aulis answered.

    The Electric-Type's brow raised skeptically, the mudfish taken aback by a party of five asking for only four beds.

    "Eh? You're not with them?" the fish asked. The Stunfisk fidgeted his fins impatiently, only to be answered by a shake of the Tyranitar's head.

    "Nah, I'm just lending a helping claw for tonight," the Rock-Type explained. "They should be out of your fins by tomorrow."

    "Whelp, whatever floats your boat," the Stunfisk replied.

    Aulis fished through a small pouch slung across his waist, fishing out a few copper coins and sliding it across the table. Team Traveller watched as the flounder moved his tail over and pushed the coins into a drawer with an audible clink, breathing sighs of relief that they'd found a place to spend the night. Even so, a nagging sense of unease lingered in the air, Pleo shifting his wings uncomfortably before craning his head down to his Nidoran teammate.

    "Nida?" Pleo whispered. "How are we supposed to get out of here when the guards are looking for us?"

    "… We'll think about it in the morning," the Nidoran replied. "Let's just take things easy for now."

    "Whelp, that's it. The room's yours," Aulis said as he turned around and approached the team to give them their key. "I'll stop by in the morning to check up on you in the morning."

    "Um… dōmo," Guardia replied.

    "Yeah, you wound up being more of a help that I'd have thought at first," Elty added.

    "Hmph. Well, you're welcome. Though I need to go and take care of my own problems now," the Tyranitar grumbled. "Good night, and hope you rest well."

    Aulis turned and left, shuffling out the door into the night. Back on the counter, the Stunfisk sloshed in his bucket, pointing with his tail up a flight of stairs opening out into a hallway that branched left and right.

    "Sixth door to the right," the flounder prodded. "It's yours for the night."

    "Right," Nida answered. "Gracías."

    The Nidoran bowed and climbed a crude stairwell up to an the adobe hallway with her friends, coming to a stop in front of a solid-looking wooden door that had been left open a crack. The Poison-Type nudged it open, revealing a spartan room with the window facing a westward alleyway, thankfully away from the moon's rising spot. The abode was largely barren, barring a few piles of bedding spread out neatly along the right wall and a stump-table at the center. Not the finest accommodation they could have hoped for, but the air had been recently freshened with some herbs hung over the window, and it was certainly more than an empty visitor's mat on the fringes that they'd have to claim were it not for Aulis' help.

    "Was wondering when we were ever going to see one of these again," Elty muttered.

    "Come on," Nida sighed. "Let's patch ourselves up and call it a night."

    Exhausted, the four flopped down onto the straw bedding around the room, each taking a turn to dig through the team's satchel for berries to treat each others' wounds. One after the other they took a turn applying the berry ointments to each other, until only Pleo was left. The Lugia winced and bobbed his head on reflex as Nida shifted his feathers aside to inspect his wounds. Drawing in a sharp breath as her paw brushed against a particularly harsh scrape, he averted his eyes from Nida's work and reached out with conversation to distract himself from the procedure.

    "Nida?" Pleo chirped. "Where do we go from here now?"

    "Eh? Why do you ask?" Nida wondered.

    "Well, even after we get past the guards…" Pleo murmured. "How do we know if Dimitri made it here? And if so, how would we find him?"

    Nida paused, staring into space blankly before shaking her head. The team had somehow managed to endure the entirety of that Mystery Dungeon, staying a step ahead of Lyn and his lackies in the process. But what would they do now? They now found themselves stuck with no guide to Sormus and the surrounding area, and although they'd given Lyn the slip for now, there was no doubt he remained as hot on their trail as he could manage. And how would they handle things when it came time to leave Sormus?

    It would only be a matter of time before Lyn caught up, but as exhausted as they were by the escape, they would need every second of rest they could afford. Perhaps the best course of action would be to take things slowly for now, and save their energy for the morning when their assailants would surely be after them in full force once more.

    "Let's take things one at a time, Pleo," Nida answered. "For now, let's just enjoy our peace and quiet."

    The young Lugia blinked, before obliging the Nidoran's request and nestling himself into his bedding. The sky had grown completely dark, prompting Elty to similarly flip down, and after poking her head out the window and seeing that the moon wasn't visible from the room, Guardia followed suit after a moment of lingering deliberation. Something still didn't feel right about tonight, but even so, it was hard to argue with rest right now…

    Another day, another battle. So perhaps it really was best to make the most of their current breather.




    As Team Traveller settled into their lodging for the evening, the final rays of daylight started slipping over the horizon for the dark of night. Unbeknownst to Copperband Village and its shuttering shops, offshore on the far side of Sormus, a small flotilla of sea Pokémon and their passengers were making their way back to a white-sailed ship, carrying tired and discouraged-looking creatures off the foreign desert island.

    At the head of the group was the sour-looking Samurott captain of the ship, cutting through the water as a Mothim flitted tiredly after him from behind. The otter made his way to a rope ladder that had been unfurled over the edge of the brigantine and grabbed it with his forepaws, pulling himself up to the main deck, where he shook away the seawater which clung to his pelt and irkedly twitched his whiskers.

    "I don't believe this," Lyn growled. "The crew spends well over a day searching inside some blasted Dungeon and we still haven't found the Protector yet."

    "Well, we know he made it past the midpoint from reported sightings," Ellsberg sighed, brushing some sand loose from his wings. "At this rate he might have managed to make it through the dungeon."

    "Then we can't rest here for long!" the Samurott fumed. "The longer we wait the more likely he'll slip away!"

    "Hey there! Welcome back, Captain."

    The Water-Type turned to see that much to his surprise, a chair had been left on the deck amid small piles of melted ice lumps. There on top of it was Ketu getting up from reclining, leaving his captain to splutter out of frustration.

    "Ketu?! What do you think you're doing?!" Lyn yelled. "You were supposed to be watching the ship!"

    "Well, what's it look like I'm doing?" the Weavile answered.

    "Like you're being a lazy furball and shirking your duty," Ellsberg harrumphed, only to be answered with a dismissive shrug.

    "Eh, better a furball than a sand flea," the Dark-Type retorted.

    "I don't care about word choices right now, Ketu!" the otter shouted. "What I want is a good reason why I shouldn't demote you on the spot here and now!"

    Lyn's temper quickly erased Ketu's relaxed smile. The Dark-Type tensed up, his demeanor taking a huffy and defensive turn.

    "Because I actually did my job?" Ketu snorted.

    "If you did, then how about you start telling what you did besides sunbathing," Lyn demanded.

    "I gave the remaining crew some R&R and did the standard checkups," the Weavile replied, his explanation doing little to improve his superior's mood. "Oh, and I kept our cover with some Imp crew who was looking around for the Protector."

    Lyn's jaw dropped at Ketu's answer. The Samurott spluttered incredulously, finally forcing out a single roaring word in reply.

    "What?!"

    "Hm? Oh yeah, some Clawitzer who seemed dead set on capturing him," the Dark-Type continued. "Quite the determined type."

    Lyn blanched, raising a shaking paw to his brow and pinching. Two weeks… Two weeks since what was supposed to be a simple capture and transport, and here the matter had blown up to the point where the Empire was now privy of his pursuit.

    "This can't be happening..."

    Lyn buried his head in his paw, despairing the situation and at a loss of what to do next. He had lost track of the Protector once again, and no idea where on the island he was exactly... Wait a minute. If that Imperial Captain was also looking for that bird, then why hadn't they run into any of her underlings while searching the Mystery Dungeon? Even after crossing the midpoint, if the Imperial Captain had thought the Protector was in the Dungeon, she'd have sent Pokémon to search there. Between that and their discovery that the bird and his little friends crossed the midpoint earlier today, there was only one logical conclusion...

    The lot of them had made it out, and were en route to Copperband if they hadn't already reached it.

    "Gather the crew," Lyn growled. "I'm going to need a team to head into Copperband with me."

    "Hrmph," Ketu answered. "On it."

    Ellsberg fluttered and spluttered incredulously as the Weavile shuffled off. Lyn wanted to go into an Imperial town himself?! How could that possibly end well?

    "Wait, wait. Why?!" Ellsberg exclaimed. "Lyn, the Protector is-"

    "Not in the dungeon anymore, or else we'd have run into Imps down there," Lyn snorted. "So it's safe to assume that he's gotten out."

    Ellsberg blanched and flitted back uneasily. Lyn did have a point, and with how mercurial he was, did he really want to contest the matter if he and Ketu still got the Protector in the end?

    "I mean, if you're certain," the Mothim murmured. "But I'm sure that we could spare a small team to check for you."

    The Samurott gave a glowering scowl back at the moth's suggestion. What mission given to a "small team" had gone right in this entire chase after the Protector? The otter remembered how the infiltration team got exposed by a bunch of common peasants on Tromba, and how the team of infiltrators he dispatched to Boisocéan had failed their task so badly that two had to be left behind for the paper pushers in Canalhouse to work out an extradition. The Samurott chanced to see the pig and sand lizard from earlier sitting tiredly on some crates, only to jump back to their feet after realizing their captain was watching them. Yes, he certainly didn't need any reminders of that debacle either. No, trying the same thing over and over again while expecting different results was the definition of insanity. With that in mind, perhaps it was best to shake things up and take a different tack.

    "... No. I'm going in person this time," he growled. "I'm done playing games and am going to get that Protector back, no matter what it takes."




    In spite of its positioning, the entrance and the lobby to the Lamplight Inn had the benefit of facing east, allowing it to catch the morning sun as it rose over the horizon. The oil lamps on the table were cold and unlit, with the sun's first rays carrying the burden of illuminating the worn and low-slung wooden desk where a bucket of water with an idling Stunfisk sat. It was in this sleepy environment that a Heatmor and Graveler in white scarves with blue sun patterns made their way in from outside, keenly eying their surroundings as they walked up to the receptionist.

    "Excuse me," the Graveler said. "But I was wondering if you could answer a question for us."

    From his bucket, the receptionist poked his head above the water and looked out, eying the strangers in white scarves before him. The flounder shifted in the water and raised his head up to talk to the new visitors.

    "Hrm?" the Stunfisk asked. "Looking for a room?"

    "Not quite. We were looking for some friends of ours who are spending the night here in town," the Heatmor explained. "Did a group with a white, long necked bird check in here lately?"

    "One who looks kinda like an overgrown Wingull?" the Stunfisk receptionist mulled. "Yeah, they checked in just last night."

    The Heatmor and Graveler glanced at each other at the Stunfisk's answer and traded small nods, prompting the Fire-Type to make his way for the exit. The Receptionist fidgeted against his bucket, sloshing some water around uncomfortably as he looked puzzledly at the remaining Graveler.

    "Eh?" the flounder murmured. "Your buddy was in an awful rush."

    "He went off to give a heads-up to some company," the Graveler explained. "We've been looking for our friends for a while now."

    "Hrm… guess you've really been expecting to see them again?" the fish asked. The Rock Pokémon paused in obvious thought, before shaking his head and answering.

    "You could say that," he grunted. "So... would you happen to know what room they booked with-"

    "Hey you!"

    The Graveler froze after feeling a prickling brush on his lower shoulder. The Rock-Type grudgingly turned around, where waiting for him were a Maractus and Sandygast in Imperial scarves, scowling impatiently.

    "We couldn't help but overhear about your friend," the Maractus growled. "Would you be able to answer a few questions for us?"

    "Uh... questions?" the Graveler stammered.

    "Yeah, how do you know about this 'mon," the Sandygast demanded. "And what's your relation to him?"

    The Graveler stiffened up at the Ghost-Type's questioning, shifting his arms uneasily. After thinking of a suitable sounding excuse, the Rock-Type answered, his voice carrying an audible uncertainty to it.

    "Er… you could say that we're associates. We wound up getting separated a few ports back and this is where he finally pointed us to go," the Rock-Type offered. "Why, what are you up to with him?"

    "… That's none of your concern," Maractus snorted.

    "But it is if there's guards after him" the stony Pokémon insisted. "I wouldn't be a good friend if I just stood by if they were falsely accused, would I?"

    "That'll be for us to decide," the Grass-Type scoffed.

    "Hey, Stunfisk," the Sandygast asked. "What room did you say that 'mon was in?"

    "Sixth door to the right."

    The Sandygast nodded and turned to his fellow guard, sending a small wave of sand rippling over his body with the movement of a forward nub, pointing in the direction of their destination in a crude facsimile of a wave.

    "Come on, let's go check it out."

    The Maractus and Sandygast began to make their way for the stairwell, only for the sound of heavy footsteps to ring out. There, in front of them, stood the Graveler who had spread his arms, blocking the whole of the route up to the floor above.

    "I can't let you do that," the Rock-Type said.

    The guards' mood visibly darkened as their faces hardened into scowls and their bodies tensed for action. The Maractus in particular grew agitated, giving a prod with his spiky arm at the Graveler's stomach.

    "Get out of my way, or I'll have you arrested for annoying a guard!" the Grass-Type growled.

    The Maractus' outburst drew a blinking pause from his Sandygast partner, the sandy wraith shifting to give the Grass-Type a puzzled look.

    "Wait, that's a bookable crime?" the Ghost-Type whispered.

    "Shh! We'll sweat the details later!"

    "Hrmph," the Rock Pokémon spat. "Like I said, you're not going any- AGH!"

    The Graveler was knocked back into the wall by heavy, thorny blow, making him stagger and topple over. The Maractus drew his arm back, green flecks of light dancing along his arm as the Stunfisk receptionist slunk into his bucket unnervedly, the Grass-Type giving an irritated grunt.

    "And stay out of our wa-"

    SLAM!

    The guards looked back across the lobby to see the door was thrown open by a glaring party of five Pokémon in blue sun scarves. At the front was a hulking Samurott, flanked by a Xatu, Heatmor, Heracross and a Dusclops. At once, the tension in the air thickened, the otter giving a low growl as his eyes pierced into the two guards.

    "I heard that there was a white, long necked bird here at this hostel," the otter glowered. "I'm going to need to leave with it. Now."

    The Maractus and Sandygast shrank back at the sight of the hostile party. Dealing with the Samurott and his companions would be a tall order, but they had the high ground to fall back on and these strangers didn't. Besides, perhaps there wasn't a need to come to blows after all...

    "Er… who are you and what business do you have here?"

    Up above on the second floor, Team Traveller started to stir under the dim morning light as the sounds of an argument below rang out. Nida was the first to notice the noise, pricking up uneasily, Guardia and Pleo following after after being awoken by her movements, leaving Elty to futilely paw at his teammates to attempt to return to sleep.

    "Nrgh…" Elty groaned, lethargically swatting his forepaw. "Keep it down."

    "It's not me," Guardia insisted. "There's something going on downstairs."

    "Hey buddy," a ghostly voice snapped. "I don't know what game you all are trying to pull but- AGH!"

    The four heard thumps and blows coming from below, followed by the sound of wood splintering and a loud, ghostly shriek. The group tensed up, warily making their way to the door as a bellowing cry rang out from below.

    "Gah!"

    The youngsters' blood ran cold at the sound of the shout, prompting Nida to crack the door open. The downstairs had been trashed, with the Sandygast slumped over in a sandy pile in front of the desk and a petrified-looking receptionist. At the bottom of the stairwell at the end of the hallway was Lyn, cradling a shoulder freshly-flecked with green spikes, snarling at a Maractus at the top who gave a jeering wave

    "Hah!" the Maractus sneered. "Not so tough, are ya-AAAAAAAH!"

    Before the Grass-Type could react, a freezing beam struck his foot and froze it against the floor. The Cactus Pokémon cried out and desperately tried to free himself, only for the splutch of a blade embedding itself in his torso rang out, followed by a pained squeal. Lyn wrenched the blade out as the cactus rabbit staggering forward, and grabbed the Maractus by the back of his head and threw him down the stairs with a clatter, the unconscious guard falling into the receptionist desk and knocking over the Stunfisk's bucket over with a yelp. At this, Nida hastily slammed the door, wide-eyed and panting.

    "We need to get out of here."

    Guardia motioned for Elty to help her move the stump-table, the two shoving it up against the door as footsteps rang down the hallway outside. From downstairs, they overheard a pained, rumbling voice conversing with the intruders.

    "Nrgh… They're in the sixth room to the right," a Graveler's voice groaned.

    "Right," a Xatu's voice answered. "Remember to check your surroundings on the way up. We don't need more surprises here."

    "Just where are we supposed to go?" Pleo whispered. "Lyn's out there in the hallway!"

    Glancing around for an answer, Elty's eyes fell on the shuttered window, beams of sunlight breaking through cracks in the shutters and a sliver of the clear blue sky visible beyond. He looked out the window a moment, then to Pleo, and shook his head.

    "The only place we can go," Elty insisted. "Come on, help me with those shutters!"

    The Growlithe blew out a column of cinders, his desperately forceful Ember setting the wood of the shutters alight. Pleo followed by spitting up a glowing orb, smashing the shutter into a collection of charred splinters that fell out into the alleyway. Nida, Elty, and Guardia hastily vaulted onto Pleo's back as the bird clambered up the windowsill, the sound of shouts and footsteps ringing out from the hallway.

    "They're trying to get away!" Lyn shouted. "I can hear them!"

    "Now or never, Pleo!" Elty yipped.

    The Lugia heard a smash and the splintering of wood as Lyn stabbed a seamitar through the door, prompting him to leap from the window and take wing… only to abruptly feel his leg yanked back. The bird squawked, realizing that he'd caught his foot on a line of sheets hung out to dry and pitched forward with his passengers, crashing to the ground along with the laundry with a loud yelp just as the door was broken down. Back in the room, Lyn burst in, the first thing coming to his and his subordinates' attention being the charred and splintered shutters along with the visibly open window to the room.

    "They've made a break for it!" a Heracross cried.

    "They flew off again?!" Lyn bellowed. Scowling, the Samurott whirled around and turned to the door to storm outside, only to pause at the sound of a few groaning Pokémon coming from outside, just under the room's window.

    "Oww…"

    "Gah, talk about your false starts."

    Lyn ran over and poked his head out the window, noticing a snapped clothesline dangling from the building across the lane. The Samurott followed the cord down with his eyes, to the sight of a young Lugia, Nidoran, Growlithe, and Cubone staggering up. The four hastily untangled themselves from the cord only to peer up with a startled grimace and see Lyn staring down. The youngsters turned to run, prompting the otter to spit out a pressurized orb of water at the four. The sound of a yelp and loud splash rang out, making Lyn pause tensely as he watched the dust settled… only to see that the group were rapidly approaching the corner to a blind alley. Determined not to lose his targets yet again, the Samurott pulled his head back in, turning to his underlings with a fierce bellow.

    "Take out the wall!"

    Lyn grasped his blades and sliced the frame of the window with a cross-slash, making the wall above visibly sink downwards. The Samurott sidestepped, prompting his underlings to strike the wall with a mass of attacks, collapsing it outwards into the lane in a rain of adobe fragments. The otter leapt forward and came to a crouching landing on the ground, charging ahead to the corner just in time to see a Growlithe's tail slip around the corner up ahead.

    "This way!"




    As Team Traveller desperately ran through the narrow alleyways of Sormus, a Samurott's roar echoed behind them. The four whirled down one blind corner after the other, but all the while were unable to shake the sound of Lyn and his underlings chasing after them. Throughout the ordeal, Pleo was wide-eyed, batting his wings for takeoff only to find his path blocked time and time again by an ill-placed curve or pole above.

    "How did Lyn find us again?!" Pleo squawked.

    "I don't know," Nida panted. "Just keep running for now!"

    The four skidded around a corner and ran down an alley lined with discarded crates. As Team Traveller charged on ahead, they heard Lyn and his lackies' shouts and footsteps grow less and less distinct. Nida and her friends popped out ahead into a small clearing in a cross-roads, looking around uneasily at the paths branching out in the small square to try and tease out which way to go next… Only to look up and see the wide, blue sky overhead, and realize that the clearing was surely big enough for Pleo to run fast enough to take wing.

    "This place looks more open than I was expecting," Nida said. "Pleo, let´s all get on top of you and then we can fly-"

    "Nie ruszaj się!" a whinnying voice cried.

    The four whirled to the left, where they saw the forms of a Ponyta, a Sandslash, and a Cranidos in indigo scarves dart in and block their way. The three hardened their glares and hastily assumed battle positions, the Ponyta at the head snorting out a challenging jeer.

    "You're not going anywhere, pirate scum!"

    "Eh?!" Pleo exclaimed. "But I'm not a pirate!"

    "Yeah!" Elty snapped. "I'm the pirate here!"

    Elty's outburst hung in the air, giving way to an awkward silence as the three indigo-scarved Pokemon blinked and exchanged skeptical glances with one another. This scruffy lot with the Protector really was a team of pirates…?

    "Psst, Niilo," Cabot whispered. "I thought those wanted posters were supposed to be Company cover to nab these 'mons."

    "Maybe they were more accurate than we gave them credit for?" the Sandslash mused.

    "There's clearly a long, interesting story behind this…" Berecien snorted. "But that can wait. En garde!"

    The Ponyta lowered his head and charged forward as flames flared out from his hide. Thinking quickly, Elty leapt to the side and swiftly cartwheeled into Berecien's side with a Flame Wheel, knocking the horse off his feet with a yelp.

    "Not so fast, hothead!" the Growlithe barked.

    "Hrmph!" the Ponyta fumed. "You're one to talk, pirat- GAH!"

    Pleo watched as Elty clamped down on the Ponyta's rump with his jaws, the horse kicking wildly to try and shake his attacker loose. The young Protector darted in a flapping run to try and come to Elty's aid, only to feel a heavy ramming blow from underneath just as he left the ground, sending him pitching back to earth with a shriek.

    "I got him! I got- OW!"

    The Cranidos' cheers were cut off with a sharp clubbing to his side, sending him staggering back as Guardia came to a panting stop in his place. Pleo looked up as he wearily picked himself off the ground, seeing the Cubone's eyes wide with alarm, frantically motioning backwards with her free claw.

    "Pleo!" Guardia cried. "Fall back!"

    "R-Right!"

    "Oh, no you don't!" a Sandslash's voice shouted.

    Pleo turned and saw a Sandslash charging him, prompting him to bolt in a panic. The pangolin neared the bird with his claws ready to swipe, only to hop back as a needle-like spike sailed through the air and landed in front of him with a thwip. Niilo looked up just in time to spot and deflect another poisonous missile with his claws, before noticing the spike's owner: a blue Nidoran with her barbs fanned out, and her red eyes hardened into a glare.

    "Pleo!" Nida cried. "When you've got a good shot, hit him with an- AGH!"

    Nida's instructions were interrupted by Niilo's claws raking down her side. The Nidoran tottered, clutching at her side, before being flung aside by a back-handed blow from those same huge claws. Pleo yelped as the Nidoran was casually sent sailing through the air with such ease.

    "Nida!"

    Pleo flinched back, coming forward again while sending a glowing ball of energy from his mouth in the general direction of the Sandslash. Without checking to see if his attack had hit home, he took the chance to bolt. As he turned to fall back, he spotted Guardia groaning on the ground, knocked back by a stiff headbutt from Cabot. Further ahead, Elty let out a pained yelp as Berecien reared up and brought his hooves down on the dog's flank with a forceful stomp.

    Taking in the battle with an ever-worsening expression of horror etched on his face, Pleo froze. His friends were in danger! For all the hoping and dreaming he and the villagers back home had done about finally returning home... he couldn't possibly think of accomplishing any of that if he couldn't even get his friends out of here with him. The young Lugia skidded to a stop and gathered his wings to try and bring the wind between them. All the while, Pleo wished with all his might that he could just call on that latent, explosive power of his, just long enough to turn the tides of this battle...!

    PLOOOSH!

    "GWARK!"

    Pleo was sent tumbling back along the sand by a high-pressured ring of water. Groaning, he picked himself up and stumbled forward, trying desperately to maintain his balance by holding his wings out to each side. In the end, in spite of his efforts, he couldn't manage more than a few tottering steps before pitching forward face-first into the sandy ground, knocked out cold. Nida, Elty and Guardia all looked on from their respective predicaments, mouths agape, the whole brawl grinding to a halt out of shock as the seabird crashed to the ground.

    "Pleo!"

    The three heard the crunching of sand coming from the path on the right side, turning to see a Clawitzer in an indigo scarf with a triple leaf pattern draw her claw back to her side and hop over. The trio hastily circled tight against each other, expecting her to ambush them along with the three indigo-scarved strangers, only to see her sidle up against Pleo's unconscious body and brush his drenched plumes.

    "I'll admit, you kept me waiting longer than I'd like," the shrimp said to herself. "But your flight ends here, Lugia."

    "You're that Clawitzer from Orleigh!" Nida squeaked. "Wh-What do you want? What are you going to do with him?"

    "That's none of your concern, Nidoran," Nagant chittered. "As for the rest of you, I suggest you surrender and come along peacefully!"

    "C-Come along?" Elty stammered. "Nie ma mowy!"

    "Yeah!" Guardia spat. "We're not going to let you just get away with this!"

    Team Traveller hastily dug in for a fierce fight, trying to prepare themselves in spite of their shock. All the while, Nagant stood unmoved, doing little more to acknowledge the threat than to give a flat, unimpressed stare and an idle twitch of her big claw's barbels.

    "… Well do go on," the Clawitzer snorted. "Do your worst."

    Guardia grit her teeth and charged with her club ready at her side. The Cubone gave a shouting battle cry and jumped up to give an overhead smash to the shrimp, only for Nagant to slightly raise her claw and disgorge a watery pulse square into Guardia's body.

    "A-AAH!"

    Nida and Elty watched in shock as Guardia sailed back through the air, falling against the sandy ground with a wet thud. Barring a weak twitch of her leg, the drenched Cubone showed no signs of consciousness, prompting Elty to pull his tail between his legs at a sinking realization of how far over their heads they were.

    "Spike ball," Elty whined. "I think that we need to fold 'em-"

    "Here!" a whinnying voice cried. "Have some thanks for that bite you left on me!"

    The canine snapped to attention, whirling around in the direction of the cry just in time to catch a hoofed kick to the side of the head, sending him sailing into the air with a shriek. The Growlithe landed squarely on his chin, skidding to a stop in a full-on faceplant, totally unconscious but for some weak twitching of his legs. Nida froze, mouth agape from witnessing the powerful blow, and although she felt the urgent need to act she was paralyzed by indecision. The frantic workings of her mind, desperate to find a solution to her team's predicament, distracted her enough that she didn't notice the presence behind her until it was already slashing at her back.

    "Ngah!"

    Nida flopped to the ground from the Sandslash's attack, and weakly started to pick herself up. As the Nidoran staggered to her feet and looked up, she went wide eyed at the sight of a charging Cranidos. One that was far too close to avoid.

    SMACK!

    The Nidoran pinwheeled along the ground, coming to an unconscious, thudding stop after striking a wall headfirst. The courtyard quickly simmered down, the only sounds being panting from Team Traveller's attackers and the chatter of an unimpressed Clawitzer.

    "I've always hated dealing with theatrical types," Nagant grunted. "Come on, let's hurry up and get them to the ship. We can't assume safe harbor until these lot are in trusted claws."

    The shrimp gave a whistling chitter and motioned behind her, prompting a Pidgeotto and a Bewear to come forward. At once the four Pokémon were hastily scooped up and divided amongst the gathered crew. Berecien dimmed his mane to a dull, cool red as Cabot slung Nida over his back. Niilo scooped up the Cubone along with her club, passing it off to his Cranidos counterpart, as the Pidgeotto scooped up Elty in his talons, giving a sour glare at his passenger. Last but not least, the Bewear picked up Pleo, carrying him along in his strong arms as the party marched on for the sea… unaware that from a street on an overlooking slope, a Samurott was watching their progress, looking ahead to follow the strangers' course to the harbor.

    "They're headed for the docks," the Water-Type grunted. "We'll cut them off there and teleport out with the bird."

    "… Are we sure, Captain?" Graveler asked. "We don't exactly have the advantage of numbers here."

    "I didn't ask you for your opinion," Lyn growled. "Now get movi-"

    Before the Samurott could finish, he was cut off by the sight of a torrent of mud sailing through the air. The otter sprang back, leaving the Graveler to look up just in time to be struck in the face by the incoming attack.

    "Agh!"

    The Rock-Type staggered and slumped over limply, throwing his teammates into a panic as they looked around wildly for the attacker, only to hear a sharp call from the lanes below.

    "There they are!"

    Lyn whirled and watched as a Camerupt in an indigo scarf charged ahead, leading a group of fellow underlings for the steps up to their street. The otter spat out a Water Pulse, prompting his subordinates to attack likewise, drawing yelps from ahead as a cloud of dust and sand was kicked up. Satisfied, the mustelid slid his blades from their sheaths, ready to pounce, only for a torrent of beams and projectiles to come flying out of the cloud and forcing Lyn and his co-intruders to hit the ground to duck the hail of attacks.

    "AAAAAH!"

    The Company team's discipline frayed after the Heatmor was struck by jet of water sending him pinwheeling back. As the anteater tottered back up, the lackeys' morale sank under the hail of fire, the Xatu teleporter turning to Lyn wide-eyed and in increasing panic.

    "Captain, we need to retreat!" Psychic-Type squawked

    Lyn seethed and spat out another torrent into the body of guards, felling a Rhyhorn with a pained bellow. Much to his dismay, the defeated guard was quickly replaced with more compatriots. Even if he and his underlings were able to overcome them, just what sorry state would they be in by time they finally caught up with the Clawitzer? The Samurott grimaced and glowered at his derailed revenge against the Imp interloper, grudgingly coming to the realization that there was simply no positive endgame to be had by standing his ground here.

    "Rrgh... fine!" the otter fumed. "Get us out of here!"

    The Company underlings abandoned their positions guarding the alleyway into their vantage point, hastily coming together to interlock their limbs around their felled Graveler teammate. With the way now clear, the Camerupt and the fellow guards stormed ahead, the camel instantly noticing the Xatu deep in focus.

    "Ack! They're trying to telepor-"

    Before the Fire-Type could finish, the lane was filled with a bright light that stunned the gathered guards. As their eyes adjusted back to normal lighting, they saw the place where the Samurott and his underlings were was empty, the lot of them having vanished into the aether.

    "Split up and find them!" the Camerupt spat. "They couldn't have gotten that far!"




    Offshore and due south of Copperband Village, the Nektar Weide lurked in the distance, the crew keeping a keen eye out for any approaching hostiles who might interrupt their captain's infiltration. Others gathered around to watch a slapdash teleportation platform on the ship's deck thrown together from crates and spare sail at the request of the Xatu in charge of teleportation. Suddenly, a bright flash of light shone in the middle of the platform, a high-pitched whine coupled with some surprised yelps from the unexpecting crew. As the started crew members regained their composure and everyone else's eyes adjusted from the bright light, they turned to see Lyn and his underlings in a sloppy pile on the deck, having tumbled unceremoniously onto the canvas padding of the platform. Seething with barely-contained rage, Lyn pulled himself to his feet and stomped down to the deck, positively radiating an aura of unbridled fury.

    "Rrgh..."

    Ellsberg flitted over to his superior cautiously, eyeing the visible, seething rage reflected in the Samurott's eyes. Obviously Lyn's excursion had not gone to plan, but... perhaps there was some sort of silver lining to be reported?

    "So... how did it g-"

    THUNK!

    The Mothim flinched and staggered backwards reflexively, cracking open one eye to see Lyn leaning on a seamitar he'd driven through the boards of the ship's deck... and glaring icy daggers right at him. He gulped as Lyn took a deep, rage-shaken breath in a futile attempt to put a leash on his anger long enough to deliver a coherent sentence.

    "How does it look like it went, Ellsberg?!" the Samurott fumed.

    The Samurott watched as crewmembers gathered around cautiously watching the gathered returnees to see what was going on... and precious little else. Irked at the lack of action, Lyn gave a stomp against the deck, followed by a loud, berating bellow.

    "Don't just stand there!" Lyn yelled. "Call the medics!"

    The crew flinched and Ellsberg's former Gligar first mate quickly raised the alarm, prompting a small team of a Wigglytuff leading a pair of Chansey to hurry over to the platform. As the medics busied themselves with treating the wounded, Ketu sidled up against his Samurott superior, shrugging and shaking his head.

    "I told you she was determined," he chided. "Still, that's gotta be embarrassing getting turfed out after all this time by some shrim-"

    The Weavile heard a swish, prompting him to tilt his gaze down and still his words. There, at the base of his throat, was the pointed tip of one of Lyn's seamitars, its owner maintaining a tight grip on the hilt and glaring daggers into the Dark-Type.

    "Shut up, Ketu," he growled. "I don't want to hear it!"

    Ketu looked up as his expression curled into a dissatisfied frown, but even so, the Dark-Type refused to budge. Beyond moving a claw to straighten a disturbed head feather, the Weavile had given no acknowledgement of his circumstances beyond an hardened, unblinking stare.

    "Fine," the Weavile harrumphed. "What do we do next then?"

    Lyn lowered his seamitar and buried his head in his free paw, grumbling and growling audibly all the while. The Samurott raised his head, sighing as his mind still struggled to make sense in the huge changes to his mission that had unfolded.

    "I... I just need some time to collect my thoughts," he muttered. "To figure out where that Clawitzer-"

    Lyn trailed off as he noticed movement in the seas ahead from what appeared to be a vessel. The Samurott squinted, and after failing to make out the craft's sail markings from the distance, fished out his scope and raised it to his eye. There, visible now through the spyglass, was an Imperial frigate carried swiftly across the water by unfurled sails and a team of hurried-looking escorts. Clambering up a rope from the side of the ship was none other than the Clawitzer whose salty claws had pinched away his prize.

    "Hrmph. Well that certainly makes things easier..."

    Lyn whirled around, brandishing a seamitar and slamming the flat of its blade against the deck in one swift motion. He held it aloft, the keratinous blade cleaving sunlight from shadow along its edge, thus drawing the attention of even the most easily-distracted of his crew.

    "Follow that frigate!" the Samurott barked. "Wherever it's going, I want it in my sight until it's either docked or at the bottom of the sea!"

    The crew hurriedly took their places, lowering the sails and hoisting the anchor for the escorts to lurch the ship forward thanks to their efforts. The Nektar Weide began to pick up speed, tearing through the waves after the frigate in the distance. All the while, Lyn glowered after his target, his left paw still tightly clutching his seamitar as he stared after his prize's thief. He'd come this far to finally clearing his mission and ascending to the Board, and it'd be a snowy day in midsummer if he let some drowned sea bug steal it all from under his nose!




    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  18. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    As Lyn and his ship stalked the Vasilek over the open waves, the humble Siglo Swellow quietly pulled into Copperband's port. The schooner pulled up to the dock, and the ship's Hitmontop first mate oversaw the escorts and some dutiful deckhands as they set about the process of lowering the anchor and tying down the moorings. Satisfied that everything was proceeding properly, he turned to Natrix and Philips as they spirited a wooden board over to the side.

    "Lower the gangplank!"

    At the Hitmontop First Mate's command, the worn, wooden gangplank was lowered to the waiting dock as Pokémon clambered down, working with sea escorts to moor the ship along the pier. After the ship was fastened, Pokémon from the crew began to disembark with emptied crates and rubbish, among them Crom, his father, and their companions.

    "Gah… how can Pokémon work in this weather?" Crom whined. "It's baking hot right now!"

    "Heh, much like they do at home," Pladur chuckled. "Work in the shade, and take a nice long siesta during the midday."

    "Well, there's no shade anywhere on these docks," Ander sighed. "So let's hurry up and get rid of these crates."

    "Agreed," Dimitri added. "Some of us need to worry about staying hydrated here!"

    One by one, the group picked up damaged and worn-out crates to be disposed of, Crom following dutifully after his father and team captain onto the crowded docks. Along the way, snippets of conversations filtered around, about journeys and faraway sweethearts, pay and customs, but it was the words of the chittering voice of a Crabrawler in particular that most caught the young dragon's attention.

    "What was with that scuffle that happened earlier?" the Crabrawler asked.

    "Some pirate scouts got caught while that Navy captain was in town," a Muk answered. "She took off with the ones that got caught not too long ago."

    "Eh? Sure seemed like an awfully big fuss over a few scouts..." the crab answered.

    "Nah, the Empire doing too much is a nice change from them normally doing too little," the Poison-Type scoffed. "Besides, those bandit thugs had something coming if they thought they could just waltz around town like it's Orleigh!"

    Crom and his team exchanged hesitant glances at the mention of "pirate scouts". Every town had a few bad eggs, but the presence of scouts wasn't a harbinger of something worse coming along, was it? Security didn't seem that weak when they came in… but even so, just how well would this dusty town fend off a large assault?

    "Pirate scouts?" Crom murmured. "Navy captain?"

    The Druddigon and his companions paused and glanced around the harbor before their eyes settled off in the distance. There beyond the harbor's entrance was a three-masted frigate with indigo sails sailing off for the horizon… Was that the naval ship?

    "Must've been whoever's on that ship right now," Kiran replied. "But I suppose you can't really argue with keeping some pirates in line."

    Dimitri shifted uneasily a bit at the explanation, before peering out at the horizon. Even for an island relatively close to Orleigh, the timing for catching pirates here in town seemed suspiciously convenient, and the ship's shape looked vaguely familiar... had he and the rod swum past it before during one of their migrations?

    "I dunno, something about all of this doesn't add up for some reason..." the crab muttered. Dimitri returned to his work with his teammates, setting his crates down on a cleared space at the edge of the docks. Crom, Pladur, Kiran, and Ander quickly followed suit, the Fraxure among them dusting his claws off and looking satisfied at their work.

    "Alright, that should be it for now," Pladur said. "Let's head into town so we can find some leads about the Protector… and maybe a cold drink."

    The five made their way inland under the sweltering heat, passing through narrow, winding alleyways between adobe huts. Life in the town seemed quiet, if with a lingering sense of unsettledness. Crom noticed th a Camerupt in guard attire who seemed particularly cantankerous, looking here and there for someone or something; and further along, a Bibarel selling casks of water chattered uneasily about a disturbance at a local inn with a Bayleef customer. As they carried on, the group quickly learned to walk under awnings and tarps that had been hung up to provide shade, though were harder pressed to find relief from the dust and hot sand underfoot which began to cake on their toes.

    "There sure is a lot of sand around here…" Crom complained.

    "Well, those are deserts alright," Dimitri explained. "Sand, dryness, and very hot temperatures during the day."

    Dimitri trailed off, feeling the strangest sensation of deja vu. After thinking back to the fateful journey across Spirit Trench that started this whole chase, he suddenly remembered why his words felt so familiar.

    "It's funny…" the Kabutops murmured. "It's actually what I explained to your other teammates as well."

    "Eh? You did? Did they also ask about what do the Pokémon here do?" Crom asked. "How are any plants supposed to grow like this?"

    "Well, a lot of the Pokémon here, both in town and in the wilderness are adapted to living life without a lot of food and water," the Kabutops explained. "To make ends meet, they dig out copper and other metals-"

    WHUMP!

    The five of them stumbled, jolting upright as a small, nearby tremor shook the earth under their feet. The group steadied themselves as best they could and searched frantically around for the cause of the shaking.

    "Answer me!" a booming voice roared. "Why were those kids taken away?!"

    Kiran ruffled his feathers and turned to see a Sandygast with a much-thinned sand layer towing a slouching Maractus with a bandaged stomach in a simple pull cart. The pair peered up unnervedly and when following their gazes it was hard to fault them. Directly in front and looming over the two was a glaring Tyranitar, with fangs bared and a visibly impatient demeanor.

    "R-Rauhoitu, Aulis !" the Maractus stammered. "They were reported as Pokémon of interest to the crown!"

    "Yeah, they might not have looked the part, but the piracy charges had to have come for a reason!" the Sandygast insisted.

    "What reason?!" the Armor Pokémon snapped. "Just how much trouble can a Nidoran, a Growlithe, a Cubone, and a fat Wingull cause?"

    The group's jaws dropped at the Tyranitar's words. A Nidoran? A Growlithe? A 'Wingull'? They didn't know anything about a Cubone, but that description could only be...

    "Gark!" Kiran squawked. "That's the kids!"

    "Wait," Pladur murmured. "You guys never mentioned anything about a Cub-"

    "Excuse me!"

    Kiran and the others watched as Crom made a beeline for the three strangers, waving his arms frantically to gain their attention. The Tyranitar paused mid-sentence with a surprised grunt before glancing backward to see the energetic young dragon.

    "Eh? Who are-?"

    Crom's teammates hastily hurried after the young dragon, hoping that he hadn't run headfirst into a local mess. The two battered guards also turned their attention to their newfound interlopers. Sensing an opportunity to give their cantankerous interrogator the slip, the Maractus spoke up while his supporting Sandygast partner quietly inched away.

    "Whelp, looks like you're busy now," the Grass-Type said, hastily clearing his throat.

    "Yeah, we got more stuff to take care off anyway," the Sandygast added. "See ya!"

    The Sandygast hastily slunk away with his Maractus counterpart, leaving the towering Rock-Type to glare after them. The Armor Pokémon gave an annoyed bat of his tail, before whirling around and training his attention onto the white-scarved sailors, much to their gulping unease.

    "What do you want?" the Tyranitar growled.

    Crom hopped back and folded his wings against his body, shrinking back from the cantankerous giant of a Rock-Type. The Dragon-Type struggled with his words, trying to work up the courage to ask the stranger the question he needed answered.

    "Well... uhm…" Crom stammered. "I heard you talking about a Nidoran, a Growlithe and a Wingull and I was just wondering how you knew them…"

    "They fell down a ledge at the mining pits yesterday," the Tyranitar explained. "They said they'd come from the dungeon and they certainly had the scuffs to prove it, so I took them here to town to try and rest. Next thing I know, they're gone under charges of 'piracy'."

    "Did you see who took them?" Dimitri prodded.

    With a curt grunt, Aulis shook his head, wearing a grimace that clearly displayed his contention towards the situation.

    "I wasn't there when they were taken," Aulis sighed. "Trust me, if I was, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now."

    "I see…" Crom murmured.

    "But, those guards did tell me a Clawitzer Navy Captain took them with her while I was still helping to open the mine."

    Crom and the others froze at the mention of the Clawitzer. It could very well be a different one, but the strange Clawitzer they encountered on Boisocéan and Kenobi did seem unusually interested in Pleo... The group - save for Dimitri - stood silent and shocked, Aulis carrying on without noticing their change in demeanor.

    "I would have pressed for more details and found out why she took them," the Rock-Type answered. "But you guys..."

    The Armor Pokémon trailed off, noticing that his audience had grown wide-eyed and pallid at his words. The Tyranitar blinked, wondering if he had said something amiss.

    "Eh? What's gotten into you? You look like you've seen a dead 'mon walking!"

    "That ship," Ander demanded. "Where's it going?"

    "I was told it was going to Giotto- Huh?!"

    Without waiting to hear the rest of Aulis' explanation, Crom turned and bolted in the direction of the docks as fast as his limbs would carry him. The Tyranitar blinked before spluttering in annoyance.

    "Hey!" Aulis growled. "I was in the middle of explaining something here!"

    Much to the stone lizard's irritation, the Druddigon completely ignored his scolding. On top of that, the Fraxure of the group stared blankly and did a double-take towards the retreating Druddigon, alarm flashing across his face

    "Crom!" Pladur cried. "Wait! Don't run off like that!"

    The Dragon-Type took off running after his son, leaving behind their three companions and a befuddled and increasingly annoyed Tyranitar. Aulis' remaining audience turned to the Rock-Type to offer a sheepish explanation for their teammates' hurried exit.

    "Eh... don't mind him," Ander said. "It's just that that Nidoran, Growlithe and 'Wingull' you mentioned are his teammates."

    "Who are you all?" Aulis demanded.

    "Some friends of those children," Kiran explained. "We've been looking for them for a while now."

    "We should probably get going as well now," Dimitri murmured. "If the kids are in trouble, then time is of the essence to help them."

    Kiran, Ander and Dimitri each gave a small wave before turning to rush after Pladur, leaving Aulis to stare off puzzledly and give a hesitant wave to their backs as they darted off. The three wove their way through the streets of Copperband in the direction of the docks, just in time to catch Pladur in a full sprint after his son as the Druddigon darted up the gangplank back onto the deck of the Siglo Swellow.

    "Hah… Hah..." Pladur panted. "Don't run off like-!"

    "Captain Beatrix! Captain Beatrix!" Crom cried. "We need to leave right now!"

    The Illumise looked up from a small stack of paperwork on stationery with leaf designs, twitching her antennae out of surprise.

    "Eh?" the captain asked. "What are you going on about?"

    "Pleo's on that ship over there on the horizon!" the Druddigon exclaimed.

    "Huh?!"

    At once, an outcry broke out among the gathered sailors at the mention of Pleo being on the ship in the distance. Just then, Beatrix saw Kiran, Ander, and Dimitri ran up, and immediately turned to them for an explanation.

    "Kiran, Pladur," Beatrix demanded. "What is he going on about?"

    "A local tipped us off that an Imperial nabbed Pleo and sailed off just before we got here," Kiran explained.

    "It's the frigate off in the distance," Dimitri said, gesturing to the distant ship with a scythe. "If we hurry, we can keep it in sighting distance!"

    Captain Beatrix looked off at the ship in the distance. She thought long and hard about what pursuing after the Imperial ship would entail… and what she risked by letting it sail off. After a long pause, the firefly shook her head, before turning to her Hitmontop first mate.

    "… Vicente, give the order to pull the moorings up."

    The Hitmontop straightened up with a start, giving an incredulous stare at the Illumise captain. Beatrix wanted them to leave already without bothering to restock?

    "Eh?! Captain?!" Vicente exclaimed. "We just arrived-!"

    "Ya lo sé!" the Illumise insisted. "Just do it!"

    The Fighting-Type raised the cry to lift the anchor and set sail, throwing the Siglo Swellow into a flurry of activity. The deckhands on the dock hastily clambered back onto the schooner, the moorings were undone, and the stone anchor brought back on deck. With a whip of the air and water by the escorts, the ship lurched away from the dock, tearing away at an increasingly quick clip away from the adobe town for the deep blue of the open sea.

    "Follow that frigate!" Beatrix buzzed. "Don't let it out of your sight! Our Protector is aboard it!"

    And so the Siglo Swellow carried on, slicing through the waves after the indigo-sailed ship in the distance. Their task of retrieving had undoubtedly grown far more complicated, but this was the closest they had ever gotten to finally bringing their Protector and Team Traveller's missing members back home. A wave of determined vigor washed over the tired crew, one shared thought settling over the gathered faces in spite of their anxiety and fatigue...

    They were not going to let those kids go without a fight.




    At that moment, further south a two-masted ship with white sails bearing blue waterspout patterns bobbed along the waves. The crew was kept busy both on deck and off it, the deckhands manipulating the Mistral Marauder's purloined sails to best catch the tailwind whipped up by the aerial escorts as Hess kept a firm claw on the tiller to steer the ship along in the current the sea escorts had stirred up. All the while, the Steel-Type perched himself on the bow and kept focusing intently off in the distance, waiting for the impending arrival of Sormus over the horizon. His eagerness was lost on a good deal of his crew however, including a puzzled-looking Wimpod who scuttled up near his feet.

    "Remind me why we're flying these sails we stole from those hicks again?" the Bug-Type asked.

    "The mission the Council gave us could take a bit longer than one of our normal smash and grabs," Rodion explained. "We'd be better off flying colors that won't get us attacked whenever we pass some random island before finding the bird."

    The Floatzel's explanation drew sour frowns from the nearby crewmembers. After everything they'd gone through in the past couple of weeks, now they couldn't even fly their own colors?

    "Egh… we'd better get a big reward for giving up our pride like this," a Litten grumbled.

    "Hey! Enough bellyaching!" the Aggron captain shouted. "Sormus is just coming over the horizon!"

    Hess pointed to the horizon, where sure enough the sun-bleached sandy dunes of Sormus poked into view. The response among the crew was mixed, some breathing sighs of relief to have finally arrived at their destination while others grumbled bitterly amongst themselves, questioning the worth of this detour in the first place.

    "So what are we doing once we hit land again?" Kichiro demanded.

    "Uh… well…" Hess began. The Steel-Type fumbled with words for a moment, before starting to think through the matter. The first thing to be done would be to find out where the Protector was, and that couldn't be too much different from prepping ahead for raid, right?

    "We're going to need to send out some scouts, and- Huh?"

    Hess trailed off as he caught movement on the horizon out of the corner of his eye. Grumbling, he reached for the scope nestled in a holster on his hip to get a better view of the unidentified vessel. Through the spyglass he was able to make out the craft's white sails printed with a waterspout pattern akin to that of the Mistral Marauder. There on the deck were some aggravatingly familiar faces, including the Illumise and Hitmontop manning the tiller, and the duo of Raichu and Servine slacking off under the crow's nest. To top it off, much to the detriment of his blood pressure, he spotted a group consisting of a young Druddigon, a Fraxure, a Swellow, and a Marked Scyther looking out along the railing.

    "Grr…"

    Rodion grimaced as he watched Hess' expression sour in response to whatever he'd seen through the scope. After a moment's pause, the Floatzel cleared his throat and set out to figure out the problem... carefully.

    "Something the matter, Captain?" the Water-Type asked.

    "Yeah, there's been change of plans," Hess growled. "That 'Sickly Swellow' we ambushed east of Kenobi's here, and it's sailing off."

    "… So? We already robbed them once already!" an Octillery protested.

    "Yeah, why are we supposed to pass up the Protector for them again?" a Pawniard demanded. "Sounds like some mixed-up priorities."

    "Because if that bird was on Sormus, those dweebs wouldn't be sailing away from the island!" the Aggron exclaimed. "So they must have found a lead to where he is right now!"

    The Steel-Type's words drew skeptical mutters and traded glances among the gathered crew. Few seemed pleased about the captain's abrupt change of mind, least of all a visibly irritated Ledian flitting his wings near the rigging.

    "Oh, so now you don't want to go to Sormus?" Kichiro scoffed.

    "Yeah, what's in it for us?" a Staravia protested.

    Hess stomped the deck and scowled at the gathered Pokémon, hoping a show of force would bring them in line. The ship rocked a bit, only for the crew's skepticism to remain unmoved, prompting the Aggron to roll his eyes and attempt an appeal to their baser instincts.

    "There's a case of rum under in the steerage," the Steel-Type sighed. "I'll break it out if we change course."

    At once the crew's demeanor became visibly more energized. From the top of the masts to the surrounding seas, the mention of rum made the brigands' eyes light up with newfound enthusiasm.

    "Works for me!" a Seadra from the water exclaimed.

    "Yeah!" the Litten added. "Let's change course!"

    Hess threw a palm over his face with an exasperated sigh. It was certainly one way of motivating the crew, but even so… did it have to work this often?

    "… Really?"

    "Well, on a positive note, it shouldn't be that hard to snatch a replacement case in the next port," Rodion offered.

    "Yeah, yeah…" Hess muttered. "But let's get this show on the road already."

    The Aggron waited a moment, only for the gathered Pokémon to remain in place watching him. Hess scowled and shook his head with a grumble before turning to the Mistral Marauder's crew, giving an impatient slap of his tail against the deck's timbers.

    "Oi! Hurry up! Take us hard to port!" the Iron Armor Pokémon bellowed. "I want that schooner in my scope until we hit the next port!"

    The ship lurched as the air escorts whipped up a tailwind, prompting Rodion to take the tiller and turn hard to port and after the Siglo Swellow. All the while, the Aggron made his way to the bow and watched intently after the schooner, trying to tease out why they'd come to Sormus only to leave again. Had they both already been beaten to the punch? Well, no matter, it wasn't as if he couldn't just nab the Protector from whoever had him...

    Hopefully.




    Author's Notes:

    - fregatti - Finnish: "frigate"
    - Hyvää iltaa - Finnish: "Good evening"
    - dōmo (どうも) - Japanese: Multipurpose Japanese interjection, meaning informal "thanks" in this context (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Gracías - Spanish: "Thank you"
    - Nie ruszaj się! - Polish: "Hold it!" / "Don't move!" / "Stop right there!"
    - Nie ma mowy! - Polish: "No way!"
    - Rauhoitu - Finnish: "Calm down!" / "Settle down!"
    - Ya lo sé! - Spanish: "I know that!"
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  19. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    I got the sense this chapter that we're headed for a climax scene in which literally everyone meets up at once and chaos explodes. Not that there hasn't already been chaos throughout the fic between all the Empire and Imperial crews, plus Pleo's crew and the Siglo Swellow and everyone else, but Pleo and co. were left completely powerless in this chapter and everyone caught sight of them leaving Copperband by the end. I'm sure Nagant will fight to keep everyone from following her successfully, but I think that some sort of resolution is coming soon. And it's been a long time coming - I've been rooting for Pleo and co. and the Siglo Swellow to reunite for so long now. ;o;

    I also thought this chapter was good at emphasizing how different each crew operates. Hess has little control over his crew and has met with several failures by this point, and so has Lyn, but at least Lyn started with a solid grasp of his crew. He's slowly lost that grasp over time, however, due to his inability to be able to plan his raids and come out successfully. Nagant seems the most competent of them all, and I suppose that's why she succeeded in capturing Pleo this time around. Siglo Swellow has the least experience traveling throughout the seas compared to everyone else, I think, and them being one step behind everyone else at one times has only emphasized that. This time, however, they got the lead they needed just in time. Whew. At any rate, I can't wait to see how this unfolds.
     
  20. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Okay, so… I don’t know how I did it. But I’ve made it. I caught up on this thing. And I have probably a bit too much to say, but frankly I needed to take notes because there’s so much going on here. I know you said you’re not a very frequent poster so I’m gonna give you some overall thoughts and then a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I like to do that because I feel (and have been told by some other users) that it’s good to let the author know what I’m thinking as I’m reading this. And this’ll be two posts, b/c I have too much to work with. :p

    Let’s start with the worldbuilding. Since it’s clearly the focal point of this entire fic, as you’ve even said in the past. That very clearly shows. You’ve taken great care to craft a vibrant, colorful world. And I mean colorful in both the literal sense (varied locations with different terrain and lots of unique set pieces and a variety of different Pokémon species) and the figurative sense (every locale feels unique and characters have their own charms and quirks to them). I know some previous reviews weren’t all that happy with the gratuitous foreign language tidbits. But I’m okay with them. It adds to each locale’s unique cultural identity. Then again, I’m pretty decent with other languages, so I could get the general gist of what was being said w/o a glossary; other readers might not. At the same time, most of the character quirks and even the running gags never got too stale. They’re present, but done on the infrequent side so I don’t tire of them (especially “Doing X hurts the Nidoran” and Elty getting dope-smacked by Guardia). The one exception is Kiran’s use of percentages. Because that is blatant Flanderization right there. It started out as maybe a once-an-episode tendency and now he does it in pretty much every single scene (sometimes more than once).

    Related to that are the different factions and island-dwellers. You’ve taken great care to make them all very distinct from one another. The Company has its constant scheming and plans to backstab one another. You have the much more diligent and militaristic Imperials, who display far more loyalty, by contrast. Then there’s the bumbling pirates and the Rod from underseas. Beyond the group’s entire dynamics we get glimpses at individuals. Which is another element I like. Even grunts have personalities that can be a ton of fun to read. And, of course, there’s some of the slapstick they engage in. That’s gotten less frequent as things have gone on, but it’s a noticeable part of the earlier episodes.

    As for our heroes, I really do like that they’re not some sort of big, heroic chosen ones (well, except maybe Pleo?). They’re pretty much happenstance victims here. Not trying the save world; all they want to do is go home. But fate continues to intervene every step of the way. The sheer magnitude of the odds being stacked against them, is admittedly, a bit much. But that’s where the fun in the PMD games come from. You can bet I’m rooting for them to do well.

    I know you mentioned things like One Piece partially inspired this. I have, admittedly, never watched that. So, I got strong Avatar: The Last Airbender vibes from significant portions of this. But in a good way, I assure you. I also couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the Jak & Daxter games (namely the original and *shudder* The Lost Frontier), along with Rayman 2: The Great Escape. In fact I couln’t help but play this theme any time the Company shows up.

    Anyway, there are a few criticisms that I do need to levy. Mainly, around Team Traveller themselves. With such a large supporting cast of characters, it’s tough to actually feel like they’re the main characters sometimes. We have so many scene transitions going on in the later episodes that don’t focus in on them, the story feels less about them and more about all the stuff that happens to be going on around them. It’s not all bad. It reminds me of TV shows with ensemble casts. I’ll also echo Chibi’s earlier feedback that it really doesn’t feel like they’ve “levelled up” at all. They’re still reliant on the same moves they had on Tromba (for the most part). Given that the threat level is starting to escalate, my suspension of disbelief can’t help but wonder if they even stand a chance against enemies in future episodes.

    Also, I’m not sure if you’ve changed your mind about Pleo’s standing in all of this, but I’m also going to agree with Negrek that Pleo’s the star of Team Traveller. He’s had the most development and continuous mental conflicts spanning multiple episodes. It looks like the recent episodes are trying to fix that, but given how large of a cast you now have, that may be a tall order to deal with. Now, personally I like Pleo quite a bit. He’s adorable and I do love me some Lugias. And, frankly, it’s called Fledgelings and he’s the only bird in the group, so I expected him to end up in center stage. I’m very invested in his tale and I do wonder how things will play out around him. How accurate are the Marked Pokémon’s tales? It’s something I’d like to find out for myself.

    I’m lastly going to agree with some sentiments from earlier reviews. While I can see you’re taking care to avoid repeating phrases, that comes at the expense of me being able to follow who the characters are sometimes. Especially some of the lesser characters. Constantly calling them by their species name, typing, what animal they resemble, or their Pokédex title can make it really difficult for me to figure out who’s who aside from the main characters. Especially when you consider how large of a supporting cast you’ve established in this fic. He’s, she’s, it’s, and they’s are perfectly fine to use instead and definitely wouldn’t get my wires crossed. Beyond that, the constant scene jumping (as you’ll see below) can make it tough to keep track of the different factions. I needed to refer back to my review notes here sometimes because I’d forgotten who some characters were.

    Anyway, onto the episode thoughts. They’re spoilered for length… and will continue in the next post.

    Prologue & Ep 1
    Pro: So, there are certainly plenty of RPG’s that have started off with stories. But a couple of things I like that make yours stand out are Nida’s interruptions (which are overly-energetic where her mother is calm and steady) and how it weaves both the local history of the island’s formation with a broader sense of sculpting the world. You even throw in godly-related explanations for game mechanics like the Mystery Dungeons and dangle a human presence as a cool overlaying mystery. As far as exposition dumps go, it’s great. Especially since it serves the double purpose of establishing a rapport between Nida and her mother.

    1: Moving on, I again like that you used a snarky conversation b/w Nida and Calino to set up some of the mechanics with the guild and trainees/team rankings. Much more creative than a “written tutorial.” And it shows (along with the stealing apples tidbit) that Nida’s not a total goody-goody, which is always a plus for me. Also, bakery Druddigons. I couldn’t stop laughing at that. The town scenes were relatively ho-hum and subdued but then you have (what I’m assuming) is the Protector hatching in the Mystery Dungeon. Oddly, I wasn’t expecting that to pop up so quickly!

    2:
    Nice explanation for enemy dungeon Pokémon. I mean, it’s basically just real world, fight-or-flight stuff, but it’s cool to see it not just get handwaved.

    Also, while the dungeon crawling itself is fairly pedestrian (Krabby ambush included), I at least get a kick out of Nida and Crom ribbing Kiran the entire time. But it goes through the basic motions; seed usage, triggering a trap. And the descriptions of the dungeon paint a clear picture at least.

    3: Hi Lugia! Or a… baby Lugia? Not something you see a lot of (aside from those weird anime episodes, which I don’t remember). It’s so adorable though; naive and ignorant in a cute way. As are everyone’s flummoxed reactions to him. This is by far one of the stranger legendary recruitments I’ve ever seen, but that’s probably the point, isn’t it? Practically everyone’s reactions are (predictably) exactly the same, and they do get a bit stale after awhile. Although…

    I’m gonna file that Company tidbit away under the “This is gonna be relevant later, dummy,” folder in my brain. Antagonists, perhaps?

    This is admittedly very cheesy and this kind of exchange happens in plenty of media, but I still got a laugh out of it.


    Episode 2
    4: starts off with more hilarity. Great introduction for Hatteras that shows off his eccentricity. Likewise, we’ve got Ander serving as an introduction to the Marked from the prologue. Kind of has that whole “village crazy person” thing going on for him. The whole babysitting tidbit was I guess a means to start building up a relationship b/w Nida and Pleo. It was very… cute. And shows a surprising, mature patience on Nida’s part compared to her go-getter attitude with dungeon exploring.

    5: Next off, maybe my computer’s messed up but Ch 5 was littered with symbols that didn’t appear to show up on my computer ( 

 ). Anyway, Pleo’s questions toward Mosca are a perfect emobidement of childlike wonder in the face of adult logic and rules. The bit with Pleo eating the bread at the end brought a smile to my face.

    Ahh, hey, so this became a brick joke after all. Nida’s a wilier gal than I give her credit for. No, I didn’t forget about this part in the 1st chapter, I swear!

    Oh, and is Scout’s entire purpose just to pop up and make snarky one liners? I’m okay with that. Anyway, the training is pretty typical shenanigans, though I do like the shocking twist of Crom’s mom as a tutorial boss.

    6: Moving on to the battle… uh… go Nida? You get an A for effort, at least. I swear, these Poison Stings are becoming more of a gag than a useful attack. The battle had me laughing a lot though, mostly because Crom’s reactions are basically the Pokéverse equivalent of a kid’s mom showing up to middle school to bring them lunch. And I also liked Pleo’s reaction to getting hurt. Kind of poking fun at the whole “Pokémon pop out of eggs and can start battling right away without a care in the world” bit the games gloss over. For that matter, even though the scene at day care just seems like an excuse to explain Marked Pokémon to Pleo, I do like seeing him interact with the little kids. It’s very cute. And speaking of embarrassing moms, poor Crom can’t catch a break. Again, having the innocent/cutesy character point out danger unaware of what it is is something you see a lot of, Pleo makes it so adorable.

    7: The shift to everyone panicking was pretty sudden, but I thought you did it well. Pleo’s hesitancy reminds me of the partner characters at the start of the PMD games; so unsure of himself. Battle itself was very fun, and much more frenetic than the one against Gwenith. Nida even poisoned Gabite, huzzah! In general, I liked the banter and the fact that it seemed like Team Traveler was actually pretty well coordinated (except maybe Pleo) compared to the “Every ‘mon for themselves” pirates. And then it tops off with a display of Pleo’s hidden potential against Hess. Which is something familiar (“character backs into a corner and displays a surprising burst of power”) but you give it its own unique twist (especially with Hess’s exit, that was gold).

    8:
    I think I found my favorite character. XD

    And the, uh, grand jury scene(?) was interesting. Classic mob mentality on display, but you’ve got to hand it to Hatteras for keeping a steady hand. He managed to turn everyone’s opinions around right quick. I liked the pirates’ reactions to community service, though. Especially Elty’s… he’s in for a fun time, isn’t he?

    Overall: this episode felt like a personification of the fic’s title in some regards. I.e. you’ve got to learn to crawl before you walk before you fly. Or something like that. It was pretty slow going up until the sudden pirate attack. And it still feels like introductory stuff, because I have no sense of whether or not a greater adventure awaits Team Traveler. But I’m definitely enjoying it.

    Episode 3
    9: Is it just me, or did the narrator drink a glass of “snarky juice” at the start of the episode? It’s not a bad thing; I’m all for colorful narration! Speaking of snark, wow does Elty shift the team dynamics a bit. It suddenly went from bright-eyed around Pleo to everyone taking verbal swipes at Elty (except Pleo who just calls him mean in a cute, kiddy way). I guess I’m saying I like Elty’s gruffer attitude and what it brings.

    The answer is witchcraft, Nida. It’s always witchcraft. Science is just fancy witchcraft with numbers.

    Oh wow, I know an Up Grade was mentioned in Ch 1 but I didn’t expect to see a Porygon. Nor for her to act like a computer program. Also… SAVVI. Having fun with the acronyms I see. But it’s a fun way to introduce the anomaly of “what the heck are TM‘s doing in the PMD world anyway?” Moving on, Hatteras’s request kind of reminds me of that part in Avatar where Aang gets put through intense training to try and draw out his Avatar state or whatever. Not sure if that was inspirationg for this.

    10: Pirate trio reunion. And they all seem sufficiently miserable. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Overall this preparation stuff is mostly a lot of moving around and idle chit chat. I do like that there’s a little seed of conflict planted b/w Nida and Marley with the latter’s expectation that Nida will soon join her in the fields. Clearly Nida doesn’t feel that way. Similarly, the troubling issue that was teast in a couple of chapters was revealed as a feral attack. I was expecting something more… dramatic? But we’re still early in the story I think. The next part of the story was cute too (though if it’s referencing something, I totally missed it).

    11: Aww, very sweet beginning there with the Pikachu and the offering berry. The dungeon exploring itself is very reminiscent of the previous dungeon crawling, and the Jellicent reminded me of the Krabby. If that’s supposed to be an intentional mirroring, then good job. The big differences are Pleo (who gawks at everything) and Elty (who snarks at everything).

    12: Oh man, just like how things swerved with the pirates last episode, here it’s this nebulous Company’s arrival shaking things up! At this point, I don’t know if all the episodes are going to follow this pattern. But the first 3 definitely have. And Ellsberg does a sufficient job leaving a bad first impression for the Company. There’s some teasing of bigger conflicts and a crown and empire but I have no idea what to make of that at this point in the story. Meanwhile, Elty gets some backstory that makes him seem… um… kinda like a loser? I hope that was the intention. Otherwise I’m-a feel bad for writing this.

    13: Monster House! (I think…) Apparently Team Traveler really doesn’t understand that diplomacy doesn’t work in Mystery Dungeons. The battle is very phrenetic and, of course, the Slow Orb gets used. I’m surprised they actually won (yeah, they got banged up a bit) considering this was their first battle outnumbered. But I guess it shows how far they’ve come?

    Eww, Pataki, Pleo’s just a hatchling!

    And it looks like Hatteras’ plan didn’t pan out. Poor guy. I got a smile out of Nida and Crom choosing to stick with Pleo since it looks like he’s not graduating. And end off with some evil(?) scheming from this Company. I will admit it’s cool to see an organization with an even more stringent hierarchical system that mirrors the guild/rescue teams.

    Overall, this episode followed the pattern of the first two, with the added benefit of the Company’s introduction. Team Traveler made some progress and while Elty is a grump, they’re not actively trying to push him out of the group and his snark seemed to die down during the actual dungeon crawling. I’m glad the Company scenes were interspersed with the dungeon crawl to break things up, because it felt a bit strange for a training mission (even a test) to take up the bulk of four chapters. But, again, the progress is great. Pleo’s learning to fly, Nida’s getting better with her attacks, and Crom’s steadily gaining a bit more confidence. The development is slow, but noticeable.

    Episode 4
    14: Right into the action here. Pleo’s made progress with flying, it seems. I do like some of the banter here (mostly Pleo’s surprised reactions to everything; never gets old). And have him crash into the lanterns was funny.

    Nida gives the best pep talks confirmed.

    Apricorns? Huh… cool mythology gag to the main series there, with everyone being frightened of proto-Poké Balls. Of greater interest is the scene with Ander and his family. It’s tense in the same way the scenes with Ellsberg were. Personally speaking, it does a good job making me, as the reader, feel unsure of whether the Marked are truly as bad as the story in the prologue make them out to be. I like that it’s not so black-and-white.

    15:
    Kiran’s such a good teacher to the gang. Doing his best to get Pleo out of his funk before it drags him too far down.

    Oooh, you sneaky devil, trying to casually slip the Ninjask into some routine narration and lull me into a false sense of security. Lyn’s making me nervous with the way he’s talking. And acting for that matter. It contrast to Ellsberg’s smug sense of self-importance, Lyn just seems power-hungry. It’s very jarring with how light-hearted things have been so far (even the Iron “Fleet” was pretty funny). And, sure enough, Pleo gets birdnapped. Wow, didn’t take long this episode for things to get exciting, that’s for sure! The standoff b/w Lyn and Hatteras kinda reminded me of an old western movie, for some reason.

    16: I like Elty’s perceptiveness here. It’s putting the canine part of him to good use and going to show there’s more to him than first impressions dictate. From there, it’s a battle against Company thugs. I like the constraints that the dock environment places on Team Traveler here. Elty seems to adapt to it but Nida and Crom clearly have a bit of trouble. Osmund turns out to be more of a trooper than I thought. I was expecting him to be a bit on the meek side. Though Lyn gives him the workaround. And goodness gracious this battle took a much more violent turn than the ones in the dungeon. Poor Osmund, man. Then there’s escalating to munitions!

    Nice way to tie this back into the previous two chapters. And a good way to cap off a big standoff that feels like your typical RPG’s hopeless boss fight.

    17: Aha ha… they’re hiding themselves in the berry equivalent of durians. Disgusting, but pretty effective. I’m surprised kids like them did it so willingly though. Power of friendship, I guess. I don’t know why I expected this trick to work, because I was actually surprised Crom got caught so easily. What I wasn’t expecting was a storm that could throw another wrench into the plan.

    Noooooo, not Scout! But at the same time, dang it this doesn’t stop being funny.

    The scene with Lyn and Pleo is interesting, b/c the guy isn’t babying Pleo at all and Pleo can’t seem to understand what’s happening to him and why. Poor guy.

    18: Well now, this ship sneaking is considerably more successful. After how dire things ended off last chapter it’s rather odd to see the light-heartedness return with this scene (Nida and Elty ribbing each other, the Company hands playing card games and quarrelling over it, Nida: master of unlocking).

    I’m repeating myself I know, but I really do like that Pleo’s self-doubt is a constant factor here.

    19: Ah, and here we have the classic “sneaking past sleeping enemies” type of scene. I like the unique twist Pleo brings, especially with Elty trying to use his childish thinking to bail them out of the situation. It failed, but hey, points for trying. And I’m not surprised to see Lyn caught on quickly. He’s nasty, but he’s quite sharp. The Company is very pragmatic, I see. They fully embrace strength in numbers.

    Silly Kiran, this isn’t a nuzlocke! :p

    I do appreciate Crom breaking down here. With all the insanity this chapter, I had almost forgotten that the MC’s besides Pleo were supposed to be on the pretty young side as well. They were taking things very maturely. Back on the ship, looks like Pleo’s briefly able to tap into his power and I thought for a moment we’d get a clean getaway. But nope… they got blasted out of the sky. Dang, that’s a heck of an attack to take. And evidently it’s sent them to a completely new island.

    Overall: So, wow, talk about a sudden shift. This episode was significantly more tense and represented a stark contrast to the previous 3. There are still little bits of the earlier episodes’ quirks and humor everywhere so things are never too dour. But it was a welcome shift and had me much more invested in the characters than the start. It looks like Team Traveler’s quest to return home is now our central focus. And I’m glad there’s a sense of direction now, because I really wasn’t sure where things were going initially.

    Episode 5 & SC1
    20: Starting off with a glimpse of the Company is a nice change compared to how the previous episodes all started. And it’s helpful in shedding a little more background on some of the areas besides Tromba since we’re finally moving away from it. Likewise, there’s a sense of urgency to this new Mystery Dungeon that I thought the one on Tromba lacked in its appearances, with the race to escape spreading distortion and the difficulties with healing. And then Pleo and Elty getting poisoned by some generic enemies, with a lack of supplies. Similarly this new rescue team introduces some cool dynamics, like cultural differences and, apparently, language ones too. I was really wondering what the gratuitous Spanish and Polish had been for, but I guess their jobs are to give the islands unique identities.

    21: Despite the major location differences, it’s fun to watch Nida make the comparisons to Bluewhorl while heading around Seahive. There’s an even Margi, a marked who is pretty similar to Ander. Then there’s a bit of (brief) dramatic tension with Elty threatening to leave them, but it’s quickly shot down through sheer coincidence. I admit that, though the cultural difference world building stuff that followed was cool, I’d have liked to see more of where that was going. Ah well. I was expecting the story to give us scenes back at Tromba with Crom. Pladur came as a surprise to me. It definitely made me curious what would be happening on Tromba while most of Team Traveler’s still MIA.

    22: The bit with the gummis at the start here felt like fluff for, uh, just the sake of fluff, I guess. World building here is fun and all that, but it didn’t really feel like it tied into the rest of the scene. Plus, Maranda ended up talking about differences in Protectors anyway, which felt much more interesting. Especially the mention of the Imperials, who sound like another villainous, power-hungry group. Similarly, the new Kecleon shop stuff seemed unnecessary in my eyes and just kind of drew things out until Team Traveler ran into Scout.

    Channeling my inner Oak here. Ahem… “Nina! This isn’t the time to use that!” XP

    And ending things off with more scheming from Lyn. Again, sorry to draw parallels, but I’m reminded of Admiral Zhao from Avatar whenever I see this guy. No idea if it was intentional or my brain being stupid.

    23: D’awww, Daraen is such a cute little Deino. Again, sometimes the Marked act suspicious but their kids are operating on a different wavelength and it’s oddly adorable and an interesting contrast to the parents. Speaking of parents, the scene back at Tromba wasn’t mind-blowing or anything, but the bit of hostility with the parents felt realistic given the scenario they faced. And I mean that in a good way. And we’ve got the whole town coming together with a rescue plan of sorts this time. Even Ander’s getting dragged into this somehow.

    That’s certainly a wham line. I was starting to wonder if this episode was going to have a big surprise and, well, here it is!

    24: Excitement’s picking up a little, between the debriefing and, of course, Pleo’s concerns. And Elty apparently can’t keep his snout out of trouble, it seems. It’s a bit childish that he keeps getting called fat, but I will concede I still get a chuckle out of the joke. But the real meat of this chapter is some much-needed background on the Marked and their whole worldview. And wow, was it interesting to hear their side of things. I guess this is confirmed that the world of the main series games became the current world. Still, a much more destructive opinion of Legendary Pokémon. And to top it all off, the Company’s here too. Once again it looks like the people of Tromba’s plan is going to blow back in their faces. Lyn’s quite cunning, which makes it all the more scary that there are still higher-ups w/in the Company we know nothing about.

    25: Well, it certainly didn’t take long for the Company to strike and Team Traveler to run into trouble. Maranda’s about as effective as Hatteras was (which is to say, not very). Although this time around we have Ellsberg to add a bit of a different flavor to this encounter. And hey, there’s even some genuine teamwork on the part of Team Traveler with the combined attacks to try and get away from the Company fliers. A surprising rescue from Margi, though in some ways I guess it parallels Ander getting recruited into Hatteras’ “doomed to failure” plan, in that they may not like Pleo but the idea of the Company getting him is bad news.

    Huzzah for character growth! Seems a little odd that Margi got an arc of sorts with this episode, but I’m not complaining.

    Overall: this seemed to confirm my suspicions that the theme of this story is a journey back home. Or at least, that that’s what the foreseeable future holds for me. In any case, the new locale expanded the cast quite a bit. And I’ll be honest, it did feel like Nida, Elty, and even Pleo took a bit of a backseat toward fleshing out the Marked Pokémon through Margi and Daraen. Granted, I liked their little arcs. And it definitely enabled Pleo to grow a bit. It just felt like Nida and Elty were kind of an extension of the narrator, almost. It didn’t really help that what felt like a lot of their moments in the spotlight were filler (like the scene at the Kecleon shop).

    SC1: Okay, so this New Year’s feels like a hodge-podge of different holidays (or, different cultural interpretations of New Year’s I’m unfamiliar with). But hey, the Iron “Fleet” is back… or rather, we’re going back to see when they were relevant. I see Hess has Aggronite, furthering that this is the world of the main series games, since the PMD-verse has Awakening Emeras instead. Poor Calino can’t seem to catch a break even on the holidays. And I’m with some of the kits on this. Not a fan of fireworks, whatsoever. But apparently they make excellent pirate deterrents. I started laughing the moment Hess returned to his ship. Overall it was a very cute little holiday special, that apparently served the purpose of giving Nida her bag.

    Episode 6
    26:
    Elty says what we’re all thinking! And I love him for it. XP

    Good father-son talk for Crom as well. Little by little he’s getting these nudges that make me feel like he’s going to end up doing something big and heroic… eventually.

    I think there’s a “know” missing somewhere here.

    Elty’s bluntness is always refreshing.

    And wow, things are really different here. Company grunts are ex-Pirates and there’s some degree of lawlessness slipping through the cracks. Very stark contrast to Seahive and Bluewhorl. Moving on from that, hoo boy, looks like things may finally heat up and give us an even higher-up Company villain to contend with. Admittedly I’m not a fan of suddenly cutting back to Team Traveler but, hey, dramatic tension and what not. Which only builds with the reintroduction of some Iron Fleet castaways. Guess Elty’s having a bit of an arc to himself here. Which is much needed, in my eyes.

    27: Aww yeah, we’ve got a Zoroark administrator I’m extremely biased so I already like Elilan. :p

    Oh dang, the Company wanted Pleo’s wings clipped? Fern might as well just hang a sign over her door saying, “I’m totally evil!” I kid, of course. I know one of your Q&A tidbits mentioned this Company being based of the British and Dutch Trading Companies of the 17th and 18th centuries. And this scene illustrated that comparison very well. A rigid hierarchical system with none of its members trusting each other and everyone questioning one another but ultimately going along with the plan for the sake of prosperity and getting things done. I know this is only PMD-like, but I like how much different this is from the usual “Rawr, I’m evil and want to destroy things because I can,” PMD villains.

    Following this, we have our seedy bar/restaurant scene. A stint in a pirate town wouldn’t be complete without this, I guess. Got a chuckle out of the Zangoose/Seviper joke. And it nearly devolves into a brawl scene (or one of those “work it off” clichés) before the arrival of Team… Taxonomy? Aha ha… ha… oh wait, they’re totally serious?

    28:
    Cue Admiral Ackbar’s “IT’S A TRAP!” Except it isn’t… it’s just a misunderstanding. Still, the community service tidbit gives me flashbacks to the pirates’ sentencing back on Bluewhorl. But now it’s with the Company. I suspect them to betray Beatrix’s crew much easier than Elty trying to turn his back on Team Traveler.

    Lore on Pokédexes! I will say, as out of place as Team Taxonomy’s appearance is in what I feel like is supposed to be a tenser locale, they’re pretty fun. And tying in the Unown and writing into it is fascinating as well. And seeing them gang up on Elty (who just brings all this misfortune on himself) was good for a laugh as well.

    Meanwhile, goon trio of Nori, Alvis, and Valatos are scheming. I guess they and some feral Marowak are responsible for the episode’s logo?

    29: Feral Cubone sure are persistent. And once again Elty makes his own trouble. Stealing a Cubone’s bone, what are you thinking, man? Though, breaking off from the dungeon crawl to check in on Crom didn’t feel like much of a nice break. Namely because it didn’t really feel like anything happened in that scene to move things forward. There’s a tease of potential issues with the townspeople again, but the scene ends off before anything happens. What I do like is the Cubone/Marowak colony. The early dungeons had ferals that said and did stuff, but it all blurred together. Here, they have a distinctive culture that’s put on display and very interesting to see in action. While I’m not sure that it necessarily adds anything as a whole to the story, it is neat world building and makes this dungeon stand out from the other two islands’. Meanwhile, the Company grunt trio turns out to be much more competent at getting what they want out of Zamora than I expected. And I see we have the first proper appearance of emeras into this. Followed up swiftly by a Monster House encounter that, unlike the last one, quickly escalates into confronting the feral tribe. I’m glad it got right to that, even if it just resulted in a scene transition because no way was Team Traveler winning a fight with those odds.

    30:
    *Bane breathing noises intensify*

    Aaaaaaand this tense feral tribe confrontation evaporates because Pleo. STOP BEING SO ADORABLE MY HEART CAN’T TAKE THAT KIND OF STRESS <3 <3

    We shift back to Crom again, and see some of our main supporting cast from the last episode return. This is, in all honesty, the scene I’d wish had been present last time we focused on Crom. It does a succinct job of showing some of the fallout from confronting Lyn (especially for Margi and Daraen), forcing Ander to learn of Margi’s decision, and it gets the Bluewhorl crew the information they were inevitably going to get.

    Awww, snaps. Tetsuzui has a sturdier head on her shoulders than I expected.

    So, we go from interrogation to… judgment via bone throwing? If there’s some sort of cultural inspiration behind this, I am totally not getting it. Which is I guess what Elty’s reactions are there for. But if you had told me at the start this was going to lead to a new member, I wouldn’t have honestly believed you. Welcome, Guardia. The question becomes just how much attention or development will you be getting at this point.

    31: Predictably, Guardia’s presence brings some new cultural differences up to the surface. It’s neat seeing these, since it’s something pretty much every canon Pokémon media casually ignores or glances over. And I see we’re bringing up Elty’s personal gripes again. I’ll be honest, I thought they would have more of a central role in this episode but it ended up kind of falling by the wayside. Speaking of lack of a central role, Lyn ends up getting tossed aside and our villains du jour for this episode turn out to be the Company grunt trio. I appreciate the departure from the previous few episodes, though the scene with the Administrators led me to believe we were in for something much bigger and scarier. Guardia steps in and Lightning Rod takes effect. Is this the first time we’ve seen an ability doing something other than maybe Nida’s Poison Point? But the work of the feral tribe pays off, and the Monster House from earlier is back to actually see some action… against a totally different trio. And it makes them relatively easy to beat down, especially considering the previous Company battles didn’t so much end up in victory as “Team Traveler escaped using Run Away!”

    32: Tetsuzui is not playing around. It’s nice to see something actually go the good guys’ way for once. In spite of the comical tones, things had been pretty overwhelmingly NOT in their favor to this point. Let me just take the time to say that, even though I’m not 100% sure what this communing with the dead cultural stuff is paying reference/homage to, I really do like this feral tribe. They’re such a different supporting cast compared to the villages in Bluewhorl and Seahive. Speaking of contrasts, this episode’s ending is not action-oriented in any way like most of the previous ones. Instead, it’s… uh… map-gazing. I’m glad to finally get a slightly bigger perspective of the island worlds, but it does feel a bit deflating after the events of the last few chapters. But hey, at least they’re choosing where to go this time. On the other hand, it looks like we have our introduction of the Imperials… perhaps? So, yeah, that scene with the Clawitzer did end up meaning something in the grand scheme of things, but it still felt a bit bloated and drawn out.

    Overall: I have mixed feelings on the episode. On the plus side, I really did like the distinct settings Kenobi brought to the table. Especially with the feral tribe and how much they stuck out from all the “civilized” Pokémon we’ve encountered. It’s just… it almost feels like this was meant to be two distinct episodes that somehow got mushed into one. We start out in a pirate town and we’re teased with the idea that maybe Elty’s going to have a major arc surrounding where his loyalties lie. But that gets completely tossed out the window before the halfway mark in favor of the Unown-flavored dungeon and the feral tribe. It was still fun, but as a reader I am left wondering with a sense of “what could have been.” I was starting to think we’d see a confrontation involving pirates AND the Company. But alas, none of that came to be. I understand at this point you saw Negrek’s review and comments about Pleo. It does seem like, even with Guardia’s addition, he’s still center stage, because the reasoning to get to a new island is to “help Pleo control his powers.”
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018

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